Sunday, 27 January 2013

Welcome To The Jungle AKA: The Rundown

Title: Welcome To the Jungle AKA: The Rundown
Director: Peter Berg
Released: 2003
Staring: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner, Jon Gries, Ernie Reyes Jr, William Lucking, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Plot: Beck (Johnson) is a “retrieval expert”, keen to get out of the business so that he can open a restaurant, something not made easier by boss Walker (Lucking) constantly screwing him over. However when Walker agrees to release Beck from his contract if he can do one last job, he soon finds himself heading to South America to get Walker’s son Travis (Scott) in the town of El Dorado nicknamed “Helldorado” by the locals due to local tyrant Hatcher (Walken) who is not so keen to let Travis leave, especially when he belives that Travis can lead him to a rare artefact O Gato do Diablo aka “The Devils Cat”.

Review: Despite being the breakout film for Johnson whom at this point was still working under his equally well know wrestling alter-ego “The Rock”, it surprisingly remains largely unseen by most people outside of wrestling / action fans which is something of a shame as it is certainly one of the better wrestler headling productions which WWE Studios was setup to make, especially with WWE owner Vince McMahon never being one to miss a promotion opportunity, even though wrestlers have hardly had a track record as credible acting talent, even more when such promotion ideas have lead to the world being given such cinematic monstrosities as “Santa With Muscles” and “Mr. Nanny” both staring Hulk Hogan back when he decided to take a break from trying to convince the world he was still relevant as a wrestler and instead was trying to convince the world he could act.

Still this has not been to say that there haven’t been wrestlers who have managed to transfer their ring presence to the screen, as seen with Kane (See No Evil), Rowdy Roddy Piper (They Live / Hell Comes To Frogtown) and current WWE favourite John Cena who surprisingly has not had the same luck that Johnson has had, despite appearing in the surprisingly good “The Marine” and the sadly overlooked “12 Rounds”, though perhaps if he wasn’t appearing in trash like “Fred: The Movie” it might also help. This film however would prove to be just the boost that Johnson’s acting career needed, especially after his previous lead in “The Scorpion King” failed to be the star making vehicle that it was expected to be, while this film seemingly was crafted to work to all of Johnson’s strengths such as his natural charm and general ass kicking abilities, while finally showing him as the leading man the WWE wanted him to be seen as.

Director Berg was an interesting choice to direct this film, especially considering that his only feature credit at this point in his career was the black comedy “Very Bad Things” a polar opposite of this film, which clearly sparked in him a taste for action movies, especially seen by the films like “The Kingdom” and “Battleship” which followed in the wake of this film and here crafts a confident and flashy action comedy which with its treasure hunting subplot also seemingly is trying to work within a similar mould to the Indiana Jones movies. Berg though ensures that the film hits the ground running with a brutal club fight when a collection doesn’t go as smoothly as Beck would like and from here the pace never lets up the film continues at a breezy pace, effortless combining scenes of comedy with bone crunching action, with Johnson proving himself equally at home with either style, while Scott provides most of the laughs as he plays the sort of goofball sidekick that Johnny Knoxville has been for the best part of his acting career been trying to play with decidedly mixed results and even though is essentially the same kind of double act we saw in “Bullet Proof Monk”. Also on comedy relief is Ewan Bremner who no doubt most of us remember as Spud from Trainspotting, than any of his other random roles and here seems to be have been included only because American audiences find the Scottish accent insanely funny or so it would seem, especially considering that its this kind of thinking that gave Shrek (something else I don’t get the appeal of) a Scottish accent.

Certainly what really helps this film though is the huge advantage of casting Walken as its Villain, who here truly is on scene chewing duties as he manages to invoke the same kind of presence that he had in “King of New York” were he doesn’t need to rely on random of acts of violence to seem imposing and like Frank in that film, he has his group of thugs enforce his will should anyone wish to test him, which in this case is a group of bullwhip welding heavies. Meanwhile his income is supplied through forcing the local villagers to dig in his mines for gold, something which I have a feeling was more the result of a rewrite in the production process, even more so when his mines have more the look of a blood diamond mine, which is what I assume he was originally mining for. Still this is Walken at his villainous best, so that when he steps up to a towering man mountain like Johnson (even more so outside of the ring), he still retains an intimidating error and one of someone very much in control of the situation, even though Beck could no doubt despatch of Hatcher with the minimum amount of ease, Hatcher’s status within this village as a tyrant means that he raised well before his own limitations and it’s a role sold perfectly by Walken.

Beck though is far from your traditional action hero, seeing how he shuns the use of guns and would prefer to diplomatically work things out with his foes, rather than just using his fists, as seen during the opening confrontation, were after his initial attempts to reason with the football player he’s been set to collect from result in a drink to the face, normal cue to said football player to be introduced to alittle badass dentistry, but instead Beck walks away and phone his bosses to try and find another way to handle the situation, only to then be forced into unleashing his badass side which as we will see throughout the film is never a good thing for those crossing Beck. However bizarrely there is no real reason given for why Beck handles his business like this or why he hates guns, with the only reason being given is the idea that seemingly Beck is only in his current line of work to help fund his restaurant dream. Beck however as would see with the later action movies Johnson has made, is the same kind of softly softly action hero that his future similar roles would be cast from and the sort of badass that Vin Diesel likes to play, were with their size they appear dominating yet are more happy to avoid confrontation were they can and either reason or intimidate those who get in their way, before resorting to a good old fashioned ass kicking when that fails.

Looking back at this film it is now easy to see how Johnson made the leap from wrestler to actor, even more so with the bold career choices which followed such as his lead role in “Southland Tales”, making it all the more of a shame that most people seem to be more interested in his later films when he changed his name and became a full time actor than these early films which only makes it more of a shame especially when they are missing out on the generally fun times this film provides, while it’s Indiana Jones style elements make me wish that it had gotten a sequel, but for now we have to contend with just this one adventure while being left to dream as to what could have been.

Friday, 18 January 2013

A View To A Kill

Title: A View To A Kill
Director: John Glen
Released: 1985
Staring: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee, Patrick Bauchau, David Yip, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, Willoughby Gray

Plot: Bond (Moore) returns from the USSR with a chip capable of withstanding a EMP, that would destroy a normal chip. Discovering the chip was made by Zorin Industries, Bond is despatched to investigate its owner, Max Zorin (Walken) unware that Zorin has plans to set off an earthquake in San Andreas to wipe out Silicon Valley.

Review: The fourteenth Bond film and seventh aswell as the final time that Roger Moore would play the iconic role and even more sadly the last time that Lois Maxwell would appear as Moneypenny. It would also be for the longest time when I was growing up my favourite of the Bond films and certainly the film were I was first mesmerised by Christopher Walken. However as time passed and the series moved on, this movie did slip from the top position as my favourite but yet it has still remained as one of my top five, despite being frequently regarded as the worst by many Bond fans aswell as by Moore himself who retired from the role after the film believing himself to be too old to play the role.

So why exactly is this film so hated? Honestly I could not say and while Moore might be showing his age at this point in the series, somthing especially highlighted in the previous film “For Your Eyes Only”, he is none the less of a presence here while finally being given a half decent villain to go up against especially with a peroxide blonde Walken as Zorin certainly being one of the more psychotic villains which Bond has been pitted against, as what Walken brings here is a pitch black streak of evil, which makes it hard to imagine either of the original choices for the role David Bowie (who opted to make “Labyrinth” instead) or Sting being able to pull it off, especially when Zorin’s psychotic side sees him having zero qualms about throwing spies into pump valves or even massacring his own minions in a scene which Moore would highlight as one of his main reasons for disliking the film considering it not a real Bond movie stating

“It stopped being what they were all about. You didn't dwell on the blood and the brains spewing all over the place."

Unsurprisingly as a result of Zorn’s violent whims it does make this this one of the most violent Bond films to date, even giving the controversial “Licence To Kill” a run for its money and no doubt only not more picked up due to the fact that the violence is not as explicit here, yet in many ways being a precursor for the violence seen in the Dalton films which followed. Zorin though brought a fresh new type of villain to the Bond series, especially when the villains had been becoming increasingly farcical over the course of the last few films, something especially not helped by the producers leaping on any popular trend as especially seen with the success of “Star Wars” resulting in Bond being sent into space in “Moonraker”. Here though Zorin is much more grounded and relatively gimmick free outside of the fact that he uses a blimp for his base of operations, a relatively tame choice especially considering the space stations, volcano lairs and private islands his predecessors had. Still it does have the amazing ability of disguising itself as a work shed and contains a hidden hatch for dropping Japanese business men out of inflight, while even more randomly a stash of dynamite for no real discernible reason. Such grounded villainy even stretches to his main henchmen or in this case henchwoman May Day (Jones)who has no gimmick outside of her Amazonian stature and strength. Infact the closest he gets to matching any of his predecessors is with his monocle wearing personal physician / former Nazi scientist Dr. Carl Mortner (Grey) whose medical experiments with steroids, we are lead to believe created Zorin in one of the few farcical moments of plotting….well that and the dynamite on the blimp, I mean seriously what is the deal with that?

Surprisingly on this mission Bond actually receives more assistance than normal as he is joined by CIA agent Chuck Lee (Yip) who was originally supposed to be Bond’s usual contact Felix Leiter, but due to the use of the Chinatown setting for Bond’s time in San Francisco, the character of Chuck Lee was created instead. More intresting through is the inclusion of Patrick Macnee who is no doubt best known for his own secret agent turn as Steed in “The Avengers” and whom here appears as MI6 agent Sir Godfrey Tibbet. Macnee is on great form here and shares some great back and forth banter with Bond when he goes undercover as Bond’s driver. Sadly for all the help he does get here, he does also get lumbered with possibly one of the most useless Bond girls in the form of Stacey (Roberts) who constantly seems to need rescuing, while at the same time being incable of doing anything without Bond’s help. Sadly when it comes to Bond girls in this entry he kind of lucks out, as even though he even seduces May Day, which considering that Moore and Jones didn’t get along means that the scene means that they share zero onscreen chemistry during his seduction scene.

The plotting is kept pretty tight throughout with minimal changes of location aswell several great set pieces including May Day’s memorable base jump from the Eiffel Tower, a fire truck chase through the streets of San Francisco and an exhilarating and highly fixed cross country horse race, while director Glen resists the need to include any friendly banter between Bond and Zorin, which has for so long been one of the cornerstones of the franchise were Bond frequently comes across almost chummy with the villains he is supposed to be stopping. True Glen does detract from some the action scenes with some overly jokey moments, such as Bond’s rapidly disintegrating car during the Paris chase or the mass destruction of police cars at the Golden Gate Bridge, but these are minor quibbles especially when the film is one of the better Moore helmed Bond adventures.

Perhaps it’s more down to various aspects of this film such as Walken’s delightfully villainous Zorin (possibly the best bond villain since Dax in “Moonraker”) or getting to see Grace Jones giving us another Amazonian turn which includes her lifting her then boyfriend Dolph Lundgren above her head, that I view this film so fondly, but even when I detach such opinions from the film, this is still one of the more enjoyable Bond romps even for its few faults.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Seven Psychopaths


Title: Seven Psychopaths
Director: Martin McDonagh
Released: 2012
Staring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Linda Bright Clay, Amanda Mason Warren

Plot: Marty (Farrell) a writer struggling to finish his screenplay entitled “Seven Psychopaths”, while receiving inspiration from his friends Billy (Rockwell) and Hans (Walken) make a living kidnapping dogs in order to collect the owner’s cash rewards. However when the duo unwittingly steal the beloved Shih Tzu of gangster Charlie Costello (Harrelson), Marty soon finds himself along with his friends entangled in a confrontation with the LA criminal underworld.

Review: Sneaking in at the end of last year, this film has hardly been on the radar for most movie goers who were no doubt more focused on the release of the first film in “The Hobbit” trilogy. Still this is still not the most suprising reaction to this films release considering the last film we saw from director McDonagh was equally overlooked “In Bruges”, which honestly was not a film I exactly dug, thanks largely to the fact it could never quite decide what sort of film it wanted to be. Still it would seem that McDonagh may have learned something from his debut as he returns here with a film which only improves on what “In Bruges” hinted at before.

A multistring tale which shares more than a few ideas in its construction with Spike Jonze's “Adaptation” due to both films switching between real life and fiction, with the two worlds interlinking, the film frequently switches between the film version of Marty’s screenplay and real life were he makes various attempts to finish he script. which is far from easy considering he hasn’t even come up with one of his proposed psychopaths. Slowly over the course of the film these psychopaths are slowly revealed while the lines between fact and fiction become even more worryingly blurred.

These stories of the psychopaths and thier legacies make up the majority of the film as starting with “The Jack of Diamonds Killer” the real life balaclava clad killer currently running around the city with a passion for killing mid to high level members of the mob and a gentle introduction of those who are to follow as we are soon introduced to the first of Marty’s fictional creations “The Quaker” a highly religious hitman who unsurprisingly dresses as a Quaker, who is soon joined by the also religious themed Vietnamese Priest on a quest for revenge against the American platoon who killed his family in the Vietnam war. The most interesting of these colourful characters though is Tom Wait’s killer of serial killers after Billy randomly places an advert in the newspaper

CALLING ALL PSYCHOPATHS! Are you MENTAL or DERANGED? Maybe you have been recently hospitalised but are now Okay? Or perhaps the world just doesn't understand you?",

Sadly McDonagh misses a trick here as rather than a queue of crazies, we instead get a solitary visit by Wait’s rabbit carrying Zachariah, who gives us yet another member of the titular seven, as he tells the tale of how he rescued a girl named Maggie (Warren) from the basement of a serial killer and how the two of them as a couple went across the country killing some of the most famous serial killers including more humorously a rabbit obsessed “Zodiac”. While Waits appearance here is pretty much a brief one, it is still like all of the psychopaths still none the less memorable, perhaps even more so thanks to his pennant for constantly carrying around his white rabbit.

Clearly realising that a collection of short stories about psychopaths would be a hard sell on its own, McDonagh’s attempt to string them together with the dog snatch plotline does at times lack some of the polish that he gives to the short stories, especially when it lacks any of the smart humour that is given to the rest of the film outside of a running joke about a frequently jamming gun. Still the film is generally at its strongest when it is left to the antics of the three friends trying to piece together the screenplay and it’s here that the choice casting really comes into play with Farrell once again wheeling out his befuddled charm as he lives in a state of constant frenzied panic, especially as his screenplay spins wildly out of control. Meanwhile Rockwell continues to be equally enjoyable as the loud and brash Billy, while our man in focus for this month Walken gives another thoughtful performance which he seems to give more frequently these days and here it works especially well, especially when facing down armed gangsters with nothing but an stone faced glance, as he continues to prove that he has just as much presence on the screen even when he is not giving one of his more dominating performances, which he might be more memorable for.

As the main villain Harrelson is truly believable, even if the role had originally been written for Mickey Rouke, who dropped out thanks to creative diffrences with McDonagh and was replaced by Harrelson which ultimately makes for a stronger choice for the role and even more so when it comes to the frequent mood swings which Charlie is prone to, but then Harrelson has always done great crazy!

While it is also inevitable whenever violence is being made to look cool, that comparisons to Tarantino will be drawn but here McDonagh still manages to give us an original spin to proceedings, thanks largely to how he has chosen to shoot the film, with the frequent cut always to the cinematic interpretation of Marty’s script often proving to be the most fun, especially when Billy gives his idea for an ending, which inturn gives us possibly one of the most random shootout’s ever put on screen, especially with Marty being shown trying to write the script in the midst of it, while Walken’s Hans emerges from a coffin like a vampire. However due to this shooting style it will no doubt confound the less open minded movie goer’s who would no doubt prefer a more straightforward approach to the story and essentially only furthering the films status as a cult movie in the making, while making me seriously reconsider McDonagh’s reputation as a director, this is one certainly worth hunting down.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Dark Horse

Title: Dark Horse
Director: Todd Solondz
Released: 2011

Staring: Jordan Gelber, Christopher Walken, Justin Bartha, Mia Farrow, Selma Blair, Donna Murphy

Plot: Set around Abe (Gelber) a thirty-something still lives at home, while working at his father’s (Walken) property development company, wasting away his day doing as little work as possible while constantly scouring the internet  for action figures to add to his ever expanding collection, while being pandered to by his loving mother (Farrow) and living in the shadow of his successful doctor brother (Bartha). However when he meets the heavily medicated Miranda (Selma Blair) an unusual relationship starts to blossom between them.

Review: To be a Todd Solondz fan is nothing short of a challenging experience, for he is one of a rare breed of directors who truly seems to be more focused on making films for himself, much like Robert Crumb only seems to make art for his own amusement, rather than any kind of target audience. Despite this Solenz still has managed to attract a cult like following with the warped black humour of his debut “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and its follow up “Happiness”, before challenging even those fans with “Palindromes”. Still despite claiming that his previous film “Life During Wartime” would be his last Solendz is now back with this latest and strangely less warped offering.

Missing any of his usual obsessions, but still maintaining a dusting of his usual dark humour aswell  his ongoing focus on the middle class New Jersey Jewish community, it could almost be seen that the enfant terrible of independent cinema might be mellowing with age, while at the same time still creating another curious films even if it’s missing any of his trademark use of knee jerk topics. However this is not to say that he has completely moved away from his dark roots as Abe is still just as challenging to like, especially he wallows in his own self-importance while generally being angry at the world with no real reason, especially when he seems to have someone to do even the most minimal of tasks, as frequently seen by co-worker and closet cougar Marie (Murphy) covering for him.

Gelber thankfully doesn’t overplay Abe as some kind of loveable loser in an attempt to win the audience back, especially as Solendz continually piles on further quirks, when we shown him huffily trying to return a scratched action figure, quickly leaping to threatening to sue the store when refused by the store clerk. With such continuous examples of self-centred behaviour it only makes it more the surprising that Abe could have a relationship with anyone, yet with Miranda he truly seems to believe that they have a future together so strongly that he actually proposes on their first date.

Blair as Miranda is sadly overshadowed by Abe, especially when her heavily medicated presence leaves her in a seemingly permanently comatose state, making you certainly question her real interest in Abe, especially when she never seemingly as a result of her medication ever really show any kind of emotion towards him. However this is far from any kind of traditional romance, once again thanks to Solondz who also chooses this moment to turn the film into a strange hallucinary trip as reality and illusion blur into one, with no clear indication for the most part what is actually real and what is in Abe’s mind, even more so when it comes to Abe’s relationship with Miranda, with the film certainly leaving more than a few questions in its wake. This style of filming again see’s Solondz trying to do something different than we have seen before and while perhaps he might not have the same surreal grip on his storytelling as David Lynch does with his equally mind-bending films, it still remains a watchable if slightly bewildering effort, while adding to the recent burst of films focusing on the live at home man child with mumblecore efforts like “Cyrus” and “Jeff Who Lives At Home”.

While this might be Gelber’s film he still recives strong support from his more establish co-stars in particular Walken who is seen here on a more laid back and softly spoken form, while punctuating his scenes with such long stares that he could no doubt beat owls in a staring contest.  Meanwhie Farrow comes out of her semi-retirement to give a non the less impressive turn as Abe’s doting mother who seemingly see’s him for his quirks and still loves him unconditionally, bringing back one of the key pieces of advice my own father gave me when he told me “Your mother is the best friend you will ever have” and for Abe this would be especially true.

For newcomers this might seem like the perfect introduction to Solendz work, but I would advise instead to brave one of his darker works like the aforementioned “Welcome To The Dollhouse” to see his true work, rather than this more experimental piece, which will challenge even the more die hard of his fan base, especially when it barely resembles any of his previous work, even more so when over the course of it’s short run time it seemingly never gets out of the gate story wise which even the most forgiving movie goer will struggle to get on board with, with Solendz’s characterisation no doubt testing what remains of their patience and as such I would recommend that you approach with caution.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Title: Domino
Director: Tony Scott
Released: 2005
Staring: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Riz Abbasi, Delroy Lindo, Mo’Nique, Dabney Coleman, Lucy Liu, Macy Gray, Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Brian Austin Green, Ian Ziering, Tom Waits, Jerry Springer

Plot: The fictional biography of Domino Harvey (Knightley), the model turned bounty hunter.

Review: Opening with the title card “This based on a true story….Sort of” it essentially sets the tone for the events which follow as Director Tony Scott brings his usual brand of subtlety (that being one of a house brick to the face) with his this original to say the least Biopic, the idea for which coming after Scott’s business manager sent him an article from “The Mail On Sunday” titled “My Gun For Hire: Why A Movie Star’s Rebel Daughter Turned Into A Bounty Hunter” about Domino Harvey which inspired him to immediately track her down and propose the idea of making a film about her life.

Even though interviews were conducted with Domino and her fellow bounty hunters Ed Marinez (Rourke) and Choco (Ramirez), Scott would reject the first two drafts of the screenplay based on these interviews, due to their conventional nature before finally asking “Donnie Darko” director and scribe Richard Kelly to write the screenplay after he read Kelly’s script for the much underappreciated “Southland Tales” which seemingly would also be the basis for this films screenplay aswell it would seem, especially considering that both films have such a keen interest in pop culture as well as a love of mind twisting plotting which is something this film also has in spades once it gets into the meat of its actual story.

Seeing how Domino Harvey is supposed to be a badass, especially from her confessions of graduating to fighting boys and one that the film would have you believe and a mythos which is essentially diluted by the real life Choco who appears on the special features of the DVD (looking absolutely nothing like the rugged Ramirez’s reimagining of his character) essentially confessing that most of the hunts they carried out involved Domino flirting with the bail jumper usually in a bar and convincing them to follow her outside were he would arrest them. Still you have thought that Scott would have cast a suitably badass female to play her, which sadly does not happen here as we instead get the laughably horrible tough girl act of Knightley who is hideous at the best of times, but here she reaches a new low and kind of laughable level of toughness usually peddled by Noel Clarke in the likes of “Kidulthood” as she smokes, curses and scowls her way through the film. The problem is not so much with the look as she makes a suitable clotheshorse for Domino’s many looks which sways between grunge and punk, with Knightley even rocking a mullet at one point with a suitably white trash look. The problem however comes when she opens her mouth and attempts to snarl out any kind of tough girl dialogue which makes it hard not to snigger, even more so when she makes zero effort to use any kind of accent other than her usual posh tones, which work perfectly fine in Knightley’s usual territory of costume drama and while Domino might have come from upper class roots even she didn’t speak this prim and proper as further highlighted in the interview footage also included on the disc.

So with Scott having kind of screwed up with the casting of his lead, he atleast makes up with it in his supporting cast, who essentially carry the film for Knightly from Rourke’s world weary Ed, who in many ways provides Domino with her missing father figure, while in many ways playing the same for Ramirez’s rough and ready Latin badass Choco. Meanwhile Lucy Liu is on her usual great form as the criminal psychologist, whose interview essentially structures the film as we follow Domino from her early life and the events which lead to her bounty hunting career in the lead up to the fictional armoured truck heist which she finds herself currently being investigated for involvement in. Still despite this heist being thrown into the mix, 95 percent of this film could essentially be seen as being fictional so anyone looking for some kind of serious biopic of her life, might be best not bothering with film, but did you really expect Scott to really make a serious picture to begin with?

Throughout the course of the film, these supporting characters becoming increasingly colourful as we meet Domino’s boss Claremont Williams III (Lindo) and his gaggle of feisty ladies who supply him with information via their positions at the DMV, while being lead by Caremont’s mistress (and world’s youngest Grandmother) Lateesha (Mo’Nique). Of course the Taj Mahal of these characters is Walken’s appearance as TV Executive Mark Heiss who signs the group up for his latest reality TV show project and probably best described in his assistant Kimmie’s speedy brief

“I should let you know that Mr Heiss will only be available to meet for about five minutes, so we should hurry up and cut to the point. Um, and speak in short sentences because he has the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth.”

Unquestionably this is Walken at his unchained best, as he blusters his way through his scenes, with Walken’s usual dialogue projection really only adding to his character here.

While the plot might descend into a slightly confusing mess, but Richard Kelly’s work has always been known for its head scratching quality as memorably seen with his debut “Donnie Darko, but here where he doesn’t have full control over its presentation it does result in the main heist plotline suffering from a twist to far. Meanwhile Scott pummels the viewer with pop culture shots and flashy visuals, while the continuously quick edits make it seem like Scott gave a kid hyperactivity and ADHD a soda and the keys to the editing suite which has at times the tendency to instil a feeling of nausea when viewing, especially in the rare moments he slows the film to crawl. Still when the film works it works well with some truly brutal moments of action, which has always been were Scott has excelled with the finale shootout at the stratosphere in Las Vegas making for a high pressure showdown between the FBI and the Mob, while random asides such as Lateesha pitching a new ethnic classification chart on Jerry Springer keep a surreal edge to things while making it highly reminiscent of “Natural Born Killers”.

True this film is far from perfect, but when Knightly isn’t speaking the film does have its share of truly memorable moments, with a heavy vein of black humour keeping things from getting too serious and for myself at least making it the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

Friday, 4 January 2013

King of New York

Title: King of New York
Director: Abel Ferrara
Released: 1990
Staring: Christopher Walken, Laurence Fisburne, David Caruso, Victor Argo, Janet Julian, Wesley Snipes, Steve Buscemi, Paul Calderón, Giancarlo Esposito Theresa Randle, John Turturro, Frank Adonis

Plot: Drug Lord Frank White (Walken) upon being released from prison sets about eliminating his competition, with the goal of financing a new South Bronx hospital. However Frank’s past comes back to haunt him when a group of overzealous cops lead by detective Roy Bishop (Argo), frustrated by the lack of evidence to nail Frank for the current street killings decide to take matters into their own hands.

Review: I would like to think that we have at least one director whose work is not so much of a grimy in nature, but essentially embraces the grime and dirt it is being forged from, which for some may bring to mind the Minister of Bad Taste John Waters, The splatter of Herschell Gordon Lewis or the downright randomness of Frank Henenlotter. Directors who with a frequently balls to the wall attitude towards censorship and thier craft often as a result making them too random or strange for mass consumption and as such destined to remain  the filthy secret of our DVD collection and our go to director when we feel like taking a walk on the seedy underbelly of seemingly decent society. For myself though Abel Ferrara will always be that director, for ever since viewing “Bad Lieutenant” on a late night TV screening way back as an impressionable youth, something about his work has always resonated with myself, perticularly in how he shoots New York as his vision is possibly as far away from the traditional New York fantasy as you can get and more in tune with the one which Scorsese showed us with “Taxi Driver” and it’s this vision of New York which Ferrara returns to here with his ultraviolent twist seemingly on  “Robin Hood”.

Taking on one of more rarer leading roles Walken here gives one of his more iconic, but sadly little seen performances despite the fact that the film is listed as one of the “1001 Movies To See Before You Die”, while it’s portrayal of power in the drugs trade makes it only the more surprising that it’s not in numerous rappers DVD collections unlike the vastly overblown and drawn out “Scarface”. Walken’s portrayal of White though is a fascinating one to say the least, for having left prison he shuns the usual going straight route we have seen so many times before and instead seemingly has realised that he is set to live out his days in the drug trade and that he instead might as well focus on getting back to buisness and concentrating more on were his profits are going instead with his original idea of running for mayor soon being switched in favour of financing his neighbour hospital. It is during an almost confessional confrontation with detective Bishop though that we truly come to truly understand Frank’s world view as he states

“I spent half my life in prison. I never got away with anything, and I never killed anybody that didn't deserve it.”

While going on to further elaborate on the sins of his criminal counterparts, blaming them for running the city into the ground while they grew rich off their trade, something he is clear to separate himself with, while brutally eliminating anyone who stands in the way of his new plan. Now while Frank’s intentions might be considered in some askiew way honourable he is still far from being a saint, as seen even more so with his shark like prescence happy to share a joke or even bust a few dance moves, only to turn deadly when crossed as especially seen by how he handles being snubbed by a mafia boss who he doesn’t shoot once but repeatedly even after he is clearly dead, even performing a drive by at a funeral, after his gang is attacked by Bishops's rogue cops.

Joining Walken whose commanding performance essentially owns the film, Ferrara has still assembled an impressive cast, though considering the star status of many of the cast, a lot of his casting choices have been later rewarded as the careers of the cast took off, for example Lawrence Fishburne is still so early (yet non the less noteworthy here) in career he is still listed as Larry while David Caruso and Wesley Snipes would only get their big breaks after this film’s release with Caruso going on to star in “NYPD Blue” while Snipes who was living in his car during filming would go on to make “New Jack City”. Still despite their lack of star power they more than hold thier own here with Caruso being on perticularly frenzied form and far cry from his more sedate tones he has become more recognisable for as Horatio on CSI Miami".

Ferrara curiously doesn’t give us much of an insight into Franks’s past and his rise to power, or even why he works with a predominantly black gang and has such a strong embracement of black culture as especially seen by his love of Hip hop music which frequently soundtracks any one of the various parties he throws with his crew. Still with Ferrara preferring instead to keep the focus strongly in the present the film rattles along at a quick pace, no doubt thanks to the half hour which was cut from the film’s original two hour cut while he blurs the lines between right and wrong instead preferring to work in the same shades of grey which Rob Zombie equally favoured for “The Devil’s Rejects” as neither criminal nor cop is seen as been on the side of right or wrong, which ultimately only adds the films raw and gritty edge, which makes it far from the easiest of films to watch and unsurprisingly during the films premier caused most of the audience including Ferrara’s wife to walk out, which is never a good sign when your own wife walks out of your movie. Meanwhile the Q&A session was opened with the question

"This film is an abomination. Why aren't you giving the proceeds to some drug rehab program?"

A suitable question especially considering how glamorised the drug trade is portrayed as, especially if you happen to be a member of Frank’s crew, while the film would be further dogged by scandal when both Laurence Fishburne and Nicolas St. John were booed off the stage at the second screening. Still while the film might have become one of the lesser seen films on Walken’s resume it still marks one of the strongest periods of work for Ferrara, who would follow it up with the legendry “Bad Lieutenant” and the sadly overlooked remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” titled simply “Body Snatchers” and for Walken it is easily one of his best and only makes it more of a shame that he has not been given more leading roles over the course of his career….Long live the king!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Welcome to Christopher Walken Month...Ohh and We Are Five!

I can hardly believe that it has now been five years since I set off on this blogging adventure with the original idea of just looking at bad movies, which shifted focus around the point of the first “Final GirlFilm Club” I joined, which caused me to unwittingly changed the focus of the blog to cult, foreign and obscure cinema and generally everything in-between, as the blog became more of a love letter to the cinema I love than just a study of bad movies.
So after five years of watching and reviewing at times some truly horrible cinema, am I tired of these movies? Honestly I can’t say that I am, especially considering the watchpile of DVD's taking over one corner of my lounge and while I still might question my own writing skills, it still has truly been a blast to write about these movies, which frequently lurk under the radar of the general movie going pubic. In doing so I always hope that I’m opening up some kind of channel debate (of possible anonymous abuse) to help introduce more people to these film aswell as for the established fan base to discuss them further and frequently give me new insights into films I never knew of, which has just proven to be one of the many surprising rewards which have come with writing this blog, like the friendships I have sparked up with other members of the cult & horror cinema blogging community, who have not only taken me as one of their own and frequently supported the blog over the course of the last five years, to them all like anyone who has stopped by or left me a comment, I thank you all.

So to celebrate another year here on the blog I wanted to do a themed month, were I would get to explore one of the roots of my cinema obsession and in particular and actor who has held my fascination since the first time I saw him and hence why I have chosen to make January “Christopher Walken Month”

Ever since I first saw Walken in “A View To A Kill” one of the more underated Bond movies, which for the longest time growing up was my all-time favourite despite many Bond film regarding it as one of the worst, but I was hooked and something I have to really say was down to the sheer screen presence of Walken as the megalomaniacal technology mogul Max Zorin intent on destroying Silicon Valley. Since this early first exposure to his work I generally will give any movie a watch if it features him in its cast I will give it a watch and considering his body of work stretches to over 100 movie and TV shows there is plenty to choose from, while Walken rarely refusing any role he is offered due to viewing each role as a learning experience, it is nothing short of being a mixed bag to say the least.
So over the course of this month I hope to delve into this back catalogue and examine the sheer variety and depth his career has shown, while as always open the door for any reviews, essays or other Walken related materials you wish to submit in the spirit in the month.

So thank you once more for all the support and hope you can join me for what is certainly set to be an interesting month of film watching to say the us off Christopher!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...