Not in the mood for much today and so a couple of movies. And now, not in the mood to sleep and can’t think of what else to do, so a couple of reviews.
I dislike Nicolas Cage. I like Werner Herzog. And I loved Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. So I figured, why not watch Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans? Neither a remake nor a sequel, this film is about a different bad lieutenant and gives Cage plenty of space to chew the scenery. He takes drugs (lots of them), gambles, associates with drug dealers and murderers, he basically does whatever he wants. I honestly didn’t see the point of all this. There are some good comic moments and a few times when the movie goes as far over the top as I hoped it would, but it doesn’t do that enough. I know this scored highly with critics but I was hoping it would be a better bad movie than it turned out to be.
Following that, a total waste of time called Ninja Assassin. Why did I watch it? Because I foolishly thought that with Joel Silver as exec producer and the Wachowski (Brothers? Sisters?) siblings as producers, they were setting out to make the ultimate ninja action film. Sorry, no, they didn’t. Starring Korean pop star Rain and legendary action star Sho Kosugi (who sounds like Darth Vader here), the film commits the First Sin of Action Films – the action is badly shot and poorly edited. You can’t see much of what’s going on and you’ve got little idea of who is doing what to whom, but by the final third of the film you no longer care. And why was this set in Berlin? I guess they filmed there for a tax break – you certainly don’t get to see much of the city. An Ultimate Ninja film would possess some degree of gravitas but this one has none – there is no great tragedy or redemption here, just a silly script and too many digital effects. In the final 15 minutes, if you’re like me you’ll find yourself reciting every line of the predictable dialog a split second before a character on screen does. Worse, the last shot would seem to be setting this up as a franchise. I hope that doesn’t happen.
Last week we caught up with Shutter Island. Now I’m a huge Martin Scorsese fan. His work has been hugely influential in terms of how I see and experience films. And yet, I haven’t really liked much of what he’s done in the past 15 years. So I approached this film with caution. The trailer made me think it was going to be a simple genre film, perhaps elevated to artistic levels and as the film moved forward, I started to believe that could indeed be the case. There’s this sense of control and technical mastery evident in every shot. ”Oh, my, Scorsese has made his Shining!” I said to myself. There are enough clues sprinkled throughout the film so that you should be able to guess what happens in the final third and yet it’s fun getting there. And there’s enough ambiguity at the end to make you wonder about what you saw and what is liable to happen next. If it’s not a great film, and it definitely isn’t, it’s not an embarrassment to anyone involved and if I’m in the mood for some Scorsese and not reaching for Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or Goodfellas, well at least I’d pick this before Gangs of New York or Departed.