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45 reviews in total 
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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
An amazing mediocre suspenser, 13 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a fan of Dashiell Hammet's work. I haven't read "House on Turk Street," but after watching the movie, I was amazed at how much the movie reminded me of his work, especially "The Glass Key," although the plotlines are hardly alike. the whole movie, for all it's clever plot twists, seems to exist in an entirely different world, one made famous by William Powell, Myrna Loy, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and John Huston. But the film also commits an unforgivable crime: it casts Samuel L. Jackson--whom I had previously believed could inject life and intensity into even the smallest part--as a dull protagonist who lacks all the wisecracking personality that people expect from the actor. Jackson aside, the cast is pretty good, but nothing special.

Jackson plays a cop who works in grand theft auto, but decides to help a grieving neighbor by finding her runaway daughter, believed to be with a boyfriend on Turk Street. After having little luck in his search, he ends up helping an elderly lady, Mrs. Quarre, get her groceries inside, losing the picture of the boyfriend in the process. When he tries to describe the suspect to her and her husband (an almost unrecognizable and Americanized Joss Ackland) a man who fits the vague description (blonde hair, blue eyes) comes out with a gun and takes Jackson hostage. Hoop, the psycho, is just another addition to Doug Hutshison's psychotic and short-tempered characters (Percy in "The Green Mile," Tanner in "The Salton Sea"), and he breaks no new ground here, but fills in as a supporting player. He and the Quarres are working with mastermind Tyrone (Stellan Skarsgard) to rip off a bank of ten million dollars. Erin, Tyrone's mistress, has seduced a bank employee into making the actual transaction. Tyrone, an authoritative sociopath, is Hoop's exact opposite in crime. He "doesn't believe in killing" and treats the gang as a business.

With a cop in their midst Erin is left to watch him while the deal goes down. Jackson happens to be a diabetic, and she learns that the hard way when she gives him a drink. She also learns that he plays classical bass. All their interaction during the rip-off to make you wonder which side Erin is on.

Tyrone, at the robbery, poses as Mr. Abernathy, a blind man who is here to wire money for a deal his company is making. Hoop shuts down power, and the inside guy, a geek who is obsessed with Erin, wires the money to a temporary account on a floppy he has encoded. He won't give them the code until he sees Erin, and Erin has found out that the cop tried to make a phone call and left the phone off the hook.

Tyrone and Hoop go to the guy's house, and wait. He will only tell Erin. He really just wants an excuse to have sex with her. Hoop kills him. Hoop and Erin have plotted against Tyrone, but Tyrone talks Hoop out of it. The Quarres have been waiting to fly them out to Fiji, but have figured out the double-cross, and they want the money. Erin has convinced Tyrone that the cop was looking for him, and not the boy. And so things get more complicated. But in the end it never really comes to a boil.

Milla Jovovich as Erin does a good job of playing a femme fatale. But the real attraction, if any, is Skarsgard, who hams up his villain quite nicely. It's not that he'sreally good at giving a layered performance, but as his character resorts to some pretty sadistic acts of violence, he makes up for the blandness of Jackson and Hutchison's dumb psycho. This is an intelligent killer, a man who is willing to share, but won't let other's get in his way.

Ronin (1998)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Chase!, 9 July 2004

This film is shot with beutiful locales and is packed with fantastic gunfights and car chases to keep the adrenaline running. It's some sort of "Mission: Impossible" and "Speed" combo. Robert DeNiro headlines an ensemble cast. He's okay as a wisecracking ex-CIA agent, but it's not his film. With John Frankenheimer's assured direction, and an array of some of the best European actors working today, playing ex-intelligence and military personnel (CIA, KGB, British Navy, etc.) working with a rogue Irish rep. (Natascha McElhone) to retrieve a case from some French thugs en route to selling it to former KGB operatives. The case is wanted by a renegade IRA member, Seamus O'Rourke (Jonathan Pryce) who is in hiding in France.

The other members of the mercenary team are Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno, "The Professional"), a German ex-KGB agent Gregor, (Stellan Skarsgard) who is a computer whiz and is working an angle with the Russians, Spence (Sean Bean) an arms dealer, and the getaway driver, Larry (Skipp Sudduth, "Third Watch").

Gregor turns out to be a wild card, and the case turns out to be something people would rather kill for than bother paying money.

The streets of Paris and other towns around the country and give the movie a hard-boiled look. The characters are trigger-happy enough to be featured as the villains in an episode of "Alias," but they are not nearly as flashy as in that show. And the chase scenes rival "The French Connection."

On one last note, this was the movie where I first took note of Jean Reno (who I'd previously seen on "Mission: Impossible") and Stellan Skarsgard (who I'd seen already in "Good Will Hunting" and "Amistad") as European talents to watch for.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Michael Moore one-ups himself, 30 June 2004

I, like many of the like-minded friends I know, flocked to theaters the opening weekend. I missed it Friday, but got in Saturday, and the place was packed! The object: to put "Fahrenheit 911" in the top five ballpark, and keep it from vanishing from theaters. I'd said prior to seeing it that, although on a smaller scale, this was the liberals' "Passion of the Christ," a movie swarming with so much preconceived gossip that like it or not, people will go see it. (For the record, I never saw Mel Gibson's controversial movie) Still, while it only mildly surprised me that the movie made No. 1 at theaters, I was shocked when I heard it made something like two million more than "Bowling for Columbine," the other highest-rated documentary, causing Moore to out-do himself.

The movie, undeniably, is an opinion piece. A movie made with an agenda in mind, and I don't have to say what it is. You probably already know Moore's feelings about President Bush, or you wouldn't even be reading this. From the opening scandal surrounding the 2000 election, to the filming of Bush & Co. getting ready for their speechmaking. (Wolfowitz salivates on his comb to slick his hair back) And then, the Trade Centers are hit... We don't actually see the planes hit the towers, but rather, we hear them, then are faced with the astonished and saddened faces of people standing in awe. Paper's flood the air with a cloud of smoke. But we do see Bush, sitting quietly in a Florida elementary school, contemplating the news in his head during a photo-op. And so starts the Bush-bashing, an ambiguous yet slanted look at long ties to cabinet members, their ties to oil, the real Ahmed Karzi, and Prince Bandhar of Saudi Arabia.

The movie demonstrates the lackluster conflict in Afghanistan, where too few soldiers were sent, and took too long at getting to al Qaeda's suspected locale. Then the War on Terror. In one episode, a woman is asked to take a container of breastmilk from the plane, yet another man is allowed matches and cigarette lighters. During this time it is estimated that there would be eight Troopers on duty at any given time in Oregon. (Nice defense from terrorists) Then they show how Bush used the tactic of War on Terror to coax politicians into lending support for his Iraq plan. The details of any infamous incidents in Iraq are not covered, although troops are seen playing around with a couple of POWs. Some soldiers talk about listening to music during their fighting. One song they listen to seems tailor-made for killing.

Michael Moore also follows Flint, Michigan resident Lily Lipscombe, a patriotic "conservative Democrat" whose daughter served in Desert Storm. Her son is stationed in Iraq, and when he dies, she is transformed into a grieving mother, one who never thought such a tragedy would happen.

The whole film is punctuated by George W. Bush's worst moments in front of a camera. As for Moore himself, he remains behind the camera for a good bit of the film, better to keep the audience focused on the business at hand.

Will it sway those who are not initiated? Swing-voters are likely targets, but Republicans, unless extremely moderate, won't even see it, most likely, let alone vote on it.

Sexy Beast (2000)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The life of the movie, 17 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a clever British gangster film, more on par with "The Long Good Friday" than "Snatch." And Ben Kingsley owns it. His ferocious and deservedly Osacar-nominated performance carries the film for its duration. But that's not quite enough.

Spoilers ahead (how I hate that word)

Kingsley's Don Logan, a menacing, foul-mouthed, and unpredictable creation, appears at the beginning of the second act. He's come to Spain to see Gal, our protagonist, who lives in a villa with his ex-porn star wife Deedee, and former Cockney thug cohort Aitch and his wife.

The film opens with a highly suggestive and comic scene of Gal, played by Ray Winstone ("Cold Mountain") sunbathing. He's a tubby fellow just past his prime, a likable guy with a rather unusual life as an expatriate Brit. Aitch is almost illegible in his talk, and in comparison, he is a real dufus. With the news that Don Logan has contacted Aitch's wife, Jackie, with respect to Gal, a bizarre man-sized rabbit appears in Gal's dreams, perhaps representative of Don and his vicious tactics.

Don comes in as a man who is, for some reason, tight-lipped. As he falls in with his surroundings, however, he shoots off at the mouth more and more, without concern for possible repercussions. He even has a history with Jackie that surfaces during his stay. But he's here on business, and he wants Gal.

Teddy Bass, (Ian McShane, "Deadwood") wants people to pull a heist at a high-tech bank. Gal is an old safe-cracker, so Don wants him for the job. But just as he came with act two, Don Logan leaves with act two. In a particularly menacing moment, after screaming every insult and threat he can think of, Don is attacked and killed by Gal, Deedee, Jackie, and Aitch, and murdered. The murder unravels in pieces after Gal is in England working for Teddy. Don Logan was supposed to get off the airplane in London, but he never showed up. And from here, things settle into a mode of minimal conflict.

Ian McShane looks the part of a ruthless gangster, but unfortunately the biggest character arc present in him is that he once took part in a homosexual sex act with the owner of the bank he's about to rob. The scene is presented in such a way that it can be difficult figuring out it even happened. But it eventually costs the banker his life.

Gal is let go with the full knowledge that they know Don is dead, but Don was the life of the party, and with him gone, what is there to enjoy.

Ben Kigsley, in a very un-Ben Kingsley performance, gives this movie more than it deserves. Ray Winstone gives some sympathetic bits, and the more Kingsley raves, the more you want someone to kill him. But once he's dead, there is no life, so the fun is pretty much gone. A generous 7/10 for Kingsley's uncompromising portrayal.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Excellent cinematography, an intriguing story, and memorable characterizations, 2 June 2004

First, I have a confession to make. This is the first Sergei Leone film I have ever seen (unless you count catching part of his 1984 gangster flick on TV one time). The film takes its time getting to know the people, and it takes just about that long to figure out just what is going on. But once everything is said and done, this is one heck of an epic western. Henry Fonda stars in a rare turn as Frank, a villain so charming one could almost forget he's a cold-hearted killer. He works for a railroad baron doing his dirty work, but he's starting to move up in the world, much to the chagrin of his employer, Mr. Morton. Frank is responsible for the massacre of an Irish landholder and his family, shortly before the man's new wife, Claudia Cardinale, arrives from New Orleans. The murder was set up to look like Cheyenne, (a wise-cracking Jason Robards) a notorious outlaw, is responsible. In another story thread, a mysterious stranger who plays a harmonica (Charles Bronson) is after Frank in a revenge plot that is not revealed until the end. Harmonica and Cheyenne end up teaming together, because each of them has there own reason to want Frank or Morton dead, be it an old score or protecting a reputation.

Halfway through the movie, The Widow McBain (Cardinale) loses my sympathy. She's a whore from New Orleans, and as is revealed with Frank, one willing to do anything to survive. Bronson plays an average Bronson role, while Jason Robards nearly steals the show as an outlaw who shoots his mouth off more than his gun. Fonda injects his character with a kind of sympathetic psychosis, so that while he understands guns better than he understands money, and uses them to cause great damage, he ends up not much worse than Bronson or Robards.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Intelligent, brilliant, and dark, 30 May 2004

Tom Cruise's character is perhaps my favorite thing about this thought-provoking Spielberg film. I honestly cannot easily think of a hero who is much more flawed than he is. This is a drug-addict with a short temper, who looks to the new pre-crime unit for hope after his six-year-old son was abducted.

Now, to make a movie about arresting criminals before they have committed the act, the protagonist has to find himself incriminated, right? And so that's exactly what happens. Enter Colin Farrell, just before people really knew who Colin Farrell was. He plays a representative of the Justice Department, overseeing the pre-crime activities to decide if the system is fit to go national. When Cruise goes on the lam, he's the man who goes after him. In one of the movie's better scenes, the two men duke it out inside a Lexus factory. The ageless Max von Sydow plays the veteran police man who has climbed to the top as an entrepreneur in crime, overseeing every facet of pre-crime, and doing everything in his power to keep the system his own. Academy-Award Nominee Samantha Morton is Agatha, the most gifted of the pre-cogs, who has a mysterious past that keeps being echoed in her memory of the murder of a heroin junkie. Peter Stormare makes a colorful cameo as a black-market surgeon, Tim Blake Nelson shows up as the warden of the would-be murderer prison where all inmates captured via Pre-Crime, are put. The fact that Spielberg films the entire movie using white filters to bleach out color helps give the film an atmospheric touch. However, it may not translate so well to the mainstream audiences who don't always appreciate some artistic style.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Clever and unusual comedy-thriller, 26 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a clever paranoia thriller, from a script by Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential," "Mystic River"). Mel Gibson is alternately hilarious and disturbing as Jerry Fletcher, a confused and paranoid taxi driver in New York who rambles on about government conspiracies about NASA intending to assassinate the President with an earthquake, the new twenty-dollar-bill, and Oliver Stone being the secret spokesperson for George Bush. Julia Roberts holds her own as a woman working at the Justice Department, whom Jerry confides in to tell about conspiracies he's uncovered.

Jerry prints the "Conspiracy Theory," a newsletter detailing his latest findings. He lives in a squalid downtown apartment that is much like a vault, and purchases "The Catcher in the Rye" whenever he sees it, although he's never read the book. He keeps his coffee and meals in padlocked metal containers, and has fuzzy memories he cannot seem to conjure up. Until one of his articles in his newsletter catches the attention of Dr. Jonas (Patrick Stewart), who is apparently somehow linked to Jerry's past. Stewart spends most of the film in Jake Gittes mode, after Jerry bites off his nose in his first scene. Dr. Jonas, supposedly a CIA psychiatrist, works along with a cynical FBI agent, and Roberts' boss, Mr. Wilson, in catching Jerry. Jerry can't remember what he did, but he seems determined to protect Roberts' character as best he can.

This isn't the greatest movie ever made, but Gibson's skatter-brained performance works in a tragicomedy way, yielding some comic relief, while actually very sad. The scary thing is that there really are people like that, so do they actually know something?

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
One of the best romantic pairings in recent years, 14 April 2004

Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo are electrifying in this clever romantic thriller. They bring a much-needed maturity to their characters as a businessman/art thief and insurance investigator, respectfully. The movie works on a number of levels, but it is a character-driven film all the way.

Thomas Crown is a man who has it all. He's wealthy, and has plenty of time to take off to look at the paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. But one day, while security is diverted by a Trojan Horse scheme, he walks in and takes a valuable piece of art. The cat-and-mouse game begins.

The art-thief story takes a back seat to his ambiguous romance with the insurance investigator who was sent to find it. She knows he took it, and he knows she knows. He even plays games with her. He hands her a covered painting he says is what she's looking for, and she throws it in the fire without even looking.

Bottom line, it's all fun and games. The closest thing to an explosion or anything is when three men pop out of a Trojan Horse during the actual theft. When all is said and done, you know everyone has had a great time making this film. It reminded me in a few very elementary ways of the atrocious "Entrapment," only done right for a change.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Classic Christopher Walken, 7 April 2004

This is a mildly clever movie featuring another great portrait of menace from Christopher Walken. He's a retired mafioso who ends up being taken hostage by four New York preppies as leverage, since Avery's (Henry Thomas) sister, Elise has been kidnapped by two psycho hoodlums (including "Everybody Loves Raymond's" Brad Garrett). Walken is supposed to supply them with connections and foot the bill for the $2,000,000 ransom money. Jay Mohr is the mastermind of the plan, a semi-psycho control freak who may have more at stake than anyone else knows. Johnny Galecki is hilarious as Ira, the guy who loaned his house to his four friends for "poker" and freaks out when he finds a mobster dct-taped to his father's favorite chair. Sean Patrick Flanery, Elise's boyfriend, and Jeremy Sisto, as a junkie male nurse round out the accomplices in the kidnap scheme. What Walken learns from his attorney is that, most likely, the other kidnappers used an "inside player," and begins to turn everyone against each other, systematically.

During all of this, Denis Leary, as Walken's sociopathic driver, is prowling New York City (actually Los Angeles) for anyone who knows anything about either of the kidnappings. In the meantime he raves on with liberal profanity with his partner, about everything from his $5000 boots to the cheap graphite golf club he uses to bean another another gangster into submission with in a strip club.

The movie has one or two twists that don't quite gel. And it is definitely a dark and tense story, with only some mild comedy bits to warrant any laughs.

One scene in particularly vexes me. Denis Leary's character, Lono Veccio, tells an abusive alcoholic father about his own father and grandfather. His grandfather came over from Ireland with the alcoholic gene. His father inherited it. And although Leary is Boston-Irish, he plays a guy with an Italian name. It's fine, I guess, but it leaves a gaping hole concerning his origins.

33 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
The Untouchables go to Chinatown..., 18 March 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...Or at least that's kind of what this movie reminds me of in only the most basic ways. This film is okay, with good performances and a mildly-engaging plot, but the finale is kind of lackluster. Mulholland Falls is where the elite L.A. Hat Squad takes unwanteds to teach them a lesson. Nick Nolte is the world-weary boss. This is not one of his best performances, and he seems to overact just a little bit. Chazz Palminteri is his best friend, a short-tempered member going to sessions with a psychiatrist to help deal with his anger. Meanwhile, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen have little to do, though a scene where Madsen tries to pick the lock on a gate to a military base rather than have Penn blow it off is a funny bit.

They are trying to figure out how a girl found out in the desert was killed. Apparently impact with the ground did it. She was Nolte's mistress for six months during his marriage to Melanie Griffith. The trail leads to Gen. Thomas Timms (John Malkovich) who also knew the girl as his mistress. Malkovich turns in another good supporting role as a cancerous military man. Treat Williams, one of the officers and the real bad guy, turns in a fairly mediocre job.

All in all the movie falls short, but it does include some nice uncredited turns by Bruce Dern as the Chief of Police, and Rob Lowe and "CSI"'s William Petersen as a couple of hoods. (The latter of which is taken to the title location)

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