The Rite

January 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom (“1408”)
Written by: Michael Petroni (“Queen of the Damned”)
 
While it can’t necessarily be considered a work of the devil, “The Rite” is a wicked, wicked thing – a fright-less exorcism story that becomes a tedious slog through the horror movie genre.
 
Sir Anthony Hopkins tries to tap into his Hannibal Lecter character to play Father Lucas Trevant, an unorthodox exorcist living in Rome who takes a faithless seminary student under his wing to prove to him that the Devil exists.

Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) doesn’t know what he believes in anymore, but he has decided the priesthood is no longer for him. When his mentor, Father Matthew (Toby Jones), sends Michael to Rome to take a special course on exorcisms, he has no idea Father Lucas will lead him into some of the darkest scenarios he has ever witnessed as a man of the cloth.
 
Through a mixture of dull philosophical dialogue and a cast of characters devoid of any real insight to the supernatural world they inhabit, “The Rite” is a generic, ham-fisted picture with the usual exorcism set-ups.
 
“What did you expect? Spinning heads? Pea soup?” Father Trevant asks Michael when an exorcism ends up being as exciting as a knitting class.
 
If only we were so lucky.

Repo Men

March 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik (debut)
Written by: Eric Garcia (debut) and Garrett Lerner (debut)

While the premise for the sci-fi thriller “Repo Men” is an interesting one, first-time director Miguel Sapochnik and first-time screenwriters Eric Garcia and Garret Lerner lose all enthusiasm once the set-up is complete. What occurs after that is unfortunate as the narrative careens into awkward tonal changes, misguided storytelling, and scenes of ultra violence utilized to kick-start the moments of banality.

In the dystopian “Repo Men,” people in need of a transplant for an organ or other body part no long have to wait years to reach the top of a donor list. For a small fortune, patients can finance anything from an artificial lung to a pair of eyes or ears. Need a new liver? Five hundred thousand dollars should cover it.

Headed by an organization known as the Union, signing on the dotted line and going under the knife to survive is easy for people desperate enough and willing to go into major debt. It’s just a matter of time, however, when a bill goes unpaid and the Union sends out repo men to reclaim what patients can no longer afford.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play Remy and Jake, two longtime friends who are the best repo men in the company. Slick with their scalpels, Remy and Jake can slide into a high-tense situation and get things done without much commotion. While both love their jobs, Remy is seriously thinking about joining the sales team so he can spend more time with his family. Plans change after he is injured during a mission and wakes up in a hospital in need of a heart transplant himself.

After the operation, Remy grows a conscience and can no longer do the job he once enjoyed. To make matters worse, he has fallen behind on payments, which prompts Union leader Frank (Liev Schreiber) to send Jake out to play surgeon with his friend. Why the Union can’t make an exception for Remy especially since he is the top repo man they have is beyond comprehension, but there are far too many oversights to just wag your finger at just one.

At this point, Jake has teamed up with Beth (Alice Braga), a woman whose entire body has basically been reconstructed with artificial parts. During their love scene, you’ll scoff as Remy passionately kisses her while trying to piece her back together. While the film is going for dark and twisted like “Crash” (not the overrated 2004 movie about racism in L.A., but director David Cronenberg’s 1996 trippy one about people who find car crashes sexually stimulating), it comes off as laughable instead.

Full of nonsensical ideas and plot holes that will only be ignored by audiences looking for cheap action thrills ripped off from movies like “Old Boy,” “Repo Men” doesn’t have much to fall back on once the blood dries up.

Blindness

October 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”)
Written by: Don McKellar (“The Red Violin”)

With 2004’s “City of God,” Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles quickly became one of the most talked-about directors of the new century. That’s why you hope projects like “Blindness” are mere flukes in a career that started off so impressive.

Adapted from the novel by Jose Saramago, “Blindness” tells the story of a group of people who are quarantined when an epidemic causes them to lose their sight. The plague starts when a man goes to an unnamed ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) when he suddenly loses his sight while sitting in traffic. The following morning, the good doctor has lost his vision as well.

Soon, a handful of people are infected with the “white blindness,” an idea that somehow gives Meirelles reason to whitewash most of the film with extra lightning and overexposing some scenes. The visually aggravating cinematography, however, is the least of the film’s problems. Although it’s an interesting idea, McKellar’s narrative is ineffective.

As more people become sick, they are sent off into hospital wards where an aggressive pecking order amongst the blind community slowly begins to take shape. Julianne Moore (“The Hours”) plays the eye doctor’s wife, who goes to the ward with her husband despite being the only person who can see. It’s never explained why Moore’s character doesn’t lose her vision, which isn’t that big of a deal. “Children of Men” never tells us why Kee (the pregnant girl) is the only one in the world who can bear a child. The difference, however, is that Kee in “Children of Men” was a symbol of faith. In “Blindness,” Moore’s character is so frail, there’s really no reason to develop her into anything more than collateral for the heathens that live among her.

There is so much Meirelles wants to say about the blind leading the blind, his metaphors come off heavy-handed and wasted. “Blindness” may be reaching for some deep-seated ideas about the brutality of society, but there’s no way to describe exactly what he wants us to know when he’s delivering it in incoherent, sometimes laughable, pieces.