Monday, July 27, 2009

Feature: Jordan's Movie Quest: the Year 2002

Continuing my quest through the last decade of film, here are my top ten movies of 2002, including a blurb on each:
10. 28 Days Later—Director Danny Boyle (of the fantastic Trainspotting and the fantastically over rated Slumdog Millionaire) creates an entirely different take on the zombie film. When crazy hippy animal rights activists insist on freeing some really mad monkeys, they also unleash RAGE, a virus that turns anyone who comes into contact with it into a bloodthirsty, angry, mindless, killing machine. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma in a world already mostly devoid of human life. The film captures perfectly the sense of dread that fills him as he explores an abandoned London, and the realistic terror that follows when he discovers that he’s surrounded by hordes of flesh hungry zombies. Not only among the best zombie movies I’ve ever seen, but also among the best (albeit one of the most cynical) examinations of human nature in the face of chaos ever made.

9. About A boy— Will (Hugh Grant) is a selfish, sarcastic, carefree playboy living off of royalties from a song his father wrote decades ago. That is, until pretending to have an infant son to score with single mothers saddles him with an adolescent boy (Nicholas Hoult) in need og guidance after his wayward mother (Toni Collette) attempts suicide. Throw in Will’s development of actual feelings for Rachel (Rachel Weisz) and you have the makings for an incredibly clich├ęd coming of age film. Instead, with a script adapted from Nick Hornby’s insightful novel and a soundtrack by the soulful Badly Drawn Boy, what results is an insightful look at what creates bonds between people, and the things that allow us to finally grow up.

8. Bubba Ho-Tep—An elderly Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and a black JFK (Ossie Davis) fight a mummy that is slaughtering the denizens of the old folks home they share. If it sounds like the most ridiculous plot you’ve ever heard, it is—and it’s also one of the most touching stories on aging and human mortality ever to fit neatly within the B-movie genre. After the King switches places with a popular Elvis impostor to live a normal life for a while, the impostor goes and dies on him, leaving him stranded in his life of normalcy. Flash forward a few decades, and the aged king is having trouble with his “pecker” and with convincing the nurses that treat him that he is in fact the rock and roll master he claims to be. The only man that believes him is an elderly black man who claims to be a skin-dyed JFK. He also claims that a mummy is causing the uptick in deaths among the patients in the home by sucking their souls out of their anuses. At once hilarious, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and utterly cheesy, Bubba Ho-Tep will surprise you by how much it affects you, even long after the credits roll.

7. Road to Perdition—Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hit man in the Irish mafia, working under the harsh, but kind John Rooney (Paul Newman) during the great depression. Rooney’s son Connor (Daniel Craig) is a ruthless son of a bitch, desperate to take power. When Michael’s son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a hit, Connor has Michael’s family killed. Michael Jr. manages to survive and father and son head out on the road to escape and find peace. As they travel, the younger Michael learns what kind of man his father is, and discovers the hard learned truth that no one, not even a father, can be defined in black and white terms. Sam Mendes( American Beauty, Away We Go) directs the film as both a taut gangster thriller and a touching look at a relationship between father and son.

6. Secretary—Lee Holloway (Maggie Gylenhaal) has just been released from a mental institution for attempting suicide. While trying to get back on her feet, she takes a job as a secretary with the cold, distant E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Lee and her boss become closer, however, when he starts to treat her as his own personal erotic slave. Definitely not a movie to watch with the parents, Secretary manages to be both incredibly erotic and amazingly romantic. Sure Edward might whip Lee with a riding crop, force her to crawl around the office and dictate exactly how many peas she can eat for dinner, but he also shows her that she has worth as a human being and gives her something to live for in the process. Unconventional? Absolutely. But also a very touching romantic comedy that proves love doesn’t always fit into the form we envision.

5. About Schmidt—Days after he finally retires, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is confronted with the fact that he has no idea how to run his own life after his wife dies unexpectedly. Lost and falling apart without his wife to take care of him, Warren buys a motor home and decides to visit his daughter (Hope Davis) in time to stop her from marrying the unsophisticated Randall (Dermot Mulroney). Instead he finds himself laid up with an injured back, being taken care of by his future in-law, the sexually uninhibited Roberta (Kathy Bates). Warren realizes he has wasted his life and become a miserable old man, only to wonder if he still has time to turn it all around. Alexander Payne directs this meditation on turning a life around, and the struggle it takes to win over people you’ve dismissed for decades.

4. Punch Drunk Love—pudding, frequent flyer miles, Mormon phone sex operators and a harpsichord all come together in this offbeat romantic comedy from wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson. Barry Egan (Adam Sandler, in easily his best performance) has been brow beaten by his overbearing sisters his entire life. Meek, unassuming and prone to bouts of uncontrolled rage, Barry finds solace in the voice of a phone sex worker who treats him with respect, and in a loophole that allows him to trade in pudding packs for unlimited frequent flyer miles. His life is thrown into disarray when the woman on the other end of the phone starts extorting him for money, and his sister insists on setting him up with the mysterious Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). Watching Barry fight his way through awkward encounters, neuroses, and a very angry mattress proprietor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) provides for one of the most whimsical, disjointed romantic comedies of the decade, and possibly the most unique film in Anderson’s cannon (which is saying something).

3.In America—After the tragic death of their son, Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (the Oscar nominated Samantha Morton) immigrate from their Irish home to America with their daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger). After sneaking across the border, their lives are a mixture of whimsy and near poverty. Narrated by Christy, the film is a journey—of the family from Ireland to America, from grief to acceptance, and from estrangement to reconnection for Johnny and Sarah. Sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, the film allows you to revel in the adorable children and their hilarious antics while also worrying over how the family will support itself and grieving over the loss of the family’s youngest member. Directed by Jim Sheridan (who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay), the film also contains an Oscar nominated performance by Djimon Honsou, as a neighbor who may help the family get back on track.

2. Talk To Her—When his girlfriend (Rosario Flores) is injured in a bull fight and lapses into a coma, Marco (Dario Grandinetti) begins spending time at her side in the hospital. There he meets Benigno (Javier Camara) who is watching over his beloved Alicia (Leonor Watling), also in a coma. Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Volver) directs this story of the nature of love, the bonds that cannot be broken, and the perversities that our feelings can drive us to. Talk To Her never shies away from the truth, whether that truth be heartbreaking, horrifying or ultimately enlightening.

1. Adaptation—Writer Charlier Kaufman strikes brilliance yet again in this tale of writer Charlie Kaufman (Oscar nominee Nicholas Cage) attempting to adapt the unadaptable book The Orchid Thief by elusive journalist Susan Orlean (Oscar nominee Meryl Streep). Kaufman is too caught up in his own insecurities, both creative and romantic, to actually make progress on the adaptation, and he begins to write himself into the screenplay. His brother Donald (also Nicholas Cage) is there to lend a helping hand, but his tastes are a tad too Hollywood for Charlie. As the Kaufman’s look into Orlean’s life and her relationship with the enigmatic and fascinating orchid poacher John Laroche (the Oscar winner Christ Cooper, never better than here) the narrative devolves as Kaufman struggles to complete his second screenplay and maintain his fraying life in the process. Also nominated for best adapted screenplay (as it is in fact based on The Orchid Thief by real life Susan Orlean) and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are) the film is without doubt the best treatise on writing ever created and also a great look at how difficult it can be to create art and to start your life again once you’ve made a wrong turn. By turns hilarious, haunting, and deeply affecting, Adaptation will change the way you look at movies, and at life itself.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Discussion

Sam's illiterate, Jordan's a giant Potter nerd, and they ended up with the same grade. Let's hope neither of them jokes that it was caused by magic.

Jordan's Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

It feels only proper for me to preface my review of the newest Harry potter film by admitting that (while Muggle born) I am a total Potter-head. I have read the books countless times, been at the midnight showings for every movie since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and generally just love all things Harry Potter. This is also important because my view of the films is invariably colored by how they relate to the book—i.e. what did they cut out this time? Azkaban angered me to no end as I watched a director I greatly admire (Alfonso Cuaron of Children of Men) follow birds around the grounds of Hogwarts at the expense of one of the greatest third acts of any novel I have ever read. I felt Order of the Phoenix (which in theory angered me being that it was the shortest film based on the longest book) was the best of the series so far in that, while the cuts it made were substantial, all of the biggest plot elements seemed to be present. And it had a killer battle sequence at the end. All of this is by way of giving you, gentle reader (I use the singular purposefully) an idea of my mindset when I went into Half Blood Prince.
That being said, I will attempt to judge the movie for its merits before I geek out on all of the cuts that were made. Director David Yates (who also helmed Order and is on tap for the two-part adaptation of Deathly Hallows coming over the next two years) has made a film that reeks of foreboding—from the terrorist attack style opening sequence straight through the end credits it is clear that all is not well in the wizarding world. Even the film’s happier moments (which I will address momentarily) feel weighted down by the paranoia and fear that affects every move these characters are making. The score and the cinematography back this feeling up and give the movie an overall eerie feel. I also found myself amazed at just how well the 11 year old kids that were picked to headline one of the biggest franchises of all time have grown into their roles. Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry is a lived in role, weighed down by the decisions he has had to make and those that were made for him. Emma Watson, though still prone to occasional bits of overacting has created a Hermione that is simultaneously fierce and adorable, a girl you want on your side and at your side. Rupert Grint’s Ron is still a blast, just as the character should be, even while he tackles some of the heavier material with aplomb. And particular kudos have to go to Tom Felton who has gone from simple schoolyard bully to full on terrorist conspirator and made us feel all of his anger, fear, and torment while never letting us forget that we hate Draco Malfoy.

The adults in the cast also continue to be excellent. Newcomer Jim Broadbent plays Horace Slughorn as a humorous eccentric, yet has the chops to carry out some of his more tragic moments. And Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and pretty much every other British actor alive continue to do well in the roles they were all perfectly cast in.

So what’s not to love? For one thing, the film may feel laden with foreboding, but it never shows much of what everyone has to fear. For all of its posturing, the story is much more focused on the romantic pitfalls of its teenage cast than on the apocalyptic atmosphere in which they are falling into love (and occasionally lust). To be fair, the romances shown in the film are giggle inducing in just the way they should be—filled with awkwardness, innuendo, jealousy and the occasional snog, yet as enjoyable as they are, they are not really the point the movie should be focused on. Additionally, the identity of the titular Prince seems poised to be the “mystery” that lies at the center of every Potter story—that thing which will keep our gang up in the library scheming until late into the night—but it is dispensed with fairly quickly and largely forgotten until a throw away explanation in the film’s conclusion.

When the climax finally arrives, it feels incredibly rushed; as if screenwriter Steve Kloves got so caught up in the romances he was (re)creating that he forgot there was an actual over arcing purpose to the film. When Dumbledore whisks Harry on a secret quest, the film forgets to ramp up the excitement, and it’s inevitable conclusion lacks the emotional punch it needs because of this.

Fans of the book (and beware, as SPOILERS are heavy in this paragraph) will notice that due to the abundant focus on the romance aspect of the story, all but two of Voldemort’s memories are cut, which leaves the villain at the series center still feeling underdeveloped. Additionally (and in my opinion more importantly) the flashback involving Snape and his relationship with Harry’s parents is excised, robbing the character of his most emotional moment, and leaving audiences who haven’t read the book craving a more satisfactory motive behind Snape’s cruelty. And lastly, the death of Dumbledore did not crush your heart the way it did in the books because his role in the film had been cut, his sacrifice was undermined by an abbreviated conversation and his funeral is done away with entirely.

Overall, though, it’s a Harry Potter movie. If that is enough to get you excited, you will probably enjoy yourself. If you haven’t read the book (as Sam has not, and I am curious to hear your thoughts on all of this) you may miss some of the subtleties that make the series great, but there are still wizard battles, romance and adventure aplenty throughout. And the film never lets you forget that it is simply a place holder before the epic ending yet to come when Deathly Hallows hits theaters. It is a dark movie, and at times a tragic one, but more than anything else, it is a primer on the finale that is yet to come.

Grade: B

Sam's Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Another highly anticipated movie this summer is the new installment of Harry Potter. Directed by David Yates (who directed the previous Potter), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince provides some ups and downs in overall quality. I did not read Half-Blood Prince but read the previous books. I’m by no means a die-hard Potter fan but still enjoyed the books and care about what happens to the characters.
It seems unnecessary to summarize a movie everyone knows better than me so I’ll keep it quick: Harry’s a hero, Voldemort wants Malfoy to off Dumbledore, Snape does it (everyone knows this, I knew it before seeing the movie). The story is pretty standard, and dare I say, dull (for a Potter series anyways).

I was more interested (and so was Yates it seems) in the who wants to dip their magic wand in who storylines (again I know where everyone ends up, but anyone who’s alive knows where everyone will end up). I enjoyed that Harry and friends are becoming horny bastards which are much better than an abstinent vampire.

Jordan will correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is that in the book there was a ton more character development than what’s in the movie. The movie felt like we were supposed to get to know these characters better. I also feel there was likely a ton of good bits from the book left out, but it’s a necessary evil to make these films (should be a good sign the next flick is in two parts). Even though I know Hermoine and Ron end up together I still wanted them to have some action. Also Harry and Ginny was awfully cute but for me its just a waiting game ‘till Ron sticks his Gryffindor in Hermoine’s Hufflepuff (I was thinking about coming up with some Hermoine-Ron innuendo the entire movie).

Anyways, the acting was strong which is nothing new because it’s the same cast of talented brits as it always has. I’m always amazed at how good the casting is of the three leads. They had to make sure that the three could continue to be good actors and grow up to be attractive enough for the pictures. I think Emma Watson (Hermoine) has the brightest future, but they all seem to have strong careers ahead of them unless they decide acting’s not for them. Still, I felt the story was just average and not as riveting as Potter’s past. Perhaps its just building to the final film but I can’t really find details in this movie that will have SUPER importance in the next film other than the note found at the end.

Yates made the film look very good for the most part. He blue-tinted world has set the tone for the remainder of the series well, a bit darker than Chris Columbus’ orange-fest. I’m definitely excited for the next two films and to see Ron and Hermoine hook up. This movie had nothing really wrong with it, it was fine. Really OK.

B

Notes: I knew John Williams didn’t do the music for this one. Before the movie the theatre was playing some music from the flick and it was not Williams-y to me which gave me doubts. The music was done by Nicholas Hooper.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bruno Discussion

Seems Sam laughed more than Jordan. Why? They discuss...

Sam' Review: Bruno

While I may sound like a pretentious d-bag, I believe that most people still do not get Sascha Baron Cohen’s act. His newest film, Bruno, made we wonder how a figure so popular can be so widely misunderstood. Film nerds, jocks, the young, and the old loved Borat. But they don’t love him for the same reason. I suspect the same will happen of this movie except to a much lesser extent than the Borat-mania that occurred last go around. In this film Cohen portrays over-the-top fashion reporter, Bruno. After losing his hit show in Austria, Bruno decides to go to America to become famous. His quest to be the most famous person in the world is used as the plot device to go between bits where Cohen does what he does best.

Needless to say the plot in this movie is incredibly thin (as is the love story with his assistant). The point of this is not to tell a great story, but to set up the sketches or bits he does with unsuspecting folks. As Bruno, Cohen shows us the dark underbelly of some of the idiots and bigots in this country, much like he did in Borat. He goes huntin’ with some good ol’ boys, tries to become straight (just like those stars Kevin Spacey, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta) and interviews seemingly insane stage parents who would put their child in many sorts of danger just to get them in a photo shoot. These prove to be funny and shocking which is what (I think) he is going for. What he isn’t going for is what I fear are two camps most people who aren’t in on the joke fall into:

1. Cohen is homophobic and propagating a message that all gay people dress ridiculous and love shoving crazy shit up their ass.

To the people that fall in this group, get off your high horse and look at what he’s doing. Of course he dresses insane how would he get the reaction of real homophobic people if he presented himself as a realistic human being? He shows up as what a homophobe would characterize gay people as in order to get them as riled up as possible. Yes, Cohen does ridiculous stuff like shove a remote up his ass or has crazy sex with his pygmy boy toy. He wants a laugh and he gets it. Anyone who believes that the shit he does in this movie is normal behavior is stupid.

2. This is funny, he’s gay, isn’t that inherently hilarious?

For all the weird shit he does in the movie I don’t think Cohen wants people leaving laughing at gay people in general. He wants people to laugh at this character who would never exist. The joke in one scene in the movie is when he is shackled up with his assistant in some bondage type stuff, funny I guess. But the joke is when they leave their hotel still shackled together without clothes and crash a gay bashing rally.

Of course I could be sitting in another camp of pretentious d-bags that watched Da Ali G show and think we get everything about Sascha Baron Cohen when what he really wants is us to just laugh at his dick. Whatever his intentions, Bruno made me laugh, for better or for worse. Not as funny as Borat, but what is?

B+

Jordan's Review: Bruno

Sacha Baron Cohen has balls. And he also has great comedic abilities, though sadly only the former are on display during Bruno his follow up to 2006’s smash hit, the infinitely superior Borat. Baron Cohen is a brilliant comedian—he has great timing, he’s great on his feet, and he has the aforementioned chutzpah to go after his subjects no matter how uncomfortable the situation. He also stays in character no matter how far over the line the situation gets, as evidenced in a moment when he is getting mercilessly flogged by a topless swinger.

So with all of those comedic skills at his disposal, how did Bruno fail so epically? Firstly, it is a complete rehash of Borat, from the foreigner coming to America, to the inevitable rock bottom and finally to a revelation that leads to happiness. This alone is not an issue however, as I would not have noticed these similarities if I had been laughing. Secondly, where Borat went after a variety of targets, Bruno mostly focuses on the easy marks—a gay converter, a group of rednecks, and of course, the military. While I love to see bigoted, closed minded conservatives humiliated as much as the next bleeding heart liberal, what I was looking for in this movie was not a feeling of moral superiority (which I already possess) but a few laughs. Every barb Cohen throws can be seen from miles away, because every one of the people he’s after has already been lampooned previously, and usually much better.

I also am woe to call the movie over-the-top. I’m the guy who thought the naked wrestling of Borat was the funniest thing since Team America’s minutes long puppet sex scene, yet Bruno’s antics seem engineered simply for shock value, and that doesn’t play out as humorous, mostly just unwarranted. Bruno as a character seems hopelessly trapped in a Teutonic view of homosexuality that has been satirized and dispensed with years ago, and so although he undertakes this stereotype to satirize people who actually believe homosexuals act in this way, it all feels very done.

I have great respect for Sacha Baron Cohen and I find him hilarious in most things. And when this movie made me laugh, it was only due to the exuberance with which he played his character and his commitment to staying in the moment, regardless of how ridiculous the gag. So I feel a bit like I did when I walked out of The Love Guru: I’m left wondering how a comedian I so greatly respect could waste years of his life making a movie that would only make me feel like I’d wasted hours of mine.

Grade: C-

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Public Enemies Discussion

Jordan and Sam discuss Public Enemies, the movie that robbed us of our high expectations, and left the treasure that could have been lying behind in the vault.

Sam's Review: Public Enemies

Michael Mann’s newest film Public Enemies was one of my most anticipated movies for this summer. Maybe that’s why it let me down so much. It had had all the makings of a great summer flick: bank robberies, guns, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. But it just did not deliver on so many levels.

The film chronicles the life (well the bank robbing part) of the notorious bank-robber, John Dillinger (Depp). We see how he breaks out of prison (twice!) and how he robs banks and so on and so forth. The other side of the coin to this movie is following Melvin Purvis, the man given the task of tracking down Dillinger, by any means necessary. It is important that he get Dillinger to maintain the reputation of this new thing called the FBI run by J. Edgar Hoover (played like a radio-show actor by Billy Crudup aka walking talking blue penis, he also played Dr Manhattan). We also get a peek into Dillinger’s private life in his relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

There’s a great story here and certainly a great cast but the movie was just not executed well. I’m going to lay the blame on Mann for this one. I thought the pacing of the film was too slow for a movie that seems like it should be moving a mile a minute, at least that is how it was being promoted. I also did not like Mann’s digital camera shake-fest. It worked quite well in his 2004 movie, Collateral. But the 1930’s should not be seen through the eyes of a shaky camcorder. The digital shots and shakiness took me out of the viewing experience and made think about what camera he was using and how he was shaking the thing like a baby that won’t be quite.

I found the movie to be at times very boring. I almost dozed off in the middle there, and there were a few checks of the watch. Mann shows us what we already know and what we’ve already seen in bank heist movies. Dillinger’s fame is only briefly mentioned and as to why he’s so famous seems to be explained in one throw-away line (something about giving back the people’s money at the bank). I want to know more about Dillinger the person. How’d he get so damn good? Where does he come from (this is obviously mentioned also in one quick line, but I mean how did he get to be this way).

It wasn’t all bad though. The acting was strong in the film, but that’s what you’d expect with this cast. Beside the big three mentioned earlier the cast sported people like Giovanni Ribisi, Domenick Lombardozzi (Wire!), Stephen Dorff, and Lilli Taylor (Six Feet Under!).

While I don’t think Mann’s style meshed well with this film, he is certainly a talented director. It came in bits of flashes throughout the film with good shots coming here and there. What impressed me the most was probably the last 10-15 minutes of the film which I thought were the strongest. Without revealing any spoilers, it had the emotion, and drama the rest of the film could have used. In the end though, this was just a mediocre bank-robbery movie where Dillinger’s name could have been interchanged with any fictional character’s name and it would have been basically unrecognizable. This was my first real disappointment of the summer.

C

Jordan’s Review: Public Enemies:

The idea of watching one of America’s most successful and infamous bank robbers of all time engage in a game of cat and mouse with the fledgling F.B.I. sounds to me like a movie idea with almost limitless potential for success. Throw in some acting heavyweights like Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, and Marion Cotillard, and Public Enemies was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. So it is with a heavy heart that I report most of that anticipation went to waste.

I’ll start with the good stuff: the film was shot on digital, which makes the cinematography scintillating in every action scene and stunning in its moments of subtlety. Of course, the price audience’s pay for handheld digital is the occasional shaky camera, but this effect is minimalized here and on the whole, the cinematography is stunning. Of course it doesn’t say much for a movie when its greatest point is the cinematography, but this truly is a beautiful film to watch.

Another high point to be found is in some very colorful supporting performances. Billy Crudup is excellent as J. Edgar Hoover. He is simultaneously fascinating, hilarious, and a little revolting, and I found myself wishing the movie was more about his rise than Dillinger’s eventual fall. Stephen Graham is also very good as George “Baby Face” Nelson, nailing the accent and the manic delusions of grandeur while also having fun with the role. If more of the actors in the movie had followed Graham’s lead, the results would have been a sight to be seen. Finally, Johnny Depp (who did seem to be following Graham’s lead and enjoying the role) plays Dillinger as an incredibly charming figure—darkly humorous with a mischievous grin always flickering at the side of his lips. He doesn’t always have a lot to work with, but Depp works the angles of the role like the champ he is, bringing humor, and moral relativity to a film that seemed destined to avoid both.

The largest flaw with the film seems to come from the script, which tackles what is arguable the greatest cat and mouse game of all time like it was just another episode of a standard police procedural. When Melvin Purvis (portrayed here by Christian Bale) was actually chasing John Dillinger across the Midwest, his pursuit was powered by new methods of investigation and he was a member of the brand new F.B.I. so it’s curious why the scriptwriters chose to make the pursuit seem like old hat. Bale feels like he’s sleep walking through a majority of the movie, but that is not particularly his fault—the screenplay took a conflicted, later suicidal character and turned him into a one dimensional law enforcer. Where Purvis should have been one of the film’s bright spots—conflicted, thrown into a spotlight he didn’t seek and deadest on catching a man while constantly unsure if he was pushing things to far—he was instead its low point, an a stone faced character who emoted less than the room he was standing in.

Cotillard was solid as Billie Frechette, Dillinger’s lover, yet there was never any chemistry between she and Depp. When she was not by his side (as in her interrogation scene) she was often stellar, yet when the two were together, they fell flat, a problem when the film spends much of its running time exploring their relationship.

I’ll end with another positive point: there were a few very solid action sequences peppered between the underwhelming majority of the movie, and the shootout in the Wisconsin woods was in fact excellent. The film often showed flashes of brilliance, but they were sadly far too fleeting, and the movie was left standing in the shadow of the film that could have been.

Grade: C+