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|105 reviews in total|
This was a movie that I used to get a kick out of checking out of the
video store when I was a kid because I remember finding it so very,
very oddball. Its about an East German scientist that invents a car
that can run on vegetables (and can run up to 200 miles per hour doing
so!) He comes to L.A. to try and sell the invention to a businessman
and try and make some money to save his hometown which is about to be
bought out by a rich industrialist and turned into a factory town or
something like that. Almost as soon as he comes to L.A. the car gets
stolen by none other than the mean detention giving vice principal from
the Back To The Future films. (the rest of the movie is mostly made up
of his and Billy Dee's attempts to get the car back)
Re-watching it again tonight for the first time in what had to be like at least 17 or 18 years (I bought the VHS of this from a CVS pharmacy sometime in either 97, or 98 from what I remember and hadn't played it since and was eager to see it again with a friend of mine who wanted me to try and find some of the more obscure movies in my VHS collection--why? because obscure movies are awesome!) I realized that the movie wasn't nearly as oddball or as inventive as I had originally thought. Its basically kind of a German take on "Young Einstein" where a wacky outsider stumbles or invents something astounding and then spends the movie trying to get the other people around him to comprehend the value of his invention. (and along the way he finds love and friendship and some hearty adventure as well)Seeing as how I very much loved Young Einstein when I was a kid, its not that big a leap to see why I liked this one as well, since the two movies seem to have quite a bit in common humor wise at least in the first 20 minutes before the scientist comes to America.
It was interesting watching it again, I honestly quite enjoyed the set up of the film in the small East German town, and I enjoyed seeing Dom Deluise looking like he was having fun hamming it up in his villainous role when he turns up, which he doesn't until the last half of the movie. Meanwhile, Billy Dee Williams while commanding a screen presence as always does not appear to be enjoying himself as much, but i'm not sure if that's him or if that's the role he was playing--which was more of a straight man to the wacky German. There was one scene tho where he takes over as auctioneer at the auction that has people bidding on the vegetable car--and he's trying to describe how fast the car can run--and well its hard sometimes to not wanna make a Star Wars reference when it would seem to really fit the scene.
Anyways I was surprised that the movie wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it was when I was 10 or 11, but there were moments where I was really happy to be seeing it again for the first time in a long time. Moments such as the random Super Mario Bros. 3 references, or the Bart Simpson T-Shirt the German sports in an effort to look more American..or of course his attempt at a street name "M.C. Schmidt" (rolls eyes) No if you can allow yourself to enjoy silliness, you might enjoy it, but its also no Collision Course if oddball humor that happens while cultures clashing is what you seek. (Collision Course--aka Pat Morita and Jay Leno's version of Rush Hour from the mid 80's) I'd also like to say for the record that the friend I watched the movie with tonight kept asking throughout the entire movie why the scientist doesn't just try to rebuild the car himself rather than chase all around L.A trying to get it back. The ending while I won't spoil it here basically came down to that very question ironically enough meaning my friend even while more than half asleep was able to accurately predict what was the one thing in the movie that needed to be answered before the movie could successfully end. I gotta give him credit here, he was dozing off pretty soundly in the last half hour but he got the main flaw of the movie right off the bat without missing a beat!
Also what the heck was Milton Berle doing in this movie? Did he owe someone a favor or something? His part is so thankless too--he plays a hotel manager who refuses to budge from his spot at the front desk while an earthquake is going on. That's the former king of TV ("MR. TV" himself in this movie, and what is he even doing here?!?!?!?)
Interesting film, starts out really, really well, nicely setting up why
main character Newton Knight felt the way he did about fighting in the
Civil War and why he felt like he had no choice but to run away. Those
early battle scenes followed by the scenes of him back at home and
seeing how terrible life is for the women at home were very effective
at setting a mood for the rebellion that he's going to lead...and it
did a really good job I think drawing you into the movie itself.
Indeed the scenes that immediately follow of Knight on the run, hiding out in the swamp land with runaway slaves while being joined by fellow former Confederate soldiers who also felt like they had no choice but to run from the War and resist fighting in the name of the South were very interesting in setting up the contrast between Knight's position that all men are equal including escaped slaves and various other white soldiers who even hiding out from the Confederacy still nursed hatred and prejudice for the slaves that were alongside them hiding out in the swamp lands (and eventually in the town that became the Free State of Jones)
It was an interesting dynamic, and the first half of the film I thought really did a good job of playing up that idea both dramatically and cinematically. Unfortunately the second half of the film was less effective at dramatizing the ideas they wanted to get across. It was still an interesting movie I thought, certainly different enough than the usual Civil War set stories that we usually see on film, but once The Civil War ends and we spend a half hour (if not more) seeing how the various citizens who made up the Free State of Jones essentially disassemble, the movie kind of starts to lose focus a bit.
Now that last half hour or so was still interesting to me, but it didn't seem to be as tightly focused as the half that the move spent following Knight and his men during the Civil War itself and how they managed to defy the Confederacy and the various regiments and troops sent to roust them. There are various things happening as Knight seeks to keep the movement that he started during the war going but the movie's point that the white folk who were on Knight's side during the war wanted to move on with their lives and didn't want to bother themselves by standing up alongside Knight (despite Knight's best efforts) for the rights for former slaves to vote freely while well made, didn't seem to resonate as strongly as the movie's other points.
All in all it was still a more interesting movie than I honestly thought it would be going in--I kind of thought from the ads for it that it was going to be yet another dull historical film, but there were honestly some very interesting ideas in here that got me into the story of the film, and kept me interested in where the story of the film was going to go after the war itself ended.
On the other hand, its no "Glory" or "Gettysburg" or "Little Big Man" in terms of civil war set films that are gripping and incredibly well told but its still a fairly solidly put together enough film on its own and worth checking out if you're even slightly interested in the subject matter--uneven last half hour included.
Film is about a young guy named Gabriel who is out to prove himself to
this huge crime boss. He gets himself hired as a henchman doing odd
hits and various killings, all in the name of making his bones for the
crime boss. Guy then discovers that he actually has the ability to
withstand bullets. People in the film keep saying that he has "a closed
body" meaning that bullets can't penetrate him. The crime boss instead
of seeing this as an amazing thing to have in a henchman decides
instead that this guy needs to be gotten rid of, so he spends the movie
trying to plot various ways of trying to bump off the apparently
bulletproof Gabriel. There's some talk about Gabriel's ability stemming
from this amulet he wears, which causes the crime boss to want to learn
all about the order of the religion that the amulet comes from (The
amulet was a symbol of the religious following that Gabriel's mother
follows and that Gabriel grew up in as a child.) The crime boss ends up
engaging in several witch doctor like practices to try and emulate
Gabriel's bulletproof ability to no avail.
This film honestly strangely enough reminded me of X Men Origins Wolverene--the first stand alone Wolverene film. In that film, Wolverene becomes the employee of this shady company who spends all this time and money trying to make him the perfect killing machine, only to turn on him almost instantly when it looks as if his power is too much for the company to feel they can control. Wolverene then spends the rest of the movie being hunted down by various agents of the company and dispatches them all. That's literally more or less the plot of this movie--just substitute the ability to not be hit by bullets for adamentium claws. This film however much like that first Wolverene film despite a couple of interesting touches, does not really sustain interest tho, in that the film soon becomes quite repetitive with scene after scene after scene basically boiling down to a bunch of hit men sent by the crime boss try and fail to strike down or get the better of Gabriel, who just cannot be killed. Honestly, a little of this goes a long way, and some slight variation or even explanation would have been appreciated. Its not that its a terrible film, just that once the story is set up, the film does not really go anywhere with it except for again scene after scene of people trying to kill Gabriel only to end up killed by Gabriel. Almost again exactly what happened in that first Wolverene film. OK I guess.
Slumming is great at first just because it has a premise you have not seen in a hundred other films. Its about a jerky young guy who bored with his life plays practical jokes on people (usually involving arranged blind dates made online and secretly taken crotch shots with his phone) One night while going around with his friend he sees a passed out drunk guy lying on a bench in front of a train station. He randomly decides to take said passed out drunk guy, put him in the trunk of his car, and drive him across the border into another country at a similar looking bench in front of a similar looking train station. (The jerky young guy keeps laughingly repeating-- "He'll think the train station shrank!" while driving back home with his friend) The rest of the movie mostly involves two different plot lines--one involving the passed out drunk guy coming to and trying to wander home, or at least wander somewhere in search of warmth and more alcohol. The second plot line involves the jerky young guy and his new relationship with this woman he meets on one of his arranged blind dates who seems to understand his penchant for playing pranks and trying to wake himself up so he's not simply sleeping through his life. (or something like that) Unfortunately as amused as she is by most of the stuff he does--she does not find the thought of what he did to the passed out drunk guy very funny at all and sets out to find him and bring him back. Why? I'm not too sure, but I suppose it gives the film something to give the audience someone to relate to because we're probably not going be able to relate to either of the other two guys at the center of the film (though I should admit I did kind of like the jerky young guy.) The first half hour or so is really very intriguing. I liked the central premise very, very much that I was willing to go with the film wherever it went. That intrigue actually takes the movie far enough--you spend a good majority of the movie wondering just where this film is actually going. Unfortunately it eventually becomes clear that the film isn't really going to go anywhere all that interesting. (in fact the movie essentially ends with an ending that's kind of the equivalent of shrugging your shoulders--I mean its an ending in the sense that the three characters get a resolution, but the resolution is more up in the air than concrete.) Also as much as I liked this fact--truthfully you're probably not going to be able to identify with either the jerky young guy, or the passed out drunk guy who while realistically portrayed is hard to evoke sympathy for given that he clearly doesn't want any.(basically once he wakes up, he marches around seeking shelter which he eventually finds, then he roams around again eventually hiding out in both a barn alongside some cows, and hiding out in the luggage compartment of a professional sports team's bus...I should add that throughout the movie he essentially berates the majority of people he ends up coming across. I mean he's nice enough to the kind souls who try to help him a little but but for the most part he's belligerent, angry, and almost always cursing in the only somewhat coherent ways that the drunk homeless sometimes do.) The film is good in that it doesn't ask for any sympathy for any of its characters (both of whom take life on their own terms) Its also good in that you really don't know where its going to go as the film keeps going along. However as interesting as it is, after a while it starts to become a little bit of a drag in that its hard to really connect with either of its two main characters (which is probably why they brought in the woman to search for the drunk guy--as an audience surrogate) So interesting and definitely worth a look for fans of the off-beat but not super terrific.
Sabotage was a pretty good B movie overall. Its got a really strong
beginning, a suspenseful enough middle, and a really, really weak
ending. Arnold absolutely does his strongest post comeback acting work
here with a very tense, serious, internal and surprisingly effective
performance. Almost completely missing at least at first are all the
coolly spoken one liners that usually serve to punch up the scene we
just saw--which really threw me off guard while watching this. I kept
waiting for the classic Arnold one liner tell off line and while there
are a handful scattered here and there, instead of being delivered with
that classic confident style we get a kind of slightly nervous style of
Arnold's got reason to be nervous. His character's "we don't answer to nobody" big time top secret, off the grid DEA squad just blew a major bust, a member of his team got killed, and they're all being accused of stealing the money from the failed bust that they can't recover. (Doesn't help that a lot of it was burned up in an explosion but never mind that.) When we first see Arnold back in the office trying to tie up loose ends, he's being tailed everywhere he goes--even in the bathroom! He's being mocked by everyone he comes across and even after he grabs this other agent's gun right off of his chest holder without the guy even knowing he's still being made fun of by the dude! It doesn't matter though cause he's got bigger fish to fry. Mainly he's got to find out who's killing off the members of his team one by one. (Who Could It Be????) Yes before too long we witness the deaths of the members of his team one by one--and you can just bet that the local cops in charge of investigating these deaths will start to suspect him before too long. Why? I don't really know, and it doesn't really matter because he's Arnold and frankly why else are you watching this if not for him? I hope its not for any of the actors who make up the members up their team because despite some good actors mixed in there, none of them really get to make much of an impression with the exception of one team member in particular. I'll leave it to you to find out which one of course! Arnold in all seriousness does a very strong job indicating the mounting pressures his character feels--about halfway through the movie we learn what's really eating Arnold's character and Arnold does a very credible job making you believe that he's really suffering internally. I can't believe I'm saying this but I honestly think he'd be a good lead on a CBS crime show, he's got that real charismatic "I'm in charge here" accountability aspect of seeming like a good leader to the other members of his team down and it kind of stinks that the last half hour or so of this movie lets Arnold's fine character work down by becoming more typical, and a lot more sloppy in terms of plotting.
Yes the killer is found, and yes is justice is dispensed and Arnold gets to fire a large gun out of the sunroof of a car while in pursuit of said killer. The end chase scene is actually really funny--at one point the killer hits a pedestrian on a bike and shouts that they can't see over the body on the windshield and I'm not going to lie--its a really funny moment and is very unusual in a movie car chase (which I love!) but everything past a certain point--say the random revealing of the killer--feels kind of a let down given the build up that was put in.
I'm probably over-thinking this--its not like they set out to make a great character based movie but I feel like Arnold's character here really registers strongly as an actual person and this could have been an amazing suspense movie with real emotions playing out from Arnold but the film's pretty sloppy last twenty minutes or so lessons the quality of the film quite a bit. Seriously the killer all but announces that they're the killer at a certain point and all that's left is to watch Arnold chase after the killer--like its like that's it? that's the end of the movie we've been watching? after an hour and twenty minutes give or take of toying with Arnold--this is how the movie decides to end? OK I guess but you were a lot better a movie before you randomly decided you needed to rush to an ending as quickly as you could. Its still entertaining at least.
Frank Langella would very, very much be the reason to see this film, he
doesn't disappoint...its the film around him that disappoints. Playing
his somewhat usual unusual role of enigmatic rich man asking mysterious
favors of a somewhat struggling younger person while hiding his own
questionable agenda (see also "The Ninth Gate" and "The Box" among
others.) Langella shows up on screen maybe ten minutes in snapping at
his maid to go the pharmacy after she literally just said she was going
there--- He then follows up with the memorable one liner "Life's a lot
less complicated ever since I stopped hearing women talk" Its the kind
of irresistible barbed one liner that i love hearing come out of
Langella in movies exactly like these, and as he went about describing
just exactly what he wanted from the young painter whose time and
energy he solicits, I was more then wrapped up in the whole mysterious
vibe of the film and quite optimistic.
Unfortunately the film as a whole seems a lot more interested in the process of painting and saddling Langella with somewhat ominous monologues with grave overtones about the importance of living while doing what you love while you can. I mean the writer/director gives Langella a good reason for doing that but its possible it could've been done in a somewhat less ham fisted way. While the creation of the various canvases that lead Wes Bentley gets to somewhat lovingly paint are tied in nicely with the main plot line, and the repeated close-ups of paint mixing with water are a neat visual motif (i suppose) its definitely not what i went to this movie to see, but its possible that I went to see this because I just wanted to see what nutty thing the Frank Langella character wanted from the younger character this time around.
What Langella wants is fairly easy to guess and one nice thing on the director's part is that he that he lets Wes Bentley understand almost immediately from the second he sees Sarah Paulson exactly what Langella wanted. The climactic scene of Bentley and Paulson together is nicely effective and reasonably free of the hitting you over the head emotionalism that a lesser director would've went for. When the film ends however you kind of realize that not a whole lot really happened and that the journey that Wes Bently made and the lessons he's supposed to have learned regarding the way he's been living his life don't feel all that true. Even tho i did like the performance of the actress who played his wife (Ahna O'Reily) who i thought did a very effective job showing the frustrations living with this obsessive painter was having on her life during the couple of scenes she was in. (Or as Langella says to Bentley regarding her "Artists can't have families, it takes away from their art") Honestly i just think the film either needed more meat to its rather slim story, or failing that more maybe some more substantial scenes between Bentely and Langella--I'm not entirely sure what this film needed more of but i definitely feel like it needed more of something for it to have felt worth watching and thinking about as a whole but OK.
The Look of Love from Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom
was definitely something to look forward to--between the two of them
they've cooked up 24 Hour Party People, Tristam Shandy, and The
Trip--all three of which are top notch films in many ways. They're all
moving and quite funny in addition to being very well done dramatic
portrayals of guys begrudgingly reflecting back on the choices they've
made in their life as well. This film has the latter part but nowhere
near the good humor of the former part. Its possible the two men wanted
to play the seriousness of Coogan's character's plight for straight
dramatic value or maybe they felt that the character being portrayed
wouldn't be as funny as the ones Coogan played in the other films,
either way the movie itself mostly just lays there on screen. There's
not much to engage you or pull you into the story this time around and
Coogan's character who's supposed to be the central figure of this
"character study" never begins to come across as a vivid, fully fleshed
out person the way he does in the other films...i kept waiting for the
details of his life to get filled in but the film mostly glosses over
the details that would've made his character someone to root for (or
against) Instead what we get is a barely there stick figure, you can
sympathize with some of the things his character has to goes through
towards the end, but you can never fully feel for his character.
Coogan plays somewhat of a British Larry Flynt here...someone who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur and real estate tycoon on the strength of a pornographic empire and his successful attempts to have frequent nudity and stripping in proper polite public society. Its said at the end of the movie that his character was the richest man in Britian in the mid 2000's,--tho the film itself is set during the late 70's/early 80's (Relying on the soundtrack to tell you when you are is what i did, as Donnovan's "Sunshine Superman" pops up towards the beginning, and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" pops up in the last half hour, i got that we were moving from the 70's thru the 80's here but its honestly hard to tell because there are so many different period signifyers all kind of just thrown on screen.)
The film's storyline involves Coogan's ever evolving relationship with his daughter whom he refuses to leave when he walks out on his wife and son, apparently he shares a significant bond with her, we're told that she's a lot like him character wise and you can see why that is as the story moves on. When she ends up being kicked out of boarding school, against his better instincts he ends up taking her on as a performer (she wants to be a singer) and eventually a full on partner in his various business dealings. The bulk of the story is essentially how the business he very successfully built for himself ends up destroying his own daughter little by little (you know it isn't very long before she ends up over-indulging in drugs and the lifestyle in general and getting in way over her head, etc, etc) Meanwhile Coogan keeps whatever difficult emotions he's feeling bottled up while witnessing the slow decline of his daughter, preferring to over-indulge in the nightlife himself.
This could have all been a nicely effecting story about a guy who never took the time to share or process his feelings towards the other people in his life suddenly having to grapple with the choices he had made having such a significant effect on the one true loved on in his life. Unfortunately, again, none of it really comes across--i don't know if this is because Coogan's character steadfastly refuses to take responsibility for his actions, or because Winterbottom purposefully keeps Coogan's character at such a remote distance from the audience that again it ends up being difficult to feel for him when the difficulties in his life start up. You can see how much pride he takes in how he presents himself to everyone else, and how little else matters to him which may be the point, but it doesn't make it any easier to latch onto him as the main character in a movie. Unlike the other three films the star and director made together, the film's central character never comes across as an even remotely likable person so the attempt in the last half hour or so to make him more relatable to the audience never works because you were never really on his wavelength as a person/character to begin with.
As a whole, the film is an interesting attempt at doing a whole seedy 70's esque character study, but it just doesn't quite work as a whole and while Coogan does get in a good handful of one liners--although those are so few and far between one another tho that they might as well have not even been there tho i was thankful while watching it that they were-- so while itself is never exactly a dead zone, the film overall is way too inert to really pull you into the world of its central character and that is sadly the complete opposite of what the other 3 films the star and director have done together.
The East is a film that knows how to grab your attention and hold on to
it. Its a very confidently made film much like the director's previous
film "The Sound Of My Voice" was. The story is as unpredictable and as
nicely set-up and nicely unfolding as that other film was, however this
doesn't quite match that other film's power at keeping you intrigued
and attentive right up until the end credits. This one is both a little
longer then it needed to be and a little too light on narrative
momentum--especially, especially in that third act, to really lead to
as powerful a finish as it would like to land.
Don't get me wrong, I very, very much enjoyed watching the film unfold as it was going along. I very, very much enjoyed the various ways the film kept moving ahead with its storyline, and drawing you in with its very calm and very serious straight faced storytelling. The attempts to make a slow building old school (re 70's style) paranoid suspense film are well met...and the sequences where Britt Marling who's supposed to be deep undercover along with this underground "eco-terrorist" group goes along with the group's activities very much escalates in tension as the film moves along. However I personally didn't feel that the climax of the film was as powerful or as shattering as it should've been, nor was it as clear at what meaning or message the storyline was trying to get at. When i was thinking about what the ending meant and how it reflected the movie i just watched as a whole, I didn't really think that the film was as great as it could have been because there are some serious questions regarding the actions of some of the characters there that don't quite fit together. To put it in other words-- There's a great first act, a very nicely sustained second act, but a third act that all but kills the nicely building tension that had been simmering at a low boil for a good hour and a half or so. Without giving anything away I'll just say that it didn't feel very satisfactory to me, and that it felt vague and open to interpretation whereas the movie up until then had been very specific in what the people in the film were trying to accomplish.
The other thing I felt could've been a lot better was the lead character's emotional connection to the group she's supposed to be infiltrating. Its supposed to be clear that she's feeling unceasingly drawn in to the "terrorist" group's philosophy and less and less sure about the materialistic life she had been leading before her undercover gig. That's not a bad storyline certainly and there's a great scene towards the end where Birtt Marling really sells the whole emotional confusion she feels, but it never really felt to me that the emotional disconnect she was feeling from her real life was all that deep. Like I feel like if she could've taken a really long bath and gotten a couple night's sleep she could've easily overcome her deep emotional anguish, it didn't quite register as strongly to me as the director would like it to, and i suspect it may be because of that very fact that i definitely didn't feel like the ending worked as well as it could have. Again don't get me wrong, the chemistry between Marling and Alexander Skarsgaard as the group leader is good, but its almost too low key a passion to really match the boiling emotion that she's supposed to be feeling and again there are some questions there regarding both of their characters actions towards that last stretch of film that don't quite track with what they had been feeling before--at least again to me it didn't feel like it was keeping in character.
Overall its a suspenseful film but one that's ultimately undone by its somewhat vague ending. Two other things to take note of here tho are the fact that the film was produced by none other then Ridley Scott--and there's a very nice little homage to Blade Runner in the recurring shot of the pack of horses (with the lone while horse running along the other dark horses)that Birtt Marling sees...that one shot of the horses running also nicely conveys both the state of mind and the physical location of where Britt Marling is when she sees them again at the end. The other thing I want to point out is the work of Ellen Page here as one of the more angry members of the the organization. While she's only really given the one note to play--super committed member of the faithful, the one scene where she gets to fully confront the source of a lot of her anger is very powerfully played and very well acted. I only really mention it because I almost feel like that if Britt Marling's character could have matched Page's intensity towards that last half hour or so where she's supposed to be unraveling her true feelings that maybe the film's ending could have come off as more powerful then the shoulder shrug it elicited from me.
I loved the book enormously when i read it a couple years back. I shot
through it in two days and just thought it was a fantastic read with an
incredibly high energy feel to it. (Its almost like the reading
equivalent of several cups of coffee) The film by contrast doesn't have
any of that specific wired high energy feel to it, in fact i thought
the film kind of saps some of the energy from the story by trying to
place it all in the context of a story that has to have a beginning,
middle, and end. I get that any adaptation of this was going to have to
do some reconfiguring just because any movie is going to need to have a
story with a clear through line for people who aren't familiar with the
book to understand and that's OK, but at the same time it kind of takes
away some of the amazing strength of the book. In fact it kind of
reminded me of the Robert Redford 70's version of "the Great Gatsby" in
that while faithfully recreating the scenes from the book, they kind of
forgot to infuse the film with the lively energy that their source
material had in spades! Enough about that tho because as a film "On The
Road" is solidly enjoyable enough and pretty well made as a film that
its hard not to like it in general. I did in fact watch virtually the
entire movie with a huge smile on my face because i enjoyed in no small
measure the staging of certain scenes from the book, as well as
catching certain lines that i remembered vividly from the book but not
until hearing them spoken in the film did i think about how great it
was that the screenwriter and director thought to include them.
The film itself to me even gets better in retrospect because at first i didn't particularly like either Sam Rielley or Garret Hedlund as Sal or Dean. Thought they were both entirely miscast, but in truth as the film went on it was a lot easier to accept them as the characters if only because i think i had such a specific type in mind for both characters--Sal should have been less grizzled, more naive...and Dean should have been way more manic and charming instead of the fairly low key but very affable man. (i feel like maybe James Franco would've been a good choice for this cause he can definitely do both manic and depressed.) Even that i understand that you can't overdo Dean Moriarty because then you run the risk of going too far and having him not be believable as someone who could easily charm this entire group of people, but again as the film goes on, and the scenes go by--it becomes a lot easier to accept the two actors as Sal and Dean. I feel like that's actually true of the film as a whole too. It kind of starts out with a whole i don't know about this kind of vibe and it quickly wins you over because of the confident way the scenes from the book are put across. I really do feel like Walter Salles properly caught the spirit and underlying sadness of the book but didn't quite capture the mad passionate high energy level that makes the book such an intoxicating read. While that initially came to me as disappointment i got to admit that the film (much like the book its based on) grew on me as i was watching it, and if the film can't be exactly like the book, its at least a fair to solid enough interpretation of the book's characters and events that i can gladly accept and enjoy it on its own merits. (The fact that its also beautifully filmed and has a great accompanying soundtrack help enormously!)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Engaging revenge style film starts out like a good old fashioned noir
film and builds in intensity as it goes on until it gets to the point
where it starts to resemble Chan Woo Park's "Lady Vengeance" more then
anything else. Quite suspenseful film deserves to be much better known
in the US today, especially since wild changes in tone and cartoonish
spurts of blood are much more widely embraced in American movies today.
(in fact the wild climax of the movie reminded me of the crazy 88's
sequence in the first Kill Bill film except done rather seriously but
i'll get to that later) The film very much reminds me of something
Brian DePalma would have made in that its a very well made suspense
tale with a crazy climax, a beautiful score, and nods to other kinds of
films from the past--it wouldn't be out of line to suggest that if you
were a fan of something like Body Double or Dressed To Kill you would
prob go for this one in a big way. (both great movies,both a lot of
fun, both also with insane endings) It also reminds me of a Brian
DePalma film in that as wildly entertaining as the endings to his films
can be, they sometimes feel as if they're coming at the expense of
their carefully built plot lines, but that's OK too i guess since they
really just serve to draw you into the story and then shock you very
nicely in the end.
Film stars out with 2 friends drunkenly lamenting the fact that this big cooperation wants to buy out the land that they make their living fishing on to turn it into yet another resort (or so they think, the bad guys actually have designs on turning said land into a nuclear power plant!) When one ends up witnessing the murder of the other, he ends up dragging his wife who is a deep sea diver into this conspiracy--the dead body of his friend is nowhere to be found and he wants her to dive in and find his body. While she's underwater, he ends up harpooned and she narrowly escapes being killed herself---i'm not giving any spoilers away, this all happens in the space of the film's first twenty or so minutes. The rest of the film is the wife's attempt to seek the killers, exert her revenge, and try to force the truth of the bad guys' conspiracy to light which is of course easier said then done.
This film is nice and suspenseful and is actually very old fashioned--this could have been the plot to a 50's noir that somehow ended up starring Esther Williams were she interested in wanting to do a film noir and not a big Technicolor musical. This is what i was thinking at least up until the first surprisingly violent interaction between the wife who is now posing as a prostitute and the first of the many henchmen to the bad guys she ends up meeting and um dispatching. That interaction at first is really jarring--because aside from the killing of her husband and his friend, the film hasn't been violent at all, so this extended sequence of her stabbing this henchman--at first to escape being identified--comes as a really shocking moment, and then the scene goes on with her repeatedly stabbing at him and all this blood soon spurting out of the henchman, and soon there's so much of it that the sequence would not be out of place in a Tarentino film. The movie which up until that point hadn't been even remotely funny even starts to develop a kind of sick sense of humor, the more this kind of thing takes place, the funnier it actually becomes which only goes to show you how well this film could have gone over in America were it to have been made in recent years rather then in the mostly conservative 80's. This all leads to an either brilliant or insane--or insanely brilliant last 15 or so minute sequence where the heroine--now fully deranged from her revenge quest just goes bonkers and decides to just stop playing games and start killing everyone she comes across from this now cartoonishly evil cooperation. Literally she takes a harpoon and just starts stabbing everyone she comes across. Its a great sequence--alive with so much energy that i rather wish the film was far better known if only so someone could post this sequence on you-tube and i could actually show it to other people! As entertaining as this sequence is tho it also shows you how far the film has gone from being a rather believable suspense film to an almost cartoonish violent kind of film--and while the whole sequence is well built up to, it does kind of go against the whole believable atmosphere that the film has been building up to so far. Still the old motto about those who end up seeking revenge is very apt here, and is also very entertaining if you don't mind the overall shift from straight suspense drama to over the top revenge style type of movie. Also any movie that can prompt a discussion after-wards about whether a harpoon could take out that many people at once is definitely one worth watching.
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