Friday, February 22, 2008

WHAT’S WATCHIN’ - Left Overs from ‘07 PART ONE


I finally caught up with two methodical, high pedigree thrillers from 2007 on DVD. The one problem I had with both of these flicks and I may be completely off-base on this... Both films have some questionable police procedures that seemed ridiculous to me. I gotta ask a cop, find out if I’m wrong.
In We Own The Night, Joaquin Phoenix plays a coke sniffing NY club manager, who dabbles in crime and hangs with definite criminals. When his goody goody baby bro (Marky Mark Wahlberg) a decorated cop gets shot and later his old man (Robert Duval) a veteran cop, gets killed.
So...the NYPD makes the bad brother a cop... on the spot, to go get his revenge. They tell him, that he can go to the police academy later. So he skips being a uniform beat cop and jumps right into running around with a shot gun, shooting bad guys. Even with sped-up paper work and family connections, I would assume you would at least have to take, I don’t know, a vision test or blood test, something? Needless to say, it rang false to me. Director James Gray, works like a Long Island Terrence Malick, this being only his third flick in the last 15 years (his two other similarly paced and themed flicks The Yards in 2000 and Little Odessa in 1994. Two flicks that seemed to be enjoyed more by the actors who got to do some heavy emoting, then the actual audience who had to slog through them). But at least he peps this one up with some nice stylized action sequences and gritty cinematography. And the always entertaining Phoenix is great at playing mumbly inner turmoil. Watching him struggle with guilt and self torture can be a blast. He made me look pass the forced plot points and enjoy sitting through this.

After giving
my favorite performance of the year in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, pee-wee Casey Affleck teams with Michelle Monaghan as a pair of small time private detectives in working-class Boston, hired by a couple to find their high profile missing baby niece in Gone Baby Gone. At first the pair of private dicks seemed to young and good looking for me to take serious with this weighty flick. And then actors Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris seemed to recognizable in supporting roles to blend with the otherwise impressive authentic feeling cast. But they all grew on me as the movie went along and I got drawn in. Though I assumed that the two veteran thespian roles would eventually give them some moments to do some ‘big acting’ which might of hurt the ‘mysteries’ of the story for me. No, the one thing that bothered me was that the young would-be Encyclopedia Brown & Nancy Drew would be allowed to tag along with the lead detectives and eventually taken so seriously by the cops. We are told what a media-event the missing girl case has become, yet only about three actual cops appear to be working it.
Directed and co-written by Ben Affleck, it’s based on a novel by Dennis Lehane who previously had his Boston novel Mystic River (2003) was turned in to an overrated movie by The Bridges of Madison County (1995) director, Clint Eastwood (and every ham actors best bud, director Martin Scorsese apparently is about to shot an adaptation of Lehane’s novel Shutter Island).
I’m sick of Boston. That said, surprisingly Affleck’s film show’s a lot more restraint then Eastwood’s hysteria-fest. Though Amy Ryan (Oscar nominated for her performance) and Amy Madigan, as the the mother and aunt of the missing child, chew scenery with the best-of-them, it all plays believably and seems to help the story as opposed to eying award season.
As the mystery unfolds, lots of names are dropped. I wanted desperately to follow who the hell they were talking about and found my self pausing the DVD and checking the IMDB for reference. So for your greater pleasure, I would recommend having a scorecard with the names of every character. This is a rare film, that though flawed, is worth making some the effort for.

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