Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Deadly Ground (1994)

Exceptionally goofy, action-lite Steven Seagal flick about oil company mercenaries vs. the Alaskan eskimos. Seagal is the situation handler (read: blows shit up) for oil exec Michael Caine who suddenly has a change of heart when he realizes Caine plans on abusing the environment (*gasp*) to secure his latest project. After he's betrayed by Caine and his mercenary John C. McGinley, he takes up with the Eskimos and turns the tables on those dirty money-grubbers. The plot is absolutely absurd, and every scene is packed with ripe falsities and obvious action-movie contrivances. Seagal is himself, complete sincerity and silliness, but Caine, McGinley, and smaller turns by R. Lee Ermey, Mike Starr, and Billy Bob Thornton are absolutely hilarious and larger-than-life. Joan Chen doesn't fare so good as the Eskimo dame, and neither does the rest of the supporting cast, but there is enough going on that the formula doesn't go completely stale. This was Seagal's directorial debut, and it's not the worst thing in the world; it has more life to it than the similar, but inferior, Fire Down Below. The shot compositions are pretty decent, particularly the wides of the Alaskan mountains. However, the key flaw with the film, which I'm sure the ego of Seagal and his self-righteous pandering had something to do with, is the noticeable lack of action. There are only a couple of true action scenes, and they are flat and comletely rote. Had the film not been so completely nonsensical and absurd, it would be an absolute bore; luckily, Seagal's plan backfired, and trying to make the film more serious than usual just makes it a campy delight.

Recommended for fans of Steven Seagal and campy mid-'90s action flicks. The message of this movie is incredibly heavy handed, and it's unfortunate; Seagal's climactic Great Dictator-esque speech about the evils of the environment actually has some decent points lost in the shuffle of his self-righteousness and his ego.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cop Out (2010)

Mediocre, hardly-trying buddy-cop movie that regurgitates, rather than evokes, the stereotypes of '80s action flicks. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play the leads, "a couple of dicks," as Bruce refers to them as, who bumble around New York doing tired schtick and tepid banter while looking for Bruce's missing baseball card, worth tens of thousands. The team is generic, and so is everything else in the movie; the angry captain taking their badge, the rival cops (complete with Rosewood-esque concerned younger partner), the ethnic drug dealers, the appropriately-ethnic damsel in distress, and the climactic shootout all play completely rote, without any spark of originality to it that someone like Edgar Wright or QT couldn't help but inject. The only aspect that comes off as homage rather than cribbing is the synth score by Axel F mastermind Harold Faltermeyer; the refreshing, old-school soundtrack will be getting a lot more repeat value over the years than this derivative turd.

The casting of this movie had gotten me excited during development stages, but I constantly wished they were given Kevin Smith dialogue to recite instead of the plot-functioning pseudo-banter on display. Bruce is not quite as bored as I figured he'd be; his character does possess a somewhat understated presence here, but he ain't that funny and he ain't that badass, for whatever reason. The idea of Tracy Morgan as a policeman is completely ludicrous, and he does little to disprove that, save for adding a false sweetness to his character that makes him completely benign and nonthreatening, e.g. uninteresting. Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak are disposable, but Pollak at least gets away with not making a fool of himself by trying too hard. Susie Essman and Jason Lee have surprisingly funny cameos, and Guillermo Diaz turns in a solid, if racist and cliched villain, but the real ace-in-the-hole of the cast is Stifler a.k.a. Seann William Scott. He is the only cast member not content with playing a plot function, and takes his scenes to the level I hoped the rest of the movie could maintain in terms of energy, spontaneity, and humor. His death in the film, at the same time as being completely lame and contrived, kills the minimal momentum they had going for them, but of course they bring him back in the end (graciously) just in case Cop Out 2 makes it past development. Personally, I could give a fuck unless Kev's allowed (or even wants) a crack at the script himself; anything better than Morgan just reciting lines from movies to get the immediate laugh of recognition like a bad Family Guy ep.

Slightly Recommended for fans of '80s buddy flicks or Stifler. This is Kevin Smith's worst movie...wait...shit I forgot about Jersey Girl, and it felt SO GOOD, goddammit...but ok it's not quite THAT bad.