I kind of suspected that this would be a good movie. Even though the trailers were absolutely terrible, the talent behind the scenes promised something, at the very least, that was entertaining. My suspicions were correct. The Heat is an incredibly entertaining movie, and even when it doesn’t have you laughing out loud, you’ll still have some sort of grin on your face(Shit eating or otherwise.).
It’s pretty thin on the plot side of things, and is probably about twenty minutes too long, but the leads are able to carry you through what could have been confusing or boring sections. That’s really where the joy of this lies. This is basically a by the numbers buddy cop movie, but Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have such a great chemistry that they are able transcend the material. They are totally game for a movie like this, and just go for it. If they hadn’t been so entertasining to watch, this movie wouldn’t have had a chance.
It’s definitely an “R” comedy, and often goes into some crude territory, but it never crosses into absurd or just “gross out.” Paul Feig also directed Bridesmaids, another decent comedy with a terrible trailer, and he is actually pretty competent shooting some of the small action scenes, but his strengths are obviously creating an environment where you can tell the actors are having fun and it rubs off on the audience. A total pleasant surprise. It is a comedy though, so, I don’t know if going to see it in a theater is necessary, but if you do, I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed.
This movie is a real missed opportunity. There are so many “half-baked” concepts at play, and the movie can’t seem to get any of them across clearly. It’s a home invasion thriller, dystopian esque sci-fi, and political allegory, but unfortunately none of these elements work.
The Purge flirts with some really interesting sub-text. Like the very concept of The Purge, in general. It posits an America that has embraced, what some people perceive, Libertarian ideology to be to be, and has caused a class divide so large that upper class people go around and hunt down poor people once a year during the purge. Now, that’s some pretty interesting and dark territory in itself, but the most interesting aspect of it all is the spiritual slant that the participants take. They talk about the purge with a type of religious reverence, and even invoke some type of prayer while engaging in their hunts. They say things like “Bless the new fore fathers,” and other variations on the phrase. The real bummer here is that this interesting aspect isn’t paid anything more than lip service, and is never explored in any real way.
The characters in this movie are really bland, and just like everything else, under developed. They do a ton of questionable things that might make your head kind of hurt. Also, there is a ton of side characters that disappear for long stretches of the movie, and only conveniently reappear when needed. The most interesting character is the leader of a group of young purgers. He’s self righteous, creepy, and menacing. It’s all surface though, and it never makes much of a “character” out of him. It’s a testament to the actor that he comes across as the most interesting, and is definitely the brightest spot in this flick.
This flick is really short. It clocks in around eighty-five minutes, or so, and feels like a much larger movie that was edited down to it’s bare essentials. So, it ends up feeling really incomplete. As a straight up thriller it just isn’t all that compelling. Even from a basic “caring about the characters” point of view. It gives us a sense of who they are, but never anything more. The family that is being attacked seems to have a higher sense of morality, but the movie never explains to us why they have this disposition and comes off like “They are this way because they are the main characters, and we want you to like them.” Again, another interesting facet that they completely drop the ball with.
Having said all that, I was still entertained, and it would probably be a decent rental if you tend to enjoy the genre. Hell, even to just have a good laugh every once in awhile.
I’m a pretty big fan of Chan-wook Park. I love his vengeance trilogy, and I’m always interested when I hear he’s working on something new. Stoker is his english language debut, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a pretty simple story, and it doesn’t really surprise very often, but it’s told extremely well. It’s a partial remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and it’s interesting to see a filmmaker with different sensibilities take on familiar material.
This being a Chan-wook Park film, it’s a little twisted. There is an ever present creepy sexuality bubbling underneath the surface of all the proceedings. The character relationships, even when they don’t involve incest, are always unsettling. It’s all about what’s not said. Everything you need to know about these characters is played in secret glances and body language. They are almost animal like in presentation. Constantly toying with their prey. Especially the character of uncle Charlie. The performances are really great. They are extremely “stylized,” and methodically played out. There is not a wasted moment. I could see some people thinking that they are stilted and robotic at times, but I have a feeling that these moments are intentional, and the material seems to support this theory.
The camera work in this film is really incredible, and almost comes across as a character of it’s own. There is a great balance of operatic camera work, and hand held moments. At some points it feels like we are watching a nature documentary – watching lions stalk and ultimately devour their prey. It’s a really beautiful movie, and in classic Chan-wook Park fashion, he employs a lot of fantastic classical music to go along with his operatic camera work. It makes the already beautiful cinematography seem other worldly.
Like I said, it’s a really straight forward and simple story, that is elevated by the film making. If you’re a fan of Chan-wook Park, or just want to watch a creepy/beautiful/weird coming of age thriller, then I think this will most likely work for you.
Movies that hang onto a gimmick don’t usually turn out that well. They focus so much on their chosen gimmick, that things like story and character are usually short changed some how. Thankfully, Maniac does not fall into this trap, and uses it’s POV framing to enhance the story, and, quite literally, let us into the head of the character.
This is a really gory flick, but it never uses it as a substitute for tension, and some of the more unsettling moments occur during the lead up to the visceral violence. We spend the entire movie looking through the eyes of a truly deranged individual, but it never seems to be a complete act of voyeurism. Of course, that’s obviously present, but the movie never doesn’t feel cinematic. It still feels like an actual movie, and often I completely forgot about the POV gimmick.
The movie has a really fantastic aesthetic design, and definitely feels like a sleezy european horror movie from the nineteen-eighties. This is a remake of a movie from that time period, and it cleverly references the time period without ever distracting us with the level of “homage” that is present. The colors and the music work together to create a world that is always visually stimulating, and in general just elevates all the B-grade horror elements at play.
Elijah Wood is really great as the “maniac.” He is completely detestable, but he still manages to create a character that we can empathize with, and given the fact that we don’t see his face very often, save for a few well placed moments, it’s even more impressive. It’s a fully realized characterization. They could have leaned too heavily on the aesthetic and gore, but thankfully they don’t. It’s a trap that movies of this nature fall into way too often, and for some one that likes the genre, it’s definitely appreciated.
Maniac isn’t a movie for everyone, and the POV gimmick just might not work for some people, but if you’re hesitant because of that element I’d still recommend giving it a try. I think fans of the genre, and the original for that matter, will be pleasantly surprised.