August 31, 2007, - 11:27 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Some interesting selections, this weekend, including Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween,” 29 years later. Sorry, readers, but I cannot review that movie. Knowing Zombie’s penchant for the most disturbing, most grotesque dismemberment and myriad other shock mechanisms in his movies, I wimped out of last night’s screening. (One sign that it’s bad: A movie that should have actually premiered on Halloween, is stuck in the August movie crypt reserved for bad movies.) I now heear it’s not as bad or scary as his other stuff, but, again, I didn’t see it. Here’s what I did see:
* “Death Sentence“: I was really looking forward to this movie, because it has a plot akin to “Death Wish” (which I like) and stars Kevin Bacon, of whom I’m a fan. But this movie adds little to America, other than another connection for the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. You can now link Kelly Preston (who plays Bacon’s wife), Aisha Tyler (a police detective), and John Goodman (a gang member’s bizarre father with an even more bizarre and unbelievable, bad accent) to Bacon with one “degree.”
This movie is based on a book written by Brian Garfield, the same novel on which “Death Wish” was based. But this is no Death Wish. Instead, it’s “Remorse Wish”–a miserable, choppy emulation of what is now a cult film classic. It’s the sensitive man’s, liberal version of what they wished “Death Wish” was about, with moralizing and lectures and messages against vengeance. Spare me.
And it’s clumsy on so many levels.
Where the late, great Charles Bronson was a methodical architect–all of the killers, muggers, and other criminals he targeted got theirs and he got away with it–Kevin Bacon is a brooding, sensitive man who doesn’t plan ahead and repeatedly gets stuck. We liked “Death Wish” because tough-as-nails Charles Bronson felt no remorse cleaning the streets of these scumbags who murdered his wife and raped his daughter. We enjoyed watching this bleeding-heart liberal become a conservative-minded vigilante who did the job the cops and prosecutors wouldn’t.
In this version, Kevin Bacon is crying in the shower and has to be comforted by his wife. Please. We really don’t need the sensitive man’s Death Wish. The original was just fine. It had no room for men who wear moisturizer and visit the spa.
In this incarnation, Bacon plays a top executive of an insurance or financial investment company who watches his talented, favorite son get slaughtered by a gang at a gas station in an initiation rite. He chooses to take revenge and kill the murderer. But it doesn’t quite go as planned, as he gets deeper and deeper into a vicious Sunni-versus-Shi’ite-like cycle of murder with the gang. In an odd portrayal you’d only see from liberal Hollywood, the gang of drug-dealing skinheads has token Black and Hispanic members . . . for diversity’s sake. Yup, only Tinseltown would insist on cast diversity in a skinhead gang.
And the third act of this movie is just plain stupid and too long and drawn out. It’s bloody and gory, but not scary or poignant. Just kill them already! That Bacon has transformed himself into “one of them” is a statement I didn’t need. Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey doesn’t transform into one of them. He just gets hardened. And that’s what we like about him.
There’s a reason vengeance movies–where innocent law-abiding victims of murder take justice into their own hands when the system fails–are making a comeback. This and Jodi Foster’s far-superior, upcoming “The Brave One” are symptoms of a “justice” system that is, in fact, failing us. Zacarias Moussaoui didn’t get the death penalty for conspiracy in the murder of 3,000 Americans because jurors read a book by his brother about how he was abused as a child. Meanwhile, an innocent Michigan prosecutor has been indicted and is now being sued over his daring to successfully prosecute Al-Qaeda terrorists. And other violent criminals are going free. O.J. is playing golf and partying with numerous young, buxom blondes, while the Goldmans struggle to make him pay and can’t get justice. And there are plenty of other examples.
But “Death Sentence” doesn’t quite capture that emotion. Instead of getting pure vengeance, we get speeches about how revenge never works and how things “don’t balance out.” Bacon cries and whines, “How do I make it end? How do I stop this?” Spare me the moralizing and guilt. I go to the movies to see the job get done in fantasyland that doesn’t get done on America’s streets, police precincts, and courts in real life.
We want Bacon to succeed in murdering them all and get away with it with his family intact. But in this one, we don’t get what we want. Not even close.
Sometimes vengeance is good. Revenge is underrated. Often, it is not only deserved. It is necessary. The system fails far too often. And many of us cheer when the likes of Bernard Getz give the “change” the gang members “ask for” on the New York subway (he’d been mugged before, with no police response). They asked for it. And they got what they deserved.
Hollywood just can’t handle that truth.
Entertaining enough, but with the wrong message. Go rent Charles Bronson’s 1974 classic instead.
* “2 Days in Paris“: Adam Goldberg plays my favorite of his characters–Adam Goldberg. It’s the same character he plays in every movie he’s in, these days. You know–the arrogant, annoying, irritating, snarky, cheerless guy, who is enormously funny. Finally, in this movie, it has its proper place as a lead character. Though, I did not need to see so many, repeated full-frontal naked shots of him. The guy has an exhibitionist problem, it seems.
Goldberg is the non-French speaking American boyfriend of Julie Delpy’s Frenchwoman who has moved to America. Their Italian vacation is ruined, and she promises to make it up to him with a trip to Paris, where her family lives. They stay in an apartment on the upper floor of her non-English-speaking parents’ residence. There, Goldberg must contend with encountering his girlfriends’ many past boyfriends and flings, her tactics to embarrass him, and her annoying family and friends.
Although there are several unnecessary, irrelevant, snarky attacks on President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the War in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, there is an upside to this movie. Though annoying–as Delpy and most of the French are–the movie makes fun of the French, big-time. They are silly, stupid, sex-obsessed, boorish, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and annoying. Everything is about sex, from their art, their photos, their conversations, their jokes, their conversations at the family dinner table. And they are an unduly arrogant lot. Everything you hated about the French–and everything which tears down their undue contempt for Americans–is personified in this film.
Did not like the filthy “humor” and some of the conversation, and I hated the cheesy ending. But it was still funny and entertaining. That’s for sure. The “ugly American” ain’t so ugly compared to the ugly Frenchwoman.
Okay for an arthouse film by an annoying actress from France who thinks she’s Wood Allen in a skirt.
* “Balls of Fury“: See my complete review from Wednesday. One thing to add. I did learn something from this movie after all. In a running Chinese vs. White, Caucasion theme in the movie, the Chinese constantly call the main character (a White guy) “Gwai Lo” (sp?) and “round-eye” (nice racist slur). Had never heard either of these before. As for the rest of the movie, too dumb, but not dumb enough. Again, read my complete review.
* “Halloween“: Wimped out of screening this Rob Zombie remake of the 1978 John Carpenter cult classic and cannot review.
Tags: Adam, Adam Goldberg, Aisha Tyler, al-Qaeda, America, annoying actress, Balls of Fury, Bernard Getz, Brian Garfield, Bush, Charles Bronson, Cheney, Death Sentence, Death Wish, Debbie Schlussel Some, Executive, France, gang member, gas station, Golf, Guantanamo Bay, Gwai Lo, Halloween, I, innocent law-abiding victims, Iraq, Jodi Foster, John Carpenter, John Goodman, Julie Delpy, Kelly Preston, Kevin Bacon, methodical architect, Michigan, New York subway, Paris, Paul Kersey, Police Detective, President, prosecutor, Remorse Wish, Rob Zombie, Tinseltown, Vice President, Zacarias Moussaoui