Friday, February 22, 2013

Piss anyone off lately?

Chaos (2005)
A reasonably decent movie and one I was really into until the wackiness in the third act.  Up to that point, it had been a reasonably well put together crime drama but then they had to take a turn into thriller/mystery land and lost their way.  Granted, it had the same depth than your average Law & Order or Numbers episode, but I was actually grooving to the partnership and unravelling the details of what the bank robbers were actually up against.  I was even going to give big props for killing off Statham, that could have broken the standard mold and been used to great dramatic effect.

Then we had to have The Twist.  I'm a big fan of The Twist, and this one was certainly more conventional than the crap Ritchie tried to pull in Revolver, but this one completely undermined the drama and tension that had been established to this point.  I'd love to have had a version of this where Snipes was just a bad guy, Statham gets taken out, and the kid has to track him down and bring him to justice.  Okay, not the most original of plotlines, but that would have been a perfectly satisfying movie.  But no, we have to have The Twist and as if that wasn't bad enough, we're treated to that most irritating of cinematic conventions: The Unexpected Second Twist.  OMG!  Oh noes!  It's actually been Snipes and Statham in cahoots the whole time!  It's a double-deep-deception!  Blow me.

Statham was serviceable if somewhat uninspired here.  I quite liked him as the bitter mentor cop to the kid and they did a nice job establishing his competence in his handling of the bank job.  I get the impression he wasn't totally into this movie.  But hey, that's okay.  If I knew how it was going to end, I'd not have been that into it either.

Quite liked Ryan Phillippe as The Kid here.  Think I'd only seen him in Gosford Park and the odd TV drama previously, but he held his own and turned in a great performance.  He had the unfortunate burden of having to appear to be unravelling the convoluted mess of a plot in the third act, so more power to him for staying in there and not phoning it in.

Badassery Quotient - 5
Decent amount of gunplay, albeit with an incredible amount of missing, and a cool ending move to a car chase.  Not much fisticuffs, but Statham had some pretty decent presence and the occasional glare.

Rewatchability - No thanks
Could have actually been a solid B movie, but the ending is so grating and insulting that it'd be hard to go back to this one again.  It's very much like they had a change in script writers or ran out of money half way through, said 'fuck it' and tried to cut things short.  Way too many gaping plot holes at the end to recommend this to anyone.

Up next - That damn Dungeon Siege movie.  Fucking Uwe Boll.  Two important life lessons for the kiddos:  Don't do drugs and never make a movie based on a video game.  And never get involved in a land war in Asia.  Okay, three important life lessons:  Drugs are bad, video game movies are bad, and land wars in Asia are bad.  And don't put nipples on the Batsuits.  Okay... Amongst life's important lessons are such diverse elements as...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A formula to win the ultimate win

Revolver (2005)
Okay, back on the horse again after the ugh of London and right into the ugh of Revolver.  I'd heard this wasn't as acclaimed as Ritchie's earlier films and man, is that an understatement.  You know those movies where you can tell the writer or director had recently studied something that intrigued them and then decided to make a movie on it without really thinking it through?  Yep, this is one of those.  I'm actually good with movies that are a puzzle to figure out, or just a mess of twisted plot lines, but you have to actually do something with that.  This seemed to a rambling mess just for the sake of being a rambling mess.  Yes, I get that it's all inside his head, etc, etc.  That's great.  It'd make a great Philip K Dick short story.  Just don't make me sit through nearly 2 hours of it.

Revolver is a pretty classic example of the George Lucas Pompous Ass Effect.  I define that as anytime someone becomes such a powerful force in cinema that no one stops to question their decisions.  George Lucas hit the ground running and could do no wrong.  Right up to the point where and believed his own press and stopped bouncing ideas off people.  That's how things like casting Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen and Howard the Duck happen.  Guy came out of nowhere and stunned folks with Lock, Stock and Snatch and rightly so.  They were inspired and clever bits of film making.  So I'm sure that guy was able to bring this disjointed mess forward without a great deal of explanation or collaboration because he had the clout to do what he wanted.  Learn from the past people.  Don't be George.

Statham again has hair and the moment you see that, you know you're in trouble.  He's again good from a pure acting standpoint and I do like to hear him narrate a show, but he's there's very little Statham to be had here.  Because of the convoluted crap Ritchie is trying to cram down our throats, the version of Statham we get to see isn't the badass that his character really is, we get to see the bit of him that's trying to push back against being a badass.  Blargh.  He's very cool in the few scenes where he's in control and explaining The Rules or playing chess, but everything else in between is pretty flat.

Speaking of pretty flat... What the hell has happened to Ray Liotta?  Dude really needs to just stop and go find something else to do.  I loved him to death in Field of Dreams and Goodfellas, but he's done jack and squat in the last 20+ years since then.  He's pretty much a caricature of himself in this one.  It's entirely possible that's by design given the crap-tastical "twist" to the movie, but it sure as hell isn't fun to watch.  Oh, Ray.  Why?  Why Ray, why?

Mark Strong on the other hand...  Damn.  Very fun character in this and he's pretty much the only source of badassery to be had since Statham is so thoroughly neutered.  Not sure there's anything I haven't completely loved him in.  And yes, that even includes John Carter. 

Badassery Quotient - 3
I could plausibly give this a zero, but I'll add on a few points for the narration and the fun chess scenes.  But I seriously need to see him kicking a few people in the face while simultaneously running them over and shooting them in the knees.  Like now.

Rewatchability - No way
I don't really need to see this one again to see how all the pieces of the bullshit "twist" played out and all the hints that were given.  Guess what?  It still sucks.  Never, never, never would recommend this to anyone.

Up next - Chaos.  Know zip about this one, but from the DVD cover, there's a much better chance that Statham shoots someone.  I can only hope.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life's too short to be a pussy

London (2005)
Meh.  There's really no way around it.  Slice of life movies are pretty much all or nothing for me and this one really didn't click.  Probably doesn't help that there are few likable characters in it or that the majority of it is people doing blow, which has thankfully never been my thing.  This is again more of a Chris Evans vehicle than a proper Statham movie and like Fantastic Four, Chris is again cast as an ass.  He plays it well enough, he's just really not likable when he's not getting to play the reluctant hero in some fashion or another.  He pulls off the arrogant asshole just fine, it's just not fun to watch.  He does at least give us a good object lesson in Remedial Relationship 101:  If you love someone so much that your world will fall apart without them, particularly if it's Jessical Biel, try to say the words at least once.  Jackass.

Statham has a decidely odd role in this.  First off, he has hair.  Which is distracting in pretty much every scene he's in.  Secondly, with the exception of one impressive scene near the end, he's mostly exists as someone for Chris to describe his busted-ass relationship.  The scene were Statham tells what it's literally live the life of impotent rage is impressive, if almost completely out of place.  He did go pretty deep into rage though and was mesmerizing while doing it.  Otherwise...  Meh.

Badassery Quotient - 1
I'll not give it a zero since Statham says 'fuck' every 5th word and does have the nice rage bit, but aside from going psycho on random party guests at the end, there's not really any action to be had in this one.  And he really can't very well be menacing with that hair, now can he?

Rewatchability - No thanks
It's borderline regrettable that I spent the time watching this, but it at least had a couple of redeeming moments.  And Jessica Biel.  But there are better movies to watch her in. 

Up next - Revolver.  I hear it's a bit of a missfire compared to previous Ritchie movies, but hopefully it'll be entertaining enough.  Very unlikely to be a worse use of my time than watching London at any rate.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Son of a bitch can drive

Transporter 2 (2005)
Considering how much I enjoyed the first Transporter, it's completely bizarre that I never saw this in the theater.  Could have something to do with the then recent addition of my daughter to the family, or perhaps it just didn't look that thrilling from the previews.  I've heard mixed to negative things, but hopefully should at least be entertaining.

The movie started off very strongly, I liked how Frank interacted with Random Cute Kid, he didn't annoy me as much as most kid actors do (he was certainly a better actor than either of the villains in the first Transporter), and it seemed that we might actually do a little character development.  That promise held for the first half of the movie or so, but then we unfortunately went into Over the Top Land.

Over the Top Land bears a little explanation.  That's the all too common failing of sequels, especially action ones, where they feel the need to out-do the previous ones.  Bigger isn't always better, sometimes it's just bigger.  Here we turn Statham into a near superhuman, have him do completely crazy stuff like intentionally ramp his car off a corkscrew jump so he can knock the bomb on the underside of his car loose by scraping it off on a construction crane hook.  Yeah.  I know plausibility isn't the main thrust of the average action movie, but ironically that's what made the first Transporter play so well.  While it didn't have a plot and the bad guys were reluctant to actually kill Statham, it actually followed a logical sequence and the majority of action sequences were perfectly plausible.  Okay, maybe you can't catch up to a speeding truck in a parachute, but on the whole it wasn't at all distracting.  Statham was methodical and controlled.  Here he does shit like jump up in the air to avoid two oncoming cars by letting them head-on into each other, then lightly jumps down on the resulting heap.  I'm not even going to get into the issues around the whole deadly-plague-released-into-the-public crap.

In the process, we lost track of what made the first one work so well:  The character.  Frank Martin is a pretty interesting guy, Statham is wonderfully compelling to watch on screen, and has consistently shown he can carry a lead role just by showing up.  He does stay in character throughout this, but I'd have much rather just watched him in a different situation doing what he does best, than turn him into something beyond even Rambo.  I think they lost track of what Statham does best.  Be himself.  The action is great, but only if there's a character study to back it up, otherwise it's just shit blowing up for the sake of shit blowing up.

I was likewise disappointed François wasn't used to good effect at all.  Still love the actor and was very excited to see his name in the credits, but he's woefully underutilized here and better than anyone shows the issues with the tone in this movie.  He's tossed in for comic relief here and we lose all of the quiet, sly awesomeness of the first.  He's entertaining enough, but he might as well have not been in the movie which is a serious missed opportunity.

Badassery Quotient - 11
Unfortunately hard to call it any other way.  Take the Transporter and crank it up beyond the point of believability.  Plenty of guns, cars, improbable combat sequences, and all around craziness.  A good example where higher BQ does not equal higher quality.

Rewatchability - Rarely
I could see popping this in again and perhaps it wouldn't be quite as jarring the next time around.  It's a perfectly fine movie to shut off your brain and watch shit blow up, it's just not all that memorable.  I'd be comfortable recommending it to someone with that caveat in mind.

Up next - London.  I know nothing about this one, but completely bizarre that it has Statham, Chris Evans, and Jessica Biel together again. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Now who's going to give me that goddamn charger?

Cellular (2004)
Not sure I had even heard of this one hitting the theaters and started off very much not liking this.  I may have been pre-disposed to not like it coming off Transporter and The Italian Job.  At the beginning, the direction style completely irritated me, pacing was horrible, acting wasn't all that, but thankfully things improved by the midpoint of the show and actually wound up enjoying myself.  The plot is pretty much summed up in the trailer so no surprises, but it was a fun enough ride and ended satisfyingly.

I knew this had Kim Bassinger and William H Macy, but didn't recognize the young kid on the box cover, so I did an actual double-take "Hey, Chris Evans!" upon his first closeup in the film.  I thought he was completely fantastic as Captain America, but given how much I disliked him in Fantastic Four, him popping up early in his career did not improve my hopes for the movie.  Chris starts off the goof and is pretty grating, but once he gets on board with Kim actually being kidnapped, he turns into the reluctant hero that he plays so well.  From around the cell phone store scene onward, he's great and surprisingly compelling.  Great physical acting and nice that they were able to do so many of the car scenes with him actually driving.

Statham gets to play a bad guy here, but unfortunately he might as well not be in this.  Much like Arnold in Raw Deal, his badassery is woefully underutilized and it could be anyone in the role.  He's also using his damn American accent again.  Really hope that doesn't happen too often in his later movies.  On the plus side, he does get a fair amount of gunplay and has a fantastic move disarming Chris in the boathouse.  Statham is so crazy-fast, I had to rewind and watch that one again to see if they had sped up the film or something.  Pity they didn't do any more of that, but a lengthy fight sequence with a young kid would have been a bit silly.

Badassery Quotient - 5
He does get to threaten Kim alot, but I'm going to start deducting a point when he uses his crappy American accent.  Really pulls me out of the movie.  He does at least get to shoot up the boathouse, but unfortunately spends about 45 rounds and only hits someone once in the leg.  No shirtless stuff either, sorry Sis.  If not for the awesome disarm of Chris, there would be very little to like about this role. 

Rewatchability - Perhaps
5 minutes in, I thought I was in for a groaner.  Mid-point onward, I was having fun and it's been growing on me ever since.  I'd watch this more as a Chris fan than a Statham fan, but all in all it was a decent enough film.  With a proper director and a tad more polish on the script, this could have been really good.  I'd cautiously recommend this to someone who was a Chris fan, but probably not otherwise.

Up next - Transporter 2!  I've heard it's not all that compared to the original, but no idea why I skipped this given how much I enjoyed the first one. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We can't have a shootup without guns

The Italian Job (2003)
Back to back high-octane, well-crafted action movies!  This trend unfortunately won't continue, but after this and The Transporter, Statham really could have made the move into superstardom if he'd had the right movie to follow these.  That unfortunately didn't pan out, but good that he had a chance to be involved in a high-profile, big star movie like this.  Would love to see him opposite Marky Mark again some day, they really play well off each other and felt like they had known each other forever.

This is probably the best non-Ritchie plot of any movie Statham is in.  A fair bit of it is predictable and it has the obligatory happy Hollywood ending, but there are a couple of very decent twists and some very solid writing.  I enjoyed all the time spent planning the raid on Ed's house only to have to pull the plug on it with nary an action scene to be had.  Also love Ed predictably getting his in the end, but they handle it very well and it makes for a wonderfully satisfying end to the movie. 

Some excellent ensemble work here and while Marky Mark is naturally the lead, they balance out screentime with the rest of the cast nicely.  Charlize was particularly good and her nervousness at confronting Ed was well played and gave an unexpected level of drama to those scenes.  As usual, Seth steals nearly every scene he's in and I love his narration of Statham chatting up Becky from the cable company.  "Yeah, you're not to bright, are you?" "No" "Perfect" The outtakes on that are hilarious as well.

Special nod of appreciate for making the Cooper Mini a complete badass in its own right in this.  They look simply stunning, maneuver like everything else is in slow motion, and were an inspired choice of getaway/transport vehicle.  Especially fun given how many shots have the actors actually doing their own driving.  Statham of course has a history there, but Charlize was crazy-fun to watch and she seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself.

Badassery Quotient - 8
No hand-to-hand combat, but Statham's oozing style and charisma.  While he doesn't fire a weapon, he does at least get to pose menacingly with an automatic for a bit.  Some great dialogue and excellent driving sequences push the meter pretty high on this one.

Rewatchability - Yes please
Another one I want to immediately rewatch.  Very nicely paced with not one or two, but three full capers to watch planned or executed.  Worth watching again for the Cooper Mini sequences alone.  Absolutely recommended to any fan of heist or action movies.  Good stuff.

Up next - Cellular and we enter the uncharted area between The Italian Job and Transporter 3 where I apparently up and stopped watching Statham's movies.  No idea what happened there, but will be interesting to see what he was up to while I was distracted by something shiny for a few years.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who would want you this dead?

The Transporter (2002)
Ah, The Transporter.  The first Statham movie I ever saw and pretty much his definitive movie.  It's all the more impressive given I now know that, outside of Mean Machine, he effectively had no action pedigree to suggest that he could carry the lead in this type of film.  As with Mean Machine, we're again asked to believe he's this complete bad-ass and we can completely accept that due to a brilliant character setup.  From the opening bank robbery escape gambit, he's shown as completely calm and in control, with the nervous bank robbers providing the perfect contrast.  We next see find that he has a moral code with the compassion he shows to the kidnapped girl.  Shortly after that, we see what a hand-to-hand badass he is with the weaponless assault on Pathetic Bad Guy's house.  The best part is that all of this is handled with zero exposition, we're just shown it and we believe it because of how well Statham acts the part.

It certainly doesn't hurt that he did most of his own driving and the majority of his own stunts.  One of the more well-rounded performances I've seen in any movie and I think this would have been a smash hit and complete classic if not for 3 little details:
1) The damsel in distress sucks.  She's beautiful and I'll cut her slack for not acting in her native language, but she's not at all good.  She's actually given a decent role for a female in an action movie but fails to make use of it and is a distraction in nearly every scene.
2) The bad guys really suck.  Pathetic Bad Guy isn't even up to the standards of the throwaway villains in a Jackie Chan movie.  There was the potential for that role to be amusing, but not with that actor.  Asian Kenny Rogers as the girl's father is a complete farce and distraction, more so than the girl if that's possible.  It'd be one thing if that was done intentionally, but given how solid the rest of the film is, I think we have to accept that he's just horrible.  Granted, interesting bad guys are hardly a necessity, but we do need a little more than this to work with.
3) The plot would suck if there was one.  This movie is at its strongest before what could loosely be called the plot kicks in.  The first two thirds of the movie is nothing but character setup and reacting to events as they unfold.  And it's brilliant.  Once we're told what's going on with the girl, the movie falls flat and would have been completely anti-climatic if not for the excellent chase sequence at the end.  I personally don't really need a plot to enjoy a movie, but imagine what this movie could have been if it had one? 

It's a testament to how completely amazing the rest of the movie is that it holds up very well even with all that working against it.  Statham is flat-out amazing, not just in his action sequences, but the palpable sense of overall badassery throughout the film.  Hell, he even looks controlled and competent taking a break for a sandwich at a gas station.  Rather than telling us that he's a mixed martial arts champion or that he killed 23 guys with his bare hands, they introduce his melee skills with the wonderful shot through a door peephole of him doing a flying kick at it.  What follows afterward is one of the more frenetic and well-choreographed fight sequences I've ever seen.  Excellent direction and amazing timing, particularly during the axe sequence.  I'm sure those axes aren't razor sharp, but they're being swung full-force inches over Statham's head.  Hats off to the entire second unit and stunt team for their efforts.

Veteran French actor François Berléand puts in a fantastic performance and is easily the best thing in this movie outside of Statham.  Their scenes do so much to establish their history without actually wasting time telling you their history.  Given how excellent François is, I can't help but wonder what might have been if the girl, Pathetic Bad Guy, and Asian Kenny Rogers had been equally strong.  Then we'd have only had that little issue of the complete absence of plot to deal with.

Badassery Quotient - 10
The Statham role and I've never seen someone this thoroughly badass outside of an Arnold or Die Hard movie.  He can drive.  He can shoot.  He can kick you in the face.  He can shoot you while driving.  He can kick you in the face while shooting you.  He can do all of that while looking sardonically menacing with a minimum of dialogue or even just the odd grunt.  Fantastic stuff and most of that is down to Statham himself.

Rewatchability - Yes please
Can I watch it again now?  Please?  Anyone want to watch it again with me?  Geez, what a fun movie.  Love the direction, love the acting, love watching Statham do what he does best.  May have to pop this in again and listen through to the commentary.  Definitely watching this one again soon and regularly.

Up next - The Italian Job!  Haven't seen this since the theater, but have very fond memories of it.  Very much looking forward to seeing it again.  Bring on the Minis!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

That was before he took up karate

Mean Machine (2001)
Rather than repeatedly compare this to The Longest Yard, it's the UK/soccer equivalent of it and mentions in the opening credits that it's based on it.  On top of that, Vinnie even bears a passing resemblance to Burt back in the day and there are quite a few shot-for-shot homages to it.  All in all very faithful to it while still having its own style and angle on the core story.

All in all a surprisingly decent film that I'd likely have never stumbled on if not for running through Statham's movies.  It goes a little far into melodrama for my tastes, but the acting is fine and it's full of really good moments.  Vinnie isn't remotely as fun as he was in previous roles, but given that he's playing a soccer star fallen from grace who has just been imprisoned and forced to coach a soccer team against his wishes, I couldn't really expect a repeat of his Lock, Stock or Snatch characters.  The ending soccer match was highly entertaining and had some truly excellent moments and some wonderful commentary by inmates Bob & Bob.

Statham finally turns badass!  He plays Monk and all the backstory we're given is showing him shirtless and ripped (according to my sister, this is a core requirement for a proper Statham movie) while practicing tai chi and that he killed 23 people with his bare hands.  That's really all the character introduction he needs as the rest of the time is a wonderful amount of Statham looking like a barely controlled psychopath while repeatedly kicking and punching people.  I expected that we'd see a fair amount of that during the match, but what I didn't expect were his utterly fantastic daydream sequences during the match.  From imagining himself destroying one of the guards to being the hero in goal, he keeps going off into la-la land and then snapping back to the present.  Combined with his manic stares and near-rabid behavior, the daydreams are one of the more effective things in the film and completely cracked me up.

Badassery Quotient - 7
He's not in much of the film, but when he's on screen, he's in great form.  No gunplay, but we finally get to see him doing some form of martial arts and the first time we're asked to accept he's a complete badass.  Which of course he his, but it's a testament to his awesome screen presence that he's believable in such an over-the-top role.

Rewatchability - Sure
The second act drags quite a bit, but I'd go back and watch again just for the daydreams alone.  All in all, an entertaining movie that I'm glad I stumbled into and one I'd feel comfortable recommending to any Statham, Vinnie, soccer, or The Longest Yard fan.

Up next - The Transporter!!  The first movie I remember seeing him in and I'd love to know more about how this movie came to be given that there's really nothing in Statham's body of work up to this point that would suggest he could carry off that sort of lead role.  But who cares?  Bring on the mayhem!

Monday, February 4, 2013

You want that thumb?

The One (2001)
Yet another I've not seen before an on paper it's hard to see why this didn't go direct to DVD, but perhaps I just missed out on the fun the first time around.  Seems unlikely, but might as well give it a go...

There's a lot to like in this one, but it's pretty plodding and I had an awful lot of trouble suspending my disbelief.  That's a crucial skill in a lot of these and Arnold's movies and on the whole, I'm quite accomplished at putting my brain on hold.  Sometimes that works out well and I've been able to enjoy an otherwise crappy movie if it's at least internally consistent.  Not so much in this case.  Time/multiverse travel is always a tricky subject to pull off and I'll give full credit for the effort.  Unfortunately they tried to explain too much of it and wound up exposing more flaws in the premise along the way.  Would have much preferred it if they just said "this is how things work, now shut up while we tell you a story" and then just let Jet Li kick people's asses.

I normally like Jet quite a bit, but he didn't pull this one off very well.  By trying to go all Matrix-ish on it and giving him superhuman speed and strength, it took away much of what Jet does best.  He's crazy-awesome to watch without effects, but he appeared to have a fair bit of trouble acting and performing on wires and against a green screen.  So instead of going "OMG! Did he just do that???" like I normally do, you wind up thinking everything is another effect, whether it was performed live or not.  Definitely didn't help that they had the good & bad Jets dress identical for half the movie.  I understand they were going for the mystery angle, but it only confused things without much payoff.  Would have been much better to just have straight up good/evil lines drawn and move forward.  I did at least enjoy the predictable Jet-on-Jet action at the end.  Nice job doubling him and if not for the fact that you know he's not doing that, it was pulled off rather well.

Statham is again not his normal ass-kicking self yet.  Decent if uninspired role, but he wasn't really given enough of an opportunity to chew scenery and didn't have nearly as much charisma and presence as his earlier films.  Pretty good humor throughout and he and Jet play pretty well off each other.  I'm glad he normally sticks to his native accent as he really didn't pull off an American one well at all. 

Badassery Quotient - 4
That's just for Statham mind you, Jet was of course doing nothing but for most of the movie.  Statham does get some good gun play in and quite a bit of menacing stares and crappy accent gravelly voice quips.  But man am I getting tired waiting for him to kick someone in the face already. 

Rewatchability - No thanks
Not an offense to my dignity to have watched this one, but certainly not memorable other than as an example of how not to make use of an incredible martial arts star.  Between the plot holes, crap sci-fi angle, and overall meh-ness of the action, can't very well recommend anyone give this a try.

Up next is a promising one: Mean Machine. Hadn't ever heard of this one, but it's apparently the UK/soccer equivalent of The Longest Yard and it has Vinnie in it again, so pretty interested to give that a try.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Eutopia, the ass end of the universe

Ghosts of Mars (2001)
One of only a handful of Carpenter movies I've never seen before and can't recall why I gave this a miss.  Could have been the unappealing title, the lack of fanfare surrounding its release, Ice Cube as lead, or that it looks like complete crap.  Most likely all of the above.  Time to correct this egregious oversight in my film education. 

I won't say it's complete crap, but darned close.  It's passable from a gore perspective, but really doesn't manage to tickle the creepy bone like Carpenter usually does.  It's hard to look at the freaky alien-possessed people as anything other than laughable.  Reasonably amusing as a camp comedy/horror film with some occasional decent lines, but overall the film takes itself way too seriously.  Suspension of disbelief issues aside, the base idea of the movie just never really gets into gear to go anywhere.  There was a promising scene told by Joanna Cassidy (she's still awesome in most anything she shows up with) where the discover an ancient alien tunnel at a dig site, but it's literally seconds long and ends with red mist rushing out the tunnel.  Nothing else.  Never visited the idea again outside of a brief flashback as the hero improbably fights off alien possession via hallucinatory drugs.  See kids, drugs do help make a body stronger!

Statham might as well not be in the film.  I'm sure it was fun that he got to be in a more standard Hollywood movie, but he's got very little to do.  There's some personality showing through, but it's unfortunately of the repulsive type.  Not terribly heroic, not particularly funny, but does get to randomly waste a lot of pinheads with various weaponry so I guess he has that going for him.  Which is nice.  Otherwise, it's hard to get up the interest to even call 'meh' on this one.

Natasha has never been my favorite actress and while she's not bad in this, she really brings jack to the table.  Sure, she looks good in a tight t-shirt, and attempts to glare menacingly, but Carpenter films demand people with major charisma above all else and neither she nor anyone else in this are up to the task.  If we'd taken this premise and then had the quality of cast from Big Trouble in Little China, this could have actually been pretty fun.  Speaking of quality, Ice Cube is not exactly classically trained and pretty badly sleepwalks through the first half of the movie, but finally manages to find some decent chemistry with Natasha near the end and provided some half-way redeeming moments of camaraderie and banter.  Too little too late by that point.

Baddassery Quotient - 3
Statham shoots some guns, smacks some people with guns, stabs some people with guns, but that's about it.  There were plenty of opportunities for him to apply his MMA background here, so it's very puzzling that he doesn't.  Was he keeping that a secret, or did someone make a really bad decision to keep that out since it wouldn't have been in character.  Lack of awesome hand-to-hand combat combined with repeated lame attempts to bed Natasha's character make this about as low a BQ as I imagine I'll see from him.

Rewatchability - No thanks
It's a Carpenter film, so it was at least mildly entertaining, but I can't see any reason to ever go back here.  Certainly better sci-fi, Statham, or Carpenter choices to be had.  I learned my lesson with Batman & Robin:  There's just no need to go back and watch something this lame ever again.  Wouldn't recommend anyone else give it a try.

Next up - The One.  Appears to be a sci-fi wanna be flick with Jet Li.  There's generally a lower limit on how bad a Jet Li film can be though, so hopefully it'll be at least mildly amusing.