2008-12-02

Do not attempt at home


An interesting thing happened. Coincidentally, I watched two similar movies this week, and the similarities do not end with lots of stylized graphic Tarantino-style violence and somewhat convoluted plots.

What's really cool is that both movies, made by not-quite mainstream directors, borrow from other films and directors, one tongue-in-cheek, and the other quite seriously.

The first movie I watched was Sukiyaki Western Django, which to me seemed like an original take on Kurasawa's Yojimbo while being a brilliant Tarantino-style western hommage at the same time. It even has Quentin starring in it! I won't bore you listing the countless references to famous movies--if you are into cinema like me, you'll enjoy discovering them on your own. All in all, a great film, and I can highly recommend it.

Not so with Wanted. Sadly.

I missed the film in theaters, and was among the first to rent it on DVD when it released yesterday. It's not every day that talented artists from post-Soviet-bloc countries make it big in Hollywood. Seeing a Kazakh director make a movie with such stars as Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman made me want to hope it will be as monumental an assassin action movie as the world has ever seen, one that will be remembered and quoted, and referenced by movie-makers later on. Quite to my disappointment, the film was an exercise in shallowness and mediocrity.

The cast and special effects were by orders of magnitude better than the plot and director's vision have merited.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some good shoot-em-up. But this wasn't one.

The plot borrows liberally from the Matrix: Beginning with the protagonist starting out in a bleak cubicle maze, to the rigorous training regimen, and down to the big shootout at the end of the movie, paralleling the one where Neo and Trinity are rescuing Morpheus. The visuals are awesome throughout the movie, but the characters are crudely defined and the plot line fails to convince.

Yes, it was somewhat entertaining, and a good way to kill two hours on a cold December night, but not as gripping and brilliant as it could have been, given all the resources its creator had at his disposal. A decisive Meh.