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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Xander Berkeley

Internal Affairs (1990)

Why can’t cops just be nice guys that do nice things for the sake of humanity? Just why!

A newly minted Internal Affairs officer, Sgt. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), has come upon the fact that his old buddy from the Academy, Van Stretch (William Baldwin), might be in a bit of heat when him and his partner get caught killing a dude in cold blood. His partner, Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), is the one who bailed him out and has been bailing him out for quite some time, whether it be on the force or at home, with his wife and family. Together, they have a buddy-buddy relationship but knowing Peck, and the way that he is, it’s more than just that and Avilla finds this out the hard way.

Cop movies are usually the same thing, time and time again. So rarely do they ever shy-away from being like any other, that it’s almost like when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The same can be said about this flick, however, there’s something more going on here than just a bad cop vs. an evil cop. It’s more of a game, than it is a movie and coming from director Mike Figgis, I wouldn’t expect anything less compelling or enthralling. And yes, I wouldn’t also expect anything less than sexy, that’s for sure.

What Figgis does well with this material is that he builds it up plenty, without really giving us a clue of what to expect of the plot or the characters. We get a first-hand account that both of these characters are pretty cut and dry; Avilla is a straight-shooter, who does his job, loves his wife, kisses babies on the forehead, whereas Peck is a bit of shady character that not only bends the rules to help out those who are close to him, but gets more and more of a steady income through odd-jobs on the side that actually consist of killing and hookering. Basically, you think you have these characters all figured-out for who they are, what you want them to be and what they’re going to mean to one another, but that all changes once more and more layers are peeled off, and you see who these cats really are.

Wow! Are they gonna kiss?

Are they going to go for it?

Now, that being said and all, the movie is not a sure thing for surprises; a couple of twist happen here and there that will take you by surprise, but overall, it’s a pretty conventional flick in the way things happen, and the way people reveal themselves. What is so surprising about this movie is what each and every character reveals about themselves, and how dark they can actually be. You think you have them all figured-out from being the “baddie”, to the “goodie”, and watching these two duke it out to see who’s the bigger and better man is a whole bunch of fun and what kept this movie going, even when it did get close to the usual conventions of what makes a cop movie, a cop movie.

They don’t get many scenes together, but everytime you see Avilla and Peck together on-screen, you know some bad and crazy shite is going to go down, and you have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time until all hell breaks loose and one of these guys can’t bounce back from it. It’s fun to watch because both Gere and Garcia have a dynamic that’s unbelievably entertaining to watch, but they also bring out more within these characters than you’d ever get from a movie that’s about the good guy trying to overcome evil and defeat the bad guy. It does come down to that eventually, but the movie and the performers keep it more than just that, every chance they get, whether it be a simple conversation, a battle of wits, a threat, or just the usual mind-games that they both stoop-down to playing, once the shit gets hot.

Actually, at some times, it was almost too hot for these two to be on-screen together as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if they started beating the shit one second, and hooking up with one another the next one. Seriously, it gets pretty damn hot at times and it’s attributed to the fine performances from Gere and Garcia, both of whom have never really done much for me in the past, Gere especially who, as you all know, is not my favorite actor.

Yeah I know; he’s from Philly, he’s been in good movies, and he’s even been in a couple of Best Picture winners, but to me, the guy has only been doing the same act, time and time again, and it’s a real surprise that he didn’t play that same dude here as Dennis Peck. Then again, I think the way that the character is written, Gere didn’t have much of a choice other than to stretch out his acting skills and see what he could come up with because this dude is one, messed-up mofo of a guy. Like I said before, Peck starts off as a reasonable guy that does some odd stuff that may make you think twice about his morality, but once he shows who he really is and what he has the power to do, then Gere really takes over and shows us layers of Peck that you’d never expect to see from a guy who practically saves his buddy’s ass in the first shot of the movie. Peck continues to mess with Avilla’s mind, almost in a way that’s entertaining, as bad as you feel for the dude, and it shows that Gere can have fun with a role, do well with it, and also be able to make us actually care for a character that’s so despicable and immoral. Once we do figure out that this dude is bad news, then the character gets a bit too strange for my taste, but Gere continued to enthrall me and I have to give the dude credit, especially since I’m always hating on him.

No, are they!??!

No, but are they!??!

Not like he cares anyway, because who the hell am I?!?!?

I’ve never really given Andy Garcia much of a bad-rap in the past, mostly because he hasn’t really been in much stuff where he’s liable for scrutiny. He rarely ever is the leading-man in a movie, and even when he does, the movie’s so small that it’s almost too unnoticeable for me to even watch and review. That said, the guy’s very good here as Avilla because he not only plays up the straight-laced, calm and collective act that this character keeps for a good-portion of the movie, but also makes you believe that he may have to cut some corners just to prove justice. It’s that idea that the nicest and most moral character in the movie, the one your supposed to be rooting for, might just be a bit of a bad guy as well, is what makes this character more than just another detective who wants to be promoted, and more of a guy who wants to do his job and get his man, in anyway possible. Garcia keeps us guessing, just like Gere, but the thing is with this character, we don’t know whether or not he’s going to stay the same good guy we saw from the first shot, or if he’s going to get a bit nutso towards the end. You never know with him, and Garcia keeps us guessing.

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well, even if it is apparent that it’s more or less Gere and Garcia’s show than theirs. Nancy Travis is a fine fit as Avilla’s wife who may, or may not be sleeping-around on him and the mystery behind that idea and her character is what keeps her more interesting than just the ordinary character of “the wife that gets pissed because her detective is too busy solving crimes and not at home banging her”. Yeah, you know; that type of chick. Laurie Metclaf is also very good at trying to remind us that she isn’t always playing Roseanne’s sister, and can drop an F-bomb and be bad-ass like any other motha on the face of the Earth. She tries, it works, but it also does get obvious at some points. And of course, there’s Adam Baldwin here playing a fuck-up, who’s addicted to coke, beats his wife, kills people when they are unarmed, and doesn’t know how to keep his cool. Hm? Is it acting? Or is it just being a Baldwin? You be the judge on that one, my friends.

Consensus: Despite falling for some of the same trappings and conventions we have come to know and expect from the cop-genre, Internal Affairs still offers us something slightly new, exciting, and compelling to watch with two amazing performances from the leads, and a plot that spirals out of control, in all of the juiciest ways possible.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nope, these two definitely are. Yes!

Nope, but these two definitely are. Yes!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Air Force One (1997)

I could see Barack being able to throw down when push came to shove.

On the most heavily-guarded aircraft in the world, President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is returning back home to the states with his wife and daughter. Everything’s running smoothly and calm, that is until a group of angry, pissed-off, Russian terrorists (lead by Gary Oldman) decide to take over the plane, hold the president and his family for ransom, and kill some other passengers as well. However, the President is lucky enough to get out of there as safe as can be as soon as the bad stuff begins to happen, and finds himself locked inside a air-pod that flies him down to safety, away from all of the violence and the terrorists. But that’s what they all think. See, what really happened here is that the President didn’t back down from this fight, and was going to stop at nothing, I do repeat, NOTHING to get the family and the country that he loves oh so much back.

Yeah, it’s pretty stupid: The President just so happens to kick just as much ass, if not more, than the heavily trained and tutored Secret Service members there to save and protect him, if the moment itself ever arose. But hey, so be it. When a movie is this fun, this goofy, and this tense, you just learn to embrace it rather than slap it in the face for it’s sheer showing of stupidity. Like I said, it’s fine and everything, but it is very stupid and one mustn’t forget about that fact when watching this movie. Or else, you may get a bit lost in your own self-seriousness. Don’t be ashamed though, because it happens to all of us.

"No need to call my agent. He already knows I'm doing this crap."

“No need to call my agent. He already knows I’m involved with this crap.”

The main reason being is that a lot of it is very, VERY patriotic. As much as Americans love to show how snobby other countries are with their ways of running themselves, and whatever it is that they hold sacred; trust me, we are just as worse, if not worse. And one of the main ways we get our patriotism out there for the rest of the world to see and (hopefully) latch onto is movies, and this is just the clear-cut example of that. Plenty of moments here feel like everybody involved was just ready to chant, “USA! USA! USA!”, after somebody said something considered “cool” or “tough” that had to be associated with the country they hail from. I mean, I’m an American, I love my country, and I’ll stand by it any day of the week, but this movie does push it a little too far, to where I feel like if I was out of the United States of America; I’d be very bothered. I was bothered, but that’s just because I’m an American and I’m stupid, right?

Anyway, so the movie. What works about this movie, despite it’s over-the-top, stars-and-stripes approach, is that it’s always a boat-load of fun. See, as the summer continues to roll on and die down, day by day, I start to see less and less of these big, loud, and unapologetic stupid blockbusters that aren’t made for our minds to be used, and more for our eyes. It’s very hard to come by a very solid blockbuster that doesn’t totally blow out the fun, or doesn’t totally blow out your brain-cells by the end of it’s run-time, and I felt like this flick found a nice breathing ground between both of those factors. Yup, it was very dumb to where I questioned what 2 + 2 equaled a couple of times; and yup, there were many moments where I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, and why. I’m a movie critic. I watch a lot of movies. So what can I say, eh?

Basically, where I’m getting at with all of this gibber jabber is that this movie, no matter what type of folk you are, whether you like your movies loud, big, action-packed, and implausible, or small, subtle, thought-provoking, emotional, and mentally-challenging; you’re going to have fun with this flick. Most people already have and even though I’m not to say “Go out there and follow the rest of the herd”, I do have to say that it does seem pretty obvious why people like this movie so much, and why it has a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, 16 years after it’s original release date. That goes to show you the type of movie this was meant to be: Big, dumb, and fun. That’s what’s worth seeing here, even if you can’t believe a lick of this plot. And if you don’t, I don’t blame you, because apparently Slingin’ Dick Billy didn’t either, and he still liked it!

"FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!"

“FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!”

As for the real reason why this movie did so well commercially and critically, well, let’s just say it’s because the President of the United States of America in this movie was portrayed by non other than Harrison Ford himself. Yes, as hard as it may be to fully take in Han Solo as the guy who would make most of the judgment calls behind the big desk, in the White House, Ford still uses that charm and general ruggedness to his act that works very well and has us believe in him. Not just as the President, but also as a bit of a bad-ass that would be able to chew bubblegum and kick ass, while also telling people to get off of his plane. Its obvious that around this time Ford was beginning to show his age and it was going to eventually catch up on him, but for the mean time, watching this movie; his older-age practically just leaves your mind and allows you to just soak up all of the ass-beating and whoop-downs that he commits to these terrorist scum-bags.

Speaking of those said “terrorist scum-bags”, the leader of the crew is non other than everybody’s most lovable villainous actor: Gary Oldman. And yes, Gary Oldman does plenty of the Gary Oldman tricks of the trade that we expect to see him pull off by now, especially with as much enthusiasm as he shows here. The character that Oldman plays is rather weak, because he’s one of those leaders of a terrorist group that has a plan so stacked into his head, yet, still can’t help but let his violent tendencies gain control over his mind and plausible-thinking, but Oldman’s too great of an actor to let that phase him in the least bit. Oldman chews up, spits out, and swallows back in the scenery, and seems to be having a ball while doing so. Therefore, we have a ball just watching him, even if we would have appreciated more screen-time between him and Ford. Oh well, I guess that’s why we have Paranoia coming out this Friday, right? Trust me, just as least excited to see it as you are.

Consensus: Implausible and idiotic to a fault, Air Force One definitely doesn’t have the highest IQ of all the other action-thrillers out there, but still has plenty of fun with itself, and allows Ford and Oldman to work their magic and do what they do best: Act their assess off.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

The Grifters (1990)

Do con-men and women really look this dashing? If so, I’m not cut-out for the job.

Lilly Dillon (Huston) is a veteran con artist who begins to rethink her life when her son Roy (Cusack), a small-time grifter, suffers an almost-fatal injury when hit with a thrust from the blunt end of a baseball bat, right after a failed scam. However, she doesn’t realize that her boy has fixed himself up with a dame (Annette Bening) that may not seem to be all that she appears to be.

Calling this movie a “thriller” would not be doing it any justice, and I’m still contemplating on whether or not it’s the good type of justice, or the bad. Good, mainly because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool, but at the same time, bad, because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool. See, it’s not the type of film about cons that you’d expect. It’s not filled with a big-heist, it’s not filled with thrilling suspense and action to hold you over, and it’s not even really filled with that many twists or turns. Instead, it’s sort of like the day-time soap opera version of a movie about cons and that’s both good, and bad. It’s very love-hate with me here, and I think you’re about to find that out.

The problem I ran into with this flick was that I feel like it would be going-on in such a slow, tedious-pace that it almost felt deliberate. Most movies that have this slow pace, usually do it for the same reasons that this flick did it, but it works a lot better for them since it’s exactly how the story should be told and judges how effective it will be to the viewer. However, with a story/movie like this, the slower-pace doesn’t quite work as well as it might think and continued to piss me off, because every time the film felt like it was really getting somewhere and picking-up itself and all of the pieces it was leaving on the ground, it would just stop, take a moment to pause, and jog it’s way through.

"Hayyyyy, aren't you that gal from the Addams Family? Where'd your black hair go?"

“Hayyyyy, aren’t you that gal from the Addams Family? Where’d your black hair go?”

It was like me in a 5k mile run. I start off so perfectly, then I realize I put too much energy into the first 5 minutes, then I decide to slow things down, almost to the point of where I begin to walk, then, I get some inspiration and energy in my step and begin to run again, and then so-on, and so-forth, all up-until I get to the finish-line and everybody treats me like I just cured cancer, even despite me coming in 2nd to last place. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes with me (I obviously always win those runs, obviously…), but that’s how I felt with this flick and I feel like director Stephen Frears was just toying with me on-purpose. In some ways that works and makes the flick seem less predictable as it strings along, but in other ways, it just feels cheap and sort of like the director wants to be like the characters and play a sick, cat-and-mouse game that some people may not be too happy with in the end when they find out what’s to come of it all.

However, I can’t hate on Frears too much because no matter how slow and languid the pace got, I was always interested in seeing what was going to happen next. The story definitely takes it’s fair-share of detours into the past and they are definitely what feature the most energy and fun of the whole flick, but whenever it focuses on these characters, what they’re doing now, how they’re getting their money, and who’s playing who, the film still stays fun, if not all that energetic as the flashback sequences. Seeing cons do their thing like no other is always a blast to see on-screen and rather than just having it be a flick that exposes trick-after-trick, we get more of a balanced look at how broken and dull some of these cons lives are, and how money cannot buy them happiness and instead, only buys them more trouble. You actually care for these characters and that’s only what raises the stakes even more when the unpredictable-factor of this story comes into play, and you feel like you have no idea where it’s going to go or how, you just know that somebody is playing somebody. Then again, when you think about life and all that is: aren’t we all?

"Nope, Warren's still bigger."

“Nope, Warren’s still bigger.”

Okay, away from the philosophical ramblings of a 19-year-old film critic, back to the movie at-hand here. Yeah, the Grifters. I think without this trio of leads that the flick features, it probably would have folded underneath it’s own weight but thankfully, this trio of leads are here and are here to give some magnificent performances that stick with you, long after the flick is over. Before ’90, John Cusack was mainly known for racing randomly in the streets and always knowing the right Peter Gabriel track to have the ladies swooning, but once the year 1990 actually hit and this flick came-around, people began to look at him differently and realize something about him: this guy’s all grown-up. Cusack never really got a chance to stretch his acting-skills back in those days, mainly because everybody thought he was made for just hooking-up with high-school girls and in a way, they may have been right, but Cusack proved them all wrong and showed that the guy could play a sly, evil son-of-a-bitch that was as slick as they come and didn’t know when to stop pulling-in jobs and ranking-up the dough. Cusack always seems like a believable character and that’s all because the guy never over-does his whole cool essence and look to his act and always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else in the flick, as well as the audience themselves, yet, we always like him and cheer for him as things begin to go South for his hormones and his job. I guess being a con is considered a job and if so, he definitely must have had to won “Employee of the Month”, at least once.

Anjelica Huston plays his mommy, who just so happens to be 14-years-older than him and shows you that the gal can, as usual, play a strong-willed and big-brained, female-lead like no other and as much as this may seem like a convention of hers by now, I still can’t hold that against her. Huston’s great with this role and you always wonder whether or not she is Roy’s mom, his lover, a past-fling, or simply, just some chick who’s trying to play a con on him and get his stash of cash. Like the rest of the characters in this trio, you never know what’s up with her and what her next move is going to be, but like typical, Huston-fashion, she always keeps you guessing and interested. Still, I was just waiting for that wig to come off. I could not believe how legitimate it truly was in terms of the story and setting.

80's, teen heart-throb he is no more.

80’s teen heart-throb he is no more.

The best out of this trio, and the one who really stands-out among the rest is probably Annette Bening as Myra, the fellow-squeeze of Roy. Bening, no offense to her or her looks, has never really been the type of actress that I could really declare “sexy”, “hot”, or even one that I would just have to take to bed, if I saw her in real-life (because they all would go to be with me, let’s face it), but here, she totally had me re-think that. Bening uses her flair for sexuality and nudity to her advantage and has her character come-off as a bit of a tramp, but a smart tramp at best, and a tramp that knows exactly what she’s doing, even if the others may not be able to catch onto it right just yet. Out of of the three, you’ll be wondering the most what side Bening’s is on and when you finally get your answer, you may be shocked, you may not be, but what you will be, is surprised by how much Bening uses the look and feel of sex-appeal to make a character that’s full of it, really, really work.

Consensus: Stephen Frears’ direction definitely makes you feel as if he is just playing with you, just in-order to be more like his subjects, but that’s why The Grifters does, and does not work in it’s own right. However, you can’t deny the charm and power that is within these three performances and it’s just wonderful to see them act each-and-every-single-one of their asses off, even if the pace seems to not be serving them the full-plate that they so rightfully deserves.

7/10=Rental!!

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

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