Sunday, 14 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 3

Directed by: David Von Ancken
Written by: David Von Ancken & Abby Everett Jaques

I saw the trailers for this film on the internet and was looking forward to its release, being huge fan of Westerns, revenge stories, Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. So you can imagine my anger when it didn't come out where I live. I was thoroughly pissed off! So as soon as it came out on DVD, I raced to HMV and grabbed the film that was described by Empire as having "great performances, looks splendid." And splendid it was.

I was first of all tickled by two Irish lads playing American war veterans and they did great jobs. I was worried that their accents may leave something to be desired, but they were completely on the mark. Never once was I unconvinced by their performances.

Gideon (Brosnan) has one hell of an introduction. He is hounded by General Carver (Neeson) and his band of mercenaries through the freezing Western landscape. Brosnan shows some of his finest acting and is simply amazing when surviving Carver's endless assault. If you ask me, it's an Oscar-worthy performance.

Your sympathy instantly lies with Gideon as he is chased across the West, but as time goes on, you learn a little more about how the chase started. At no point do you hate Gideon, but you gradually begin to realise the truth and sympathise with Carver's position. This is done through the use of flashback. There has never been a better example of justified use of this technique. You're given just enough information to keep the story moving and at no point do you feel as though exposition is just puked onto the screen.

The plot is simple enough - a man out for revenge, chasing down his enemy. But the film is so much more than that. It's not your typical Western - it's more of a story that just happens to be set in the American West.
The direction and cinematography is reasonably simplistic and it makes the most of the surreal surroundings and landscapes. But this doesn't distract from the story itself - there is a perfect blend.
Later in the film, the characters are stripped bare. Physically, they both begin to lose their clothes, but also their souls. As the movie progresses and we learn more and more about these troubled men, their scars are left bare for all to see. This is a brilliant effect that is put to good use when an usual twist emerges at the ending of the film. I won't give it away, but it's bloody good.

You don't have to be a fan of Westerns to like this movie - it's not like any I've seen before. An amazing film, with purely convincing performances and brilliant storytelling. I fully recommend this to everyone, no matter what your tastes.
Gideon: "Time was, you said your war was over."
Carver: "Only the dead can know the end of war, Captain."

Written and directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on the Marvel comic

I'm assuming most people have heard of Daredevil. It stars Den Affleck and is based on the Marvel comic book. The theatrical release was slated for it's poor special effects, but that didn't really bother me. I had heard that the Director's Cut was bigger and badder, so I bought it. And I'm glad I did. It's a vastly superior film to the theatrical release, with over half an hour of extra material. There's a whole subplot explored that just adds depth to the story. And the climax of the film has a very different feel. Rather than seeming like a 'who killed my girlfriend' revenge battle, it's more of a 'I do what's right' story.

I'm no huge fan of Ben Affleck, but I have to give him his props in this film. As Matt Murdock, he possesses subtle humour and creates a great presence on screen. And when he takes on the role of the 'Man Without Fear', he slips into a dark, hard vigilante.

The supporting cast is also on top form. Jennifer Garner is convincing as Elektra, even if her transition into superhero/vengeful warrior seems forced at times. I don't know where it went wrong for her, but it was sometime after Daredevil and before Elektra. Michael Clarke Duncan is scary as hell as the Kingpin and fits the role perfectly. The only thing more terrifying than his huge stature is his booming voice! I was a little put off by Colin Farrell's Bullseye, but once you get use to it, he really takes hold. I think I might have tried to read too much into his character where it isn't necessary.

Daredevil is an excellent coming-of-age story and vigilante action epic. We are able to identify with both the character of Matt Murdock and his alter-ego Daredevil at the same time. This is something that was always lacking (for me) in the Spider-Man movies - I was unable to empathise with Peter Parker. I didn't really care about him as he did nothing to help himself. This movie excels where Spidey failed. And the final voice-over from Daredevil seems to have influenced the similar scene in the Dark Knight

As one of the harder, more bad-ass Marvel films, this is a must-see for comic book and action fans alike. The Director's Cut takes nothing away from the theatrical release; it only adds depth and story to the film.

"Hell's Kitchen is my neighborhood. I prowl the rooftops and alleyways at night, watching from the darkness. Forever in darkness. A guardian devil."
-Daredevil/Matt Murdock
"They say there's no rest for the wicked. But what about the good? The battle of Good vs. Evil is never-ending... because evil always survives... with the help of evil men. As for Daredevil, well... soon the world will know the truth. That this is a city born of heroes, that one man CAN make a difference."
-Daredevil/Matt Murdock

More reviews (probably) coming soon. Stay shiny folks,

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