Tag Archives: The Untouchables

A Week In Film #218: Welcome to 2013 (try again)

QPR: The Four Year Plan title screen

QPR: The Four Year Plan
Fascinating old-style documentary – fly-on-the-wall, no voiceover – following the fortunes of Queen’s Park Rangers football club after a motley band of Formula 1 billionaires and others buy it. In essence, a bunch of rich pricks act prickishly, with the coaches, footballers and the fans the subject of their fickle decisions.

Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918 title screen

Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918
It’s straight on to business in this tale of the Finnish Civil War. A platoon of Civil Guard militia penetrates into the besieged, Red-held city of Tampere, to assault and then hold their enemy’s headquarters. A shitload of people die.

Whilst it’s from the perspective of the ‘Whites’ (who were to win this bitter battle with the social democrats and socialists of the ‘Red’ side), it’s not sugar-coated – defeated foes are summarily executed, civilians who happen into their path are shot without compunction. An oft-told story, but one framed around a little-known conflict.

Saving Private Ryan title screen

Saving Private Ryan
Not the best war movie ever made, but neither is it the worst. Some excellently staged scenes. Spielberg knows how best to represent the familiar, and how to emotionally manipulate an audience.

The Untouchables title screen

The Untouchables
Brian De Palma directing, David Mamet scripting, Robert De Niro barnstorming, Kevin Costner murmuring, Ennio Morricone scoring. The Potemkin Steps relocated to Union Station, the cavalry charge on the Canadian border, stalker-cam through Sean Connery’s apartment, Frank Nitti’s sneer. “Hey mister, you forgot your bag!” “I do not approve of your methods!” “Teamwork!” Good stuff. A movie, not a historical document.

Act Of Valor title screen

Act Of Valor
Ohh-emm-gee. Okay, so I went into it knowing it was a piece of sabre-rattling propaganda (the whole ‘REAL NAVY SEALS APPEARING AS NAVY SEALS’ gimmick is something of a giveaway), but I was expecting something a little more sophisticated than cackling drugs kingpins teaming up with mad-eyed, scarfaced Chechen jihadists to take on Uncle Sam. An awful lot of civilians seem to get killed in the crossfire with nary a comment as well.

Aside from the one-dimensional Ladybird Book Of Liberty-meets-My Struggle Part 2: The War Against Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys aspects to the plot, you’d think the action side of it would be outstanding at least: but it’s not. Everything has been done before, better. It’s a regurgitated cocktail of The Expendables (but without any irony or cynicism), the Behind Enemy Lines sequels, the Sniper franchise, pretty much Chuck Norris’s entire oeuvre.

There was one memorable snatch of a scene early on that got me thinking that it might be, at least, a halfway-enjoyable spectacle: when the CIA officer is kidnapped and there’s a reverse-POV shot of her being rolled in carpet with a smooth segue into her being carried down some steps – there was an almost Hitchcockian visuality to it. But that was truly the exception – everything else is straight from Modern Military Heroics Film Shots 101 (night vision; sniper scopes; overhead imaging via a drone) or out of The A-Z Of War Film Memes (‘Hey guys, I’m going to be a dad!’; leaping onto a grenade to save his comrades-in-arms; the families getting together before the mission).

Perhaps most jarring of all is the narrated letter to the dead SEAL’s an-yet unborn son of which uses ‘inspiring words’ attributed to Tecumseh, Shawnee leader of a Native American Confederacy which was a sort of early nineteenth century al-Qaida, waging war against the United States. As well as lots of guff used to lionise the fighting man, there’s also the line “although a single twig may break, a bundle of twigs is strong”. Whilst it is a metaphor by no means restricted to the Italian Fascist movement, did the filmmakers really not think that would be a primary allusion for audiences?

A Week In Film #120: Cruise control

James And The Giant Peach
Very enjoyable stop motion/live action adaptation of Roald Dahl’s tale of a boy who escapes his tyrannous aunts aboard a large fruit with the company of talking bugs (and a worm). Beautifully put together, loved it when I saw it in the cinema, love it now.

The Untouchables
Brian De Palma does Prohibition – some bravura scenes (overhead opener, cavalry charge on the Canadian border, the assassination attempt on Sean Connery, the Odessa Steps in Union Street Station, De Niro’s baseball bat-assisted pep talk, Nitti cornered on the roof), solid David Mamet scripting, brash performances. Overall thoroughly watchable, if very silly and unhistorical. I mean, dammit, it has Connery doing an Oirish accent, Andy Godfather III Garcia hamming it up (again) as Italian-American, and Kevin Costner as the lead.

North By Northwest
Hitchcock’s perfect thriller – SEX SEX SEX!

A Week In Film #018: Spring sunshine

Year Of The Dragon title screen

Year Of The Dragon
More Michael Cimino business – post-Heaven’s Gate but pre-The Sicilian. Mickey Rourke is Stanley White, a New York cop trying to clear up Chinatown.

There are some interesting techniques, and some good performances, but it is a mess. Of particular note are Cimino’s repeated use of his gunshot victims looking directly into the camera at the moment of impact (as if down the barrel), and the peculiarly abandoned sub-lot of the untainted rookie being recruited by White into his small gangbusting team (as subsequently used to greater effect in The Untouchables).

The plot point about White being a Vietnam vet (who sometimes seemed to have forgotten that he was now in NYC) and overall tone reminded me of the TV movie Dragonfire (aka Tagget).

In terms of casting, Rourke works well as a weary cop. On the other hand Ariane is an odd choice to play the Chinese-American TV reporter character Tracey Tzu; she appears to have had no previous screen acting experience and looks nervous much of the time. The punky junior triad kids (responsible for much of the carnage) could easily have had more meat. Oh, and the script was co-written by Oliver Stone. It certainly has plenty of testosterone and beefy contemplation in it.

Attack title screen

Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of a stage play set during the Battle of the Bulge around the fate of an infantry company bedevilled by a command structure eaten through with political patronage.

Jack Palance is an angry combat-seasoned junior officer, Eddie Albert is his cowardly captain, whilst Lee Marvin is the cynical colonel, with visions of holding public office once he gets back home. Bitter, angry, powerful.

(Trivia: I once spoke to Bob Mills on GLR about the film during a phone-in about Eddie Albert, and described his character as “a lily-livered, medal-wanting, son-of-a-gun” – a last second moment of self-censorship at the end there – which Bob then turned into a jingle-cum-slogan for the show.)

Sky High title screen

Sky High
The LLF isn’t really keen on most of the sorts of films I watched, so I got this one to watch together. It’s a Disney family film, about a high school for the progeny of superheroes. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston are the biggest capes in town, and proud to see their son Michael Angarano off to start at their alma mater; this being a Disney family film, he starts off with no super powers or any idea of what he wants in life, so must go on a journey of self-discovery and realise the true hero inside, etc etc etc.

Lynda Wonder Woman Carter is the school principal, Bruce Campbell is the sports coach, Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall is the science teacher. It’s quite good fun, but nothing spectacular. I’ve not seen any of the Harry Potter films, but I’d guess it was pitched as a kind of all-American version, with the high school romantic subplots of something like Smallville or Pretty In Pink thrown in for good measure.