Rating: The Good – 78.4 Genre: Thriller Duration: 110 mins Director: John Boorman Stars: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty
Four weekend warriors attempt to kayak a great southern river in its final days before it’s diverted to a hydropower plant. However, their cockiness and petty snipes at the inbred locals are soon turned on their head when two of the men are accosted by said locals and one of them is viciously raped. Forced into acts of murder to survive, their trip becomes a personal exploration of guilt, anger, and fear. Boorman crafts a haunting and disturbing tale that in no small way parallels the arrogance of modern life with the cruel indifference of nature. But he makes no judgments as he does it and that is the true lasting strength of the film. The four men were excellently cast and each do their part. Jon Voight was the straight man, Burt Reynolds the tough guy, Ned Beatty the arrogant victim, and Ronny Cox played the more sensitive of the four. This isn’t an easy watch because it’s as much a primal scream at the times it was made in as it is a thriller. Nonetheless it works equally well as both.
Rating: The Good – 76.4 Genre: Action Duration: 110 mins Director: Brian De Palma Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart
IMF secret agent Ethan Hunt, is forced to turn rogue when his operation is blown from the inside and his team is killed. Hunting for the mole who set him up, he recruits a new team of equally disavowed spies and begins to put a complicated plan into action. This original movie adaptation of the popular television show has all the hallmarks of the source material but with the added style of Brian De Palma who demonstrated yet again that his genius for set-pieces applied just as much to the action genre as it did to thrillers and horror. Mission Impossible is an accomplished action movie in nearly other every respect too from the charismatic acting to the hip script underlying it. Tom Cruise is in top form as Hunt, Jon Voight’s presence is used well in the role of Hunt’s mentor, and a host of other familiar names contribute in equally well suited roles.
Of course, the star of the show is De Palma who while subduing his innate signature style somewhat, still manages to craft one of the more distinctive action movies of the 1990’s. The sequels were all directed by action heavy weights but none of them seemed to understand (or appreciate) the TV show to the same degree as he did and so their movies, while fine, were merely just action vehicles. The action present in De Palma’s Mission Impossible was defined by the concept of the television series and so it had an appropriate, distinctive, and recognisable personality. Indeed it’s worth noting that this signature style, built around intelligent brain-over-brawn set-pieces, laid the groundwork for the type of action movie that was to dominate US action cinema during the 2000’s and thus it signified an important break from the formula which defined the action movies of the late 1980’s and early 90’s.
Rating: The Good – 68.3 Genre: Drama, Biography Duration: 157 mins Director: Michael Mann Stars: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
It seemed like a big departure from most of his traditional work but Michael Mann delivers the goods with this partial biopic of the great fighter. Focusing more on the personal events in Ali’s life from the time he broke onto the scene to the end of his relationship with Malcolm X, Mann successfully brings his slick visual style to the film and crafts a compelling drama. The fight sequences are few but also very memorable thanks to Mann’s trademark use of short zooms and alternating focus throughout – this is seen particularly in that key first fight with Sonny Liston. The acting on all fronts is tremendous with Will Smith doing surprisingly well in both his imitation of the pugilist and his more dramatic acting. Overall, Ali is a triumph which Mann fans and Ali fans alike should respond positively to.
Heat is Michael Mann’s epic tale of obsession and discipline that focuses on the adversarial relationship between a perfectionist cop (Al Pacino) and a master thief (Robert De Niro). This was the first film to bring the two greatest actors of their generation together on screen and it’s to Mann’s credit that he keeps their meetings brief and few, choosing instead to use the charisma of the two leads to drive their own sides to the story until the inevitable showdown. Heat is an expansive film involving a number of dramatic subplots that are skillfully interwoven into the wider story. It is also Mann’s most stylistic film. His trademark grading and wide-sweeping night-time cityscape shots provide the perfect backdrop to the methodical and exacting behaviour of the police and criminals alike. The immaculate editing and that quietly brilliant Elliot Goldenthal score are as good as you’ll get in any film. The action has rarely been equalled let alone bettered and the now famous street battle remains the most powerfully realistic yet elegantly co-ordinated action sequence ever committed to celluloid (rumour has it that it’s shown in military academies as a text-book example of how to execute an ordered retreat while taking fire).
And then, of course, there’s the cast. Replete with most of Mann’s regulars and led by two of cinema’s icons, they are invariably excellent ensuring that this compelling tale is populated with the most fascinating yet believable of characters. It has become increasingly popular in recent times to criticise Pacino’s highly charged turn as the obsessed cop but those critics would do well to spot the telltale signs of a cocaine addict in that role, a job admittedly made more difficult by the fact that Mann elected to remove any explicit reference to that fact in post production. When taken into consideration, it becomes a performance of serious consequence and alongside De Niro’s equally impressive turn in the more low-key role and under the direction of the great Mann, it helps Heat become the slickest and coolest crime thriller ever made and one that you’ll never get tired of watching.
Rating: The Ugly – 68.7 Genre: Adventure, Horror Duration: 89 mins Director: Luis Llosa Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Jon Voight
A documentary crew sail deep into the Amazonian rain forest in search of a hidden tribe only to be hijacked by a madman and pursued by a giant anaconda. If it weren’t for the screaming snake, some preposterous aerodynamics of said snake, and some serious ham acting by John Voight, this creature feature might have made it onto the Good list. The production was well funded so the CGI was first rate (and still stands up), there are some decent actors on show (Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube, and Voight of course), some nice set-piece action scenes, and Luis Llosa takes his time with the build-up. This gives Anaconda a very enjoyable vibe. Alas, the snake does scream (and not really in a tongue-in-cheek manner) and Voight’s performance is so outrageous that we must treat this as a guilty pleasure. But a pleasure it definitely is.