Tag Archives: James Caan

Eraser 


Eraser is a top notch Schwarzenegger vehicle, and in a year where the only other Arnie entry was the mind numbing Jingle All The Way, it supplies 1996 with that jolt of action from our favourite Austrian juggernaut. Here he’s John Kruger, a US Marshal who specializes in an obscure wing of the witness protection program that literally wipes people’s memories clean before replacement. The technology is naturally hoarded over by big old corporations which as we know aren’t to be trusted in these type of films. During a routine mission to help beautiful client Vanessa Williams, Kruger begins to suspect his own colleagues of some shady shit involving the sale of high grade weapons, and before he knows it he in the crosshairs and on the run with Vanessa tagging along. It’s all smarmy James Caan’s fault really, who plays his devilish, treacherous superior officer at the WitSec agency, a classic case of ambition gone rogue, his villainous cackle trademark of someone you just shouldn’t trust, even before his true colours are bared. The action is fast, furious and rooted in 90’s sensibilities, with all manner of attack helicopter chases, massive artillery fired off at a whim and the the near SciFi concept frequently smothered by the shock and awe campaign of each set piece, which is fine in an Arnie flick really, I mean they can’t all be Terminators and Total Recalls. There’s a neat rogues gallery of character actors filling in the wings in addition to the big guy, Williams and Caan, including Olek Krupa, Patrick Kilpatrick, James Cromwell, Danny Nucci, Robert Pastorelli, Joe Viterelli, Mark Rolston, John Slattery, Roma Maffia, Tony Longo, Melora Walters, Camryn Mannheim, Skip Sudduth and Nick Chinlund as Caan’s unwitting henchman. There’s also a delightful cameo from James Coburn as the WitSet CEO, doing the same pleasant ‘sort of a villain, but also sort of not’ shtick he did in Payback. One of Arnie’s more low key efforts, but still more than serviceable and a slam bang damn great time at the action races.

-Nate Hill

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Matt Dillon’s City Of Ghosts


Some films just go nowhere. They start in the middle of nowhere, continue down a road towards nowhere, and eventually end up.. guess where? Nowhere. There’s no structure, no beats, little to no stakes, it’s just people hanging about in a non-story. Now, this can either make for a boring film stuck in doldrums of its own making, or it can somehow oddly just.. work. Matt Dillon’s City Of Ghosts falls in the latter category, lucky him. This was Dillon’s writing and directing debut, with him front and centre as the lead, which is a lot of pressure, but he’s crafted a meandering little exercise in mood that, although providing nothing groundbreaking or all that memorable, is a great time to watch in the dreamy AM hours when you just need something vague and atmospheric to fill the space. Matt plays a professional con artist who is forced to voyage from the US to find his boss and mentor (James Caan), last seen in Cambodia. That sounds like a setup ripe for intrigue and double crosses, right? Not so much. Once he’s there, things congeal into a smoky, languishing chamber piece that sees Dillon just wandering from one exotic locale to the next with a troupe of fellow travellers, and eventually the James Caan character, a fairly eccentric and charismatic fellow. There’s a vague love interest (the ever beautiful Natasha McElhone, always terrific), a jovial innkeeper (Gerard Depardieu) and other wayward souls who flit in and out of the proceedings, all amidst this authentic South Pacific setting (Dillon filmed on location in Cambodia, which does wonders for atmosphere). Stellan Skarsgard is in it too, a hoot as some associate of Caan’s, a mopey, Eeyore-esque pessimist who sits about, smokes, mumbles despairing platitudes and does not much else. Beginning to see the picture? It goes nowhere, and by the end the characters seem to have gotten sidetracked fifty times over, never really achieving goals or making bank like they do in noir such as this. It’s neat though, if you’re in the right frame of mind, and have shelved both expectations and adrenal glands. This is a burnished, dreamy, laconic little piece that I rather enjoyed at the hypnotic hour of 2am on some random tv channel in the triple digits. 

-Nate Hill

Making mashed potatoes with Walken: An Interview with Andrew Bryniarski by Kent Hill

You might not know his name, but you’ve certainly seen his movies.

Andrew Bryniarski is a high-octane actor. His explosive and memorable performances stay with you. He is full-tilt, funny and furious. He has worked with an impressive array of Hollywood’s ‘big hitters’ like Tim Burton, Oliver Stone, John McTiernan, Michael Bay and John Singleton. He has starred alongside Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Raul Julia, Richard Lynch and Scooby Doo. He is beaten the shit out of Superman and made out with his girlfriend. Now if that is not an impressive resume, I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, I have done a number of interviews, but this one was a BLAST! Andy I feel has more great stories in him, only a few of which he was able to share over the couple of conversations we had. I would love this guy to sit down and write a ‘tell-all.’ The things that he has done, the places he has been, his experiences as a guy who was plucked out of obscurity and propelled from there to a Hollywood career that has spanned three decades, and has seen him do everything from sacking quarterbacks to wielding chainsaws, in that old Texas-massacre kinda way. It’s a tome that would be utterly enthralling.

The same enthusiasm that Andy applies to his work is apparent in his personality and his perspective. I get the impression there is no half-way with this man, and though it might seem that he has drifted from one grand adventure to another, there is a relentless dedication beneath the surface bravado that has been the catalyst behind his success.

It is always my intention to transcribe my interviews as, at times, the quality of the recording is not that great. But this is one of those times where you have to hear it from the man himself. No one does Andrew Bryniarski better than Andrew Bryniarski, unless of course it’s Andrew Bryniarski doing Christopher Walken (which I promise you’ll love.)

On that point, Andy sent me a message the day after our initial chat, saying that he had forgotten a line in his anecdote regarding Walken. It reads as follows:

Walken’s father was a baker and during the depression, there was a flour shortage so they used sawdust so they got ‘the rickets.’ By the time Chris Walken came along they had flour, so he was taller than his father. But Andy – he had orange juice.

It doesn’t make sense I know. But take note of the missing line (above here underlined) and listen to the incomparable Andrew Bryniarski tell it in his ‘awesome’ Christopher Walken voice…

Episode 28: Michael Mann’s THIEF with Special Guest FRANCINE SANDERS

FRANCINE POWERCAST

We covered Michael Mann’s 1981 neo noir Chicago crime film, THIEF, that starred James Caan, Tuesday Weld, James Belushi, Dennis Farina, and Willie Nelson.  We’re joined with Frank’s former film professor, Francine Sanders, who teaches classes at Columbia College of Chicago.  Frank took her Studies of the Films of the 1970’s.  Francine teaches film courses at Oakton Community College’s Emeritus Program, and has served on the faculty of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy and Roosevelt University.  Not only is she a published and awarded writer, but she worked for the Chicago Police Department for eight and half years as a civilian investigator for the Office of Professional Standards and helped uncover police torture and corruption under Chicago Police Department’s former Cmdr. Jon Burge.  Francine is a key component for Frank’s love of film, and there wouldn’t be a Podcasting Them Softy (at least from Frank’s end) without her!

Michael Mann’s Thief: A Review by Nate Hill

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With Thief, Michael Mann distilled his crime film style into an archetypal, haunting aura that would go on to influence not only his excellent later work, but other filmmakers as well, everything from Refn’s Drive to the police procedural we see on television today. A style that consists of kaleidoscope neon reflections in rain slicked streets, Chrome cars bulleting through restless urban nocturnes and a lyrical, pulsating score, here provided by underrated German electronic maestros Tangerine Dream, who would go on to provide their dulcet tones for Mann’s phenomenal 1983 The Keep. Thief weaves the age old tale of a master safe cracker(James Caan in a beautifully understated performance) the high stakes at risk of him performing one last job to escape, with said stakes represented as his angelic wife (Tuesday Weld) and newborn son. Robert Prosky in his film debut is a serpentine wonder as Leo, Caan’s boss, whose chilling metamorphosis from paternal employer to domineering monster is a joy to watch. The jewel heist scenes are shot with a researched, assured and authentic feel, spurred on by Tangerine Dreams cosmic rhythms and are especially dynamic points of the film. Thief, for me, belongs that special subcategory of Mann’s career along with Heat, Miami Vice and Collateral, (Public Enemies doesn’t get to come in this elite cinematic treehouse club, it didn’t do anything for me) that are very special crime films. They possess an intangible, ethereal quality of colour, metal, music, and shady people moving about a thrumming urban dreamscape, professionals at what they do, cogs in the ticking clock of crime that inexorably drives toward the narrative outcome, be it bitter confrontation and violence (of which Thief has an absolute gorgeous, poetic revenge sequence) or cathartic resolution (like the conventionally satisfying way Collateral ends). Mann has captured neon lightning in a bottle with Thief, and against the odds of people saying you can’t catch lightning twice, he has spark plugged a good portion of his career with that same lightning, creating an artistic aesthetic all his own. To me that is the ultimate outcome of filmmaking, and art as a medium.