Tuesday, April 30, 2013

He cannot continue

13 (2010)
Pretty much zero (or lower due to Mickey Rourke) expectations coming into this one and while it wasn't completely horrible, it didn't really have much going for it beyond the gimmick.  I've seen the Russian roulette gambling thing a couple of times in TV crime dramas and this was more or less on that level.  Quite a few name name brand actors in this one which at least lent a little bit of drama wondering if they were really going to kill off all the contestants.

I give them props for trying to give a drama angle by letting you get to know several of the characters and other gamblers, but they're so thinly written that you don't really have a chance to get involved in them.  Sure, Pasty Kid is sympathetic as the protagonist in over his head and, while I don't wish harm on him, I'm not particularly invested in whether he lives or not.  Couple that with some fairly lame supporting cast performances (looking at you, Rourke), and they really failed to capitalize on the inherent drama of the game itself. 

This movie at least did let me confirm that Michael Shannon really does suck as an actor.  I've not liked him in anything he's ever been in, but he was appallingly distracting in Premium Rush.  Had I have seen this first, I would have been better prepared for that.  Very disappointed to see he's cast as General Zod in Man of Steel.  Sure hope I'm wrong about him and they haven't squandered a pretty cool role on a complete tool of an actor.

As for Statham, this is yet another one where he at least showed up and was filmed.  That's really about all there is to note about his performance.  He's perfectly serviceable in his role, but brings nothing to it and is pretty much interchangeable with anyone else.  On top of that, his presence was actually a detractor from what I'm sure was intended as a surprise ending.  His brother (or someone, I couldn't really be bothered to keep track) gets killed in the final duel of the game and he's all distraught and runs out of there.  Unfortunately, we still have 20+ minutes to go and, knowing that he has a $3mil debt to a loan shark and thanks to the Celebrity Screentime Axiom, he has to show back up again to try to get Pasty Kid's money.

The Celebrity Screentime Axiom is one of the many things that ruins most 60 minute TV crime dramas:  The bigger the celebrity, the more screentime they're going to have.  So when the poor raped/murdered/tortured/teased girl's dad is Someone and they're seemingly only in the first few minutes of the show, then you know they'll either be or kill the rapist/killer/torturer/bully by the end of the show.  It's not a guarantee that they're the bad guy, but it's a dead lock that they'll be back for more screentime.  So it goes with Statham in this one.  His role seems done, but with him not dead and 30 minutes still to go, we're certain to see him again.  When he shows up to get the money back from Pasty Kid, it's completely expected and anticlimactic.  A big yawn and smack upside the head to the filmmakers.

Badassery Quotient - 2
Not a bit of standard Statham stuff here, but I'll give a couple of points for all the people getting shot in the head during the game and Statham at least handling a gun a couple of times during the film.

Rewatchability - No thanks
Another of those middle-of-the-road movies that I'm not sorry I watched, but see little point in watching again or recommending anyone else try.  It's not horrible, it's not great, it's just sort of there.  Which is the issue with a lot of Statham's movies.  Perhaps that's a big part of why I gave almost all of these a miss when they hit the theaters.  Just not quite enough reason to get butts in the seats.

Up next - The Expendables!  I've watched it pretty recently, but won't mind doing so again with an eye towards Statham himself if I can avoid being distracted by Stallone's neck. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Should I duck?

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Later Statham movies have managed to do to me what even Arnold's worst movies never managed to do:  Kill my interest in watching more.  Therein may lie the issue with his box office performance in anything where he is more or less the sole draw.  He has some fantastic movies, but for every decent one, there are 2 throw away ones out there.  The Transporter and The Italian Job made things look very promising.  The 10 years since then?  Not so much.

Please note that I'd not actually given up, just completely lost interest for a while after the back to back whammies of Transporter 3 and this turkey.  I actually watched this about a month ago, just couldn't bring myself to write it up.  So I went and watched seasons 1-14 of Survivor real quick instead of the next Statham movie.  Ahem.  But... due to a massive groundswell of fan support (ie, my friend Karl), I'll knuckle down and write this sucker up and get through the recent movies, none of which I've seen other than the two Expendables movies.  They can't all suck, right?  Right?  Sigh...

Speaking of suck, let's discuss how badly sequels can go wrong.  I loved Crank.  It's crass and over-the-top, but it's unapologetically in your face, self-consistent, and damned funny.  I also need to note that I have no issues with the plot device in either film.  If the filmmakers say it's so, I'm good with that.  What I do have issue with in High Voltage is the complete failure in execution.  This smacks very much of one of those scripts that comes about during a late night booze or drug-fueled brainstorm by the director and his friends.  The pacing is all over the place, the set pieces are goofy or pointless, and almost all of it goes that extra little bit too far.  I'm very surprised that Mike Meyers or another Saturday Night Live alum didn't have something to do with this as it all feels like those skits that don't really have a punchline and drag on about 3 times as long as they should.  Just because an idea strikes you as amusing, it doesn't mean you should make a feature length film out of it.

It's hard to list all the things that don't work well, so I'll just focus on two:  Language and racism.  I really don't mind a movie dropping the f* bomb a bunch as long as it's used for effect or fits a given character.  Here it's almost like they were trying to hit a quota.  It's constant, it's even sometimes non-sensical, and it doesn't enhance things in any shape or form.  If you overuse it, it loses all impact and just becomes white noise.  Secondly, I may perhaps be a little sensitive to Asian stereotyping as the father of two adopted Asian kids, but the handling of Asians in this is just stupid and pointlessly offensive.  If you're going to do that, do it well, make something of it, and make it funny.  But the one Chinese skank who chases Statham around and the whole attempt at a Chinese Triad connection serves no point other than to make fun of the stereotype pronunciation.  Blazing Saddles used racial stereotypes to excellent satiric and comedic effect by turning the lens back on those who were saying those things.  This is just mean and completely unfunny.

As for Statham himself.  Well, he's in the movie.  That's really about all I can say for it.  Gone is the wry irony he played so well in the first.  Gone is the excellent angst, attitude, and menace he showed.  All that we're left with is a caricature of a caricature.

Badassery Quotient - 7
That should probably be a 10 just because of the amount of crazy going on in this film, but I have to subtract a few points for being distractingly stupid in the execution of said crazy.

Rewatchability - Fuck you
I'm quite surprised by just how much I disliked this.  I knew what I was getting in for, I knew the gimmick, and I knew that it wasn't nearly as liked as the first.  But damn.  I'm not sure exactly where I'd rank this out of the Statham and Arnold movies I've watched this far, but the only things I think I'm less likely to watch anytime soon would be Batman & Robin or The Villain. 

Up next - More Statham movies!  Now that I've managed to catch up on the first 14 seasons of Survivor that I missed back when I was actively avoiding that show (more to come on that later), I'm back and ready for more abuse.  "13" is next on tap.  It doesn't look remotely promising, has Mickey Rourke in it, and has a pretty low IMDB rating.  On the plus side, it's only 91 minutes long.  Silver lining, etc, etc.