Paramount's June '05 Releases
Prime Cut (June 8/05)
Prime Cut casts Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin, a tough mob enforcer whose latest assignment takes him to a Kansas City farmhouse/whorehouse/crackhouse where he is to retrieve a substantial amount of money (the last guy sent out there was literally turned into sausage). Running the illicit operation is an old friend of Nick's - the inexplicably named Mary Ann (Gene Hackman) - and it becomes increasingly clear that the two are heading towards a deadly showdown. Though it only runs around 85 minutes, Prime Cut nevertheless features a pace that's distinctly uneven - with some sequences exciting and electrifying, and others overly talky and altogether superfluous. Having said that, there are enough positives here to warrant a recommendation - including the striking visuals (particularly the scene that finds Nick on the run in a wheat field) and Marvin's pitch-perfect delivery of the tough-guy dialogue. And, of course, you really can't go wrong with a film that casts Gene Hackman as a sleazy villain named Mary Ann.
Target (June 9/05)
Though it's about a half hour too long and there are more than a few instances of shoddy screenwriting, Target is an otherwise engaging and intriguing little thriller. It's also the sort of movie that works best knowing as little as possible going in, so I'll tread lightly in terms of a plot synopsis. Gene Hackman stars as Walter Lloyd, a dull businessman who - along with his son, Chris (Matt Dillon) - must travel to Europe after his wife (played by Gayle Hunnicutt) is seemingly kidnapped at random. Target receives a lot of its momentum from a revelation that occurs about 30 minutes in, and there's no denying that several of the film's action sequences are genuinely exciting (something that's particularly true of a gritty car chase through the streets of a small European city). But despite the best efforts of director Arthur Penn, the movie features some exceedingly flat visuals and winds up resembling that episode of Family Ties where the Keatons went to London. Yet Hackman and (to a lesser extent) Dillon are so effective that it becomes easy enough to overlook such deficiencies.
The Wool Cap (June 10/05)
Based on an obscure film starring Jackie Gleason, The Wool Cap tells the poignant story of an unlikely friendship between a gruff mute named Charles Gigot (William H. Macy) and Lou (Keke Palmer), a sassy black orphan. The mismatched pair are scarcely able to communicate - Gigot can't talk, while Lou can't read - but the two somehow manage to overcome their differences and begin the process of relating to each other as father and child. The Wool Cap features one of Macy's best performances since Fargo, which is no small feat considering the actor doesn't utter a single word throughout the film's running time. It's a testament to Macy's ample talent that he's able to create such a vivid and compelling character using only facial expressions and body language; this is in addition to several very effective supporting performances from folks like Catherine O'Hara, Ned Beatty, and Don Rickles (!) Aside from a needless subplot involving Gigot's rivalry with some local street punks, The Wool Cap is thoroughly engaging and utterly heartwarming from start to finish.