Wednesday, October 24, 2012
TRUE ROMANCE came out in 1993 I found myself not only loving the film for Tarantino’s script but the mix of that with the style Scott brought to it all that seemed absolutely right. As the years went on I continued to find myself admiring some of his films including CRIMSON TIDE, ENEMY OF THE STATE, with MAN ON FIRE in particular thrilling and undeniably powerful in its intensity, a huge step forward for him. Even going back to the very beginning of his feature career, some of the best moments in THE HUNGER remain vivid in my mind years after the last time I saw it. And UNSTOPPABLE, which turned out to be his last film, was an absolute blast and compelling in all the right ways. And then in August of this year the director left us through horrible means that remain baffling and truly sad. HUDSON HAWK earlier in the year but since that film has a villain who proclaims “I’m the villain” and THE LAST BOY SCOUT has a bad guy who announces “I am the bad guy” so maybe they’re not that different after all. Either way, Willis slips into Hallenbeck with every ounce of contempt for everyone oozing through his stubble with a bitterness going beyond his smirk, a decent guy who’s lost his faith in a cynical world where heroes don’t matter anymore. I can appreciate an action movie hero who looks at himself in the mirror and says, “Nobody likes you. Everybody hates you. You’re gonna lose.” Just like I do every single morning. He makes it work. He and Damon Wayans play off each other all right but never seem to fully click, maybe because Wayans doesn't quite have the right weight for the part. This time around I found myself wondering how this would have played with Eddie Murphy sticking to the Shane Black dialogue. Chelsea Field of Blake Edwards’ SKIN DEEP and Danielle Harris of HALLOWEEN 4 & 5 spar well with Willis as Hallenbeck’s wife and daughter, each seeming more than willing to get in his face with their insults, but of course they’re now overshadowed by Halle Berry as Jimmy’s ill-fated girl Cory who’s in and out in just a few scenes. She’s raw in some of her line readings, but looking absolutely gorgeous she’s already clearly got something. Taylor Negron oozes his way across the screen as ‘the bad guy’, pulling off just the right balance of making it seem like he’s enjoying playing the bad guy and making it genuinely seem like he’s thinking the most vicious thoughts imaginable. It’s also fun to see some of the familiar character actors who turn up throughout like Bruce McGill, Clarence Felder and Joe Santos as Hallenbeck’s cop nemesis. He isn’t playing his ROCKFORD FILES character but, even so, I’m not quite sure what the difference is.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN several of the main characters sit down in a Cinecittà screening room to see a film made by legendary filmmaker Walter Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) and starring the recently arrived Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas), a washed-up movie star who’s been flown in to Rome by his old director to help out on a troubled project. What they’re viewing is never named but the scenes we see are from THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL made a decade before also for MGM, also starring Douglas and also directed by Minnelli who is clearly engaging in a game of mirrors by using clips from this particular film, one that is extended through how both movies are themselves about the movies, the various array of mirrors that exists within them and whatever state the people working in that industry find themselves at that point in time. Released in 1952 in glorious black & white THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is the one that seems to have been officially sanctioned by the world as a classic but 1962’s TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN is the one I find myself continually drawn to, almost feverishly so. Self-Styled Siren throw something heavy at me, keeps me at some kind of distance aware of how perfectly in place everything is, how calculated every single gesture and emotion seems to be impeccably rehearsed well ahead of time. But regardless the full power of the film is so engrossing and so entertaining even if it all is in a trashy, faux-prestige nature it’s the sort of film that sticks in the brain enough in a CASABLANCA sort of way with scenes, performances, moments, lines, glances, that make me feel like I’ve seen the whole thing 25 times even though I know that I haven’t. But even if THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is more sumptuous than nutritious it still plays as the sort of rich, juicy meal that could only be prepared by MGM back in the day with all the best filmmaking talents and facilities in the world at their disposal. So I guess it is a classic. Nothing wrong with that, not at all.