Saturday 17 April 2010

Review: Repo Men

Year: 2010
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Screenplay: Eric Garica, Garrett Lerner
Starring: Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga

Synopsis is here

Loud, bloody and gratuitous, Repo Men was something I expected to get nothing out of and came out with an idiotic grin on my face. It has all the low, brainless, expectations that a film like this would bring but managed to squeeze out some interesting elements due to it's well as the standard, beer with the mate fueled action that you must have with this sort of thing. Genre expectations and context eh?

Repo men had it's fair share of detectors before it even left the block as it's plot apparently shares a few similarities with Repo! The Genetic Opera, which of course has similarities with Equilibrium which reminded people of Fahrenheit see where I'm going with this? While I understand why fans and makers of Repo! should be more than a little frustrated, it's very easy to see why the studios bulked at Darren Lynn Bousman's vision but were ok with something a little more straightforward. Hopefully, the stars will align and more people will watch Repo! even if it is to compare the film with this one.

Despite being a sci-fi action flick, what made Repo Men work for me is the buddy chemistry that occurs between Jude Law's (Remy) and Forrest Whitaker's (Jake). It's the friendship between the two that kept the interest up and drove the movie forward for me. Credit is due to the performances because I did really dig both Law and Whitaker. Law is always more interesting when a bit scuzzy, while Whitaker's presence and general likability. Their blue collar brother relationship is so smooth, that even when they're BBQing for bikers (Whitatker's Jake forever focused on the job in a gory sequence) it gives the film a reasonable grounding.

Grounding it certainly needs for it's interestingly timed high concept. The films "price of life" themes aren't very stretching, but the OTT aspect of it all has a certain appeal. The idea that these artificial organs not only cost the price of a house but with an APR that would make a banker blush is one thing, it's made even more amusing when you find out that it's Liev Schreiber (on oil slick form) that's selling these things. It's those tiny little moments that make the film quite appealing. That is until the introduction of the cumbersome love interest.

Alice Braga stumbles into the sci-fi and the film shifts from a silly but fun sci-fi satire into even more standard affair. But while the first hour had moments that stood out well enough on it's own, the introduction of Braga's bionic woman bogs the film down into "get character A to B territory". The punches and kicks do have that solid feel to them, but they restrict the film down a narrow and familiar path. You get the feeling more can be done with the material than what transpires, and while the ending is ballsy enough to not be as neat as it could be, the lead up to it is pretty forgettable...although the soundtrack is nice.

Despite it's flaws however, Repo Men did enough to keep my eyes open before it ran out of steam. Those who enjoyed Equilibrium may find some something in this, however those who like their sci-fi a bit hard may have to go else where.

Review: The Ghost (A.K.A The Ghost Writer)

Year: 2010
Director: Roman Polanski
Screenplay: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Pierce Brosnan

Synopsis is here

Reviews of this movie from some of my usual haunts have been full of praise for this movie. Lots of talk of metaphors and likening to Hitchcock as well as the usual cries of POLANSKI IS BACK! However throughout this plodding, dull film, there was a voice in my ear whispering: "If this wasn't Polanski, would all this gushing be heaped upon this movie?" This niggle got louder and louder until the films final scene which will be considered genius by fans and pointless by philistines such as my self.

However with it's lethargic pace and frustratingly boring characters, The Ghost did nothing to even ENGAGE me let alone entertain me. Despite having a story that should be full of intrigue, I was left with a bog standard thriller filled with dubious plot moments and listless characters who initiate jarring conversations. The scenes aren't awkward in the way they should be in a movie like this, they feel unfinished, as if the takes used weren't the best ones filmed. This continues throughout the movie giving the movie and uneven stiffness that had me at odds with everyone in the movie. It's obvious why McGregor's character is called the ghost but as he is also our eyes and ears of this piece why does he seem so uninterested? Polanski's film gives us nothing in this film to invest in. There's hints towards more successful endeavors (The Tenant, Rosemary's Baby et all) but no point do we feel the tightening grip that features in those earlier films.

The narrative is no better. Like Chinatown we have a character that goes for the money and stays for the mystery but features little or no involvement. Plot points are telegraphed from far, twists are not only late coming, but unsurprising and throughout your left at an arms length distanced from the story. Bad times from the man who turned New York City into a satanic tomb for Mia Farrow. In no way did I feel involved in what was going on and nor did it seem to matter and while I'm not looking for a cliched car chase or explosion to grab my attention, I was more than a little miffed that none of the films talk gripped me. The film is also a little insulting with some of the films moments of plot. Not to ruin the film on purpose but, considering how sensitive the material often is this man left alone?

Performance wise, the film varied from dead eyed (McGregor), to miscast (Cattrall). Other displays fared better; Brosnan and Williams are high points, but all in all the there wasn't really anything to write home about. The same can be said from the films drab visuals which did as much to isolate me as a viewer as the characters relationships.

The Ghost is full of nods to the filmmakers earlier works but unfortunately the whole film feels Polanski-lite to me. It's a film that did little to excite or involve me in the slightest. A film I expected more from but gained nothing out of it. Philistine I may be, but at least this philistine has a copy of Chinatown at home to enjoy.