Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

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Halloween Horror Movie Month: Piranha (2010)

This is the kind of horror I’m talking about. Fish that bite you to death.

When an earthquake tears open the bottom of Lake Havasu, schools of carnivorous piranhas are released from their underwater lair, and the lake turns into a bloody, frenzied death trap for unwitting water-goers.

This is one of those rare films that I really do wish I saw in 3-D and as well as in a packed theater, rather than an average sized screen TV with my two buds, because I would have been having the time of my life with this crap.

A lot of recent horror films don’t usually live up to their crazy premises and tries to pretend that the audience cares about plot or characters, but this one knows exactly what kind of shit-storm of craziness this is. Director Alexandre Aja doesn’t try to make any of this seem serious at all, which he shouldn’t because the whole time I was watching this, I just couldn’t believe anything that was actually happening, which is a good thing.

It also seemed like Aja was gunning for the heavy R-rating here and practically giving almost every guy who saw this film a woody. There are boobies just about everywhere, and when I mean everywhere, I mean, EVERYWHERE!!! Whether a chick is getting sliced in half, making out under the water, dancing, para sailing, or hell, just even standing there, the ladies always have to be naked. Trust me, this is no complaint but I mean this is practically soft-core porn at one point and if this film was aiming to make any guy watch this, horny as a priest, then it succeeded.

The boobies though aren’t even the most notable part of this movie, the gore is almost even worse. The whole film Aja is never really actually taking this film seriously, as he shouldn’t, but when it comes to these gruesome an gory deaths this film has, he does not back down with getting a little messy. You got these little fishies chewing people up all-over-the-place, with the exception of about 3 people, who actually die because of other random things that happen but the action is awesome and the constant use of blood and gore works so well, especially for the big “attack” scene that is still in my mind.

Although the film was fun, there were still some parts that bothered me. I didn’t like how slow it started off, and how it barely even led up to anything until the 30-minute mark when the film was already half-way over. I wouldn’t have minded this as much if one of the cheesy, and annoying stories didn’t constantly pop-up. The little romantic story between Steven R McQueen and Jessica Szohr is so remotely bad and poorly-acted, I couldn’t help but dread almost every time these two were on-screen together. It also didn’t make matters better when the film itself practically revolves around this which bothered me so much.

Another problem with this film is that despite it being pretty intentionally funny, I never actually find myself laughing at anything that was happen, as I do wish I could have. I mean the kills were cool to watch because all of the assholes that were being killed, were the tools you see on MTV during Spring Break every year, but nothing really had me laughing at it, except for maybe a couple of lines that I still don’t know if it was meant to be a joke or not.

The acting from this ensemble list of randoms is actually pretty good. Elizabeth Shue brings some straight-forward acting to her character as Sheriff Julie Forester; Ving Rhames is a bad-ass muthatrucka as Lieutenant Bishop Welleger; Christopher Lloyd is practically playing Doc Brown as Mr. Goodman; Richard Dreyfuss pops up for about 5 minutes for the beginning of the film to show us that this is practically a mini-sized remake/homage to Jaws; Adam Scott seems like he’s in a whole different other film; and Jerry O’Connell is so annoying as Derrick Jones, but he makes the best out of it and that’s some good stuff. The whole rest of the cast are basically filled with chicks that were just there to show their tits, which I have no real problem with in the first place.

Consensus: It could have been funnier and paced, however, Piranha 3-D made me realize that gore, blood, boobs, fish, and MTV tools all work out together well, no matter how campy the material may actually get.