Tag Archives: Ted Levine

The Mangler (1995, Tobe Hooper), the director’s cut

The Mangler is terrible. One hopes the rumor producer Anant Singh replaced director Hooper is true because the film’s bad enough and desperate enough, you occasionally want to cut it some slack. You can’t, because it’s terrible, but you still kind of wish you could.

Here’s the movie. Small town in Maine (it’s a Stephen King adaptation), evil laundry magnate (Robert Englund in a risible performance) runs the town because he has the demonic laundry machine. It needs the occasionally virgin sacrifice or it starts walking around like a Transformer, just with some of the worst of the worst mid–1990s CGI. Seasoned but sad widower cop Ted Levine does not think this is just some laundry machine accident. There’s something afoot with creepy old Robert Englund who mentally and physically abuses a runaway (Lisa Morris) because he can’t mentally and physically abuse his niece (Vanessa Pike). But then Levine’s brother-in-law (maybe, there was kind of mention of it), Daniel Matmor as the lamest hippie occult nerd ever, convinces Levine of the demonic possession. There’s some more, but not really.

It’s dumb. It’s a dumb movie trying to mix metaphors and genres and it fails over and over again. It’s not even like Levine is holding it together. If he were somehow this great noir detective befuddling his way through The Mangler, it might be something. But he’s not. He’s not good, he’s just affable and shows signs he could be good in a far better film.

Unfortunately, none of the other acting is any good at all. Matmor, Pike, Morris, Demetre Phillips, Jeremy Crutchley (a young guy inexplicably cast as an old man and in tons of make-up!), Englund–they’re all terrible. Maybe Ashley Hayden and Vera Blacker are okay. Maybe. They’re not enough it enough to be worse.

Bad music from Barrington Pheloung, really bad photography from Amnon Salomon.

At some point as the second act is finally wrapping it up, it becomes clear somehow really tried with The Mangler. Maybe producer Singh really thought it’d be able to hope on that legitimate Stephen King adaptation bandwagon. At least one of the three screenwriters did. But it can’t, because it’s terrible. It’s terribly acted, directed, photographed, everything. It’s slow. It’s not scary, it’s not gross.

If this movie didn’t have Ted Levine, it would be the equivalent of watching dog poop dry on the sidewalk.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Tobe Hooper; screenplay by Hooper, Stephen David Brooks and Harry Alan Towers, based on the short story by Stephen King; director of photography, Amnon Salomon; edited by David Heitner; music by Barrington Pheloung; production designer, David Barkham; produced by Anant Singh; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Ted Levine (Officer John Hunton), Robert Englund (Bill Gartley), Daniel Matmor (Mark Jackson), Lisa Morris (Lin Sue), Vanessa Pike (Sherry Ouelette), Demetre Phillips (George Stanner), Ashley Hayden (Annette Gillian), Vera Blacker (Mrs. Adelle Frawley) and Jeremy Crutchley (J.J.J. Pictureman).


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The Fast and the Furious (2001, Rob Cohen)

An undercover cop (Paul Walker) finds himself drawn into a criminal underworld with a charismatic leader (Vin Diesel)! There’s not much original about The Fast and the Furious. What the screenwriters don’t lift out of Point Break, there’s director Cohen grabbing car chase related moments out of Lethal Weapon 3 and so on. Well, Cohen also does have a neat Duel reference too.

Oh, right. I should try to discuss The Fast and the Furious, not just list all the other movies it rips off.

Diesel’s fine. Walker’s bad. Michelle Rodriguez’s bad. No one else leaves an impression. Except Ted Levine, who should know better.

The movie has this strange disconnect between Cohen’s more traditional cops and robbers bro-mance and the pervasive, overbearing soundtrack. Whole sequences are just set to a song, seemingly chosen just because it’s loud and sounds cool. Peter Honess’s editing is deaf to the corresponding songs; even if they match the narrative, Honess can’t figure out where to cut them. The first half of the movie feels entirely different from the second, mostly because BT’s sentimental score completely replaces the Top 40 selections.

Another interesting disconnect is the one between how Cohen visualizes the race scenes and how the script talks about them. Diesel gets a long monologue about how it feels to drive and Cohen’s best idea for visualizing the experience is to make it play like a sci-fi movie. Time slows down and there’s bullet-time.

But time is just a magazine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Cohen; screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist and David Ayer, based on a story by Thompson and a magazine article by Ken Li; director of photography, Ericson Core; edited by Peter Honess; music by BT; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Rick Yune (Johnny Tran), Chad Lindberg (Jesse), Johnny Strong (Leon), Matt Schulze (Vince), Noel Gugliemi (Hector), Vyto Ruginis (Harry), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins) and Ted Levine (Sgt. Tanner).


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A Single Shot (2013, David M. Rosenthal)

A Single Shot is the best film noir I’ve seen in a long time. Director Rosenthal eschews trying to make a neo-noir and just sets a film noir in some backwoods region. It’s never specified and it doesn’t really matter. It’s beautiful and dangerous. From the first hunting sequence, there’s always danger in Shot.

Sam Rockwell plays a ne’er do well who finds himself in more trouble than usual when he crosses paths with some dangerous ex-cons. Of course, it doesn’t help they somehow know his best friend (Jeffrey Wright), his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly) and even his lawyer (William H. Macy). It’s when all these connections become clear–Macy repeatedly talks about what a small town everyone is living in–Shot’s noir status becomes clear.

Sure, Rosenthal and writer Matthew F. Jones make Rockwell’s character far more sympathetic than the traditional noir protagonist, which initially makes Shot feel a little more like a strange Kentucky Hitchcock picture, but it’s noir. When it the whole picture unravels and reveals all its strange connections through time… it’s noir.

Rockwell’s lead performance is amazing. If it were just him doing a one man show, it’d probably still be an excellent film. But Shot has an unbelievably good supporting cast. Wright’s fantastic–like he and Rockwell were competing for who could be more devastating in slurred monologue. Ted Levine’s got a great scene, Ophelia Lovibond is awesome. Joe Anderson and Jason Isaacs are terrifying as the villains.

Shot is great.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by David M. Rosenthal; screenplay by Matthew F. Jones, based on his novel; director of photography, Eduard Grau; edited by Dan Robinson; music by Atli Örvarsson; production designer, David Brisbin; produced by Chris Coen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Keith Kjarval and Jeff Rice; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Sam Rockwell (John Moon), Jeffrey Wright (Simon), Kelly Reilly (Moira), Jason Isaacs (Waylon), Joe Anderson (Obadiah), Ophelia Lovibond (Abbie), Ted Levine (Cecile) and William H. Macy (Pitt).


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Bullet (1996, Julien Temple)

The tragedy of Mickey Rourke is not his failed mainstream career. Rather, it’s how he’s never been able to get any filmmakers of note involved in his vanity projects. Bullet‘s an incredibly ambitious, sensitive film… or, with the right production team, it would have been. What remains hints at what could have been–the film’s a character study, a comedy free American family drama (a rarity)–but Rourke’s inability to get notable filmmakers interested consigned it to direct-to-video status. Tupac Shakur’s name might have helped its commercial possibilities, but while Rourke is playing five years younger than his age, Shakur’s playing ten years older. It’s like Julien Temple forget to direct Shakur.

The film’s about three “families.” First and foremost is Rourke’s relationship with brothers Adrien Brody, Ted Levine and their parents. Someone coming home with Bullet, expecting a direct-to-video action shoot ’em up, would be bewildered by where the film goes in its first act, establishing this broken family unit. The film starts with Rourke’s release from prison, but Levine’s a Vietnam vet suffering from schizophrenia, while Brody’s a floundering painter. The film keeps returning to the family, showing these beautifully vulnerable moments–particularly Brody and Levine, but also parents Jerry Grayson and Suzanne Shepherd. Rourke and Shepherd have a wonderful scene together at the end of the second act. There’s a real attempt to take this potentially exploitative subject and give it agonizing depth. The film drowns the viewer in sadness.

There’s also Rourke’s friendship with John Enos III. Enos is a soap actor, but he’s kind of perfect in this film as a primping womanizer. (Enos also provides Bullet‘s only moments of comic relief). But as goofy as Enos gets–the scene listening to “I’m Too Sexy” would be perfect had Julien Temple not screwed up the end–Rourke approaches the friendship from this incredibly humanist perspective. Rourke’s character–the career drug addict who steals from family to score–occasionally reveals these startlingly beautiful moments of human regard. He and Enos have this one amazing scene.

The last relationship is the most problematic. Bullet is also supposed to be about childhood friends Shakur, Rourke and Matthew Powers all grown up, now competing in their respective criminal enterprises. Bullet only runs ninety-five minutes, so there really isn’t time for this subplot. It would work fine as character backstory, but it’s like no one told Shakur about it. His character makes absolutely no sense, which seems out of place for the film. So much of Bullet is about making the viewer understand why these people are they way they are (even if exact events aren’t described).

Besides Shakur, the big problem is Julien Temple. Bullet‘s highly stylized thanks to all Temple’s music video work and he can compose some fine shots. He just can’t string them together into a scene. His attempts at action scenes are awkward and painful to watch. The editor, Niven Howie, has to share some of the blame–there’s one particular scene when Brody runs into someone. The way Temple shot it and Howie edited it, it appears Brody aimed for the guy. Except… the script makes it clear he did not. So maybe Temple didn’t read the script either.

Rourke’s performance is outstanding, no shock, but Ted Levine’s better. His character could easily be too much, too cartoonish, but Levine makes him real. The scenes with Levine and Shepherd are just great.

I’ve seen Bullet a couple times before–and had the same reaction each time–but as time passes and American cinema abandons adult dramas… Rourke’s unfulfilled potential gets increasingly more tragic.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Julien Temple; written by Mickey Rourke and Bruce Rubenstein; director of photography, Crescenzo Notarile; edited by Niven Howie; production designer, Christopher Nowak; produced by John Flock; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Mickey Rourke (Butch Stein), Adrien Brody (Ruby Stein), John Enos III (Lester), Ted Levine (Louis Stein), Jerry Grayson (Sol Stein), Suzanne Shepherd (Cookie Stein), Matthew Powers (Paddy), Jerry Dean (Fingers), Larry Romano (Frankie Eyelashes) and Tupac Shakur (Tank).


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