Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

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Law Abiding Citizen

October 20, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen

 

I was never all that interested in seeing this film because I was quite confident that I knew exactly what was going to happen from seeing the trailer.  But I do try and watch every film with an open mind, and so that is what I did with this film.  It is an intense action-packed legal thriller, for lack of better description, but, unfortunately, it comes off feeling, as one of the people I saw it with put it, a Law and Order version of Saw.  It is predictable, and not nearly as smart as it thinks, and while I can understand how come some people really like it because you can get sucked up into the intensity and action and “righteous rage” that this film forces down your throat, it just leaves you with a hollow feeling when you’ve finished watching it.

The story starts out being very straightforward and not pulling any punches as you “see” the brutal murder of the main character’s, Clyde’s, family in front of him.  It then jumps to Nick Rice, the lawyer on the case, making a deal with one of the murderers, the worse of the two, in order to get a death row conviction on the other criminal and Clyde’s taking issue with them offering the one killer a deal.  Then jump to 10 years later when the death row conviction is being carried out, and the lethal injection goes wrong and the evidence points to the other killer.  The other killer is “saved” by an anonymous phone call which leads him to Clyde who is impersonating  a cop.  Clyde then starts his “righteous revenge” on everyone in the trial all as an attempt to prove that everyone should be prosecuted and get what they deserve.

What doesn’t work in this story is that, while you aren’t supposed to feel complete sympathy for Clyde, you can feel almost none because of the actions that he takes, and the whole message seems forced and contrived with how they reach it.  Also, the whole idea of the film is that the judicial system has too many loop holes and criminals can go free (which is unfortunate and sad) but Clyde has to break out of prison to actually get his revenge on everyone, therefore defeating much of his message because he can not deliver it from within the confines of the system and doesn’t apply the same rules to himself as he wants applied to everyone else.  Even if he doesn’t care if he gets death or not, he still doesn’t abide by the rules he wants to force into place.  It also doesn’t work because Clyde, to get all his devious and destructive ways was someone who he should hate.  He was a “brain trust” killer for the government, he could figure out ways to kill people without being seeing and would perform hits, basically, for the government.  So he was taking it to the opposite end, being judge, jury, and executioner all by himself (or based off of the information that others gave him).

The acting performances in this film were average.  Jamie Foxx, as Nick, does a good job and gives a solid performance.  Gerard Butler is the “star” of the film playing Clyde, and while he does have a sinister and evil vibe to him, the actual performance isn’t anything to write home about.  The rest of the cast plays very secondary roles, and no one really jumps out as being all that great.  This film is much less about the acting (or story) then the intensity that they create in the film.

Visually it is fairly disturbing and fairly strong.  There isn’t anything that blows you away with how the film is shot, but there are a couple of maybe intentional homages to Alfred Hitchcock and The Godfather.  Hitchcock was known for not showing the actual violence and killings and simply showing it through shadows or implying when it happens, and in this film, F. Gary Gray, the director, does something similar, avoiding showing the most gruesome scenes, but telling you exactly what happened in them.  He does, however, so much more than Hitchcock ever would have.  In terms of The Godfather, there is one point, early on in the film, when Clyde is killing off the second murder, that the story is juxtaposed with Nick’s daughters cello recital, I couldn’t help but think the whole time I was watching that it was fairly similar to The Godfather where it juxtaposes a baptism with the murders of all the heads of rival gangs.

Overall this film isn’t a bad film to watch, however, it isn’t anything all that special, and there are better revenge flicks out there.  It preaches it’s message way to much, and it pretends to be much more righteous than it actually is.  The fact of the matter is, Clyde is a sick demented character who pretended to have a point to his revenge but in reality there is no way that it was anything beyond revenge that would drive a person to become like Clyde.  I’d primarily say skip watching this film because there are better revenge films out there, and there is no other unique feature that makes this film worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: C+

Critical Grade: D

Overall Grade: D+

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Repulsion

June 17, 2010

Repulsion

Roman Polanski, known now for being a messed up dude as much as a director, is actually very brilliant and creates a setting of horror that isn’t anything like you see today.  This is much more psychological then modern horror films which rely on jumps and gore to make an impact.  There is only one real jump scene in this film and you do jump when it happens, but otherwise the setting and atmosphere that is created is just off enough to make you feel uncomfortable while watching it.

The story is of an innocent girl, Carole, lives with her sister.  She has lived a repressed existence, but she seems to be functioning fairly well and just innocent with her views of the world.  She has a boyfriend who is more into her than she is him, and her sister has a married lover whom Carole is repulsed by.  When Carole’s sister, Helen, leaves for a few days on vacation, Carole’s reality starts to crumble around her.  Carole falls apart, quitting her job, and hiding herself in the apartment.  All of her troubles are compounded when she receives an abusive phone call from her sister’s lovers wife.  She imagines everything going wrong, people coming after her and removing her innocence.  When Michael, her boyfriend, becomes worried about her and breaks into the apartment, Carole believes that all her horrors are going to come true and kills him.  She does the same later with the landlord when he comes to collect the rent.

Normally I’d go to the actors next and explain what performances were good and which were bad, but besides Carole, Catherine Deneuve, the rest of the actors and actresses see only limited screen time.  So the next real thing to talk about is Polanski and his work creating this film.  It isn’t a typical horror film, but he creates bits and pieces that are just disturbing to watch.  There is a rabbit which Carole is supposed to cook when her sister leaves, but instead it is left on a plate, out in the apartment, and we see it decay as time passes, mirroring the decay of Carole’s mind.  She imagines a crack in the wall growing and eventually the whole wall crumbling.  It is hard to explain the effect that Carole’s decent has on the viewer, but compared to many psychological  horror films, Polanski does an amazing job filming it.

Another thing to consider about this film is the fact that with only one character on the screen most of the time there is very limited use of dialog.  Now most films often explain everything that is going on, especially common in horror films, and it is rare to have characters in silence.  Wall-E is the one film that I think does this brilliantly as well, limitings its dialog.  Whereas Wall-E shows love through the actions of the character extremely well, Polanski uses the silence to show off the decay of Carole.

This isn’t a film that translates extremely well to a contemporary audience, but it is a really well made film for it’s time and Deneuve’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen in a horror film.  Now people expect a slasher like A Nightmare on Elm Street or gore like in Hostel or a combination of both.  Subtle horror films are a thing of the past, but if you can get past the slower pace of the film, Repulsion is really an interesting and creepy experience.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

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The Hole

April 22, 2010

The Hole

The Hole

This film is based off of a book by Guy Burt and really fails to live up to it.  The book is a pretty quick read and simple but very intriguing and delves more into the characters.  The movie is pretty predictable and almost seems hastily done.

The story starts with Liz Dunn escaping from “the hole” an old bomb shelter left over from World War II where she and three friends (four in the book) have been hiding out to escape a school trip.  She makes it to a phone and calls the police saying that her three friends are dead and that something went terrible wrong.  The police look at the scene and try and piece together exactly what happened as Dr. Phillipa Horwood gets Liz to slowly open up about what happened.  Liz tells how at the school there is one guy who she has liked for a long time, Mike Steel, and with the help of her friend, Martyn Taylor she convinces Mike, Frankie, and Geoff that they can escape going on a school trip if they hide in the old bomb shelter.  They will tell the school their parents were coming to get them and the school that they were going with their parents and no one would notice.  Once they are in the hole, Martyn locks the door, for his protection, so that they don’t get caught, and he will come back for them in a couple of days when the school returns.  He doesn’t return and they are trapped in the hole and things start go very wrong leading to Geoff, Frankie, and Mike all dying.  The police bring in Martyn and he tells a very different story.  Dr. Horwood believes it is lie and when Martyn later admits it she passes it off as nothing.  There is a pretty obvious but entertaining twist at the end, even though it doesn’t show it off as well as the book.

The best performances in the film are of Liz and Martyn.  Liz is played very well by Thora Birch.  Some would say it isn’t all that great, but that is because the twist seems predictable through her.  However, just in terms of her acting, she plays the role very convincingly.  A complete unknown, Daniel Brocklebank, plays Martyn.  However, this role he plays the role very well showing up as very full of himself and in control of things.  The one big name in the film is Keira Knightley.  She plays Frankie, a spoiled high school student who is like the queen bee in terms of the attention she demands and gets.  The actor who plays Mike has continued on with a fair amount of TV success, playing the heart throb on shows like Gossip Girl.  Desmond Harrington gives a pretty poor performance, though.  The rest of the performances are pretty poor.  None of them are all that great, but Thora Birch does an effective job.

The creation of this story and film isn’t all that great.  Nick Hamm does a decent job with the story that he is given creating the emotion from partying to the panic in the very limited amount of room he is given with the hole.  But the story just isn’t strong enough to make a very good film and what Hamm gets from his talent isn’t all that great.

I’d recommend reading the book before watching the film.  It is a quick read and a pretty fun read.  The movie could definitely be worse, but isn’t all that good.  There are a few redeeming moments, mainly the twist at the end and Birch and Brocklebank’s performances.  There are a lot of better options for thrillers out there, but at least this is a small budget film with relative unknowns (before Knightley made it big), because so many huge Hollywood thrillers barely live up to this standard, they might have more suspense, but will lack a story that is as good.

Entertainment Grade: C+

Critical Grade: D+

Overall Grade: C-