Posts Tagged ‘Movie Recco’

This movie recco post is by Gyandeep Pattnayak.

I ask, “Have you seen The Proposition?”, I get replies like, “Yeah man, that Reynolds guy and Bullock have smoldering chemistry even though she is a bit more…”. I interrupt, “Umm, no, no. The Proposition is a Western starring Guy P…”. My turn to get interrupted, “Western? You mean cowboys and stuff? Man, I thought you were talking about that romantic comedy.” “It is The Proposal.” “Oh, is it? Okay. But, hey man, who watches westerns anymore, anyway?” In a way, the other person is not just speaking for himself/herself; he/she is speaking for a bunch. And it is a fact.

Western is a done-to-death genre which typically involves a plot built on the grounds of retribution. How more can you change it when everything has been done and said by Peckinpah, Eastwood and Leone? What innovation can you bring to these films if there isn’t room for any? The answer is simple – you take the poetic route.

John Hillcoat’s The Proposition is not only the best Western I have seen since Eastwood’s Unforgiven, it is also easily one of the best films ever made. The Hopkins family is brutally massacred by the Burns brothers gang. It is the 1880s and the place is the arid Australian wilderness. The climate is harsh and the dust is as much a character as any other present in the frame. A gunfight ensues between the local police and the Burns gang and Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) succeeds in overpowering Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his younger brother Mikey. The whole gang is wiped out leaving these brothers Burns in the clutches of Captain Stanley. Stanley knows Charlie and Mikey are not the ones who were involved in the Hopkins massacre. Stanley gives Charlie a choice, “Kill your elder brother Arthur and all will be forgiven. You have 9 days. If you do not, little Mikey here, will hang from the gallows on Christmas Day.” Charlie reluctantly gives in. He hasn’t talked with his elder brother in a long, long time. You see, he hates him as much as anybody else. Why? Because, Arthur not only has a penchant for stomach-churning violence but also has a thing for poetry – which makes him all the more scarier. What kind of a man will maim, rape and murder a lady who is pregnant? Well, welcome to the world of Arthur Burns. This is a ghastly crime, not to be tolerated at any cost. That is the reason why Captain Stanley resorts to this method – one that of partial blackmail.

I think this is one of the key points in the film. Stanley wants to make the place more ‘civilized’. He has just been transferred here and with him is his beautiful wife Martha (Emily Mortimer). It is more than evident that he wants no harm done to her. And for her sake, this place must be swept clean of people like Arthur Burns. And in order to get this done, Stanley has to play it a bit discordant, a bit harsh, a bit like the outlaws. It is easier having an outlaw kill another, right? Captain Stanley, however, has no idea. There are no ideal deals in life; perhaps, he should be aware of that.

Things do not go as planned and word gets around in town – word about the deal which Stanley has made with Charlie. Eden Fletcher, (David Wenham) Captain Stanley’s superior, orders Mikey be given a hundred lashes on his bare back for the heinous crime which he has committed against the Hopkins family. Stanley stands aghast as he watches the entire townsfolk, his wife included, support this punishment. “He committed a horrible crime. This cannot be excused.”, she tell him. But how does he, a lone man, against a town, (no less) make them understand? It is very important to note that Ray Winstone is an actor who is extremely restrained and disciplined. The casting helps here. The portrayal of Captain Stanley giving in to the demands of the public is poignant and is masterfully played by Winstone. It is at this point, that Stanley knows intuitively that the dark clouds have dawned upon them. He knows Arthur will come for them. And he prepares himself for a Christmas dinner with his wife, gun in hand, manners in place and fear in heart. And then terror arrives.

The director John Hillcoat, working from a screenplay by Nick Cave, evokes as much a sense of place and time as much as he exploits violence in these lands. Which is why an actor like Danny Huston is needed to portray Arthur Burns, who is more of a savage than an outlaw. Arthur is a poet. He believes in good things. He believes, letting a man complete his part of a poem, before the man dies, is essential. He believes in violence and his violence is immediate and invisible. Rarely have I seen a film in which the antagonist is as fearsome and as loathsome as Arthur Burns without the film actually showing us the crimes he is committing. That Huston manages to play his part so excellently is commendable in the sense that he brings a sense of calm while he lets us know that something bad is about to happen. Watch that scene in which he comes to know that Mikey is no more alive. And the violence that follows is inevitable. It all comes down to this. You kill mine, I kill yours too.

Guy Pearce who plays Charlie is everything that Stanley and Arthur are not. On finding out that his younger brother died for no fault of his, Charlie takes a decision which, in a sense, is predictable. But it is also necessary. There must be an end to all of this. John Hurt has a cameo and I will not speak about it. Let me just go ahead and say this – at this age, Hurt plays a role which requires him to do some physical action and Hurt nails it. His is a bravura performance and if I were to single out a performance in this movie which was both humorous and scary, it would be this one.

There are violent films and then there are some. The Proposition is savagely brilliant and poetic, both at the same time. Beautifully shot, performed, scored and directed, this is what any filmmaker should be having wet dreams about. It had me pondering, “Is violence a part of these lands or does it come from within?” The more I thought about it, the surer I was of the former. Some places just get the better part of you and don’t let go easily.

PS – For more posts by Gyandeep, click here – The ‘I’ in Cinema.

We have decided to open our “Movie Recco” posts for our readers and movie buffs. There is a great joy in discovering a gem – one that is obscure, not mainstream, and none of your friends have heard about. You watch it and then want to shout out from the roof-top and tell everyone to catch it soon. Though The Chaser doesn’t strictly fit into that category but it surely deserves a recco. A kickass debut by Na Hong-jin. This  recco is by Gyandeep Pattnayak. If you want to contribute “Movie Recco” posts, do write to us at moifightclub@gmail.com

There must have been times when you wanted nothing more than to yank the head of the villain of a movie and bang it hard on a concrete surface, watch the blood spurt out, feel it on your hands and love it even more.

Hong-Jin Na’s Chugyeogja (The Chaser) is exactly that type of a film. It gets to you in a way most thrillers don’t. You often sit through a movie and see it, just for the heck of it. Few films (The Chaser included) have the power to extract an extreme reaction out of you. Speaking from my perspective, by the time this movie ended, my left jaw was in a terrible pain after having clenched my teeth hard for a while.

Without saying an awful lot about the story, let me just say that it involves an ex-cop-turned-pimp Joong-Ho trying to track down one of his call-girls Mi-Jin. It seems as if she has been kidnapped because a few others have mysteriously disappeared and haven’t shown up as well. Soon enough, a serial killer is on the run, with Joong-Ho in his pursuit. In relentless pursuit because there is some hope that the girl might still be alive.

It is spectacular in the sense that this movie is shot on real locations — the rain soaked alleys, the crowded marketplace, those dark and dingy rooms — you can almost smell them. The director uses violence liberally but only in a manner that is relevant to the whole story. It sounds clichéd — the whole violence-needed-for-the-story stuff. But, this is a thriller. A serial killer movie. A brutally effective one. One that was made with every intention of entertaining the audience. One that, as it turns out eventually, doesn’t end conventionally. Hell, it never once takes the trodden path. You see, chase sequences are now a must-have in most thrillers. This movie has one too. But one that rivals the very best chase sequences in films such as the Bourne Series. This very scene leaves you white-knuckled and gasping for breath.

Also interesting is the fact how director Hong-Jin separates the storyline into three equal perspectives – one of the ex-cop, one of the call girl and one of the killer. And we, as the audience are equally involved in each of their stories, never once feeling the shift from one segment to another.

Arguably, this movie might not be better than Oldboy but when it wants to be, The Chaser is pretty explosive stuff. Here’s a thriller that re-instates the faith that the darkness of a thriller is always to overwhelm you. Not to leave you satisfied but to make you feel, to make you loathe, to make your face turn away only to check back again to see if everything is alright.

We have been thinking of starting a Movie Recco section for a long time. Finally, here it is. Starting it with Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon.

Because if you are wondering what new can be there in another war film, then Lebanon is a must watch. Because if you felt that you are in the middle of a war zone while watching The Hurt Locker, then Lebanon will make you go breathless in those 90 minutes. Because as the movie got over, I  felt am choking to death and desperately need some fresh air.

Accoring to IMDB, here is the synopsis of the film…

June, 1982 – The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town – a simple mission that turns into a nightmare. The four members of a tank crew find themselves in a violent situation that they cannot contain. Motivated by fear and the basic instinct of survival, they desperately try not to lose themselves in the chaos of war.

While watching the film, was also wondering why nobody came up with this idea before. The entire film inside a tank. The answer is simple. Because those who make films, don’t go inside a tank. And those who are inside the tank, rarely make films. This is Samuel Maoz’s own story. And so, as the saying goes, if we don’t tell our stories, who will.

Because a filmmaker’s story always interests me more than the film, I never miss out the extra features. The dvd doesn’t have any making of videos but there is some text material in it, in very small font. Had to go close to the tv set to read it. To quote Samuel – I wrote what i felt…a story that was not to be found in the body of the plot but derived from deep within it.

At 20, he was in a war. Killed someone for the first time. At 45, he wrote and directed a film based on his experiences, without bothering about the story, the characters or the plot points.

And watch Lebanon, because I don’t remember when was the last time I saw a film in which a man talks about having a hard-on  and his father’s death in the same breath. Its devastatingly brutal. And brutally honest. Watch it because it will grab your throat. And thats a rare experience these days.

The film won the Golden Lion in 2009 Venice Film Festival. Click on the play button to watch its trailer.

(PS – Movie Recco will not discuss and dissect the film in details, but will recco those films which we think are must watch. Also, we are not going to recco all those films which have been discussed and dissected million times before (like Godfather & million others). If you haven’t seen all those, you are on the wrong page. Its for new films and for underrated or undiscovered gems)