A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


May 29, 2011


It’s funny how one’s perception of a movie can change. My recollection from the last time I watched this, shortly after I bought it on the recommendation of customers who really enjoyed the shooty action of it, was that it was a dark and gritty film with some cool gun fights. That was eight or nine years ago. As I watched it tonight I found myself somewhat startled by how flimsy the plot is, how brutally heavy handed the message, and how ultimately silly the whole movie is from start to finish.

If you were to go by my more impressionable Blockbuster patrons this movie would be the be all and end all of gunfight movies, and I can’t deny that it has a certain charm. Part of the premise of this movie is that the highly trained clerics that act as the secret police for the fascist regime that rules the world (or at least the one city we see) in this dystopian future have mastered a kind of gun-fu. They call it the “gun-kata” and there’s some mumbo jumbo about how their training allows them to fire into areas that have been statistically shown to be the more probable locations for their targets to be. The end result is that the clerics have a super-human ability to walk out into a gunfight and wave their arms around magically hitting every hapless person around them. It looks very cool, but it’s hardly realistic.

Indeed I think that could be my summation of this entire movie. It’s a cool, cheesy, meticulously produced action movie with not much plot to speak of and more holes in it than Albert Hall. It also clearly thinks it’s a movie with something important to say. It’s exceptionally pretentious and heavy handed in its attempts to appear to be something more than simply a movie with some cool fight scenes.

Right from the start it is a movie that would rather tell us in no uncertain terms what it is about than bother to try and show it to us. The opening monologue explains how after World War Three humanity decided that the only way to end all conflict was to outlaw the one thing that caused all hatred, andger and violence: emotions. To that end everybody is prescribed a daily dose of a powerful mood altering drug that must have made the lawyers for Prozac itch to claim libel. All art, music, perfume, prose or anything else that might elicit an emotional response is contraband, and the police, led by the clerics, hunt it all down and burn it. Think Fahrenheit 451 with a broader net than simply books. The most efficient and emotionless of the elite clerics is John Preston, played by Cristian Bale.

Right from the beginning it is established how powerfully emotionless John is. His own wife was incinerated for sense crimes at some point in the past. He kills his partner when he discovers that he has been rescuing books from incineration. His children are well dressed automatons with slicked back hair and are trained to rat out any classmates they see showing emotion. Then one day he accidentally misses a dose of not-Prozac and everything comes crashing down.

This is not really a movie with many twists or turns. There are a couple attempts at misdirection near the end and some machinations on the part of “The Father”, the talking head that runs the whole society, but for the most part this is a straight forward tale of a man deciding to overthrow the system that created him. The ultimate warrior.

If I were to level any complaint at this movie it would be that it tries so darned hard. It’s okay, movie, you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s alright just to be a very slick and cool looking action film. My biggest complaint would be that the action scenes, cool as they are, are too few and over too quickly. There’s a lot of style and class to this movie, and the shootouts have a look to them that is pretty much unique. (The closest I can think of to compare it to are the bullet-curving firefights in Wanted.) The aesthetic of the emotionless society is great. Full of blacks and greys with the evil troops all decked out like Nazi SS troopers with their long black leather jackets. When the movie reaches its inevitable conclusion however it feels, well, insubstantial. It is implied that the great revolution is begun, but I didn’t really feel that the short action sequences right at the end brought any closure to the film.

I don’t know. This is not a great movie, but it seems to think that it should be considered one. In the end it’s a little disappointing to me in spite of the style and the swagger and the very cool performance of Christina Bale (who does emotionally confused and tortured so very well.) I would have to say that for pure cheese and action fun I somewhat prefer writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s more recent film about a lone warrior taking on the religious demagogue of a dystopian future society – Ultraviolet. That movie at least knew just how silly it was and reveled in it somewhat.


May 29, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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