Monday, April 18, 2011

CRAPPY POPCORN MOVIE MEGAPOST- Danger: Diabolik (1968), Blast (2005), and Death Race (2008)

First off, I am not exaggerating with my title post; yes, these are all popcorn movies, meaning they are primarily designed to titillate, excite, and stimulate, rather than move you, and yes, they are all relatively crappy. Danger: Diabolik is, seemingly, the exact type of loosely plotted, Styrofoam prop-filled, poorly acted fluff that Roman Coppola went after with his excellent directorial debut (and, to date, sole feature credit) CQ. The plot, or, I should say, the basic framework for the visuals and effects, involves a thief, named Diabolik, and his mistress, Eva, as they steal fortunes away from the Italian government (this being a Dino De Laurentiis production, and all). This is just an excuse to show things like Diabolik and Eva cavorting on a bed, their naughty parts obscured by piles of stolen money, or Diabolik being frozen in irradiated, melted gold. It is a fun movie, but lighter than air, and not the most original thing in the world (Barbarella did many of the same things, thematically and superficially, but much better).
Blast is a P.O.S. Under Siege knockoff (which, in turn, was a Die Hard knockoff, although decidedly not a P.O.S.) where Vinnie Jones and Nadine Velasquez take over an oil rig, and must be stopped by former fireman and current badass Eddie Griffin (yes, Undercover Brother), tech geek Breckin Meyer (before Robot Chicken brought his dignity back), and, playing Sgt. Al Powell, Vivica A. Fox, defending Griffin to the doubting Nick Mancusos of the world as she barks orders at him via conference call. The script, co-written by Die Hard scribe (and Street Fighter director) Steven E. de Souza, is thinly drawn, cliched action flick dreck; even the best of the one liners sound like they were ad-libbed by Griffin ("We just out-Bushed George Bush; we actually found WMDS!"). Anthony Hickox, who made the Waxwork series back in the day and Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, does nothing to mask the, clearly, limited budget, and stages several boring, lifeless, overly-contained action scenes, where stunt doubles are obvious, choreography is flat and doesn't match, and deus ex machinas abound. I recently read an interview with John Landis where he described Eddie Murphy's attitude during Beverly Hills Cop 3, which, partially, imploded their friendship; he said that Murphy was less concerned with being "funny," as he was hired to be, and more concerned with being a tough, take-no-shit, action star, "like Wesley Snipes." I cannot help but think the same thing about Griffin here, who does overtime work posing in his black turtleneck in, what seems like, an attempt to redefine himself as a serious action star (spoiler alert: didn't happen). Everyone else just looks like they're not even trying, except for Vinnie Jones, maybe because he's spent so much time recently REALLY not even trying that even the most menial effort shines through. Really, truly, a crappy, unremarkable flick.
Unlike Death Race! Surprisingly enough, this remake (of a film I LOVE) based around a bunch of convicts half-racing, half-killing each other with cars is a fun, energetic affair which I actually enjoyed. Jason Statham, as the ace driver headlining the Death Race events, is dependably badass and watchable, Joan Allen is a cold-hearted, hissable villain, and Ian Macshane effortlessly charms his way through the Morgan Freeman role, which could have easily been a throwaway. The action is the best I've seen from Paul W.S. Anderson since Mortal Kombat; THIS is the Paul Anderson who, more than any other director in Hollywood, saw the most possibility in replicating video game aesthetics in cinema, in this case, doing a pitch-perfect Twisted Metal-type flick (albeit without Metal's terrific, grotesque backstories). The highest compliment I can pay the film is that it seems less like a Paul Anderson throwaway, and more of a (lesser) Luc Besson European co-production, with enough bizarre touches, character quirks, and cheer-worthy beats to satisfy most vehicular action fans. Check 'er out if she catches your eye.

I only grouped these three in together because they all seem so half-assed that I felt ashamed to give them their own posts. I hate writing at length about crappy movies that no one cared about during production. But Death Race is actually pretty cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment