As this film's climax winded down, I couldn't help but compare the film to Rambo II. Some might say this is a strange comparison. But consider when Rambo II was released in the early 1980s. This was a time when America was still tender a decade on about the Vietnam War. Nixon was long gone; Reagan was President. The war had ended in 1975 but here was Rambo, the orphan of that war. Though the first film was excellent and showed the plight of veterans, the second film mocked general intelligence and in the minds of many, Rambo's machine gun and endless body count helped American audiences believe they won the war. It was cathartic entertainment at best and perhaps done for a reason.
This film is only faintly 'cathartic' but like Rambo provides that uneasy balm; and yet I couldn't help feel the film seemed to take such a timely subject as psychopaths and their need to hurt crowds of people and make it popcorn fare.
(Before I go any further, I should mention I am in no way familiar with the novels so I cannot comment on the adaptation - that is best left to fans of Dean Koontz.) Yes, this is an 'entertaining' film and was made for Friday night purposes. Odd Thomas is a quirky character and Anton Yelchin is a great actor, the young everyman and is perfectly suited for the role. We follow him nearly 100% of the time. He narrates portions of the story but for the most part, this film is fairly easy to follow. Odd introduces us to his world, tells us of his special gifts and within the first five minutes we are shown in a cartoon-like, Hardy Boys manner how he chases down and nabs a killer. Nothing too esoteric here. The supernatural fused with a bit of action.
We are then introduced to his detective buddy (Defoe) and of course, we learn Odd isn't a cop, more or less a superhero who solves crimes when he's not working as a short order cook. His girlfriend Stormy (Timlin) is equally adorable and well-suited girlfriend though most of the film she straddles the world between eye-candy for male audiences and sounding boards for plot developments. (And I have to mention this... Mr. Stephen Sommer, you have directed this movie and been sadly consistent in your ability to diminish your leading actress by making her wear the skimpiest of outfits. I am a heterosexual male but I found your wardrobe choices far too distracting and moreover, demeaning. Sincerely... me).
To get to the nitty gritty, Odd knows something is big because he's sees the presence of these other worldly creatures, bodachs forming around a low-life patron in the diner. He follows this man and begins to unravel clues that something wicked is coming to town. He's also had dreams and so have others.
What we eventually discover (ahem...SPOILER) is that a group of devil worshippers is going to attack the local mall with machine guns and blow it up with some nefarious explosives.
Again, this is popcorn fare but getting back to Rambo II and the comparison. When we think about American society, every since Columbine, there have been several deadly attacks on public property, whether schools, malls or campuses. Here we have Odd Thomas, just like Rambo, on a mission but unlike Rambo, Odd isn't here to kill (though he does take out a few baddies along the way but not with an excessive stream of bullets, a glittering puddle of shells on the ground beside him) but he does save the day. And the psyche of his country.
There are two levels of fantasy in this movie. The first being fantasy of the story, a man being able to see the dead and then pick up clues concerning the evil aggressors. He is the everyman but gifted, a Clark Kent meeting Cole Sear of The Sixth Sense (the ending to 'Odd Thomas' was notably (un)inspired by the superior, latter film). It is an adventure, a hero's tale. The second fantasy is his intention for the fictional world and ours, namely to stop the devastation from even happening.
We cannot watch this film now without the context of the last fifteen years. For me, this film is insulting. And the more I think of it, the less likely I will be able to recommend it. Year after year many people south of the border endure trauma at the hands of a madman or madmen and instead of coming to an intelligent solution on how to stem violence, films like this are made for the interim, that is until the next tragedy. Movies try to make us believe it will all go away. This film is just a terrible band-aid. We want so badly for a Odd Thomas to exist, to put our faith in him and who can blame us. How can you put your trust in governments that raise money for war? Anton to the rescue and in the unlikely world where he exists, endings are wrapped up with new set-ups in the wings.
Perhaps I am reading too deeply into this movie but I think it is dangerous to enjoy a film with such a devious intention: i.e. to make us feel we haven't already been wounded by the world outside. When audiences stepped out of theatres with memories of Rambo killing 'Charlie',they experienced a thrill of victory. Odd Thomas, I'm certain was made with the same intention.
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