Tag Archives: Robert Rodriguez

Predators (2010, Nimród Antal)

How’s this one for a double standard? When director Robert Rodriguez made Desperado, he demanded a Mexican actress (Salma Hayek) play a Mexican character (against studio wishes). When producer Robert Rodriguez made Predators, he cast a Brazilian actress (Alice Braga) as an Israeli character… Braga’s fantastic in Predators, but really… why isn’t anyone crying foul?

Predators is a semi-remake, semi-sequel. It’s a sequel to the events in the original, but basically remakes it in structure. I’m sure the filmmakers would call it homage, but I’m not sure, for example, John Debney’s score contains one note not from Alan Silvestri’s score for the original. It doesn’t matter because it’s fast paced and rather well-directed. A lot of it is really poorly plotted–screenwriters Litvak and Finch are apparently completely incapable of coming up with a surprising turn of events. I guess Rodriguez, as producer, didn’t care enough to hire a soap writer to get some twists and turns in it.

The film’s rather well-cast, which helps a lot. Adrien Brody’s muscle man turn is solid; he should probably play a similar role in a real movie. I already mentioned Braga. Walton Goggins is great but wasted. Oleg Taktarov impressed. The other two names–Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne–are problematic. Fishburne does a good job in an undercooked role. Grace is just playing the same characters he’s played before, though I suppose (for the most part) less annoyingly.

Did I already mention Antal does a great job?

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Nimród Antal; written by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, based on characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Gyula Pados; edited by Dan Zimmerman; music by John Debney; production designers, Steve Joyner and Caylah Eddleblute; produced by Robert Rodriguez, John Davis and Elizabeth Avellán; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Adrien Brody (Royce), Laurence Fishburne (Noland), Topher Grace (Edwin), Alice Braga (Isabelle), Louis Ozawa Changchien (Hanzo), Walton Goggins (Stans), Oleg Taktarov (Nikolai), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali (Mombasa) and Danny Trejo (Cuchillo).


RELATED

Advertisements

El Mariachi (1992, Robert Rodriguez)

I’m having a hard time reconciling the Robert Rodriguez who made El Mariachi with the Robert Rodriguez who made anything after it. Obviously, some of the filmmaking choices are due to the low budget, but the film’s frantic style–something owed far new to early Sam Raimi than John Woo–creates a hyper-reality. It, and some of the budgetary constraints, make Mariachi singular in the action genre. Until the very end, Rodriguez has got something extraordinary here.

Maybe it’s because the film isn’t an action movie. Yes, there are gunfights and chase scenes, but they’re on such a low scale (though the scene with lead Carlos Gallardo swinging in front of a bus is amazing) El Mariachi feels more like a modern, Mexican noir than an attempt at a revenge thriller. I haven’t seen the film in fifteen years or so, but I can’t imagine I was any more excited seeing it at as a teenager than I was this viewing. The film’s so exceptionally good–from the first frame–it’s just a joy.

Rodriguez’s direction–I imagine some of the off-kilter close-up framing is due to matting, but maybe not… as a director, he dropped everything good he does here in his subsequent films–constantly impresses.

He even makes the recurring dream sequences work.

The script is strong and well-acted. Gallardo is a fantastic lead. The villains–Reinol Martinez and Peter Marquardt–are both great.

El Mariachi is a simply wonderful, gut-wrenching tragedy of chance.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written, photographed, edited and directed by Robert Rodriguez; music by Eric Guthrie, Chris Knudson, Álvaro Rodríguez, Cecilio Rodríguez and Mark Trujillo; produced by Carlos Gallardo and Rodriguez; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi), Consuelo Gómez (Domino), Jaime de Hoyos (Bigotón), Peter Marquardt (Mauricio), Reinol Martinez (Azul), Ramiro Gómez (Cantinero), Jesús López (Viejo Clerk), Luis Baró (Domino’s Assistant) and Oscar Fabila (The Boy).


RELATED

Desperado (1995, Robert Rodriguez)

Between Joaquim de Almeida and Carlos Gómez, it certainly appears Robert Rodriguez likes good actors. He even gets a great performance from Cheech Marin, but I suppose Marin didn’t need much direction.

So with those three good performances and two good actors–de Almeida even does well with Rodriguez’s atrocious dialogue, something not even Steve Buscemi can do–it makes one wonder what Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek are doing in Desperado.

Banderas’s casting I can understand, he was a star on the rise at the time, but Rodriguez discovered Hayek and has been subjecting the world to her terrible acting ever since. Banderas is awful, comically strutting along like a supermodel acting butch, but Hayek is much, much worse. Banderas has three honest moments. Hayek doesn’t even blink honestly.

Hayek doesn’t show up until almost halfway in, so the first half is a lot better than the rest, even if Quentin Tarantino shows up for a terrible cameo. I was a big El Mariachi fan back before Desperado came out, but after seeing this one in the theater, I don’t think I’ve seen either.

Maybe if the only problem was the writing, it’d be more palatable, but Rodriguez is a rather mediocre action director here. The shoot-outs bore–Banderas isn’t some unstoppable killing machine, his opponents are just slow, stupid and overweight. His successes are always based on luck.

The last half takes forever, about thirty events a minute. If you like lame melodrama, it must be lovely.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by Robert Rodriguez; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; music by Los Lobos; production designer, Cecilia Montiel; produced by Rodriguez and Bill Borden; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Antonio Banderas (El Mariachi), Salma Hayek (Carolina), Joaquim de Almeida (Bucho), Cheech Marin (Short Bartender), Steve Buscemi (Buscemi), Carlos Gómez (Right Hand), Quentin Tarantino (Pick-Up Guy) and Danny Trejo (Navajas).


RELATED

Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino), the extended version

The funny thing about Death Proof is the first half is excellent. With the exception of Sydney Poitier, who is awful, it’s a fantastic hour. Tarantino’s got great editing, great shots, great mood, great conversations, great everything. I had planned on going on and on about it–like, for example, how charming and scary Kurt Russell’s performance is–it’s kind of like he’s playing Elvis again. Or Vanessa Ferlito, who’s excellent. Even how Tarantino really made the retro concept work, with the music and the sound design. When he uses the love theme from Blow Out–even if it’s on a scene with Poitier–it’s real movie magic….

But then there’s the second half of the film, which doesn’t have the retro feel to it. I imagine it’s supposed to mimic Vanishing Point or some other car movie Tarantino really likes, but it’s a piece of unimaginable crap. The conversations are idiotic–the new characters are all in Hollywood and, wow, can stuntwoman Zoe Bell not act. Even forgetting some of the glaring problems–like Russell’s villain is stupid now instead of smart (and he doesn’t reinforce his car as well in the second half)–Tarantino’s casting of Zoe Bell in a speaking, significant role is the biggest flare the film fires. He does not care about making a good film. I mean, Poitier’s bad and all, but she’s at least acting. Bell isn’t. The problem with Death Proof is Tarantino gets to do whatever he wants, which obviously isn’t a situation he works well in. Thinking about it, suffering through the second half, I should have realized the second set of girls wasn’t going to die (except Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who’s left by her friends to be raped and murdered), because it’s all the Tarantino standards, with Tracie Thoms doing a bad job of impersonating Samuel L. Jackson. No way Tarantino is going to kill off Rosario Dawson because to his target audience, Dawson is gold.

Tarantino’s level of disrespect to a thinking viewer is truly amazing and quite surprising. But more so, he fails to do what he set out to do, which was make a retro film with all the film grain, missing frames, bad looping and wear and tear. He flushed the idea once it became his neo-Tarantino movie… and I say neo, because it’s not something he would have done ten years ago. It’s obviously Robert Rodriguez’s influence (Rodriguez, who had so much love for the “Grindhouse” concept, he slapped his CG Troublemaker Studios logo on the front of it, killing the retro feel before the movie even started).

If the film weren’t two hours, I think I’d be more upset… but after suffering through the pathetic second half, I’m just glad it’s over.

Dawson and Winstead are both okay in the second half at the beginning, until Bell shows up and Dawson gets obnoxious (becoming the type of person–knowing full well what’s going to occur–to leave her friend to be raped and murdered) and Winstead becomes a half-wit.

Death Proof is such an insult, I’m so agitated I didn’t even end on that great “I’m glad it’s over” line. Seriously, the person I feel worst for is Russell. The first half is career resurgence, amazing performance, yada yada yada–the second half… he should have not shown up for work and just let Tarantino call Michael Madsen.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written, directed and photographed by Quentin Tarantino; edited by Sally Menke; production designer, Steve Joyner; produced by Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Erica Steinberg and Tarantino; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Kurt Russell (Stuntman Mike), Zoe Bell (Zoë Bell), Rosario Dawson (Abernathy), Vanessa Ferlito (Arlene), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Jungle Julia), Tracie Thoms (Kim), Rose McGowan (Pam), Jordan Ladd (Shanna) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lee).


RELATED