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Banks, Spies And Vampires

So, I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited Pass and I’ve been hitting a movie a week. I’ve seen Impossible Mission: Ghost Protocol, Margin Call, Haywire and Underworld: Awakening. Regrettably, it’s been a bit of a disappointing run so far. I’ve spoke about Impossible Mission previously, now the other three.

The Underworld franchise is a bit like my movie kryptonite. Despite the fact I’ve been burned twice I’m like a moth to a flame. It comes down to the first film, which I think is a much better film than most people give it credit for. I think Kate Beckinsale’s performance is a great action film affair, plus the film is structured in a unique way for an action film: all the outcomes are from positive, protagonist choices that Selene actively makes. She drives the story, rather than it just being an exercise in tenuous excuses to get the main protagonist from one set piece to another. Selene, as a character, is one of the best female protagonists in the action film genre. I don’t think the writers (as it’s hidden behind the intentional B-movie Vampire and Werewolf trappings), or Kate Beckinsale, get enough credit for that.

Sadly, Underworld: Awakening continues the downward spiral of the franchise. Awakening is an assault on the senses, but not in a good way. It’s loud. Quick. In 3D. It felt like some sort of visual torture. If they’d pinned my eyelids open and clamped my head the experience would have been complete. It tries to insert as many OMFG3D shots into the shortest space of time possible. All this does is distance the audience from the experience. This is the irony of 3D I find. If it does anything it should draw you into the experience and pull you into the world of the film. It should feel very natural. Only Avatar has done this. Awakening takes the opposite approach and virtually every seen has a disconnecting quality, as if you’re watching a videogame with sets feeling unreal and claustrophobic. It’s as if everything is filmed on a small sound stage even when it’s an outside location.

I could go on about the less than interesting plot and the dire, virtually non-existent script, but there isn’t much point, as I’d gone cross-eyed and had too much of a headache to care. Disappointing.

Haywire. Great trailer. It’s full of great actors. It’s directed by a very well respected director. It got 81% on Rottentomatoes. The only problem being the film is complete and utter bilge. The best way of describing the experience is: perplexing. The few action scenes, well, scenes of physical combat, that are in it are very good. Realistic. Brutal. Few in number. That side of it was onto a good thing. The rest of it was like watching some sort of 70’s advert. Long scenes of absolutely nothing happening. The main character walking fast through streets. The main character avoiding SWAT teams by wondering laconically around empty buildings with a slight sense of urgency. An excessively long scene of her driving backwards in a forest with no point and during the most boring chase scene ever filmed. At times, you expect the sequences to end with the main character finding a box of chocolates.

At about halfway through I figured out what it felt like, a straight to VHS film from the eighties in which the budget can’t meet the concept and the script was hashed out in an hour. Was it some sort of strange tribute? Even down to the fact they simulate the low budget by only ever showing three SWAT team members at once? Afterwards, I learned the main actress, Gina Carano, is a martial arts champion, exactly the sort of individual who would star in such a straight to VHS film. Possibly that’s what they intended, but in truth, it was just rubbish. When you take that sort of approach you have to add something new, take what works and drop what doesn’t. Not duplicate it so well it’s just as dire as the ‘originals’. Ironically, the one salvageable thing from the film is the main actress. We need to see more of her. Hot, good enough actress, great in the action scenes. Just put her in a better film. With the right balance of factors she could lead an action franchise.

The one redeeming experience was Margin Call. It’s a film not many people are going to see. Zero publicity. Spread of great actors, if not eminently marketable. A subject matter probably not that endearing to the typical cinema attendee. The plot is simple: an investment bank discovers all its complex financial products it holds are about to be junk. They are the first to reach this conclusion. It’s the twelve hours chronicling the making of serious decisions and the opening salvo in a global financial crises. It’s not a documentary of the real financial crises of 2008, but it’s analogous. I liked it. Good performances. Some interesting observations about the relationship between banks and society. Serious decisions being made and people facing moral choices. Worth seeing. It’s one of the things the Cineworld Unlimited Pass is good for, as if I’d had to actually hand over cash I’d probably not have seen it.

That’s it so far. I notice next week there is an early preview of Chronicle on Wednesday, that will almost certainly be the movie of the week next week.

About Ian O'Rourke

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