Guy Pearce

May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3 (DJ’s Take)

HUMOROUS

I was watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and suddenly an Iron Man movie broke out.  I’m sorry.  That was rude.  Okay, let me be clear.  I love Iron Man.  I love Robert Downey Jr..  I love Shane Black.  And I’ve admitted many times that RDJ could spew out Black’s dialogue in a film about recycling Coke bottles and I’d watch.  It’s just that Iron Man 3 does everything it can to test that loyalty.  Is it as good as Avengers?  Of course not.  Is it the best film of the trilogy?  Not in my opinion.  Is it better than Iron Man 2?  I’m not so sure I can say that.  To be honest, Iron Man 3 is a different genre than Iron Man 2 and even Iron Man 1.  And that is where my hesitance to tout it comes from.  When I first heard that Shane Black was doing part 3, I was psyched.  The man has made a living of making great action comedies for years.  Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout, and Long Kiss Goodnight, to name a few.  However, the things I loved about those films is that despite the humor and comedic interactions, you could suddenly find yourself in a gritty, bloody, hardcore shootout.  Humorous scenes suddenly turned on their ear by a visceral murder.  A suicidal breakdown.  Revenge at any cost.  And Black could weave these things effortlessly.  Even though those films had the help of an R rating, I had faith that Black could still come close to delivering a little taste of this in Iron Man 3.  Especially with the threat of Tony Stark’s biggest comic book nemesis, The Mandarin, looming over the storyline.  The tone from the commercials also seemed to hint at the darkest plot we’d seen for the character.  However,  Iron Man 3 turns away from Martin Riggs, Charly Baltimore, and Joe Hallenbeck and leans more toward Gay Perry and Harry Lockhart.  In other words, Iron Man 3 is not an action comedy.  It is a comedy with action in it.

Is that a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite films.  However, the tone wouldn’t be the first I’d use to fit this superhero film.  Take for instance the handling of the film’s villain.  Director Shane Black does something with The Mandarin, that I won’t spoil, which comic book fans will either love or absolutely despise.  This…um…how should I put this…’reinvention’ fits the tone of a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but not any Marvel film we’ve seen thus far.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The jokes in Iron Man 3 are very funny.  But they far outnumber any action you will see in it.  I, for one, thought the balance of this action comedy franchise was preparing to shift.  I was just misled as to which direction it was shifting.  A direction I thought was  reserved for Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man or James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The performances by the returning cast are solid once again.  They are the one constant of the franchise.  As I’ve said before, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark.  He captures the essence of that character better than any actor has any comic book character ever.  Though, this is the lightest lifting Downey Jr. has had to do performance wise.  They touch on Tony’s post traumatic stress disorder brought on from his experiences in The Avengers.  Unfortunately, it is not fully explored and eventually brushed away through jokes way faster than Stark’s self destructive tendencies were in Iron Man 2.  This film is probably the funniest Tony Stark has ever been.  However, the best performance Robert Downey Jr. has given as the character is still, ironically, in Avengers.  Even though Paltrow is disliked in her public persona, she is adored as Pepper Potts.  Keeping serve opposite an actor such as Downey Jr., in four films now, is something she deserves enormous credit for.  Cheadle, though almost an afterthought in this film, also has proven that he can hold his own against Downey Jr. in a scene.  More so than Terrence Howard did in Iron Man 1.  I just wish these two could get more screen time together.  Because when they do interact, the relationship of Tony and Rhodey just sings.

I had high hopes for Kingsley as The Mandarin.  Sexy Beast proved to me how much of a badass he can be.  However, Black’s risky reinvention of his character limited what Kingsley was allowed to do.  Speaking of missed opportunities, Guy Pearce’s abilities were also minimally tapped in this.  His flippancy, though amusing, didn’t really seem to present a viable danger to our hero.  Even through the climax.  Love or hate Iron Man 2, there was no question as to the danger and threat that Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko gave Tony.  The villains in Iron Man 3 don’t scare you as much as Vanko, Stane, or even Hammer did.

After all that, you’d think I hated the film.  I don’t.  Iron Man 3 is not a step backwards for the franchise or for Marvel.  It, to me, is just a risky step sideways.  A step in a different direction.  A direction, as The Mandarin warned, I didn’t see coming.  Suit up…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

December 24, 2012

Crappy Holidays: Lawless

FORGETTABLE

Seven minutes into watching Lawless, I knew how I’d feel about it by the end.  I could see my final thoughts bearing down on me like the subway train light did to Neo in The Matrix.  The story would get boring halfway through.  Tom Hardy would be awesome, but underutilized.  And Shia Labeouf would be less annoying, but still forced down our throats.  Suffice to say, I hate being right.  Lawless suffers from one of the big no-nos a film can have.  You can make a good movie or even a terrible one.   However, you never make it be FORGETTABLE.  Be honest and tell me you didn’t say to yourself when seeing the headline for this review “Oh yeah, Shia LaBeouf did do a gangster film with Tom Hardy.”  Those of you that didn’t probably never heard of the film at all. 

Why is Lawless so FORGETTABLE?  Well, from the beginning, it leads us to believe we’ll be learning a lot about the interesting art of bootlegging OR that we’ll witness an epic confrontation between the crooked law and an infamous family.  However, it speeds past the bootlegging information in about thirty seconds while drawing out this epic confrontation FOR…EV…ER!  The pacing of Lawless is the only crime I witnessed.  Whenever it looks like you’re about to get into the wheelhouse of the film, it delays you with a contrived double love story or just plain boring build up.  It hides the good moments from us while sticking us with moments we don’t care about.  We see a man get his feet washed in church while drunk off of moonshine for three minutes.  But there’s a castration…off camera.  Gangster films aren’t supposed to hide the brutal moments from you.  Those moments make it memorable.  You remember the chainsaw scene in Scarface.  You remember the horse head in The Godfather.  The baseball bats in Casino.  Lawless drowns us in snail like pacing between its few memorable moments, and when we get there, it doesn’t allow us to fully see them.    

It is a real shame this film is so lifeless because there truly is another terrific performance by Tom Hardy here.  The man is poised to be the next great Hollywood star, yet people will have missed probably half of the amazing performances he’s done.  Like Bronson, or The Take or RocknRolla or this.  The only person in Lawless that holds his own with him in the acting department is Guy Pearce.  Pearce plays slithery lawman Charles Rakes in a way only a certain few could pull off.  The brief…and I mean brief…badass scenes he and Hardy have together shakes you out of the slumber caused by the film’s slow pacing.  It is also good to see crazed Gary Oldman again.  His run as Jim Gordan has caused people to forget how awesomely nuts he can be.  But those guys collectively play second fiddle to the elephant in the room, Shia Labeouf.  Does Shia annoy you in this?  Yes.  Does Shia whine in this?  Yes.  Does Shia overact to cover his inability to act in this.  Yes.  However, compared to his previous work in a robotic trilogy that will remain nameless, it isn’t unbearable.  He would have been better as a costar in Lawless instead of the star.  I’d rather follow Tom Hardy’s more interesting Forrest than be force-fed Shia’s cliched Jack. 

If you want to see a compelling true story about prohibition, watch Boardwalk Empire.  If you want to see an actually decent Shia LaBeouf performance, watch Disturbia.  If you don’t have HBO, don’t own Disturbia, but are at least having trouble sleeping, watch Lawless.  In the lexicon of gangster films, it falls short enough for me to name ten others better than it off the top of my head.  Godfather 1, Godfather 2, Goodfellas, Casino, Miller’s Crossing, The Untouchables, Sexy Beast, The Departed, Carlito’s Way, Scarface.  See?  Compared to any of those Lawless is easily FORGETTABLE.  Take some Nodoz…watch it…try to remember you saw it after…then tell me I’m wrong.

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