Kane & Lynch: Dog Days, the sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was quite a ride. This time around, the story was simpler and the interaction between the two protagonists more interesting and more intense. The look and feel of the game improved greatly, and while there was still some snags with the controls, the overall gameplay experience improved pretty dramatically.
In Dead Men, Kane and Lynch are put together by The Seven, a council of top level, international crime bosses that Kane used to belong to. Kane stole money from them and he has to get the money back. The Seven stage a prison transport escape for Kane, who is en route to death row, where he is to be put to death for past crimes. They put Lynch, a wife-murdering sociopath, in the same transport and make sure that Kane is prepared to get busted out. After the escape, Lynch is tasked to help Kane retrieve the money he supposedly stole, while The Seven threaten to kill Kane's ex-wife and daughter. Pretty soon both Kane and Lynch get burned by The Seven but manage to turn the tables and start hunting for them all over the globe, this time as partners.
In Dog Days, Kane is reunited with Lynch who now lives in Shanghai. Lynch is working as a thug for some a British smuggler named Glazer, has a girl and regularly takes his medication. Kane has been travelling the world, pulling heists where he could, but it becomes evident from the trailer to the game that the last heist went horribly wrong and his entire crew got killed while he got away, without the money. He wants to do one last job and then retire and so he gets in contact with Glazer, to smuggle some weapons and he is met in Shanghai by Lynch.
Before taking Kane to his hotel, Lynch asks him to accompany him on a little job he needs to do; having a chat with a local thug who has been talking too much. He needs to teach him a lesson, and before Kane knows it, he's stuck in a gun fight that goes horribly wrong as they accidentally shoot the thug's girlfriend, the daughter of an important politician/mafioso. That starts a chase through the sprawl of Shanghai as they are trying to flee the city.
Controls and Atmosphere
The reason I wanted to talk a bit about both the look and feel as well as the controls of the game is because they are very narrowly related. First of all, the game is absolutely beautiful, smothered in neo-noire that atmosphere that's reminiscent of Miami Vice and similar shows and films. It shows both the glitz and glamour of a large city and simultaneously highlights that the shiny lights are only skin deep and that underneath that lies the filthy underbelly of a wicked, urban sprawl. The colours used in the game are all saturated neon colours of pink, blue and yellow and the setting is very rich and detailed. Also, the surroundings give a sense of endless openness and possibilities without letting you lose track of the path you're predestined to follow. From the sweat shops you invade to catch a thug, to the low-rent apartment blocks you race through to save Lynch's girlfriend, to the train yards, docks and airport you have shoot-outs in to get out of the city, all of them are covered head-to-toe in beautiful, rich detail.
The controls are a little tricky, but have certainly improved since the first game. The cover system works better and is more intuitive now, switching from one piece of cover to the next is also a bit more responsive, though the standard settings allow you to use the WASD buttons and RMB to walk and strave, you use the C to get into cover. All good. However, when you duck from one cover to the next, you use C+A to duck left, C+W to duck forward and C+D to duck right. I use the same finger (left-index) to hit both C and D. So a combo of those is a little tough.
The camera angle is also a bit problematic at times, but again, not nearly as terrible as it was in Dead Men. They actually chose a really interesting concept; a supposed third person carrying a portable camera to film everything. That camera man is always just behind whoever you're playing at the time, be it Kane or Lynch, and sometimes ricochetting bullets hit the camera and make it go static for a moment. The camera is almost always moving, giving it a hard-nosed reality feel to it, and when the camera man is running behind you to keep up, the image becomes blurry and you can hear him panting. Sometimes, in the thick of it, he loses focus on what you're trying to hit. The lighting becomes bad as fast-paced action leaves the camera struggling to keep up. The camera man is there, but he's never part of the story. It's very well done.
I thought this game was brilliant. From the rather brutal torture scene that leads into Kane and Lynch both running naked, cut up and bloodied into the streets of Shanghai, love handles and all, to the pixelated faces of the people you shoot in the head, supposedly because the camera man thought it was too gruesome for public consumption. The pace is fast and the panic on the voices of both actors is really well done, their frustration grows as they realise they are getting far too old for their gun-fighting antics. The only real complaint I have about this game is that it seemed a lot shorter than the first one, and that there was absolutely no end-of-game sequence, making the end of the game very anti-climactic.
Repo Men 
It's been a long time since I've reviewed a film, other projects and a string of less than stellar films were the reason for my disinterest in devoting time to an extensive review, but I've decided to do a review of Repo Men, mostly because I wasn't disappointed by it, nor found the subject matter absolutely impossible to tackle in a meaningful review. (Which was the reason why I never reviewed A Single Man, simply because it was a little bit too much for me to handle and still do it justice.) No, I had absolutely no expectations other than that it wouldn't be Citizen Kane, which probably went a long way to making this film the an enjoyable one. Well, that and the extensive amounts of gore.
I have been following the development and the marketing campaign behind the film for a little over six months now and I have to say that it came close to the brilliance displayed in the campaign to promote District 9, with seemingly life-like, high resolution posters (see below) advertising living irresponsibly, drinking excessively and eating all the junk-food you could lay your greedy hands on since "The Union Cares." You can have all your organs replaced with cybernetic "artiforgs" that often work better and longer than your normal, flesh-lumps would. You could get your heart replaced for a mere 975,000 dollars with an 18% APR on the first year and 24% the following years. In this fashion the Union provides hearts, kidneys, eyes, spines, livers and limbs. Check out the brilliantly designed http://www.theunioncares.com, the official site of The Union, and see which Union payment plans suit your lifestyle!
Brilliant, just brilliant. I always like it when they supplement an already compelling and extensive fictional universe with well thought out and designed cross-overs into our own world, blurring the lines between the real and the fictional and creating a deeper, more immersive film experience.
.: The Story
The Union is a company selling artificial organs to anyone willing to extend their life by cybernetic means. Repo Men repossess the organs from people who are more than 3 months overdue with their payments, breaking into houses, knocking people unconscious while asking a series of standard questions before cutting you open on your kitchen floor and retrieving the liver you decided not to make payments on.
"Would you like to have an ambulance present to drive you to the hospital after I'm done with the procedure?"
"Are they going to give me a new heart?"
"No, not with your credit history."
The Union works the same way credit cards companies do, offering you a product that will allow you to extend an already toxic lifestyle into infinity, while making huge amounts of money off the interest you pay on the loans they offer to pay for these life extending products. Some people take great care in making sure to pay off the loans on time, but most people tend to fall behind on the enormous payments they'll have to make. And that's where the Union makes their money, retrieving the organs and selling them to someone else and starting the cycle all over again.
Remy (Law) is a level 5 Repo Man, the best in the business, working alongside his best friend Jake (Whitaker), who have been inseparable since the third grade, went to school together, went into the military together, shared everything together. Then married Carol (van Houten) and had a son and slowly but surely Carol wants Remy to do less dangerous work, pressuring him to take a job in sales. Obviously reluctant to give up the life of a repo man, Remy keeps putting off talking to his his boss, Frank (Schreiber), who runs the local Union branch, being too content to repo other people's organs with his friend Jake. His entire world is turned upside down when he decides to do one last repo and something goes wrong and he gets hurt. After having spent a few days in a coma he wakes up with an artiforg heart (including the stranglehold contract) and his wife unwilling to continue with the relationship. More importantly, he finds himself strangely afflicted by a conscience, unable to perform the repos that he used to do with ease. His savings dwindle and he quickly falls behind on his payments until he is driven into the company of Beth (Braga) a girl he always admired from afar who's dealing with the same trouble as he is. The both of them decide to run, hiding out in the abundant dilapidated tenements in the ghetto's, far away from the skyscrapers and the luxury of the life he came from and hunted by his ex-colleagues who are trying to repo his heart.
.: The Production
The production on this film is beautiful, allowing the sleek design of hypermodernity to stand beautifully juxtaposed against the excessive violence, the gory repos and the deplorable state of the ghettos. It's a post-modern world where people have embraced the seamless integration of man and machine without their being an emphasis on overly cybered individuals, which is often the case with films that depict worlds where people opt for cybernetic modification of their bodies. The worst you see is a man with an obvious cybernetic limb, the rest of the cybernetics are all subtle, seemless and discrete. Not that there aren't cybernetic freaks, but that's not what the films focusses on as it looks at what happens when a normal person falls behind on payments. It would've been too easy to inject the film with too many displays of the fringe cyberfreaks. (Not that it wouldn't have been fun, I just admire the self-restraint.)
The acting is average, but Whitaker once again takes the crown, closely followed by the overlooked Schreiber-powerhouse. Seriously, why don't we see more of these two guys? Jude Law looks in shape without being overly muscled, just about what I would expect his character to look like, but his effete accent is somewhat out of place. Braga does not deliver a particularly good performance, but she does seem to fit the roll well. I have the feeling that van Houten's performance mostly ended up on the editing room floor. It ended up being a distraction and not much of a critical plot element.
All in all, it's an enjoyable film, with great visuals and a compelling universe and a rock solid performance by Whitaker who seems to be getting better and better with each time I see him on the silver screen.
.: The Trailer
.: The Posters
The best example I can come up with of a film that builds up your affection for the characters you're watching, only to completely break it all down, is Goodfellas. It does it so masterfully that you don't even care that the characters you're rooting for are really amoral and intensely bad people. Hollywood, like many other film industries, likes to root for the bad guys. It likes to root for the underdog, and it likes drama.
And Mike Tyson delivered all of that.
This documentary chronicles the life of Mike Tyson, narrated by Mike Tyson in his now almost iconic, high-pitched, rambling, ranting way. It starts with him talking about his childhood, about the crimes and the drugs and the juvenile detention centers. How he found boxing and how he was taken in by his first trainer, Cus D'Amato. How he lived in his house, was trained by him, in both the mental as well as the physical art of fighting. D'Amato was everything to him, the very first person to ever make him believe in himself. The way Tyson talks about him is very moving, very touching. Very honest. I guess that's the prevailing sense; honesty. He tells things how they happened, either real or imagined.
It's obvious he's a deeply troubled individual with some deep-rooted psychological problems. He's beyond redemption, knowing that he's broken but ultimately unable to fix things. You can see that he's older, wiser and that the sharp edge in his personality has dulled considerably. He's got his rage under control to the point where he can discuss his problems without getting angry, without losing his temper and without lashing out at everything and everyone.
He's also, obviously one of the most gifted boxers to ever live. The reason he started losing later on in his career, after he went to jail, is because of either complacency or his inner demons standing in his way. But when he was in his prime, his speed was crazy and his punching power far above that of his size; a small heavy weight at 220 pounds. His footwork, his stamina, his ferocity and his accuracy were only matched by his speed and power. It's amazing to watching him shadowboxing at the age of 18.
This documentary is a recommendation for anyone with an interest in boxing, Tyson, or to watch someone tell the story of his own self-created trainwreck.
District 9 
I was really surprised at the premise of this film when I first learned about it. Relatively inexperienced director. First time actor as the lead role. Aliens come to the planet, but they are relatively retarded and without guidance. It's set in Johannesburg. I'll let that sink in for a second. Let me repeat; it's set in Johannesburg. Did you get that? Sometimes you'll see a film that picks one of these and manages to achieve critical acclaim and then that's all that's being talked about, how the director had next to no experience besides some music videos or how the actor turns out to be the hottest new breakthrough prospect out on the market. This film was pretty ambitious down to its amazing marketing gimmick of putting up anti-alien posters all over major U.S. cities with no further explanation. I'm rambling a bit but I think I'm getting across just how unusual this film is and that if things had gone just a little differently, the delicate promotional equilibrium would've been disturbed and we would've never been able to see this film. Especially in the era of mega-budgets hardly anyone really wants to take a chance with something out of the left field (out of the far, far, faaaar left field) and hope to see some return on investment.
.: Set up
Aliens have come to earth in a gigantic craft that eventually settles above Johannesburg, South Africa. For long months nothing happens and unrest pressures the South African into action. They contract a private security firm called Multi-National United (MNU), a la KBR and Blackwater, to breach the craft and see what's going on inside the craft. They do so and it turns out that the aliens inside are actually the "worker" aliens, not too bright, with under-evolved intellects, who are severely malnourished and neglected. There's no sign of the leadership and the aliens are taken off the ship and put in internment camps on the outskirts of the city.
Years later aliens are given a limited form of citizenship and are treated as degenerates, the symbolic nod to apartheid is unmistakable. Communication with them is difficult and they seem really primal, concerned with few things like procreation and food. Nigerian gangster have taken hold of almost all trade within District 9 as they provide prostitutes and cat-food, which apparently is like a drug to the aliens, who, due to their appearance, are referred to as "prawns." In return, they will accept almost all alien technology, especially weaponry. Sadly, the alien technology can only be used if the wielder has prawn DNA, so it's useless to humans, something MNU has been researching from the moment their soldiers breached the craft and found the aliens inside.
Queue Wikus van de Merwe (Copley), a bureaucrat at MNU, the company who has been charged with the welfare of the prawns but are secretly only interested in their weapon technology. He is the subject of a documentary on the move of the prawns from District 9 to a different camp outside of Johannesburg after growing disapproval of their presence from citizens of the city. The documentarists follow him around as he prepares to head out to District 9 to deliver notices on the move to the prawns. They can't just move them, since that would be illegal, so they have to deliver notices to each of the inhabitants of District 9. At the same time, they'll do a sweep for contraband like dangerous alien technology. Wikus seems inept and is disrespected by the mercenary units under the MNU employ for what they consider to be weakness.
While delivering the notices in District 9 he stumbles upon what he thinks is a cache of alien weaponry. He tinkers around with a small device that accidentally discharges and sprays him with a strange black mucus. Because he's being filmed for the documentary he shrugs it off and tries to get the documentarists to cut that part from the film. They continue with their mission and while not everything goes according to plan, it went well. Later, he starts to feel ill and a strange transformation starts to take place... Oooeerr!
This film is absolutely awesome and I recommend everyone who likes science fiction films to have a look at it. It's new, it's refreshing and the production is superb, especially consider the relative inexperience of the film's makers. I'm looking forward to seeing where the careers of the director and main actor are going to go. I'm hoping that Copley will pick up the reigns that Christopher Lambert left vacant as his career degenerated into nothingness as the go-to-guy for kind of out there science fiction leads.
|Wikus accidentally discharges an alien device.|
Bringing Out the Dead 
This movie tells the story of Frank (Cage), a son of a nurse and a bus driver who, naturally, became a medic on a rotating, two-man ambulance team in Manhattan, working the graveyard shift. He's exhausted and bordering on a full blown burnout and he keeps seeing things; he sees the ghosts of those he wasn't able to save, and hears the pleas of the comatosed and the brain-dead. He tries as best he can to get fired, yet every night he is partnered up with others, and goes out into the urban nightmare of New York to try and save people. He hasn't saved anyone in months, a fact which fuels his depression and his increasingly reckless behaviour. He's partnered up with; Larry (Goodman), a fat man who seems only interested in food and setting up his own ambulance dispatch, Marcus (Rhames), a religious zealot who keeps hitting on the dispatch lady, despite her obvious distaste for him, and Tom (Sizemore), an aggressive macho who works the graveyard shift voluntarily because he gets off on the excitement.
One night, Frank and Larry are called in to help an elderly man who's suffered a heart-attack. He's the father of Mary (Arquette), an ex-junkie who is trying to get her life in order. They manage to save the man, which keeps him comatosed and unresponsive. Frank is drawn to Mary for reasons he can't quite explain, just like he's drawn to the job even though he wishes he could quit. He's looking for salvation, forgiveness and rest, which he seems to find in the strange relationship he develops with Mary. He also seems to be capable of endless patience and forgiveness, as is shown in his relationship with Noel (Anthony), a mentally ill hoodlum who is perpetually thirsty, which drives him to cause trouble.
A very dark movie from Martin Scorcese, whose editing kind of reminded me of Tony Scott's editing lately, very fast and frantic. While the acting of Cage, Arquette, Goodman and Rhames isn't stellar, Sizemore and Anthony seem to shine. The midnight backdrop of Manhattan does a tremendous effort to add atmosphere to the film, and it succeeds in spades. It shows you the side of New York City that few ever get to see, even after living there for years on end, and it's an ugly one, much like in The Brave One. It doesn't glamourise anything; neither the job, the medical field, the nightlife, the city, nor the people. Many current day films are advertising vehicles, meant for product placement and putting asses in seats. That doesn't go for this film, which I'm sure wasn't a big box office draw, and might even have only a very small cult following. It's depressing, ugly and sad, which is exactly why I like it.
The film remains open ended, and that might frustrate some but it adds to the overall feeling of hopelessness. You don't know if things will improve, nor will you ever know. There's also no real resolve on where Mary and Frank's relationship is heading. During the film they develop an affection for one another, but it never graduates to a love affair, because finding love in Frank's situation, in the environment he moves in, is not realistic. It makes the affection they share for one another more real and believable, and also doesn't shed any light of hope on the Frank's future.
Tip; if you watch this film, do it late at night, preferably in a sleep-deprived haze, the film becomes magical that way.
Inglourious Basterds 
Having witness the steady decline in Quentin Tarantino's work since Pulp Fiction, I was a little hesitant about watching this film. Jackie Brown was, in my opinion only a success because it's an Elmore Leonard story that any half decent director can foster into a success. Out of Sight is a good example, Soderbergh did a great job and made JLo look interesting. Get Shorty is another success, done by Barry "Who?"
Sonnenfeld. The counter argument here would be Be Cool, Get Shorty's sequel, which F. Gary Gary managed to turn into a turd, albeit an entertaining one. -- thank you, Vince.
So with Tarantino's unpredictable performance as a writer/director, compounded by the fact that Inglourious Basterds (IB) was an alternate take on the second world war, something I have found to be really sensitive to, I just didn't give IB much chance to amaze me. I was fairly certain it would entertain me, but I just wasn't sure it would amaze me. And then there was the opening scene and I had to readjust my expectations.
The beautiful countryside of southern France. Perrier LaPadite (Menochet), a dairy (?) farmer with a small farm and three stunningly beautiful daughters, finds being visited by Col. Hans Landa (Waltz) an officer for the SS charged with finding and capturing any fugitive Jews in France. The scene starts calm, between an overly polite and cheerful Landa and the calm and strong LaPadite. You get the feeling that Landa is not cut out for the brutal work he's doing with the air of a bureaucrat, and you feel that LaPadite is a man as solid and as strong as the rock that makes up the jagged French coastline. You watch him cooly, calmly answer each of the sociopathically cheerful Nazi's questions and you think; "this man will never bend, will never break or give in" and you actually start worrying about the fate of his beautiful daughters as the underlying tension between the two rises, as you feel there is no other outcome to this meeting than a violent one.
The rest of the film isn't nearly as consistently great as the opening scene, but there are some beautiful, moving, funny and brutal scenes that make this film absolutely worth watching. Is Tarantino back? I can't say for sure, but this is definitely a step in the right direction on the road to recovery of his once surprisingly fresh style of writing and directing. I dunno, perhaps it's just that tribute thing he's been doing that irked me.
The story is a rather simple one -- well, actually, there are two stories that merge into one right near the end. A group of Jews are assembled to wreak havoc and go on a terror spree behind enemy lines, killing as many Nazis as possible in the most brutal way, each disfigured corpse they leave behind adding to the growing legend of "the basterds." (Why Tarantino purposefully misspelled the title of the film he will not reveal.) When they find out that all the top National Socialist officials, including Adolf Hitler himself, will attend a premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film in Paris, France, the allied command sees it as a great opportunity to sever the head of the Nazi beast once and for all.
Brad Pitt in the role of the ultra-manly, not too subtle military man and Nazi hater Aldo Raine was disappointing since they completely under-utilized the potential performance Pitt can bring to the table.
I got the feeling that much of Aldo "The Apache" Raine's backstory got lost on the editing room floor to make sure they could shoe-horn the film into the 150 or so minutes it ended up lasting. Where did he get that massive scar on his neck, for instance?
I was impressed with what I saw of Stiglitz (Schweiger), German officer turned Nazi killer, one of the few non-Jews in the Basterds.
Til Schweiger has such an iconic, bad-ass face that he fits his sociopathic role rather well. I've been a fan of his ever since he played one of the replacement killers in Replacement Killers.
The cold hearted Shoshanna (Laurent) who lives in Nazi occupied Paris as an undercover Jew who operates a cinema and finds an opportunity to get revenge for her family's death is a good guy you can root for, while Sgt. Donnie "The Bearjew" Donnowitz (Roth) is a brutal specimen of Jewish retribution as he prefers to club Nazis to death with his battleworn Louisville slugger that people might have a harder time rooting for. Another honorable mention should go to Diane Kruger as the German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark, who's cool for the name alone and plays a double agent helping the basterds perform their mission. She's charismatic incarnate, which is really how actors in that age must've been.
And then there is the villain of the film, Col. Hans Landa, portrayed masterfully by German actor Christoph Waltz, who, in my opinion, absolutely steals the show with his razorsharp acting and rather eccentric character. This character keeps intriguing and entertaining from the opening scene of the film, which I described above to the finale. He is so outside of the normal portrayal of an SS officer that you are almost suckered into thinking that he's the main attraction, the hero of the story. Somehow, some way, Waltz and Tarantino make you care for and like this unlikeable Nazi.
With all the Jewish retribution portrayed in the film, and not in the most heroic of ways either, I wonder what the Jewish liga thought of this film, considering how it could be argued that the Jews are portrayed as the aggressors which makes them look worse than they did in the Passion of the Christ. I guess Tarantino might avoid their wrath because he finally lifted their victimhood a little bit, if only for two-and-a-half hours. I've not made up my mind about how I feel.
Anyway, go and see the film, if only to see the Jews kick ass for a change, or do it for Waltz' outstanding performance.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 
Tony Scott, famed director Ridley Scott's younger brother, has developed a style of direction and editing that's never going to appeal to the masses. Considering how the early 80s are often harkened back to as an example of when directors took time to set the mood of a film and the general pace of the film was a lot slower than most of what is produced today. As fate would have it Ridley was the master of this as shown by such iconic examples as Alien and Blade Runner. Perhaps it is Ridley's prowess in this field that made the younger Tony choose the polar opposite style, laced with a high pace and an epileptic editing that reminds me of all that is wrong with this MTV generation. But that's not to say that it doesn't work very well for certain films.
The most recent example of this style of directing and editing is showcased in The Taking of Pelham 123 (or simply, Pelham), the remake of the 1974 classic starring Walter Matthau. This time it pitts Denzel Washington as Walter Garber (as opposed to 1974's Zachary Garber played by Walter Matthau) against John Travolta as Ryder (as opposed to Robert Shaw who played Mr. Blue whose real name was Ryder. Incidentally, the 1974 Pelham is also the inspiration for the colour-coded nicknames in Tarantino's Resevoir Dogs.) Ryder has hijacked a subway cart full of people in a strategic tunnel somewhere underneath Midtown Manhattan and demands 10 million dollars for their safe release. He has 19 hostages and will kill one each minute they exceed the one hour deadline. That starts a long dialogue between Ryder and Garber as Ryder seems to trust him more than the NYPD hostage negotiator (Torturro). That dialogue is surprisingly more intensive and involved than in the 1974 version and in the era of fast cuts, short attention spans and Michael Bay films that's pretty unique for a remake.
Denzel is solid, as is Gusman and Torturro. Travolta plays a great unstable, strong sociopath, but he had a hard time convincing me of Ryder's backstory as a powerful, shrewd and shady stockbroker. He did some parts nicely, but that was probably more a clever screenplay than the spin he gave to it, like doin the math of ten million dollars divided by 19 hostages, which he does correctly to the cent. It happened before his revelation as a talented broker so it gave you some early insight into his intellect. He's wilder than the awesome, coiled spring of tightly packed violence he played (well) in Broken Arrow, but it's similar. The person that actually pleasantly suprised me was James Gandolfini as the mayor of NYC who has to come up with the money while closing in on his retirement from public office and coming under heavy assault in the media for cheating on his wife and the resulting, rather public divorce. It was good to see him back on the big screen, given his talent, and also shrug off the Soprano type-cast a little bit.
All in all a very enjoyable movie if you don't expect a remake that's very loyal to the atmosphere of the original. Oh, and don't think that the timeline is going to be very acurrate either. Seriously, getting from midtown to Coney in seven minutes?
Public Enemies 
I really wanted to like this film but I couldn't. With a pretty stellar cast and one of my favourite directors, I was waiting for weeks and weeks for the spark to kindle the flame within me, but it never happened. Not that this film didn't have its moments, and I will try to remain fair as I collect my thoughts about it.
The story is that of John Dillinger (Depp), the notorious bankrobber who gained notoriety as the most wanted man of the United States and J. Edgar Hoover (Crudup), the founder and director of the FBI, his personal nemesis and thorn in his side. He was well-connected and charismatic enough to have the public on his side, and while people were starving due to the great depression he was seen as a Robin Hood character who did what others only dreamt of. The film follows his downfall, only showing a small part of his rise to riches and infamy, which is, to me one of the fundamental problems of the film. More traditional films that tell the story of a bad guy -- especially one as charismatic as Dillenger -- is that usuually the audience gets the chance to get to know the character and to share in their success before the fall sets in. You become invested and you feel like part of the team, or in this case, the gang. Not here. The film starts when Dillinger is already successful and quite well known, even though later you find that only a short time has passed since he came off a nine year stretch for knocking over a grocery store for a fifty dollar haul. Not exactly the mark of a professional bank robber. Anyway. So the film feels like one big decline.
On the other side of the story is FBI special agent Melvin Purvis (Bale), who quickly rises through the Feds ranks as a promising soldier in the war on crime that Hoover just declared. He starts heading the Chicago office and is charges with the apprehension of Dillinger. He is provided the next generation in law men, more CSI that The Shield, relying more on brain than brawn. I was glad the approach failed and the got some back up from some Texan hardballers with some spit in their eye and grit in their gut, otherwise it would have been very, very dull. (I was very happy to see my man Don Frye as one of the hardcases -- an MMA pioneer!) and so the rather one-sided cat and mouse game starts.
The acting was, unfortunately rather bland and stereotyped with hard men talk either like cowboys or with an unnatural amount of gravel in the back of their throats. Ribisi, who I was glad to see make an short appearance in two scenes as a train robber looking to enlist Dillinger and his gang for a job, was probably the worst of them, but even Depp overdid it a little bit, which is fine when he's doing Jack Sparrow, but here it seemed out of place. Apart from that Depp did a great nob playing the shwashbuckling bankrobber, charming as ever but withou many means to showcase his talents. There is exactly one scene with some gravitas and that's pretty short. It had occurred to me that men from that era hardly showed their emotions to begin with, so perhaps the lack of it wasn't an oversight but was by design. Somehow I find that hard to believe since they tried to tie in a love story. (Oh, I didn't mention that yet? Must've made an impression on me.)
Bale gets absolutely no opportunity to shine, and the scenes that he shares with Depp he is overshadowed. His whole character is meant to be that of the stiff law man, which is why at the start of the film, in his first scene, he's out-acted by Channing Tatum for chrissakes! Purvis shoots Pretty Boy Floyd (Tatum) in the back as he tries to flee. Standing over him, Purvis tries to get the wounded Floyd to betray his friends without appealing to...well, anything sensible. So Floyd spits on him in dramatic fashion and dies. Throughout the entire exchange Purvis hardly changes expression. To borrow a phrase from U.S. congressman Barney Frank; "It was like having a discussion with a dining table." Anyway, not the most memorable performance from the man who brought you The Machinist and American Psycho. I guess even great actors can have a bad day.
Luckily, there are some nice surprises in the film as well. The relatively unknown (to me) Jason Clarke, who plays Red Hamilton, one of Dillinger's side-kicks. He doesn't get a lot of scenes, but the ones he does get made me take notice. Also, Stephen Graham, the guy who played Tommy in Snatch, plays the deranged and sociopathic Baby Face Nelson, and does so very, verywell. Although he didn't really show his stuff, like Ribisi, I was glad to see Stephen Dorff again, as the slick, con-man Homer, and then there was Domenick Lombardozzi, Branka Katic, John Ortiz and especially Stephen Lang as the hard-nosed Texan law man Winstead, who was amazing. Sadly, none of these people had roles big enough to lift the film from its depression.
.: A Matter of Direction
It's interesting to look over all these names since I recognise a lot of them from Miami Vice, which Mann also directed. People who know me know that I dig Michael Mann and his direction, Miami Vice (TV), Miami Vice the movie, Heat,Collateral, The Insider, Crime Story (TV), Thief...hell, I even watched L.A. Takedown, the precursor to Heat. I loved all of it. After watching this film it comes as no surprise that I never saw his other big hit, The Last of the Mohicans, because I always felt that this guy should stick to what he really excels at, which is crime stories. Over the years, and throughout his career, no director has shown himself to have such an understanding of modern day crime and be able to put it in such a cinematic light. When you think of crime films, you quickly end up at the likes of John Woo, who does a mean crime film, but it's always a bit absurd and romanticized, like he's directing an epic tragedy -- which I suppose he is. He never gets the nitty and the gritty, or the technical details down on film properly, which is what Mann can do like no other. It doesn't look good, it's not sexy and he makes it look slightly mundane and routine, like a job, only illegal.
And so he attempted to do the same with this film, and you could say that he's the guy for the job, and in places he did manage. Especially with the relation between Dillinger and several other crews, like Ribisi's trainrobber's crew, and the mafia, is all really well done. Sadly, Mann really "grew up" on the crime in the seventies and got into his own during the crime-waves of the eighties and nineties. He shouldn't try to apply the same rules to other eras. I think it'd be easier for him to move forward along the timeline instead of moving backwards. The new millennium will probably have elements of crime that he's not too familiar with -- though he did do an awfully good job on Miami Vice, and incorporated technology and new tracking mechanisms pretty well, so perhaps I'm talking out of my ass. He didn't, however, manage with Public Enemies...unfortunately. I really wanted to like this film but I couldn't.
Terminator Salvation 
Ever since the first Terminator was released in which snippets of the future were visible through Kyle Reese's flashbacks to his time in the future (!?), I have been curious to see more about the future, about the resistance and their struggle in the war against Skynet. As a result I got very excited when this film was announced, and it didn't disappoint, though I did have some criticism.
All of the acting is pretty decent, the visuals are good, the concepts are nice...everything is pretty good. Well, except the logic behind the story, but whatever, for a fourth instalment in a franchise, it was pretty fucking sweet. My main gripe with the film is that it doesn't take its time. It's the same problem I have with many McG/Michael Bay films (I swear, they're the same person!), they drag you into the rollercoaster and it doesn't stop until the credits roll. They take so little time to delve into the why and how of things. They throw fluff information at you while simultaneously assaulting your senses with explosions and shoot-outs. That's cool when you're there for the popcorn, but it sucks when you're really taken by the franchise. When McG said that he wanted to make it more like Aliens, I was really hoping that he would have the same timing as Aliens did. Here and there they took the time to let the mood and the atmosphere of a moment sink in. Not so much in Terminator Salvation, unfortunately.
One of the things that I thought really stood out in the film is how they managed to bring alive all the machines. Not just the terminators, but all of the machines in Skynet's arsenal. They gave them personalities, but not to the point of it being anything more than their hardwiring. They also gave them speech - sort of. There were a few scenes where there was a strong, loud, metallic, grating sound that felt almost like it was used to intimidate the resistance, or perhaps an audible communication device. I love it!
All in all, I really liked the film, even though it's obviously flawed and didn't come to fulfil its potential.
This film is not going to be for everyone. Let me just throw it out there before I start this review. Considering that the film has a spell-check defiant name and will be, for most people who are unfamiliar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, on which the story is based, even harder to pronounce than to spell, it got a cult-status even before the film had its premiere at the Seattle Film Festival in 2007. That cult status was cemented when about half the people who saw it came out the theatre scratching their heads in puzzlement. First time director Dan Gildark, who helped write the screenplay, did a very good job of transporting Lovecraft's vision to the silver screen without alienating everyone. Just half the audience, it seems.
Russel Marsh (Cottle) is the chair of the history department of a university in Seattle. One morning he gets a call to inform him that his mother has passed away. Reluctantly he goes back to Rivermouth, Oregon, where he grew up. It's a place he desperately tried to get away from due to his unaccepted homosexuality as well the discord between him and his bizarre, eccentric family. During his drive over to Rivermouth you can make out snippets of the news on the radio, which hints at a slowly degrading civilisation and environment, with reports of Eskimo terrorists trying to block the U.S.A. from opening up strategic, polar sea ports. It paints a rather bleak picture of the world, which gets even bleaker when Russel gets to Rivermouth, where, on the drive in, he is confronted with some local thugs in a souped up truck who harass him, obviously recognising him from years ago. Even stranger is that when they are done, speed up and disappear around the bend, Russel stumbles upon their crashed truck and helps out the injured. As a result he misses his mother's funeral when he finally arrives. He is greeted by his sister, whom he seems to have a fairly normal bond with, and his eccentric father, a man in an odd, purple suit, and the head of a secretive doomsday cult called the Esoteric Order of Dagon, which has the locals terrified and are suspected to be involved in the disappearance of many Rivermouth residents. The followers are also reported to follow an strange creature known as Cthulhu.
While Russel is trying to keep his stay in the village as short as possible and tries to avoid his family as much as he can, he does get back in touch with Mike (Green), a boyhood friend with whom he always shared a special bond. He also gets in touch with a wino who makes claims about strange rituals being performed in the area. Not just that, but an odd young woman who works as a clerk at the night store begs him to find her missing young brother. Through his sister he meets Susan, an aggressively seductive babe who wants him to impregnate her. He also visits his aunt, who resides in an asylum and tells him his mother has hidden a gift for him in his grandmother's house, which is up for auction as part of his mother's estate. His aunt is obviously a loon, as she sometimes speaks in tongues and spends her days eating the crayons she uses to draw disturbing images. All the while, he is assailed by strange dreams, horrific encounters and he slowly starts to find out more about his family and their role in the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
All in all, it's a way better film than it sounds when you sum it up like that. It's scary, and creepy, and very well shot. The isolated village along the Oregon coastline is a beautiful setting for one of Lovecraft's stories, even though it's not set in the traditional New England setting of his stories, it works very well. The acting can be a little forced and wooden at times, but the overall quality of the film makes up for a lot. Have a look at the trailer below and check it out for yourself.