At the risk of making a "getting a lot of Sorcerer vibes from this" guy out of myself, The Hunted—William Friedkin's 2003 old-master-hunts-rogue-student thriller really does make for a fascinating counterpart to his earlier men-on-a-desperate-mission masterwork. Both delve into the lives of damaged, forlorn, isolated men on perilous quests for deliverance. And both of those quests lead deep into madness. Both pointedly contrast man-made, flame-choked hellscapes (Sorcerer's exploding oil well, The Hunted's secret mission amidst the Kosovo War) with the vast, amoral green of the deep forest (Columbia and Oregon, respectively). Both turn on setpieces that thrill while maintaining a grounded (if not necessarily "realistic") feel and weave surreality in with care. Continue Reading →
There's at once too much, and somehow not enough, of the whimsical DIY spirit of writer-director Robert Rodriguez in his latest film, the shaky B-thriller Hypnotic. The Austin native made his name in the halcyon days of '90s indie filmmaking, shooting his first feature (El Mariachi) for a mere $7,000 at the tender age of 23. Since then, he's leveraged that inventiveness into a cottage industry of his own based out of his hometown of Austin, Texas, whether it's kid-friendly fare (Spy Kids), big-budget CGI blockbusters (Alita: Battle Angel), moody noirs (Sin City) or grindhouse splatterfests (Planet Terror, From Dusk Till Dawn). Hypnotic is all and none of those things, a chintzy lo-fi Christopher Nolan riff that doesn't have nearly enough life to work. And yet, there are just enough charming elements to save it from outright dismissal. Continue Reading →
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg's latest exercise in macho posturing is both aesthetically and thematically ugly.
“It would be so easy,” I whisper to myself. My finger hovers over the little red button that would close Netflix, and grant me freedom. “I made it through almost an hour. I’ve got more than enough to write about, my editor would never know the difference.” Instead, I poured myself a stiff drink and hit resume; blame a foolhardy dedication to craft or sheer stupidity, but I watched all one hour and fifty-one minutes of Spenser Confidential. Do yourself a favor: don’t make my mistake.
Has director Peter Berg started making movies on iPhone? No, that would be an actual aesthetic choice; still, I’m scratching my head as to why Spenser looks like a poorly shot student film. A de-saturated, opening flashback is particularly ugly and juvenile, not just because we see the titular Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) beat up an unarmed man – an opening that’s all the more uncomfortable considering the star has done something similar in real life.
But instead of leading to a prosperous career as a leading man, Spenser’s violence towards his police captain (at his home) lands him in prison – according to an enormous title card that reads “PRISON.” We cut to five years later, the day before this now ex-cop’s release. For some reason, global superstar Post Malone saunters into the frame, and eventually stabs Marky-Mark in the side with a rusty shiv. Continue Reading →