Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell,
Edward Zwick, the creative force behind emotional action hits like Blood Diamond and Glory, scores again with this true, WWII story of human compassion and survival. The story is engaging, but lacks the impact that such a spectacular story should have. The direction is skilled, if a little uninspired, and the acting is solid, though Daniel Craig seems too detached in the lead role of the strong soft-spoken leader of a rag tag group of Jews trying to survive in Nazi-occupied Belaruss.
Daniel Craig, Live Schreiber and Jamie Bell play three Jewish brothers who take to the woods to hide from Nazis and their collaborators, after their country falls to the German war machine. Surviving indefinitely in the woods would seem a tricky enough business, but it gets a lot more difficult as more and more Jews join them in a bid for escape from the Jewish ghetto. Keeping their location secret from the enemy, while managing to provide food and supplies would be challenging enough, even without the group infighting that emerges.
Defiance, which plays kind of like Schindler’s List crossed with Red Dawn, has a fascinating story to tell, and tells it well, but it is both surprising, and a little disappointing, that Zwick didn’t manage to create the powerful impact common to this genre, especially since he has conjured up such emotion in many of his previous projects. This is still a very good film, however, that will hold particular interest for history buffs.
Defiance – movie quotes:
“The only thing the Jewish people value more than peace is our right to exist”
The Wrestler is a product of the creative mind behind such dark dramas as The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream, and Darren Aronofsky still isn’t going to win any laugh fests with this bleak character drama about a broken down professional wrestler. Mickey Rourke, who showed such talent and promise twenty years ago, in such projects as Barfly and Angel Heart before falling into a decade or two of obscurity, powers this film with an Oscar worthy performance. He is helped out by a noteworthy effort by Marisa Tomei, and by the grim, but engrossing story. The direction is dark and overuses the hand held camera to achieve an authentic look. The end result is an excellent art house film that deserved more attention than it got.
The flagging career of Mickey Rourke may just be revived with his role as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging, good-hearted performer in the hard knock wrestling world of heels (bad guys) and baby faces (good guys). Randy was once a big name, but any money he made is gone and only a glimmer of fame remains along with a lifetime of injuries and regret, as he tries to rebuild a relationship with his daughter and find a place in the world outside wrestling. Marisa Tomei joins him in this journey as an aging stripper and would-be girlfriend just trying to find her own way out of an even grimier world than his.
Imagine the movie Rocky, where Rocky doesn’t get a million to one shot to change his life, but instead the film follows him through his sombre, empty life at the beginning of the film. This is best way to describe The Wrestler. Still, for fans of powerful dramas, the great acting and genuine story of a man stripped bare is worth seeing.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Abney Her,
I guess once you become a Hollywood icon of the titan stature of Clint Eastwood, all kinds of opportunities open up. You no longer have to surround yourself with experienced well-known performers or established writers and you can make any move you feel like. That explains Gran Torino, an uneven drama that would surely have even Hollywood’s boldest producers running for cover with its wall to wall spread of racial slurs laced into a formula tale of an angry grizzled hero coming to grips with his racist views (well, he sorta comes to grips with them, anyway). Clint is mesmerizing in this cantankerous role, but is really getting a bit old for the punch em up stuff, and is way too old for showing his stuff in a bathtub scene. Okay, its not like they show the drill and its bits, but 80 yr old actors don’t need to be showing anything anymore. His supporting cast ranges from acceptable to regrettable, and the story needed more work, but the overall project is better than you may expect, albeit only a little better.
Steely-eyed Clint is a recently widowed Korean war vet named Walt Kowalski, whose dated and racist attitudes and uncontrollable razor tongue has estranged his family, but endeared his friends. Walt’s neighbourhood is acquiring a real multi-color flavour and he’s not happy about it, Goddamnit! He’s even less happy when the quiet Hmong teen next door, Thao, played by Bee Vang, who struggles with the poorly written role, tries to steal Walt’s treasured, mint condition, 1972 Gran Torino. I understand how he feels. I can only imagine what I would do if someone tried to mess with my mint 1981 Chevy Citation, but I digress. Anyways, Thao is actually under pressure to join a local Hmong gang, and when Clint inadvertently saves his neighbours from trouble during a slightly over-zealous lawn defence, he becomes something of a Hmong hero. They cheerfully dismiss his constant barrage of racially motivated foul insults for some reason and are soon having him over for dinner. Come on! Are you kidding me??? Abney Her has a juicy role as Thao’s older sister, Sue, whose no-nonsense and unflappable character is a joy to watch, but really the whole thing is as easy to swallow as a big chunk of beef gristle. You can guess where this going, and soon Clint is the family’s foul-mouthed guardian angel. Hmmm, but what these Hmong gang bangers? What can an irascible old war vet do about a few environmentally challenged youths expressing their frustration in an anti-social manner?
Gran Torino is an uneven mix of interesting and stereotypical characters mixed up in an unsuccessful attempt to update the Walking Tall story line of one man who’s had enough of local criminals. Once you throw all this into the tinsel town blender, you get a mediocre film that has an Archie Bunker character trying to be both Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson in the endless Death Wish series) and Mr. Miyagi. Clint is really a lot better at the tough guy role and was hard to buy as the warm fuzzy father figure. Clint fans may consider it money well-spent and, since I consider myself one, I did want to see this and I don’t regret it. I do regret that Clint didn’t use all his power and influence to make a slightly better movie. Oh, well maybe next time