Thursday, May 14, 2009
“People ask a question. ‘What’s a RocknRolla?’
“And I tell ‘em, it’s not about drums, drugs, ‘n hospital drips. Oh, no. There’s more there than that, my friend.
“We all like a bit o’ the good life. Some, the money. Some, the drugs. Others, the sex game, the glamour, or the fame.
“But a RocknRolla, oh, he’s different.
“Because a real RocknRolla wants the f*ckin’ lot.”
Now, when Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels blasted its way onto my film geek’s radar, it blew my proverbial socks off, and instantly made Guy Ritchie a name to keep track of.
And when Snatch came barreling ‘round the bend, I loved the damn thing too, despite those who clamoured that it was simply more of the same and that Ritchie was a one-trick pony.
Then came the whole “let’s get married to Madonna” thing and Swept Away, which, though it seemed to promise an altogether different Guy Ritchie, I’ve thus far managed to steer clear of, in fear that what all its haters have to say would turn out to be true.*
Afterwards, there was the widely misunderstood Revolver, which I also happen to love, where Ritchie took the lowlife criminal milieu he’d long ago staked out as his territory, and brought it to some new, interestingly heady places.
And now, with his Madonna Period apparently behind him, he’s brought us RocknRolla, which, if you haven’t yet figured out, is more of the same Guy Ritchie: the humourous and messy collision of crime, coincidence, and funny monickers.
This time though, I’m not exactly dancing in the aisles.
It’s a good ‘un, this, don’t get me wrong, it’s just a tad… sedate.
Not a word one would normally associate with Guy Ritchie, “sedate,” but what I truly missed here is the audacious adrenaline rush that Barrels and Snatch had.
Not that RocknRolla doesn’t have its moments—Gerard Butler’s two dance scenes; the sex scene; the Jaws nod. Those—and more—are here.
Somehow though, the whole doesn’t feel all that cheeky anymore. I hesitate to say it’s all become rather old hat now, but there could be an argument for that possibility.
Here, the various plot threads also seem to jostle against each other a little awkwardly, an indication that perhaps (unlike Barrels or Snatch) there may be a tad too much narrative going on.
Lovers of Ritchie’s first two films will know a significant chunk of the beats and the eventualities presented in RocknRolla only too well, so for those in whom familiarity does not breed a vague annoyance, this should prove to be bang-on.
There’s also a great cast in this: Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong (Stardust’s Septimus, who also happened to be in Revolver), Karel Roden, the exquisite Thandie Newton, to name some, so that’s a plus too. (Curiously enough, for all my whinging about “same” this and “old hat” that, I do miss Jason Statham, who’s gone on to 21st-century Action Star status and left a gaping hole in Ritchie’s lowlife-landia. Hell, even Vinnie Jones might have been a welcome shot of nostalgia.)
Quite possibly, in some alternate reality where I’d never seen any of Ritchie’s past work before, I am truly, madly, and deeply in love with RocknRolla.
As it is, in this reality, RocknRolla and I are on good terms: we smile at each other while salsa-ing on the dance floor, exchanging polite pleasantries in fancy-fonted subtitles.
Truth is though, I’m just not that into her.
So, though I was looking forward to Ritchie’s take on Sgt. Rock (a project currently on hold in light of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), I am still curiously anticipating Sherlock Holmes, if only because we may just get to see an altogether different Guy Ritchie at its helm.
And better Holmes than The Real RocknRolla, as the end credits of RocknRolla threaten, ey?
* “Star” (from the BMW Hire shorts) was also an amusing ride, though certainly not the best of the Hire bunch…
(RocknRolla UK quad courtesy of empireonline.com; images courtesy of empireonline.com & ew.com.)
ZACK AND MIRI
MAKE A PORNO
Okay. At this point, I honestly don’t know what to do with Kevin Smith* anymore.
For the record, I love Clerks, and Chasing Amy, I feel, is still his most real and honest film to date. I enjoyed Mallrats and Dogma too, but they both have their own sets of problems.
Now, I passed on Jersey Girl, so for all I know, that could be his hidden masterwork, but to say Clerks II disappointed me would be an understatement of enormous proportions.
At least though, Clerks II had Rosario Dawson, Jason Mewes’ Buffalo Bill, and Jeff Anderson’s revelatory moments in the film’s final stretch; right now, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything good that came out of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
The Reaper Pilot wasn’t anything particularly spectacular either.
Which brings us to Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Now let’s be clear. This one has its moments too, including a surprisingly moving bit orchestrated to Live, and capped off by Blondie. Yup, you can always get me with a good Blondie musical moment.
Zack and Miri is also blessed to have Brandon Routh and Justin Long, who manage to hijack the film and take it to some insanely hilarious places. Sadly they’re confined to only one key sequence, when I actually held out hope that they would somehow be worked into the “making Clerks, but as a porno” stretch of the movie.
As it is, they’re just there long enough to inadvertently flick the light bulb over Seth Rogen’s head, and help give him the idea of shooting a porn to pay the bills.
And I don’t think the problem is Rogen and Elizabeth Banks either, who’s as charming a screen presence as she always is. As longtime friends Zack Brown and Miriam Linky, the duo makes the most of the central situation the film revolves around.
When the time comes for the emotional games that result from certain narrative eventualities though, they’re beats we’ve definitely seen before.
There’s also an odd sort of compression that goes on where before you know it, we’re suddenly at that point in the script where the tension catalyzes, and then, just as quickly, we’re at the film’s climax.
Sadly, I’m left with the impression that most of the film’s running time is made up of awkward moments where the humour just doesn’t pop. (And the scatological bits really don’t help, either.)
The script is so anemic, compared to either Clerks’ or Chasing Amy’s, that when we hit the gooey and mushy centre of this apparently hard and raunchy piece of candy, the sentiments ring damnably hollow.
Not even the Monroeville setting, Smith stalwarts Anderson and Jason Mewes, nor brief appearances by make-up master Tom Savini—geddtit? Monroeville?!—and Tyler Labine (from Invasion and Reaper)… nay, not even Traci Lords, can save the ship, which just seems to coast, rudderless (Dutch, or otherwise), through middling comedic territory, complete with montage featuring “funny/goofy” dance moves.
You know the one.
I had high hopes for this one, and I went into it really wanting to like it.
Maybe if it had been Zack and Miri and Bobby and Brandon Make a Porno, this might have been an entirely different review, but as it is…
Tell you what: I’ll head back to my cave and give my Clerks DVD a spin, while I await Smith’s horror movie, Red State, which sounds genuinely interesting, given all that he’s said about it.
First though, it appears he’s about to go all Hollywood big budget buddy cop—are we still in the ‘80’s and someone just forgot to send me the memo?—on I-won’t-be-surprised-at-all-if-it-gets-retitled A Couple of Dicks, with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan…
Which is something, honestly, I have no idea what to do with either.
If I can’t have Red State yet, maybe Smith should just work with Routh and Long again on something truly hilarious.
Maybe then we can start talking.
* The Kevin Smith who writes and directs films, that is. Not the one who acts, or writes comic books.
Those are different discussions entirely.
(Zack and Miri Make a Porno OS courtesy of aintitcool.com; images courtesy of about.com.)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Now, given that great horror movie moment in Cashback (review in Archive), I was stoked to hear that Sean Ellis was taking on some weird sh!t in his follow-up, The Brøken.
Ask yourself this: what if, one day, you were to see yourself drive past you in your own car? What would you do?
It’s a situation radiologist Gina McVey (Lena Headey) finds herself faced with in The Brøken, and her response to this phenomenon is the lynchpin which drives this excellent and chilling sophomore feature from Ellis.
The questions are obvious: is this actually happening in objective reality, and if so, what is its nature? Or is Gina just plain nutters?
Since The Brøken is the sort of film best seen knowing as little as possible about it beforehand, I won’t go any further beyond saying that though we do see the nature of the bizarre goings-on as the film unspools, there are no real verbal expository bits, which we usually see in Hollywood horror; note how The Ring works out how to properly explain what we’re seeing on the screen, while Ringu pretty much just goes for the atmosphere and the scares, without really belabouring the whys and wherefores.
So, while we do get a sense of the nature and mechanics of the horror here, there is no grand underscoring, which, in this case, makes the end result—as with Ringu—that much more effective.
Ellis reunites with some significant Cashback personnel like Angus Hudson (cinematographer), Scott Thomas* (editor), and Guy Farley (composer), to brilliant effect, presenting us with a tight, elegantly constructed chiller.
Aside from being a great piece of horror cinema, The Brøken also plays—curiously enough—like an indictment of two recent films, both remakes, both reviewed here at the Iguana.
I won’t mention which films those are, of course, so as to keep The Brøken’s central premise a mystery—you’ll know them anyway once you’ve seen what Ellis has achieved here.
Ellis succeeds in doing, with a tremendous and confident flourish, what those films so clearly failed to do: present us with an involving, creepy, and ultimately disconcerting narrative that plays on certain common fears.
Check out The Brøken, and witness the continued growth of writer/director Sean Ellis, a bright new star in the British cinematic firmament.
* It should be noted that Thomas was also the editor on Philip Ridley’s excellent The Reflecting Skin.
Parting shot: Though nominated at Sitges 2008 for Best Film, The Brøken ultimately lost to Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance. (Hudson, however, did win for Best Cinematography.)
Parting shot 2: It’s interesting to note that Rick Astley (and I’m assuming this is the Rick Astley) is sent off “A Special Thank You” in the end credits.
(The Brøken OS and images courtesy of beyondhollywood.com.)