first of all, this picture is a kind of so-so, it blurs the line between serious drama and soap opera, some of the solutions are working well, some of them ain't. the director was known for his masterful story-telling in his earlier movies (the boxer, my left foot, in the name of the father), but recently he made some crap movies (get rich or die trying, dream house). maybe he can function best in one and only one paradigm, and this movie just partially crosses its ways with sheridan's irish catholic paradigm. the crucial point of this movie is guilt and change, as a sort of redemtion. this movie is a remake, not a carbon copy, but close enogh to it, of a danish more artistic picture brodre. we have a good brother, his wife and a bad brother as main characters and whole family and community as supporting ones. a good brother goes to afganistan for his turn, goes missing and is presumed dead. his bad brother tries to kinda step in his shoes, to take care of his brother's family and change his ways so he can become a better man. the wife tries to stay a good person by doubling her love to the children. but the good brother comes as a changed man, suffering from PTSD... some of the moves are good and classy, sam shepards little bravado is a touch of class, jake gyllenhaal is good as fresh-out-of-the-prison man who wants to change his ways. natalie portman does a decent job as a decent, simple military wife. tobey maguirre is just not that big actor as his role is demanding, but still it doesn't go to miscast. the ending plays out too simply, without much needed complexity, but still it is the price of hollywoodisation of an european movie. the rest of transition is done without much fuss, the less experienced viewer won't see it's a remake. the edgy melodramatic moments will spoil the feeling of watching this work. but there is more to it, there is whole lot of context. first, it is a rarity nowdays to make a decent movie on some complex premises. it is a brave thing to do, from the economic point of view: most of the movies play safe with siplicity. it's not particularly brave from the political point of view in the time when every politician everywhere is changing their position more often than changing socks. in this movie war and PTSD segments are secondary to guilt and redemption, and change of ways as the main topic. guilt and redemption is a standard motive from the bible, seen in literature and movies. this time it works just to a point, because it's not the only focus. it works with tommy and barely works with sam. the main reason for it is playing safe and not daring too much to get into the PTSD segment. maybe because maguirre's acting is not good enough to pass the shell-shocked phase of an army veteran to a more complex work, maybe because of the lack of screen time, maybe because of not-so-good ballance of segments. war segment is done kinda oldschool, reminding me of vietnam war movies, sam's captivity is done with a special touch of brutality, like in the deer hunter. in a conclusion, watch it with the hurt locker aftertaste, because these two are kinda complementary. someone said on my hurt locker review that the hurt locker is a rare movie that can connect us with war veterans of our (younger) generation. this movie can do the same thing, and more movies like that will come in the future. it's simple - the first serious movies about vietnam war came five years after the war was over, the first movies dealing with the veterans came a couple of years earlier, but still. don't forget that wars in afganistan and iraq are not quite over yet. with more of the historical distance, there will be even better movies.
works on some levels, doesn't work on others. it's not really the kind of a movie that will end up in anthologies, but it's not bad at all. and it's quite an original work. arthur is a borderline-retard who is a vigilante, dressed up in a superhero costume with toy-like add-ons. he is aware of not being a superhero, but doesn't see any other point of hope for fighting against the crime. he has three or four characters that genuinely care about him: his boss from work is a kind of elder brother figure, the crackhead prostitute he saves in one of his actions, his psychiatrist and a sympathetic police captain. except woody harelson, most of the casts are well-known and good TV actors. directing and the technical aspect is far from perfect, but what can you get from a low budget movie with a canadian tv station as one of the co-producers. it's not funny movie, not in a conventional way. most of the time it's awkward to laugh, having in mind that the main character is a mentally disabled person, even though it's labeled as comedy. that kind of tone brings it close to unwatchable, but for the time of being, forget about ethics and stay put. there are two levels that are seriously underrated in all the talk about this movie. forget about superhero comicbooks parody, the central character is retarded, and you are an asshole if you laugh at him. forget about superheroism and vigilantism for the same reasons. this is a drama about mental health, and a very good one. woody harelson's low key performance adds to it. on the other side of the story, it is a very serious deconstruction of heroism. it is about every day heroes, without super powers, childish gadgets and silly clothes. arthur is on the mental level of a child, so his perception of heroism is comic-book like. the respect he earns from "the grown-ups" has nothing to do with his vigilantism: he saves his bosses son, and he saves a girl and fights a drug-dealing chain. it's flawed, but still... my recommendation
literal adaptation? yes. over-the-top? yes. a mash-up of styles? yes. but it works. this is an omnibus with three stories from graphic novels (fancy word for comic books) sin city by fran miller. the stories are set in basin city, a combination of chandler's los angeles on rye, thompson's las vegas on ether and city of the future on extasy. time setting is also undetermined, cars vary from 30-es to late 50-es and 80-es ferrari, clothes from trenchcoats via heavy metal leather jackets to g-strings, fishnets and s/m kits. dialogue is noir, monologue is ultra-noir and the physics of the action is taken directly from pulp comix. the cast is stellar: action heroes plus the tarantino/rodriguez ususal suspects. the color is not noir black and white, it is a two color print with the fly color details (taken from european graphic novels): blond hair, red blood, blue eyes and sick yellow skin. it rains constantly. it works. i don't know how, but it works. the adaptation is kinda page by page (miller is credited as a screenplay writer), but there is also lots of directing touches, there are fight scenes taken directly from exploatation movies. there is blood, there is skin, there is an eye for a detail. and it's not a trashy pulp fun, it's not just a parallel universe that mixes lots of pop culture memes. sin city is our past, present and future, it is a hyperbole of human corruption and power games.
ok, the story is not very developed, it's not even very believable, but what it lacks in originality and depth of characters, this movie compensates with lots of style. it's not the first time that we see los angeles and hollywood as a modern-day babylon, it's propably not even the last time. but told from the angle of an aging english career criminal, the subtext is getting generally good. we see the dark side of an average success story. terence stamp is simply great as a "cockney geeser", and so is peter fonda as a washed-up music producer. there is more of a crime story, there is a kind of social story about the industry that eats its own stars, but this is mainly introspective look in the direction of a wasted life. a special feature of this picture is something extraordinary: flashbacks to london's swinging sixties where and when main character's life went to a completely wrong direction. the atmosphere is great, the direction is almost invisible and therefore secure. doing it low-key is the right way for an intimate story. my recommendations to indie lovers.