Borderline plays around with the grey areas of the human mind that control impulse, empathy and rational thinking, showing (albeit in slightly stunted and blunt B movie form) us a recently released psychiatric patient with Borderline Personality Disorder who becomes obsessed with bis former doctor. Gina Gershon is Lila Coletti, a prison psychiatrist who is very good at her job. Maybe too good. When she sanctions the release of Ed Baikman (Sean Patrick Flanery), she has no idea the heap of trouble she’s headed for. Ed is anything but rehabilitated, just a charmer who’s great at disguising his instability. Pretty soon people in Lila’s life start to get mysteriously injured, and even killed. She is protected by her boyfriend, Detective Macy Kobacek (a slick Michael Biehn), but it may not be enough to put a stop to Ed’s crafty, dangerous game. Gershon has always been a strong force, despite being saddled with a lot of… I don’t want to use the M word, but let’s say, promiscuous roles. She holds her own as a lead female protagonist in a real world context even better, and I wish she’d get more roles like this. Flanery is creepy without resorting to gimmicky grimacing or run of the mill psycho stuff. Biehn is Biehn, he’s just a legend in any role. Most of the acting besides those three is pretty patchy, but one can only hope for so much with this kind of low budget fare. Worth it for fans of these actors (they’re all favesies of mine), and a not too shabby little thriller.
Up until two days ago, I had never seen Cast Away. Not once in my life. I know, try not to have a heart attack. I knew the whole story, each and every beloved plot twist mapped out for me by eager friends, word of mouth, online fare and pop culture over the years. I just never sat down and actually watched the darned thing. Well I did two nights ago, and damn if I didn’t wish I’d done that sooner. It’s every bit as incredible as I’ve heard all this time, and more so. It’s one thing to know everything about a film just because of its notoriety, and quite another to see it, obviously. I experienced every scene, every landmark event in the film for the first time ever, and my foreknowledge of it did not dampen one wondrous second of the experience. Few films bring you as close to their protagonist as this does, for two and a half patient, spellbinding hours in the life of a man whose path has taken a turn for the extraordinary. Tom Hanks is the right guy for the job, and then some. He’s immediately likeable and exudes currents of good nature and humility. Perfect casting choice. He plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx honcho with a busy life that scarcely makes room for his doting girlfriend (Helen Hunt). One Christmas eve, he’s forced to run out on her for an overnight package flight. As we all know, his plane crashes somewhere in the South Pacific, and he’s forced to survive on a deserted island for almost half a decade. We feel every empty minute, every momentous triumph right alongside Chuck, from the first dazed stroll along the wave speckled beach of his new home, to the final, raging ditch effort to find his way back to civilization. Director Robert Zemeckis let’s this larger than life tale unfold with steady, earnest shots and a down to earth score, a very simplistic approach that let’s Hanks do most of the heavy lifting. And lift he does, in a performance of sheer courage and transformative qualities. We see Chuck go from suburban joe and real world businessman to a near feral being, forged into something more than himself by the same forces that govern and mold the geography which he now inhabits, while never losing his humanity in the wild chaos. The time spent stranded is sandwiched between two segments that bookend the film, in which we see his life in civilization before, and eventually after his experience. The impeccable pacing tricks the audience into feeling like we’ve been watching this play out for as many years as he’s been living it. I mean this as a profound compliment to the filmmakers and not to say the film ever drags, in fact, for a two plus hour running time it feels surprisinly slight. It all rests on Hank’s shoulders, and he carries it beautifully, selling this man’s plight with truth, humour and resilience. An experience for the ages, and one that you should see right out of the gate in your cinematic exploration, as opposed to waiting till your mid twenties like someone we know. Masterpiece.
It figures that a decent Canadian film, which lets face it, is a rare commodity, would me mishandled, neglected and not properly promoted, resulting in its exile into the inter zone of obscurity. Picture Claire is an original, stylish little crime thriller with two solid female leads and a story to tell, a story that has regretfully made its way to far too few audiences. Juliette Lewis plays Claire Beaucage, a confused and awkward French Canadian girl who finds herself in way over her head with dangerous, sexy jewel thief Lily Warden (Gina Gershon, in yet another physically demanding role that adds to my wish that she got a crack at playing Catwoman). Lily is on the run from Laramie (Callum Keith Rennie, the king of charisma) a mobster who wants something she stole, which through circumstance is now in the unwitting hands of Claire. The chase then starts, through the unmistakable streets of Toronto and from one violent encounter to the next. The film is a thriller, and a chase flick at heart, but in that heart it’s got an almost old world, European flavour. Claire has quaint, almost Amelie esque inner monologues which give us insight into her character. She doesn’t speak English, and everyone around her does, which somewhat alienates her. These interludes give us something to latch onto with this strange girl who is more in the dark about what’s going on than even we are, watching from behind our screens. Watch for a profane cameo from Mickey Rourke as Gershon’s lowlife partner in crime, a scene stealer as always. Thoroughly overlooked, and a true delight.
People rag on What’s The Worst That Could Happen all the time. Let em, and screw em while we’re at it. Implausible? Yes. Silly? Yup. Ridiculous? Oh yes. Funny? You bet your ass. It’s one of those lighthearted Martin Lawrence comedies like Blue Streak or National Security, tripping along an alleyway of lowbrow humour and bawdy antics that you just can’t stay mad at, like a friend who does something really dumb and follows up with something that cracks a grin on your face. Lawrence also has the luck to be paired with Danny Devito here, who is funny even when he isn’t trying to be. Lawrence plays Kevin, a cocky cat burglar who bungles the wrong dude when he breaks into the not so vacant summer home of sleazy billionaire Max Fairbanks (Devito). Max catches him red handed, holds him at gunpoint and convinces the cops that a family heirloom ring on Kevin’s finger is part of the stolen goods, adding insult to arrest. That dick move launches an ego fuelled battle of wills as these two morons find more and more elaborate ways to incite each other’s wrath. They each have a little armada who back them up when they aren’t questioning their every idiotic movie. Kevin has his gorgeous girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo has sadly made a career of being underused), his partner Berger (John Leguizamo plays around with accents like you ain’t never seen) who is the Dumber to his Dumb, and his sassy handler (Bernie Mac). Max is hounded by his witchy wife (Nora Dunn), shunned by his much abused attorney (a dry, delightful Richard Schiff), pawned over by his mistress (Glenne Headly) and secretly lusted for by his chief of security (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Larry Miller do his thang here). Max and Kevin are engaging arch enemies, with Lawrence mugging for face time a tad too much, and Devito perfectly settled into his shtick as always. I must make note of probably the best performance of the film, from William Fichtner as a flamboyantly gay police detective who hounds all parties involved. He’s one part frightening with a side of classy charm, subverting his usual weirdo tough guy image for something even weirder and totally out there. Watch for Lenny Clarke and Siobhan Hogan as as pair of squabbling fellow burglars, and work from Cam Neely, Kevin Chapman and Garry Shandling as well. It’s a screwball caper. I love it. Many don’t. They can suck it. Check ‘er out and make up your own mind.
William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. What, oh what can I say. Upon finishing it, my friend and I shared a single silent moment of heightened horror, looked at each other and chimed “What the fuck?!” in unison. Now, I don’t want our aghast reaction to deter you from seeing this wickedly funny black comedy, because it’s really something you’ve never seen before. Just bring a stomach strong enough to handle dark, depraved scenes and a whole lot of greasy fried chicken that’s put places where it definitely doesn’t belong. Matthew McConaughey is unhinged and off the hook as ‘Killer Joe’ Cooper, one of his best characters in years up until that point. Joe is a very, very bad dude, a Texas police detective who moonlights as a contract killer and is just a lunatic whenever he’s on either shift. Emile Hirsch plays an irresponsible young lad (a character trait that’s commonplace with the folks in this film, and something of an understatement) who is several thousand dollars in debt to a charmer of a loan shark (Marc Macauley). Joe offers to help when Hirsch comes up with the brilliant plan of murdering his skank of a mom (Gina Gershon in full on sleazy slut mode). The ‘plan’ backfires in so many different ways that it stalls what you think is the plot, becoming an increasingly perverted series of events that culminate in the single weirdest blow job I’ve ever seen put to film. Joe has eyes for Hirsch’s underage sister (Juno Temple, excellent as always), and worms his way into her life, as well as her bed. He claims her as collateral, and hovers over the family like some diseased arm of the law. Thomas Haden Church is hilarious as Hirsch’s ne’er do well country bumpkin of a father. Poor Gershon gets it the worst from Joe, in scenes that wander off the edges of the WTF map into John Waters territory. I was surprised to learn that this was a Friedkin film, but the man seems to be the king of genre hopping these days, and it’s always key to be adaptable in your work. A deep fried, thoroughly disgusting twilight zone episode of a flick that’ll give the gag reflex a good workout and keep your jaw rooted to the floor during its final sequence.
Across The Line: The Exodus Of Charlie Wright is the very definition of overlooked. It was probably underfunded and squeaked forth through meager marketing a few years ago, neither of which has prevented it from triumphing as a sharp little sleeper flick that of course nobody saw. The central theme is age and regret, each character finding themselves at some sad crossroads, placed there by the decisions they’ve made in the past and the ways in which they have conducted themselves up to the final act of their lives. To observe people at such a stage haunts you as much as it does them, and made for a film that took a while to get out of my head. Aiden Quinn plays Charlie Wright, a billionaire financial genius whose empire has been exposed as nothing more than a pitiful ponzi scheme, right under his unwitting nose. He is in self imposed exile in Mexico, and soon the consequences rain down on him in the form of several different pursuers. A Mexican gangster (Andy Garcia) wants him, as well as a Russian (Elya Baskin) and his dodgy American representitive (Raymond J. Barry). The FBI has their sights on him as well, in the form of a weary looking Mario Van Peebles, sanctioned by the Director (Corbin Bernson). There’s also a trio of merceneries headed up by a dogged Luke Goss, Bokeem Woodbine and Gary Daniels who have been deployed south of the border to hunt him. It sounds like a bunch of commotion, but I found it to be a very reserved meditation on just how far people are willing to stand by their life choices when they see what’s become of the goals they had in mind when they made said choices in the first place. Quinn is the most understated, yet speaks the loudest as a man on the run from the world. Gina Gershon makes an emotional impact as a woman involved with Garcia, who is also great. South of the border intrigue. Ponderous introspect. A winning recipe.
As silly, gaudy and drawn out the Ocean’s franchise had gotten by its third outing, I still somewhat enjoyed Ocean’s Thirteen, an overblown attempt to keep the magic alive that most of the time trips over its own bells and whistles. That being said, the gang is all there, and that alone is good for some laughs. This time around, Eliott Gould’s cranky charmer Reuben has been ousted from his Vegas property by Willie Bank (Al Pacino) a ruthless and ludicrously rich casino tycoon with big plans for the future. Reuben is left in a dazed depression, and the gang all drifts back together to try and rob the hell out of Pacino, using methods and cons so over the top they almost seem like a parody of the former films. Pacino is a bit more clownish than Andy Garcia’s grim Terry Benedict was in the first film, which adds to the cavalier absence of any sense of real danger. In fact, Benedict is now chummy with the gang himself, which is a cute turn of events but kind of seems to silly. Ellen Barkin adds a lot of class as Pacino’s head honcho, fitting into the Ocean world nicely. The gang I’d all back and more eccentric than ever, with Matt Damon scoring comedic points in one of the funniest prosthetic jobs I’ve ever seen. Newcomers to the show include Julian Sands, Oprah Winfrey and a reliably hapless David Paymer. It’s not that this one takes the formula too far, it’s just that we’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and there was really not much need for it. I won’t say no though, because the blue print of what made the first so fun is still there, it’s just been jazzed up and adorned with a few too many gilded sequins and fancy jib jab. Still enjoyable.