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A film like Knock Knock defensively positions itself as a comedy to
cushion against any criticisms. If someone is offended or disgusted by
the subject matter, the film's fans can simply claim that it is in on
the joke of it all, and that that's "the point."
Some "meta-bad" films earn this cushion. Last year's The Guest, starring Dan Stevens, would have been quite poor if sold earnestly, but it had a devilish sense of humour about itself, and paid homage to '80s films with a wink and a nod without just becoming a giant piece of garbage.
Knock Knock is a giant piece of garbage. A giant piece of garbage made by a man who has little to no evidence of talent. I've always felt that Eli Roth looked extremely creepy, something Tarantino capitalized upon by casting him as a sociopath in Inglourious Basterds. It's not fair to judge someone's personality or self-merit based upon their looks. However, it's fairer to judge someone based upon their art, and Roth's -- consumed with body-horror, torture porn (remember he helped jumpstart the craze with Hostel), and grimy sexual antics -- seems to paint a disturbing portrait indeed. The fact that he cast his considerably younger wife in the lead role of this film, and then put her name above the title next to Keanu Reeves, is Hollywood nepotism at its finest. As a critic, I try to remain objective, and there are truly few actors or filmmakers I just downright dislike; there are some whose personal lives may disappoint me (e.g. Polanski), but I separate the art from the artist. But Roth's art is vile, and goes hand-in-hand with my perspective of him as someone who gets off on all this filth. I don't think there's ever been any kind of true social or political commentary to his work -- which the best gross-out horror films tend to have, including the film he attempts to shamelessly rip off here, Funny Games.
No, Roth gets his kicks from getting his wife naked on camera, having Keanu Reeves -- who looks regretful in every scene, and not because he's in character -- bullied, bloodied, raped and tortured.
The dialogue is terrible, the cinematography is shoddy (it basically went straight to video, which is what you'd gather from the way it's shot), the story is stupid which would be OK if the film had something clever to say, but instead Roth presents this all in a transparent attempt to shock and outrage while being too lazy to have any commitment to the material, instead hiding behind the "irony" angle and playing it out as a borderline farce.
Reeves, who gained so much goodwill with last year's John Wick, gives one of his worst performances here; Roth's wife, whose name I do not recall and don't care to, is a coarse screen presence; and Ana de Armas just seems like she's being exploited here.
I only gave this a chance because of Reeves, but I should have known better when I saw Roth's name attached. It is a great mystery as to why this man continues to have a film career.
Fast and Furious gets attention for being one of the rare series to
completely reinvent itself over time (to both critical and financial
success), but with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, it has become
clear that it is the latter series that has more firmly reinvented
itself and finally found its footing. What started as a typically
subversive and visceral Brian De Palma film, disguised as both a star
vehicle for Tom Cruise and a high-budget adaptation of a television
show, then transformed into a cheesy John Woo vehicle, eventually
settled down into a more straightforward action picture with the
underrated M:i3. To this point in time, each Mission had been
drastically separate from its predecessor, every director leaving his
impression on the same general premise: disavowed agents, the IMF going
rogue, etc. But the negative effect of this was that the character of
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), along with his ever-changing roster of IMF
crewmembers, was forced to continually adapt to the drastically altered
aesthetics of each installment. So while the films were serviceable and
fun, there was never really a sense of character building or continuity
beyond Cruise and Ving Rhames appearing on screen together.
That changed with the third film, which placed an emphasis on Hunt's home life, his marriage, and introduced the character of Benji (Simon Pegg), who was initially the M:I version of James Bond's Q, but has since transformed into a major supporting player.
And it was with Ghost Protocol in 2011 that the series truly seemed to find its footing, carrying over the story continuity and characters from M:I 3 while still allowing its director, Brad Bird, to mold the film in his own style.
With this all said, Rogue Nation, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is closer to Ghost Protocol than any of the other films, and by now we feel as though the Ethan Hunt we are seeing on screen has become something of a fully-formed and consistent character, as much as an action film may allow him to be. At the end of the day, this isn't Cruise wildly diverting from his usual on screen persona, but there's a warmness and self-deprecation to Ethan Hunt here that we didn't have in the transition from, say, the first film to the second, where he was just a generic glorified action figure who was way too cool to show any self-awareness or wit.
Despite rumours of troubled production (McQuarrie was reportedly still working out an ending to the film when the studio decided to push it up to a summer release from its original Christmas opening), you wouldn't know it from the look of this picture. This is something it shares in common with George Miller's Mad Max Fury Road, a long-delayed picture whose negative press had many convinced it would be a dud, but which turned out to be one of the more strongly-reviewed action films of the decade.
And here's something else Rogue Nation shares with Miller's film: a strong feminine role, one that almost threatens to steal the picture away from the leading man. Paula Patton did some fine work in Ghost Protocol, but her replacement, Rebecca Ferguson, is a revelation. McQuarrie and Cruise were reportedly in search of a "Golden Age" star, someone whose look reflected a bygone era, and they found her. (It almost seems a winking nod that part of the film takes place in Casablanca.) This is a star-making turn, and it's a rare sign of humility for Cruise, 53, to allow a supporting player to potentially upstage him.
Speaking of ensemble casting, even more so than Ghost Protocol, this is a team piece. Jeremy Renner, once touted as a possible successor to Cruise, is largely relegated to sideline scenes with Alec Baldwin, but these work more effectively than I imagined they might, and when he eventually reunites with the rest of the gang, it feels a bit more poignant. And it's strangely satisfying to see Rhames back (apart from a cameo at the end, he was absent altogether from Protocol), his oft-referenced history with Ethan another example of the series' sudden turn towards stressing its continuity.
And if you're just here for the action sequences, well, there are plenty of those, too. Some of them are the best of the series: the motorcycle free-for-all in Casablanca is breathtaking, for example, and if Mad Max had not come out this year, it would be safe to say Rogue Nation had the best chase sequence in recent memory. It makes the CGI-laden Furious films look weak by comparison.
Deftly blending practical stunt work with minimal CGI, McQuarrie's film is closer in tone and spirit to a traditional spy film than any of the other movies. A sequence at the Vienna Opera isbfluid and beautiful to look at and funny (McQuarrie enjoys riffing on Cruise's stature as an action hero) that it could easily rank as one of the better Bond set pieces. And without spoiling anything, the movie sets itself up nicely for a direct sequel, something none of the other movies have ever really bothered to do.
Action films don't get much better than this, especially for a series that is almost 20 years old and has starred the same actor for every installment. This is one of those movies where you're swept up in the momentum from beginning to end, and any weaknesses are easily ignored because of how much fun you're having while you watch it unfold.
I'm not the biggest fan of Mila Kunis, nor am I a huge fan of Seth
MacFarlane. But despite my hesitations, I liked the original Ted quite
a bit, for a variety of reasons; despite its obvious crudeness, it had
some character development and poignancy that the film medium was able
to afford MacFarlane that a TV cartoon wasn't able to. As much of an
ostensibly "bro" movie as it was, it had some subversive commentary on
the male id, and Mila Kunis' character was written quite well; she
didn't come across as the harping, shrill female stereotype so often
seen in movies about male arrested development (see: "Saving
Silverman"). For every time Wahlberg and his teddy bear seemed to have
a valid reason to continue their destructive friendship, she had an
equally valid reason that they shouldn't.
How disappointing, then, that Ted 2 opens with Kunis' character lazily written off, discarded by Wahlberg's character as "the wrong woman" (or something to such an effect) so that MacFarlane can introduce a new love interest in the form of Amanda Seyfried, who is a fine actress in better written roles but simply isn't given the same level of material to work with here.
The other memorable aspect of Ted was simply the novelty factor: "potty-mouthed teddy bear." This was a simple premise that appealed to everyone everywhere, which is why it was one of the rare blockbuster comedies to make a lot of money overseas.
But now we have Ted 2, and the novelty is worn off. The balance of the first film is gone, too; the crudeness there was offset with surprisingly sweet, character-driven moments; here, because we don't really believe the characters from the onset (see: Kunis' character being shrugged off), there really aren't as many tender moments. None of it really rings true, it just seems like a typical sequel going through the motions trying to replicate the original but inevitably failing to do so simply because the appeal is a one-off (it kind of reminds me of the Hangover sequels).
Like the Hangover sequels, this isn't as bad as the critics might lead you to believe. It's not a terrible film. It's safe to say that, if you liked the original Ted, you'll at least find this an entertaining enough diversion for a one-time viewing. I also dug that they brought back Giovanni Ribisi, the best part of the first film, despite the fact that his inclusion made no sense whatsoever.
But this simply isn't as clever, funny, well-written or - frankly - surprisingly tender and sweet as the first movie. It's a decent rental but I hope there's no Ted 3.
I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love the first two "Terminator" movies.
I was incredibly excited (or optimistic) when it was announced by Megan
Ellison that he would be stepping back into his iconic role for what
she described as a definitively R-rated, direct sequel to the original
Ellison is the producer heir who has recently thrown money behind lots of hard-sell films (from P.T. Anderson to Kathryn Bigelow) and has had almost all her gambles pay off. When she departed the project shortly before production and left it to her brother, the less-revered of the siblings (she produced Foxcatcher; he executive-produced GI JOE 2), I saw that as a bad sign. I'm not happy to say that I was right.
Many are upset that this is PG-13. While it doesn't bode well for the integrity of the film itself (especially when Megan Ellison boasted about it being a return to adult filmmaking after the PG-13 Terminator Salvation in 2009), I think fanboys in particular tend to be rather petty when it comes to ratings. It is what it is, and there have been many, many excellent PG-13 action films made in the last couple decades. A movie doesn't *need* gratuitous violence and language to be inherently good, and there have been plenty of films that include those elements that ended up being total garbage.
Just look at Die Hard 5. It killed John McClane, it killed the Die Hard franchise, and yet it was rated R; the PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard was not only a financially more successful film, it also scored much better with audiences and critics.
How apt, then, that the supposed co-star of Die Hard 5, Jai Courtney, is also present in Terminator: Genisys. This is a "movie star" who is so devoid of screen presence, so empty and so boring, that it's a wonder why Hollywood has decided in the last couple of years that he should be forced down our throats as the Next Big Thing. He is a poor man's Sam Worthington, and I actually feel bad for Worthington by even saying that. I generally don't ever take a strong dislike to actors, and I'm inclined to give most a chance to prove themselves. But everything I've seen from Courtney has been offensive, from his lazy performances to his arrogant comments off-camera (he had a few choice quotes during the Genisys press tour that I found rather telling of both his lack of respect for the series and his ego), and I went into Genisys hoping it would be the film to prove me wrong about it. Spoiler alert: it wasn't.
This guy is supposed to be the new Kyle Reese, previously played by Michael Biehn and Anton Yelchin in the first and fourth films respectively. Terminator Salvation has very few fans, but you know what? It had a strong cast, Yelchin made the character his own to the degree that he could while still honoring Biehn's interpretation, and the movie at least *tried* to give its own spin on the Terminator mythology.
Genisys backtracks. It plays with the mythology but doesn't really provide a unique perspective.
The movie opens with the future war, which is crammed with plenty of poor CGI sequences. (Another victory for Terminator Salation was that it had a surprisingly cool opening shot of Christian Bale in the helicopter as it crashes and is attacked by a Terminator. This movie doesn't even have that much.)
You know the drill by now: Connor sends Reese back in time to save his mother... only when he arrives, everything has changed, and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is now a war-ready action heroine, and they are immediately pursued by an Asian T-1000.
I won't recap the plot anymore because I will inevitably run out of my 1,000 word limit (Word says I'm getting close). What I will say is that it's here where Arnold comes "back," and yes, he is by far the best part of the film. One almost wonder whether they deliberately sabotaged the movie with two charisma-free leads in Clarke and Courtney so that Ahnuld wouldn't be upstaged.
But as much as I love the guy, I had the same issues with him here that I did in Sabotage, the film I thought was most likely to reinvigorate his career until I actually saw it. Simply put, he hasn't aged particularly well, and this shows pretty clearly in the fight scenes; in many, he seems to have been lazily digitally imposed over stunt men, and it's distracting more than anything. He has kind of a creaky, croaky screen presence (something he tried, and failed, to put to good use in Maggie), and although the filmmakers attempt to capitalize upon this by making the new Terminator a "Guardian" Father Figure for Sarah (she even refers to him kind of obnoxiously as "Pops" throughout the film), we're constantly reminded of how much more fluid and convincing he was in the first two films, both as the menacing, horrific cyborg and as the reprogrammed father figure to John.
And that's the ultimate problem with Terminator: Genisys. It has nothing new to say. Despite all its claims to the contrary, it's ultimately spinning the same tale through the prism of the older films, doing nothing other than to remind us of how superior they were. John Connor being turned into the villain (which isn't even a spoiler now since it's on the poster and in the trailer) isn't much different than the original ending to McG's film. The "Guardian" being a father to Sarah is no different than the Terminator being a father to John in T- 2. It's not a reboot so much as an homage-packed retreat, following the same beats but lacking the heart and technical ingenuity. This isn't a horrible film, but you know what? T3 was better.
Supposedly no studio wanted to touch this because it was "too gay" (an
aspect of film trivia that will probably be looked back upon 50 years
from now with incredulity), but, like Brokeback Mountain, this is not a
"Gay Movie" (if there even is such a thing). This is a tragic romance
with two superb performances, stellar direction and a great script.
I am not always Matt Damon's biggest fan, I think he's quite hit or miss, but when he hits he often hits it out of the park, and that's what he does here. Whether playing a young man surprisingly well or playing the drug-addled version of the same man years later, this is one of his most honest, believable performances.
Michael Douglas is phenomenal as Liberace. Watch this movie, then go on YouTube and look up Liberace interviews. If you close your eyes you'll be hard-pressed to find any differences in the cadence of his voice. If this film had been released theatrically he would have almost definitely won an Oscar nomination.
I'm not always Soderbergh's biggest fan either, but lately he's been impressing me, as he's moved further away from the mainstream stuff that distracted him for a few years. He directs this film with pure class, and the ending is perfect.
This is one of the better films I've seen in years.
"The Hangover" created a brief trend of similarly-themed films, from
"Last Vegas" to "Bridesmaids."
"Hot Tub Time Machine" was an underdog, a film that was clearly greenlit to cash in on the success of "The Hangover," but which carried a unique spirit; it was simultaneously a Back to the Future-esque '80s time travel film, and a nostalgic riff on the era featuring one of its biggest stars. In essence, you weren't just seeing young actors transplanted into the 1980s; you were seeing one of the 1980s' biggest stars transplanted back into his prime, which afforded the comedy a kind of oddly poignant touch.
So, then, the fact that John Cusack is absent for 99.9% of Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a big step backwards. Even Chevy Chase doesn't seem into it: gruff, with a hoarse voice and out-of-character facial hair, he looks like he showed up on set unannounced after a five-day bender in a Motel 8, staying up all night watching his SNL reruns. What the hell happened here, folks?
Here's the thing: Hot Tub Time Machine was crude, but it had a heart. The time travel device was clever because of its in-joke casting of someone like Cusack.
But the sequel just lacks cleverness. It's a lot of penis jokes, padded out with sleaziness, unnecessary nudity, and Rob Cordry run amuck.
Cordry is the type of actor who's best in supporting roles. He was perfect in HTTB1 because he wasn't the lead -- and his character was actually given a surprising amount of depth (the hotel rooftop scene was surprisingly well-scripted and-acted for an ostensibly filler sequence). But given Cusack's departure in the sequel, Cordry is given free reign, and the result is stifling: he suffocates everyone else, and comes across as loud, ugly, and profane. What worked well in the first film completely destroys the second
And I won't even get started on Adam Scott. I love this guy, but what a waste of talent.
This movie sucks.
People really love to write off Tom Cruise in the press these days, and
"Edge of Tomorrow" was getting all kinds of nasty publicity leading up
to its release: rumours of re-shoots, bad screenings, etc. Whatever his
personal beliefs may be, at the end of the day Cruise is just an actor
on screen, and this movie is a firm reminder of what an enigmatic
presence he is.
Now in his early 50s, Cruise is making some of the best action films around, and Edge of Tomorrow is no exception. Based on a manga novel published in Japan, the plot is essentially Groundhog Day by way of Starship Troopers or...something like that.
The movie's low point is when it tries to explain too heavily the process by which Cruise's character is able to relive the same day over and over again, because at the end of the day it's just a Macguffin to be able to explore the concept. But the movie's strength is that it places its human story first (as corny as that may sound), as Cruise's character undergoes an emotional and physical transformation. It also features a highly capable female lead, brought to life by the charismatic Emily Blunt. If this were a Michael Bay film, the role would have existed solely as a love interest, but this movie doesn't succumb to such banal (and frankly, sexist) tripe. She is a worthy presence alongside Cruise and is one of the strongest sci-fi heroines since Sigourney Weaver in Alien.
Speaking of which, that's the other movie this reminded me of: Aliens. Bill Paxton chewing up the scenery as a drill sergeant probably had something to do with that.
I loved this movie. I saw it three times. Despite the press writing it off as a colossal bomb upon release due to its modest opening, it had spectacular legs, and crossed $100 mil domestic. It ultimately wasn't the box office behemoth the studio may have wished for, but people using it as evidence of Cruise's 'failing career' may be wise to look at the full picture: its worldwide gross ranks it as one of his highest money- makers ever.
This movie will develop a following on home video and I wouldn't be surprised if they somehow attempt to revisit it one day, whether it's through a lower budget prequel or a spin-off or another manga. Who knows. They should probably leave well enough alone, because it's that rare sci-fi summer blockbuster that has it all: brains, wit and thrills. All the people who flocked to the latest Transformers movie would have been doing themselves a favor by seeing this instead.
I'm going to preface this review by stating the obvious (and what no
doubt some may be quick to point out in defense of the sequel): look,
it's "Dumb and Dumber" we're talking about here; not "Citizen Kane".
But I feel like that disclaimer only goes so far, because frankly, the
original "Dumb and Dumber" is one of the funniest films I've ever seen
-- endlessly quotable, thoroughly likable. The key to the movie, I
think, is that there's an underlying sweetness to the humor: Lloyd and
Harry (Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) are never presented as malicious.
Most of the bad stuff that happens to them is inadvertent, and often at
the expense of trying to do a good deed (e.g. Lloyd trying to return
The new movie left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and it wasn't just the cheap, garish, ugly cinematography (the movie literally has the appearance of a Funny or Die or SNL sketch, with brightly lit, obvious set pieces; frankly, it has the aesthetics of a soap opera).
What left me reeling was the movie's cruel streak -- it turns Harry and Lloyd into deliberately mischievous cretins, and the inherent humour is drained from any potential scenarios as a result of their self- awareness. Roger Ebert used to talk about this a lot in his reviews -- it's only funny if the character isn't aware of what he's doing. So when Lloyd and Harry accidentally poison the hit-man hired to kill them in the original Dumb an Dumber, it's funny; when they deliberately sabotage a convention in "Dumb and Dumber To," screaming at a woman to show them her naked body, or gleefully discuss being responsible for a man's death in front of his parents, it's...not funny. It's immature, it's crass, and most importantly, *it goes against the very thing that made these characters funny in the first place!*
I find it hard to believe all these original cast and crew members could re-assemble for a film 20 years later and so completely misunderstand the appeal of their own movie.
Beyond the inherent lack of humor in the mean-spirited hijinks these characters get themselves into this time around, many of the film's one- liners and jokes just aren't funny either. Sorry, but no matter how many times you repeat it, using the word 'butthole' isn't really that amusing.
The film also lazily falls back on repeating some of the original film's plot points and, indeed, one-liners (e.g. Lloyd's "I like it a lawwwt" or the mannerisms he makes when mixing a drink, identical to the first film). It confuses homage for humour, recycling gags without providing them in a fresh context, which simply reminds us of how much funnier they were the first time around.
And then there are the performances. The Farrellys said Jim Carrey hadn't seen the original movie for something like 15 years before agreeing to doing the sequel, and I'm not surprised. He doesn't seem to remember the comic energy he imbued Lloyd with in the original film; instead, he turns Lloyd into an unlikable, borderline creepy manchild with overly exaggerated stupidity and mannerisms. I think the simplest way of summarizing the mistake here is that they jumped the shark from 'dumb' to 'willfully stupid.' And, again to paraphrase the late Mr Ebert, this is the difference between funny and not funny.
This movie is not funny. It's not even mildly amusing in the manner in which I expected a long-delayed sequel may be. If it had been lazy and fallen back on repeating gags from the original film, fair enough; if it contained the same sweet-natured spirit of the original movie, then maybe that would have been its saving grace. Instead, it's not only unfunny, it's egregiously nasty and vile, and when I left the theater I just immediately wanted to wash the taste out.
I remember seeing "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" years ago in theaters, hating it, and thinking how much better it would have been if they had convinced Jim Carrey to come back for a proper sequel. Imagine my surprise 11 years later that this movie doesn't have a single scene as funny as that one's Bob Saget cameo. What a complete and utter let- down this movie was.
I was really excited for EX3 for some reason. I didn't care much about
the PG-13 rating -- based on the trailer and the inclusion of fresh
talent behind the lens, I thought Stallone was trying to take the
franchise toward a Fast&Furious action film route, and I didn't
necessarily have a problem with that if it turned out well enough.
Plus, I miss Mel Gibson (if we judged actors on their personal lives
there wouldn't be many fanclubs left) so the idea of seeing him chew up
scenery as a villain sounded fun.
But the movie...just sucks. The editing is bad. Patrick Hughes perhaps was overwhelmed with the $100 mil budget and didn't know how to handle the action sequences, or perhaps they were just toned down for the PG-13 rating, but they're often so quickly and chaotically chopped up that you can't even tell what's going on. The stunts have become self-parody (just witness Terry Crews flying through the air like he can fly during that car chase early on), and the movie lacks a fun narrative. It also lacks suspense.
The introductions of the actors are so poorly handled. Arnold appears just randomly standing around in the back of a shot in a hospital. Huh? His appearance in EX2 was great. The sense of build-up is similarly lacking when Mel Gibson just stumbles into frame along with a bunch of other bad guys, or when Harrison Ford just shows up to grumble some Bruce Willis disses and then disappears for the rest of the movie... or when Jet Li just randomly appears next to Arnie for a single scene before peacing out.
Wesley Snipes fares the best but that's not saying much. Gibson does the villain routine well enough but the role and the story background for his character just isn't fresh or deep enough to care too much about, so the big showdown between he and Stallone lacks even the dramatic weight of the surprisingly effective and dramatic Jean Claude Van Damme fight in EX2.
Look, ultimately none of these movies have been great. Expendables 1 looked like a straight-to-DVD movie with horrible, bleak cinematography and lighting, but it scored a couple cool moments, like the church scene and that otherwise out-of-place epic Mickey Rourke monologue. (Speaking of which, Rourke is sorely missed.)
EX2 went more for the comedy route which worked well enough, and it was a fun one-time viewing. Neither movies were particularly memorable, but they had memorable moments.
EX3 had the opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, but instead, it comes across as totally cold, cynical and calculated. It's also just not any fun. When Kelsey Grammar shows up to start bringing in the younger 'tech-savvy' recruits, I found myself surprised by how utterly bored I was. Guys like Kellen Lutz are black holes of charisma with little acting talent, so for them to take up a good portion of the movie's runtime is a crying shame.
Ultimately, the PG-13 rating has nothing to do with the movie's faults, apart perhaps from the choppy action scene editing. Where the movie truly fails is that it is a giant moot point. The entire point of the Expendables is bringing back '80s action icons and having them go to war. By relegating them to supporting characters and bringing in younger recruits? That undermines the entire point of the franchise, and makes it seem like a very cynical attempt at moving forward with a younger cast to take over the reigns in the future. But that's not why people are paying to see these movies, as evidenced by its dwindling box office returns.
"Sabotage" looked amazing on paper, and at one point early on in
production, it was one of my most highly-anticipated action films.
First of all, you've got David Ayer coming fresh off the critical and
commercial success of "End of Watch," one of the best cop films in
recent memory; then you've got a pretty good supporting cast
(Worthington, Howard and Manganiello are fine enough for the kinds of
roles they're playing here). But mostly you've got Arnold playing his
least quintessential role -- what I mean by this is that, over the
years, even in his more dramatic fare, Arnold has always enjoyed self-
posturing and falling back on his reputation when he plays characters.
There's nothing wrong with that, but at a certain point, the wink-wink,
nudge-nudge stuff gets a bit repetitive; I thought "Last Stand" was a
fun spaghetti western, but it was Arnold playing an older Arnold,
complete with the "I'll be back" puns and jokey homages to older films.
What excited me about "Sabotage" was that it appeared Arnold had taken a decidedly un-Arnold role, which is to say that most any other aging, dry actor could have taken this on. From the haircut to the makeup (grizzled and riddled with tattoos), this was NOT Arnold playing Arnold. Apart from one throwaway line about a character's "48 percent body fat," this is the first time - maybe since the original Terminator - that Arnold has attempted to play someone other than himself, really, unless you count failures like End of Days, but even then he had a bit of the tongue-in-cheek stuff going on (and the film was crap to boot).
But what made it even more interesting was that, at the same time, the movie shared the whole Agatha Christie and-then-there-was-one plot device that "Predator" made use of. So it was kind of an interesting thing -- we've got a similar set up (an elite gang of mercenaries being picked off one-by-one by an unseen foe, with Arnold left trying to defend himself and his men) but a completely different approach in both tone and character.
With that in mind, I'm very sorry to say that Sabotage not only is a crushing disappointment, but ranks with some of Arnold's worst movies. I mean, I don't know how to describe it other than... this film left a really bad taste in my mouth.
As for Arnold? I love the guy, but maybe this is why it was best for him not to have attempted to play characters much beyond his own image. He tries, but his more earnest line readings are often pretty stiff and unnatural, and it must be said: he's just not really that believable in the role. Chalk it up to the accent, the mediocre line delivery, or the lack of chemistry with his cast members, but there's just something missing here, and as the film drags on you begin to realize how awkwardly cast it is with him in the lead. That pains me to say because I'm a fan of the guy and I was really excited to see him play a more unusual role, and thought it was a wise career move on his part to move beyond the wink-wink roles like Expendables and Escape Plan, but... maybe I was wrong.
But maybe it's not just Arnold. There's ultimately something very crass and callow about this film, and it's not just because it's overly violent, but rather, I think, because of how gleefully it tends to display the violence. It's not that strong violence bothers me, but compare how it was used in Predator to how it is used in Sabotage. Part of it may be the contrast between the ultra-realistic violence (think End of Days with the gritty hand-held style camera work and realistic- looking bullet wounds) and the absolutely ridiculous action sequences in the film (the movie's car chases are pretty poorly executed and unbelievable).
I don't know. I wanted to love this movie. It ended up being so distasteful to me that I couldn't even enjoy it as a guilty pleasure, and it lacks the goofy retro charm of something like Escape Plan so ultimately it just comes across as a forgettable attempt at a modern action thriller with a bungled approach both in front of and behind the camera. Given the talent involved this is definitely one of the biggest "What went wrong?" head-scratchers in recent memory. A shame, because if you look at this film on paper it reads like it could have been one of the Austrian Oak's finest rather than one of his worst.
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