The judicial system has never been played so hard as it has by Anthony Hopkins in Gregory Hoblit’s Fracture, a thriller that’s written, acted and directed to high heavens but scored into oblivion. I’m not kidding, a hotshot courtroom gig of this caliber should sound great but the musical composition here by the Brothers Danna makes it sound like a TV movie and really doesn’t do it any favours. Odd, when you consider the fact that they are Oscar winners for previous scoring work. Hopkins is the murderous rich prick who shoots his wife (an underused Embeth Davidz) in the face when he finds out she’s having an affair with a cop (Billy Burke). Then in a spectacularly nasty move, he sets it up so the detective is first on scene to find her just so the old bastard can see the look on his face. After that, no one seems to be able to make the case stick to him, and it’s passed off to young hotshot prosecutor Ryan Gosling, who underestimates the sheer diabolical resolve of Hopkins and sails straight into his net. It’s pretty preposterous and overblown in terms of what’s allowed, not allowed and plausible in events surrounding such a high profile court case (why would they let him so close to his comatose wife right after such a suspicious acquittal?), but employ suspension of disbelief and this vicious little narrative is a lot of fun. Hopkins has a ball with this role, relishing the moment every time he royally fucks someone over and cooking up a stinging blend of laconic sociopathy and bubbling mirth. Hoblit gathers an impressive supporting cast including perennial silver-fox David Strathairn, Bob Gunton, Fiona Shaw, Cliff Curtis, Xander Berkeley, Zoe Kazan and slinky Rosamund Pike as a love interest from a rival firm. It’s a bit of a shame because the script, performances and story are all very well orchestrated, but the score and certain details just seem glossed over when there could have been more grit and depth. Those lacking elements give it an airy feeling of incompleteness where it should have been deeper and tighter drawn.
A demon angel. A Badass Denzel Washington. Tony Soprano singing the Rolling Stones. Creeping psychological dread. Browned, burnished production design. A deliciously mean spirited, ballsy twist ending. All this and more can be found in Gregory Hoblit’s Fallen, an atmospheric spook-house of a flick that gets tone, fright and suspense just right. Nestled in that sweet spot of the 90’s where detective stories often had a neat supernatural twist (The Prophecy is another dope one), it’s a film that demonstrates the power of storytelling and atmosphere done right, like a campfire tale that cops tell their youngsters. Denzel is Hobbs, a detective who oversees the graphic execution of serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas, terror incarnate), a monster he once caught. Case closed, right? Not so much. Soon after he kicks the bucket, one or more copycat killers show up, and once again the crimes happen under Hobb’s watch. Coincidence? Paranormal? It’s a neat, eerie game of cat and mouse with an antagonist who possesses a few unearthly methods of skulking around in the dark. Hobbs is helped by his two colleagues, salt of the earth John Goodman and hothead James Gandolfini, bumps heads with the obstinate police captain (Donald Sutherland), and runs into his foe at every turn, each time in a new vessel which gives the actors, right down to extras, an opportunity to have some devilish fun. Embeth Davidz is her usual withdrawn self as a woman with ties to the killer’s past, and watch for Robert Joy and Gabriel Casseus as well. Composer Dun Tan’s unearthly drone of a score compliments the drab shadows, oppressive nocturnes and threatening frames of the film eerily as well, creating a mood-scape that drips ambience. The end is an acidic kick in the nuts, and I admire a film that has the stones to chuck in such a shock tactic, embracing the dread that has been built up to that point with one last sardonic, hopeless cackle. Film noir to it’s roots, subtly mystical, a perfect one to settle down with as we move into the Halloween season.
Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness completes his demented Evil Dead trilogy in high style, and with way more off the wall humour than the first two, which made you laugh while simultaneously going straight for the jugular with gore. Slapstick seems to be the theme here, as Ash and his trusty accessories of destruction find themselves catapulted straight into the heart of the Middle Ages, where the denizens of the Necronomicon have somehow once again found him. Joining forces with a medieval King, and hopping into bed with a shapely princess (Embeth Davidz), Ash uses his modern day know-how and sassy disposition to battle hordes of skeletal beasties and flying deadites, with occasional breaks for absurd humour and near surreal set pieces. My personal favorite is when he finds himself under attack from numerous pint sized versions of himself after setting off an ancient spell in the nearby dark forests. “Ramming speed” they chirp as they jab him in the ass with a metal fork and giggle like demonic Borrowers. Only in these movies, man. The change of setting from a cabin in the woods to a castle allows for a much larger scale of action, involving entire armies and much more moving parts. The deadite horde has a satisfyingly creaky, Harryhausen-esque way of moving, and look great when blown to bits by the ol’ boomstick as well. They also inherit the silliness and near constant mischief of the demons from the first two films too. Whether it’s trees, deer heads, zombies or skeletons, anything that materializes as a result of that book just seems to have a flair for bizarre and childish shenanigans, kind of like their trademark mode of behaviour. That too is what makes these films so distinct; they’re horror comedies, yes, but not in the sense that Scary Movie or Young Frankenstein is. They’re like a clown with ADHD prancing about the place and destroying things in their own special and unhinged way. Different from the other films in the series, no doubt, but a welcome and very successful departure.