Tag Archives: Richard Jenkins

Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher

So I get that Tom Cruise isn’t over six feet tall and doesn’t look like an ex marine biker type tough guy, but that doesn’t stop Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher from being a lean, mean, badass fucking film and one hell of an effective, tightly written thriller. Now, I’m not a huge disciple of Lee Child’s books nor have read a single one of them and therefore don’t have beef with Cruise in the role, in fact I like the steely, unflappably calm violence he brings and believed him as this outlaw ex military renegade warrior, but I can see hardcore literary fans being a trifle pissed.

Anyways, McQuarrie paints a propulsive, brutal world that Reacher exists in, full of sociopathic mercenaries for hire, mad dog war veterans out for the kill and deep rooted corruption in almost every facet of the government. Reacher, existing outside of said institutions, is free to use any force or tactic necessary to smoke out evil and restore the balance, and believe me this guy does not fuck around, but to his credit, gives fair and ample warning to anyone in his way before he beats the piss out of them. The film opens with a harrowing public shooting perpetrated by some ghost operative (Joseph Sikora) employed by shadowy factions we can’t even imagine. The act seems random but of course isn’t, and Jack breezes on in to untangle a terrifying web of dark deeds and malpractice in echelons most high. Rosamund Pike is excellent as a government figure who may or may not be on his side, as is Richard Jenkins as her high ranking father who also might (or might not) be up to all sorts of no good. David Oyewelo, Jai Courtney, Josh Helman and Robert Duvall all provide solid supporting work.

The real treat and scene stealer here though is legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog cast as a terrifying arch villain known only as ‘The Zec.’ Dressed in black with half his fingers missing, blessed with that milk over mercury voice only he has and with a penchant for inflicting heinously ruthless torture and punishment on his own cohorts, this is one villain that I wouldn’t want to come across anywhere, it’s a fantastic portrayal and he’s clearly having a blast. This is one of the rare times where I’ll concede and say that an action film works with a PG-13 rating. Usually it limits creativity and dulls any edge a thriller might have but here McQuarrie has still somehow made this thing feel genuinely dangerous, edgy and mature. It’s a brilliant thriller with several set pieces designed for maximum impact, a smart script with just enough eccentricities peppered throughout the dialogue to stick. Cruise has a lot of fun to, whether he’s taking a bar brawl out into the street and putting several dudes in wheelchairs at once or engaged in nasty, bone smashing hand to hand combat with any of the many spooks out to get him. Love it.

-Nate Hill

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Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel

How bad could your first day on the job as a cop go? For Jamie Lee Curtis in Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel, pretty damn bad. Before the title was a Ben Stiller fourth wall break it was a sexy, simmering, extremely violent psycho thriller from Bigelow, who was always way better back in the day when she focused on gritty genre films and not the politico-war stuff she’s known for today.

Curtis is a rookie cop who finds herself in a tense stand-off with a convenience store robber (Tom Sizemore, fired up in one of his first gigs). When the guy won’t back down she’s forced to shoot him, case closed. Right? Nah. First of all, her superiors take harsh disciplinary actions instead of giving her the medal she deserves, but there was also someone else there that night, a posh stockbroker (Ron Silver) who witnessed the whole thing, and something about the violence and potency in the air just kind of makes him lose his shit. He somehow got ahold of her gun, has been carving her name into the bullets and shooting people all over town, making it look like she’s out there playing vigilante. The captain (Kevin Dunn, always welcome) and the DA (Richard Jenkins, also always welcome) are furious and blame her for inciting this whole hellish series of events. But soon he’s insinuated his way into her life and she finds herself in a steamy affair with him, unbeknownst that he’s the lunatic that’s been circling her for days like a hungry wolf. There’s also another fellow cop, a hard nosed detective played by Clancy Brown, who she *also* starts up a torrid affair with and naturally that doesn’t end well. It’s nice to see Brown in a non-villain role for once and especially as the romantic lead, of sorts anyways. Elizabeth Pena shows up as well, as do Louise Fletcher and Philip Bosco as her troubled parents.

This is a gritty, bloody, scary piece of filmmaking and I can see why it turned many viewers off. There’s a kinky psychosexual vibe running through it like a perverse current of deviant energy and delirious, trashy abandon. Curtis is tough but vulnerable as well, no stranger to playing the lone girl stalked by an unrelenting, spectral madman. Silver is an actor who is no longer with us (remember him as the evil senator in TimeCop?) and it’s a shame because he was a real treasure. This has to be his best turn and he’s eerily on point in showing how a mind can deteriorate and turn sick after witnessing trauma. There’s an ‘unstoppable killer’ vibe to his action and pursuit scenes but he also gives the quieter moments a terrifying humanity as a guy who maybe doesn’t even know what he wants or isn’t in control anymore, it’s deeply disturbing work. Bigelow is just so good at staging practical action scenes and makes the chases, gunfights and jump scares supremely effective while maintaining a shadowy, blue tinged nocturnal palette that’s decidedly noirish and feels like an outright horror film in many instances. A real forgotten classic.

-Nate Hill

Niki Caro’s North Country

Charlize Theron can pretty much play any role when she sets her mind to it, and when it comes to embodying the collective injustice and abuse inflicted towards female mine workers in late 80’s Minnesota, she is heartbreaking. Of course many other brilliant actors work hard to bring Niki Caro’s North Country to life, but it’s Theron who gives it the wounded centre and makes us care, not just about the issues at had but her character as well.

She plays a semi fictional character named Josey Aimes, who is loosely based on a real life woman that launched a milestone lawsuit against the corporate mining giant. Josey has escaped her abusive husband and come home to seek refuge with her parents (Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins) while trying to provide for her two children. The highest paying wage in the region is at the mines but from the moment she joins up she’s faced with hostility, scorn and rampant sexual harassment from the vast male work force there, and the few other female employees fare the same, unless they keep their head low. Josey and her young coworker Sherry (Michelle Monaghan) have it the worst because they’re, shall we say, easiest on the eyes, while their childhood friend Glory (Frances McDormand) keeps up a tough exterior, but in truth they are all of them fed up. As their treatment gets worse, Josey does the unthinkable and launches a high profile lawsuit against Big Mining for mistreatment and neglect, causing a shit-storm of controversy for both herself and the entire town whose survival depends on that industry. Not only that, but the case dredges up painful events from her past that involve supervisor Jeremy Renner, whose special interest in tormenting her dates back to then and explains why he radiates with guilt.

This is a brave, difficult choice for a woman to make especially when it seems like everyone is against her, but Josey is determined and Theron makes her wounded, charismatic and captivating. Woody Harrelson does a fine job as the lawyer hired to represent her, an idealistic man who isn’t afraid to unleash some hell when delivering statements or interrogating a witness because he believes it will lead to change. Jenkins is always brilliant, the arc he carries out here goes from cynically intoning that his daughter must have cheated on her husband to illicit violence like that to later openly defending his her with his own violence in court when he finds out what she has gone through. The old pro handles it gracefully and I can’t remember if he was nominated for this but he should have been. McDormand is her usual salty self and is excellent, while Sean Bean, an actor who often plays gruff, alpha male badasses is laid back and sensitive as her introvert boyfriend. Watch for great work from Xander Berkeley, Rusty Schwimmer, Corey Stoll, Brad William Henke, Jillian Armenante, Amber Heard and Chris Mulkey too.

Director Caro drew huge acclaim for her film Whale Rider a few years before, another story that dealt with a girl trying to find her place in the world and defying the men in her life. Once again this is a fantastic piece that shows her talent for filmmaking, never coming across as too much of a dramatization or too slack when it needs to cut deep. Theron is a force of nature and you can see the hurt, frustration and will to not back down burning in her eyes. This is a tough film to watch in many instances, but an extremely important one to sit through and the type that Hollywood doesn’t usually jump to green-light, at least back then anyways. Something of a masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

The Farrelly’s There’s Something About Mary

There’s Something About Mary, and there’s also just something about The Farrelly Brothers, something about the way they make bad taste seem passable and almost classy, something about how they make incredibly silly shit come across as utterly hilarious. This is a film that would never get made these days, it would get hounded out of the office halfway through the pitch, which is deliciously ironic when you consider that one of these two screwball directors nabbed an Oscar this past year for a film that couldn’t be a farther cry from stuff like this. There’s so much to laugh at here you barely get breaks in between, and while any hope of actual pathos crumbles in the face of relentless comic rumpus time, it never lags or slows down either. Ben Stiller is Ted, hapless sap who tracks down his old high school sweetheart Mary (Cameron Diaz) because he just can’t let her go. Only problem is, half the rest of the state falls for her too including ultra sleazy private eye Healy (Matt Dillon is a force of nature here) and others that I dare not spoil here. The plot is essentially really creepy and peppered with all kinds of questionable shit, but the visual gags, situational humour and just plain slapstick madness somehow work so well. Not to mention the cameos, including Jeffrey Tambor as Healy’s cokehead pal, Richard Jenkins as a therapist who’s bored out of his mind, Keith David as Mary’s gregarious stepfather and standup comic Harland Williams as the man with the seven minute abs idea. You couldn’t make this shit up, but the Farrellys somehow did and it’s one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever seen. Stiller is an inherently pesky actor you’re never sure if you should like or just be mad at simply for existing, but it works for the role here. Dillon uses that pithy, laconic drawl to maximum effect and I don’t think you could dream up a sleazier character if you tried. Diaz is a ray of pure sunshine in anything and she reaches the closest thing you could call to actual ‘acting’ that anyone gets to here, bringing a good natured sweetness that goes a long way. Scrotums caught in zippers, a dog on fire, a horde of disabled folks played for laughs, semen used as hair gel, a hacked up corpse in a gym bag, these are the down n’ dirty things the Farrellys peddle in, and when it comes to them, it’s only the finest from this duo. Between this, Dumb & Dumber and Me, Myself & Irene you kind of get a holy trinity of there distilled comedic aesthetic, one that remains hilarious to this day.

-Nate Hill

Snow Falling On Cedars

Snow Falling On Cedars is an interesting one, but I can’t say I mean that in much of a good way. I’ve rarely seen a film that focuses so intently on atmosphere, incident and specific isolated scenes and kind of leaves it’s own overarching story in the dust, or rather snow. That’s okay if you’re making a mood piece or deliberately impressionist film that doesn’t need the lucidity of a clear narrative, but that this is not. Its one gorgeous looking film though, shot by Robert Richardson who really earns the Oscar nom, full of looming boreal scapes, whirling blizzards and rustic homesteads. Set in the Pacific Northwest during a particularly tumultuous pair of timelines in the 40’s and 50’s, it sees the plight of a small coastal fishing village when a mariner is found dead, entangled in nets near his own boat. The local Sheriff (Richard Jenkins) discovers this, prompting a trial in which an accused fellow fisherman (Rick Yune) is prosecuted by an annoying shark (James Rebhorn) and defended by a German American (Max Von Sydow). Now, the accused is also part of the Japanese community residing nearby, and it being sometime after WWII, it’s not a very great period of history to be Japanese in the States, casting a dark glow over the trial before it’s even begun. Ethan Hawke plays the reporter with whom the accused’s wife (Yûki Kudô) has a lasting and deep romantic involvement with. Sound complicated? It is, but really shouldn’t be. The film chooses to tell the story in a meandering, out of time nature and as such it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on at any given time. What’s more, the relation between Hawke and Kudô, although deeply touching and wonderfully acted by both, has little to do with the trial and murder mystery and as a result much of the story feels like a slog through snowbanks with no reward on the other side. Other actors make appearances, like Sam Shepherd as Hawke’s publisher father, James Cromwell as the trial’s overseeing judge, Celia Weston and her deplorable Scandinavian accent, Daniel Von Bargen, Anne Suzuki, Akira Takayama and others but they’re sort of swallowed up by the scattered hollowness of a story that should mean more, and should cut deeper based on the effort put into this production. And what a good looking film, I’ll give it that. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is breathtaking, somehow vast yet contained at the same time as we see life in the northwest unfold, attention to period detail immaculately kept up. The score by James Newton Howard is a swell of orchestral emotion and a strong point too. This film would have been so much more affecting if it spent more quality time on the central relationship between Hawke and Kudô, the latter of which gives the best performance. The matter of Japanese people being carted off to internment camps is handled realistically and gives us some of the film’s strongest scenes, these actors also steal the show with their obvious heartbreak and theft of dignity. But who really cares about the murder trial when there’s so much else going on in the big picture that’s more fascinating? So much time is spent in that dark courtroom discussing details of an event I had no stock in with the film as a whole, and if your narrative has that effect on even just one person, well.. that’s a problem. Perhaps the novel is different but I’m not really sure what they were going for here in the film, from both an editing and story focus standpoint. I left with an admiration for the technique used, the photography and atmosphere achieved is something to be proud of, as is the romantic angle. Everything else left me as cold as that falling snow.

-Nate Hill

Mike Nichol’s Wolf


Mike Nichol’s Wolf cleverly combines comedic character study, spoofs the high profile business scene and whips it together with a far more literal lycanthropic horror story than I’d ever imagined before I watched it. It’s neat that dry metaphor went full on genuinely real monster flick, while losing none of it’s smarts along the way. Jack Nicholson, that old devil, plays an aging publisher whose livelihood is threatened by the arrival of a roguish young upstart (James Spader laying down that smarm) with designs on his job. It doesn’t help that he’s worn out, weary and not as sharp as he once was. Cue a werewolf mauling, which fixes those things right quick and turns him into a new man, in more ways than one. He’s fiercely competitive, virile and on the ball, but he also has to keep his hairy secret, well, a secret. Christopher Plummer is great as his fiery tempered boss, whose daughter (slinky Michelle Pfeiffer) begins to have eyes for the old dog, and the supporting cast has well coloured turns from Kate Nelligan, Ron Rifkin, Om Puri, David Hyde Pierce, Eileen Atkins, David Schwimmer and Richard Jenkins as a wily detective who begins to sniff the rat. The Wolf effects by Rick Baker and team are refreshingly old school, practical prosthetics and nice and gooey too. It’s also a tongue in cheek examination of male potency and territorial behaviour, so what better avenues of exploration than instinctual canine interaction and the politics of the workplace? Cool stuff, neat genre blending, a wicked cast and cool horror elements. 

-Nate Hill

Me, Myself & Irene: A Review by Nate Hill 

Probably the most ridiculous outing the Farrelly brothers have ever taken us on, Me Myself & Irene cares not a whiff who it offends, how many eyes are rolled or how badly the scales of humour are tipped, or rather yanked, in the direction of extremely bad taste. With the exception of Stuck On You where they played it safe, every dirty little flick in their career is a testament to the utmost raunch in film, the very definition of lowbrow humour and never not flat out totally hilarious. Obesity, dates gone wrong, Amish people, conjoined twins, bowling, physical disability, they’ve tackled every scatalogical venture you could dream up. This time it’s mental illness, in a completely unapologetic depiction that will leave most people red faced, either from fuming or laughing their asses off. Jim Carrey plays Charlie, a meek little pussy who spends one day with his newlywed bride, before she’s whisked away by a black midget played by Tony Cox, who gets all the black midget roles, that little bastard. Charlie has a knack for never standing up for himself, and letting anyone walk all over him. He’s a Rhode Island State Trooper with no balls to back up his badge, and is pretty much the laughingstock of the town. All this bottles up and reaches a boiling point, resulting in a classic Carrey meltdown of rubbery expressions and spastic gutteral incantations. Emerging from the mess is Hank, Charlie’s abrasive, dysfunctional and borderline psychotic alter ego, a result of what the film imagines multiple personality disorder just must be like. Hank causes all hell, and the first time he shows up is the funniest bit in the film, an extended montage of hair raising antics that oddly seems to sum up the Farrely’s career. Charlie/Hank then get caught up in some intrigue involving beautiful Renee Zellweger, back when she was still Renee Zelweger. The scattershot story is just a playground for Carrey though, and this is some of the edgiest R rated mayhem he’s ever caused, guaranteed to arch the backs of some of the more, shall we say… *sensitive* folks we have to deal with running around these days. Charlie has three loudmouth black sons that were dumped in his lap, and they’ve now grown into profane geniuses who love their pops to bits, and it’s here the film finds its only bit of heart amidst the crass vulgarity. The baddies are the classic slimy Farrely cretins, a dirty cop played by Chris Cooper, and an unsavory golf club owner (Daniel Greene). Robert Forster makes a welcome appearance as Charlie’s Trooper boss, and keep a look out for Anthony Anderson, Cam ‘Sea Bass’ Neely, Richard Tyson, Lenny Clarke, and the always hilarious Richard Jenkins. Like I said, this is likely the lowest rung of the ladder in everyone’s career, but it’s a splendidly offensive, colorfully trashy piece of gross out bliss, and definitely the dirtiest of the Carrely team ups. Where else can you see Jim stare a five your old kid down and growl “What are you staring at, fucker?”