Tag Archives: Danny Huston

Edge of Darkness (2010, Martin Campbell)

One joke–just to start. One.

Was anti-Semitism a requirement for appearing in Edge of Darkness?

Ok. I’m done.

Mel’s return to the screen (pause–people actually saw Signs) tries hard to not be the return of a movie star. He’s got a lot of scars (the two on his forehead, are those really his?) and he’s balding and he’s got a belly. Definitely no butt shot in this one. Though one knows Mel’s not a Bostonian (wasn’t his being Aussie part of the heartthrob mystique?), the accent’s fine.

However, it’s supposed to be this careful, deliberate story about loss and it isn’t. Ray Winstone’s character, who maybe is supposed to be juxtaposed with Gibson’s, adds to this element. In fact, the only time you really feel the depths with Gibson–except immediately following the daughter’s death scene, which is well-done–is when he’s experiencing something Winstone tells someone else about.

The intent is clear, but the movie’s too busy being a visceral revenge flick to really come through.

The return of the Mel parts of the movie are outside it–and the filmmakers clearly tried not to engage with it. Besides Gibson, the only other real “stars” are Winstone and Danny Huston. Not going for effect there, just acting.

Caterina Scorsone is excellent in her one scene and it’s nice to see Gbenga Akinnagbe (“The Wire”) getting work. Jay O. Sanders is awful.

The film’s an anti-corporate vigilante pic for liberals (the bad guys are Republicans).

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell, based on a teleplay by Troy Kennedy-Martin; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Thomas E. Sanders; produced by Tim Headington, Graham King and Michael Wearing; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Gibson (Thomas Craven), Ray Winstone (Jedburgh), Danny Huston (Jack Bennett), Bojana Novakovic (Emma Craven), Shawn Roberts (Burnham), David Aaron Baker (Millroy), Jay O. Sanders (Whitehouse), Denis O’Hare (Moore), Damian Young (Senator Jim Pine), Caterina Scorsone (Melissa), Frank Grillo (Agent One), Wayne Duvall (Chief of Police), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Detective Darcy Jones) and Gabrielle Popa (Young Emma).


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30 Days of Night (2007, David Slade)

30 Days of Night is a fine example of bad writing hurting a good idea, which is what I heard about the comic book source too–vampires in Alaska with no sun, Dracula versus Northern Exposure, sounds like a good idea. But it’s just an idea, it’s not a two hour movie. There are some other basic writing problems–poor dialogue and an utter lack of back-story. It doesn’t make it difficult to sympathize with the characters’ plight (the nasty vampires do that one pretty well), but it does make it impossible for 30 Days to even approach a full experience. The simplest example is the absence of any explanation to why the characters are in the place they are in–the most isolation settlement in Alaska.

The actors take the most significant hits from the screenplay, Hartnett in particular. His character literally needs no more back-story than a reference to high school athletics (and where’s the high school in this town… couldn’t they have hidden in the high school? Or any school…) to be acceptable as the stoic lawman. In terms of his martial distress with Melissa George a lot more work is needed to make it good, but it doesn’t even have to be good, it just has to work. George is incredibly ineffectual in her role and I spent her first five minutes on screen recasting her role, then lost interest because she disappears. Mark Boone Junior probably comes out best.

The other big problem is the pacing. The first half hour or more takes place the first day, then it skips to the seventh, then to the seventieth, then to the twenty-ninth. It just isn’t believable, because there’s never any shots of the survivors surviving in the non-setpiece moments and because there’s not enough for the vampires to do when they aren’t attacking the survivors… I mean, I’d buy it if Danny Huston’s lead vampire (the vampires in 30 Days speak some variation of Klingon, which is real silly) sat and read poetry to his leading vampire lady… but they just go on pause.

But this post actually isn’t negative–it’s positive. David Slade’s a great director and he really works with the CG elements (mostly scenery) and the isolation. He also knows how to shoot actors (just doesn’t know how to hire writers–or a composer, the music is terrible) and action scenes and quiet scenes and make the whole thing a lot more palatable than the script deserves.

Oh, and Ben Foster. Foster chews scenery better than any actor in a generation, playing the film’s Renfield, in a performance Dwight Frye would admire. Foster only creates a performance here, not a character, which shouldn’t be a problem… if he were the only one….

Maybe Slade should have brought in the “Northern Exposure” writing staff to do the non-vampire stuff. They might have made the Alaskan setting a little more believable (the New Zealanders and Australians in the cast locking down American accents would have helped too).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Slade; written by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson, based on the comic book by Niles and Ben Templesmith; director of photography, Jo Willems; edited by Art Jones; music by Brian Reitzell; production designer, Paul Denham Austerberry; produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Eben Olesen), Melissa George (Stella Olesen), Danny Huston (Marlow), Ben Foster (The Stranger), Mark Boone Junior (Beau Brower), Mark Rendall (Jake Oleson), Amber Sainsbury (Denise) and Manu Bennett (Billy Kitka).


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The Constant Gardener (2005, Fernando Meirelles)

With two major exceptions, The Constant Gardener is defined by what it is not rather than what it is… It is not a thriller, it is not a mystery, it might not even be a narrative. It is a (justified) condemnation of Western pharmaceutical companies–with Western government’s express permission–treatment of sick African peoples. It’s also a masterfully made film; Fernando Meirelles probably makes two errors throughout. Besides the wonderful cinematography, the editing is exquisite (possibly the first time I’ve ever described editing with that word). But, mostly due to the presence of Ralph Fiennes and some physically realized daydreams, The Constant Gardener comes off a lot like The English Patient, only relevant.

The film, rather interestingly, so inhuman, so vile, a James Bond villain would be taking notes. These villains–played wonderfully by Danny Huston and Bill Nighy (Huston’s just magnificent)–are, of course, members of the British government. While the film could be an exploration of evil men who do evil things but still play cricket with their children in filmic moments meant to bring attention to that contradiction, it is not.

The first forty minutes are Rachel Weisz playing Joan of Arc. It’s possibly Weisz’s best (or only good) performance, but since she is playing the finest human being ever to walk (or possibly levitate above) the earth, Meirelles would have to be incompetent to not get such a performance out of her. And Meirelles is far from incompetent. He gets more humanity out of Fiennes, with his stylized cinéma vérité in domestic situations, than anyone else ever has. Following Weisz’s death (it’s not a spoiler, the film opens with it then awkwardly goes into flashback for forty minutes), Fiennes takes over on his investigation into her death. His investigation being the most boring investigation I can ever remember seeing in a film. It’s long and boring and predictable (there is no mystery to be solved really) and the film’s filled with scenes for edifying the audience in regards to what’s going on in Africa with drug companies.

I would have said it was a preaching-to-the-choir film, but then I remembered when it was out and I know a lot of dumb people who went to go see it, so hopefully it did inform. Hopefully it did make some really ignorant people realize what’s going on.

But as a film? As a story? Meirelles goes so far as to mimic a bunch of English Patient shots. Like shots from the poster.

Without the politics, The Constant Gardener would have been–well, it wouldn’t have been. But all there is to the film is the information and the emotional effect of seeing it. Weisz’s death, the supposed impetus, is as useless as the miscarriage her character suffers for no reason other than to introduce a character, a mystery, and kill some time, make the audience feel even sorry for Joan of Arc.

Pete Postlethwaite shows up for a bit and it’s nice to see him. Gerard McSorley is good.

The film does succeed (I mean, I’m referring to it as a film, aren’t I?) on some levels–and maybe it succeeds on all the ones it’s trying to succeed on–but it’s lack of narrative ambition is startling and somewhat distressing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fernando Meirelles; screenplay by Jeffrey Caine, based on the novel by John le Carré; director of photography, César Charlone; edited by Claire Simpson; music by Alberto Iglesias; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by Simon Channing Williams; released by Focus Features.

Starring Ralph Fiennes (Justin Quayle), Rachel Weisz (Tessa Quayle), Danny Huston (Sandy Woodrow), Bill Nighy (Sir Bernard Pellegrin), Pete Postlethwaite (Lorbeer), Hubert Koundé (Dr. Arnold Bluhm) and Gerard McSorley (Sir Kenneth Curtiss).


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