Mini Reviews (January 2001)
Killing Grounds, The Patriot, Letters from a Killer, Running Mates, The Year of Living Dangerously
The Killing Grounds
Anthony Michael Hall as the bad guy. Need I say more? Okay, I will anyway. A plane with four million dollars in stolen gold crashes in the mountains and a group of greedy campers discover the booty. What to do? Leave it and call the authorities? Or keep the gold and live happily ever after? Well, if you've seen A Simple Plan, you know what happens next. There's not much worth recommending this over A Simple Plan - except, of course, Anthony Michael Hall as a philosophy quoting bad guy - but it's fairly entertaining if you accept it on it's low budget terms. A big raspberry, though, to the actor playing Hall's henchman; he's trying way too hard to be evil (there's a scene where he shoots a mule for not walking fast enough) but just comes off as petulant and whiny.
No, not the one with Mel Gibson. This one stars Steven Seagal as a doctor out to save the local population from a deadly virus strain, while sporadically kicking some arse. If you had ever thought the Seagal ouvre had reached a zenith of suckiness, you were wrong. This tops them all. Besides a miserable performance from Seagal (and the fact that he now weighs as much as a retarded cow), the film is plain old dull. When I watch a movie with Seagal in it, I don't want to be lectured about how much we're destroying the environment and how noble Indians are. I just want to watch ol' Steve bust some heads. And you don't get that with The Patriot. Out of a 90 minute movie, there's maybe 10 minutes of actual Seagal hand-to-hand combat, and not once does he break someones arm in half. Harsh.
no stars out of
Letters from a Killer
Starring Patrick Swayze, Letters from a Killer has got to be one of the most misguided and completely clueless movies I've ever seen. Mere words cannot describe the ineptitude that is Letters From a Killer. Swayze stars as a prisoner who's been writing to four different women simultaneously, without telling them. He gets out, one of the women finds out what he did, and starts offing the other women. Who thought this would be a good idea for a movie? And unlike most critics, I didn't even hate this because of Swayze. Heck, I liked Black Dog! No, I hated this movie because it didn't make sense most of the time, and the rest of the time I just didn't care. Why should I care if a convicted criminal is having some problems with women on the "outside"? And if one of the women he's been writing to is a complete psycho, wouldn't it make more sense for Swayze to turn himself into the police and let them capture the woman, lest they think he's doing the killin'? You'd think that'd make more sense, but apparently the filmmakers didn't.
no stars out of
You know you're in trouble when the movie ends with a room of previously cynical delegates shouting, "America's not for sale!" Running Mates is an extremely heavy-handed and preachy movie about the run of a really good guy for the Presidency. How do we know he's really good? Well, he's a Democrat for one, and Democrat's are always good. And gosh darned it, he won't accept the evil running mate some rich white guys have picked out for him, because hey, he's a really good guy. Even his wife, who knows that he's had multiple affairs, supports him because...well, you get the idea. Running Mates wants to be a Capra-esque fantasy about how politics should be, but instead comes off looking like a recruitment advertisement for idealism. Nevermind that such a scenario could never occur, and nevermind that the running mate the rich white guys back is more evil than Satan himself. No, the real problem with Running Mates is it's incessant preachiness, as though the audience would be too stupid to pick up on subtlety.
The Year of Living Dangerously
In The Year of Living Dangerously, Mel Gibson stars as a young reporter assigned to his first overseas position in the politically tumultuous Jakarta. While there, he meets a photographer who seemingly knows everyone and a British diplomat he quickly falls for. He also has his eyes opened to the harsh reality of the situation. There's not much to fault the movie for; it's well acted, directed and written. Gibson, in particular, is a standout. But really, without an explanation as to the situation, it's hard to get really involved with the film. Add to that a running time that's inflated by about 30 minutes, and you've got a reasonably entertaining time-filler, but not much more.