Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Three Films Make A Post: One Small Ember Can Burn Down Everything.

Monkey Man (2024): You really needn’t tell me that this somewhat overlong tale of revenge is Dev Patel’s directorial debut. It’s impossible to miss in a movie that feels quite this desperate to show how stylish and clever and original it can be visually. Patel often appears so unsure of his own simple narrative he bloats the film up with incessant flashbacks to things the audience has understood the first time around, and visual flourishes that detract instead of add. There’s a sense of desperation to prove that Patel can indeed direct like a real director surrounding the project that permanently gets in the way of the film simply working.

That’s particularly disappointing because Monkey Man is quite good whenever its director/writer/star gets out of his own way and trusts his instincts and those of his crew. There’s a really good action lead performance hidden below all of the guff, and whenever Patel calms down a little, there are also the makings of a really good – and stylish - action movie director visible. Just one who needs an editor – internal and external.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024): Guy Ritchie’s newest film wishes to have that problem. This one feels rather desperate as well. Here, however, the film’s not desperate to have depth it wants to express through style that only obfuscates what’s good about it, but wants so desperately to be FUN, it never relaxes enough to actually have or provide any. Making matters worse, it is so afraid of not being fun for even a single second, it never tries to find grounding anywhere. The film is an incessant bombardment of colour, edits, “clever” dialogue, and so on. None of which amounts to much beyond two hours of movie because there’s no weight to any of it – no tension, no suspense, no stakes, no human connection between what it laughingly calls its characters. It’s a movie so fun, it’s utterly bland.

City Hunter aka Shiti Hanta (2024): In comparison, Yuichi Sato’s adaptation of an 80s manga is a complete work of art, not because it is deep, or clever, or meaningful, but because it not only knows what kind of movie it wants to be – a light action number with a somewhat sleazy sense of humour – it goes about becoming that movie with simple, calm professionalism and a sense of fun that doesn’t have the air of an abused child star grimacing “joyfully” at you for two hours while tapdancing.

There’s no ambition here beyond providing an entertaining, violent hundred minutes of action and dubious humour, but that ambition, the film fulfils without fuzz – and with fine action choreography that’s not hidden behind obfuscating camera work and editing, nor suffering from being without impact.

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