erik lundegaard

Movie Reviews - 2012 posts

Tuesday September 25, 2012

Movie Review: Trouble with the Curve (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Remember all of those aging decrepit scouts in “Moneyball” who didn’t know shit compared with the sabermetric whiz kid with the computer (Jonah Hill)? Well, they’re back, baby, but this time they’re the heroes, with the lead scout played one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history (Clint Eastwood), while the whiz kid with the computer is now played by the asshole who cuckolded George Clooney in “The Descendants” (Matthew Lillard). Consider it “Moneyball II: Revenge of the Aging, Decrepit Scouts.”

There’s great irony in all of this, which I’ll get to by and by.

Eastwood hasn’t acted in a movie since “Gran Torino” in 2008, and he hasn’t acted in a movie he didn’t direct since Wolfgang Petersen directed him in “In the Line of Fire” back in 1993. So what’s he doing in this mediocre piece of nothing? Did some big-name director lure him in? Hardly. This is Robert Lorenz’s first movie as director. But Lorenz has been assistant director on 26 pictures, including eight of Clint’s (“Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby,” among them), so I assume Eastwood’s thanking the kid or throwing him a bone. Which is a nice move.

Poster for "Trouble with the Curve" (2012), starring Clint EastwoodOr maybe Eastwood was drawn in by the script? It’s another estranged daughter tale, to go with Laura Linney in “Absolute Power” and the unseen daughter in “Million Dollar Baby.” Clint likes being trailed after by young, smart, talkative women who allow him to do his incredulous, almost Vaudevillian slow burn. Think Tyne Daly, Geneviève Bujold, Bernadette Peters, Rene Russo, Laura Dern, Hilary Swank.

Now it’s Amy Adams as Mickey (named for Mantle), whom Gus (Eastwood), a legendary scout in the Atlanta Braves organization, more-or-less raised himself when his wife died young. Well, “raised.” Now and again, he shunted her off to relatives, which is why she’s in therapy and has trouble committing to men. But at least she’s a top-notch lawyer on the partner track. Unfortunately the name partners at her firm are led by Bob Gunton, the guy who played the asshole warden in “Shawshank Redemption,” so you know she’s going to get the old scroogie, even though it’s 2012 and this law firm doesn’t yet have a female partner. Like it’s 1981 or something. Like it’s a Hollywood studio or something.

Gus, who signed Ralph Garr, Dusty Baker, Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine—basically anyone worth a damn in the Braves system— is in his 80s now, and there are these nerdy sabermetricians hanging around with their computers, and, oops, his ophthalmologist diagnoses him with macular degeneration just as the organization sends him to North Carolina to scout a potential first-round draft pick. Does he fess up? Nah. He puts himself before the organization. He goes. But Director of Scouting and good friend Pete Klein (John Goodman) figures out what’s up and sends Mickey after him even though she’s, you know, estranged and all, and needs to close a big deal to make partner. But she goes, fuming and checking her Blackberry.

While in North Carolina, they run into Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former flame-thrower whom Gus scouted back in the day, but who tore his rotator cuff after being traded to the Boston Red Sox. He’s now scouting for the Sox, and, for some reason, despite being a newbie, and despite wanting to be an announcer, he’s there to check out the Sox’s potential No. 1 draft pick. Seems everyone is after this kid. Or at least the  Red Sox and the Braves, who have the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks, respectively.

As for the dude they’re all scouting? Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill)? We quickly find out the following:

  • He’s a major asshole.
  • He’s a bit tubby for someone in their late teens. Five-tool? More like five-meal.
  • His homeruns are hardly mammoth. Despite the aluminum bat, they only land a couple rows deep.

Gus and Mickey, meanwhile, stay at The Grey Squirrel Motel, run by a nice Hispanic woman who has two sons: one about 8, the other, named Rigo (Jay Galloway), about 18 going on 25. At one point, Rigo, selling peanuts at the local stadium, has to toss some to Bo, who’s being an asshole, and he throws them pretty hard.

See if you can guess where this is going.

My early guess: the asshole sabermetrician will want Bo, Gus will see some problem (maybe that he has ...I don’t know... trouble with the curve?), and recommend against, but offer up Rigo, the flame-throwing Hispanic kid, instead.

All of this comes to pass. Or nearly. Gus, with macular degeneration, hears that Bo has trouble with the curve, which is confirmed by Mickey, who sees his hands drift. Gus counsels against Bo, and even tells this to Johnny, his rival. For some reason, the Sox listen to the kid and pass on Bo; but the Braves’ GM, Vince (Robert Patrick), ignores both Gus and Pete Klein, and assumes Phillip Sanderson, the asshole sabermetrician who cuckolded George Clooney, knows what he’s talking about, and picks tubbo. The Sox, thinking they’ve been cuckolded, fire Johnny, which leads Johnny to think Gus and Mickey tricked him, which leads to scenes and recriminations and revelations, including the real reason Gus shunted off Mickey to relatives. For some reason this doesn’t bring father and daughter closer together. But it allows Mickey the moment to hear, and then see, and then catch, Rigo, the nice, flamethrowing Hispanic kid; and it’s Mickey who brings him to Turner Field to face Bo, who is hitting batting-practice pitches into the stands for the local press. It take Rigo all of five pitches (two fastballs, three curves) to dismantle the Braves’ No. 1 pick. In the process, Rigo is compared to 1) Sandy Koufax, 2) Steve Carlton and 3) Randy Johnson, and Mickey, who, yes, got the old scroogie from the warden at Shawshank, becomes Rigo’s agent. Johnny returns, he and Mickey kiss, and we get our happy, Hollywood ending.

It’s a long, slow trek to the obvious. It’s painful to watch.

It's also ironic, since it unintentionally disproves its point about scouts. “Scouts, good scouts, are the heart of the game,” Gus says. “Anyone who uses a computer doesn’t know a damn thing about the game,” Gus says.

Yet haven’t these guys been to this town in North Carolina before to scout kids? They’re creatures of habit, too. They sit in their same seats, go the same dive bars, and, one assumes, check into the same motels.  Which means Gus, and maybe some of the other old-timey scouts, including Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross and Raymond Anthony Thomas, have hung out before at The Grey Squirrel Motel. And they never noticed the hulking lefthander, close cousin to Sandy Koufax, playing catch with his little brother?

The stats vs. scouts argument is an ongoing one among baseball nerds. I’ve written before that I think Billy Beane, the protagonist of “Moneyball,” was right in adopting the sabermetric lessons of Bill James, but wrong in interpreting the lessons of his own life, including his aversion to scouting. I’ve written that a more balanced approach between the two is probably the best approach. But one area where the Moneyball people have it over scouting people? “Moneyball” was a major league movie. This thing can’t hit its way out of A ball.

Posted at 07:14 AM on Sep 25, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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Monday September 24, 2012

Movie Review: End of Watch (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

This is what I knew going into “End of Watch.” It’s what I’d read on IMDb.com a few hours before showtime:

Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.

So you wait for that story to begin. You see our guys, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena), from the perspective of their patrol-car camera, chasing suspects and engaging in gun battle. You see them return to duty after a month-long investigation that clears them, even as the Captain reminds the troops that “an on-the-job shooting is always considered a homicide.” In this manner, Brian and Mike go back on patrol. At one stop in south central LA, Mike gets into it with an old-time gangster (Cle Shaheed Sloan) and fights him—Brian laughing all the while—but earns his respect by 1) winning, and 2) not pulling rank. At another stop, Brian and Mike guard an abandoned, burned-out SUV used in a drive-by shooting. It’s Mexican gangsters Poster for "End of Watch" (2012), written and directed by David Ayertaking over from African-American gangsters just as homicide detectives take control of the crime scene from Brian and Mike, who are given police-tape duty. Everyone has their turf battles. They guard the scene for two hours while the detectives work. “Comfortable footwear,” Mike tells Van Hauser (David Harbour), the cop who relieves them. “Policing is all about comfortable footwear.” You see them investigate a missing kids case, finding two stoned adults in the living room and the kids duct-taped in a closet. Afterwards you see Brian in a distant shot overlooking LA, crouching. It’s a kind of exhale.

Brian often films what they do, so a lot of what we see is of the found-footage variety. He’s ... pre-law? Dating various girls. But he’s tired of it. Date 1, they kiss by the door. Date 2, they get it on. Date 3, they have nothing to say. “I want a smart girl,” he says. Mike, the voice of the men in the audience, has no sympathy. What Brian sees as his problem—too much sex with too many women—is not a problem; it’s the wish-fulfillment fantasy of the men in the audience.

But Brian finds his smart girl, Janet (Anna Kendrick), with a master’s in fluid hydraulics, and we get this exchange:

Mike: Did you run her?
Brian: Yeah, she’s clean.

Love that. Googling for cops. We see Brian and Janet sleep together, and the next morning she films herself going through his wallet. A list of girls’ numbers? “You won’t be needing this anymore,” she says, plucking it out. Love that, too.

On night patrol, Brian and Mike face down some partying Mexican gangsters, the ones who did the drive-by, including Big Evil (Maurice Compte), with his blank death stare. Just a Mexican/American stand-off but one assumes it anticipates a third-act confrontation. Later they bust one of his men, carrying drug money in a soup pot and a glittery AK-47 in the back of his pickup. “Liberace’s AK,” they call it. Brian talks about the three essential food groups of patrol: money, drugs and guns. Now they just need the drugs. “The ghetto will provide,” Mike says, not unhappily.

At this point in the story it’s all very episodic. Brian and Mike save kids in a burning building, receive medals of valor from the city, and afterwards, on patrol in a convenience store, talk about how they don’t feel like heroes. Both Janet, and Mike’s wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez), chastise their men for risking their lives to save other people’s kids. But that’s the job. Brian takes Janet to the Philharmonic. Mike and Gabby have a kid. Brian and Janet get engaged, then married. “You’ve got a lot of heart hooking up with a cop,” Mike tells Janet during the wedding toast, adding, “We’re all happy you can make a man out of Brian because we’ve about given up.”

All the while, our two heroes, who don’t know who the true villains of the movie are, bust each other’s balls on patrol while busting perps. And each time they go out, we wonder: OK, is this when the story starts?

In this home, they find illegals imprisoned in a backroom, and a towering DEA agent descends upon them, saying, “You guys fucked up.” In another home, they find a 70-year-old woman in a plastic bag in a back closet. Further in, they come across a room of cut-up bodies, like a scene out of “The Killing Fields.” They find cocaine, too. Shortly afterwards, via infrared camera, we see and hear the drug cartel leader, most likely in Mexico, talking on the phone. “This is just two city cops,” he says. “Take care of those assholes,” he says. Is the DEA doing the filming? Will they warn our guys? They don’t. The original gangster, whom Mike fights at the beginning, does. He heard from a dude in prison. They laugh it off. “We’re cops. Everybody wants to kill us.” Then they forget it. They’re back to shooting the shit. They’re being tailed and they’re arguing about rubber bands.

By the time the final showdown occurs, way into the third act, we’ve realized, “This is the movie.” It’s them in the patrol car and them doing their jobs and them living their lives. After the final showdown, after the shooting gallery and the police funeral, Brian, arm in a sling, looking wrecked, has to speak at Mike’s funeral—just as Mike spoke at his wedding. “He was my brother,” Brian begins, then pauses. The pause continues and fills the room. Finally, he leaves the podium. Even if he could say more, that’s all that needs to be said.

Even after all that, we get them one more time on patrol: a flashback to the day of the shooting. One braces oneself. Will it explain things retroactively? Give a clue to the doings of the Mexican drug cartel? Perhaps indicate a betrayal? No. It’s just them shooting the shit and laughing. It drives home what the movie is, and it’s a reminder of what was lost.

“End of Watch,” written and directed by David Ayer (“Training Day”; “Harsh Times”), is powerful, original, funny and terrifying. It feels as authentic as anything that’s been filmed about cops. It’s the coppiest of cop movies without being close to a copy. True, our guys run into more trouble in a year than most cops do in a lifetime; but the tone is right, the dialogue and acting so natural they verge on improvisational, and the vernacular so specific to police work you almost need a lexicon to understand what’s being said.

As for the Mexican drug cartel? It keeps on. Mike dies, it lives. He dies not even knowing the story he was in.

One wonders if this isn’t a healthier ending than the wish-fulfillment fantasies Hollywood provides, or the kind of catharsis Aristotle recommended. We get no catharsis here, no justice, so maybe we search for it elsewhere. Maybe we try to make it happen elsewhere. At the least, “End of Watch” is a movie everyone who funds the illegal drug trade should see. Because no matter how much damage drugs do to you, the real damage isn’t done to you.

Posted at 06:35 AM on Sep 24, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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Friday September 21, 2012

Movie Review: Battleship (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

The big question in alien invasion movies is generally: What’s their major malfunction? In “War of the Worlds,” it was bacteria. In “Signs,” water. Here? They’re biped lizard creatures so they’re vulnerable to ... wait for it ... sunlight. For creatures attacking Earth, that’s a little less dopey than water but not by much. Sunlight is bad for them so they go to Hawaii? What’s the matter with Seattle? Even Edward was smart enough to hang on the Olympic peninsula.

I’d heard “Battleship” had been unjustly sunk by critics and audiences. I’d heard it was better than that. Or at least better than the “Transformers” movies. Which is like saying a number is bigger than zero.

IMDb.com is actually helpful in this regard. It lets us know that People who liked this also liked ... and then a list: Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” “Battle Los Angeles,” “I Am Four,” and “Green Lantern.” A film festival in hell.

Poster for "Battleship" (2012)So why do these aliens come here in the first place? Because scientists send a signal into outer space inviting them. Stupid scientists. Brainiacs. With their brains.

Who’s our protagonist? An impetuous ne’er-do-well named Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who has an older, steadier brother in the Navy, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), and who, because he’s trying to impress a girl in a bar who looks like a supermodel (supermodel Brooklyn Decker), winds up with a choice between prison and the Navy. He goes Navy with his brother. He also goes with the supermodel. She’s actually a physical therapist. She’s also the Admiral’s daughter. For a change.

Then the aliens land and everything that was wrong about Alex turns out to be right. He’s the wrong guy in peace but the right guy in war. His steady brother buys it early (loser), his Japanese antagonist, Capt. Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano of “Ichi the Killer” fame), becomes his comrade, and he hangs with a petty officer who looks like a supermodel (supermodel and singer Rihanna). Together they take on the aliens.

The assumption, made early and often, is that the one alien ship that burned up entering our atmosphere was the communication ship; so the aliens are going to use our communications system to contact the home planet with the message, “Bring more. Easy pickings.”

How do we know this is the message they want to send back? We don’t. How do we know they’re not scared and asking for help? Because that would involve empathy, dude, and they’re fucking lizard creatures. In fucking warships. What are you—a fucking scientist? A brainiac? With your brain?

Still, one wonders at what point the aliens’ message would continue to be: easy pickings. After they’ve lost one ship? Two? Four of the five? Just before their final ship is blown up by a decommissioned battleship, the U.S.S. Missouri, and its crew of hotheads and supermodels and geriatric war veterans? It’s all so stupid. We’re paranoid that the aliens are going to attack in greater numbers with their superior technology, but their technology isn’t superior. They get beat by octogenarians.

So, rah rah, we win. Hopper gets promoted, Rihanna gets wet (no umber-ella), the crippled war vet finds a purpose, and the cowardly scientist demonstrates a modicum of courage at the right Han Solo moment.

Brainiacs with their brains fuck it up but gung-ho military sorts sort it out. Yet another liberal message from the liberal folks in liberal Hollywood.

Posted at 07:06 AM on Sep 21, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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Wednesday September 12, 2012

Movie Review: Cosmopolis (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

In 10th grade I wrote a small play, full of symbolism, a new word for me back then, about a kid who takes a ride on a department store elevator, which we performed in Mr. Wolk’s English class. The different floors were supposed to represent the different stages of the kid’s life, etc., until he arrived at the top floor, where, of course ...

I think I got a B-.

David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" (2012, starring Robert Pattinson“Cosmopolis,” directed by David Cronenberg, and based upon a novel by Don DeLillo, is a dreamlike limousine ride through New York City that is representative of a life. During the course of the day-long journey, the 28-year-old billionaire assets manager in the backseat, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), loses everything—tie, jacket, wife, fortune—then arrives at the end of the line, where, of course... Or I should say maybe...? Cronenberg doesn’t pull the trigger.

I’ll give him a B-.

Packer is in a stretch limo in the first place, with bodyguards patrolling the perimeter, to get a haircut across town. But he keeps running into obstacles. The president is in town (“The president of the United States,” he’s told, when he asks which president), so traffic’s a bitch. Then there’s an anti-corporate protest against corporate mucky-mucks like him—more Battle in Seattle than Occupy Wall Street—and a funeral for a Sufi rap star. As a result, the limo, moving slowly downtown, becomes his rolling office. People enter and exit like they’ve been waiting on the sidewalk all day.

His first seatmate is his start-up partner, Shiner (Jay Baruchel), who feels left behind. He can’t keep up. Neither can we, really. There’s technobabble talk of a “bot” that keeps getting faster and faster in exploiting market inefficiencies, until it, and Packer, never live in the present. They’re always in the future. Or futures. Doesn’t he say this? “Why can I see the future?” Packer asks. Or does he say “can’t”? Early on, Packer sounds like Holden Caulfield with the ducks when he wonders where all the white limos go at the end of the day. Shiner sounds like Fenwick in “Diner” when he says, “You ever get the feeling you don’t know what’s going on?”

Other seatmates include a 22-year-old whiz kid who’s still excited by the numbers (Philip Nozuka); a doctor there for Packer’s daily checkup; and an older French mistress (Juliette Binoche), whom he fucks in the backseat, and who tells him of an available Rothko when he’s interested in a chapel, an entire chapel, that he wants to buy and put in his condo. Whole. They talk over the efficacy and morality of this.

She: People need to see it.
He: Let them buy it. Let them outbid me.

Packer always asks his seatmates “What else?” because he feeds off information even though the most basic information—the president’s in town, one of his favorite singers has died—escapes him. “What do you do exactly?” Elise (Sarah Gadon) asks him at one point. “You know things. I think this is what you do. I think you acquire information and turn it into something awful.” She’s his wife, we find out. At first I thought she was merely a taxi-cab pick up. Then I realized: no, she’s his fiancée. At the diner, she’s his wife, and by the end they’re divorced. A life together in a limo ride. Modern life.

Some of the conversational back-and-forth is fascinating. (“When I was four,” he tells Elise, “I figured out how much I weighed on all the planets in the solar system.”) Other times, it merely sounds like clever tweets. (“Talent is more erotic when it’s wasted.”) Throughout, nobody really listens to anyone. It’s like a “Seinfeld” conversation except dreamy, gloomy, and not funny.

Let’s ask the basic question of Packer that we ask of all of our protagonists: What does the guy want? I don’t know. I’m not sure he knows. He seems to be a man trying to feel something again. That’s why the limo ride to the haircut in the first place. It’s where he got his haircuts when he was a kid. Since Packer lives in the future, or futures, where nothing can be felt, he tries to feel via his past. His present certainly isn’t doing it for him. In the backseat of the stretch limo, which looks like the inside of the Batmobile, and which he initially rides as if he’s Capt. Kirk on the U.S.S. Enterprise, he does whatever he can to feel something. He screws his mistress (Julie Binoche) and has a lengthy prostate exam (his prostate is asymmetrical). Later he screws one of his security guards (Patricia McKenzie) in a nearby hotel, which Cronenberg films as if it’s as cramped and claustrophobic as the limo. When anti-capitalist forces rock the limo, Packer doesn’t react. As he’s losing his fortune, Packer doesn’t react...much. Some critics blame Pattinson for this but it’s obviously the point. What can make him feel again? Why not get out of the limo and walk? He’s the boy-king, trapped, and eventually he kills his bodyguard and dismisses his driver and stands in the dirty streets where an assassin, Beno Levin, (Paul Giamatti), an ex-employee, takes potshots at him. Only then does he come alive again. For a moment. But the confrontation with Levin is a letdown. Levin’s motivation, he says, “is not original.” Eventually Packer shoots his own hand. Then he feels something. But not enough. The awful dreamlike state continues. Until it doesn’t.

Cronenberg does dreamlike well, of course, and the movie’s themes (wealth inequality, living the future, creating a life that speeds past us) are all extremely relevant. But early on I didn’t care what was happening, and I never got back to caring. The man who feels nothing is a dull protagonist. Other people’s dreams are a drag. I also felt about Packer’s ride the way Packer felt about Levin’s motivation. It’s not very original. See: “The Swimmer,” “Heart of Darkness,” “A Face in the Crowd,” and my 10th-grade play.

Posted at 06:39 AM on Sep 12, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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Monday September 03, 2012

Movie Review: Premium Rush (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Did it have to be a fixie? That distracted me right away. Dude’s a bike messenger in New York City, zipping along and through massive amounts of traffic, and he has one gear and no brakes? I’ve never understood the appeal of fixies. People ride them even in Seattle. I can’t imagine the leg strength it takes to bike up, say, Queen Anne hill in one gear, or the balls it takes to bike down, say, Fremont hill with no brakes. What’s the advantage? Why take the risk? Is it for the ... premium rush?

Bad title, by the way. I’ve forgotten it about five times since I saw the thing.

No one in this movie gets why Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rides a fixie, either. Not fellow messenger and sometime-girlfriend Vanessa (the superhot Dania Ramirez, last seen, by me, as Alex on “Entourage”), and not fellow messenger and obnoxious rival for her affections, Manny (Wole Parks). But Wilee has a secret that keeps him safe. He’s the Sherlock Holmes of bike messengers.

Poster for PREMIUM RUSH (2012) with Joseph Gordon-LevittYou know how the modern cinematic Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) can play out events in his superfast mind before they happen? He can calculate, without really knowing his opponents, which martial arts skills it takes to bring them all down? And then things happen exactly that way? Wilee does the same thing at dicey traffic intersections. This path? Crash 1. That path? Crash 2. The other path? Safety. It’s always the third path. As with jokes.

I admit I was vaguely intrigued by the trailer. Bike messenger has a package, or envelope, or ticket, that he’s supposed to deliver across town, and bad guys (led by Michael Shannon), want it. What could it be?

The movie, jumbled chronologically, begins with Wilee flying silently across the screen and crashing onto the pavement after a bike accident. Drivers are horrified. Vanessa crouches before him teary-eyed with worry. We’re told it’s 6:33 PM and then we flash back to 5:00 PM and Wilee doing his rounds. A slight flirtation with a receptionist. Manny being Manny (i.e., a dick). Wilee and Vanessa on the outs. A last-minute call, or ticket, that Wilee takes. Hey, it’s at Columbia University. Hey, it’s for Vanessa’s roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung). Hey, she seems nervous. Hey, why is this demented, big-headed dude after me?

At Columbia we learn Wilee went to law school but never took the bar. He didn’t want the office life, man. Why make $250-$500 an hour wearing a suit when you could make like $15 an hour riding in the open, polluted air. Vanessa doesn’t get this aspect of him. They’re on the outs because he missed her “school thing,” which turns out to be college graduation, which he thinks isn’t important. I’m with her. For all of Wilee’s hipster accoutrement, his attitude is basically white and privileged. She’s ready to grasp opportunities while he’s coasting on charm and letting opportunities pass him by, because, as a member of the majority group, he can afford to. Dude, just use your knowledge. Pass the bar. Hang a shingle. Help those who need help most. You don’t have to be a corporate lawyer. You can help the Vanessas and Nimas of the world. You know: pretty girls of all races.

Instead, he’s zipping uptown followed by that nutjob Robert Monday (Shannon), who’s trying to kill him. At one point Wilee gets a smartphone photo of the dude’s license plate and takes it to the nearest police station to register a complaint. And who walks in? Monday. He’s a cop. A detective. He’s got a gambling addiction. Another flashback. He’s playing Mah jong in Chinatown and losing bad and owing big. Nima’s ticket represents $50,000. Some Chinese dude tells him about it. How does the Chinese dude know? Do we ever find out?

Soon both Monday and a bike cop (Christopher Place), who must be the fastest bike cop in the world, are racing after Wilee, but our hero gets away using some Danny Macaskill maneuvers (stunt double: Danny Macaskill), then punks out and returns the ticket to Columbia. Not even to Nima. To the receptionist. When Nima finds out she’s distraught. Because that money? She’s been saving that money for two years, working three jobs, in order to ... wait for it ... bring her son to the United States.

In my seat I immediately deflated. The movie’s two big mysteries are: 1) a corrupt cop with a gambling addiction; and, 2) a mother and child reunion. All the fixies and tats in the world can’t make that shit seem new.

But now Wilee is ready to help. Except Monday has recalled the order to a flower shop on 28th rather than Chinatown, and Manny’s picked it up, and he refuses to listen to Wilee. But he will race him. He wants to show him up. So off they go, through Central Park.

This isn’t where the accident happens, by the way. The accident happens after Wilee, being wily, puts the ticket inside his bike handlebars for safe keeping, then comes to a red light that allows no Sherlockian safe path. Boom. Crash. Dead? No. Cracked ribs. Monday rides with him in the ambulance and basically tortures him to get information. Oddly, Wilee doesn’t send him across town. He sends him to the exact spot he sent Vanessa, the police impound lot, where, cracked ribs and all, Wilee grabs another bike and gets away using some serious Danny Macaskill maneuvers (stunt double: Danny Macaskill), and then, in the magic-hour light, on the bike cop’s bike, rides to the Chinatown restaurant.

Monday is there waiting for him, boiling with frustration, while the Chinese flee inside like it’s a remake of “High Noon.” Who doesn’t flee? Bike messengers, dude. They take their tats and dreds and gnarly rides to that same spot, yo, and mess with Monday. But the final blow comes from the gun of a Chinese gangster. Shannon gives us a nice death scene here—it almost makes up for some of his earlier scene-chewing—and Wilee is able to deliver the ticket in time, at 6:59 PM, or 26 minutes after the crash. We should all pack our half-hours with such activity.

David Koepp, best known as a screenwriter (“Jurassic Park,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Spider-Man”), tends to direct, when he directs, the forgettable movies of established stars: “Ghost Town” with Ricky Gervais in 2008; “Secret Window” with Johnny Depp in 2004; “Stir of Echoes” with Kevin Bacon in 1999. Add Joseph Gordon-Levitt and whatever the hell this movie is called.

Posted at 07:55 AM on Sep 03, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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