Tagged in: The Too Late Reviews

They Call Her One Eye (1973)

Grim cyclopian-Scandi-porn-thriller that sees a one-eyed prostitute exact Peckinpah-style revenge on bad men everywhere.

Thriller – A Cruel Picture

Thriller – A Cruel Picture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

This review was written  39 years too late

Another film that glories in abusing women and tries to justify it by tossing in a revenge plot, They Call Her One Eye has a superb title but little else. Young Frigga is assaulted in a Swedish forest by an old man who subsequently gets let off for being a nutbar or something, establishing the injustice and frankly terrible life One-Eye is going to live (she’s still got two eyes at this point).

Jump forward a decade or so and One-Eye (Christina Lindberg) has not spoken to anyone since her assault but lives happily enough with her loving parents on a farm. Deciding to go into town, she misses the bus and foolishly accepts a lift from a Tony, a 70s cliche with flares and a fast car who wines and dines and drugs her. He’s not very nice either, it seems.

Quickly hooking her on heroin, with the incorrect threat that she will die if she misses a fix, Tony starts pimping her out. So evil is Tony, instead of cackling insanely, he proudly and loudly two-finger types a letter to her parents saying she never wants to see them again and forces her to sign it. Yes, that will throw them off the scent.

One-Eye becomes just that when she fights back against an abusive client, prompting Tony to punish her. Director Bo Arne Vibenius, working under the not-much-better  name of  Alex Fridolinski, supposedly used a cadaver for the scene, which is worth bearing mind when you sign your organ donor card. Now called One-Eye, Tony is pleased that she is attracting more business since the clients like “The Pirate”, as she becomes known.

About this time in the film, it shifts into porn mode, showing increasingly harder encounters with both men and women. When one of her fellow workers who has been planning an escape to a detox clinic is killed by Tony, One-Eye has had enough. On her day off (Tony isn’t all bad) she scores as much dope as she can and uses it to keep sane when not working and instead learn how to drive, shoot and generally handle herself.

All of this is handled with a degree of incompetence you would expect – awkward hand-to-hand combat sessions that are reminiscent of Captain Kirk teaching Charlie how to stand up for himself in the Star Trek episode Charlie X – not very fast rally driving, and small arms-related slow-mo shooting all supervised by kindly gents who don’t for a second wonder why this eye-patched young heroin addict wants to learn all this.

From there it all goes predictably. Having shown the sexual titillation, it’s time to justify it all with some violent titillation. One-Eye starts offing all the men and women that have abused her, takes on the hitmen that Tony has sent after her and finally finishes off Tony himself – no spoiler there. The gun play involved is too Peckinpah, with shotguns discharging so slowly, most shootings take about 20 minutes of the film to complete as we watch the orange blast from the weapon explode from the barrel while our fingernails grow another two centimetres.

Quite what I was expecting, I can’t recall fully. Certainly something less porny, corny and slow. Maybe more of a Western, more of a rampage rather than a wander. In the end [warning: closing wrap-up pun approaching], you’ll be called two-eyes after watching this – and both will be closed. Or, you’ll be wishing you’d been blinded in two eyes after watching this. Or, oh shut up.

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The Island (2005)

Bifurcated SF action thriller that starts off all “Logan’s Run” before getting a painful stitch.

The Island

The Island (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

This review was written 7 years too late

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanssen inhabit a future (because it’s shiny and glass) city that’s home to the survivors of a worldwide contamination. The weekly lottery show plucks a citizen to leave the city and head to The Island, a safe outside place where civilization will begin again.

But Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) isn’t so sure. He starting to ask a few questions about what’s really going on. When Jordan Two Delta (Johanssen, dressed in tight clothing like an upmarket version of her namesake and Britain’s favourite trash model) is picked to go to The Island, Lincoln discovers the truth and saves her from her terrible fate. Both of them escape the city and go on the run to learn the terrible truth.

Wooooooooo! Scary.

Who would’ve guessed that behind the shiny, stainless steel facade of future world there was a sinister conspiracy? Most of us, of course, because we have all seen these films before – “Logan’s Run” and “THX 1138” spring to mind, heck, even Lang’s “Metropolis” – and while “The Island” ‘s Wikipedia entry , claims it’s actually a pastiche of those and other films, you can’t help thinking some DVD salesman added that after the fact trying to retro-fit a well-used idea for today’s gullible audience.

It’s an awkward film to watch, embarrassing in the first half with its laboured, SF cliches – a utopia that’s actually a dystopia, daft code names instead of real names, white outfits (and Puma trainers, no less), black-suited guards who stop any jiggy going on. By the second part, it’s just beer-time as director Michael Bay shifts gear from conspiracy-light posturing to his trademark OTT action scenes where you can’t stop thinking of the ridiculous fuel budget for the at least 2 million helicopters he employed in endless, dizzying aerial fly-bys.

The action is prompted by Sean Bean‘s usual poor show, this time as a doctor in charge of the facility which had kept Lincoln and Jordan unwittingly captive. (He could have saved himself so much bother if he didn’t leave a way out that only needed, er, one key to open the exit door – the secret, terrible truth of what actually goes on is that protected.)

Set-pieces consist of the usual pole-vaulting cars and trucks, grim-faced and bearded henchmen, and sadly not enough of the jet bikes which only get a brief, budget-sapping SFX appearance.

Neither half of this movie really outshines the other, and only Djimon Hounsou as a mercenary hired to track down the fugitives comes out of the whole affair with any kind of thespian credibility.

To sum up with the customary cheesy gag, “The Island” is all at sea. And that joke is better than the film.

Trailer

 

Unknown (2011)

Review of Unknown, starring Liam Neeson

Who he?

Enjoyable Euro spy thriller that just twists enough to pull itself away from the edge of nonsense. Just.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written  1 year too late

Liam Neeson gets in an identity tizzy running around Berlin in a blend of “Vertigo“, “Three Days of the Condor“, and “The Bourne Identity” and a dash of “The Parallax View” conspiracy spice.

Neeson is Dr Martin Harris, a biochemist in Berlin with his wife to give a presentation, who then suffers a car crash, and is saved by Diane Kruger‘s taxi driver. Waking up in hospital a few days later, he tracks down his wife only to find her claiming not to know him. Worse, he has been replaced by fellow Irish thesp (well, half-Irish) Aidan Quinn who is now Neeson’s Dr Harris and husband to his wife, and has the passport and other ID paraphernalia to prove it.

Shunned by all as a nutbar, he sets out to find the truth, hooking up again with a reluctant Kruger and avoiding numerous naughty men with guns and syringes and knives and bombs.

By the numbers stuff, really, if you’ve seen any identity/conspiracy type thriller in the past. You know he’s been setup and the fun is just trying to figure it out. “Unknown” does a fair job of keeping you guessing, holding its reveal to quite late on in a disappointing piece of exposition with bad people falling into the James Bond trap of monologuing (thanks, “The Incredibles“) instead of just opening fire.

That said, Berlin looks good and gritty on film, enhanced by a wintry location and generous aerial shots that pay credit to the city. There are also enough tense scenes and action set-pieces that are well handled, while a crafted sequence in a gallery is the sort of thing Brian De Palma used to do when aping Hitchcock. Lovely stuff.

Its climax is also a charmer, doing some damage to a major Berlin landmark in a typically European way – just blasting some of it to pieces rather than the Hollywood option of obliterating everything for kilometers around.

Neeson does a fair job in the second of his recent Euro-thrillers (following on from “Taken“) but he still displays a little too much of the cartoonish angst he displayed in “Darkman“, making it hard to buy his pain and suffering. A minor niggle in an otherwise solid movie.

Trailer:

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Entrapment (1999)

Entrapment

Entrapment (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Dreadful Connery/Zeta-Jones rom-heist effort that just about saw off his career and made her bendy arse a star. 

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

This review was written 13 years too late

This dog of movie sees Sean Connery as a master thief (as opposed to a 60+ amateur – now there’s a film) being pursued by insurance investigator Catherine ZJ. ‘Cept she’s not an investigator but in fact a thief, who’s been drudging it out in a New York insurance office for years as she sets up her one big deal.

She needs Sean to help her. Or something. Or what? She seems to stroll into his life while the wily old Scot instantly detects her investigation of him and turns the tables on her in a yawn-yawn opening first act. She’s a thief. She’s not. She loves him. He doesn’t love her. He does. Blah. Who cares as the waffle trundles on as they work together in his loch-side castle, planning to rob a gold mask.

This heist shows the film’s barely “notorious” scene of ZJ bending and twisting through a series of invisible-to-her laser alarm beams. We get to see loads of her arse and body contorting and thrusting into the camera. My choice of words in the preceding sentence is deliberate, as crass as the filmmaking employed for the sequence, indeed, the whole thrill-less film. Whatever happened to tension, suspense and edge-of-the-seat set-pieces? They get their mask and escape. Who would have thought?

Connery’s performance is sadly a film too far, though coming just a few years after “The Rock“, where he comfortably and enjoyably pulled off the aged action hero. Here, it really shows. Really. No manner of carefully scuplted wig or angled, razor-neat beard give him the solid maturity he had in Michael Bay‘s OTT Alcatraz Island action-thriller. In “Entrapment“, he’s just old. He’s as befuddled as the dotty tourist he poses as in order to move unnoticed through the crowds.

You can’t blame him for the passing of time, but you can blame him for making the film. Hollywood’s old curmudgeon, who hates the system that pretty much made him, should have said no to this one. And no to casting Zeta-Jones too. They work together about as well as iron and wine. The romantic interludes are embarrassing, and while no one ever says, “You’re old enough to be my father” or some variation thereof, it’s going through the mind of every viewer. It’s more creepy than sexy, more pathetic than passionate.

Usually, I am a big defender of nonsense in films, arguing that I don’t need realism, in fact I go to escape it, like many of us. That said, it’s hard to ignore Sean Connery in a blue boiler suit marching through a Taiwan hotel basement disguised as a handy man. Or Catherine ZJ being able to escape the clutches of Taiwan’s police despite being witnessed by loads of them post-heist. Either they are dumb or she’s clever, but let’s face facts – a woman as beautiful and seen as she should have problems moving unnoticed in East Asia.

Connery’s acting, while never first class, is dreadful here, really tired, like some saddo standup from the 70s doing a bad impression on him. I actually found myself feeling sorry for him. This film really was the end of the road for a great screen presence, a finality that was finally, and critically and commercial confirmed, two features and four years later with the reviled “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen“.

A couple of “What ifs”  haunt Connery’s career. The first is if he’d stayed on for the one more Bond after “You Only Live Twice”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – how much better would that film have been with Connery. But no. Jump forward a few decades and Connery said no to Gandalf in Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. What a fitting end to a life in film that would have been.

Instead, we have this, “Finding Forrester“, and “The League…”

Catherine has, and will have more, countless opportunities to shape her career. But this was almost Sean’s swansong. A swansong that made 200,000 USD + at the box office.

So what do I know, eh? Well, shite when I see it.

Babylon A.D. (2008)

Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D. (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Vin Diesel is a near future mercenary tasked with smuggling two ladies to America, one of whom might hold the secret to the survival of mankind. Vin has to work extra hard to keep her alive, as you would imagine.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This review was written 3 years too late

Life in Russia isn’t great for Diesel’s Toorup. As well as a daft name, he struggles to find anything decent to cook and eat that reaches his high gastronomic standards, and has to put up with levels of violence, lawlessness and no-hopery of the sort you’d normally only find in Croydon on a Saturday night.

In the middle of savouring some kill he’s carefully prepared in his bleak apartment kitchen, the whole place is invaded by bad types in black working for Gerard Depardieu, who wants Toorup to escort two women to America. A ton of cash and the promise of a clean passport are enough for Toorup to wearily say yes.

You don’t need me to tell you the rest, do you? Meets women, acts hard, gets them through tough spot after tough spot, starts to respect the older woman, is up for shagging the younger one. Betrayal follows, and of course he can’t walk away – we’ve seen this story so many times before.

What makes this mildly bearable, however, is a credible near future depiction of eastern Europe characterized by poverty and violence, and bizarro casting such as Charlotte Rampling so cold she could have been on a morgue slab for hours or Gerard Depardieu made up so heavily he resembles Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracey. (That said, the casting also lets Babylon A.D. down as we have to endure Lambert Wilson again. The man so lifeless in The Matrix movies, turns up here as a dull scientist who looks like a cross between John Shuttleworth and RoboCop.)

The action scenes have a European feel to them, somehow coming across as familiar yet different perhaps because they contain a hint of art amongst the mayhem such as one shoot out with slow-motion tracer fire drifting in front of and behind a character marching through the madness, or entire groups of attacking forces constantly tracked by deadly red dots of laser sights.

Someone’s been at this film with the scissors, it’s clear. And a quick look around the web confirms this. Multiple versions, a director who disowns his film, and stories of studio interference are easy to find. It’s possible the story was not so dreadful once, possible that it was chopped into its over familiar conventions. Which is a shame, because the makings of a good SF actioner were here. Instead, it’s left to babble on (I thank you) in its own turgid familiarity.

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Rolling Thunder (1977)

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Vietnam vet and POW returns home to Texas to finds a lot’s changed while he’s been gone, and things only get worse, prompting some hook-inspired violence and mayhem.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 34 years too late

Rolling Thunder is a real curiosity of a film. A simple revenge fable with an odd sound design, a gay sub-text for the wannabe academics, and Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard TV show, James Best himself, as the bad guy.

Charles Rane (William Devane) and Johnny Voden (Tommy Lee Jones) return to a hero’s welcome after a grim time imprisoned in Vietnam. Both hiding behind dark sunglasses, they awkwardly say goodbye and return to civilian life – Voden to his uninspiring family and bra-less, jiggling girlfriend, and Rane to a Mrs who has been having an affair and a son who can’t remember him.

Still, nevermind aye, as his unfaithful wife and anonymous boy are quickly killed by James Best and his very bad friends who are looking for a few thousand dollars Rane publicly received to get himself back on his feet. They also stick his hand into a waste disposal unit, mangling it useless. Revenge inevitably follows, and you can imagine the rest, and probably everything leading up to it.

Or can you?

The film has a flatness to it. It’s devoid of tension, and mimics Charles Rane himself – cold, unmoved, and seemingly incapable of losing control. It, and Rane, are restrained, not over the top, refusing to let go until it is really necessary and then only doing so with precision and efficiency.

When Rane is being tortured at the hands of Best’s bad guys, he is grimly silently, retreating back into the mental cell he used to survive his imprisonment. He is repeatedly punched, but we barely hear the impact on the audio track. When his hand is butchered in the waste disposal unit, there is no whizzing, meat-mincing whirr. It’s a practically silent scene. Only guns have any real audio impact, possibly because the rest of the violence is muted.

He is as unmoved when his wife reveals her infidelity, and simply relocates to the toolshed to sleep while Cliff, his replacement, lives in the house and continues playing father to the son. Cliff visits Rane in the shed, awkwardly trying to explain the situation but finds his lover’s husband seemingly unbothered. Rane prompts Cliff into asking about his torture while a POW and then has Cliff tie him up and inflict the same punishment he received in captivity. That Rane is evidently preferring his time bound and beaten is understandable, after all, he’s not got much fun at home, but he is also using it as subtle and silent weapon against Cliff, who eventually recoils in horror and disgust at Rane.

Even the attentions of local bar maid Linda cannot penetrate Rane’s shell. Rane simply uses Linda in his hunt for the killers, sending her into shady Mexican bars to ask questions, while he creeps in the back door, sharpened hook at the ready. This misuse causes some understandable bitterness, but Rane eventually caves to her charms, only to leave her the next day and go back to find Tommy Lee Jones’ Johnny Voden for the film’s bullet-strewn climax.

Rane only really cares about his son and the moping Voden. Unable to find a coping mechanism for civvy street, Voden is seen sporadically, coming to Rane’s aid after he loses his hand and delighted to help his friend kill people. When the guns do start blazing, he is happy and smiling for the first time in the film.

Wounds are sustained and shells exchanged as the two men blast their way through the brothel where revenge is exacted.

And then it ends. Almost immediately after the last bullet is fired. No happy ending, no return to Linda, no “five years later” reflection. It’s job done, film done.

(A curious post script to the film is the story of Linda Haynes, who plays Linda in the film. Worth exploring.)

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