Doodad Kind of Town

Back to the Movies – An Uninspired Start: "Hancock" and "Wanted"
July 13, 2008, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I started getting back to the multiplex this week, and managed to pick a couple of real stinkers to start.

First, “Hancock.”

I can’t, in all fairness, write a review of “Hancock”, since I fell asleep about 15 minutes into the movie, and never fully woke up again till the closing credits. I’m chalking this up to overwhelming jet lag, but the movie itself may also have contributed to my need for sleep. Falling asleep during a movie is sometimes a way for me to escape some element of the film that is particularly disturbing or annoying; in the case of “Hancock,” it was that shaky-cam photography and the excessive use of tight close-ups on the actors. I found it physically uncomfortable to watch. I remember thinking just before nodding off, “Why is this action comedy shot like a John Cassavettes drama?” Later, I remembered that the director, Peter Berg, used this same technique in his earlier film “Friday Night Lights” – it was effective in that film, but in “Hancock,” it just felt bizarre. Oh, I did wake up briefly at the point where the “surprise plot twist” is revealed, but it wasn’t surprising enough for me to keep my eyes open.

Then last night, I joined friends to see the James McAvoy-Angelina Jolie thriller “Wanted.”

Now, this particular group of friends has been going to movies together for many years now (for a long time, we referred to ourselves as “The Movie Club,” although that label has fallen out of favor), and together we’ve weathered a lot of truly bad movies. We all agree that the absolute nadir of our collective filmgoing experience was the truly dreadful 1996 Val Kilmer remake of “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”

That is, until last night.

Halfway through “Wanted,” my friend Susan leaned over and whispered “I’ve got five words – “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”

Actually, I’ve got just three words: What the fuck?

Didn’t James McAvoy have anything better to do? Didn’t Angelina Jolie? Why would these very fine actors – who’ve had a wealth of fantastic films and roles between them – sign up for this near-incomprehensible slopfest of inane plot twists and nauseating gratuitous violence. (Morgan Freeman’s in it, too – but to my mind, he’s the kind of actor who’ll show up for just about anything. ) McAvoy is an office drudge with a dull life and a father who’s gone missing since he was a week old. Jolie and Freeman recruit him for a league of assassins, telling him that his father was one of them, but has been killed. They put him through a grueling training program that consists mainly of him being bludgeoned, shot, stabbed and generally terrorized over and over, apparently in some strange quest to toughen him up – but it plays like pointless sadism, and it’s really hard to watch. And there are some other, equally sadistic touches involving exploding rats and Jolie’s remembrance of being forced to watch her father burning to death.

In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, I will also confess there are some pretty cool visual effects here and there, mostly involving the reverse trajectories of speeding bullets. There’s also an over-the-top chase scene on Chicago’s Wacker Drive that features Jolie hanging out the window of a red Corvette which is pretty exciting to watch. But ultimately, they’re not nearly enough.

I enjoyed an earlier film by director Timur Bekmambetov: “Night Watch,” (second in a trilogy of vampire thrillers that were hugely popular in his native Russia – “Twilight Watch” is yet to come), but am considerably less enthusiastic about his American directing debut. Despite the occasional visual flourishes, it is mostly a mess, and the violence is relentless, humorless and sickening.

At brief moments, “Wanted” seemed remniscent of both “Fight Club” and television’s “Alias,” but with elements of black humor that were serisouly mishandled and off-kilter. Instead of being wickedly and perversely funny, it just felt sick and perverted. It’s the worst movie I’ve seen this year – an “honor” I expect will stick till December 31st.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Oy! You got something against gratuitous, humorless, over-the-top violence? What are you — a communist?Fine review, Pat.

Comment by Rick Olson

Haha, yikes. You know you’re back in the states when the movies are gratuitously violent, unnecessarily stylish and altogether trashy. I made it through Hancock without falling asleep, but I skipped out completely on Wanted.

Comment by Daniel G.

Hi Rick and Daniel -Yep, maybe I’m unAmerican, but I don’t handle any violent movies very well, and I HATE movies like this where the violence is pointless and never lets up.

Comment by Pat

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