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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Peter Appel

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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Léon: The Professional (1994)

Who said hitmen don’t have souls?

Leon (Jean Reno) is a professional hitman that does his job, does it right, gets it over with, and by the end of the day, has a nice glass of milk and goes to sleep. One day, however, a friendly little neighbor of his named Mathilda (Natalie Portman), finds her family gunned-down by a mad DEA agent (Gary Oldman) in their apartment and is left with nowhere to go. Leon, against his original rules and regulations he’s had set in stone for many years, decides to take her in under his wing and train her to be something of a contract-killer in her own right. However, there’s a problem about this 12-year old girl, she isn’t exactly anything that he has ever encountered in life. Ever.

It’s a shame that writer/director Luc Besson hasn’t had a decent flick in about a good decade or so, because at one time, this guy was considered the go-to son-of-a-bitch when it came to action-packed thrillers that delivered on the guns and bullets, as well as the fun that made it all so damn entertaining. I’m not much of a fan with Besson since some of his last couple of projects have been a bit terrible (and trust me, The Family isn’t all that special either), but dammit does this film make me hate him even more!

Come on, Luc! Just come back to us and do what you did for this world in the first place!

I remember the first time my discretly deadly, French neighbor taught me how to load a pistol.

I remember the first time my discretely deadly, French neighbor taught me how to load a pistol. Those were the days.

That last sentence may have you confused as to whether or not I liked this film, because trust me, I didn’t just like it, I LOVED it. And why this movie pisses me off and makes me hate Besson even more for throwing out garbage left and right at the screens nowadays, is because this is the movie that reminds me why this guy kicks so much ass and is great at doing, what it is that he does. This movie has some of the most tense and suspenseful action scenes that I have ever witnessed on-screen in a long-ass time and it’s all because Besson knows how to pace himself and his material. Every once and awhile, Besson will come out guns ‘a blazing and bullets flying everywhere, and it’s just as violent as it is fun; however, he also allows for there to be some downtime devoted to character-development and emotion, while also still maintaining the fun-aspect of it all to where it’s not just about Besson filling in the blanks to the next action scene, he’s actually setting up more tension. It continues on that way throughout the whole 2 hours you’re stuck with it, and it never lets up.

But as much as this film may be a slam-bang, action-thriller at times, it’s also a very endearing and heartfelt story about the bond between the oddest of all odd couples out there: Leon and Mathilda. Aside from the amazing performances that help the characters out, there is a real piece of heart and humanity that lies within them and makes this film tick each and every second it gets the chance to. Yeah, sometimes Mathilda does get a little weird with what she says to Leon, but what’s so great about their dynamic with one another is that one is more immature and mature than the other, and it’s not the in the way you’d expect it to be or be shown.

For example, Leon is a bit of a dummy when it comes to reading and expressing his emotions, whereas Mathilda is not and helps him through that. But also, Mathilda has problems with killing people and coming to grips with growing-up, whereas Leon does and helps her through all of that in his subtle, shy way. It’s a strange dynamic that these two have, but, they both make the movie so much more special and never once feels forced. It all feels like a part of the story that’s meant to be told so that when these character’s lives are actually in danger, we care a hell of a lot more than we ever do with action flicks and that’s what separates this movie from plenty others of the same kind.

Sometimes, I think the film does go a bit over-board with the playful tone it tends to give the scenes where it’s just them two because as happy and goofy as they both may be together, it still feels a bit out-of-place. Especially when they have that overbearing score that continues to play an accordion as if somebody just walked into a pizza shop in Hell’s Kitchen. I get it, Besson, they’re all happy and having a jolly time, now knuckle down and get this thing back to being a little serious so it doesn’t seem a bit too strange to see a tough hitman, rolling around and chasing a 12-year old girl. Yeah, made it sound a lot creepier than it should be but trust me, it’s not as bad once you watch the movie. Trust me.

And the reason why it isn’t as creepy is not just because of Besson’s approach, but because of the spectacular performances from the two stars involved: Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. Reno is the type of actor that you see show-up in a lot of shit nowadays (Alex Cross, for one) and definitely does what he can with the role he’s given, but just never seems to shine anymore than the screenplay allows him to. It’s almost as if all of the charm and brightness he once had, has just been lost on mediocre script, after mediocre script. However, it’s always nice to spot him back in the golden days of his acting-career and his role as Leon being the most iconic, and most significant one. Reno is very soft-spoken and a tad naive about himself, but never comes off as a fool because the guy knows when to kill, do it right, but also turn on his “nice-guy mode” when he gets back home. It’s a performance that shows a hitman for being more than just a heartless killer; he can actually have a personality and be a nice guy for a change, and that is an idea that Reno runs oh so perfectly with. God, I wish this guy was in more stuff. I really do.

Don't worry, he'll get the case solved. Just don't expect there to be any evidence.

Don’t worry, he’ll get the case solved. Just don’t expect there to be any evidence.

We all know Portman as being that big, A-list celebrity that seems to be the next big thing in terms of Hollywood’s leading ladies, but believe it or not, playing a young, but smart 12-year old girl from the streets was one of her first roles ever, and it ranks as one of her best, if not one of the best child performances of all-time. What makes Mathilda so damn awesome as a character is because she’s your typical kid, who always tries to act like she knows everything and is smart on any topic you throw at her, but doesn’t feel like a contrivance Besson can just throw at us. It actually feels like she’s a Ms. Smarty Pants right as soon as we meet her. And besides, even if she does know a lot more than you would ever expect her to, she doesn’t know everything and that shines on throughout this whole movie whenever he and Leon converse about the meaning of life and just what the hell is there to make sense of it all. Portman is so damn charming, funny, and entertaining to watch as Mathilda that even though she has the weirdest occupation that a 12-year-old could ever have, she still seems like a real kid and one that I would love to just be around, even though I’m 20 and it’d be a little weird. I’d definitely like to hang-out with Portman now, but, however, I think that time has passed. Damn me for not being born earlier!

As great as these two are, the real scene-stealer of the whole movie is definitely Gary Oldman as the crooked cop, Lt. Stansfield. As everybody knows, Oldman was the guy that Hollywood always called on when they needed somebody to play an outrageous, over-the-top, cook-ball of a villain and that is no different here. And seeing what he does with Stansfield, you’ll see why he was called on so much. Oldman is just wild and totally off-his-rocker throughout the whole movie and just plays this bad guy like the type of evil S.O.B. you’d expect him to be. Even though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from a villainous role, Oldman is so good at it that you can never take your eyes off of him. Oldman has a lot of fun with this role, which is obvious, but the most fun is watching him as he chews scenery unlike any other and his scenes are sometimes the most tense because you never know when that switch of his is going to automatically flip.

Consensus: Leon: The Professional still features all of the amazingly violent action-scenes that we have come to know and love of Luc Besson, but also features more substance than just a bunch of violence, and actually has a heartfelt story that’s executed so perfectly by everybody involved, especially Reno and Portman who have almost never been better. I would put Oldman in there too, but trust me, the guy’s been crazier, if you can find that hard enough to believe.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could blow up a little precious face like that to pieces?

How could blow up a little precious face like that to pieces?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net