No, it is not torture porn. Nor is it shlock in the grand western tradition of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
It is a distinctly Japanese attempt to explore the nature of the relationship between men and women.
This is made crystal clear by seemingly random cutaways to a "too cute to live" teenage couple who talk earnestly about male-female relationships, while the real exposition of the topic is left to the central characters. Who say almost nothing. But actually show us the dark side of the topic by their actions.
2. Every story is a love story but not every story is about selfless love.
3. Korea does a better job with romantic comedies than any other country.
4. Like the main character, the movie is easy to find fault with. But if you commit to it, it will provide an experience you will never forget.
The significance of that is important.
Canada, since the launch of its film sector in in the 1980s via tax credits, has built a solid and reliable industry by being essentially the "Walmart" of the sector. Constantly undercutting Hollywood prices (because of the cheaper Loonie) has kept the cash flowing.
And the Canucks have also taken hostage obscure sectors of the business that no one else was paying attention to. For example, 90% of all the so-called "X-mas" films you have seen in the last 20 years were Canadian-made.
Finally, Canada is where most once-successful franchises go to die. When you see a horror franchise or action franchise on its very last legs -- think Freddy Kruger IX or something like that -- chances are it is Canadian made.
So, against this odd backdrop of entrepreneurial spirit, it is rare and refreshing to see an auteur express a vision that is not a knockoff of something else.
And that is the key. This film is an original, it is like nothing you have seen. It takes place in one of Canada's most picturesque (showcase) small towns but it is not a small town piece like Doc Martin or Gilmore Girls or even Corner Gas. It has elements of faith but it is not a "faith-based" movie. It has elements of a rom-com yet without the "rom."
Again, an original.
And it is technically perfect. The script is solid. The acting from the leads is excellent, especially the often-overlooked Jonathan Pryce. (Secondary characters are hit and miss, which unfortunately is the curse of Canadian film making.) The story holds the attention. The questions raised are interesting. In many ways the film revisits issues from the blockbuster hit Resurrection (1980) but in a much subtler way.
It is solid workmanlike entertainment and deserves a better rating than most members have given it.
He has manufactured a true guilty pleasure -- a film about a man making bad choices that is driven by brilliant characterizations, raw Adrenalin, and a compelling narrative that makes you watch no matter how much you know you should look away.
In the grand tradition of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, Vaughn, an actor once relegated to romantic comedies, does "the" physical role of his career and it is a barn burner.
There is no pretense at class. This is 1960s grindhouse from start to finish and if you have any doubts just listen to the closing music at the 2:05 mark --- a brisk orchestral piece that sounds more fitting to a vaudeville act than a melodrama. Zahler ends the show by signalling that he was messing with your head, overloading your senses, all along -- and moreover he was doing it deliberately and knowingly.
Don Johnson, an actor who continues to win SEXIEST MAN ALIVE awards for merely showing up at the ceremony, wanted to try something different and succeeded - his cigar-smoking, sadistic warden is a masterpiece. Unforgettable.
A hard film to review, a difficult film to classify, and an impossible film to ignore. The closest analog in this era would be the highly stylized, and highly violent, films from South Korea that glorify the individual over the system.
If that theorem is to be proved anywhere, it would be in this wonderful movie.
This may be a shock to the younger IMDb members, but at one time Redford and Fonda were not merely the biggest stars in Hollywood but also the biggest sex symbols in the biz.
If in 1967 -- please put on your time travel, butterfly effect, hats here -- you had suggested to these two that a full half-century later they would star is a laid-back but irrefutably charming rom-com where, in the very first scene, Fonda shows up at Redford's door and politely asks if he would mind sleeping with her ... well, let's just say that a raised eyebrow would be least you could expect in return
The script is so subtle (a word I have astonishingly used only a very few times in some 1350+ reviews here) that the viewer does not know whether to laugh or cry. Even the way Redford's character chooses to initially respond to the invitation -- not by a 411.com search, but by looking up Fonda's phone number in a handwritten address book his late wife had left behind -- brings an unavoidable smile to those who grasp the passage of time.
The dialog is a joy. It has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and most importantly never quite heads in the direction you expect it to.
In fact -- this for film historians only -- it may be a true breakthrough in concept. Remember that in the 1970s scriptwriters tried to "take the rom-com up a notch" by deliberately cutting out the "boy meets girl" portion of the traditional formula. Dozens of rom-coms since that era have started with the very first scene taking place "the morning after," leaving the audience to wonder how the original romance blossomed, before getting caught up in the subsequent events.
In that context, the premise here, if this film resonates with people in the months and years to come, could become a milestone in rom-coms. And deservedly so.
That's my review.
This episode is the middle of a complicated story told via mini-series, but here is the rub: You don't need the other episodes. This instalment is so good you could watch it alone and simply be dazzled by the performances and the writing.
Rafe Spall in particular steals his scenes and makes even the Bond villains look friendly and amiable.
Butler, Foster, and Breslin between them generate enough electricity to power Manhattan or, in this case, at least a small island. They keep you glued to the screen in spite of the nonsense.
The story contains a brief scene where an overweight Australian boy, along with his parents, is briefly on the island. He not only sees Mim but tracks her down and makes a connection. Seconds later, he has to leave and disappears from the story.
The audience feels much the same way by the time the curtain closes. But it was a fun ride while it lasted.