Tuesday, 24 May 2011
THE WAY OF WAR (2009)
Directed by: John Carter
Screenplay: Scott Schaffer
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, John Terry, Jaclyn Desantis, JK Simmons & Clarence Williams III
So it seems Cuba Gooding Jr has also found himself headlining straight-to-DVD action thrillers, joining a club that features the likes of Wesley Snipes, Val Kilmer and Jean Claude Van Damme (all regular straight-to-DVDers). Nothing particularly wrong with that as some have been pretty decent (Hero Wanted, Linewatch) and some not so (Hardwired) but The Way of War has to be the worst (at least of the ones I have seen) that he has released over the last few years. From the title, trailer and artwork this looked like it might have been an enjoyable military themed action film. Well, all this proved deceptive as while The Way of War is certainly military themed, it has very little action and is rarely enjoyable.
At first glance the film seems to have a decent (if predictable) set-up as Gooding Jr plays special forces dude David Wolfe who, deployed somewhere in the Middle East with his unit, is charged with taking out a terrorist leader with the name, The Ace of Spades. But sensing something is a miss (and with the subsequent killing of his unit) he returns to the States to suss out what is going on and find out who is setting him up and get revenge for the death of his squad. At least that's what appears to be going on as after a good 45 minutes or so of nothing really happening, lengthy monologues about the nature of war and pointless scenes of Gooding Jr riding around in a taxi, it's hard to tell what is going on.
Despite a decent cast and some slick production values, The Way of War goes nowhere slowly, with nothing exciting happening during the entire running time. The fractured timeline doesn't help either, with constant and pointless flashbacks and cutaways taking place in the middle of scenes meaning any pace or tension is lost. This renders Wolfe's plight uninteresting and without pace and while the makers have attempted to make a serious war themed thriller (which is fair enough) the cringe inducing (and obligatory) quotes from Sun Tzu's Art of War and constant ramblings from various characters make The Way of War a disappointing (and often pretentious) bore.
There is next to no action, though Gooding Jr does, inexplicably and bizarrely, end up in some kind of underground fighting tournament at one point calling himself the War Machine (!!??). To be fair the cast do well with what they are given, especially a likeable Clarence Williams III, and the production is slick but unfortunately The Way of War just adds up to a whole lot of dull.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
HOLLOW MAN (2000)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Screenplay: Andrew W. Marlowe
Starring: Elizabeth Shue, Josh Brolin & Kevin Bacon
Arrogant, genius scientist, Sebastian Caine (Bacon) has almost perfected full body invisibility. Needing one last test to see if it works on humans (not just lab animals), Caine volunteers to be the guinea pig. At first everything works, as Caine is rendered completely invisible, but when the reversion process goes wrong, Caine finds himself permanently invisible. It’s up to fellow scientists, Linda (Shue) and Matthew (Brolin) to find a way to bring him back. However, Caine’s new found lack of appearance creates some murderous delusions of grandeur and trapping Linda, Matthew and the rest of the scientist team in their underground lab, he sets about offing them one by one.
A big budget B-movie; Hollow Man is a state of the art hoot. Combining the trash sensibilities of Basic Instinct with the futuristic ultra violence of Robocop and Total Recall, Verhoeven conjures up an onslaught of sophisticated FX while Kevin Bacon’s homicidal invisible man overacts a storm. The main draw really is the eye boggling visual effects, which are still impressive today. When a person or animal disappears there whole body evaporates layer by layer. We get to see all of the anatomy from bones to arteries to intestines to even de-skinned genitals in all their intricate and gory detail. If Hollow Man is successful at one thing, it is showing that CGI can be effective if used right and if you have enough money to pull it off realistically.
The story that frames all the dazzling effects is a little “hollow”, but serves the action well enough. It is after all, a tale of a scientist gone mad with his own creation. When Caine is first made invisible, there is an attempt to delve into the psychological impact the lack of a visible body is having on him. Yet, he seems to turn to the dark side all too quickly, his main reason being sexual jealousy over Linda and Matthew’s relationship. Descending proceedings into familiar (if no less entertaining) stalk and slash territory, Verhoeven pulls out all the stops in the name of ultra violence. People are speared, garrotted and set on fire in a bombardment of show stopping set pieces. Verhoeven makes the most of his invisible effects: the best sequence being a scientist throwing the contents of blood transfusion bags over Caine in an attempt to see him. This barrage of violent deaths, along with the impressively staged elevator shaft denouement, are great adrenaline fuelled cinema, but makes the film more of a whiz-bang actioner than a psychological study of science gone mad.
Bacon is manically arrogant as super slick boff, Caine, while the rest of the cast perform with aplomb considering the hokey and technical orientated dialogue. Though not as accomplished as his other sci-fi epics, Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers, Hollow Man is still an entertaining film and shows a director at the top of his action game. It’s all a bit over the top but pulled off with enough consummate skill and tension to make it enjoyable sci-fi trash.