Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three Films Make A Post: Jet-hot action! Jet-hot suspense! Jet-hot thrills!

The Expatriate (2012): Philipp Stölzl's film about a former CIA operative (Aaron Eckhart) getting into trouble with an international conspiracy that includes his former handler (Olga Kurylenko) and threatens to cost the life of his daughter (Liana Liberato) is a neat example of the modern international (producing countries are the USA, Canada, Belgium and the UK, the director is German, and the actors are coming from everywhere) spy thriller. It's not a film that hits many surprising beats but it tells its story well, with the proper amount of violence and one of the more convincing variations on the "daughter and father come together through the father's talent for lethal violence" theme. Plus, the acting's more than decent and in the Europe of this film - quite unlike in that of Europa Corps. movies - brown people aren't automatically evil.

Killer Joe (2011): This is one of those cases where I absolutely understand the wave of approval a film and its director (in this case a William Friedkin absolutely not willing to coast on previous achievements or attempt to copy them) are met with, see the artistic value and the plain effort in every shot, yet still, when it comes down to it, can't get excited about the film in the slightest, and even feel rather annoyed by it. Large part of the reason for that might be an ending that works wonderfully on a subtextual level, less so as the tour de force where blackest comedy and violence meet I think it's supposed to be, and makes little sense when you try and see the characters as people. And here comes the other, much heavier, problem I have with Killer Joe into play - I have my doubts it sees the uneducated Southern poor it concerns itself with as actual people instead of as objects it can slyly look down on as so stupid and alien they deserve whatever shit is coming to them; at the very least, the film lacks any kind of sympathy with its characters, and without that sympathy, I don't really see a reason to care about a film be it as artful as it may.

Seven Psychopaths (2012): Yet another movie I'm not as in love with as I'm probably supposed to, even though it is full of things I love in my movies: Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, meta, the subversion of genre standards, an excellent taste in music, shaggy dog stories and direction that thrives on details. Problem is, I like my subversion of genre tropes rather more subtle, or at least less self-congratulatory. Martin McDonagh's film loudly points out that it's subverting tropes right now about every ten minutes, instead of just doing it and trusting in the audience to understand what it's doing. There's something self-congratulatory and smug about this approach that rubs me the wrong way and really doesn't fit the actual charm and intelligence that the film's script shows when it's not patting itself on the back. Of course, this is also a film that loves to stop its critique halfway, pointing out the absence and uselessness of women in action etc. cinema but then not doing any better by its own female characters, so maybe I'm just expecting too much of it.

No comments: