"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Trailing Edge Film Review: New Year's Double Feature

In this special edition of Trailing Edge Film Review: The Punisher and Hero.

Both of these films had something to do with the theme of revenge. Beyond that, they have nothing in common. Hero is a beautifully shot ballet of violence and careful dialogue. The Punisher is a turd.

It is difficult for me to emphasize how disappointed I was by The Punisher. The set-up was fantastic. An outstanding FBI agent closes his last sting operation, but is hunted down in a blitzkrieg that claims his entire family. Improbably, he survives and we wait for an exquisite revenge because this a Marvel production, Punisher is a great Marvel character, and this film should not suck (see the late 80's version of The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, which did suck). Regrettably, though the ball is teed up nicely ready to be driven down the middle of a very wide fairway, we end up with an incompetently managed adventure. If it were worthwhile, I'd spend more time on the problems with this film, but it isn't. A short list would include the fact that John Travolta's villain isn't nearly as tough as he should be, the police never show up even when apocalypses occur in the middle of downtown areas, and the Punisher picks up a ridiculous little family of misfits during his few days of revenge seeking. A particularly stupid scene features the Punisher's neighbors tricking him into coming to dinner and asking him to participate in a thankfulness exercise. WHO WROTE THIS CRAP?!!! To see this story done in a much more entertaining manner, please see Deathwish. Good old Charles Bronson got it done when it was turn to take out the trash.

Hero is really interesting. Political philosophy, revenge, and exquisitely choreographed swordplay are on review in the manner of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Jet Li is superb in the title role. The plot is not as involved as Crouching Tiger, but it admirably fills the space between major acts of combat. What really stands out beyond the gorgeously enacted fight scenes is the use of nature and color. Fighters perform their deadly dances in desert, lake, palace, and rain-soaked courtyard settings. Vibrant greens, blues, reds, and oranges fill the screen at various points. I may not have hated The Punisher as much if I hadn't watched Hero immediately afterward.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since my blog is bogged and won't log, I am relegated to the role of what the French call plus caca comment, or some such Appalachian appellation.

In any case, I shall add my Cutting Floor Edge reviews, or actually picks, of movies not quite knew. If one finds oneself converging upon one's local video rental emporium and one is singularly lacking in a game plan except that one wants two or more and one discovers to one's chagrin that she grins as she takes the last of the new stuff, that wench does, and so one determines in the interstice between cursing one's fate and stubbing one's toe on those darned Blockbuster doors that one wishes to avail oneself of the Favorites, namely such titles as have earned their repose on the various oddly angled shelves in the middle of one's establishment devoted to the antique antics of days gone by, then one might be disposed or predisposed if not too indisposed to select one of the following titles, such titles having been designated as not entirely unworth of viewing in the event that one tires of the pursuit of literature owing to the regrettable tendency of latter-day scriveners to indulge woefully in agonizing interminable renditions of that most awful of literary constructs: the run-on sentence.

If you have never seen these, I recommend:
Where The Money Is with Paul Newman, Linda Fiorentino and Dermot Mulroney. (If someone can answer why Linds Fiorentino does not work more, please advise.)

Simpatico with Jeff Bridges, Nick Nolte and Sharon Stone. (Okay, I admit that the fact that Sharon is a personal friend of mine impairs my judgment, but - and I have told her this myself - I have never seen someone make their first appearance at the 1 hour, 5 minute mark of a movie and steal it lock, stock and barrel. Carolyn Keener has a trippy role here, too.)

One of the great movies of all time:
The Hudsucker Proxy with Paul Newman and Tim Robbins and an Academy Award level performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh (another actress who should be working a great deal more).

One more fun one that was filmed near me in Key Largo:
Heartbreakers with Gene Hackman, Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ray Liotta (and Anne Bancroft in a pathetic cameo)

Let me know if you like 'em.

Jay D. Homnick

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Deathwish, does anyone have any idea why Brian Garfield suddenly stopped writing novels in 1989? He's only 65 now, but I guess he dried up at 50. How much hope do I have at age 46?

Jay