Thursday, January 29, 2004


Broog has frequently observed that the creation of a sci-fi actioner is much like that of a genuine space programme. Many is the putative Bladerunner which has built its launchpad on the shifting sands of fashion, achieved escape velocity by force of brute starpower, and then, for lack of guidance, tumbled like a British space probe into the hulking gas giant of Indifference, there to be crushed by tidal forces such as “bored now”, and “I really don’t care”. Paycheck’s hero, Michael Jennings, sends himself a bag of useful items before having his memory erased. Jennings’ uncanny foresight is part of the story, but it bleeds into a sense that he cannot be wrong-footed or surprised, and the tension evapourates. The movie becomes, not a narrative, but a fragment of history, and Jennings’ hallucinations of his own possible death are both unexplained and unthreatening. Broog cannot help but suspect that Paycheck and 2002’s Minority Report drew on their iconic spiritual predecessor to get made, and yet ignored the simple truth that Scott’s classic was prepared to tackle issues which the more recent films would regard as ‘too complex for the audience’ - an arrogance for which their makers will eventually be slow-roasted in Broog’s Ovens of Reprimand, and served with small pieces of pineapple at screenings of pictures which actually possess the capacity to engage the heart and mind. To be fair, Woo’s movie is acceptable viewing, if somewhat slight.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Kill Bill (vol. 1)

It is unclear to Broog whether the human Tarantino is a maverick genius possessed of a superior grasp of film grammar which allows him to transcend the requirements of normative fictional exposition, or simply too lazy to spend the time on traditional structure and development, choosing to rely instead on the cinematic equivalent of an Objective Correlative derived from pulp culture. In other words, the rambunctious auteur is either brilliant or bone idle. It is Broog’s eventual intention to devour the human’s brain, establishing the truth by sampling the frothy grey matter with his mighty critical palate. In the meantime, however, Broog will proceed to the question of Kill Bill (vol. I).

Richly textured and stunningly bloody, this is a movie almost entirely devoid of story in the conventional sense. The actress Thurman portrays The Bride, a female human whose capacity to bear a grudge excites Broog’s personal admiration. Her ability and willingness to scourge those who fail to show her the proper deference is also laudable. However, after a powerful beginning involving a showdown between The Bride and her former ally, Copperhead, the movie becomes a series of set-piece combat sequences interspersed with flashbacks and demonstrations of grim determination in a hostile world. Perhaps the decision to split the film has trapped the The Bride’s character arc in the second instalment; in Volume 1 she chops her way through any number of enemies without ever confronting her own brutality or questioning the nature of a life predicated on murder-as-communication. This is disappointing given Tarantino’s prior mediations on the nature of violence and morality, but naivety of a sort appears to be the heart's blood of the film. Kill Bill (vol. 1) is an unrepentant romp through the martial arts lexicon, magnificently unexamined and unashamed of its wish-fulfilment superficiality. Brilliantly executed, but Broog prefers Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi, which mixes the same hellish injuries with a fleeting awareness of its own monstrosity.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Trigger Happy

As it is not unusual for Broog to find himself at odds with critics of lesser intellect and physical attractiveness, he bears no ill-will towards such aesthetic peabrains, and provides them wherever possible with education, insight, and the option of toeing the line or being thrust feetfirst into a high-speed threshing machine. In the case of this movie, however, Broog confesses himself mystified by the massed negativity of professional appraisal. Trigger Happy, also known as Mad Dog Time, is a vividly surreal post-Brat Pack gangster flick featuring the combined thespian talents of Richard Dreyfuss, Gabriel Byrne, Jeff Goldblum and Ellen Barkin, with a raft of appearances from other notable practitioners of the mummer’s art. Like the film itself, mob boss Vic (Dreyfuss) is frankly and cheerfully insane, and has returned from the asylum to reclaim the reins of power in his town. During his absence, however, his many minions have acquired ideas above their station, and his right hand man Mickey (Goldblum) has been sleeping with his mistress. Vic’s solution to the knot of plots and counterplots seems liable to be massively Gordian, and everyone except Mickey is expecting a bloodbath of Coppolan proportions. The film is colourful and fascinating, if occasionally strained by over-egged dialogue, and the duelling sequences between Mickey and assorted contenders, which take place across a set of matched executive desks, are tensely and intriguingly bizarre. A pastiche of and a hymn to the Sinatra era, Trigger Happy is a sadly underrated cinematic experience; gaudy, flawed, and ultimately pointless, it remains enjoyable and unrepentantly cool.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Scorpion King

It is not, in Broog’s eyes, a grave aesthetic sin for a movie to be knowing. Earlier in the development of Earth drama, the unwary playwright or director whose on-stage minions shattered the Fourth Wall could expect to be rent limb from limb by an angry mob of outraged groundlings. While Broog applauds the principle of robust physical criticism, he is glad to see this straightjacket removed from the oiled shoulders of Earth’s filmic gladiators. It is not therefore a particular affront to Broog that the actors in The Scorpion King spend so much time playing to the audience that they barely notice one another, though he is minded to suggest that The Rock be re-named The Eyebrow in the interests of accurate reporting. A lack of sincerity is not a serious disadvantage for a movie which does for the Conan genre what Moonlighting did for t.v. cop shows. From the moment when the two-hundred-and-fifty-five pound Groucho Marx-wannabe utters his first immortal line, it is apparent that this picture will be mercifully devoid of the quasi-biblical rabblerousing of other breechclouters, many of which appear to have been written under the influence of a noxious mixture of marijuana and the Children’s Abridged Shakespeare. Sadly, however, the protagonists are not permitted much evolution, as this might get in the way of their wry asides. The lack of development is most evident in the lead character, whose final victory is inexplicable given the failure of his previous attempts to do precisely the same thing. Not even knowing movies can escape the need to build to a climax rather than present it as a fact. In closing, Broog should note the excellent cameo by the actress Hu’s costume, which does a great deal with very little material, and produces one of the most sincere performances of the film.

The Siege

Humans are possessed of a poverty of senses. On the one hand, this means that your cinema is filled with verve and a desire for experience and sensation, but on the other, it entails the creation of a substratum of odious middlemen whose task is to inform audiences of the upcoming hits, and often to mislead them into attending movies they probably do not want to see in the hope that, having been thus deceived, members of the public will find something desirable in the picture and tell their friends to go, despite the fact that they also do not want to see that kind of movie. These purveyors of idiocy are known as the Marketing Department, and they are responsible for the hyping of any number of turkeys, and the lonely deaths of a few excellent films.

These parasitic lollygaggers were clearly on particularly fine form the day they decided to sell “The Siege” as a Bruce Willis actioner. Audiences flocked to the temples of the magic lantern, preparing themselves for a witty lambasting spiced with gunplay and derring-do. Instead, they were submerged in a murky world of betrayal, terrorism, and sinister political possibility. They were unsurprisingly confused to discover the film was a Denzel Washington vehicle in which that splendid male plays an FBI agent on the trail of a jihadist cell operating in New York City. Washington is helped and hindered in this endeavour by Tony Shalhoub and Annette Bening, both of whom are resplendent in their roles. The film is by turns shocking, fascinating, and affecting, but fell flat at the time because when you go to see “Die Hard” you do not expect to be confronted with an urban “Platoon”. In a world which has experienced the grotesque nightmare of 9/11, however, the film has a greater urgency, and a wider public. Having re-watched “The Siege”, Broog judges there is after all a place for Marketing Execs, and that place is dark and deep and has scorpions in it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Big Fish

Blarney, hogwash, bunkum, poppycock, and snakeoil are the lifeblood of Ed Bloom. His son, Will, wants the unvarnished truth, but Ed, even or especially on his deathbed, prefers to live in the narrativised version of events. Broog is always somewhat mystified by human father/son dynamics, as on his planet any offspring not eaten before their majority are so highly prized that the awkward stumbling of human emotional connection seems frankly wasteful. However, even Broog was touched by the blindness of Will Bloom to the simple fact that the understanding he seeks to establish is invisible to him only because it runs so deeply through every aspect of his life. The action is mostly a patchwork of Ed’s Hirsute Canine tales, interspersed occasionally by Will’s attempts to uncover the historical events. The pacing is authentically Southern, by which Broog means that it is lyrical, lugubrious, and infuriating, but the movie is rescued from tedium by a constant supporting artillery barrage of charm. It has so much charm that Broog is concerned there may now be a planetwide shortage. The audience is invited to bask, hippo-like, in the warm fictional waters of Ed’s silty flimflam, and chuckle fondly at the WASPish offspring as he seeks to separate reality from baloney. Walter Mitty without the attendant sense of failure, Forrest Gump without the GOP, a sweet, sad, grown-up Princess Bride, this movie never quite catches fire, and yet always keeps ticking over. Exactly how grand is the truth concealed behind the humbug and trumpery is up to the watcher. In Broog’s view, it is enough that he will relent from his initial intention of having the entire cast and crew as a bathtime snack.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Specialist

It seems impossible to Broog that this movie was actually shot in English and in colour, but he has reluctantly acknowledged that such is the case, and removed his technical assistant from the Sharp Hooks Of Mild Chastisement. Nonetheless, Broog remains entirely perplexed by this decision. Consider the following: a lonely man who hires himself out as an assassin specialising in explosives falls in love with a woman he has never met. She desires his assistance in the matter of reducing an offending male to less readily-recognisable parts by the exercise of the demolitionist’s metier. Knowing that the project in hand will scar her soul for ever, the noble, brooding man refuses. The woman therefore undertakes to deal with the matter herself, though she will likely have to engage in hot steamy boy-human/girl-human action with the man she despises. Moved by her plight and possibly also by the realisation that he would prefer she focus her hot boy-human/girl-human activities on him, the heroic explosiver agrees to help her, and the two begin their quest for vengeance. By now it should be obvious even to you that this is a French Film Noir from around 1955. Purely in order to annoy Broog, however, the movie was made in 1994, and while it features the past-mistress of sexual frisson Sharon Stone, her opposite number is the somewhat surprising Sylvester Stallone. Made in its proper timeframe, this would be a classic of the thriller genre. Dislocated and colourised, it is a forgotten expense in a ledger at Warner Brothers.