tn_assassinsASSASSINS: the word with two asses

Stallone, Banderas, Julianne Moore, Richard Donner. Not a bad roster, but I never heard anything good about this 1995 studio action picture. I’ve had it on my list for a while anyway because the script is credited to Andy & Larry Wachowski and Brian Helgeland. How do you go too wrong with that? Whoever’s script got ditched they were rewritten by somebody good. Either the MATRIX guys or the PAYBACK guy.

Well, overall the movie’s only okay, decent, watchable. Some nice touches, but fairly forgettable. But I gotta say, the first half hour or so approaches greatness. My favorite scene is actually right at the beginning. Stallone is leading another guy out into the woods at gunpoint, obviously to put him down like Old Yeller. Their faces are glum, like this is an inevitable conclusion they’ve dreaded for a long time. Both are wearing nice suits and ties, Stallone is wearing knee-high rubber boots.

Suddenly they get to a marsh. The guy’s shoe sticks in the mud. He laughs. “You know, when I saw you I wasn’t scared, but I did wonder why you were wearing those. Now I know.”

mp_assassinsJust the perfect mood, a grim sort of bonding between two killers. He knows he can’t get out of this one so he accepts his fate. And there’s no point in being a dick about it, he’s a murderer too, he knows Stallone’s just doing his job. Might as well make conversation.

I don’t think Stallone talks in the entire scene. He’s really good in this movie. So quiet and his face looks dead of emotion except in little subtle traces. This is one of those “hitman trying to quit” stories, but he doesn’t turn out to have a heart of gold. For all we know it’s just self preservation, fighting back when his people (the CIA?) try to screw him. He fully intends to kill Julianne Moore when he tracks her down, and he only doesn’t when Banderas is there too. See, Banderas is this younger guy who’s been a real pain in the ass lately, he keeps showing up and trying to steal Stallone’s targets. He’s hyper and goofy, and he knows everything about the older assassin, who he idolizes and studies. But he’s okay with killing him, that would be a great honor to him.

The really great part of the movie is when it’s just about the two assassins. They first come face-to-face when Stallone pretends to be a taxi driver and picks Banderas up. So they confront each other through bullet-proof glass, size each other up, then try to figure out how to get around the glass to shoot each other. (Banderas tries shooting through the glass, laughs and says he had to at least try it.)

The story doesn’t fall apart but becomes more standard Hollywood stuff when Moore comes in. She’s a reclusive computer genius who talks to her cats and sets up complicated tricks using remote control cars. Kind of a familiar goofy character doing movie computer hacker stuff. She’s trying to sell a computer disc full of mcmuffiny secrets, Banderas is trying to take her out, etc. Of course she goes with Stallone, they bond, work together to outsmart and outgun the people after them. There is a bank account, a Day of the Dead celebration (the holiday, not the movie), an abandoned church hideout. Movie stuff. Enjoyable, but you’ve seen it before.

That beginning was so good though, I wondered who was responsible, so I looked it up. Turns out the Wachowskis wrote the original script and sold it to Joel Silver around the same time they sold THE MATRIX. When Donner signed on though he didn’t like the script (so why did you sign on, pal?) and had Helgeland rewrite the whole thing. Supposedly he toned down the violence and the love story. The Wachowskis tried to take their names off of it.

Both scripts are online, and someday I’d like to read both versions. But for now I just wanted to see who wrote the scene with the mud and the boots.

The Wachowski script had the scene, complete with the shoe getting stuck in the mud and everything. But in their version there was a long back-and-forth conversation, the guy asking all kinds of questions about how the assassin game works, how he does different things, what’s going through his mind about death, etc. They talk about moon pies. You know – that dialogue everybody tried to do back then after they saw PULP FICTION, but they didn’t think they were copying.

It was the Helgeland version that trimmed down the talking, made the subject more serious, made Stallone quiet and had the line about the boots. So, point goes to Helgeland. You are forgiven for not salvaging MAN ON FIRE.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 12:09 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.

46 Responses to “Assassins”

  1. This is for any reason one of the few Richard Donner movies that I haven’t watched yet. I think I’m the first and only member of the Richard Donner Fanclub. He is not great or has a very reconizable or innovative style, but I think he is pretty reliable. He made some real great ones (The Omen! Maverick! Scrooged!) and several weak movies (The Toy. Timeline.), but so far I was able to enjoy all of them. (And of course he directed “The Ventriloquists Dummy”, which was not just one of the most fucked up episodes of Tales From The Crypt, but also the maybe craziest thing that Frank Darabont ever wrote! [including The Blob!])

  2. Was that the one where Don Rickles has his mutant twin brother growing out of his hand? Wasn’t Bobcat Goldthwait in it, too?

    What was the deal with Bobcat, anyway? When I was a kid, it seemed perfectly normal that a grown man should choose to talk like he was having a 24-hour embolism. Now I wonder who was doing more coke: Bobcat or everyone else.

    And c’mon, man, how you gonna mention Dick Donner and not bring up Superman and Lethal Weapon? That’s a double lifetime pass right there.

  3. Yes, it was that episode, but spoiler warning, Mr. Majestyk! Spoiler warning!
    And while you are right about Superman and Lethal Weapon, I didn’t want to mention them, because these are the two Donner movies, that everybody talks about. I just wanted to name a few others. (Note that I also didn’t mention The Goonies.)

  4. “mcmuffiny secrets” She was selling McDonalds breakfast sandwich recipes?!? That’s awesome!

  5. Donner is an old fashioned work-for-hire director. No discernible style but he’ll get the job done professionally. He is also interesting because of the number of classics and well liked/loved movies he directed.

    For Superman – The Movie (in a lot of ways still my favorite superhero film (depends on when you ask me) know you’re not a fan though Vern and to a lesser extent the fun-but-dumb-and-varying-degrees-of-quality Lethal Weapon series. Other than that most of his films don’t do it for me too much, though none I would call none of them bad (well except Timeline). Still I fancy myself a fan of his as I keep tabs on projects he’s attached to and such (if it wasn’t for him directing I would have probably given ’16 Blocks’ a pass)

    As a big Wachowski fanboy (I even liked the Matrix sequels aka the worst movies ever made next to the new Star Wars & Indiana Jones movies according to the internet). I went back and revisited this film a bit back and I can still see them here and there in the final film.

    Apparently Donner’s massive reworking of their script here is what really got them seriously pushing Joel Silver & Warner Bros. to direct ‘The Matrix’ themselves.

  6. Christ, I forgot all about Goonies. Donner is the man.

    Geoffreyjar: Donner’s lack of a personal style might have something to do with why his films are so well-remembered. Rather than imposing his own visual flourishes on the movie, he does what’s appropriate for the story (or even just the scene–Superman’s tone and look changes from act to act because that’s what the story requires), gives the actors room to breathe, and basically gets out of the movie’s way. I think this allows the audience to more easily get immersed in his films, since they’re not distracted by any showy camerawork or flashy editing. Donner never wants you to notice the man behind the curtain. It’s the kind of directorial skill that doesn’t call any attention to itself. Nowadays, every director wants to be a “visionary,” but Donner was always happy to let his films be bigger than him. “Journeyman” doesn’t have to be a dirty word when a hired gun like Donner has a more impressive body of work than most “auteurs.”

  7. -I gotta work on how I word things apparently, be patient (or just wait till I get banned or something) so sorry in advance

    I didn’t mean what I said about Donner as a knock against him. I have no problem with ‘journeyman’ style of film making. Hell most of the great directors from the golden age of Hollywood didn’t have a discernible style. As I said I fancy myself a fan of his work, I even tracked down some of his lesser known/talked about films and just last year went out of my way to track down television episodes of old TV series he directed.

    One of my favorite directors is Robert Wise. One of the reasons I love his body of work so much is because the man worked in virtually every genre conceived (gotta double check if he did an entry in the porn genre though). All of them are professionally done and almost all of them are great movies. Even the ones that don’t quite work have many things going for them. With all the movies there never was a ‘Robert Wise shot!’. Just an old fashioned professional director who was happy to have a job (what happened to those by the way? Now all directors have sticks up their asses and fancy themselves, as you said, ‘visionaries’ . Now everyone is under the impression that they are “artists.” Personally I blame film school)

    As an aside I’d like to take another swipe at internet nerd culture to say that I loved the hypocrisy of nerds with Bret Ratner (for the record I’m not putting him anywhere the same league as Donner & Wise). I remember nerds bitching on and on about “the reason Ratner sucks is because he’s a journeyman director and has no specific style.” It was around this time Wise passed on and some of those same guys started praising the journeyman-style. Sometimes I really wonder why I read talkbacks…

  8. I wasn’t sure if you were knocking Donner or not. Glad to hear that you weren’t.

    For me, Robert Wise will always be the guy who directed the original The Haunting, one of the scariest movies ever made. For a guy with no signature style, he did pre-Raimi better than anyone.

    Talkbackers are stupid. What a bunch of joyless fucks. If Spider-Man 3 is the worst thing that ever happened to you, you need to get out there and get your ass kicked or something to toughen you up.

  9. I think if any of the “classic” films the talkbackers claim to love were released today, they’d be trashing them to the dogs and back.

    Honestly, I’m pretty much out of the nerd loop – I liked the new Terminator more than I liked the new Star Trek; I enjoyed X Men 3 and thought it wasn’t much different than the previous X Men movies; I enjoyed Spider-Man 3 and thought it wasn’t much different than the previous Spider Man movies; I didn’t see why Iron Man was so awesome and Indiana Jones was an abomination…and, I enjoyed the craziness and audacity of the refrigerator scene and thought the subsequent image of Jones regarding a massive, god-like mushroom cloud was one of the more artful things I saw in a summer movie that year. I thought The Dark Knight kicked ass but was in no way the “Godfather 2 of comic book movies”.

  10. “I wasn’t sure if you were knocking Donner or not. Glad to hear that you weren’t.”

    Majestyk – Wouldn’t you agree though that Donner has shot a few losers here and there? You know, like TIMELINE and THE TOY and well, I thought ASSASSINS and CONSPIRACY THEORY and the last two LETHAL WEAPON movies were duller than dishwater.

    now the good Donner…THE OMEN…SUPERMAN…the first two LETHAL WEAPON epics…LADYHAWKE…and maybe 16 BLOCKS if I ever see it again without being intoxicated. Maybe.

    Speaking of WEAPON, I would love to read Shane Black’s alleged LETHAL WEAPON 5 treatment.

  11. Finally Vern! I LOVE Assassins and am more than a little bit shocked you didn’t like it more. It seems right up your alley – there’s alot of clever bits you didn’t mention and may not have caught, like the fact that almost all gunshots in the entire film are silenced (i think there might be a few unsilenced ones from some cop characters). In the era of BANG BANG!, it’s awesome to see entire shootouts go THWACK THWACK. Plus the way the three characters are always changing their plan, always improvising, is genius. It’s actually so smart I didn’t even really understand the hotel room-TV-screen sequence until much later. Kinda reminds me of The Fugitive, and that one scene where Harrison Ford remembers to dust the blinds while breaking into the computer- a small touch but effective and believable. True, the end of the film (especially that final twist) is weak-ish, but you’ve got to respect an action movie whose climax revolves around Stallone chilling in a bank and not wanting to walk outside because he knows he’ll get sniped. That takes some balls to climax a big budget Stallone movie that way but it strangely works. And it’s great to see all this discussion about journeyman filmmakers here – I actually wrote an essay on Richard Donner, journeyman filmmaking and specifically Assassins to get into NC School of the Arts back in ’96. I obviously didn’t get in.

  12. Hey Vern, i can’t seem to find how to contact you, so this is off subject and you might know about it, but i thought i would link you to an article about the Parker novels being adapted into comic form. They’re being adapted by one Darwyn Cooke, who is quite the talented artist/writer combo, and the previews look quite cool. I love your site, and would get a kick on seeing your thoughts on this project. If the link doesn’t work, i’m sure you can google it ect. Keep up the good work bro.

  13. Anthony, I doubt Vern would be terribly interested as he doesn’t read children’s comic strip books.

  14. Anthony, I have been notified of this development. I think I will break my rule and check them out. I also enjoy the Family Circus, especially Jeffy.

    If you ever do need to email me it’s just outlawvern at hotmail dot com.


  15. Talking about assassins and Banderas, you should check a not well-known (even in Spain) and crazy movie called El Placer de Matar (The Pleasure of Killing).

  16. I like Assassins. I like the ending , the improvised plans and I fucking love over-the-top-Banderas! And , strangely ,this is one of those movies that looks and sounds like the sequel to another , unrelated and nos as good , movie : the Specialist . Maybe , I always figure , in Assassins we see the end of the career of the Specialist , with another identity . You know , like Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) kind of works as a sequel to Training Day.

    On a side note : Vern , guys , where in the hell did you get movie scripts ? Especially the scrapped projects ? I know there’s an Alien 3 script by William Fucking Gibson , and I want to read it ! You know , I’m not afraid of spoilers on this one…..

  17. @CallMeKermiT
    You should check out pages like dailyscript.com or simplyscripts.com. And there are many more sites like these. You won’t find any scripts from upcoming movies on them (for legal reasons) but lots of older and even unproduced ones!

  18. Rra: I will admit that Donner’s entire filmography hasn’t been golden, but I think the good far outweighs the bad. I haven’t seen Timeline, so I can’t comment, but there were things I liked about Conspiracy Theory, even though it eventually crapped out due to its obligation to being a safe star vehicle for two very big stars. I was hoping they’d let Mel be balls-out crazy for a whole movie for a change, but by the end he was all cute and cuddly. And I’m a huge Lethal Weapon fan so I enjoy those last two sequels for the bizarre sitcom/action movie hybrids they are. I’m still hoping for one more tough-as-nails installment to close out the series on a badass note. As for The Toy, well, I think I liked it when I was six. It would probably horrify me now.

  19. Thanks CJ. I will check those websites , I hope to find this Alien script. Vern was able to review the Expendables script , so I was thinking that , maybe , the scripts for upcoming movies were available online.My mistake.

    I was reading somewhere that , in a script , 1 page is roughly equal to 1 minute of movie-time. If this is true , most movie scripts must be 80-90 pages long. Is that true ? Because some scripts on simplyscripts.com are 230 pages !! That’s a lot of movie-time , plus the silent scenes!!!

  20. Well, the length of a script has not really anything to do with the length of the final movie. It all depends on how the director decides to film these written words and – even more important – how much of it is left on the cutting room floor in the end. And the scripts that you can find online are often not in the exact format, which is most of the time the main cause for the large amount of pages. (I hope you can follow me. It’s difficult to explain. This is not my main language.)
    And when you read a review of a new movie script, you can be sure that someone who has something to do with the movie, handed it out. (If he was allowed to do this, is a different story.) From time to time you can find these scripts online too. I think simplyscripts had once an early draft of Rob Zombie’s Halloween script up, before they were forced to remove it after a few hours. (I read it and I’m glad that he removed all the dead cats from the shooting script.) If you look closely you will find from time to time on certain message boards new scripts. I don’t wanna advertise them too much, because a.) they are usually full of assholes who don’t deserve any attention and b.)you can be sure that these are no legally released script copies! But keeping an eye on the internet is always helpful ;)

  21. well shit, i just thought it would be interesting to tell vern about something Parker related, but i forgot this was the internet. BTW, don’t go watching that UP movie unless you take a child to it, cuz i heard it’s more aimed at kids. Reminds me of the cover\interior art of the Blast of Silence Criterion DVD, drawn by Sean Phillips, artist of such childrens entertainment as “Criminal,” what a hack, I can’t believe Criterion recruited a funny pages guy for such a product, i bet no one at the Criterion offices got any pussy for like a week, messing around with that kids stuff.

  22. Don’t be mad Anthony, Crustacean was just teasing either you or me or both about the comics thing. No insult intended. I appreciate anybody wanting to give me a heads up on anything Parker related, even if it’s pajamas or a new puppet series on Nicktoons.

  23. I like that Sean Phillips fella’s work.

    I saw ASSASSINS in the cinema, and much of what I remember was summarised by Vern there. Good first half, wishy-washy second. Some last minute appearance by someone who thought he was a twist, but no-one (in the audience) remembered or cared.

    Didn’t realise that Richard Donner directed it, though, thanks for that.

  24. Thanks for the explanation , CJ , and don’t worry , I understand perfectly !

  25. CrustaceanHate

    June 4th, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Anthony: Sorry dude, I didn’t mean to offend you. Vern just likes to tease comic book nerds by calling them “childrens comic strip books”. (Actually I love both comics and Parker books so I’ll definitely be looking into them myself).

  26. Man, this is the only talkback I’ve ever seen where people actually apologize. Good show. The movie for me was kind of a letdown. Sly’s output in the mid 90’s was erratic to say the least. He got caught up in that whole “Oh, I got to let people know I can A-C-T” thing. But he didn’t realize that the scripts were all subpar. Sure Cliffhanger and Demolition Man were classic (hey I even liked Judge Dredd) because they allowed Sly to have some fun. Assassins, Daylight, and The Specialist were hampered by the fact that Sly was taking himself WAAAAY too seriously.

  27. Yeah Jack, this is pretty much THE most civilised TB on the internet. I love it. I’ve been reading Vern for years and always hoped at some point his sight would develop to this point. It’s great to interact with his other readers. I dunno – Vern just sets a great tone and I think most everyone realizes that it would be a shame to muck it up with a bunch of flaming/trolling, catchprases and memes. That’s what AICN’s for.

    Always had a soft spot for AssAssins and Donner in general (although when I saw it Timeline was the worst thing I’d seen in a cinema). Lots of clever bits – like when Banderas, realising he can’t shoot Sly in the taxi, aims at a playground full of kids instead.

  28. Man, I love that all us guys are so fucking reasonable. We can disagree without having to resort to name-calling, and when we express an opinion, we back it up with actual points, rather than just comparing a movie or director to fecal matter. This is without a doubt the most mature and honest TB I’ve ever been on. I pity the first troll who tries to ply his trade here.

  29. That’s why I finally started going to this (and one other) forum. Civilized people and discussion.
    -and fear that I would have nothing of intelligence or originality to add to a topic at hand

    I’ve been lurking Aint It Cool’s and other’s talkbacks for a little over 10 years (my god what will have to look back on when it’s my time to go!?) and never once did I have the guts or nerve to sign up for the talk back. There it’s too hostile & immature, other forums seem to just be immature (at least there is not much many calling of the lower intelligence & suspicions of homosexuality at ‘those’ sites). As a result there is almost no room for a dialogue about movies and god forbid if there are two or more individuals who disagree on a particular movies quality. (almost) Nothing but a bunch of immature band wagoners.
    -for those of you who don’t know and want examples just take a stroll over to AICN and just about every talkback is filled with jokes about how Carradine died or just look for any talkback that mentions George Lucas or Star Wars to see what I mean <may need to weed through posts from people who brag about how they smoke marijuana) or better yet don’t

    So I just want to extend a very large thank you to vern for setting a positive standard. I want to also extend a giant thank you to ‘this Chris guy’ for setting up this website for vern. A thank you is also in order for the other posters upon this board. So thank you very much for having a place where we can all discuss movies in a mature fashion in a positive light-hearted fashion.

    Thank you!

  30. Nice one Geoffjar. Agreed.

    I can’t be too hard on AICN, cos there are some smart, funny bastards over there – some of whom are making their way over here – but, yeah, it does make you despair sometimes.

    But if you really want to wallow in cerebral filth just hit any IMDB TB – they make AICNation seem like Stephen Fry and Noel Coward chatting over cream tea.

  31. I love the virtual bromance we all have going here – it truly is remarkable that we’re all drawn here to discuss what we love about these films, not insult each other. I really hope this site remains our secret and doesn’t get invaded by such and such’s Dickblood et. al from AICN. Oh, and back to the movie, I also got a kick out of how Julianne Moore, who was kinda the new-indie queen du jour at the time (after Short Cuts and Safe), agreed to be the love interest in a Stallone movie and seemed totally 100% into it. Kinda like how if Parker Posey made Blade 3 five years earlier. that would have been awesome.

  32. I’m in total agreement on the positivity of this sight. When Vern started doing the message board thing on here, I was worried that it might turn into the typical internet hatefest. (and theoretically it still could, but I’m more optimistic now as all of you guys posting here are cool as hell)

    It kind of sucks that AICN’s Talkbacks are the way they are. I still read it daily, but I try to avoid the Talkbacks for the most part. There’s a good community here and I hope it continues to stay fun.

    As for the David Carradine thing, that’s pretty sad that people are dicks about that. It’s gotta be an embarassment to die while whacking, but we all do it so I don’t see what the big deal is. Although if choking yourself is your thing, maybe try to be safe (if that’s even possible, I’m not familiar with the mechanics of choke-whacking)

    I have to agree with the journeyman director thing as well. I still like the Finchers and the Burtons and the Boyles but there’s definitely something to be said about someone that can just tell a story. I think Sydney Lumet falls into that. He has a way of letting his movies just be, if that makes sense. As a result, for me at least, I come away feeling like I experienced the event along with the characters. Basically when talking about something like 12 Angry Men it fells more like an anecdote rather than a cool movie I saw.

  33. caruso_stalker217

    June 5th, 2009 at 1:12 am

    “I’m not familiar with the mechanics of choke-whacking”

    Somebody ought to write a fuckin’ manual.

    As for the talkbacks, yeah, it can be a cesspool. Occasionally there will be one that comes along where there is actual discussion which is cool.

    Anyway, I think I would prefer death by sexual misadventure over having my life become so shitty that I would want to end it. I’d like to think that my friends and family would eventually be able to laugh about it. Like, “Yeah I had a cousin who died with a G.I. Joe up his pee-hole.”

  34. This site just got cooler. Disagreement without name calling, this must be a web 2.0 thing

    As for Assassins, i always wondered how it would have played if they had gotten Sean Connery to play one of the leads. (They tried but i guess he away preparing to be extraordinary in a couple of films time)

  35. I think the major downside of dying in flagrante muerte is that it taints everything you did during your life. Imagine Gandhi checked out like that: would the tenets of non-violent protest be forever associated with auto-erotic asphyxiation? When historians were examining the role of India during the second world war, would that little kernel be growing at the back of their minds: “I wonder if cutting off the air to his brain and pulling the stomach off himself helped him remain calm throughout his tough negotiations with the British?”

    Tasty food for thought, no doubt.

  36. Hey guys,

    Let’s here it for reasonable-ness in online threads! I just got a PM over at blu-ray.com thanking me and a handful of others for being calm, reasonable and patient – amazing, I always thought good manners worked online as well as off.

    Anyway, just wanted to say, I always felt both Donner and Stallone were trying to find their way in the 90s, and that gave rise to films that were at the very least watchably professional – the sort of thing I didn’t mind seeing in the cinema or renting the tape for. I certainly enjoyed Assassins and Conspiracy Theory far more than Lethal Weapon 4, a film that criminally wasted Jet Li, although it landed him his US career, along with equally execrable Romeo Must Die. As for Stallone, I found Cliffhanger, Daylight, Assassins and The Specialist all more entertaining than either his or Arnie’s comedies of the same period. I can stand to watch them all if they turn up on the telly while I’m flicking through channels. I’ll also give Assassins credit for getting me to take more notice of the Wachowskis – when John Woo said the following year that the best thing he’d seen recently was Bound, and mentioned their names, then I really sat up and took notice. And isn’t Bound a much better version of the idea of Sin City than the actual version we ended up with?

    Final Donner note – I REALLY liked 16 Blocks. Saw it in the cinema here, me, my girlfriend and one other older guy, no-one else there. We all liked it. Sure, it’s The Gauntlet moved to New York, but (a) I like The Gauntlet, (b) David Morse is always good value, and (c) Willis does old so well at the beginning, it’s almost a shock when he becomes a little bit more the Willis we know and love after. Good film, solid filmatism.

  37. This would’ve been the perfect jump off had Woo directed it with the Wachowski’s original script. It could’ve been dammage control after Hard Target and a good build among the directors. Stallone and Arnold would’ve been okay for the roles, but imagine what Chow and Banderas could’ve brought! We probably wouldn’t have understood a word they said, but damn would it have been poetic! Instead, we got Broken Arrow and this movie.

    If there was one movie the Wachowskis should’ve sold, it probably should’ve been Bound instead. But you know how rewrites go for those lesbian movies. Hilary Swank, Long scenes of bonding, Rape Scene, Girl holds gun for a brief moment, Death Scene involving one of the girls, OSCARS all around. All traces of black clothing, mobsters and sex would’ve been cut out for more implied lesbianism and drama.

    Well, at least we got the Matrix! and hopefully an even better movie with ass-ass-ins, wachowskis, and ninjas included.

  38. Off-topic, but I actually enjoyed SPEED RACER, and I would cite Vern’s review rougly for why I liked it.

    Though using my flavor, I would say it was a good mix between an attempt at pushing the visualization paradigm like TRON in the early 1980s, and also the working man-against-corrupt-society sport dynamics of Norman Jewison’s kickass ROLLERBALL.

    Also, whatever one fully accepts or appreciates it or not, those guys still made a $100+ million saturday morning adventure cartoon show.

  39. I absolutely adored ‘Speed Racer.’ So far the few people I met who actually saw the film really enjoyed it as well. Damn shame it seems to be this generations’/decade’s ‘Heaven’s Gate’ though. The Wachowskis are the first ones to make me see real promise in this filming-completely-on-blue/green screen-deal.

    I felt it’s anti-corporate message was sincere (I remember critics attacked this point big time citing the hypocrisy with it being a major blockbuster by one of the largest corporation(s) in the world, yet they neglected to mention this concern when WALL-E was released two months later and praised it for it’s anti-corporate message even, biased much?) But mostly I loved it for it’s central story about family. I know nerds bitched to high heaven about this and all they wanted was a 2-hour film with nothing but racing (just like how they wanted a 2-hour Hulk film with nothing but shit blowing up) but damn it this made it for me. So many family/kids movies have a lead character who rebels against their parents/family and is rewarded in the end anyway. I love how Pops was tormented everyday for driving his eldest son away. I love how Racer X was tormented for never being able to be with his family again but at same time he’s manning up and deciding to live a decision he made no matter how hard it is for him. I loved that it had an aside about parents being amazed by their children growing up and what they can and have achieved. I loved that it’s ‘family have to stick together’ message was central and more importantly that it was sincere.

    And if you didn’t like all that good film-making and acting and shit that Michael Bay taught us we don’t need then you had a film with extremely trippy visuals and some really crazy shit. And also the film it was different from every single other damn movie made.

  40. caruso_stalker217

    June 7th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I never saw SPEED RACER, but I caught the last fifteen minutes not too long ago and it gave me the impression that it’s pretty goddamn stupid. Especially that fucking kid and his chimp.

  41. I don’t know how we got to Speed Racer. But I loved it as well. Though I agree with Vern, when in VERN 5:14 where he says “I actually think it would look better if it had the same stylized world but with realistic depth to it.” I gotta admit, the movie was not what i was expecting when i caught view of the trailer. I imagined something along the lines of the Matrix Reloaded freeway scene with speed racer characters in it for a full two hours. And though that is what we ended up with in some view, it just had this spy kids glow to it that I just could not get into at first. But I realize it is a kids movie and respect their efforts in making the transition as close to the source. But I still can’t help and think what it could’ve been with the same crazy stunts without all the spy kids effects and tint. Being grounded more into something that resembles the feeling of a movie as well as a cartoon. Same movie but less off putting impressions, might have been something even more spectacular than imagined.

    But maybe its just not a good time for those types of racing movies. Death Race and Speed Racer are both enjoyable movies, but they’re more like “This movie is great, i wonder why i didn’t catch this sooner. Oh yeah, that was the movie i thought looked stupid”. They should just reboot both in one movie someday and call it DEATH RACER. Since times are hard now, and we’ll have to make movies about characters in movies who are out of work, so we drag them out and imprison them to prove that they can be good movies and still have respect. End Credits, movie dedicated to the frankenstein that can never be replaced, David Carridine. Okay, sorry about that.

    But yeah, where the hell is that NINJA ASSASSIN trailer? I can’t pay to watch a bay movie to see this trailer. I must see it now!

  42. I do dig Speed Racer, but you have to admit that it takes WAYYYYY to long to get to the actual good stuff. I appreciate the desire the Wachowskis had to fuck around with kid movie conventions and make the plot all twisty and convulted with everything revolving around buy outs and stock options, but still, its so unwieldy and has such little actual impact on the characters and themes that it bogs everything down. Still, it’s head and shoulder above most of the min-numbing bullshit that is children’s film, and I prefer it to the Matrix sequels.

  43. Yeah SPEED RACER didn’t need to be what, 140 minutes? Come on, this aint fucking LORD OF THE RINGS.

    Like Vern, I accept RACER warts and all.

  44. Yeah that kid and the monkey are really fucking annoying. Like REALLY fucking annoying. But credit where credit is due that shit is carried over exactly from that cartoon they used to have, so you can’t give the Wachowskis to much grief.
    This generation’s Heaven’ Gate? Not fucking likely. Speed Racer may have been a bomb, but it’s already got a nice cult following that’s vocal about their love of it, and writers like Moriarty are championing it. Read Massawyrm’s end of year wrap up lists on Ain’t it cool and he’ll break it down for you. Heaven’s Gate is Heaven’s Gate not just because it was such a huge fucking bomb, but because the whole 9 1/2 hour runtime was a testament to the director insane self-love. Not until Vincent Gallo took a blow job on camera has a filmmaker so used financier money to make a testament to themselves. Isn’t there a story that the guy felt like the spaces between houses on one side of gigantic period set weren’t far enough apart, so he ordered the whole thing on ripped down on both sides and restarted from scratch?
    I think instead the younger generation will embrace the movie as the eighties embraced stuff like Tron, or Dick Tracy, heavily flawed, style over substance films that have enough interesting things going on to stick in your brain for years.
    The monkey was kind of cool. He wore pants. That’s neat.

  45. Though to be fair I’m kinda an admirer, warts and all, of HEAVEN’S GATE.

    Was it self-indulgent alot of the time? Well yeah.
    Did its narrative energy, going on its own damn route regardless if anyone is with it or not, would even make Leone and Lean squirm in their seats? Sure.

    But for a messy movie, there is some moments of greatness, a good cast, and probably one of the best lighted films I’ve ever seen. David Mansfield, in his first composition job taking over after John Williams quit, pulls off a pretty appropriate soundtrack…and he was a fucking KID at the time.

    Also you gotta love that Cimino took $40+ million to make effectively a Marxist Western. That probably is why Americans and British critics despise it, yet continental Europeans like it. Or they just wanted to thumb in the eye of Hollywood, who knows?

    The opening wasn’t necessary, but I liked how it displayed how within the Victorian epoch, one of the few public ways of which sexuality could be expressed was by dancing. Also, I get the idea of the optimism and boldness of youth met in the end by the bitterness and cynical nature of old age.

    Of course I would also defend Cimino’s YEAR OF THE DRAGON and even his greatly despised DESPERATE HOURS remake. But I won’t touch THE SICILIAN.

    Interestingly, I heard a rumor that Criterion is working on a GATE DVD for next year. And to be quite frankly honest, Criterion is great at releasing pictures initially dismissed critically, only for them to be revived by Criterion, ala Alex Cox’s WALKER and VIDEODROME and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH.

  46. So I finally saw No Country for Old Men this weekend, and of all the thoughts I expected to have watching a Best Picture Oscar winner 15 years too late, “wait this is the dark and gritty version of Assassins” was not one of them. I mean, sorry if someone’s brought this up before, but it’s kinda odd that both movies feature: (SPOILERS)

    A Spanish hitman (Banderas, Bardem) who starts the movie getting arrested and thrown in the backseat of a cop car, then breaks out of his handcuffs to begin his killing spree. A tired, depressed hero (Stallone, Jones) who feels left in the dust by the modern world and just wants to retire. A small time crook (Brolin, Moore) who gets in over his/her head with a complicated plot possibly involving the government and ex-military. There’s a big suitcase full of money with a hidden transponder in it. A hotel where the crook books multiple rooms so they can move large sums of cash back and forth through the airshafts(!) There’s a gang also staying at the hotel that’s trying to take the small-time crook out, until they get violently massacred by the hitman. There’s multiple cat and mouse games where people try to outsmart and shoot at each other using shadows and reflections and all kinds of MacGyver-y tricks. Someone jerry rigs a trailer-ready big explosion. The villain gets severely wounded midway through and then soaks in a tub (how Banderas does not have a Terminator-style self-surgery scene like Bardem is beyond me). No Country’s sound design famously has little-to-no music in it. Assassins’ sound design famously features little-to-no actual gunshots in it (just tons and tons of silenced THWACKS).

    There’s a weird time-loop nature to both movies, where the same shit keeps happening over and over again, just with different characters plugged into the same places and situations. This is made most literal by the bank finale in Assassins where Stallone is expecting (and kinda wants) Banderas to be sitting in the same place he sat when he killed his mentor. In No Country, Jones sits on the couch that Bardem earlier sat in, that Brolin earlier sat in. Jones weirdly drinks the milk that Bardem just drank out of a few minutes earlier, while Stallone weirdly eats another guy’s banana for no reason at all. Speaking of which, both movies are full of scenes where the characters do something random and you’re like “wait I don’t get it” and then (other than the banana), the scene pays off later and you’re like “oh, that was pretty smart!”. People are always setting up shit all over the place in both these movies – not just in the Chekov’s gun way, but also literally stashing guns or money in greenery to be found later, or hiding guns or money up in crawlspaces or attics only to be betrayed by visible streaks through the dust.

    I’m gonna go ahead and say it – Assassins is totally the Marvel movie version of No Country for Old Men, despite coming out 10 years before the book and 13 years before the MCU. I’m not gonna exactly say it’s the BETTER movie (I mean, the tension and style in No Country is unparalleled, even though that makes the whole movie unpleasant and mean-spirited and I have no real desire to ever watch it again). But Assassins scratches the crowd-pleasing cinematic itches that No Country purposely doesn’t want to scratch. It feels like No Country rewritten by a modern day focus group, where the studio added all the shit today’s audiences want – bigger action sequences, a happy ending, protagonists and antagonists who actually meet and share screen time with each other. Globe-hopping. Magical computer hacking. A light sprinkling of progressive politics. A likable hero who uh…*SPOILER* doesn’t die unceremoniously offscreen 2/3 of the way through. A female lead who has agency and helps saves the day, and a chaste, Marvel-esque inoffensive love story to include her in. Weirdly, both movies pull from Batman as well since Chigurh has the Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones!) coin gimmick and Moore seems to be playing an iteration of Catwoman in everything but name only, not to mention the villain’s name is Bain! (Moore and Jones are also both in The Fugitive, which heavily influenced both movies as well)

    Banderas absolutely feels like a big comic book villain – he’s always charming and lights up the screen whenever he shows up, whereas Bardem is incredible but just kinda makes you feel queasy and sick to your stomach. It’s interesting that Chigurh is always on the lists of Top All-time film villains but you can’t really do an impression of him the way you can with Hannibal Lecter or Hans Gruber or The Joker or whatever. Meanwhile Banderas’ Bain seems like him doing an impression of someone doing an impression of Antonio Banderas (complete with multiple over the top “ay-yi-yi”s) and I’m totally here for it. The difference in villains kinda illustrates the difference in the movies themselves – one is dark and un-fun and cold and nasty, one is light and fun and delightful. No Country seems programmed to make you feel really bad at the end while Assassins is programmed to make you feel good (it ends on a cat joke complete with a comical meow for God’s sake). I might be the only person in the world who thinks both movies are masterpieces.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>