K-Pax is a beautifully told, warmhearted film that despite being mildly frustrating in it’s persistent ambiguity, is no doubt a better film for never really drawing a line and stepping to one side of it. Kevin Spacey is charming and sad as a mysterious man called Prot. Prot lives in a psychiatric ward and claims to be from a distant planet (named K Pax, naturally) in a faraway galaxy. Jeff Bridges plays the kindly therapist assigned to take care of him and eventually coach him out of his delusions. But are they delusions? Prot boasts uncanny, impossible knowledge of the solar systems and beyond, and won’t budge on a single detail of his story, which is not characteristic of someone suffering mental illness. Is Prot really who he says he is, or simply a man with a past so deeply traumatic that he’s spun this web of science fiction around his pain and nestled into it like a cosmic comfort blanket? This is where the film refuses to delineate or choose, which is either it’s one fallacy or it’s strongest, bravest creative quality, I haven’t decided yet. It’s interesting that they’ve casted Bridges because there’s a noticeable vibe akin to John Carpenter’s Starman here, which he starred in. Spacey and him are pure magic, navigating their scenes of dialogue like a dance of light, showing kindness and compassion in a situation that breeds confusion and fear. The supporting cast is peppered with talent including David Patrick Kelly, Mary McCormack, Aaron Paul, Alfre Woodward and Bill Lucking, but it’s Bridges and Spacey’s show all the way, and they turn the script they’re given into spun gold. Not to mention the crisp, brilliantly lit cinematography courtesy of John Mathieson as well. It’s one thing to come across intelligent science fiction, but when a film has the emotional heft to back up the tech and brains, you get the whole package, and this one delivers.
Ahh, Peter Berg’s The Rundown. What a sun soaked galavant of action fun, a purely cinematic exercise in excitement and joyous fun, a rollicking genre exercise that’s free from the rides of intellectual expectation. No, it’s nothing but playtime here, and one of the rare cases where a PG-13 rating actually doesn’t hurt an action film. It’s so lighthearted and affable that the extra bloody punch of an R rating probably would have been a jarring, unnecessary distraction and offset it’s tone. For the record, you will almost never hear me advocate that in this genre, but I suppose every issues has its extreme exceptions. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Beck, a rough and tumble dude who coyly disguises the title of bounty hunter by calling himself a ‘retrieval expert’. He’s essentially a big teddy bear with the ability to rip out your stuffing and kick the ever loving shit out of anyone whose demise will earn him a pay cheque. He doesn’t like using guns, and every cent he makes goes towards a dream of opening up his own restaurant. Pretty much the most adorable action hero you can imagine. He is sent by an Miami crime lord (William Lucking hamming it up royally) to retrieve his wayward son (Sean William Scott) who has run off to an unspecified tropical country. Beck jumps a plane and runs off to said country to give us one of the most pleasently riotous action/comedy/adventure of the 00’s. His pursuit of Scott leads him to endless picturesque jungles, horny baboons, invincible native Kung fi warriors and more. Scott turns out to be an elusive wise – ass who is nothing but calamity for both Beck and himself. The scenes where they try the dodgy local fruit are rewind worthy. He really shines here, bringing the same burn-down-the-house attitude he did as Stiffler. There’s also a priceless artifact that everyone is trying to retrieve, including a tough local bartender (Rosario Dawson). There’s also a villain, as there must be in any action film, a bugnuts local tyrant named Hatcher played by the one and only Christopher Walken. Hatcher is a wonderful Walken creation whose attempted menace is constantly undone by his penchent for silliness, a winning combination that super-charges every scene he gets. That lanky Scotsman Ewan Bremer is wicked funny as a deranged bush pilot who assists Beck in unintelligible endearance. Hearing him vivaciously recite Dylan Thomas’s ‘Dying Of The Light’ right before a big old gunfight kicks off is absolute gold. Dwayne makes nice work of the action hero archetype, bringing an almost adolescent buoyancy to his vibe that he may even have not seen coming when he got into the craft. There’s a surprise cameo from a genre titan early on in the film that is essentially a passing of the torch symbol, so eyes should be kept peeled. Director Berg knows how to wow an audience in many a genre, this being my favourite excursion of his thus far. It’s loud, scenic, unapologetic and has fun six ways to fucking Sunday.