Director – Steven Soderbergh
Cast – Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Steven Soderbergh is known for his “one for you, one for me” approach to film making. He’ll do the pop-oriented Ocean movies, but then turn around and do a movie like The Girlfriend Experience or Solaris, which can’t possibly be expected to be blockbusters. I like that approach. It gives him an opportunity to use some top-grade talent and production values in movies that might not otherwise have gotten them.
This one was definitely a “one for me” movie, at least in terms of box office returns, and partly in style. I wonder if the studio thought it would be one for them… It is a flat-out action movie that doesn’t stop for breath, and it has an all-star cast full of upcoming and established stars. So why wasn’t this a blockbuster? Why did it just appear for two seconds on our radar, and then disappear?
Well it’s a bit of a mess. The story is told in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, and it just confuses the hell out of us. The minimal dialogue doesn’t help either. Perhaps the intent with the flashbacks was to add something to keep us interested, in a movie that is distinctly single-minded. Not a bad idea, I suppose. But what we want to see from this movie is a) Gina Carano kicking ass, and b) all the other awesome actors getting their asses kicked. That would satisfy us, especially coupled with a smart script (which this is, no doubt) and a stylish director such as Soderbergh. But the convoluted flashbacks often leave us wondering who is who and where we are.
Soderbergh is a cold director, or seems to be from the movies I have seen, and a lot of his artsy choices here don’t really mesh with the material. This is a stylish B-movie at heart, and it shouldn’t really be spiced up too much. It loses its edge, and more importantly it loses its focus. This a cup of strong black coffee, but it’s been served to us in a tea-cup. Something is off.
Thankfully the casting director was on her toes for this one, though! Fassbender, McGregor, Tatum, Banderas, Douglas, Paxton. Already I want to see this movie. They are all great, with Ewan McGregor being a stand out as Carano’s slimy boss. I love this guy. I love that he will take on smaller roles, and deliver strong performances in everything he’s in. Perhaps the smaller roles are because he is not as much of a box office draw as he once was, but I’ll see this guy in almost anything.
Haywire is a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s skeleton is a perfectly stylish B-movie, but confusing plot elements and Soderbergh’s impersonal direction threaten to topple the whole house of cards. If there’s anything we need in an action movie its clarity, and we just don’t have it here. We end up with a movie that feels too pulp to be artsy, yet too artsy to be pulp.
Having said that, I am curious to see what this movie would feel like on a second viewing. If we have a grasp on the plot would we be able to appreciate it more? I would argue so. The cast is enjoyable, and Carano certainly impress us with her fight scenes (which are excellently choreographed). I might end up giving this movie a second shot, but I doubt most people would want to. I can give a cautious recommendation as a curiosity, but not much else.
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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!
The War of the Roses
Director – Danny DeVito
Cast – Michael Douglas, Katherine Turner, Danny DeVito, Dan Castalenetta
There hasn’t been a darker comedy made about marriage than 1989’s The War of the Roses. It is deliciously evil in its view of love; it would make an awful date-movie (or, to a discerning couple, perhaps a great one). This is essentially the anti-When Harry Met Sally.
Danny DeVito’s brilliantly twisted movie follows the Roses, a married couple whose relationship, for one reason or another, falls apart in dramatic and spectacular fashion. Turner’s character finds herself bored with her status as housewife to a rich business man, while Douglas feels shackled by a wife who doesn’t understand the financial game. When she admits to feeling relieved when he goes to the hospital after suffering a serious heart attack, the tension comes to a head. She files divorce papers, but he digs up an obscure law with the help of his lawyer friend (DeVito), that says he may stay in the house if he wants. They divide the house in half, and start to make each others life hell. It is here that the movie really takes off.
The back and forth between the two slowly builds up, until they are doing absolutely awful things to each other; she locks him in the sauna, so he urinates in a soup she is serving to distinguished friends… he (accidentally) runs over her cat, so she crushes his small foreign car with her truck… and so on and so on. It is a testament to the gradual crescendo brought about by careful direction that we don’t question the increasingly absurd lengths the couple goes through.
The movie is told through the eyes of Danny DeVito’s lawyer character, who tells this story to a client (a silent role played by Dan Castalenetta) who is contemplating divorce. This framing device helps greatly with the tone of the story. If we were shown the “war” after getting to know the Roses we might feel more attached to them. Having the story recited keeps the whole affair at a comfortable arms length. If we were too close to them we would cry, not laugh. Not that there are a huge amount of laughs here, the humour is too dry for that. Like the best of British comedy, it’s really too good laugh at.
The War of the Roses is a darkly comic movie, well acted and directed. It may come across as bitter toward the concept of marriage, but it really is against couples who don’t fight to keep their marriage, and instead fight to get the better deal after the relationship. It does this in an endearingly twisted way.
Douglas and Turner’s third outing together (after the Romancing the Stone movies) is a great way to end their on-screen pairing. I definitely recommend this to anyone who can enjoy a bit of dark comedy.
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Wall Street REVIEW
Director – Oliver Stone
Cast – Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Michael Sheen, Daryll Hannah, Terence Stamp, Hal Holbrook
Wall Street, Oliver Stone’s follow-up to his enormously succesful Platoon, plots the rise and fall of a young man who tries to get ahead in the financial world of the mid 1980’s. Charlie Sheen stars as the young man, his father Michael Douglas appears as his on-screen dad, and Michael Douglas co-stars as the infamous character Gordan Gekko.
Plot-wise, Gordon Gecko is an unscrupulous business man who will cut throats and stab backs to get what he wants. Due to this he has, of course, become a major player in American business, with influence and power that young Sheen can only dream of. Sheen apprentices himself to Gekko, who trains him in the ways of Wall Street. After finding himself involved in a highly unethical business trade involving an airline his father works for, Sheen is forced to make a decision regarding his lifestyle and the consequences it brings about to himself and others.
Charlie Sheen is very good as the likable but naive young man who, while trying to please his father and make a name for himself, is caught up in circumstances that go increasingly over his head. He projects the perfect mix of earnestness and natural pluck that the role needs. Michael Douglas as the sly, double-dealing Gordon Gekko, is wonderful, and in fact received an Academy Award for the role.
Wall Street thankfully avoids the preachiness that such a film could easily fall into, and instead mainly positions itself as a coming-of-age film. It still works as a moral and financial lesson, but as I said, does not bludgeon us with it. Its financial dealings, which provide the plot of the film, are complicated and beyond the knowledge of the average viewer, but Stone presents them slowly, easing us into the world of Wall Street. Even when there are a few deals that are a bit too complicated for us, we can always watch the characters. How they react to the goings-on gives us all the information we need.
Wall Street is a drama, but almost qualifies as a thriller. A slow, potboiler of a thriller, to be sure, but a thriller all the same. Gordon Gekko is a wonderful villain, and the various supporting cast is excellent. Daryll Hannah, as a young married woman Sheen wants to seduce, is perhaps a bit… dull I guess would be the right word. She sounds high through the whole movie, and its very distracting. She is really the only downside to an excellent cast that includes Martin Sheen, Terrence Stamp, John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook.
Wall Street is an excellent movie that would draw in any audience and sweep them towards its gripping and thoughtful conclusion. It is a smart movie, but it does not pander. For my money it is better than Stone’s more famous movie, shot directly before this, Platoon. For a moving and brainy coming-of-age story, look no further.
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