Black Rain: a NYPD officer escorts a known Yakuza back to Japan; when the criminal escapes the mulleted cop must find him to prove his innocence, and serve up some justice-flavoured sushi! First off, this is a visual fantasy / offensively stereotypical Japan; there’s neon signs, neon trucks, neon clubs, neon everything (in Osaka there’s only a handful of streets lit like this), doesn’t matter though, it looks great. I’m also sure that not everyone in Japan is efficient with a katana, is a gangster, writes Kanji, wears traditional robes, or sings karaoke… but I’ll let that slide too. For the sake of equality Garcia plays a dumb, loud New York schmuck stereotype. Being a Ridley Scott flick, there’s a lot of manliness in every frame; motorbike races, fighting, broody man hero, all culminating in a laughable / ludicrous fight at the end. The one woman in the film is there purely to be lured at. Technically it’s good to watch, poppy/distracting visuals, despite ageing quite badly, but there are a few ill-judged scenes like the Garcia karaoke debacle. If you want a Japanese culture on steroids, ‘man film’, with motorbikes and a whole lotta mullet – this is the film for you! For being so highly regarded Black Rain is just feels like another terminally cheesy, typical 1980s, cop-out-of-water action flick – with a bit more budget than most.
Haywire: when an ex-marine – now hitwoman – is framed for murder she has to set the record straight, by going straight to the top of the conspiracy. So it’s not the most original story, but the execution and tone make it stand out from the genre. It’s a stripped down travelogue spy thriller – somewhere between a Bourne film and The American – with a throwback feel, like those old-fashioned spy movies you watched with your grandparents. The action is gripping, particularly the Dublin chases and all hand-to-hand combat fighting. The lead actress (an MMA fighter by trade) works surprisingly well, even though she’s been surrounded by decent actors – as sensible backup – she doesn’t stick out much. There’s an interesting soundtrack with the odd scene having retro spy music, but mostly authentic audio that works very well during fights (grunting / punches / breathing), chases (footsteps / cars / traffic lights)… this pushes the dramatic envelope beyond what you normally get. Not unlike Contagion, Soderbergh has firmly rooted everything reality – I also see this as an important breakthrough role for Carano, who I envisage carving out a Statham/Dwane action niche. Continuously credible, and intense for the most part, Haywire is as good as it can be with the knowingly limiting story, and is as honest and believable a spy thriller as you’ll ever see.
Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps: 20 or so years after the first Wall Street film Gordon Gekko is released from jail and tries to warn everyone about the upcoming 2008 crash, while making amends with his estranged daughter. First off, it’s painfully ironic how a movie explaining that consumerism and greed caused the recession could be used to advertise so many brands. Only an absolute tool could sit through this and not realise that they paid good money to watch a +2 hour advert; with the most shameless product placement since iRobot – Heineken, Ducatti, Lays, Y3, iPhone, Borders, Macs, 5-hour Energy are in-your-face for the duration, peaking with a 30-second montage of Bulgari jewelry – for real. Pretty much every character is an under-developed stereotype: greedy-corrupt-cigar-smoking-over-bonused-bankers, quirky-left-leaning-liberal, mad-scientist-with-a-vision… what’s worst is that nobody’s particularly likable – not even Gordon Gheko. Add to this the fact that nobody’s in any real danger, and that it’s impossible to relate to (let alone feel sorry for) a bunch city bankers and you end up with an unengaging movie. There’s more – it’s about 40 minutes too long and twice as wordy as it needed to be; crammed with semi confusing high-finance terminology – but even that couldn’t mask how shallow the film was. The rotten cherry on this shit-flavoured cake was the loud and bland indie soundtrack. I’ve never seen the first one, and unless anyone can convince me otherwise I never will after seeing this. Overall the film’s as empty as LaBeouf’s screen presence – money may not sleep, but I almost did; twice.