Tag Archives: Doug Hutchison

Give ’em Hell, Malone (2009, Russell Mulcahy)

I’ve read some reviews describe Give ’em Hell, Malone‘s genre as a mix of noir and action. Genre assignations are utterly useless, but in this case, it might actually be an amusing diversion. It’s hard to assign a genre to a picture where a bunch of characters acting like they’re in a film noir while they’re amidst thoroughly modern characters and situations (bluetooth headsets, for example).

The opening, an exceptionally violent action set piece set to Thomas Jane’s narration, is fantastic. It’s visceral hyper-violence without any glorification. It’s boring. It’s this elaborately choreographed sequence and it’s boring. It’s great, but completely disinterested with itself.

It doesn’t hurt Jane’s doing the narrating. His presence makes Malone work. He’s maybe the only leading man type today who can do genre-bending absurdity and still make it have emotional resonance.

The supporting cast is, for the most part, real strong. Ving Rhames is basically doing the same solid thing he does all the time, but French Stewart’s great in a smaller role. Leland Orser, Gregory Harrison, Doug Hutchinson, all excellent. Leading lady Elsa Pataky is iffy… but does look the femme fatale part perfectly.

Mulcahy’s direction is occasionally stylized, but always sure-footed. He only fumbles when the script does, which, unfortunately, is more often than not. Some of execution problems appear to be budgetary. They do wonders on a small budget, but not miracles.

It’s an interesting piece, nearly successful a lot of the time. Probably even most of the time.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; written by Matt Hosack; director of photography, Jonathan Hall; edited by Robert A. Ferretti; music by David C. Williams; production designer, Vincent DeFelice; produced by Erik Anderson, Johnny Martin, Brian Oliver, Richard Rionda Del Castro and Richard Salvatore; released by National Entertainment Media.

Starring Thomas Jane (Malone), Ving Rhames (Boulder), Elsa Pataky (Evelyn), French Stewart (Frankie the Crooner), Leland Orser (Murphy), Chris Yen (Mauler), William Abadie (Pretty Boy), Gregory Harrison (Whitmore), Doug Hutchison (Matchstick) and Eileen Ryan (Gloria).


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Punisher: War Zone (2008, Lexi Alexander)

Punisher: War Zone got a theatrical release (sorry for the passive voice, but pointing out Lionsgate released it in the theater sort of kills the emphasis). I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to describe the terrible script. Watching an early exchange between mobsters, I kept wondering if Italian American associations were aware of the film (I’m guessing they aren’t). The characters are so stereotypical, the portrayal so offensive… it’s incredible. But the mob being the movie’s big villains elucidates War Zone‘s biggest (narrative) idiocy–it’s just a hodgepodge of superhero movies. The movie rips off an opening scene from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic book, but then cribs the entire approach from Batman Begins (where the hero doesn’t actually fight crime unrelated to the plot’s main villain). But there’s a Superman reference in the subway hideout and some other malarky I’m sure. The script’s idiotic.

So why watch Punisher: War Zone? The terrible opening credits don’t give any indication of it, but Michael Wandmacher’s score is good and Steve Gainer’s photography is fantastic. The photography seems to go for HDR (high dynamic range), which makes the Panavision frame wondrous at times. Lexi Alexander intercuts Manhattan skyscrapers with Montréal streets to poor effect–actually, Montréal’s a decent stand-in, physically, for New York, but Alexander’s movie New York is one of the most absurd I’ve ever seen. It’s like she’s not only never been there, she hasn’t even watched a movie set there. Alexander’s actually a decent director. She has an annoying Panavision habit of putting people, in cuts, on opposite sides of the frame, but by the end of the movie, she’s got it working. She’d direct great commercials or music videos, since she can’t impart any emotionality to her work. There isn’t a single subtle moment in War Zone, it’s just too stupid.

Some of the stupidest developments in the film are the inclusion of Wayne Knight as a sidekick and the revelation the Punisher dropped out of seminary. I don’t know why the latter got included, maybe so they could have a dumb scene with the Punisher at church, but it’s one of the stupider things in the film. Knight’s sidekick, who seemingly funds the Punisher’s war on selected criminals from a tiny apartment, is also something else. Knight–even with the goatee–isn’t bad. He’s got some dumb lines, but he isn’t bad.

Producer Gale Anne Hurd has made some big movies and some good movies. Presumably, while on set, she must have noticed Ray Stevenson couldn’t act. He’s atrocious as the lead. Punisher: War Zone has a future as a drinking game. Alexander barely gives him any lines, but he flubs every single one of them. Julie Benz (is she the Lionsgate version of 1990s Miramax Neve Campbell or something?) is awful. Colin Salmon, who’s usually good, gives a terrible performance. Talking about him, I forgot to mention the stupid last names. Everyone in the film has a super-ethnic last name, presumably to make it more authentic. Dash Mihok, in the movie’s supposedly comic role, is terrible. Alexander and the script don’t understand humor. They should have brought Rob Schneider or the guys who wrote Beverly Hills Ninja in to give it some oomph.

But talking about the actors brings me to the real reason to watch Punisher: War Zone. Dominic West. He’s not stretching any thespian muscles in his portrayal of a psycho (oh, another comic book movie reference, the Burton Batman), but he’s a joy to watch. Given the filmmakers were able to hire West to appear in this cinematic turd, it’s a testament to their jaw-dropping lack of intelligence they didn’t fire Stevenson and put West in the lead. If he can make this underwritten goober of a role work, imagine what he could have done as the Punisher.

As West’s cannibal sidekick, Doug Hutchinson is fine. He’s been acting for a long time, so Alexander’s ineptness at directing actors mustn’t have contaminated him.

Punisher: War Zone is watchable dreck. The movie looks good–Alexander’s action scenes concentrate too much on the gore instead of, well, any action–and West is a joy to watch. I wonder if anyone involved in the film has seen “The Wire,” but all evidence suggests not. And it’s definitely one of Lionsgate’s less appalling pictures.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lexi Alexander; screenplay by Nick Santora, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru; director of photography, Steve Gainer; edited by William Yeh; music by Michael Wandmacher; production designer, Andrew Neskoromny; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Ray Stevenson (Frank Castle), Dominic West (Billy Russoti), Doug Hutchison (Loony Bin Jim), Colin Salmon (Special Agent Paul Budiansky), Wayne Knight (Microchip), Dash Mihok (Det. Martin Soap) and Julie Benz (Angela Donatelli).


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