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 – 83.7 Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Satire Duration: 102 mins Director: Paul Verhoeven Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox
You have to admire directors who have a clear unmistakable and atypical style. It indicates a level of control and finesse that separate themselves from the mainstream line-towers who movie execs tend to favour. Carpenter, Cronenberg, Mann, DePalma, Kubrick are some such directors and so is Paul Verhoeven – even if his hallmarks are slightly more overt than the aforementioned. His signature trilogy comprise Starship Troopers, Total Recall, and RoboCop. Each are as much fun as you can have with a sci-fi and each have their unique strengths. Two of them have silly names but they are Verhoeven’s masterpieces. In fact, Robocop and Starship Troopers are similar in other ways as both play with the social mores of the their time through a mixture of clever story-lines and delicious television newsflashes which act as intermissions to the drama.
RoboCop is exactly what it says on the tin (no pun intended). Detroit police department of the near future gets contracted out to a nefarious company who institute a new security programme by turning a cop killed in the line of duty into a heavily armed and virtually unstoppable cyborg. Peter Weller is a revelation as the titular hero as he transforms from everyman cop to robot. Everything from his walk to the way he speaks seems authentically robotic (startlingly so in fact) and it’s hard to imagine even Schwarzenegger (originally meant for the job) matching his performance (The Terminator required a more subtle portrayal due to the fact that those cyborgs were supposed to look human). Nancy Allen does well as his gutsy partner and Ronny Cox is of course on hand to spit venom at all and sundry. However, even he is outshined in that department by Kurtwood Smith as the truly loathsome Clarence Boddicker.
Basil Poledouris’ score is suitably exhilarating and Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner’s script is daring, witty, sharp, and perfectly structured. Some of the special effects involving the ED 209 are a bit clunky but Rob Bottin’s robosuit is a joy to look at. The star of the show however is undoubtedly Verhoeven as RoboCop is a tight, meticulously crafted, and hugely satisfying satirical sci-fi. Everything from the way RoboCop is finally introduced to the switching from regular perspective to RoboCop’s perspective is done to drive the dramatic tension of the film and it all works a treat. Don’t dismiss because of the title. Watch it and even that will make sense. “I’ll buy that for a dollar.”
Rating: The Good – 75.9 Genre: Science Fiction Duration: 113 mins Director: Paul Verhoeven Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside
Paul Verhoeven’s worthy adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s futuristic short story was a landmark in special effects on its release but like all great sci-fi, it’s the intelligent story and cracking characters that make it so good. Arnold Schwarzenegger headlines as Douglas Quaid, a man who recurrently dreams of life on Mars only to discover that he’s been there before and has had his memories of it and that previous life erased. When that discovery makes him a target for nasty men with guns and attitude, Doug hightails it to Mars to unravel the mystery. Along with his role of Dutch in Predator, Quaid was the role that showed Arnie was more than just brawn on screen. There’s much humour in his performance and not only is it in sync with the general vibe of the film, it’s well timed and infused with more than a touch of personality – something that couldn’t always have been said about his comedy attempts. Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and best of all Michael Ironside play the particularly dastardly bad guys and between them and Schwarzenegger the classic one-liners come thick and fast. Verhoeven’s mark is all over Total Recall which is no bad thing as his colourful and mischievous style nicely complements the pulp background from which the story hails.
Rating: The Ugly – 60.3 Genre: Drama Duration: 107mins Director: Harold Becker Stars: Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling
Matthew Modine stars as an introspective high school student who decides to make his mark in his final year and so he proceeds to drop down two wrestling weight divisions so that he can challenge the best and most feared champion in the state. His steely focus is ultimately jeopardised, however, when his father and him take in a sultry lodger in the shape of Linda Fiorentino. Vision Quest is as cheesy as the 80’s teen movie got with the dialogue, romantic plot, and direction being the most guilty in that respect. The story is eminently predictable in structure, progression, and conclusion. Furthermore, somewhere along the way in the development of the script, the relevance of the title “Vision Quest” got lost because it has almost entirely no bearing on the story.
However, the acting does a lot to pull this one back from the edge. Modine always had that priceless boyish charisma and it’s used perhaps better than ever in this type of over-flowingly positive underdog story. He adds a glowing and irresistible naïveté to the proceedings and when counterbalanced with Fiorentino’s well struck performance it gives the hack story some real thrust. Ronny Cox and a host of other familiar faces make for terrific support and Tangerine Dream give the auditory backdrop their usual touch of class (with a cusp-of-stardom Madonna adding to its foreground as a nightclub singer). Watch it with a forgiving smile and this one might just get you.