Man on Fire (2004)
Now look, we can all profess our love for Denzel Washington. Sure, he’s made some duds but he’s had a productive, long and wonderful career. Remember Philadelphia? Sure it might have been Tom Hanks’ imaginary AIDS that stole the show but Denzel was pretty good too, y’know. Remember Mississippi Masala? I don’t, never saw it. To be honest it sounds horrible.
My favourite Denzel is the Denzel that likes to go around being incredibly violent while at the same time possessing a calm cool demeanour that belies the fact he’s about to chop off a part of your body that doesn’t grow back.
Denzel plays a bodyguard, a great bodyguard with a drinking problem entrusted to look after a little girl in a city where kidnappings occur with disgusting regularity – so really the stupid fucking parents should be the ones to blame when a perpetually infantile looking Dakota Fanning is abducted.
What follows is a path of self-loathing based brutality as Denzel destroys person after person as he tracks the girl down. He overcomes his drinking problems a little bit – just enough to kill people in rather sadistic fashion (the scene with a steering wheel, duct tape, a cigarette lighter, knife and a bunch of fingers will stay with you).
There’s a good supporting cast including Fanning and the likes of Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke. Despite profile nearly every other performance, perhaps other than Walkens, is understated. It’s a well shot, well told tale of disturbing violence mixed with love. The ending is entirely predictable, sure, but sometimes the ride is more enjoyable than the location. An incredibly underrated movie.
Now that I think about it, Washington plays an almost identical character in the movie Flight – but with one big difference, this movie isn’t shit. 8/10
Team America: World Police (2004)
You might hear about a film done with Marionette puppets and think “classy!” – but then you haven’t seen Team America. What did you expect for a puppet musical written by the guys who deliver us a plethora of wonderful South Park episodes every year?
Much like the show itself, if you can get past the crass ways the writers make their points, you realise just how well they’re done. Whether it’s the self-important asshole-ry of Hollywood when it comes to international conflicts and diplomacy, or the belief that by completely destroying something you can ‘liberate’ it, taking the absolute piss out of the action genre of film-making or even the most uncomfortably arousing sex scene you’ve ever seen (ouch, I’ve got a splinter), this movie has something for everyone.
Bordering on offensive racism? Sexism? Pornography? All of those things, sure, and it’s still a fantastic fucking movie.
You almost forget you’re watching puppets, and subsequently you almost forget the amount of planning and intricate development that must have gone into this film to tell what is, on the surface, a ridiculous story.
If you can look past the juvenile nonsense and hear the message behind this tale, you’ll realise it all served a purpose.
Personally I think the juvenile nonsense is pretty fucking hilarious, too 8.5/10
Bad Words (2014)
I can take or leave Jason Bateman. In Arrested Development he plays the most annoying, but unfortunately essential character, always pussyfooting around, being a sook, being downtrodden, facilitating being downtrodden, all while everyone else gets the laugh and becomes a cult icon. In almost every movie I’ve seen him in he plays the exact same character – the ‘nice guy’ who’s ‘hard done by’ by his family/workmates/insert generic character relationship here – and it gets REALLY FREAKING BORING.
It’s a nice change then, to see him play an absolutely contemptible asshole in this new effort.
Bateman’s character has been a professional proofreader for years. He’s a proficient speller and user of English with a propensity for swearing. So far, so good.
It turns out he’s managed to enter himself in a national spelling bee. Apparently there are other criteria but it seems the main determinant for him was the fact that he “didn’t finish the eighth grade”. I don’t want to pick holes here, but HOW THE FUCK do you get a seemingly long-standing job as a PROOFREADER if you don’t even have a high school education? Anyway, he’s a bitter old man who’s out to spoil things for everyone and be rather offensive while doing so – ridiculously offensive in some places actually. There’s one scene in particular with a packet of Ketchup that will disturb you with its cruelty. Cool. There’s more about the conditions of entry, but how he gets in is easily the most confusing aspect.
Then he meets an overly friendly little Indian kid, who it turns out will be one of his competitors. The little kid is overtly nice and friendly, and of course that traditional dynamic between a kid looking for a friend and an adult who doesn’t want one begins. It turns out the kid is lonely because his Dad is a rich asshole who is more than happy to put the kid in a hotel room by himself, to let him fly in economy by himself, etc etc. He’s a douche and an irresponsible Dad, and he never really gets his comeuppance! This movie could have done with Bateman confronting and kicking him right in the balls at the end of the film, finally channelling his negative energy for something good, and it doesn’t.
Instead, the two become friends and then refuse to win the spelling bee at the end. There are other sub-plots I won’t ruin for you if you want to see it, because unlike Man on Fire the ending isn’t completely predictable.
Yes, it’s refreshing to see Jason Bateman play an asshole – and there are some pretty funny jokes too – but that just doesn’t mean enough. There have been far worse movies out this year, but there have been far, FAR better ones, too 5/10