Sunday, August 07, 2011

All the Statham, all the time


This is a great bubblegum thriller with Chris Evans well cast as the beachboy himbo Ryan, suddenly thrust into responsibility as he races around LA trying to help Kim Basinger’s kidnapped Jessica. She’s in a room with a bust phone but managed to get it working enough to dial a random number - Ryan’s. As he slowly realises that she is genuine and not some crank calling nutso, he goes to increasing extremes to try and save her and her family.

Statham is the lead kidnapper and does a decent job of being the main bad guy without dialling up the evilness element too much. To be fair it’s not a far cry from most of the roles he plays, only this time he’s hurting good people instead of bad. He does a much better job than many others placed in a role where he’s identified as crooked from the off, not hamming it up or trying to act overly twisted. Shame that he attempts to do an American accent.
It has a fairly starry cast - alongside Evans and Statham, Basinger is excellent as the women pushed to desperate acts, Jessica Biel pops up in a couple of scenes as Ryan’s ex, William H Macy steals the show as the cop nearing retirement in not quite the usual way, and there is a lovely turn by Rick Hoffman as a prissy lawyer who has his car jacked twice.

The movie zips along at a breathless pace as Ryan is forced to speed across the city in an effort to help Jessica escape. The tension exceeds on the whole as while a happy ending is a pretty safe bet it’s not a certainty that you won’t lose someone along the way. Evans is charming in the lead and helps the audience to keep up with a guy who spends a lot of time on the phone in a car, but it really is Macy’s movie.
As he says towards the end, “It’s a day spa you fuck!”.


In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege tale

 So, Uwe Boll. He was universally panned in the eyes of gamers as his career as a film director seemed to hinge on taking a video game property and churning out crappy adaptations to make a quick buck. Starting with House of the Dead in 2003, then Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne, Dungeon Siege, Postal and Far Cry followed, with two sequels appearing for BloodRayne (USP: she’s a sexy vampire who kills nazis) and one for the Dungeon Siege adaptation.

The first Dungeon Siege film kept the video game name as a subtitle, preferring to go by the generic In the Name of the King, a title that could have been a gritty, made-for-TV British thriller set in Georgian England if made in the 80s, instead this 2007 production took a lot from the fantasy genre resurrected by Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations. We may know of the likes of Dungeons and Dragons which popped up to ride the bandwagon, but ITNOTK seems to come late in the day, 6 years after the Fellowship first started their journey to Mordor.

The film is unsurprisingly poor, cack dialogue that nothing can save despite a pretty starry cast, generic settings that try and evoke the sweep and vision that Jackson created without his visual flair or budget, and an empty plot which basically involves a naughty mage forming an army of Krugs (Orcs) to take over the Kingdom and generally be evil. The motive he gives is that his new reign will redefine madness as power.
Statham plays the lead, called Farmer, who inexplicably is a complete badass without any military background in the usual ‘ex-special forces but now leading a quiet life’ cop-out. His lack of surprise at his ability to hold his own against a small army of rampaging Krug is odd, and his abilities are later explained by his being the King’s long-lost son.
So if the story is the pits, you’d probably just be hoping for some decent imagery or set-pieces to keep the film rolling, but no.
And yes, you read it correctly, Statham is called Farmer. Because he is a farmer, and the character believes that what you do defines you. If it wasn’t for the inexplicable ninjas that are the king’s personal guard (yes, LOTR with ninjas and it’s not good), or the tree women who swing about on vines and evidently decided that having pointy ears was a step too far, calling the hero Farmer would be one of the worst elements of the film, even more so than the cheap, crappy suits and masks that the actors playing the Krug wear.

So, that cast. It’s really hard to explain what happened here, was everyone blackmailed? Uwe Boll hardly had a glowing track record at this point and game properties were hardly prestige projects - about the only success was Tomb Raider 6 years previously, and ITNOTK was a few too many years late to ride on the association of the LOTR films.
Still, alongside your Statham, Boll managed to acquire Leelee Sobieski (almost successfully acts like she’s in a different, better film), John Rhys-Davies (evidently did not make enough from the Indy and LOTR films to avoid saying yes to the likes of this), Ron Perlman (seems to just like working), Claire Forlani, Burt Reynolds who just seems tired here, Ray Liotta who at the very least is enjoying himself hamming it up big style, but seems oddly out of place, and Matthew Lillard who is way too successful portraying the extremely irritating and treacherous King’s nephew.

 There are good points. The CGI used by Rhys-Davies’ magus when he disintegrates into mist to move through walls is quite good, and Liotta is almost worth watching in a sub-Nicolas Cage gurning competition way, but the film is ultimately as boring and pointless as Will Sanderson’s rubbish Legolas wig.

Thankfully this might be the worst I’d yet to see on Statham’s list.

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