Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Not-So-Defiant Ones

From our "When the People You Love make the Movies you Hate" Dept. ...then again, for a guy like me who remembered the trailer for this, featuring a cop car sailing through the air... or just over the top of the camera and landing in a garbage barge, actually..( did they show that in the trailer?  It's probably on IMDb, but frankly, I'd rather not find out that way) ..yup, it's nostalgia time, too.  When Gene Wilder does his German accent, I can't help but think Young Frankenstein and clap my hands... and then cringe at the next four scenes.
The big "Where Were They Then" factor, of course, is Kevin Spacey.  Just after Rocket Gibraltar, just before Henry & June, and then into the cinematic heights with Glengarry Glen Ross... and to a lesser extent, The Usual Suspects.  Do people still like that one, or have they turned on it yet like they turned on American Beauty?  Here he plays an English fop with a gun and a giant welt on the side of his face.  He'd probably go to the cast reunion of this one; Rocket Gibraltar, not so much.  Roger Ebert had a thing for Joan Severance at the time; wonder what he'd say now?  Checking her bio, it makes sense that she was a model first, and the acting showed it.  She plays The Woman in Red this time.  As with Robert Redford, it's a contractual thing; besides, there's damn few Jewish heartthrobs these days.  Joan's blatant nude scene was a bit of a risk, frankly... fans of naked breasts may spend less time being aroused, and more time wondering where the makeup artists went wrong.  Too much time in the tanning booth?  Maybe that's it.  But with a name like Joan Severance, you'd think she'd get more work, but at least she's not in Victoria Principal territory!
And now, on to the crew.  Director Arthur Hiller to me is one of the god-like directors.  The original In-Laws and Silver Streak place him there for me.  Arguably, there are quite a few more that should counteract it... Carpool, for example, but I'll let his reputation stand.  He has a knack for spitting out two films in the same year, then taking a break.  Must be the Canadian way.  His cameraman here is New Yorker Victor Kemper... okay, a Jersey boy, but with a film like Dog Day Afternoon under his belt, he's used to working harder and planning more setups than he should.  Lately films like this double as travelogues for me, which means it fails at the plot level.  More chefs do not make a better soup.  Five worked on Borat, not here.  Still, there are spots in New York you don't typically see on display here.  And this film proves that New York can host a damn fine car chase as well as the next crowded city.  Stewart Copeland of The Police provides a soundtrack vaguely reminiscent of some of The Police's work.  He's no Danny Elfman but he stays damn busy, and reunited with Hiller on 2006's Pucked; God knows why.
And now, let me dwell some more in the House of Usher that is my fascination with Adam Sandler comedies.  Thanks to the world wide web, thoughts like this more and more tend to invade every last corner of my brain.  But few other comedians have made so absolutely crystal clear the need for bullies in the movies.  They're like strep throat, in a way: apparently the body is never completely rid of strep throat, and every once in a while it takes over the body, leaving you in a state of hot sweats, unable to move, barely able to lie in bed and have liquids like the doctor says you should.  As near as I can remember, there's just the one blatant bully scene.  To be fair, it takes place in a bar, the place for pointless fights.  I should probably mention that Richard Pryor plays a blind guy, and Gene Wilder a deaf guy.  Stir Crazy 2, here we come!  Again, Ebert misses the point.  True, Gene Wilder should have been throwing the punches, and would have been better at it, obviously.  But that's just bias.  Also, I'm just blatantly trying to get him to notice me.  The point is, damn it, the BLIND guy wants to fight, too!  Is he not human?  If he is pricked, does he not bleed?  If he makes the guy he's fighting bleed, is he not a prick?  Zach Greiner has a nice bit part as the guy who fights Wilder in the same fight... does that guy ever age?  He looks like he did in Fight Club!
I don't know what else to say... frankly, I've said too much.  But I should mention Anthony Zerbe, because there are no small parts, only small actors, and he makes quite an impression for being basically in just one scene.  Must be all that EST crap he does.  It got him in the Matrix sequels, right?  Here he plays... oh, I dare not spoil the surprise, but if this film were made today, he'd definitely be the father of Gene Wilder or Pryor.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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