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Posts Tagged ‘review

In Bruges

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

Don’t let the publicity or the posters fool you. In Bruges is not a caper, or an action film, or necessarily a film for Bourne enthusiasts. Sure, it has assassins and there are murders. But consider: it has midgets, specifically, a midget who, when high, talks of the impeding war between all whites and blacks. Midgets included. It has a mangy asshole making fun of Americans. Not just any Americans: fat Americans. It takes one of the biggest digs at Canadians since the South Park movie. And it gets away with it. Fabulously.

All the good reviews of the movie have already praised the dialog sky high, but it really is something else. Constantly surprising, utterly unreal, and entirely too scripted, but as hilarious as anything Russell Peters ever did. These people don’t speak like you and I, and thank Christ for that.

The premise is simple: two assassins, after a bad hit, get sent to Bruges to lay low for a while. Which, of course, as they figure out, isn’t quite true. They’re sent here for a hit; all they have to do is wait for their boss to call them and deliver further instructions. The things that happen afterwards are quite predictable, but don’t hold that against it. Because what happens happens with such obvious style that it doesn’t matter.

Colin Farrell fits the bill as a smarmy asshole with an opinion on everything that isn’t him (ie, it’s bad). I’ve never been a fan of the guy, but it’s hard to go wrong with a line like, “Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

Or, “I don’t hit women. I would never hit a woman, Chloe. I’d hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle. That’s different. That’s self-defense, isn’t it? Or a woman who could do karate. I would never hit a woman generally, Chloe.”

Or, my favorite, “A great day this has turned out to be. I’m suicidal, me mate tries to kill me, me gun gets nicked and we’re still in fuckin’ Bruges!” The lead up to this line is pitch perfect.

The whole sordid mess is filled with lines like these; even the parts where you expect at best cliche chatter.

Watch it once for the dialog alone.

Then there’s Bruges. Nearly every time Ray (Farrell) badmouths the city, it’s punctuated with a gorgeous vista of the city right after. And, in yet another dig at the wealthy white, they make it exceedingly clear why the city remains beautiful: because it’s in, as they say, fucking Belgium.

And the ending? In the snow and the costumed freaks? The midget’s trot? Ralph Fiennes’s expression before he pulls the trigger? Flawless.

Don’t pass this up as another thriller like I almost did. It’s not. It’s refreshing proof that cinema makers, given the chance, can still do it. Even in fuckin’ Bruges.

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Written by Jesus Eastwood

June 4, 2009 at 12:12 pm

The Pianist

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

Polanski can portray the consequences of unchecked lust. He can explore human nature in all its raw ruthlessness. He can’t do sympathy. Oh, he tries. He pulls most of the tricks you’d expect from a Julia Roberts movie (only, they’re not really tricks, because he’s not jerking us around), and sentimental audiences, I’m sure, wept a bucket (the Oscar win confirms it) but, while it’s true that you can make a good movie on anything if you’re able, Polanski simply belongs out there where the men are savages held back only by the loose parchments that form the local law and where the underside of all cities and people is cold, black, nasty.

The first time I saw the film I wondered if Polanski was making a bid for the Oscars, selling out. But, no, even outside of his area of excellence, Polanski can’t quite manage a bad movie. It’s all there, those unflinching touches you’re used to see from the man; most apparent when the Nazis destroy – no other word for it – acre after acre of both hope and infrastructure. But it lacks what his best films have: the ability to leave you frustrated, irritated, perhaps outraged when you leave the movie hall because what you saw just hit home. Hard. Hearing those famous words in Chinatown; seeing the betrayal stinging Hugh Grant’s face – the things Oprah doesn’t do.

The entire story in two sentences: Nazis happen. One man tries to survive.

We’re supposed to care about him, clearly we are. But I didn’t. And for a movie such as this one, it’s the biggest possible failure. Adrien Brody’s to blame, I suspect. He tries, you can’t say he doesn’t, but he can’t pull it off. He looks the part; he just can’t play it.

Why see it, then? Why, because it’s Polanski, of course! I’ve just about had my fill of war movies (watching Defiance last month made it quite clear), but when I had the chance to see The Pianist again yesterday, I couldn’t refuse it. It gets better the second time, of course, because you’re not expecting greatness. And then you can concentrate on other things, like freezing the frame to marvel at the devastation in all its disrobed beauty.

And the music.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 20, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Collateral

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

It still holds up. I’m not a very big fan of Michael Mann’s Heat. It’s an okay movie in my book; perhaps suffering from genre fatigue and good old star hype (Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro together again! Movie orgasm! And so on). But here Mann won me over.  Don’t get me wrong, Collateral is a genre movie, and can’t escape a few narrative clichés as a result, but like the very best of genre movies, it comes loaded with something that’s very much its own: personality.

While lacking in obvious one liners like movies before it (“I’ll be back.”) and any real originality anywhere, the movie gets away with it because Mann knows what he’s doing. Every single shot – including the streets of LA in all their glory – is a ticker-tape running to the (somewhat disappointing, but aren’t most of them?) conclusion.

The story is, let’s say, Terminator without the science fiction. Vincent (Tom Cruise) is an assassin. Only, that’s understating it. Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances (and you can yap about his Oprah freak show all you want; the man can act) in recent years, which is necessary, because without it, this would be an empty shell of a movie. You buy it. This man, Vincent, can do anything. The other guy in this buddy flick (it’s an uneasy friendship, but it is a friendship) is Max (Jamie Foxx), who (reluctantly) drives Vincent around to his targets. The Pop Psych 101 back and forth between them while traveling to those targets is cliché, sure, but it’s smart, too; because this is a genre film, you can’t hold those clichés against it for the cheese. Would you want a Death Wish without the political agenda?

Collateral, on the other, seems to have no agenda at all, except being a tense ride from the moment Vincent takes a seat in Max’s cab (which almost doesn’t happen because Max is busy flustering over getting his last fare’s number). Vincent has no “reason” to kill except being contracted to. He’s killing bad guys, he tells Max, to pacify him, but they both know that’s a lie. How do we know this? The camera focuses on Jamie Foxx during that shot throughout, and he channels that going-through-your-parents’-closet look very well.

In an O-story style, Vincent repeats one of the first things he tells Max at the end (you can see said end coming a mile away, of course), and, while the movie could certainly have ended on a meatier note, it ends precisely where it should. On a road.

Complaints? I wondered if David Mamet was going to ghost direct after Vincent decides to go see Max’s mother. In a hospital.

Thankfully, that scene, while among the movie’s worst, isn’t nearly bad enough to detract from the whole experience.

I’m tempted to reveal more, but this is one of those films which you see once just for the ride. And then, if you’re like me, a second time – when it’s on TV, perhaps – to study it. It’s not Mann’s best (that’d be The Insider), but as far as such movies go, without all the spit shine of special effects and flying robots, they don’t come better than this.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm