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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: The Road

The Proposition (2005)

This is how they do Westerns in the land down undaaaaa, undaaaa!

During the 1800s, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by the ambitious-sheriff Stanley (Ray Winstone). Along with their psychopathic, blood-thirsty bro Arthur (Danny Huston), they are wanted for a brutal crime. However, both sides of the law don’t really seem to come together until Stanley makes Charlie a seemingly impossible proposition in an attempt to bring an end to the cycle of bloody violence. Will it work? Or will the bloodshed just continue on like it always does?

The film starts off with an action-packed opening, filled with guns shooting, girls screaming, and a bunch of Aussie accents that sound totally bad-ass. This starts off the film perfectly but also gets you off on the wrong-foot. See, it makes you think you’re in for a non-stop, blood-soaking, shoot ’em up type of Western, when in reality, it’s the slow, melodramatic type where instead of shooting one another, they like to montage about their feelings. Just one of the very smart surprises director John Hillcoat gives us, that doesn’t feel like a rip-off of every other Western to come before it.

After seeing The Road, I realized that Hillcoat has a knack for setting a fine pace not only through his direction, but through his cinematography. The whole film takes place in the Australian Outback and you get a feel that this is a dirty, sweaty, and hot-ass place to be living in and it starts to set in pretty quickly that it all takes a big part of the story considering these people hate living in it, almost as much as you do looking at it. But as dirty and grimy as this flick may be, there are still plenty of beautiful visuals here to just soak up in your system. Whenever you have a film that can perfectly capture what the bloody red sky can look like when it starts to get dark in the middle of the day, then you know you have a keeper on your hands when it comes to visuals.

"Aye, no shrimp and a bobbies here."

When in doubt, give Guy Pearce a beard. He’s always the man with one.

However, it’s not just all about the look, as dirty and sometimes beautiful it can be, it’s actually all about the tone and pace of the story that really takes over you. Is this film a slow Western that decides to take its time on its story rather than its grisly shoot ’em up battles? Yes, but that does not mean it’s boring in the least bit. In fact, this film kept me on the edge of my seat at certain points because you don’t quite know where exactly this story is going to turn up, and where it does end up; you are damn sure as hell happy that writer Nick Cave decided to go with it. Hillcoat and Cave work great here together because they keep the story flowing smoothly and methodically, and make it seem like they are constantly on the same pace with what they want to show and how they want to show it. Through Cave’s writing, we get a glimpse at these characters, what they’re all about, what they’re motivations are, and why it all matters, but it isn’t just a bunch of guys weeping on about how they just killed for the first time, because there is violence.

And wow Nelly! When it hits, you won’t soon forget it.

The violence here is actually pretty awesome and even though it doesn’t take up the whole story with constant destruction, whenever it does pop-up; it’s bloody and gory to the core, but doesn’t feel like it’s just there to shock us and have us ready to vomit. Nope, it feels reasonable, if that’s all these characters have going for them is taking another person’s life. You can believe that some of these sick, psychotic son-of-a-bitches would actually go to these levels of violence, just to get their revenge and it feels real rather than feeling like something the creators felt like this movie needed. Can get a little cartoon-y at times with the blood-spurting out and all, but you can’t go wrong with violence that feels deserved, especially when you’re talking about a good ‘ole Western. Darn toooootin!

If there was something about this story that I didn’t like it was that I feel like it dropped the ball on the one thing that would have really made itself matter: it’s moral theme. All of the best Westerns, even the shoot ’em ups that I’ve mentioned about 500 times in this review, all have one central message that is always looming underneath the surface, and then comes out of nowhere by the end to really make us start thinking. That’s exactly what I thought was going to happen with this movie and I think that’s what they thought as well, but the problem was that it doesn’t end up really being about much in the end. Yeah, there was some discussion about loyalty to family and responsibilities, but when you soak it with all of this bloodshed and bad-assery, does it really matter?

The answer to that is: well, not really. All of the violence and tension for the movie works, but giving it more meaning in terms of how it could have affected our train-of-thought, would have definitely made it more important. Hey, it’s fine for being all about the blood, the guns, the bullets, the horsies, and the hay stacks, but I wanted more. Hell, I needed more! Then again, I don’t really need all of that philosophical shit when I’m watching a movie about a bunch of cops and robbers, going around, shooting one another.

But everything gets better when you think about this awesome, all-star studded cast. Guy Pearce looks pretty damn intimidating as our anti-hero (if you want to call him that), Charlie Burns, a guy who just shows up and wants to do the right thing, even though the rest of his family really can’t. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s what goes through his head so I’m probably just making shit up about him. The guy probably killed families and robbed banks for all I know. But what I do know is that Pearce has that rugged look and feel to him that makes you believe that this guy could kill anything, or anyone that he wanted to, but he just chooses not to unless he actually is pushed to “that edge.” Then, all hell breaks loose and Guy Pearce at his finest.

"I'm sorry I cried last night while watching Grey's Anatomy. It's just so sad to see it getting ready to, darling."

“I’m sorry I cried last night while watching Grey’s Anatomy. It’s just so sad to see it getting ready to, darling.”

Somebody who really shocked me in this movie was Ray Winstone, because it isn’t the type of character you’d expect to see him playing, despite it also seeming like the type of dude he was practically born to play: the rough and tough dude that you don’t want to fuck with (that is, unless your Gandhi). But it still has him starting-off like he’s going to play that type of role with him seeming like the type of guy that just wants justice done, and will do anything to get it, but sooner or later, his true colors get shown off to us, and to the rest of the people around him. Once all is said and done and things seem to get a bit too heavy for him, we all see him for the big baby that he really is. Probably one of his least-intimidating roles the guy has ever played, and that’s a good thing because the cockney-gangster bit was getting sort of tired after awhile. The lady who has him come out of his shell and be a bit of a whimp is Emily Watson who is good at seeing why such a masculine, strong dude like him, would fall head-over-heels in love with this girl, and weep at her feet. Okay, she’s not that perfect of a human-being, but she is pretty damn gorgeous so I can definitely see why.

On the other side of the fence, you have Danny Huston playing another one of his evil roles, as the broski Arthur, and gives off a very creepy performance that makes you feel like this guy is going to do some bad shit, whether or not the person he does that to deserves it. He just wants to kill people for the sake of killing people and that’s what makes all of Huston’s roles pretty much scary as hell. Honestly, when has that guy ever played anybody that’s remotely nice in a movie? 21 Grams doesn’t count cause the guy is barely even in it! Don’t worry, I’ll wait here….

Consensus: The blood and guts that are spilled throughout the run-time of The Proposition make this movie worth the watch, as well as the cast, but underneath the surface; there doesn’t seem to be much else other than a bunch of guys just wanting to kill one another and possibly ride off into the sunset when the fun’s all over. So simple, yet, so twisted.

8/ 10 = Matinee!!

"You start tearin' up again, mate, I'll kill ya. With love, of course."

“You start tearin’ up again, mate, I’ll kill ya. With love, of course.”

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Lawless (2012)

The Wettest County in the World would have totally been a lame title. Unless by “Wettest” they mean with blood. Then it’s cool.

Lawless revolves around three brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke) who become bootleggers in the South during the Prohibition. As business is booming, it attracts the attention of the local authorities who soon want a piece of the proverbial pie. One local authority in particular, played by Guy Pearce, doesn’t take all of this success so kindly.

After all of the big and glamorous Summer blockbusters come and go from the theaters, studios try their hardest to bring out any film between August and October that could be somewhat Oscar-worthy, yet, not enough due to it not being the Holiday season where all of the heavy-hitters. However, if you’re looking for something that may pack a hard-punch like all of the best Summer blockbusters this year, but yet, still have some Oscar qualities to it, then look no farther than John Hillcoat‘s latest. Trust me, it’s not THAT depressing.

If you have seen Hillcoat’s other two flicks (The Proposition and The Road), you’d know that this guy has a real sight for when it comes to making his films feel like they fit the setting, but also do something that helps the mood even-out all of the problems it may have somewhere along the line. This film definitely isn’t as grim and sinister as those other two, but there’s still enough of a tense atmosphere that Hillcoat brings to this material that got me going, even if it did seem take-off a bit too late in the game. There’s nothing new or original that Hillcoat brings to this material but the whole time I was watching, I felt like I was in the 30’s, where boot-legging was a very serious “no-no”, but everybody still went about doing it anyway.

Perhaps that was my only major complaint about this flick is that Hillcoat and Nick Cave (writer for this flick) don’t really bring anything new to this material, other than just an old-fashioned, shoot ’em up story with drama here and there. This story can be very unpredictable but you also can’t help but think that Cave sort of chickens out on some of the more darker elements to this story that could have been developed more, and actually came together at the end of the flick when all hell breaks loose. Other than Hillcoat’s style, this flick feels like it could have done by anybody else which is a disappointment because after seeing what these guys have been able to do in the past, I was expecting to be totally knocked out of my seat with something cool that I have never seen before in a story like this. This definitely won’t be getting any looks in the writing and directing department, but with a film this fun, I don’t really think it matters.

So yeah, the film does take awhile to get up-and-moving but once it actually does, it’s a whole bunch of unpredictable fun that reminded me a bit of Public Enemies, but without the terrible Southern accents via Christian Bale. It seems to me that the sight of a 30’s-era Tommy Gun in someone’s hands is a lot cooler, than an 21st century AK-47 in someone’s hands and that somewhat of a fact, stands true with this flick as there is a lot of shooting, bleeding, killing, double-crossing, and a whole bunch of violence to really make people squirm right in their seats. Much like The Proposition, this film isn’t as based around it’s violence as you would expect from all of the advertising for it. But whenever the violence does come into play with this story it’s just brutal, bloody, and amped with a whole bunch of sadistic energy that you could only get from a story that gets very bleak, very quick. Even if this is familiar territory Cave and Hillcoat are covering here, the story itself still leaves a whole bunch of surprises for us to see and that’s what really got me in the end because when the shit really starts hitting the fan late in the game, I really felt like the story could have gone anywhere and was just about to do so. Problem is, it sort of does and doesn’t, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.

A lot of people seeing all of the advertising for this flick are seeing some dramatic heavy-hitters like Pearce and Oldman, as well as some fast-rising stars like Hardy and Chastain, will probably be terribly shocked by the casting of Shia LaBeouf leading the whole film, but have no fear people, he’s not all that bad. Maybe that’s not so warm to hear considering in every movie review I do for one of his flicks, I always give him the benefit of the doubt and talk about how good he is (Disturbia: check, Transfomers: check, Transformers 2: OK, I won’t even go there), but here, he actually is as the young and wild-cat, Jack. LaBeouf, out of everybody else here, probably does the best with his Southern-ish accent and can nail a lot of his dramatic parts very well, especially when his character is really pushed to the edge, by the end. Hopefully this flick shows that LaBeouf can be taken seriously as an actor, or if worse comes to worse, it could just show that it’s only a matter of time until we get that Even Stevens reunion we’ve all been waiting so anxiously for. Either way, it’s a win-win for him.

Another great performance comes from none other than Tom Hardy as his older brother, Forrest. Hardy, as we all know and have seen in the past years, is a total bad-ass when it comes to his roles and takes all of his character’s, and gives them this edge to them that not only makes them intimidating as hell but also very lovable in the long-run. Forrest is a great example of that acting skill because we see Hardy go for this no nonsense talk, brooding character that may not say much in his simple way of life, but still gets our appreciation whenever he has to knock someone’s teeth in with one of his lethal brass knuckles. He may not be in the film just as much as LaBeouf, but he still creates enough of a presence to make him feel like a lead in his own right.

The last great performance to high-light is none other than Guy Pearce as the terribly distasteful city cop, Charlie Rakes. Pearce seems like he’s getting more and more juicer roles as of late, and I think Rakes may be his best one so far because this character is just so damn unlikable that you really want him to die or something bad to just happen to him whenever his groomed, eyebrow-less face shows up on-screen. This is a black-as-coal character that makes no mistakes in being the ever-loving shit out of everybody he has a problem with and makes no apologies, either. This is just one sick son of a bitch that doesn’t give a shit what you think of him, he’s just going to do what he wants and I honestly couldn’t get enough of this character (I mean, that is why he gets the pleasure of being my poster for this review). It may be a tad too soon to start talking about some Oscar talk for him, but you never know because this is one of those “evil performances from a character actor” that the Academy usually eats up.

As for everybody else that I failed to mention, they’re all pretty good, too. Jessica Chastain plays a lovely gal named Maggie, who seems to attract the eyes of Forrest and gives a good performance, even if she does seem a little wasted here. Another piece of wasted talent (I think) is Mia Wasikowska as Jack’s little, love-interest. Both of them seem like they were just here for some female appeal for this flick and even though they don’t do much to keep this plot moving, they still do their best with what they’re given. That’s all that really counts. Another performance I was slightly disappointed by was Gary Oldman‘s as a notorious gangster, Floyd Banner. Oldman is great at playing a villain with a conscience, which he does very well here, but he isn’t in the film for more than 8 minutes which is a real surprise since this guy can really hit it out-of-the-park when he chooses to. But something also tells me he allowed those duties to be left to Pearce, and thank him for that. Almost like a passing of the torch for character acting, if you will.

Consensus: There’s nothing new or original about this take on a pair of bootleggers in the 30’s, but Lawless still provides a good story, with some very good performances from the ensemble cast, and plenty of action and violence to satisfy anybody’s late-Summer needs. Just make sure that THIS Tom Hardy doesn’t tell The Dark Knight Rises Tom Hardy you weren’t fully satisfied, then you may be screwed.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Road (2009)

After reading the novel over the summer, finally got to seeing this.

In the near future, the world has been virtually destroyed. From the ash-covered, post-apocalyptic remains of Appalachia, the Father (Viggo Mortensen) and Son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) take to the road in search of a better life. The Father’s health is failing, lending urgency to a journey impeded by nomadic bands of cannibalistic humans.

The Road is a film, much like the Cormac McCarthy novel, that is incredibly bleak and depressing. It is set in a world that is just full of disaster and death, and with having a son-father duo in the middle of it made it all the more emotional.

The set pieces really do look great here as I would have imagined. Director John hillcoat chose not to use CGI for the world which is a lot better considering it makes the disaster itself a lot more genuine with its look. Also, the film thankfully doesn’t tell us what happened at all to the world when the disasters started. This allows you to add your own horrific apacolypse happenings in your mind, and from what I was imagining was quite freaky.

However, I felt that way too many times Hillcoat was trying way too hard to win a bunch of Oscars. By putting all these little heart-warming scenes, and over direction at points, I didn’t feel the heart and nature of the novel come out in this film.

The film is bleak but not quite bleak enough. I felt like it was just going through the motions of when and how bleak and depressing it had to be. I feel like their giving the audience a lot much more of an easier time to sink all this time in, and not be quite true the heart and soul of the novel.

Mortensen is spectacular in this role as the dad here. He shows that he can handle a movie where there are barely any other humans, and make it seem believable. Kodi Smit-McPhee is surprisingly very well here as the son, as you can feel the confusion but also the despair of this poor child in his performance.

Consensus: The Road benefits from the commitment to the Cormac McCarthy novel, with powerful performances from its cast, but doesn’t quite capture the soul of the novel and feels like its just reading the letters.

8/10=Matinee!!!