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The Rookie

tn_therookieTHE ROOKIE is a 1990 cop movie starring and directed by Mr. Clint Eastwood, that seems intent on passing the action movie torch to a new generation represented by… wait a minute, did I read this– yes, it says here represented by Charlie Sheen. From YOUNG GUNS. Huh.

But you know what, it only adds to Clint’s mystique that he so humbly shares the movie with this rookie and even allows the spotlight to shift over to him for a while while the old man is tied up in a warehouse getting raped by Sonia Braga (SPOILER). This is also the most DIRTY HARRY of Clint’s non-DIRTY HARRY pictures. In fact, it probly feels a little more DIRTY HARRY than SUDDEN IMPACT, the one actual DIRTY HARRY that he directed.

mp_therookieBut in this one he’s not some supercop. He’s Pulovski, a failed race car driver turned detective in the auto theft division. Nothing big ever happened to him his whole life until this movie. Then by dumb luck some stolen cars he’s chasing lead him to a big time criminal running chop shops and planning to rob a mob casino (long story). The villain is played by Raul Julia, sporting one of the all time most befuddling cinematic accents. I was so happy when Clint referred to him as a “kraut” because then that earlier scene where he was criticizing German beer to Julia seemed less random. And if you think Julia makes an unconvincing German just wait ’til you meet his girlfriend (Braga).

Anyway, like all police officers Pulovski is forced to become partners with a by-the-book rookie (that’s Sheen as David Ackerman). Here’s where the script is subtly clever. Usually a story like that is a device for explaining everything to the viewer. The veteran has to show the rookie the ropes, so the audience also gets to see those same ropes. But here Clint just leaves his partner completely in the dark, doesn’t tell him what case he’s on or that when he stops for lunch at a hotel it’s just because Raul Julia’s there and he wants to give him a bunch of shit for having killed his partner, etc. Ackerman returns the favor and refuses to tell Pulovski jack shit about himself, so it’s a while before we find out he’s from a super rich family and drives a fancy Porsche. But he’s trying to prove himself to his dad and himself and all that.

Most of the entertainment comes from Clint. He’s his usual wry self, using ethically questionable law enforcement tactics and smartass comments. I liked when Sheen’s dad (Tom Skerritt) tried to pay him to guarantee the kid’s safety and Clint says with contempt, “You want a guarantee? Buy a toaster.” It’s so obvious to have Clint as the old guy who gives the young guy a hard time but begrudgingly starts to like him. But who gives a shit? It’s always enjoyable. I’m not gonna complain about having another one of these. I’ll take all of them I can get. There’s only gonna be a finite amount of old Clint action movies.

It has some of those little Eastwood directorial touches that nobody else does. Like for example the jazz score by Lennie Niehaus. This was in a time when mullets and whammy bars still existed. Other action movies were slathered in keyboards, guitar wails and drum machines. There were better action movies playing in theaters that year: HARD TO KILL, MARKED FOR DEATH, DIE HARD 2, TOTAL RECALL, arguably PREDATOR 2 and ANOTHER 48 HOURS. But none of those tried to cool you out with jazz as you left the theater. That’s not something you see in alot of action movies and especially not in 1990. That’s an Eastwood exclusive.

But it has some of the usual excess of the era too. I can hang with the impossible car jump out of the fourth story of an exploding building, but I struggle with the blue screen mid-air “fasten your seatbelt” quip. You see that and you can believe it was the same years as DIE HARD 2, it’s just like the most questionable moments in that one. The funny lines don’t seem so spontaneous when they’re looped over a special effects shot.

There are some cliches in this. I mean, you know how it is. You got a bunch of motorcycles and one of them you really like but you gave up on getting it running years ago. And then Charlie Sheen sits on it, reaches underneath and just twists something with his hand and whaddyaknow, the fuckin thing starts up instantly. This is how most men become friends, through the one-twist engine repair.

I don’t mind that one, but it does have one of my pet peeve cliches, the ol’ leads-repeat-each-other’s-dialogue-later-in-different-contexts move. And it has the even harder to take version of that phenomenon: the entire scene that repeats itself at the end with the roles switched around. It made me actually wish for the depressing ending hinted at earlier.

A more serious problem is that about 85% of the movie takes place at night, so the action scenes are harder to make out than they should be. This must’ve looked like shit on pan and scan VHS. Maybe that’s part of why this movie has a bad reputation. Also because it was the one he did before UNFORGIVEN, so he was at that aging action star stage where people enjoy snidely assuming everything you do is trash. Anyway the constant darkness is one big stylistic difference from the sun-drenched DIRTY HARRY movies.

And this is no DIRTY HARRY. It’s not one of Clint’s better ones, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s got alot of impressive car stunts and funny moments like the bad guys’ bemused “this fuckin guy” reaction to Clint driving right into the back of their car carrier during a chase. It’s some kind of unholy union of cheesy ’80s cop movie and something more distinctive. It gets real weird and I gotta say I did not expect the Sonia Braga assault. And I was really impressed that Clint and his screenwriters were able to give Sheen a shocking shift to badassness. Definitely the most badass scene in the movie is all him, Clint’s not even there.

(Careful, I’m about to spoil the best part)

When Ackerman really needs to take it up a notch to save Pulovski he goes into this bar and nobody’s giving him the information he wants. I expected him to go Dirty and rough some people up. I did not expect him to abruptly blow flames in the bartender’s face, shoot a whole bunch of people, throw one fighting dog and fill another one with lead, and burn the entire building to the ground. Not only is it hilariously overboard but it’s all masterfully set up in earlier scenes: the geography of the bar, the prior humiliation by the people there, the dog fights in the back room, even the possession of the lighter (to light Pulovski’s cigars). I love this type of carefully constructed action scene. They build the foundation before they put up the building. Not everybody bothers with the foundation, so I respect that.

Therefore let me be the first person in history to tip somebody’s hat to the writers of this one, Scott Spiegel and Boaz Yakin. Those are the guys who wrote FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2. Spiegel helped write EVIL DEAD 2 and Yakin directed this movie called FRESH that I’ll be reviewing next. He also wrote the Lundgren version of THE PUNISHER but says the producer just kept the plot and rewrote everything else. Maybe the bar scene was some of the leftover punishment that didn’t make it into that movie.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 12th, 2010 at 11:27 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

67 Responses to “The Rookie”

  1. Vern – I have to disagree with you here. I’m surprised you didn’t mention that story* about how Clint basically did ROOKIE (originally could have been the 6th DIRTY HARRY adventure) so WB would produce his WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART. That one kicks ass.

    But THE ROOKIE sucks ass. See, that’s a AICN Talkbacker worthy witty segway. It’s not a good studio big budget actioneer. It’s not even a good dumb lovable silly action extravaganza you would expect from that time. Didn’t anyone else laugh at that whole “childhood tragedy” sequence the way it was executed? That’s velvetta cheese right there.

    Hell Vern, there is even a poorly shot/edited sequence (uncharacteristic for Eastwood) I’m kinda shocked you didn’t bring up. You know the one with Eastwood/Sheen being “chased” by the airplane at night. At least I don’t think you mentioned it.

    If I remember right, they split up from the plane chasing them. Except with the narrative constructed, it seems like the plane is hounding them both IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT BOTH GUYS ARE RUNNING AWAY IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS! I mean what the hell? Were there two planes? Did it have a twin plane?

    Ultimately THE ROOKIE is alot like PINK CADILLAC which came out around that same time. Just Eastwood working another job, applying his time-honored action/comedy formula without as much creativity or attention paid to the stunts or jokes. His heart’s not in it. That’s why they’re quickly forgotten, and hardly brought up today except by your Eastwood completists. Like me and you and Mr. M and others at this websight. Forgettable, utterly disposable, and not exactly rewatchable.

    What makes ROOKIE even more unbearable in retrospect, consider what Eastwood’s next movie he directed was: UNFORGIVEN.

    *=I read a story somewhere, been trying to confirm for years, that ROOKIE originally ended with Eastwood getting killed and thus fulfill that whole passing the torch shit to the guy getting $1.5 million an episode to play a stereotype of himself. But WB thought they had another LETHAL WEAPON-type franchise at the house so rewrite!

  2. This was direct-to-vhs here and it was definately too dark to enjoy. Prolly amplified watching it during the day on a crap TV from the 60s. I been meanin to give it another chance so this is good motivation.

    Charlie Sheen was definately more badasss in the movie he did I think mebbe only a year later, one of my favourite films Fixing the Shadow.

  3. so have you given up on the Cronenberg marathon Vern?

  4. The Rookie is great fun. A big crazy action movie with Clint and from Clint.
    Clint gets a Blowjob, Charlie Sheen kills dudes left and right, I love the scene when he saves Lara Flynn Boyle from being choked to death…
    In my opinion The Rookie is vastly underrated and it deserves to be discovered again.
    It sure is miles better then Predator 2 or Another 48 hours.
    Thnks Vern.

  5. One of Clint´s worst movies, but even Clint´s bad movies are better than most so-so movies.

  6. “it does have one of my pet peeve cliches, the ol’ leads-repeat-each-other’s-dialogue-later-in-different-contexts move. And it has the even harder to take version of that phenomenon: the entire scene that repeats itself at the end with the roles switched around.”

    Damn, that’s that thing that they did at the end of “X-Men” that was one of the many, many things that annoyed me about the last twenty minutes or so of X-Men, when before that it’d been great. For some reason I didn’t mind it here. Perhaps because I’m willing to give this film a lot more leeway. (Don’t ask why, but I kinda enjoyed it, I guess. It’s no “Dirty Harry” but I don’t think it’s as bad as some people would suggest. And if that isn’t damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is.)

  7. Dunno if u can link in here, but this UK show Monkey Dust had a series of “Jerry Brickhammer Productions” where they brutally skewer Hollywood cliches and politics.

    the repeating dialogue thing was one of their many targets :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xJq1f_8bw4

  8. Drew McWeeny had a story on AICN long ago (in his unfinished best and worst of the 90’s piece) about attending a screening of this film, with Clint sitting nearby. From what I recall, Drew hated it, which didn’t help when Clint looked over to him as the credits rolled and asked him for his thoughts. At this point, I don’t remember whether he bullshitted him or told him the truth.

  9. firefox was good.
    think russian, bitches!

  10. It’s kinda weird that they tried a few times to make an action star out of Charlie Sheen during the early 90’s. (The Rookie, Navy Seals, Terminal Velocity and there were maybe a few more that I forgot) Not just even today’s point of view.

  11. charlie sheen is half michael j fox, half michael madsen.

  12. Griff – there will be a little more Cronenberg, but I got some other things to catch up on first.

  13. Steve Guttenberg even tried to be a badass action star a few times…
    http://images.starpulse.com/AMGPhotos/dvd/cov150/drt200/t216/t21612g23de.jpg
    After all the Mortal Kombat coverage and now doing a Raul Julia movie, maybe Vern could segue to a STREET FIGHTER review? I’d love to hear his take on bonkers and cartoony that gets the further into it you go.

  14. Oh yeah, the first Street Fighter movie! I remember when I saw it for the first time when I was teenager and HATED it. But then I saw it a few months ago again on TV and for any reason really enjoyed it*. Especially Raul Julia’s Mega Acting (Yes, I’m sure he knew what he was doing) and even the silly jokes, like the “Godzilla” scene.

    *Although this is another example of a movie that uses tasteless real life footage. If I remember right, you even see footage of a man getting shot in the head.

  15. This review brings up a very important question for me. How long ago did Vern watch The Rookie? The output that he does is astounding. Those Scanner reviews came up really quickly. I highly doubt he watched them all in a row, with breaks to write awesome reviews. I suspect that Vern watched the Scanners movies throughout 2008. He’s just now getting to them because he’s watched a million movies since then. Plus, he has to stop whenever a new Seagal movie comes out so he can review that. Although, I do have a sneaking suspicion that he gets rough cuts of Seagal movies before they’re even made so he can get the review up before it reaches the video store.

  16. “Especially Raul Julia’s Mega Acting”

    “For you, the day Bison came to your village was the most important day of your life. For me…it was tuesday”

  17. My theory about The Rookie is that it’s sort of Eastwood’s version of a Joel Silver movie (Stallone was probably attempting the same thing with Tango and Cash). I’d say it’s about on par with Predator 2 and Another 48 Hours.

  18. Also, if I remember correctly, Moriarty tried to bullshit Eastwood, but Eastwood wasn’t having it. He looked at Moriarty and something like “Yeah, right.” and walked off.

  19. I can’t wait for your review of Fresh.

  20. There are two versions of that story that Moriarty tells: in 1) Clint asked him what he thought and Moriarty bullshitted him about liking it, Clint looked him up and down and said simply, “Yeeaahh right” in a really Clint-y way, and in 2) Eastwood asked him what he thought, Drew struggled for a little while to figure out something to say, and Clint just shook his head and said, “Me neither” and walked away.

  21. street fighter entertains me, and an entertaining movie is a good movie.
    2001: a space oddessy is the same, a good movie.
    unforgiven, dark knight, superman: tmp, branded to kill, the quiet family, akira, the professional? good.

    the rookie had its moments, but id didn’t enterain me last time I saw it.

    thats my way of deciding a good movie, not if its popular, not if vern likes it, not if shitcase cinema http://tinyurl.com/2e24jde likes it, but if I like it.

  22. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    June 13th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Always enjoyed The Rookie, and this review made take time off my not-so-busy schedule to rewatch it. Still lots of fun, but this is the kind of movie Eastwood can make blindfolded. He probably did as well, but whatever. A couple of things I had forgotten/didn´t know:
    1. Xander Berkely is a henchman is this!
    2. Paul Ben-Victor, of The Wire and John From Cincinatti “fame”, is in this, as Little Felix. He´s pretty funny too.

    The subplot about Charlie Sheen´s brother – straight out of a generic biopic a la Ray or Walk the Line – is pretty terrible. It´s kind of funny though; the opening scene made me laugh, as the did the BIG EMOTIONAL SCENE with Sheen and Tom Skerritt.

    This is actually one of four films starring both Raul Julia and Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman is the only other one I´ve seen – very good). Sadly, Street Fighter is not one of those four. Sonia Braga must have passed on that one. I´d love to hear your take on it Vern, I always liked it.

  23. Rudolf Klein-Rogge – I think ROOKIE might just very well be Eastwood’s worst directed film.

  24. Should I just shut up, or should I go there? Aw, why not. Maybe it will lead to a stimulating discussion.

    Am I the only one who considers Eastwood’s “classic” visual style muddy and indifferent? His films are often ugly and slapped-together looking. He shoots first draft scripts whether they’re ready or not, and once every decade or so he stumbles over an UNFORGIVEN, executes it well enough and it all works out. Then he coasts and cranks out more junk.

    As an actor, he has two modes: overly broad and stiff. He can squint, snarl, scowl and growl, basically. I still remember his feeble attempts to act nervous in FIREFOX. Painful.

    He IS an icon, and has undeniable presence and star-quality, and when a director like Leone or Siegel gets ahold of him, he can be very effective. (Then again, OUaTitW worked just fine with Bronson, and I’ll bet DIRTY HARRY would have been just as good with, say, Marvin or McQueen.) But when he tries to go outside of his range and act, it’s embarrassing (WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART).

    And there are very few of his films as director that I really value or even find all that entertaining. I’m completely mystified when people call him a master or put him in the same league as Scorsese. Don’t they have EYES? Yes, he means well, but I see him as Roger Corman with access to better material.

    It’s an “emperor has no clothes” situation for me. I just don’t get it. I know that to many of you this this makes me sound like Paul running down Cronenberg, but there it is.

  25. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    June 13th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Possibly, though my vote would go to True Crime. Firefox is a runner-up, though unlike True Crime that one is at least fairly enjoyable.

  26. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    June 13th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    That last comment was made in reply to RRA, by the way…

  27. Rudolf Klein-Rogge – Makes sense. TRUE CRIME isn’t one of his better ones and the climax isn’t that tight or suspenseful. I classify that one more like his other pulp novel movies like BLOOD WORK and ABSOLUTE POWER.

    As for FIREFOX, I kinda liked it. Little too long perhaps, and the FX hasn’t aged that well. But you get some effective spy thriller moments that maybe attracted Eastwood in the first place. Like that scene at the bathroom.

    Still say ROOKIE is his worst. Then again, never saw BREEZY.

  28. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    June 13th, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    RRA – BREEZY is allright. Uncharacteristic for Eastwood, and fairly forgettable. Very dated with all the flowerpower stuff, if I remember correctly, but it stars William Holden, which is always a plus.

    I agree about the ending of TRUE CRIME. Did you ever see Altman´s THE PLAYER? Made 7 years before TRUE CRIME, but I´d still say it satirizes the latters ending. The rest of TRUE CRIME isn´t much better. Apart from the witty banter between Eastwood and James Woods, that film has nothing going for it. Not believable for one second, and Eastwood – as an actor – seems to be phoning it in. The only other time he seemed to be doing that was in PINK CADILLAC.

    Agree with the comparison with BLOOD WORK and ABSOLUTE POWER. Workmanlike genre filmmaking, but nothing more. POWER is easily the best of the three, with some solid suspense and a very good supporting cast. BLOOD WORK is not much better that TRUE CRIME though, in my opinion, but much more fun. One look at the cast list, and you can tell who the villain is, etc. Very predictable.

  29. What CJ said. Street Fighter review please!! I’ve been waiting for that one for the longest time. Also you might want to check out the hilarious Steven E. de Souza commentary out. You thought Michael Mann commentaries are boring and pretentious. Oh boy.

  30. Fuck STREET FIGHTER. Bad movie, not even Raul Julia and his mega acting can redeem the rest of that bullshit. What next, you all demand a MORTAL KOMBAT review? Come on guys.

    Rudolf Klein-Rogge – I like that THE PLAYER comparison.

  31. Segway is spelled segue? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. That explains so much.

    RRA- Not a bad idea at all. Street Fighter/ Mortal Kombat double feature please!!

  32. what do you guys think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil?

    I live an hour away from Savannah Georgia and I love to visit it, it’s a really cool place, I’ve been to actual mansion where Jim Williams lived (I’ve also been to the exact spot where the filmed the famous Forrest Gump “life is like a box of chocolates” scene, there is no bench there believe it or not)

    anyway the movie I thought did a good job at capturing Savannah

  33. I need to get around to watching MIDNIGHT because its quite a fascinating movie within Clint’s filmography. Last few years he’s able to make a movie without necessarily needing to star himself to get that project greenlighted. That’s good.

    But back in the day, it was a bitch. BREEZY went and left theatres both quicker and quieter than a mouse’s fart. Appropriate for the title. Fifteen years later, BIRD got respectable critical reviews but got plucked in theatres. MIDNIGHT came out about what 9 years after that? And didn’t do shit.

    I mean MYSTIC RIVER was when Clint finally got proper mainstream respect as a director if you ask me, which he didn’t score even after UNFORGIVEN. And was able to now make movies without his mug. Not just a guy who made his own actioneers and westerns, but also dramas and shit.

    Of course the rest of us here knew that already, but still its smugging gratification when everybody else comes up the rear to join you.

  34. Brendan and WS – Thanks guys. I only remembered so much of that story, but the “Me neither” version sounds like the one I had read.

  35. frankbooth,
    gran tourismo did look washed out, but that may have been a choice to represent the bland suburbs
    unforgiven seems really crisp and colourful to me, iwojima, river and flags looked like he forgot to take the blue gel filter off when he borrowed the cameras from james cameron, bird didn’t look bad, but I’m talkin’ bout photos and stills there.
    workmanlike for like forty years is pretty good.
    as for his acting, yeah he is kind of in a postion where if he tried something after being known as dirty harry the public probably wouldn’t care, though I could be wrong, as his man/orangutan love movies were huge hits.
    he picks and writes great scripts, though.

  36. and after street fighter the movie, we need to get a review of little hercules in 3d.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IUjZ-Pbyn0
    it has hulk hogan as Zeus, who can appear in a toilet bowl to talk to his son.

  37. and a very, very unhappy looking elliott gould.

  38. I’m honestly not trying to stir shit up just to do it, but I did expect more impassioned responses. Unless my stance on this one just beneath contempt, and you’re all too embarrassed for me to even reply.

    edc — you’re talking mostly about color. I’m trying to remember a memorable or striking shot or composition from one of his films, and I can’t do it. “Workmanlike” and “gets it in the can” could also apply to Peter Hyams — but no one calls him a legend. It it really just the coolness of his screen characters carrying over? “If we continue to lionize Clint, we’ll get to breathe the same air as Dirty Harry and The Man With No Name during junkets. Maybe I can even get my picture taken with him!”

  39. Does anyone remember, at the time, it seemed to be the critical consensus that Altman and Eastwood should switch fiims (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil vs. The Gingerbread Man). It’s funny now, since no one really talks about either film in regard to their director’s respective, well, retrospectives. But that was the thought of the intelligentsia at the time.

    By the way, in response to other criticisms, Clint has always bought the cheaper dark meat, but, what I love about the ‘director’s’ stature in films, is that what we really respond to, or don’t, is the attitude of the director. It might be a simple choice of a wide shot as opposed to a close up, but something so small can betray the POV of the director (at least of a talented one who has something to say).

    Clint is one of those rare ones who’s POV we can actually identify, understand, or virulently disagree with. He’s a guy who communicates himself with movies.

  40. I think THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, PALE RIDER and UNFORGIVEN are all gorgeous films. In fact they are far closer to my idea of great eye candy than the DOLLARS trilogy. Curiously, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER doesn’t look particularly good, although that was an early effort, and I’m guessing a cheaper and certainly meaner western. WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (possibly his best film as a director IMO) is also gorgeous. THE EIGER SANCTION and BLOOD WORK do a couple of interesting things with lighting. Outside of those, I don’t find him to be an at all interesting director visually, but then that’s true of most directors. Some of his films, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL comes to mind, could have used a director with a more interesting visual style. I guess I agree that he’s sort of a journeyman, but then he obviously takes an interest in and has an enthusiasm for his projects which transcends what we would normally call the journeyman attitude. I guess he would be the action/western/oscar bait equivelent of someone like Wes Craven; maybe not strictly an auteur, but too invested in his material to really call a journeyman.

    I’m not sure about THE ROOKIE. I don’t think it really works as a complete movie, but I also think three or four of the individual set pieces are great, and there’s the odd good line here or there. Like oh so many Eastwood movies, it would have been much better if it were 15-30 minutes shorter.

  41. I have a particular fondness for his films with the D.P. Bruce Surtees. A real prince of darkness.

  42. Die Hard 2 better then The Rookie? Die Hard 2 is one of the worst, most retard bad movie i ever seen in my life, in the pre-Michael Bay years. Renny Harlin never made a good movie in his life. He was Bay before Bay. The Rookie might not be a great movie, it certainly is not even a genre classic, but that’s no reason to disrespect it by putting it lower then that atrocious piece of shit that is Die Hard 2.

  43. Asimov – Even worse than RAMBO 3?

  44. Jareth Cutestory

    June 14th, 2010 at 8:58 am

    frankbooth: Have you ever seen DJANGO? Eastwood fans often use Franco Nero’s performance to demonstrate Eastwood’s very similar but more nuanced performance of a similar character in the Dollars movies. Eastwood has the faintest glimmer of mischief that most other actors in his genre don’t have, save maybe a younger Harrison Ford.

    Did you not find that his performance in MILLION DOLLAR BABY played against type quite well, hinting at vulnerabily, fear of mortality, et cetera?

    As you know, “efficiency and restraint” are the words that always come up when people discuss Eastwood’s directing. Maybe it’s a fine line between “restraint” and “indifferent.”

    The films of one of my favorite directors, Tsai Ming-liang, often get called “ugly and slapped-together looking” (among other, far worse descriptions); I’m not sure I’m able to explain very well why I like his visual style so much. I am fairly confident, though, that if Tsai Ming-liang’s films were given a more lush, Ang Lee-like treatment, it would completely obliterate the themes and purpose of the films; none of the small acts of rebellion and transcendance would have any resonance if given that kind of depiction. Maybe something similar is happening in Eastwood’s films.

  45. DIE HARD 2 and RAMBO 3 are certainly not high points in their respective franchises, but they’re hardly bottom of the barrel action fare; they’re both lavishly mounted and skilfully executed effots.

    Harlin is not another Bay, he’s a journeyman (or if you want to be nasty a hack) in the extreme, but that at least means he’s free of the kind of obnoxious trademarks that Bay has, and unlike Bay he can both stage and shoot a coherent action scene, or at least once could

    RAMBO 3 is surprisingly dull though, that I’ll grant you.

  46. I like some of Eastwood’s generic get-the-job-done movies, like Blood Work or True Crime, more than his super-serious, critically-acclaimed “films” like Mystic River. (Am I the only one who fucking hated that movie? Yes? Ok, sorry.) The one exception I would make is Unforgiven which really is as good as everybody says.

    Maybe you just have to be in the right mood to watch them, but their relaxed, confidently professional, not particularly in-your-face quality is kind of refreshing after seeing so much motion blur, pseudo nerve jangling, anti-thought, every-scene-is-a-climax nonsense. Or maybe I’m just getting old. But, it seems like we’re in a time when film-makers aren’t even expected to exhibit basic competence, when, in fact, they might actually be hated for it. So, I think we could use a few more well-made but unmemorable B movies, just for sanity’s sake.

  47. Yeah, The Rookie is one of Clint’s most underrated films. It’s an awesome buddy cop movie with great dialog (“The true meaning of the word criminal is the sonofabitch who painted this car!”) and lots of cool moments (I like the part where they drive out the top window of the exploding warehouse). Chuck Sheen is also aces in it too. Vern, if you happen to do a Sheen marathon, definitely check out Terminal Velocity and/or the criminally neglected Under Pressure.

  48. Ok, I think we can all agree that “Rambo 3” is tripe, but what on earth did “Die Hard 2” do to get such a bashing? I agree it’s not a patch on the original, and the ending is a bit anti-climactic, but it’s very far from being terrible IMO.

    WS – I think Vern made the same point when referencing “Blood and Bone” and “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”. Both of which are excellent films by any standards IMO.

  49. I think Rambo III has enough awesome moments (the opening stickfight, gunpowder through the torso, “God forgives, he won’t”, “Fuck ’em!”, Frank Stalllone’s cover of “He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother)”, etc.) to escape being utter tripe. But yeah, it’s pretty boring as a whole. Why is that? Any theories?

  50. Majestyk- I think it’s just the fact that Rambo 3 is basically a remake of the second one, except with worse dialogue, worse acting, a less interesting setting (seriously, desert environments not filmed by David Lean are among the most boring to look at possible) and even shadier politics.

  51. Brendan – I’ll also add that the original director of RAMBO 3 was Russell Mulcahy (HIGHLANDER) but he got fired weeks before production after he and Sly couldn’t agree and the DP took over, having never helmed before, on that super big budget blockbuster tentpole release. Don’t know if that guy ever directed again after that*.

    Thing is guys, I think RAMBO III sucks (Part II not as much, but still giving head) but give Sly credit, I liked the the whole Afghanistan/Vietnam parallel. Sure its heavyhanded and horrendously not aged well, but for 1988 its a good idea to explore. Well if Sly actually did exploire it instead of doing Part 2 mixed with Part 1. I mean dear Lord as much as I despise the Soviet Union and don’t mind Americans blowing those fuckers up like crickets….the USSR military wasn’t that fucking pathetic in the face of one super badass and a whole horde of horseback riders with convenient timing.

    Of course the best bit about R3 was that it came out after the USSR left Afghanistan. Talk about missing the boat Sly.

    (Also, the fifth RAMBO should be John Rambo taking on the cartels who’re raging war on the Mexican government. And winning.)

    *=Wikipedia said he later directed MO MONEY, NEVERENDING STORY 2, and some NBC TV movie.

  52. My two cents on the whole Rambo 3 debate: It’s a good action movie and all but as a Rambo movie, it’s somewhat lacking. Rambo doesn’t really seem like Rambo in this one. He’s got way too much dialogue and makes dumb one liners; something Rambo should never do. Plus, Afghanistan just doesn’t have the same resonance as Vietnam (well, in ’88 that is) leaving you with nothing but the “I gotta rescue Trautman” plot to hang your hat on. Still, McDonald hits all the action beats nicely and the dead goat game is a neat little scene (it almost seems like a warm up to the football scene in Lock-Up).

  53. Jack Burton – What would you cite as “bad” action movies from Hollywood late 1980s?

  54. Gonna join in on the Rambo 3 discussion. I think you guys forgot about the villians in Rambo 2 and 3. Steven Berkoff was a great villian in Rambo 2. Great mixture of slimeyness and intelligence while also being dangerous. The villian in 3, who’s name I don’t even know or remember (which should tell you something right there), just wasn’t as cool of a villian. Completely unmemorable. The villian in 3 just seemed like an angry brute. Also, there’s so many classic scenes in 2 while the only classic scene in 3 is the opening stick fight. The final 15-20 minutes of 2, where rambo is in the helicopter and just completely destroys the POW camp and everyone in it, is just fuckin awesome. Also, 2 was partially written by james cameron.

  55. Oh yeah. And I really like the Rookie. Its up there with Heartbreak Ridge as far as Clint directed time wasters go. One of those movies you watch as you surf the internet.

  56. ThomasCrown442 – Before reading the James Cameron script, I thought RAMBO 2 was surprisingly poorly made and even cheap looking for a big budget actioneer of that time.

    After reading it, RAMBO 2 annoys me even more. If RAMBO 2 abandoned alot of the cool intelligent touches in the whole How-to-be-green-beret commando stuff, or Vietnam in your Backyard, Cameron kept that approach and its pretty awesome. Hell even that Asian wench’s death is better executed and more moving than in the movie. The bureaucrat-villain is better crafted, more believable, and yes even more slimey.

    Only negative might be the corny STAR WARS reference/joke Cameron makes with his “computer expert” who was going to be Rambo’s partner in that whole shit. Some of you will moan at the idea itself, but I dunno its a nice comparison of the grunt killing machine and the technophile intelligent but cluess military bureaucracy that still around even today. Technology is nice, but it can never replicate kicking ass. Even Arnold gets destroyed in every TERMINATOR movie.

    You know those Army and Air Force commercials selling off the sci-fi cool stuff they’re employing? Then why the fuck we still stuck in nearly a decade of war in two countries against fucking mountain people or sheep herders with the total milita military budget of five bucks and still wipe their ass with their left hand?

    On the other plus, an awesome opening where instead of a rock quarry Rambo was basically shipped off and locked up at the mental institution wing of a VA hospital. He’s so feared, he’s isolated down in the basement. BADASS.

    Interestingly, Sly reused some ideas for RAMBO 4 featured in the Cameron draft but abandoned for RAMBO 2 like Rambo being part of a military team on a mission. Interesting.

  57. I guess, for me, it goes back to that argument of good vs. entertaining. On a technical level, Rambo 1 is better than rambo 2. Just a better made movie all around. On an entertainment level, Rambo 2 is better than rambo 1. I would rather watch Rambo 2 multiple times. Rambo 3 on the other hand, is neither good nor entertaining. It would’ve been interesting had 2 been filmed using Cameron’s script though. Still, I think i would have still preferred the “One man defeats the entire country of Vietnam and some soviets” approach that it ended up being. I guess i’m just bloodthirsty when it comes to rambo. Then again, it could have been a merge of everything that was awesome in 1 and everything that was awesome in 2.

  58. RRA: That’s a tough question because nowadays I find myself nostalgic for any cheesy 80’s action flick. (It’s sorta like 50’s monster movies, even the bad ones are still pretty good.) Any Arnold, Sly, or Bruce action flick from the era gets a free pass by me (their comedies are a different story). Heck I’d even take the worst Golan Globus movie over the shaky-cam-ccentric actioners of today. I guess I could name my favorites just so you can gauge my tastes: Big Trouble in Little China, Road Warrior, Robocop, Commando, Rambo 2, Rocky 3 & 4, Death Wish 3, Terminator, Escape from New York, The Killer, Tango and Cash, Road House, Cobra, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Ninja, and The Exterminator. Sorry if that doesn’t help much…

  59. Jack: I’m with you. Something about eighties action just pushes the happy button in my brain. Whether the movies are good or bad, it’s a Pavlovian reaction that’s beyond critical thought.

  60. Mr. M – That’s called nostalgia.

    Jack Burton – So? I liked alot of those movies you listed too, yet apparently I’m too high brow for dismissing RAMBO 2/3 and THE ROOKIE.

    Just wait until kids today grow up and whine that everything was fucking good made in “good ole days” with Bay and BOURNE and all that jazz. Because hey it hit a happy button for them.

    Just wait.

  61. I remember not liking Rambo 3 when I saw it at the age of 10 in the theater but after re-watching it on DVD when I bought the 3 pack, I’d say it’s a low grade Three Stars movie. Why the change in heart? Maybe it was the lowered expectations, maybe it was that I watched in at 2 in the morning, or maybe it was nostalgia. I’m leaning towards the latter. It’s funny though because movies I thought were crap as a kid I now love as an adult just for the cheese factor. Take No Retreat, No Surrender. When you’re 10, it’s just a shitty kickboxing movie. But as an adult, it’s a great time capsule of Jerhi Curls and acid washed jeans. You know it’s awful, but any movie that can blatantly rip off Rocky 4, Breakin’, any given After School Special, and Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave is something special in my book.

  62. RRA: By then movies will be beamed directly into your cerebral cortex with a laser, so they’ll be nostalgic for the days when you actually had to look at a movie, even when you couldn’t see what was happening. And really, what’s wrong with that? It’s not my thing, but it’s their thing. I’m sure people who came up in the sixties and seventies never thought that anyone would ever be nostalgic for the cheesy eighties action movie. But here we are. Most of the trends that “ruined” cinema seem fairly inconsequential with enough hindsight. Even Vern recanted his “the eighties are the worst decade ever” stance. The world keeps turning. Movies keep being made. Most of them suck. That’s just the way it is.

  63. But keep your sense of humor and a healthy sense of perspective and you might survive.

  64. Vern, you ever see Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil?

    Not a bad little film.

  65. frankbooth – I respect your opinion, you are after all ‘telling it like It Is’, and while I was talking about colour, I should have mentioned the scene that spoke out to me in unfogiven would be the yellow green of the ground against the blue sky in the scene where morgan freeman and the younger guy talk about his needing glasses, I thought it was done excellently, not to mention the scenes of the little weasel writer in the jail, or the rainy town with freeman’s character lynched.
    I respect the slow and steady apect of his films that I have seen.

  66. The Stone Killer

    June 18th, 2010 at 2:08 am

    @ odo19

    When I first found out about the whole “segue/segway” thing my whole version of reality was shattered. In fact I thought “segue” was pronounced “seyg” and was an entirely different word from “segway” to be used in a similar but slightly different context. As in “the interviewer and the subject were able to segue (pronounced seyg) from topic to topic with great ease”. Totally random digression but it has been haunting me ever since.

  67. Utter nit-picking here, but I sort of disagree about your comment that ANOTHER 48 HOURS has no jazz in the music. The lead instrument in much of James Horner’s score is a saxophone, but there are actually some whammy-bar antics on the guitar too. It’s an eclectic grouping of styles for a big sequel, then again much of it was a remake of the score to the original which had much more of a Schifrin feel to it.

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