Deliver Us From Evil

July 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn
Directed by: Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”)
Written by: Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”) and Paul Harris Boardman (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”)

When it comes to horror films that dealing with demonic possession, it’s starting to get quite difficult to keep each movie separate when one contorting body looks like the other.

How diluted has the devil-made-me-do-to subgenre become, you ask? In just the last couple of years, titles like “The Devil Inside,” “The Last Exorcism Part II,” “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “The Possession,” “The Devil’s Due,” and even the torturously unfunny parody “A Haunted House” are only a small fraction of the movies that have taken the demon narrative and somehow stripped away everything that made films like 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and 1973’s original “Exorcist” such classic stories audiences were actually afraid to see alone. Now, it feels like you can’t even spew a little pea soup on a studio lot without it hitting another Satan-fueled character crab-walking across the ceiling.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t change with “Deliver Us From Evil,” a cliché-ridden script that actually starts off with a slightly different kind of buzz before regressing into something as generic as it’s title would suggest. Unlike their past possession film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” co-writers Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (who is also the director) do nothing fresh with this specific tale like creating a court-room horror movie. Instead, the duo plays around with combining horror elements into a police procedural in hopes of creating something that resembles filmmaker David Fincher’s “Seven.” It doesn’t come close on any level.

In the film, Eric Bana (“Hulk”) stars as NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie who is investigating a series of paranormal events that begins with a call to the Bronx Zoo where a psychotic mother has tossed her infant son into the lion’s den. When the crime starts to connect to other horrible incidences around the city, Ralph teams up with a priest/demonologist, Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), to track down a possessed, dead-eyed ex-solider who is the cause of all the evil happening around NYC.

While the writers attempt to make Officer Sarchie a three-dimensional character by turning him into a faithless, absentee father and husband fighting the good fight (while also hallucinating Jim Morrison songs for some stupid reason), there’s still not nearly enough meat on this character to make him or the cases he’s investigating all that interesting. The script calls for Sarchie to have a comedy relief partner (Joel McHale) to lighten things up, but the character mostly wastes screentime when he is given two ridiculous scenes where he basically transforms into some kind of knife-wielding ninja. Even scenarios where Sarchie’s family (his wife is played by Olivia Munn) is affected by his work when their own house starts creeping their little girl out don’t create a tangible enough threat to worry that anything will happen to anyone of importance. It all makes for a very dull and unfrightening mix of low-rent cop drama and standard horror flick action that won’t do much to stand out from the other half dozen similar projects that are sure to rear their ugly heads soon enough.

The Informant!

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula and Joel McHale
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven”)
Written by: Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

There’s only so much a dark comedy can get away with when it’s trying to be satirical. If a filmmaker is not careful, it can go over the edge and become just too goofy to be believable. Think about directors Joel and Ethan Coen. They got it right with “Burn After Reading,” but stumbled into something foolish with “The Ladykillers.” If the make-up of a film in this genre is off by a few degrees, things can get quite messy.

While “The Informant!” is advertising itself as a “true” story, director Steven Soderbergh seems to find a hard time in drawing a line between the completely ridiculous and the genuine moments of dry comedy and drama in what becomes his version of a cinematic three-ring circus.

The star under Soderbergh’s big top is actor Matt Damon, who has worked with the director in the “Ocean’s” trilogy and in the second part of his Che Guevara biopic of last year. In “The Informant!,” which is adapted from the 2000 book of the same name (sans exclamation point) by former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, Damon plays Mark Whitacre, an agra-business executive who becomes a whistleblower for the FBI when his company is caught up in a price-fixing scheme.

Playing out more like a character study of someone Eichenwald described in his book as a manic-depressive, it’s an interesting choice in tone that Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) decide to take. All the ingredients are there for something more straight-laced, but Soderbergh and Burns chose Mark’s eccentric personality and turn him into someone about as cartoonish as Inspector Gadget or Maxwell Smart.

Throughout the film, we hear Mark’s random inner monologue drive his behavior as he continually lies to FBI agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale play the main ones here) and changes his story about the criminal practices of his Fortune 500 company. Nicolas Cage’s character used the same type of narration in Gore Verbinski’s underappreciated 2005 film “The Weather Man,” but in “The Informant!” Damon’s dialect feels more unconscious and disconnected from reality.

Maybe that’s the point of it all, but the tone works against the film especially when the story isn’t as off-the-wall as Soderbergh would like you to believe. Sure, this specific white collar crime back in the 90s, was strange, but there are also parts of the story that read like a financial report. What’s so humorous about price-fixing anyway? Without a character like Mark, who is amped up by a confident performance by Damon, “The Informant!” is just another tale of corporate greed. What’s next, a Bernie Madoff musical?