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The Purge

The Purge film posterSynopsis

It’s the USA in 2022, on one night in the year when “Citizens” can murder or steal from anyone and any other crime is permissible.   Such licensed criminality is supposed to iron out criminal impulses from all other days in the year.  Ethan Hawke has an affluent home which is protected against attack but they let in a black man who is escaping from his persecutors among whom are the very neighbours who previously acted in a neighbourly fashion.  Hawke’s daughter has a boyfriend who has already tried to shoot Hawke and now the persecutors are trying to get in to the house…

Review

The idea of one night of licensed crime is a good one with satirical potential.  For me the satire is on the determination that denies free will when behaviour is judged, neither good nor bad, but on its social usefulness.  If the rich can defend themselves against human depredation then the victims will mostly be the poor such as the black man on the run from racist whites, the black actor here has been given the thankless role of being the dignified good guy.   Ironically, on a night when the middle classes are supposed to free the apeman caged in their codes of domestic affluence which sanctions moral hypocrisy, their conscious and moral sense are challenged by this desperate outsider..  He is the Bunuel interloper who can upset Hawke’s smug life.  However, the film squanders the potential for moral debate and parable portentousness by resorting to the gunfight and bloody violence which comes out of nowhere.  The criminality is supposed to be all the more shocking because of the Stepford affluence that the main characters live in, but of course this simply masks racism, xenophobia, and greed. The neighbours who offer Hawke’s family a pie, turns out to be one of the most violent of the licensed criminals reminding us of the saying “Violence is as American as apple pie”.  This is of course a well worn theme, the brutality that protects wealth and privilege.  The film could be more effective if it were shorter.  The story avoids any realistic plausibilities: surely this unleashing of crime could not be so easily contained, and what about the consequent prevalence of justifiable vengeance?  These ideas could merit a sequel (but not in this film).  We are given a nasty cop out.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Before Midnight

Before Midnight film posterSynopsis

Ethan Hawke (Jesse) says goodbye to his son (Seamus Davey- Fitzpatrick) who is returning to the States from Athens airport.  He wants more contact with his son.  He has two daughers with Celine (Julie Delpy).  For the rest of the film Jesse and Celine talk to each other in the car, in the kitchen, and the hotel room.  They talk at the dining table of Patrick who is an elderly writer and patriarch of the Greek hideaway.  The guests discuss their life experiences and ambitions.  Will Jesse and Celine be reunited after their hotel room argument?

Review

I watched Before Sunrise (1995) just before this film, in the Vienna train Jesse and Celine meet each other as they avoid a married couple arguing.  At the end of Before Midnight they become that married couple arguing.  In the previous films they seem to make a big deal out of what the rest of us can take in our stride.  I’ll concede that the argument in the hotel room where they reveal resentments and disappointments is often quite funny.  Celine tells Jesse the writer (who uses her as his muse) that he’s no Henry Miller.  She tells him he is a Socratic poseur wafting under the olive trees.  Their sex seems to have become predictable.  This final row reveals Jesse as a self-serving rather vain middle class US academic.  He has all the right psychobabble cliches and though he’s pretty quick on the riposte, one feels he’s out of his depth with the more complicated Celine.  In Before Sunrise (set in Paris) the pair struck me as reliably plodding, full of middle brow received wisdoms.  They speak as if to reflect the aspirations of what they imagine their cinema audience to be.  They sound like they’ve read from a Woody Allen script and I detested Woody Allen’s pseudo intellectual name dropping.  Admittedly their loquacious energy can be quite impressive as they guilt trip each other.  With their too easily assumed martyrdoms which are must-have accessories for us all.  Celine thinks Jesse uses Hank to manoeuvre her into a move to the US. At times it was like being in a theatre workshop on how to improvise a marital breakdown.  They were playing to an unseen presence in the hotel room: the embarrassed observer dragged through his/her old marital routines.

The scene at the Greek hideaway is the standard stereotype of the authority figure (like Robert Graves in Spain), holding court over a table with posh Greek food and compliant guests self consciously going through the motion of being literary and cutesy wise.  Their conversation comes out of a would-be thinking person’s airport novel.  Celine later confesses she didn’t like her Greek holiday (no mention of that country’s current terrible problems).  Celine is environmentally engaged whereas Jesse wants to write a novel about how brain disorders effect behaviour.  Science fiction as escapism from the consequences of a relationship perhaps?  I hope we’ve seen the last of these self absorbed irritating people.

 

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Total Recall

Total Recall film posterSynopsis

Stars Colin Farrell playing the role that Arnold Schwazenegger plays in the 1990 Total Recall.  Set at the end of the 21st century in a world run by Britain with Australia as a colony (?!?).  Access to these countries is through the Earth’s core.  Farrell plays a techno assembly worker who is married to Kate Beckinsdale and he has a daily routine.  He goes to a mind scan and finds out that he was a rebel leader by the name of Hauser who has been kidnapped into being an agent for the repressive government of Britain.  Beckinsdale is a government agent in on the deception.  Farrell joins the rebels courtesy of Jessica Biel.  Beckinsdale’s government plan an invasion , can Colin save the world?

Criticism

The original film was set on Earth and Mars and at the time its special effects were amazing.  Schwarzenegger acted woodenly but was an effective action man, Colin Farrell is a more sympathetic hero but his pained expression hasn’t changed much from when he was stuck in that telephone booth several years ago.  The original of the Kate Beckinsale character was Sharon Stone and the sight of her and Schwarzenegger fighting was like a superduper cage fight, by contrast Beckinsale and Farrell look like dysfunctional reality TV spoilt brats.  Is Farrell a double agent?  This film imagines London as floating high rise apartments like the rocks in Avatar, and the street scenes are stolen from Blade Runner.  It’s always gloomy and raining and people are walking about under painted parasols.  There are hi-tech advertizings and it looks like a Bombay slum stripped from its moorings.  The action is far too frenetic, masses of aerocars zipping at dizzying speeds like in I Robot or Star Wars. Given that the film has a 20 year advantage over the original, it disappoints as sci-fi.

Issues of personal identity and personal integrity in a hi-tech world are simplified to role reversals in a Dan Dare world of bewildering density.  At any moment you know it’s all fairground mirror tricks, so the film avoids anything worth saying.  It gets into some cod philosophy about the nature of memory, only to dismiss it as a disposable item, so it undermines the need for a serious look at the continuation of personal identity and responsibility.  A missed opportunity.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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