25 February 2010

Edge of Darkness, From Paris with Love

EDGE OF DARKNESS


Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Writer: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell, Troy Kennedy Martin (series)

Director: Martin Campbell

Release: 29 January 2010

BBC Films, 117 mins., Rated R


For a movie that's visually pleasing and a powerhouse performance vehicle, it's a tad saddening I don't have much to say about Edge of Darkness. I'll get the most publicized portion of the movie out of the way right now: this is Mel Gibson's return to a starring role in almost eight years, since the really, truly awesome Signs, and he comes back with a tried and true role in which he always kicks ass in: a pissed off father/husband seeking some retribution. Yes, Mel's still got the chops, but it seems like it's takes him a while to get back into the game. More on this later.

Edge of Darkness is a movie adaptation of a BBC miniseries (also directed by Campbell) that follows Thomas Craven (Gibson) embark on a bloodhunt to find the murderer of his daughter Emma. As he investigates with absolutely nothing to lose, he finds that Emma worked for a seedy organization that may or may not have been manufacturing some not-exactly-legal things, and that puts him as Target #1 on the company's hit list. A problem control specialist, Jedburgh (Winstone) is tasked with controlling the situation, or hunting Craven down. Either way, Craven ain't gonna stop until either A) the company is exposed, or B) everybody's dead.

Notes & Reflections (Spoilers)
Good, but not great. Carefully structured, screenplay wise, by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell, with the tragic event happening within the first 10 minutes and with each new act a new revelation totally jaw-dropping Thomas. And then the ending sneaks up on you, which sorta comes off anticlimatic - a strange thing to say considering there's a gunfight, and a lot of people die, a la The Departed (also scripted by Monahan). Speaking of a gunfight - this is NOT Taken 2.0. This is a far more intricately plotted story, with corporate conspiracies, hitmen, hired publicity control dudes whose idea of stopping a story is by permanently stopping those who can tell it. It's a revenge story, yes, that drives the plot forward - the momentum of Thomas finding out who is behind Emma's murder - but that's not the only element here. It's a complicated story...sorta. But when the guns do go blazing, it's short, sweet, and awesome.

Gibson seems a little rusty. Sometimes he just doesn't seem to know how to 'do' or 'sell' a certain thing, which is weird 'cuz he should be a master what with his revenge-driven movies like Patriot and Payback. But overall, his performance was fine. His Massachusetts accent was kinda distracting; perhaps DiCaprio can give him some voice lessons? And the always awesome Ray Winstone gives another phenomenal performance as a man unsure of himself and the messed up situation at hand. His character, Jedburgh, was almost more interesting than Thomas was. And finally, there's the movie's villain, played by Danny Huston. All I'll say about him is that I now forgive him for partially shitting up Wolverine last summer with his horrible William Stryker.

Awesome Scene of Awesomeness
Thomas Craven has the whole story, and it's finally time to take some well-deserved bullet-to-body revenge on these motherfrakkers. Chaos ensues.

Final Verdiction
Good movie, just not good enough. However, I can say that the film has inspired me to find a copy of the BBC miniseries. I'm not sure if the momentum would be lost, or if there's a bazillion other things in the miniseries that wasn't even touched upon in the movie that makes up for a lot of its running time. As for Martin Campbell and Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness...I liked it, but I wasn't moved by it. I guess I just would have liked to be closer to the Edge...(get it? Edge? As in Edge of Darkness? The movie's title? Alright, I'll stop: I'm annoying myself)

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE


Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Travolta, Kasia Smutniak
Writer: Adi Hasak & Luc Besson

Director: Pierre Morel
Release: 05 February 2010

EuropaCorp, 92 mins., Rated R


I love surprises. As in, you fully expect a movie not to be all that fantastic, but at least a little bit decent so you can justify the money you just spent from your hard-earned paycheck. From Paris with Love had a bit of a dodgy beginning - the first 15 or so minutes where things just didn't really groove (although we did get to see the beautiful Kasia Smutniak is a pretty outfit, which I didn't for a second mind) - but then Charlie Wax enters the picture, and it's just one awesome fun sequence after another, and by the time the credits rolled, I was sincerely hoping for a franchise to stem out of this baby (am I the only one?)

James Reece (Meyers), personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France, is trying to get into the CIA business, see some real action. For now, mostly all low-level stuff, like planting a bug in a secretary's office, changing license plates, etc., etc. And then he gets to go back home to his beautiful French girlfriend (Smutniak). Impressed by his desire and determination, the CIA offer his a special assignment: partnering up with special agent Charlie Wax (Travolta), who's one of those 'stick a bullet in his head and then ask questions' type of action-y blokes. Initially disturbed by Wax and his style, the two form a sort of comradery. James' already bad day gets worse as he finds out that not only has he been bugged, but he's a person of special interest in a big Bad Guy Group. Wax fires guns, James carries some coke, and it's bromance in France like no other.

Notes & Reflections (Spoilers)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers didn't exactly thrill me with his skills, and his goofy-looking mustache was a little distracting. By the end, his character warmed up to me, but I'm still not fond of Meyers. He's kind of...one note? Travolta, on the other hand, is having a friggin' blast, and I was right along with him. Thankfully a bit more subdued than his erratic character in Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, although he seems to sport the same style (leather jacket; bald head; a lot of facial hair; excessive swearing). Kasia Smutniak is the girlfriend, and she's surprisingly more pivotal to the plot than I thought. So kudos, writers, for throwing a cruve ball. Plus, she's hot. So that works in the movie's favor.

The script seems to be leveling a Pulp Fiction/Lucky Number Slevin playing field, and for the most part, it works (but unfortunately doesn't reach the levels of sheer brilliance as those two flicks). There's long tantrums (mostly made by Charlie) about seemingly inconsequential things (food, the use of 'motherfucker', snorting coke), and they're quite amusing to listen to. There's also a funny homage, deliberate or just by mistake, to Travolta's character Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction, with Wax being a fan of the 'royale with cheese.' Another nifty thing is that there's two genuine surprises in store, but I guess I should have expected it, what with all the action/thriller movies I've seen, it's a common plot device (especially in 24).

The action is fast and exhilarating. The jokes are actually funny. The relationship between Charlie and Reese is amusing and entertaining. The script is smart. Yeah, I'd say From Paris with Love is good, and definitely worth watching.

Awesome Scene of Awesomeness
Not all the bad guys are dead. Wax, in turn, takes some handy C4 that just happens to be on a nearby table, and along with Reese, calculate the seconds or minutes it takes for a group of three to run down eight or so flights of stairs. Wax prepares the C4, walks to the window, drops the C4, and everything comes together at just the right time for a oh-so-pretty explosion of Bad Guy body parts. The day is saved.

Final Verdiction
I liked it. I thought it was a fun, quirky, sorta twisty-turny buddy cop/CIA movie with one awesome lead actor and another not as stellar lead actor. The pace was quick, too the point; the script was intelligent and actually seemed like effort was put forth into the making of this baby (a rarity for January/February movies; e.g., When in Rome, The Tooth Fairy). At the end of the day, when I look back at the highlights, watching John Travolta shoot up some bad drug lords and explode a car whilst calculating how long it takes to run down 8 or so flights of stairs for example, I can safely say I dug the flick. And for that reason, I'd recommend it. Now hit us with the sequel, Hollywood.