Saturday, January 14, 2012

Red vs. The Mechanic: Which Kicks More Ass?

Kind of unfair to compare these two titans of the action genre, but they are similar in some ways: both are about those special, specialized types of people that you hopefully only find in the movies, both feature lots of explosions and flying bullets, and both kinda move so fast that it's hard for anything to really resonate and take hold, even a couple hours after watching. So while both are quite similar, they do part ways in terms of tone: Red being a PG-13 comedy, and The Mechanic with dramatic pretensions and an R rating that it doesn't shy away from.


Somehow, these kind of movies are showing their new cookie cutter molds. You can only stay ahead of them for so long, unfortunately. But as with The Last Boy Scout, Bruce Willis gets to play a hero with a deep, proud history. This time, he's a retired CIA operative... now, what are the odds that he was the best at what he did? And, to a lesser extent, still does?
As with all movies like this, it's a little bit of everything. Sensory plot overload! It's part Midnight Run, part Blues Brothers... one character actually quips "We're getting the band back together!" SPOILER ALERT: There's a coverup that's connected to one of the highest government offices in the land. Well, we can't help but expect a slight continuation of Dubya-era movie politics. There's a very rich history indeed of films between 2001 and 2009 advocating the overthrow of a bad government! So I guess you could say this is part Eagle Eye as well. The postcards were cute, though, denoting each stop on the road trip.
The filmmakers matter less and less these days, the more things get done with CGI, but I would like to point out one name I recognized: cameraman Florian Ballhaus, progeny of Scorsese collaborator cameraman Michael Ballhaus... I'm assuming. There's a lot more shot set-ups these days for a two hour movie, aren't there? As for the cast, my viewing companions wanted to see it more for Malkovich than anybody, but I must confess that Helen Mirren looked rather fetching at the big party at the end. Peter Greenaway had a good eye, no? All in all, not a bad way to spend the evening, even though it wasn't terribly memorable, either. As a serious film critic, I can't rate this too highly, of course.



What are the odds that Jason Statham is the best at what he does? I went in a clean slate on this, just after Red, and after the ladies went to bed. This is almost perfect Cinemax fare, featuring a couple gratuitous sex scenes, but alas, it has too much plot and too many actual actors in it. Ben Foster, for example, does okay as the troubled kid, and the kind of drinking he does in this movie is not what you normally see... at least, not in the booze commercials on TV. As for drinking in other movies, my viewing experience is not that extensive. Seems like people are either alcoholics or they're not; Ben's character lives sort of in between, which seemed novel to me.
I didn't know this was a remake, but the name Carlino at the end did ring a slight bell. Then, of course, the IMDb reveals all. The mastermind behind such hits as Class and The Great Santini penned the original script some 40 odd years ago, and I have it on the highest authority that the ending was a tad different. Statham doesn't trust his audiences yet; I'll leave it at that.
The action scenes border on the ridiculous, but they seem reasonable enough compared to other Besson-produced fare... I STILL say there's a connection. He got that Besson name somehow! In striking back at the system that gave him life, then promptly screwed him, Statham doesn't go as high as the Vice President of the United States, but the corporate equivalent, perhaps. And even though Tony Goldwyn is now best known as a celebrated actor's director, he can still play the smarmy bad guy with the best of 'em. So ultimately, I guess this is not something you'd necessarily want to watch with your drinking buddies, but I still don't feel I was manly enough to watch it. As with most things in life, it's a tightrope act.


-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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