Justin vs. the IMDb: Crank: High Voltage

It has been well over a year since I went to see Crank: High Voltage in the theater, but at the time, I thought it was probably the funniest film I’d seen all year. In retrospect, I still think that. I honestly can’t remember laughing more at a recent film than I did at this film. It’s probably one of the craziest damn films I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. One of these days, I’ll have to watch it again and maybe do a proper review, but until then, I’ll just take on some of the silly IMDb users who hated it.

It made me physically ill

When I saw the first “Crank” movie I thought “What a terrible movie! There’s no way they’re gonna repeat that!” How wrong I was!… I had to see it to believe it, but after watching “Crank: High Voltage” I feel like I’ve been kicked in the nuts! The movie’s so stupid and absurd that I’ve lost all respect I had for Jason Statham, an actor that I’ve grown very fond of after that amazing “Snatch” movie. The only way anyone can enjoy this film is after a complete lobotomy and having made a “I’m a Jackass” tattoo on the forehead… I’m sorry I’ve wasted my time with this movie and I’ll regret it forever!… I’m sure this movie will only be shown whenever someone wants to get rid of some boring relatives or anytime someone feels constipated and needs a visual enema…

If I’m being honest, I can understand how this film might make some people physically ill. That said, you saw the first one, thought it was terrible, and then went to see the second one just to see how much more terrible it could get? You have nobody to blame but yourself. As George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.”

What’s weirder are the people who loved Crank, but hated the sequel. The following reviewer gave it one star:

One of the worst movies 09

First of all I LOVE crank 1. 10/10. I can watch it over and over again. A fresh story, good action, funny moments, nice acting.

Now let’s take a look at crank 2… This is by far the most fuked up movie i have seen last year… and oh my god i have seen like the worst zombie movie ever Where to start. Or better, why start at all. Crank 2 is lacking everything that makes a movie good except the fact that they have a cool main character.

I saw this movie at cinema with my girl and couldn’t walk out but after the scene with these stupid-ass-Latina-Charlie-hoes i got really mad and disappointed. Never seen such a bad acting. And yes… the acting of this hoe is even worse than JeanClaudeVD in Street Fighter.

Whatever. Worst Movie 2009. Doesn’t deserve more than 2.0 and i don’t know a single person that actually liked this movie or thinks of it as “watchable”

Much to learn about ratings you have

I’m not sure what the most annoying part of this review is. I’ll name a few.

  • He mentions the worst zombie movie ever, but  never says what it was.
  • It’s weird how people carry around grudges, like about Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting from a film that came out 16 years ago. And an absolutely atrocious movie at that. I defy even your favorite actor to deliver the dialogue written for that movie and not be terrible. Not trying to defend Van Damme here, but the best actors are only ever as good as the material allows them to be.
  • You don’t know a single person who actually liked this movie or thinks of it as “watchable”? Well, now you know me. I loved it and want to see it again.
  • The random Yoda-phrased line at the end. What the fuck does that mean?

This movie bites the big one!

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dear Director of Crank 2, You suck. Why did you make this movie!?! If I had paid to go see this movie I’d be in Hollywood kicking your ass right now. Why make my man, Jason Statham, look like a complete idiot? To make Jason run around for 2 hrs looking for his own heart was really stupid. The man was already dead, you should have left him that way! And to resurrect two people, no less, that is to say Kaylo as his own full body turrets brother was really idiotic. The whole plot, including Jason burning at the end, made me throw up. Don’t do it again! Yo momma!

Signed, A Disgruntled former patron of your movies!

I admit, this review made me laugh, actually. But why is it intrinsically stupid to have Chelios running around looking for his own heart? I mean, apart from the fact that it’s completely unrealistic, but so is everything else that ever happens in action films. But you’re right–the way you would have done it, such that the movie begins and Chelios drops dead right away, would have been a much better movie. Awesome.

This Is What Is Wrong With The World!!!!!

How can people say that this is a good movie this movie is absolute crap, the acting was terrible except Jason statham he did alright, the editing was pathetic they tried too hard and they screwed it royally, they tried to be funny and some parts were but most of it wasn’t, the only part in the whole movie that was funny and good was when he bangs Amy smart again. This is exactly why people are downloading movies now and Hollywood is losing so much money is because they bring out terrible movies like crank 2, everybody who was involved in making this so called movie should all shoot themselves in the head, and to the retard that said that crank 2 should be one of the top 10 sequels of the decade you obviously don’t know anything about movies

Man, Crank 2 is not what’s wrong with the world. I bet almost nobody in Sierra Leone or Darfur ever saw an over-the-top, cartoonish action film like Crank: High Voltage, and yet they still manage(d) to do unspeakably cruel things to each other that makes you wonder whether sociopathy and sadism lurk in all human souls and question how far humans have really evolved beyond our amoral progenitors. Trust me: the fact that some people (like me) were able to appreciate the utter mayhem and absurdity of Crank 2 doesn’t mean that any of us is actively working to bring down the infrastructure of world order. This film is more like a postmodern meta film that comments upon the action genre. It’s intentionally ludicrous, which makes me believe that you’re the one who obviously doesn’t know anything about movies. If you don’t get that or simply don’t care–you find it repulsive anyway–that’s fine. But let’s not get all hyperbolic here. This film doesn’t somehow encapsulate everything that’s wrong with the world.

And by the way, the irony of this review is that you’re disgusted by the brutality of the film, and within a few sentences you’re recommending that the filmmakers shoot themselves in the head. Honestly, if you think that anybody deserves to be killed for making a bad movie, you’re what’s wrong with the world, my friend.

Sadly moronic……

I deeply disturbed by the depths that filmmakers have went in order to gain the American dollar. I rented this movie on PPV and I was glad I didn’t spend the full amount for the theater. Unbelievably moronic in nature. If there were anything that could possibly vault this movie above the sleazy nature of a porn flick I might be more forgiving, but sadly no. What is worse is they actually use porn actors in the movie(as if they have any acting ability outside the women and their orgasms). I guess it is a reason more and more top dollar actors are being viewed in commercials. It is obvious to me that the quality of movies have made the public decide it would better to wait for the rental and save some money. Save your time for a better quality movie, like one of the scary movie sequels.

Do you have any idea how shitty movies used to be? It’s not because of films like this that Hollywood movies are less profitable than they used to be. It’s a combination of about a billion other reasons, like the fact that movies are exponentially so much more expensive to make now than they were even twenty years ago. Or the fact that movie tickets have become so expensive? Or that home video has become so much better (Blu-Ray, HDTV, surround sound, etc.). Or that everybody seems to be a member of Netflix and sees everything they want to eventually, anyway. And so on. Crank: High Voltage is extremely successful at what it intends to do. If it fails, it does so only because you don’t agree with what the filmmakers are attempting to do. There’s a huge difference between a film like this, which is actually very clever about itself, and a movie that tries for some sort of dramatic legitimacy and simply fails in all respects. The former is a niche film, while the latter is merely bad.

Anyway, I’ll stop here. Feel free to contribute your own.

Burly

I think the problem that some people seem to have with the so-called Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded is that it all feels fairly sterile. Compare it to something like the Bourne versus Desh fight from The Bourne Ultimatum–in which every blow is explosive and devastating, intended to do the most damage in the most efficient way, and the combatants and camera are literally locked in mortal combat–and it’s obvious which sequence delivers a more visceral experience.

But this aside, I really feel that the choreography of the Burly Brawl is beautiful and balletic in its way, and if any reasonable complaint can be leveled at the sequence, it’s only that it feels too choreographed. By the time the brawl arrives in the Matrix trilogy, we’re long past the point that we believe Neo can realistically be challenged. His strikes are flawless, his demeanor is constant and impassive, and it quickly becomes obvious that we’ll never even get to see him bleed, sweat, get his hair mussed, or take a fall from which he won’t immediately rebound.

As a result, there’s little drama to the Burly Brawl, and when this problem is compounded by some obvious CG (just the nature of the beast–your eye knows when it’s seeing something that’s not real, no matter how perfect you could ever make it look), it tends to lend the sequence a cartoonish sensibility.

All of that said, this remains one of the most amazing action sequences I’ve ever seen (head to the 3:00 mark to bypass all of the exposition).

[Edit: The YouTube video has since been pulled, but it should be easy enough to discover again.]

Some highlights for me:

  • 3:31 – Keanu knocks back two agents with a single left hook.
  • 5:35 – Keanu lays back horizontal to kick forward, then swings like a pendulum backward, then flip spins his entire body laterally and punches another agent in the neck.
  • 5:55 – Keanu does three continuous roundhouse kicks followed by CG Keanu doing two flying roundhouse kicks.
  • 7:08 – Keanu has two agents hold his metal pole horizontal while he slides beneath it to kick two agents on the other side, one with each leg, then spins around and karate chops the agents holding the pole in their faces. The pole drops, and he kicks it into the stomach of another rushing agent, and catches the pole when it ricochets. It’s done with a few cuts, but it’s still cool.
  • 7:36 – I know it’s ridiculous, but I love this bit in which CG Keanu gets knocked backwards, plants his pole on the ground, and uses it as a hub for about five horizontal revolutions in which he’s kicking agent after agent.
  • 8:17 – I always think of this as an Incredible Hulk shot, in which enemies have piled on, and the hero explosively shirks them off, with bodies flying everywhere.

Justin vs. the IMDb: From Paris with Love

Just for fun, I’m going to ridicule IMDb users who hated From Paris with Love. Because I have a blog. And I can do that.

Silly violent action film which takes the name of Paris in vain

Lots of exploding cars, a hundred people or so get killed, many mown down in hails of gunfire, blood spatters all over people’s faces, drugs, terrorists, it’s all in there in a great hodgepodge of nothingness. This film is said to be based on a story by Luc Besson. I’d keep that quiet if I were Besson, as it’s nothing to be proud of. The lead role is played by John Revolta, who is unspeakably hideous to look at and as usual unremittingly disgusting, vulgar, and obscene. If that’s your thing, well … by the way it’s in English and we don’t see much of Paris besides some badly-shot footage from inside a moving car, and a few stock shots with the Eiffel Tower in the background (for those who can’t read five-letter words beginning with P, the name of a capital city in France, uhhhh…..)

What an amazingly full-of-himself little bitch. Can we assume from the fact that he calls John Travolta “John Revolta” that this whiny shitberg was predisposed to dislike this film? I’ll never understand why people like this even watch films they know they’ll hate. And by the way, the movie was filmed in France. If you truly doubt that, you can watch the “making of” featurette on the disc and you’ll even see that they were able to film a piece of it at the actual Eiffel Tower. Stock shots my ass.

From Paris with love…of money

Yea ha, we’re going to make some money on this one. Maybe ol’ Johnny boy can buy himself another plane or give some more loot to that church or whatever it is he belongs to. C’mon pardner, you’re a movie star. You can do whatever you want and you do this. Maybe on paper it looked good. Maybe not. Was there clever dialogue in the script that they cut out because they didn’t want to interfere with the body count? The casting worked, the action did, too, but the movie didn’t. Charlie would do something crazy and then quickly explain right after that it was part of his plan, and they’d tell us he’s unorthodox. Sure, I’ll buy that. That works fine. His loose cannon methods work like a charm. That works fine. Now can I have a serving of speech more than just a fun one liner. Kind of a cool set up but just could have been something more there. It fell short and could have used six or eight minutes more of substance. Let me try that again. It could have used six or eight minutes of substance in general because it didn’t really have any to speak of. Even the Rambo movies have that. They actually have a lot of that compared to this one. Not all the cylinders clicked here, some did but most didn’t.

I don’t have much to say on this one except that if you’re going to accuse Travolta of working only for money, you should probably go review something like Old Dogs instead.

It’s a total mess…

I can’t imagine how dumber a mindless action film could ever be. This is the bottom line. A movie to be taught in universities for how it shouldn’t be.

And what was all that stuff about non-European & non-Americans? All of them? It’s like the movie script could be degraded to a single line:

“Your problem is you’re all foreigners!”

All those little details in the film made me sick because of their shallowness. I think they’re all there just for decoration purposes and to cover the absurdity of the script.

Never gonna watch a Travolta film again, never wanna see a Besson DVD near my player again. Ever…

Jesus, you’d think this guy just found out that John Travolta and Luc Besson had a ménage à trois with his wife. You can’t imagine how a “dumber mindless action film could ever be”? How about…um…maybe 95% of action films made. Most of them don’t even benefit from a charismatic lead. Especially these days, the majority of action films pretty much come down to a shit-ton of computer generated images, with no real characters at all. And with regard to the film’s treatment of foreigners, talk about a guy who needs to learn the definition of tongue-in-cheek. From Paris with Love is essentially a benign satire.

Luc Besson did not put much love in it

[…]

And the story of the film is “impossible”. The silliness is taken (sic) to the extreme when Rhys Jones is blood splattered all over the face, with not one single blood spot on his white collar. And like that it goes. It’s almost silly when Rhys is shot in the shoulder quite later in the film. I wonder how the bomb got through the security check, when the guns didn’t. The bomber looked like a power plant, though not able to react like one when needed.

Even the lines, which could have got some cult sense, is not working. But as a film the action and the actors make it worth while to watch as a time killer. Too bad this was not a new Taken or Transporter 2.

What’s worse is the hints of racism, both against Chinese people as well as Pakistani. I was appalled by the couple of sentences, which was completely unnecessary.

Really? You just watched a scene in which Charlie Wax rapelled through a window, killed about ten guys, then slid inverted down a pole and killed about ten more, and you had time to notice that when Rhys Meyers gets splattered with blood, it doesn’t get on his collar? Who are you and why are you so lame? It’s not as though there was even a bucket of blood thrown on Rhys Meyers. It was, like, two thin lines of blood on his forehead. Plus, you lost me when you said that Transporter 2 was a better movie. Seriously? The movie in which Frank Martin flips a car into the air and does a barrel roll in order to remove a bomb from the undercarriage of the car was less silly than From Paris with Love? Sheesh–to quote Bugs Bunny: “what a maroon.”

This movie should be banned!

This movie is full of prejudice, stereotypes, and it’s not funny at all! It is against people of the Islamic faith – GARBAGE! Shoot to kill this movie! It should be banned, what were the writers and directors thinking when they were producing this movie? Very pro-US, shows CIA operatives killing many Chinese and Arab people in the most brutal ways. Makes me feel ashamed of being a part of the western world.(By the way – I’m not Islamic!) Gives you the impression that all Islams wear suicide explosive belts or wish to kill all westerners in some way. This movie fuels hatred against Islam and foreigners in general. Travolta must have been desperate for money if he has accepted this role. Either that, or he lost a bet.

Overreact much? The world isn’t going to end because Luc Besson decided that Islamic terrorism was ripe material for an old-fashioned body count action film. This isn’t a debate on CNN–the filmmakers aren’t obligated to show you that Muslims, Pakistanis, and Chinese exist who aren’t involved in the drug trade or terrorism. It assumes you’re smart enough to already realize that. Though in your case, they probably overestimated the intelligence of their audience.

The worse kind of action movie

“From Paris with Love” is an action movie. Only action, nothing else.

This movie has us confused from the very beginning with no explanations, and they apparently think we don’t need any. There is no plot. No scene makes any sense. Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ character is incongruous. I reluctantly suppose that is to be expected in an action movie.

The action in this movie is done in the matrix-style, sometimes, and only rarely when they actually complete fluid motions of action. Because there is no plot, we generally don’t know the reason for most of the violence. Oh and is there violence. It’s rated PG-13, but it’s machine gun firing with dead bodies flying and blood squirting. Just what I want today’s 13 year-olds to be watching.

The one good thing is John Travolta. This is the skillfully-funny, ultra bad-ass Travolta who is at his all-time best for action. If you are forced to watch this movie, you at least get to look forward to Travolta’s analysis of the grammatical variations on the use of a swear word.

People often say for bad movies to watch them only if you’re fans of the stars. In the case of “From Paris with Love”, watch it only if you are a fan of Travolta. For fans of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, avoid it because you will only be disgusted with the current trajectory of his career.

First of all, there was nothing at all in this film that reminded me of the Matrix, apart from the fact that, yes, there was a lot of shooting and a bit of hand-to-hand combat. The only specifically derivative part was an homage to John Woo during the mannequin shoot-out. But I guess the Wachowski brothers invented action, huh? Second of all, it’s rated R, you numbskull. It would have taken you all of five seconds to confirm that before you took the film to task for being too violent to warrant a PG-13 rating. You say that nothing in the movie makes any sense, but I say nothing in your review makes any sense.

America saves the World

What on Earth is going on here? This film contains every cliché, every bit of corny dialogue and every racial stereotype it’s possible to squeeze in. Do we really need another gun-toting, “hyper-intelligent”, action hero to save us poor hopeless Europeans? At some points in the film there were so many bullets flying our hero would have at least died of lead poisoning should he not have ducked behind flimsy wooden crates. And while we are on the subject of chemistry, there is absolutely none at all between any of the characters. I can’t give this one star- there is worse around, but this makes the Die Hard quadrilogy look like a cinematic masterpiece.

Director Luc Besson? Hang your head in shame.

No surprise that this guy is from the United Kingdom. He’s just butthurt that Charlie Wax makes James Bond look like Caspar Milquetoast.

Okay, okay–I’m kidding. James Bond is still awesome. I do hate reviews like this, though, that offer a catchy yet utterly meaningless critique like “makes the Die Hard quadrilogy look like a cinematic masterpiece”, as though it’s common knowledge that all of the Die Hard films are utter crap. The original Die Hard, if none of the others, is pretty much universally recognized as one of the best action films ever made. I agree…it’s not Citizen Kane, but what action film ever will be? In trying to be clever, this guy just revealed how little he understands about cinema. That’s your own axe to grind, you uptight douche–don’t assume everybody agrees with you.

In any event, you get the point. I’ll stop here.

Born in the U.S.A.

This is political and probably has no place on this blog.

On tonight’s “Daily Show”, Jon Stewart took on the alleged movement to eliminate or modify jus soli in the United States.

It should be said that by most accounts, I’m a fairly liberal person, and I also fully understand that “The Daily Show” is “fake news” by their own admission, and meant to be entertainment. That said, this segment makes one of my most disliked logical fallacies and Stewart needs to be called out on it: he begged the question.

To wit, he attempted to make the point that birthright citizenship is correct and desirable because it’s specified in the Fourteenth Amendment. Far from an airtight case, wouldn’t you say? His argument, in a nutshell: because more politicians thought it was a good idea than the politicians who thought it was a bad idea, absolute birthright citizenship must be protected. I think I’m paraphrasing correctly, but if you disagree, let me know.

I don’t necessarily disagree that birthright citizenship has played a role in making the United States one of the most diverse and accepting countries on the planet. But I don’t necessarily disagree, either, that it presents some sticky legal problems with regards to illegal immigrants.

If you checked the linked Wikipedia article (and I don’t want to get into the possible lack of exactitude therein), you probably read that jus soli is observed in roughly only 16% of the world, and even amongst that 16%, some operate under a modified version. France, for example, requires the “manifestation of will”–essentially, the child herself, if born to foreign parents, needs to request nationality at the age of majority. In Australia, a child must have at least one parent who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident. And it goes on.

The point is, there isn’t one right way to go about this. I agree that birthright citizenship is valuable, but you can put me in the camp of Americans who think that at least one parent should have some legal entitlement to be in this country. I’m not certain why I should be lumped together with the clearly racist and paranoid Senator Edward Cowan of Pennsylvania (1861-1867) just because I have a different view on Stewart’s sacred cow. That’s as ignorant and specious as the emotional, irrational poppycock espoused by the grandstanding politicians that Stewart, himself, regularly lampoons on his show.

For the record, I’m a big fan of “The Daily Show”, but Jon Stewart, like anybody else, should be kept honest. This isn’t a black and white issue.

From Paris With Love

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

There isn’t a whole lot to say about From Paris with Love, and what there is to say about it has probably been said by Donald over at Blessed are the Geeks. But I’ll quickly add my two cents.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with From Paris with Love apart from the fact that it hardly makes any sense…or it could merely be that exposition is considered an inconvenience. There’s a loose kind of logic underpinning the body count, but a week after watching it, you’ll have long forgotten what that logic was. Even the protagonist, himself, is left largely in the dark about the proceedings to which he’s made a somewhat passive party, as he is never debriefed, and his partner feeds him one seemingly tall-tale after the next.

Is it drugs? Terrorism? Are the villains Chinese? Pakistanis? Well…really, who cares? People who get hung up on these issues have utterly missed the point. The characters might very well be fighting Martians–the faceless villains are merely a means to an end.

Ultimately, the reason this film works is because the script is largely disposable. From Paris with Love is purely an excuse to do an espionage-themed buddy comedy in which a barely recognizable John Travolta ravenously chews the scenery to hilarious effect, remorselessly piles up corpse upon corpse, and imbues with a vigorous lust for life a character to whom I would love to see an entire series of sequels devoted.

With regard to the other half of this mismatched team, I’m in line with Donald: I could take or leave Jonathan Rhys Meyers–I’ve always found him to be something like a bland version of Ewan McGregor. Whatever that means. Though I suppose his blandness serves some function here, standing in for the initially befuddled audience. The running gag with the vase full of cocaine more or less sums up his contribution to the film. Every time I saw Rhys Meyers standing there with that vase, I thought, “Why does he have to keep carrying that thing around?” But the “smartness” of it–if I can be so bold as to credit this film with being smart–was that it was patently clear that the character had no idea either. He’s merely wading through the wake of Wax’s path of destruction. And it’s funny!

To be perfectly clear on this, From Paris With Love is not to be taken seriously. This is the very epitome of the “turn off your brain” action comedy, and if you can manage that task and you aren’t prone to be offended by ethnic and religious stereotypes, it’s really quite a lot of fun. Despite being completely over-the-top, Travolta’s apparently unhinged and brashly offensive hero is nevertheless thoroughly charismatic, and he grows more and more upon you as the movie rushes forward, trampling over all logic in its headlong sprint to the ending.

Charlie Wax seems to have been designed specifically to one-up conventional cinema spies–to my mind, there really isn’t an equivalent. Wax’s no-prisoners attitude and Travolta’s infectious freneticism in the role combine to establish an action hero for everybody who ever thought that James Bond might be too much of a pansy.

For better or worse, Wax embodies the perception of an America that does whatever the fuck it wants to (or some would argue, has to). I won’t defend it, but at the same time, I won’t deny that there’s something invigorating about this impulsive, bullet-proof hero who solves each successive problem by killing everything he sees. It’s pure escapism and doesn’t aim for anything higher, so just relax and enjoy the chaos (which, for a change, doesn’t totally abuse CG for a lot of physics-defying nonsense–there’s hardly any CG at all in fact–and as far as I know, Travolta does almost all of his own stunts).

This pretty well redeems Travolta for everything crappy he has acted in since Pulp Fiction. I mean, I understand why paid film critics had to destroy this film in their reviews, but see it anyway. It’s a lot of fun, and if you hate it, you probably have a sizeable stick up your ass. You know who you are, and you already know you won’t like it.

Other Reviews

  • Steven Holden did a good one for The New York Times. “I am ashamed to admit that this empty-headed, preposterous, possibly evil mélange of gunplay and high-speed car chases on Parisian boulevards is a feel-good movie that produces a buzz.” I agree–you can’t help but feel a little guilty for enjoying it, but what can you do? Like Meyer’s character, you’re along for the ride, and initially, you’re kind of appalled, but eventually, you discover that you’re enjoying the outrageousness of it all.

Green Zone

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

(Subtract one star if you disagree with the film’s politics.)

Wow…I had a completely different notion of what this film was going to be. Knowing that this was another vehicle for Matt Damon, directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum), and from my vague recollection of having seen the trailer and remembering a sequence in which the protagonist is kidnapped, announces his intention to bring in his kidnapper, and is quickly shown to be free and causing havoc, I assumed that Green Zone was going to be about a Jason Bourne-like character putting foot to ass and bringing Iraqi war criminals to justice while unraveling a Bourne Ultimatum-like web of conspirators. I’m not saying that this would have been a better film than what Green Zone actually is. I’m just saying.

So what sort of film was Green Zone? Good question.

Well, if you’re my mother–who was visiting last week when I rented it–you’d probably never really know, since you fell asleep within twenty minutes. But in a way, I understand why. At a certain point–maybe if you’ve seen at least one movie about soldiers and the Middle East–you’ve probably gotten the idea already. That said, I do think Green Zone goes to a place that less political films haven’t been willing to go…for better or worse.

It’s probably fairly easy to spoil this film, so I’ll just briefly mention what this film was about.

Shortly after Operation Iraqi Freedom, towards the beginning of the occupation, Captain Miller (Matt Damon) leads a squad tasked with investigating alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) stockpiles. After repeatedly turning up bubkes and inevitably coming to the conclusion that the intelligence with regard to WMD is weak at best or fallacious at worst, he begins overtly questioning his orders. To Miller’s mind, if there never were any WMD, then the U.S. population had evidently been sold a bill of goods, and the military had been mobilized and deployed under false pretenses.

Miller just wants to know the genesis of this bogus intel, and his outspokenness brings him into the confidence of Brendon Gleeson’s CIA expert Martin Brown. Brown sees WMD as a smokescreen enshrouding a flawed plan by the administration to disband the Iraqi military and maintain an occupying presence in Iraq. Miller’s engagement with Brown entwines him in the pernicious tug-of-war between intelligence agencies–and pits him against Greg Kinnear as Pentagon man Clark Poundstone–fighting to determine the method by which the Iraqi nation might be once again stood upon its own feet…or not.

It’s your typical “soldier goes off the reservation” film, but it works on another level, as well.

Green Zone is a thoroughly cynical film that posits such notions as:

  • intelligence agencies inventing informants and information out of whole cloth;
  • U.S. officials being in cahoots with Saddam’s generals and suppressing intelligence that would destroy the credibility of more “favorable” intelligence;
  • collusion between U.S. officials and the print media to sell a war predicated upon unverified sources and uninvestigated claims;
  • the employment of local assets (that’s “assassins” for those of you who don’t speak Greengrass) for wetwork operations in order to circumvent oversight and provide plausible deniability for U.S. intelligence agencies whenever they need this or that guy out of the way;
  • the wielding of the U.S. military for essentially whacking highly-placed Baathists in order to prevent them from telling anybody what they know (i.e., Saddam didn’t have any active WMD);
  • the more or less intentional sabotaging of post-war reconstruction by arrogant administration officials who were so concerned with making a totally clean break with the Baathists that they were more than willing to doom Iraq to years of insurgency and civil war long after Bush declared “Mission Accomplished”;
  • that the second Iraq war was ultimately more about occupying and controlling Iraq than anything else.

You get the idea.

The frightening thing about Green Zone is how plausible it all seems. I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist by any means, but when we brought war to Iraq upon the back of the case that Saddam had WMD, didn’t anybody who was at least half paying attention think that was–in the best case–primarily a pretext meant to conceal ulterior motives? Green Zone may push the envelope of what you can attempt politically in an action film without finding your picture marginalized in the press and ignored by the larger movie-going public, but just the same, it holds together pretty well owing to a tight script. It may never approach any sort of reality, but even if it doesn’t, it’s a solid reminder of what happens when we don’t ask questions of our political, intelligence, and military leaders.

My mother, who woke up at the end of the film and caught enough of it to get the gist, suggested that the speculative claims made by Green Zone might be dangerous. I don’t know about that. I think 4000+ American deaths and 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties since 2003 (though I’ll grant that the numbers for the latter are more difficult to understand–suffice it to say, a lot of Iraqis have died) prove that the idea of going to war with Iraq was a dangerous idea.

A movie that claims that U.S. officials lied in order to go to war isn’t proposing an idea that hasn’t been proposed many times before. If it’s more dangerous than any of those other claims, it’s merely because internally, the film tracks well from one point to the next, and if you’re already inclined in this direction, it’s tempting to view Green Zone as some sort of secret history (it’s not).

With all of that said, I think Green Zone takes a well-considered tack somewhere down the middle line with regards to whether ousting Saddam and attempting to install true democracy in Iraq was–regardless of anything else–in the interests of the Iraqi people. In that regard, the Iraqi character, Freddy, played by Khalid Abdalla (in one of the film’s few stand-out performances) serves as an interesting mouthpiece. But at the same time, Green Zone annihilates the validity of the administration’s espoused reasons for going in and skewers post-war reconstruction policy for being a farce: no exit strategy, the installation of a puppet governor, and a total stonewalling of regional experts who forcefully asserted that the administration was throwing out the baby with the bathwater and seeding an instability that would plague the nation for years to come.

The Road, Spoilers Ahoy!

As I’ve been looking over the negative reviews of The Road on the Internet Movie Database, I’ve found a lot of comments that have clarified elements with which I had issues. It’s easier just to quote these.

Spoilers follow after the “Read More”:

Continue reading “The Road, Spoilers Ahoy!”

The Road

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

For a time, if somebody had asked me to name the bleakest film I’d ever seen, I might have said Roman Polanski’s Holocaust film, The Pianist, which was so dire that, honestly, I couldn’t even claim to have been able to appreciate whatever artistic merits it might have had. To be sure, I didn’t particularly care for the film at all–it was too much. The Holocaust was terrible. I get it. I could have done without wallowing in the misery of it for two and a half hours.

Then I saw Children of Men, which I thought stole the dubious distinction of “most soul-crushing film ever” from The Pianist. Again, Children of Men was a film that I wouldn’t even recommend, because despite the evident craft that went into its filming, it simply weighs upon you for days after watching it–it’s an effort even to make it through to the end. That said, if you did make it to the ending, you were able to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and for that, Children of Men was ultimately somewhat redeemed (though still soul-crushing on the whole).

Now comes The Road, a cinematic translation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic book by the same title. There is almost nothing good in this film. It’s just colorless landscapes featuring the corpse of mother nature, and dirty, horrible people in a world that literally has no hope. The apocalyptic event is never explained in the film, but my understanding is that the world is slowly dying. Even if the protagonists are able to survive until the next day, you have to wonder why anybody would want to. What’s the point?

The total lack of specificity with regards to the apocalyptic event was a real sticking point for me, to be honest. We’re told that nothing survived except for people. All other life seems to have been destroyed. But how? And why? If I’m going to pull for the human characters, I need to know there’s at least some promise of rebuilding. But this film gives you none, and as a result, The Road is the bleakest film I’ve ever seen.

I can’t in good conscience recommend it to anybody unless you feel like giving yourself nightmares for a week.

Why You’re Here

It’s clear that I’m going to need to start spicing up the content on this blog (or start actually posting some original content) if I ever want to see any interesting search terms in my site stats. These are pretty boring:

“inception backlash” – I did call it correctly, by the way, though it took longer than I thought it would (and the film is still ranked #3 on the IMDb). 13 of the most recent 20 user comments on the IMDb are negative, and I’m going to include in the “negative” column users who actually rated it more than five stars but then went on to say such things as:

  • they fell asleep in the theater because it was so boring;
  • there was no emotional connection with any of the characters and the story was completely unconvincing;
  • it’s overrated and you should only see if if you have absolutely nothing better to do.

Weird how these people thrashed the film so thoroughly with words and then gave the film six or seven stars (I guess this is why the fresh/rotten ratings at rotten tomatoes are sometimes questionable). Then again…I suppose I thrashed it and still rated it better than average, so obviously I’m a hypocritical moron. I do think it’s worth seeing (maybe–I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody). I just don’t think it’s particularly brilliant or dramatically convincing.

By the way, if you disliked Inception, then reading this long thread of Inception Hate is cathartic.

While I’m on this topic, I might as well mention this Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge comic that I discovered the other day, which people tongue-in-cheekly purport to have been an inspiration for Inception. Well, it’s really just one of many stories that have been written dealing with the notion of entering into dreams, but this one does contain the further similarity that those entering the dream are there for the purpose of committing a heist (though in this case, it’s a real world heist).

It’s a fun tale, actually, and in a way, it’s better conceived than Inception–or at any rate, seems to conform better to the unpredictable reality of dreaming. I love the notion that the dream follows Scrooge around and if you stray too far from him, you literally fall out of it. I would have loved to have seen what might have been done with that in a Hollywood action film.

For some reason, this reminded me of an old “Batman: The Animated Series” episode that I also recommend, called “Perchance to Dream”, in which the Mad Hatter builds an alternate dream reality (the framework supplied by Bruce’s subconscious) for Batman in which Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t killed. In the dream, Bruce and the Batman are different people. The goal being to trap Batman in a limbo-like dreaming coma. As a diabolical plan, it’s kind of a head-scratcher, but the episode was a good one. You can actually watch the entire episode on this Japanese site.

Those who are purists for the Dark Knight style Batman (Frank Miller Dark Knight, I mean, not Christopher Nolan) might disagree with the notion that deep down, Bruce Wayne resents that he was forced to become the Batman.

“imdb females under 18 ratings” – Weird. Why would anybody search that? Even my one regular reader wasn’t interested in that.

“walking away and never looking back” – I’d love to know what that person hoped to find, and if my stupid post about Antonio Banderas calmly strolling away from a giant fireball fulfilled his information need.

“inception fanfiction” – Get on this, Donald. There are already people looking for some.