The Company You Keep

April 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie
Directed by: Robert Redford (“The Conspirator”)
Written by: Lem Dobbs (“Haywire”)

It might flaunt the most impressive cast top to bottom you’re likely to see this year on the big screen (21 Oscar nominations, 4 wins), but the script behind Oscar-winning director Robert Redford’s political thriller “The Company You Keep” can only lead its actors just far enough before they’re let down by the material.

It really is unfortunate since Redford, who earned an Academy Award for directing in 1981 for “Ordinary People,” comes into the project with a lot of the pieces already in place. This should be a more intriguing look into the radical leftist organization known as the Weather Underground in the late 60s and early 70s, but it falters. The revolutionary group, whose members were charged during that time for bombing a number of sites such as the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, were hell-bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

In “Company,” Redford stars as Jim Grant, a New York City lawyer and former activist of the Weathermen, who has been living as a fugitive for the last 30 years after a bank heist he is involved in during his heyday claims the life of a guard. Jim is flushed from his quiet suburban home when one of his former Weather Underground colleagues Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is finally found and arrested for her involvement in the radical movement. Her arrest triggers a domino effect that leads to Jim’s participation in the crime. Now on the run with the FBI and media (Shia LaBeouf plays a scrappy newspaper reporter who cracks the case) on his trail, Jim hits the road in search of a way to clear his name.

Based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gordon, “Company” is a sort of slowly-paced road-trip movie where tons of characters join the fracas, but none are very important to the overall narrative. It’s great to see the likes of heavy-hitters like Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte and Stanley Tucci tag in and out like some kind of all-star contest, but the substance behind each of their individual connections to the story is thinly scripted.

The acting makes up slightly for the film’s lack of tension. We’re not looking for car chases and extensive getaway scenes here, but Redford’s inability to draw out more emotional conflict from the script is its greatest letdown. There just aren’t enough big moments the talent can sink their claws into. “Company” is never boring, but it also never shifts out of first gear, which poses a major problem when you have a fugitive on the run and a lot at stake.

Red Riding Hood

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”)
Written by: David Johnson (“Orphan”)

No matter what version you’ve heard, when it comes to traditional folklore and fairytales, there isn’t one that comes with more thematic baggage than “Little Red Riding Hood.” Whether as a parable on a young girl’s sexuality or simply a cautionary tale for kids about the dangers of wandering off the beaten path, most written adaptations over the last 300 years tend to follow the same narrative pattern before offering some type of intrinsic morale.

In “Red Riding Hood,” director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) communicates none of the above, nor does she pretend to have the least bit of interest in capturing any of the enchantment, eeriness or menacing quality of the original fable. Instead, Hardwicke is out to tap into the 13-18-year-old tween demographic who funds these gothic soap operas with their babysitting money. “The Twilight Saga” might shamelessly placate the horror/fantasy world, but at least Stephenie Meyer’s vamps and wolfboys brood vehemently. In the passionless “Red Riding Hood,” you’re lucky to get a blank stare and whimper.

Set in the medieval, snow-covered village of Daggerhorn (fortunately not the most optimal weather conditions to show off werewolf abs), a bloodthirsty beast has killed a human after 20 years of feasting only on the livestock appetizers he is served. Amanda Seyfried (“Letters to Juliet”) plays Valerie, a pretty little thing caught in a love triangle with a poor woodsman (Shiloh Fernandez) and a well-to-do blacksmith (Max Irons). Paranoia sweeps across the village when werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides in and deems everyone a suspect, including creepy, old grandma (Julie Christie).

Unintentionally hilarious (the “what big eyes you have” scene begs for ridicule especially), “Red Riding Hood” piles on the dreadful dialogue and unconvincing romance like salad-bar fixings. The only way it could have possibly been hokier is if the climax actually featured a computer-generated wolf dressed in granny’s nightie knitting a doily.