So once again we have survived.

The Mechanic (2011 remake)

tn_mechanicI got mixed feelings about some sucker remaking a Charles Bronson movie. On one hand it’s obviously foolish, because no man has ever been discovered who could stand toe-to-toe with Bronson in badass presence. It doesn’t matter who you get to star, unless maybe Lee Marvin is alive again, or Clint is interested in remaking old Michael Winner movies. Barring that, anybody’s gonna pale in comparison.

On the other hand, alot of Bronson’s movies are (by design) pretty formulaic, they’re all about taking the type of basic situations you’d want to see Charles Bronson in and then putting Charles Bronson in them. Therefore if you do have a new action icon to star in some movies, these are the types of movies you might want to try to put him in. And Jason Statham isn’t a bad candidate, in my opinion.
Statham is some weird hybrid of different types of action icons. He has Bruce Willis’s hairline and working man features. But he also tends to wear expensive suits, or pretty boy shit that’s tapered to emphasize his physique. (He wears a high-necked sweater in this thing that no other Expendable could get away with.) Like the Van Damme generation he has martial arts skills (although he doesn’t use them here). With his weirdly sloped shoulders he even has a more regular-sized version of The Rock’s cartoonish super hero body. His face can sell tough, world-weary, street smart, heartless bastard exterior, actually-he’s-a-sweetheart interior. Doesn’t seem to have alot of range, but can always pull off this one type of character.

If there’s gonna be a new Bronson obviously it’s gotta be Danny Trejo, but I do believe Statham is the closest thing we have to a consistent modern international action icon outside of Asia. He dips his toes into other types of roles, but he really seems like his main interest is action movies, and he keeps them coming every year.

You know I hate the fuckin CRANK movies, and I only really liked part 2 of the TRANSPORTER series, but I have to give him respect. He has created a persona and style in those movies plus DEATH RACE, THE EXPENDABLES and very slightly more respectable studio movies like THE ITALIAN JOB and THE BANK JOB. So now just like there’s something you expect from “a Charles Bronson movie” you have an idea what to expect from “a Jason Statham movie.” And THE MECHANIC (remake) is a pretty good version of a Jason Statham movie, the kind that’s more on the serious side and not cartoony trying to be goofy all the time.

mp_mechanicSo I’m not offended by it. I just think it would be smarter to make a ripoff of THE MECHANIC that’s about the same basic thing instead of taking the title and forcing us to compare them. I mean, the opening assassination scene in this remake is pretty cool, so it’s too bad I have to compare it against the way better 16 minute dialogue-free opening of the original.

It’s actually a more faithful remake than many these days, including DEATH RACE. They use the same basic situation and character names. The protagonist is still Arthur Bishop, an elite assassin for an international organization, who lives a friendless and isolated life because of his dedication to his craft. As in the original he has a nice house and listens to classical music on vinyl (and man, he has a nice turntable). He still kills his boss, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland instead of Keenan Wynn) and then meets the boss’s douchebag son Steve (Ben Foster from HOSTAGE and 3:10 TO YUMA instead of Jan Michael Vincent – an improvement, despite bad facial hair) and takes him on as an apprentice, getting himself in trouble with the organization. The training and killings are different, but that’s the fun of it. You want to see some new shit, right?

I’m not clear how the writing worked on this one. They credit the original writer Lewis John Carlino as if he co-wrote it, not a “based on a previous screenplay by” credit. They also credit Richard Wenk, the writer-director of VAMP, that weird new wave vampire movie starring Grace Jones. The director is Simon West, who did CON AIR, so until I had a whim and went to see it this morning I really wasn’t planning to. CON AIR was one of the first movies that I hated for having indecipherable camerawork and editing, and I’ve never heard anybody claim his movies got better after that.

Well, I’m not sure if he’s improving or not, it’s been so long since I’ve seen CON AIR it probly seems tame compared to the gibberish it paved the way for. But he sure hasn’t picked up a crisp and clear new style. Any of the kinetic action scenes – fights or chases – are garbled post-action, too many edits and not clear enough camera work, like you’d expect from a pioneer of forever-ruining-the cinematic-language-of-action-films. Not the worst ever, but not excusable. Not completely useless, but hardly very useful.

Luckily, in between action scenes the style is pretty calm and straightforward. The movie survives because most of it’s not about that – it’s about these two characters, their inevitably doomed friendship, and the clever plans they put in place to kill people. And it has several little emotional moments that worked for me – between Bishop and McKenna when the shit goes down, between Bishop and Steve when Steve is opening up about his father’s death, between Bishop and a really beautiful prostitute (you know how they have those in movies) during the awkward morning after. Also, the things Steve does that reveal how fucked up he is are pretty effective. Foster is good at playing a dude who goes too far.

I did miss the original’s signs that Bishop was an emotional wreck because of what he does. Bronson’s Bishop took anti-depressants and always carried around a ball of wax that he would squeeze when he was stressed out. It doesn’t have to be the same thing, but I think Statham could stand a little of that vulnerability. Gives you character. Also there’s a distressing lack of motorcycle chases and lip-reading in this one.

But I did feel a little bit of an emotional attachment to the characters by the end, so the best part to me was the tension and sadness between them as they sat in a truck together, neither acknowledging that one is about to try to kill the other. The script does a good job of waiting until the end for Steve to give a couple lines about his emotional state (he has anger in him that he’s able to purge by doing these assassinations) and Foster delivers it well enough to work. I don’t think I saw it this way in the original, but I like how Steve going back to Bishop’s house at the end sort of signals that Bishop became a father to him. He complained that his real father wasn’t there for him and that he didn’t inherit anything from him. But he tries to inherit Bishop’s house, car, and musical tastes. Not the greatest son in the world, I guess.

One difference from the original (if I remember right) is that they actually call him a “mechanic,” and make up an explanation for using that term. And I guess you could say he’s literally a mechanic since he has an old car he’s fixing up. Another difference is that this is produced by Millennium Films, so it has a port of call New Orleans to take advantage of post-Katrina tax incentives.

THE MECHANIC is pretty solid. Don’t take that too lightly, because “pretty solid” is better than most action movies these days. Still, early in the movie I felt the possibility that it could be something more.

Let me explain to you how this movie gained my trust and then betrayed me. Early in the movie Bishop goes to meet with his boss, a guy with a wedding band, and between me and you I’m guessing he’s not the nice family man he outwardly appears to be. That’s just a theory. The boss keeps Bishop waiting as he stays in his limo talking to his teenage daughter on the phone. Bishop stands with a bodyguard, a big guy with a Super Bowl-type ring that says “World Champion” on it.

“Nice ring. I’d like to get one like that,” Arthur says.

“You can’t,” the bodyguard says arrogantly. “Unless you’re a world champion.”

To me, this is a potentially great action movie moment because of what it tells you and what it makes you ask. What it tells you is that Bishop’s boss is hard to get at. He has a big bodyguard who doesn’t seem to like Bishop and who has an elite skill of some kind, so elite that he is actually the world champion of it. And the fact that the movie is telling you this also tells you that Bishop is gonna have to get at his boss at some point, and he’s gonna have to get through the champ.

What it makes you ask is, obviously, what is this guy the world champion of? Probly not boxing, because they got a belt for that. Maybe a specific martial art, judo or kenpo karate or something. Or greco-roman wrestling. I’m definitely thinking it’s a fighting sport.

It doesn’t matter what the answer is (unless it turns out to be kayaking or something). This information, and this question, make an action movie promise. They say hello audience, I would like you to know that toward the end of this movie Jason Statham is gonna have to pit his skills against a world champion fighter. It will be a difficult and awesome fight, but somehow he will win. And it is definitely very possible that after defeating the champ he will take his ring. He said he wanted one, after all, and if he beat him wouldn’t that sort of make him the world champion? Not officially, but off the books at least?

I like when a movie makes a promise like this. I keep it in my head, anticipating it. At some point I forget about it, until something reminds me, and I think “oh yeah, the championship! This is gonna be great!” In this case it’s in a montage where Bishop is on his computer doing his research and making his plans. He types in something and a full screen photo of the ring from earlier pops up. Obviously he’s looking him up. Maybe finding out what his skills are, and his weaknesses. Past injuries or something like that.

Well, nope. It turns out he’s just finding out where the champ lives. They go shoot him in the knee and then threaten his wife and daughters to get him to talk. There is no fight. They never say what sport he played. I guess he was just the world champion of having something you can use against him.

I’m not gonna say it ruined the movie for me. By this point I’d already enjoyed it. But it’s one example of the difference between a not-bad movie and a really good one. Know your badass momentum, filmatists. Make a promise and then either deliver on it or sneak up behind me and deliver something better. Don’t imply awesome and then replace it with pretty cool.

Maybe in part 2, though.

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 Friday, January 28th, 2011 at 7:54 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

122 Responses to “The Mechanic (2011 remake)”

  1. Statham’s ok with me. I never really saw the transporter ones. I saw the first crank and hated it but I did like The Bank Job a lot. Saw Death Race recently didn’t like that much either but he was good in there. Snatch is also a very good movie. I also enjoyed those stupid movies he made with Jet Li including the Stallone one. I was thinking of catching this one on sunday matinee. Sad to hear about the shaky cam shit though. I was hoping it would’ve been this year’s From Paris With Love. A movie with surprisingly fun big screen action during the dull beginning of a new movie year.

  2. It’s not so much shakycam as close shots and quick cuts that make the action hard to follow.

  3. I also felt betrayed by this movie. It had so much going for it, so much potential to be a solid, satisfying action movie about dynamic characters with interesting motivations. But it just threw it all away on incompetent filmmaking and a badly scripted central conflict. It just half-assed itself right into nothingness.

    I never thought I’d say this, but as of right now, I am done with theatrical action. I’ve been lying to myself for the past few years, trying to convince myself that anything I saw was better than “not bad, I guess.” It costs 13 bucks to see a movie in my city. I could buy three DVDs or eat four meals or get drunk with that much money, but instead I throw it away on this bullshit, hoping it won’t let me down the way it’s done again and again. No more. No action film is getting that baker’s dozen of dollars until I see some serious evidence of striving for excellence.

    I’ve been in love with action movies my whole life. Tonight, we broke up. It’s not THE MECHANIC’s fault, but it was the last straw.

  4. Majestyk, I’m so glad AU Armageddon isn’t here to see you like this.

    There’s always room for you over here on Team ROBOGEISHA.

  5. “Any of the kinetic action scenes – fights or chases – are garbled post-action, too many edits and not clear enough camera work”

    Again, say what you want about his choices in how much swearing are in his movie, Len Wiseman is the best theatrical action director out there that hasn’t really had the chance to make that many movies. Between the completely easy to understand action in Die Hard 4 and the really awesome (better than every theatrical action move) action directing in the Hawaii 5.0 pilot.

    Vern, seriously, watch the Hawaii 5.0 pilot and do a review of it. It’s really bad ass in the action department.

  6. Yeah, Die Hard 4 had very well done action scenes. Another one is Terminator Salvation, some great work there, very easy to follow.

    The funny thing is that I’ve seen a LOT of people bashing those movies for having “horrible” action scenes, and Wiseman and McG are somehow considered as people who are destroying modern action movies. So maybe the tastes of audiences have indeed changed.

  7. maybe i’m not too bright but how is the cutting and camerawork in con air worse than those in the expendables? i personally think it’s worse in the expendables since you want to see those guys fight whereas in con air, you have actors acting badasses like they can actually fight, in a self-conscious action movie.

  8. Well, to be honest, films like Die Hard 4 and Terminator Salvation really aren’t my idea of a “good movie”. I find them both pretty weak. The action is more clear than most movies these days, sure, but there’s more to a good action movie than not annoying us with shitty shots and cuts.

    I quite like Wiseman, though. Even liked those Underworld movies (especially the last one, which he didn’t direct if I recall correctly). They’re pretty okay as far as theatrical B-movies with hot vampires in leather fighting werewolves with guns go.

    Speaking of Statham, I hear those idiots who directed the Crank movies are making the new Ghost Rider. And Cage is back! I don’t know if I should be excited or start crying.

  9. Yeah, you know how much I hate DIE HARD 4.0 and also think that the action scenes are way too over the top and cartoony for a DIE HARD movie, but at least they are well staged and directed, so I agree about Len Wiseman. Give the man finally a good script!

  10. Vern, the post-action scenes you were refering to? Are they as bad as the one we saw in The Expendables?

  11. I have two theories about this whole “post-action” business as we like to call it

    1. the filmmakers are essentially embarrassed about directing an action movie would rather be directing a Squid and The Whale/Juno type “so indie it HURTS” movie where they win a bunch of acclaim at Sundance (remember when indie movies used to be stuff like Tarantino?)

    2. it’s just the style of today, filmmakers think that’s the more “arty” and “realistic” approach to have it seem like it was just filmed by some documentary filmmaker following the characters, even if the movie in question is about robots from outer space that turn into cars

    we also have two things to blame for this, one is Michael Bay who started the whole “fast edits” music video style directing and the Bourne movies with their “documentary” approach (which I’ve always found the Bourne movies to be overrated)

    I think this whole “post-action” nonsense is one of the many signs that Hollywood has lost it’s way these days, it’s fitting that this style started in the late 90’s/early 2000s (which is when I would say Hollywood started to lose it’s way)

    anyway I promise that if I ever become a filmmaker to shoot my action scenes like Spielberg or John McTiernan

  12. I also predict that if things don’t change, action sequences ten years from nowwill be some guy just shaking the camera as fast as he can while it’s pointed at toy cars and GI Joes, no one will know the difference

  13. Yeah, it’s like I’m saying since a few years. Today every 12 year old can make action scenes in Hollywood quality. He just has to shake his cell phone hard enough, while recording them.

  14. Damn , I wasn’t planning on watching this ( I decided to skip , years ago , the Blues Brothers sequel , and I still don’t want to see it ! So , you know , when I decide , it’s final . I’m one of the deciders.) , but I’m curious , now . I also like Statham , and I can enjoy on some level even the Crank movies. But I love the original , even with this single , big problem : Jan Michael Vincent . I hated him in the Bronson movie , because the moment I saw him , I already knew he was gonna turn on Charles , the bastard . Yeah , I think you’re supposed to hate the guy , but not right away. Michael Vincent played the guy as an asshole from the start , and I don’t like that . I like Ben Foster , and his Prince character from Yuma was one of the good things in that movie , now I want to see him in this!

    I also re-watched Con Air recently , and the shaky-shit is not as bad as I remembered . I mean , it’s there , sure , but we all have seen way more unwatchable examples of that particular style .

  15. billydeethrilliams

    January 29th, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Is there anything to look forward to this year in film? Let’s see, I’m a reader, and more Parker reprints and Hard Case Crime reprints are coming out. I’m a gamer, and that looks covered. But movies… huh. Yeah, I have nothing. I mean, there are a few movies that I would see out of boredom but that’s about it. Like this one. But a new Statham movie means I get to do my impression of him in which I stare vacantly in the middle distance and grunt. Also works for Vin Diesel, Keanu Reeves, etc. Just change your voice slightly for those.

  16. Everyone always forgets that Statham has a cameo at the beginning of COLLATERAL.

    And it bugs me when people describe post-action as looking like it was shot for a documentary. That’s just not true. Take, for instance, RESTREPO’s footage of actual combat in Afghanistan. Documentarians generally try to hold cameras as steady as possible and shoot for long extended takes.

    I will restate once again for everybody to check out Bordwell’s new article on action sequences, “The Dragon Dances”.

  17. That business with not fighting the champion dude is kind of like in SPL where Simon Yam and Sammo are facing off with golf clubs, get interrupted and you think they’ll actually have the fight later and then they don’t.

  18. Regarding post-action, I think that Spielberg is ultimately responsible, with the visceral, chaotic, reportage style action of Saving Private Ryan that was choreographed in terms of action but left loose in terms of photography. That grit is what seems to me to have inspired everything else.

    Although in SPR it is amazing.

  19. “way too over the top and cartoony for a DIE HARD movie”

    Really? So him fighting two guys on the wing of a moving airplane, falling down an elevator shaft and somehow grabbing onto a tiny ledge without dislocating a shoulder, fall a hundred feet onto a movie boat on a cable that could have cut them in half, escaping a plane explosion by using the eject button and then zooming right into the camera, etc aren’t over the top and cartoony? I’ll give you the fighter jet action sequence but I don’t think being chased by a helicopter or fighting on a car that’s about ready to fall down an elevator shaft really that out of place in the Die Hard series.

  20. I agree that the modern “shakycam” effect probably began with Spielberg’s work on SPR, and that stuff like the later Bourne films are imitating it (badly). However, Private Ryan may have a lot of handheld and faux-handheld camerawork in the battle scenes, but if you look carefully at them they’re actually shot (and more importantly, edited)fairly conventionally. The geography of the scenes and where everything is in relation to each other is always very clear and a lot of it plays out in medium shots. AND, I think Spielberg’s direction of those scenes was at least partly inspired by Oliver Stone and, especially, Rob Richardson’s work in the late 80s and early 90s.

    BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, if you look at the Vietnam scenes now, seems to clearly be the breakthrough film in terms of camerawork and editing evoking a kind of chaotic state. JFK and NATURAL BORN KILLERS each took it a few steps further. All three of those films, however, are still extremely coherent in terms of, again, establishing where everybody is, what’s happening and why.

    I think it was really Micheal Bay (and the financial success of his films more then anything else) who created the post-action environment. And the reason post-action largely sucks is because, hey, honestly, MICHAEL BAY IS JUST A LOUSY DIRECTOR. If he were a carpenter his tables would have one leg too short and you couldn’t eat on them. It’s like if Ed Wood had somehow gotten hired to direct BEN HUR and it was a huge success and everybody started imitating Ed Wood. Ed Wood’s movies have their merits, but if other directors deliberately made movies like that, they wouldn’t be very good movies….

  21. Oh well, the DIE HARD movies always had some semi-realism (=stuff that of course can only work within a movie, without stretching the suspense of disbelieve too much), with one or maybe two over the top scenes per movie, but part 4 had already used all its crazy cards, when McLane drove over a hydrant, to shoot a helicopter with the resulting fountain (and then of course before that chase was over, McClane and Hackerboy were saved from a flying car, because it conviniently fell so crazy, that it got stuck between two other cars and then they got rid of the helicopter by catapulting a car into the air, by driving over a barrier, which caused the #1 henchman to fall several feet down on the asphalt, without even getting a scratch.)
    Compared to this, the airplane wing flight in part 2 harmless (Especially because the plane was just starting and not even in the air yet, so it wasn’t really much crazier than the old western cliche of two guys, fighting on top of a moving train.)

  22. I’d throw in Jonathon Mostow as a director who has a good eye for action. The firetruck/crane truck chase scene in T3 is an example of a clearly cut together piece of action set-piece. The bathroom brawl was also not over-edited. Mostow’s last movie, Surrogates, was just average in my opinion but did contain an above average chase sequence in the middle of the film. Unfortunately, those are the only two movies he’s done in the last ten years and there are no upcoming movies listed for him on IMDB.

    This topic is why I both love and hate The Bourne Supremacy, it is one of my favorite recent action movies but after its success, it seemed it usher in the norm of shakey-cam, quick-edit action scenes. As other posters noted, there were movies before it which contained it like Saving Private Ryan & some of Michael Bay’s movies. Paul Greengrass use of it for some reason doesn’t bother me, maybe his quick-edits perform a useful purpose, like heightening tension, whereas when other directors do it they think they are being gritty or realistic but I usually find it annoying. Greengrass of course isn’t perfect, I wasn’t too crazy about Green Zone.

  23. Since when does shaky cam and fast editing heighten tension? I would think it does the exact opposite.

  24. I think everyone’s missing a key point from this thread. Majestyk – where the fuck do you live, that you can get drunk for $13?

  25. New York City has plenty of cheap drinking options if you like PBR as much as I do. And it helps when you know the bartender.

    Which leads me to some full disclosure: I may have been drunk when I wrote that melodramatic missive above. I also learned some distressing family-related news just an hour or so before the movie. So I kind of needed it to rock, and it let me down. Perhaps I overreacted because it was easier to pour my sadness and frustration into THE MECHANIC than deal with what was really bothering me.

    But isn’t that kind of the point of going to the movies? Every Friday night, somebody in every audience is going to the movies because they had a bad day or a bad week and they just want to escape for a minute and leave the theater with a little rush that makes everything feel a little better. It’s a sacred trust between ticket-buyer and movie-maker, and I think Hollywood has been abusing that trust lately with their un- or overdeveloped scripts and unsatisfying and cynical filmmaking techniques. Particularly in the action genre, everything lately has been soulless post-modern pastiche or joyless post-action gibberish. Nobody’s getting blown through the back of the theater because you’re not allowed to feel anything for the characters or the action. It’s just sound and fury and snark.

    Sometimes that’s enough for me, but I needed more last night. I needed a transcendental badass experience. I know that’s a lot to ask, but really, shouldn’t that be what every action movie is striving for? After all, you never know how many people in the audience are counting on it. If you can’t even rely on an action hero to save your Friday night, how can they be trusted to save the world?

  26. The Air Wolf guy is not as good as the wing douche from Xmen3? Stringfellow Hawke was a true squint eyed, rasp voiced badass. I thought wing douche was very good in 3:10 To Yuma though.

  27. Ben Foster is awesome. I’ve been a fan of his since he played Young Brad Dourif in HOSTAGE.

  28. Didn’t Spielberg pretty much lift his use of shakycam for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN from Kubrick’s handheld (and far superior) work in FULL METAL JACKET?

  29. billydeethrilliams – off the top of my head, I’m looking forward to the two new Spielberg films coming out this year (which wont be out for a while), JJ Abrams Super 8, Sucker Punch (aka the movie that was made with specifically me in my mind) and Captain America and that’s about it

    I will say one thing though, I’m looking forward to Elder Scrolls 5 and Bioshock: Infinite 1000 times more than I am any movie

  30. Jareth – No, the styles of those two films are completely different.

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone started the post-action movement. It was a combination of different influences.

    Saving Private Ryan of course was a major turning point in the documentary shakycam movement, but it actually has very slow editing. 10-30 second shots are common in that film. Interestingly these days Spielberg cuts his action slower than he used to do in the 70’s or 80’s. He likes to do really long, continuous takes – You don’t really notice it, because the action is so viscerally involving. Spielberg definitely has the most versatile CV as an action director, he has taken very different approaches in different movies, and it always works marvelously. Best action director of all time. Yes, that’s right – The best. Nobody else equals him. Other great action directors more or less chose a style and stuck with it, or slowly evolved that style. Spielberg has done completely different styles, sometimes styles that nobody had ever done before, and he always has done them at a masterful level.

    Michael Bay’s movies clearly influenced the rhythm of editing.

    Bourne combined the shakycam with fast editing, but it doesn’t even feel that confusing from the perspective of many other, later movies.

    I still think that Quantum Of Solace is the most incomprehensible example of the post-action movement I can think of.
    It actually doesn’t have much shakycam, the editing is just so ridiculously fast, that sometimes it’s impossible to say what is happening, and why.

  31. Tuuka – you see the big hit? I would argue that Fuquaa managed to lay a larfer pile of post-actional turd than QoS which wasn’t all that bad – there was just no time to stop for you know, plot, or character or anything like that.

  32. I agree with tuukka, Spielberg is the best action director of all time

    Raiders of the Lost Ark mutha fuckers

  33. FULL METAL JACKET? No, no. If any Kubrick film influenced PRIVATE RYAN it was the battle scenes in DR. STRANGELOVE. That was probably the first to try to deliberately emulate a documentary (or “newsreel”, as it was called then) look in it’s action scenes.

    Also: Sam Peckinpah edited just as rapidly and aggresively as Micheal Bay does, but his editing style worked–because he was a GOOD DIRECTOR.

  34. I think blaming a certain filmmaking technique on its own is a bit unfair. It’s about how competent the filmmaker is at employing that technique. I, for one, don’t mind shakycam in films like Saving Private Ryan (a film I find a tad over-praised) and the Bourne movies (I love the Bourne movies, no apologies). It’s just that almost every other filmmaker sucks at shakycam and doesn’t seem to realise that close-up handheld shots combined with fast cuts usually ends up being incomprehensible.

    By the way, the best action shots and cuts I’ve seen in the last 5 years or so was definitely in The Good, The Bad, The Weird. I love how every shot links with the next and the way Kim Ji-woon gave certain scenes time to breathe and build some anticipation.

    So I nominate Kim Ji-woon as best action filmmaker of the decade. Do yourself a favour and watch A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird.

  35. Wait, this really is a remake of the Bronson movie? I totally missed that, must not have been watching the story credits.

    Vern, right on about the action movie promise. It’s like they picked up on the setup but never made the connection that it always used to pay off later. Kickboxer in Snakes on a Plane being the prime example.

    Con Air AND Armageddon do look tame these days (I sw because I reviewed the Blu-ray release, not to watch the movie for posterity.) It’s gotten way worse.

    Spielberg example, of course the master can use the technique like nobody else and the imitators fuck it up. Agreed, REAL documentaries keep the camera still. It’s fake to make it shake. And it IS the opposite of tension.

    I still say the worst example is Green Zone. When the shots go out of focus, that’s bad filmmaking. Even if you want to go handheld, you should still know what you’re filming and adjust the lens accordingly.

    On the other hand, I got to see Red State at the Sun Dance and it has shaky too. However, I found it akin to Texas Chainsaw Massacre guerilla style filmmaking. AND, Smith actually keeps the subjects framed in the shot. I’m a Smith enthusiast but even a filmmaker oft maligned for his visual style knew how to do handheld camera better than the “pros.”

  36. tuukka and CC: Thanks for clarifying. I kind of thought my memory of FULL METAL JACKET and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN might have been failing me. But Kubrick did get in there in the trenches with his handheld pretty tight for a few shots.

    Overall, of course, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is much more similar to the weepy, melodramatic, heavy-handed PLATOON.

  37. Knox Harrison: I agree with you that the director using shaky cam makes a world of difference. From time to time Wong Kar-Wai uses something similar to shaky cam to beautiful effect.

    My only problem with THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD is the over-familiarity of the story. As well-realized as the film is, it just lacks that element of surprise when its a remake. Even the plot points that I think are improvements ) like the Big Thing they are all trying to obtain felt somehow compromised.

  38. Spielberg is a big fan of PLATOON–always says it’s one of the greatest war movies ever made.

  39. billydeethrilliams

    January 29th, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Griff: Those two games you mentioned? Me too. No wonder gaming has overtaken movies as the premiere entertainment industry. Ooh, I just had a terrible thought: post action games. Dear god. Oh wait, didn’t they try that with Kane and Lynch 2?

  40. that billydeethrilliams, is why although I love movies a lot (like a whole lot), I still consider my main hobby to be video games

    for those of you out there yet to experience video games, I would suggest you pic it up regardless of your age, because otherwise you’re missing out on a hell of a lot of fun

    anyway I think one movie that does the hand held camera approach really well is Children of Men, specifically the refugee camp sequence, that whole sequence is 1000% more tense, harrowing and exciting than anything Michael Bay could ever hope to achieve, why Alfonso Cuarón was not given the keys to the kingdom after that movie is beyond me

  41. also billydeethrilliams, I love the Suehiro Maruo gravatar

  42. I would also like to express my extreme dislike for GREEN ZONE. Shakycam during action scenes is bad enough, but when absolutely nothing is happening it’s even worse.

  43. Also, what’s up with the comment awaiting moderation business? Has some machine some objection to criticism of KILLZONE / SPL?

  44. @Mr. Majestyk- I have to agree with you fully. Most theatrical action films I have seen in the last few years have been completely mediocre. That includes The Expendables. The best action films I’ve seen recently have been straight to dvd movies like Undisputed III. I’m done with them until someone realizes that we would like to actually see the action and not a blur of nothingness. I can’t stand quick-cut action. I miss seeing Seagal or Arnold break an arm and hearing the crunch. Michael Bay was the one who started this shit with Bad Boys and The Rock and it still hasn’t stopped. Here’s hoping that some studio will give Isaac Florentine a big budget action movie and what he makes is so popular that everyone copies him. Unfortunately, the reality is that he will probably get one and the studio will take over in the editing process and it will be the same as every other generic action movie.

  45. Griff> I totally agree with you about some video games being better than movies. My problem is that I am shit at playing them. Thats why I have to watch my friend play through the Uncharted games to get to see how good the story was.

    I don’t get the World of Warcraft/Lord of The Rings Online types though. I can’t play them to save my life, and I can’t sit around watching my friends play them. Nothing happens in them.

  46. One thing about video games and movies that I recently noticed: Why is the creature design in video games so much more creative than in movies these days? I mean, I see clips of adventures or horror games, which fucking bombastic endbosses, that look like nothing you have ever seen before, while the creatures in movies look exactly like you expect them to look. Maybe the only thing that came close to that, was the giant plant monster, in the middle of HELLBOY 2!

  47. “tuukka and CC: Thanks for clarifying. I kind of thought my memory of FULL METAL JACKET and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN might have been failing me. But Kubrick did get in there in the trenches with his handheld pretty tight for a few shots.”

    RE:

    Saving Private Ryan draws the inspiration for it’s look from real life war reporters, who filmed on the battlefields. The distinctive elements of the action scenes in the film are for example:

    – Handheld, loose camerawork, where the cameraman often walks/runs along with the characters. No tripods, no tracks, no cranes, no steadycam.
    – Washed out color scheme.
    – Very restricted point of view to action.
    – Lack of wide shots, except very occasionally. Emphasis on close-ups and medium shots.
    – Long continuous takes.
    – Varying shutter speeds (Which is what war reporters did, due to working very fast in very uncontrolled environments)
    – Naturalistic lighting.

    …It’s almost a complete opposite of the action scenes in Full Metal Jacket, which are very static, with the camera either on a stick or tracks, or crane, or steadycam. Emphasis is on medium to wide shots, no varying shutter speeds, full color scheme. He even uses slow-motion. The only similarities are restricted POV and relatively slow editing pace, but they use those elements differently. Kubrick and Spielberg also stage their action differently, with Kubrick aiming for a simplified, low-key, “operatic” feel, and Spielberg (in SPR) aiming for a messy, unfocused, realistic feel (which still has great clarity to it).

    Nobody had ever filmed action like Spielberg did in SPR. He developed a whole new language for that film. It takes enormous, exceptional creative talent to do something like that.

  48. tuukka: I’ll briefly restate what I said above: a definite influence on SAVING PRIVATE RYAN came from several scenes in DR. STRANGELOVE.

  49. A contributing factor for the blurry action style, too, is (ironically) the MATRIX movies (1 and 2). Those were so clear, that it kind of left “clarity” with nowhere else to go. You can’t have slower motion than that. The bullet-time style was so fresh, it immediately went rancid. So directors started going in the opposite direction.

  50. CC, It’s been a few years since I’ve watched Dr. Strangelove, but stylistically I didn’t find it even remotely similar to SPR, despite some use of handheld, which was fairly exceptional in the 60’s.

    Spielberg took the handheld approach from real war reporters.

  51. billydeethrilliams

    January 30th, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Griff: Thanks. But I got it from the band Naked City, without any idea who the artist is. (I know better now.) Also Children of Men is one of the best movies to come out in recent years, and is the gold standard of guerilla style camerawork. The lowest being, well, take your pick. Instead of finding out who started that trend, I want to know who started the extreme quick cut method of framing a scene. I guess Paul Greengrass popularized it, but who was ultimately responsible for it? Bay? Tony Scott?

  52. billydeethrilliams

    January 30th, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Random Question: Has anyone seen The Last Lullaby starring Tom Sizemore as a retired hitman? I can’t find it.

  53. Avid was the main culprit.

  54. billydeethrilliams – you should check out more art and manga by the guy I mentioned (if you haven’t already) it’s guaranteed to disturb!

    anyway with all this Spielberg talk, rumor has it that Jurassic Park is finally gonna come out on blu ray this year, who else wants Vern to finally review it when he does?

    I also can not fucking wait for the Telltale Jurassic Park game, the plot of it should have freakin’ been the plot of the third movie

  55. billydeethrilliams

    January 30th, 2011 at 8:51 am

    tuuka: Well, who developed Avid? Let’s kick his ass! Unless it is a her, which in that case you take her out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.

    Griff: I have. It is the only way I get off. Also, you know you like the third Jurassic Park movie with the singing raptors or whatever happened. That happened right?

  56. Why do people make such a big point of the talking Raptor, THAT ONLY SAID ONE WORD IN A DREAM SEQUENCE in Jurassic Park 3? Sheesh. Also, JP3 fucking rules.

  57. Rewatch the battle scenes in Dr. Strangelove, tuk. Kubrick was probably the first director to deliberately try to emulate the look of documentary or newsreel photography. It influenced that whole group of directors, not just Spielberg, but he particularly (along with John Milius) is a huge fan of that film. I once sat down with a friend, and we watched the attack on the Strategic Air Command base in Dr. Strangelove, back to back with the battle for the bridge in Saving Private Ryan. There are several shots in PRIVATE RYAN that look like deliberate copies, down to the angle and shot duration, of shots in STRANGELOVE.

  58. Hey Caoimhín and others who have seen their comments not get posted: vern’s site nowadays gets thousands of spam posts a day (yes, literally thousands) and while Askimet, WordPress’ service for spam detection, isn’t infallible, it’s pretty damn good. At this point however the volume of spam is too large for me to wade through to find the occasional wrongly detected comment. The price we pay having a world full of douchebags with bot programs and no way to find and beat them with a shovel. So if a comment seems to keep getting rejected I can only guess some string of words has previously been marked by the service and there’s just no way to easily recommend a way around it.

    I’d also appreciate people not replying to spam that gets through the filter. I can only get on here occasionally to wade through looking for what little slips by, but when you reply I feel uncomfortable breaking the conversation chain and ruining your joke. The problem is not identifying this missed spam means it is more likely to get through in the future creating more work. I last cleaned two days ago. Since then there were over 8,000 spam comments captured. Four were missed. Two received replies from regulars, two others I could scrub properly. Soon we will switch to immediate spam deletion given the exponential growth of crap over the last two months, and I hope to keep what squeaks by to a minimum.

  59. There’s a talking raptor in JP3? How many times do I have to see that movie before I remember anything about it?

  60. people seem to have forgotten one of the main culprits in the modern, shaky-cam crapfest: GLADIATOR. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was the first in the current trend to use this style, but as many have noted, spielberg used it very meticulously and to great effect. GLADIATOR was the first movie (that i can think of) that used the close-up shots, quick editing, shaky-cam, and strobe effect (not sure what it’s called, drop frame rate or whatever) in a shitty way. it was meant to create a more visceral feel, and i guess it worked, cuz that movie was inexplicably really popular, but for me it made the action hard to follow. man, that movie sucks. 90% of it is boring scenes of people talking (not that i am against scenes of people talking, but the ones in this movie were utterly tedious), but you suffer through them because of the promise of awesome gladiator action, and then when the fighting scenes show up, you can’t even see what’s going on! (the flaming arrows were cool, but that was just in the very beginning of the movie – all downhill from there). i was very gratified when i found vern’s sight a few years ago and eventually discovered that he is also not a fan of the movie. everybody i know likes it, it is known as a GOOD movie, for years i had felt like i was screaming at the ocean (another movie i feel this way about is BRAVEHEART).

    another horrible trend GLADIATOR (i think) started was the use of what i call islamic wailing to connote SERIOUS DRAMA. i will forever curse hans zimmer (and lisa gerrard) for that.

    side rant. ridley scott has to be one of the most overrated directors of all time. i fully grant that he made two out-and-out classics/masterpieces, which are of course ALIEN (indisputable) and BLADE RUNNER (though i haven’t seen it since i was in high school, and i believe even ol’ vern is a bit lukewarm on it – also, i may be the only person alive who prefers the infamous harrison ford voice-over theatrical cut – it fit the movie’s attempt to be a SF and film-noir mash-up perfectly). besides those, he has made a small handful of decent, entertaining flicks (THELMA & LOUISE, MATCHSTICK MEN, and if i am being charitable BLACK RAIN), and the rest are stinkers (1492, GLADIATOR, HANNIBAL, and no i was not impressed by BLACKHAWK DOWN or AMERICAN GANGSTER). and to answer your question, no, i have not seen KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, either the director’s or theatrical cuts, mainly cuz it looked like GLADIATOR: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS to me. aaaand of course he helped usher in the contemporary post-action malaise.

    incidentally, i have seen CON AIR recently, and it is almost certainly not as bad as you remember it, in terms of post-action. you definitely do have to really concentrate to be able to tell what’s going on at times (which you shouldn’t have to), but it’s not nearly as bad as most action flicks that come out these days. but i am pretty forgiving of that movie overall cuz it’s just so ridiculous and funny. also, i find greengrass to be hit-or-miss. i found THE BOURNE SUPREMACY to be almost unwatchable because of how it was shot and edited, but somehow he learned to perfect his style on UNITED 93, and it somehow rides the line of exciting/confusing JUST right in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.

  61. Totally with you, Gary. GLADIATOR was one of the first movies where I could not for the life of me tell what the fuck was going on, and yet everybody else seemed to love it. I also agree that Ridley Scott is overrated. He had his two masterpieces, a couple more solid movies (I liked BLACK HAWK DOWN) and then the rest of his work is well-crafted but inert. I pretty much make it a point to give his movies a pass these days.

    And yes, ULTIMATUM got the recipe right but SUPREMACY was borderline unwatchable.

  62. I don’t know Mr. Majestyk, I just watched BLACK RAIN the other day on Blu and I really dug it. The action in that was way better then the action in GLADIATOR.

  63. You’re right, I’ll give you BLACK RAIN.

  64. There’s almost no difference these days between Tony Scott and Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott was a director that I originally latched on to when I first learned about these guys who were kind of like authors, but for movies. Both Alien and Blade Runner were two of my favorite films in my early teen years (and I still love them). Unfortunately, he’s made the decision to eschew any artistic credibility with a bunch of mediocre films.

    A year or so back I read an interview with Ridley Scott where he said there is now way he would make Alien today with the same same deliberate pace. I guess you could read this comment as saying that Alien wouldn’t be as popular today because audiences like faster moving films, but from the context it seemed to me that he was saying that he would never make a film today that moved as slowly as Alien because it wouldn’t be bankable. This slight difference explains what happened to Ridley Scott. Instead of making the decisions that best fit his vision and his story, he tries to guess what the hypothetical audience wants in a film, and, in the process of delivering that movie, he underestimates the movie going public and insults all involved.

  65. Where’s a RED review already, Vern?

  66. RBatty – I think you hit the nail on the head, but sadly it applies to a lot of formerly great directors.

    I also feel the general malaise towards modern theatrical action that is going around this thread. It says a lot that instead of a discussion comparing this film to other recent action pictures, or even that much with the original the conversation is “No THIS is went it all went wrong.” I’m guessing that there is a big enough age range in this crowd that we’re not a bunch of old farts complaining about the way things were. Hell, as a 90’s teen and 00’s college guy I should be constantly defending the films of my era all the time, but how the fuck can a man reasonably try to defend Bay and Boondock Saints against pretty much anything made up to T2 (Yes, even Gymkata)? The best and clearest action has been in stuff like Iron Man, which doesn’t really count. I guess directing a good action scene is so specialized that you better be on a $200 million dollar movie. Things have obviously been dire for awhile, but now it’s at that point where you can’t even really be mad about it anymore, and that’s strangely more depressing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to claim action movies are dead by any stretch. DTV is obviously where it’s at, and there will always be innovative and cool movies popping up from everywhere, but mid-range studio action is in really bad fucking shape, and I don’t see why it would change anytime soon. Statham, The Rock, and even Kyle Urban, all deserve better.

  67. We should all put our money together and make our own damn action movie. (I’m only half joking.)

  68. to all those criticizing Ridley Scott I just have to say that your criticism is warranted but I don’t know how I feel about it. The reason being that film makers just like any artist have a voice and/or vision and that voice or vision is not infinite, just because you make 1 good movie does not mean your a guaranteed to make another. I think many film makers start out as true artist but after awhile they run out of things to say, but at that point it is a job and they have to pay the bills so they keep on going, and you can see the lack of engagement and vision in their work. For example similar to Scott I really like early De Palma, but after MISSION IMPOSSIBLE Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and they have not been able to put him back together. The guy is just not the same film maker (however, I did like FEMME FATALE). It is hard to find an artist with a large body of work that does not have a lot of misses. Even Spielberg has a number of them, but those misses should be judged on their own merit and not detract from their successes.

  69. marlow, you make a good point. I think the style of action films that were being made in the 80’s and 90’s will live on in DTV but their days as theatrical releases are number if not already dead. I also have another couple theories about the decline of theatrical action cinema. First these days everything in the media about pandering to 18-25 year old crowd with their disposable income, because of this most films made these days feature young pretty people instead of real weathered badasses like Bronson, Marvin, or Eastwood. For example, I think Damon is good in the Bourne films, but he is no Charles Bronson. Also with the rise of MMA real physical violence is more available to the mainstream then ever before. I am a lover of Badass cinema but there are more options there ever before to get my hand to hand combat & martial arts fix.

  70. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks that whenever a director makes a poor film that he’s lost it. I think directors should be allowed to fail. If Ridley Scott’s films had been interesting failures, then I would easily forgive him. Unfortunately, for the past ten years his films have been rather bland. Take Spielberg, for instance. Even his failures are still interesting. The Terminal is a film that never quite comes together, but I thought it was an fascinating attempt to meld a post-9/11 story with the romance films of the 1950s. It didn’t work, exactly, but I appreciated the effort.

  71. well Ridley Scott was awesome in the late 70’s/80’s, Alien, Blade Runner, Legend and Black Rain are all awesome, but yeah since then he’s lost his way (even Black Hawk Down has always bugged me a bit because it’s essentially a racist zombie movie with black people instead of zombies)

    and Blade Runner is the secret origin of 80 percent of anime, watching that movie I really get the feeling that I’m watching live action anime, not only because of the visuals, but just the general style and atmosphere (Rachel, Pris and Roy in particular remind me a lot of several characters from anime), it’s ironic that Scott probably doesn’t even realize that he’s influenced it so much

    also JP3 fucking rules? to be fair it’s been almost ten years since I’ve seen it, but I hated it

  72. Incidentally, they do actually use the term mechanic referring to someone who shoots people in the original, just after the judo scene.

  73. CJ, I will put my 10 bucks in. I wish I could contribute more, but it is a tough economy.

  74. I think De Palma hasn’t done anything since Mission: Impossible is that he’s literally run out of anything else to direct about. Sometimes guys need to either take super long breaks over realize they’ve done everything they are capable of doing.

  75. Hey Michael Bay was not that bad of a director.
    The Rock is a GREAT fucking movie.
    When they kill Kyle Reese in that shitty bathroom and he’s trying to talk them out of it; tell me that wasn’t heart breaking.

    I just think that in 2003-05 Hollywood didn’t lose it. We just got too old for this shit.

  76. “A year or so back I read an interview with Ridley Scott where he said there is now way he would make Alien today with the same same deliberate pace. I guess you could read this comment as saying that Alien wouldn’t be as popular today because audiences like faster moving films, but from the context it seemed to me that he was saying that he would never make a film today that moved as slowly as Alien because it wouldn’t be bankable. This slight difference explains what happened to Ridley Scott. Instead of making the decisions that best fit his vision and his story, he tries to guess what the hypothetical audience wants in a film, and, in the process of delivering that movie, he underestimates the movie going public and insults all involved.”

    RE:

    A complete misinterpretation.

    Scott has always made movies for an audience. In fact all directors have a hypothetical audience in the their mind, when they make a movie. If you’re not making your movie to an audience, who the hell are you doing it for? Yourself? If you want to make movies just for yourself, you probably shouldn’t be making movies. Write poetry instead. Or become a painter and never show your work to anyone.

    For example when Blade Runner tested badly with confused audiences, Scott made major changes to the movie, and decided to do a voiceover to guide the audience.

    I don’t know which interview you are referring to, but Scott still occasionally makes movies with a slow and deliberate pace comparative to Alien. I know he has said he could never make a movie like Alien again, where the 1st act takes on forever, before the actual conflict is established. But he had to fight for that in the late 70’s as well, as the studio was nervous for how long it took to get to the first kill, and to establishing of the monster. Scott argued to the studio that it was going to work, because he was going to show the audiences stuff that they had never seen before, and that was going to keep them on their seats.

    Notice how already then Scott was thinking about how a hypothetical audience was going to react to the movie. Regardless of whether you think the quality of his movies has dropper or not, his approach to filmmaking has stayed the same.

    Personally I don’t think Scott has lost it any way. Still a great director. Has some misses now and then, but generally his output ranges from good to great. My favorite from recent years is the DC of Kingdom Of Heaven, which is an awesome film.

  77. Sternshein – Well I agree that it’s kinda mysterious what happened to De Palma on the last couple movies, but FEMME FATALE was after MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and is easily one of my favorites. It’s kind of like the ultimate De Palma movie, his entire career and lifetime of obsessions crammed into one erotic thriller. Also, as Mouth would point out, boobs. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.

  78. SNAKE EYES (also after M: I) was pretty good, too! though i know many people will disagree. the trick is to watch it as an intentional comedy (which i think works with a lot of depalma).

  79. A film critic I know once made the accurate observation that it’s amazing how one of the best edited movies of all time, JFK, and one of the worst edited of all time, GLADIATOR, were both cut by the same guy, Pietro Scalia.

  80. Oh cool, with my money and with Charles’ 10 bucks, the outlawvern.com action movie has a budget of 60$. (Plus 30 Canadian Dollar, that I just found in my nightstand.) :)

  81. Wait, this thread is 80 posts old, and we haven’t had an attempt to answer Vern’s challenge about “who could stand toe-to-toe with Bronson in badass presence”?? Or did I just miss it?

    I vote for Danny Trejo!

    And in terms of who _did_ stand toe-to-toe in Bronson’s badass presence, may I suggest that Robert Shaw, in “Battle of the Bulge”, succeeded in just that mission? (Considering the relative size of the roles, they probably had to cast Bronson to find someone who could plausibly stand and sit toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with Shaw!!)

    May I also suggest Anthony Quinn in “Barabbas”? Bronson plays several bit parts in that film opposite him.

  82. actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sure I buy that a director can “run out of things to say”

    I think some filmmakers lose steam as they get older because maybe they just get tired or whatever, they lose the “passion”

    but I don’t think that means that every filmmaker has a sell by date and the reason why is because the base element of every movie is the script and most directors don’t write the scripts for every movie they direct

    so if they’re a talented enough director and the script is good enough, I think they can still make a good movie even if they’ve been at it for decades (like Spielberg)

  83. I toss my nomination for Josh Brolin as a good successor to Bronson. He hasn’t quite had that badass role just yet, although No Country comes close. Can’t you just see Bronson in that role? He loves dying in his movies after all.

    Brolin has the odd face, and an everyman/world-weary look about him too. Maybe they’ll remake Murphy’s Law with him and the dragon tattoo girl, and he can say “DON’T FUCK WITH MURPHY” at the end.

  84. On directors going to seed as they age:
    I wonder if it often has to do with how rapidly the movie business changes. Technology in moviemaking keeps evolving quickly enough to where if you were really good at certain things in the 70’s, you might not be able to adapt to the cranes, lenses, computers, and new crop of actors of the 00’s. I dunno, there’s a bunch of directors that HAVE found ways to sort of update their abilities, like say Scorsese. But then there’s that sort of workmanlike but total competence of Eastwood too, that hasn’t really changed a whole lot in the last few decades, and hasn’t really needed to.

  85. Wouldn’t Bruce be a modern heir to Bronson?

    As for Ridley, I happened to think Body of Lies was a high quality movie. I think he’s got great skills but my disappointment is he keeps doing the same thing. I hated BOTH versons of Kingdom of Heaven. The long “it’s a totally different movie” one is still the same old Gladiator retread. An Robin Hood, ugh.

    I could never get into Gladiator. Even if the fight scenes were good, it’s still just Braveheart in Rome, and Braveheart wasn’t really the first either. A forgotten Ridley movie I remember liking was White Squall.

  86. Vern is great because he doesn’t tell you that you’re a fucking douche that should die in a barrell full of aids because you didn’t remember a movie. He instead tells you that you should see a movie and that you might like it. Vern is better than the Internet.

  87. Man, I forgot about GLADIATOR. That’s a good example of where the editing began to destroy the focus of the action. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is good, though.

    I also support the dislike for GREEN ZONE (which I still haven’t watched to the end because it is so boring, and I love the Bourne movies) and QoS (for action scenes which are just incomprehensible to me).

    Can I put in a word for Band of Brothers and The Pacific for big action done well, not to mention the assault on the machine gun position in THE THIN RED LINE?

    Also, I loved the original MECHANIC, so I might pop in to see this one.

  88. What with the mention of Trejo as Bronson, whatever happened to DANNY TREJO’S VENGEANCE? Thought it was supposed to have been out last year some time.

  89. Saw THE MECHANIC last night – in a pretty much totally empty theater.

    It’s OK, it’s just kinda…there.

    Ben Foster was fine, although he came off like a fucking nutcase version of Justin Timerlake at times.

    Statham – who I usually really like – was “a machine”, as someone in the film puts it; and that includes acting like one.

    Was he contractually obliged to be in this? He even looked bored during the sex scene.

    The action – what little of it there was – is almost beyond visual comprehension, I literally didn’t have enough to focus on anything, it was cut that fast – because super fast cuts are SUPER EXCITING!!

    I ended up just staring at the screen and making a mental note of what just happened.

    And the ending was piss-poor, too (no spoilers) – why they felt the need to do what they did…ah, hang on, it’s Hollywood.

    Fuck, bring on EXPENDABLES 2.

  90. Thouroughly enjoyed The Mechanic. Liked Greenzone. Big fan of the Bourne movies. Can’t wait for Expendables 2. And Con Air was fantastic entertainment. Oh well. Life goes on.

  91. billydeethrilliams

    February 6th, 2011 at 6:53 am

    SPOILERS: They took the pussy way out with this one didn’t they? I never saw the original, but I know how it ends, so what happened there? And I think Bishop should’ve actually maimed the world champion’s ( of what, the wing bowl?) daughter. But no balls there. And I thought at first when Bishop made Steve take care of the dog, he was going to have him kill it after a bonding period. Also the myriad other problems… oh well, not like this was a surprise.

  92. Well (SPOILER) I don’t mind them changing it because I wouldn’t mind this being another Statham franchise. Not sure if they’re gonna keep making Transporters, and even so this is one where it’s about the killing more than the driving. So it’s totally different.

  93. Netflix streaming has the original Mechanic so I watched it and I definitely see the connection. Same idea, but different kills. Instead of a motorcycle chase, they rapell down the building. Loved the long setup of the first hit. I honestly thought Bronson was faking at the end. Why would he fall for that trick?

  94. I think this is Statham’s best solo action flick outside of CRANK and THE TRANSPORTER.

  95. Yeah, the maiming scene was a total cop out. I get it that they don’t want the “hero” to maim some innocent girl, but it was a symptom of a problem that plagued the entire film. The lack of conviction. The movie has extremely scared to take any sort of chances that it felt just way too safe and by-the-numbers.

    It had no trust to the audience that an action scene could hold anyone’s interest if it wasn’t made frentic and shaky.

    No trust that the audience could piece together information themselves (the security footage of Statham’s escape at the gas station, showing the body of the old dude at the pier instead of just the empty chair etc. etc.) so *everything* had to be spelled out.

    And no conviction to make any strong statements about the characters – every hit was against an unquestionable bad guy, no moral gray areas. And yes, the maiming scene was extraordinarily silly. Either make a character go all the way (dude kills people for a living) and shove the girl’s hand into the garbage disposal and still trust the audience that they’re still with you despite it (or because of it), or just cut it out altogether. Show me the character has convictions and what he is willing to do. Don’t half-ass it.

    So, overall a competent yet entirely forgettable action movie. Looked slick, but really had no real style to speak of. The same damn hyperactive editing with no real purpose, the same color palette of teal and orange that you’ve seen a thousand times before, and the same generic pounding string-based post-Bourne soundtrack.

    This had nothing to say, and nothing to contribute to the action genre, or cinema in general. I did not hate it, and I’ve certainly seen movies that were a lot worse. But it was the very definition of a film as a McDonald’s meal.

  96. I liked the Cutty Sark joke….

  97. I guess my earlier post about “Get Over It” was somehow erased (wherein I discovered Ben Foster played the freaking lead in one of the lesser “Shakespeare in High School” romcoms from the late 90s/earlier 00s.) Of note was that Foster looked and talked like a pyschopath even here! Also of note was that Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana were both in “best friend” roles and look much, much better now. And Kirsten Dunst can be really likable and charming when she’s not in a Spider-Man movie.

    The Foster Netflix-fest continued with Pandorum. Incredibly bugnuts but I actually have to give it alot of credit for having some REALLY big ideas hidden beneath the Alien-ripoff exterior. There’s about 4 different genres going on here, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. It reminded me of a sci-fi successor to Brotherhood of the Wolf, if you catch my drift.

  98. Also PANDORUM is one of the few movies that really made me feel claustrophobic. (When that guy is crawling through all those tubes and shit)

  99. This just came out on dvd in Sweden and I can say I really enjoyed this. I don´t agree that the action is hard to follow at all. Maybe the busfight-sequence, but otherwise I was surprised of the clarity.
    It doesn´t match the minimalistic brilliance of the original, but I just enjoyed the story and characters.

    SPOILER!SPOILER!

    The ending however is a bit of a letdown.Having Bishop survive was good but it felt they could have shortened it a bit.

    Plus Bishop 2011 doesn´t write notes as funny as Bronson-Bishop. Here it just says:
    “If you can read this you´re dead!” Whereas in the original you hear Bronson´s voiceover to the words:
    “If you can read this, it means I´m dead. It ALSO means you´ve triggered a bomb!” ( or something like that, I can´t remember quite. But it was funnier.) And then the movie ended.

    A good movie, though. A lot better than most I´ve seen this year.

  100. Ohh.. and also I predict that Ben Foster is probably going to be one of the great actors of his generation
    ( That is one shitty prediction…..since he already is. Nostradamus I am fuckin´not…)

  101. I think I always see the wrong movies with Ben Foster. According to IMDB, he was in at least 5 films or TV shows that I have seen and remember pretty well, but I got no idea who he was in them.

  102. (Except for X-Men 3, but even there I only remember a guy with huge wings and not what he looked like or anything memorable performance wise.)

  103. To be more specific: I’m not saying that he is bad, but apparently all the people who call him a great actor, must have seen a movie or two with him, that I haven’t. (Same with Ryan Gosling.)

  104. He was in SIX FEET UNDER and 3:10 to Yuma. There you have two good examples of what a good actor he is.

  105. I know, but I still can’t remember him.

  106. I´m glad I´m not alone on not remembering actors. We both got Ryan Gosling in common. I can´t remember him at all!

  107. Jareth Cutestory

    August 12th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    In anything I’ve seen Gosling in, like HALF NELSON and LARS & THE REAL GIRL, the camera tends to spend huge amounts of run-time gazing longingly at his Soulful Acting. That’s how I differentiate him from the dozen or so actors who look almost identical to him. Bradley Cooper is the smarmy one.

    I probably couldn’t pick out that poor bastard from the UNDERWORLD movies in a police line-up.

  108. The weird thing is that I’m usually VERY good at remembering actors (both in terms of look and name), but from time to time I encounter some who have apparently no memorable features for me.

  109. Ryan Gosling is one of those actors that get a huge buzz before they make a single movie I’ve ever seen. All of a sudden he’s in every movie, and I’m already sick of hearing his name before I even know what he looks like or if he’s any good or not. It makes me resent him and not want to see anything he’s in.

    I believe Colin Farrell was a trailblazer in this area. Luckily, IN BRUGES made me forgive him.

  110. The saddest thing is; when I look at a guy like Colin Farrell who is only a few years older than me, I look at myself in the mirror and say to myself; What have YOU become, motherfucker?

  111. Yeah, fucking Colin Farrell. Suddenly he was everywhere ad I never found out why! (Although his guest spot on SCRUBS made me like him a little. And of course Bullseye.)

  112. Jareth Cutestory

    August 12th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Nowhere was the buzz more apparent than when that generic legal thriller that Gosling did with Anthony Hopkins was released. I’ve seen episodes of Law & Order that were more compelling than that film, yet it was given a complete pass by critics caught up in the hype.

    It’s like there’s a tacit agreement between the studios and the press (usually owned by the same corporation) to render certain performers or properties bulletproof.

  113. Jareth Cutestory

    August 12th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I like to think that it was Vern who singlehandedly ended the mass media’s honeymoon with Colin Farrell when he described his “edgy” villian role in DAREDEVIL as “that guy who kills people with paper clips.”

  114. I’d say most of these instantly ubiquitous actors deserve their success. Usually it comes after an excellent performance in an underseen film. Though obviously not underseen by casting directors. For Ryan Gosling it was THE BELIEVER, for Amy Adams it was JUNEBUG, for Eric Bana it was CHOPPER. I’m not sure what it was for Colin Farrell. TIGERLAND, maybe.

  115. I guessed someone would mention Eric Bana. But not in CHOPPER… HULK!!! If someone has oppressed anger it´s him. Jesus!F!Christ!

  116. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sIraEW75r78

    Statham and West’s new one, WILD CARD aka JOKER (a remake of Burt’s HEAT).

  117. Fun fact: The book HEAT was adapted from took its title from the sensation Burt’s character (“The Mexican”) would feel in his balls before he killed someone. This detail was omitted from the movie version, so if West manages to work that in the new one, it might help get him off my “wouldn’t piss in his mouth if his teeth were on fire” list he’s been on since the one-two cock punch of MECHANIC and EXPENDABLES 2.

  118. I don’t know if it’s true, but somebody said they used the same script as the Burt version. And I know it is credited to William Goldman again. From the trailer and my memories of the movie it does seem possible. So it could be a good Van Sant’s PSYCHO type experiment but probly without the balls thing.

    Or, wait… unless the balls thing is added in the spirit of Norman jerking off in Van Sant’s PSYCHO.

  119. Mechanic: Resurrection Official Trailer #1 (2016) - Jason Statham, Jessica Alba Movie HD

    Mechanic: Resurrection Official Trailer #1 (2016) - Jason Statham, Jessica Alba Movie HD Subscribe to TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/sxaw6h Subscribe to COMING SOON...

  120. I haven’t seen part 1, but I’m actually a little excited about part 2, because I wanna know what the German high-profile-ish arthouse-ish director brings to the table in his Hollywood debut.

  121. Well, once again me and the mainstream reviewers reach an impasse, cuz I’ve just seen MECHANIC: RESURRECTION on the big screen and it’s waaaayyyy better than the first film and easily one of The Stath’s best.

    It lacks the dark intensity of the first one, no surprise there, but it makes up for it with crazy action, much less shakycam, clever kills and a lean, mean plot.

    Talking of the plot, there’s a moment when something is mentioned and it made me smile as it’s pretty much exactly the same as one used in a much beloved Cannon film that we all know and love on here (probably).

    In fact, this feels like a film Cannon made in 1989 and then left in a box for almost thirty years.

    Such a shame this appears to have bombed (there were all of twenty or so people at my screening) as this could have been Statham’s defining franchise: his Arthur Bishop is a great character – part Bond, part MacGyver, part violent lunatic, always just a step or two in front of everyone else – he’s a blast here.

    So, yeah, mainstream critics be damned, this is a fun flick and one I think you cats will dig. It’s some solid meat and potatoes action shit.

    (Also, I’m pretty sure there’s an UNDER SIEGE gag in there, too…)

  122. I fuckin’ hated the first one, but I’m still gonna make it a point to see the sequel before it leaves theaters. It feels like the end of an era. I can’t imagine too many traditional Statham vehicles will get theatrical releases in the future. I haven’t always liked his movies but I was always happy to see an action jobber like him pumping out the what Leonard Maltin would call “programmers.” No high concept plot, no brand recognition, just a charismatic tough guy doing his thing. We won’t see a run like Statham’s happen again for a while.

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