Tuesday, February 23, 2010

He Said, She Said Reel Dialogue: A Tale of Two Atrocities

HE SAID: J McKiernan: Hey, K, let's talk Edge of Darkness.

SHE SAID: K McKiernan: If you reallllly want to. Shoot.

JM: I've been waiting for this moment for weeks now, when I could go on record with the following statement: Edge of Darkness is the devil. It is the foremost example of cinematic evil.

KM: I feel really dirty when I leave a film like that, too. I did not think it as evil as you did, but I found it pretty repugnant. And, what is worse is that it does well. The idea of people loving to watch Mel Gibson be bad-ass and cutthroat nasty is really sad to me.

JM: I expected the film to beat Avatar in its opening weekend, but it didn't. So, actually, it hasn't done as well as I expected it to, this being Mad Mel's first on-screen lead in 7 ½ years. But the fact that this film made any money -- the fact that this film got made in the first place -- that's my problem.

KM: Right. Exactly. I am not saying it was the best box office smash, but the fact that it makes money period is nauseating.

JM: And look, obviously the film is not Horror Porn, but it inflicts a similar evil. It is “Revenge Porn.” We are intended to shell out $10 a piece to masturbate our bloodlust and exact emotional revenge on everyone who's wronged us in the past. I'd rather pay $90 an hour for a therapy session than watch Mel Gibson exact violent revenge.

KM: There is this very real and dangerous thread of Revenge Porn (as you so aptly term it) that is polluting cinema. Law Abiding Citizen, a fall 2009 thriller featuring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, which is being released this week on Blu-Ray and DVD, is an even worse example than Edge. I was completely horrified and baffled by the torture and execution of bloody acts in the name of a killed loved one. It should immediately be placed on an amended list of the Worst of 2009.

Read more after the jump......

JM: We absolutely need to alter the Worst lists for Law Abiding Citizen, which is last year's version of Edge of Darkness, only worse. And it actually does stretch into Horror Porn territory as well as Revenge Porn. It is quite a nasty combo.

KM: I guess it is harder for me to take Mel seriously. I mean... he turned Passion of the Christ into a Lethal Weapon bloodbath. I knew Edge would be over-the-top. And, although I did not like the film, at least it did not seem as utterly morally bankrupt as Law Abiding Citizen. I went in thinking the latter might be an interesting drama or thriller but it really was just nasty torture porn. I guess what I am saying is, I expected better from Gerald Butler and Jamie Foxx. What do we really want or expect from Gibson, anymore?

JM: Yeah, weird how these films are starting to permeate beyond the fringe. Citizen stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler...Edge of Darkness features Mel Gibson. Foxx is an Oscar winner. Gibson is an Oscar winning filmmaker and gargantuan superstar. Butler is a rising star. Most of the nasty stuff stars unsuspecting young hunks and starlets who take anything in order to break into the business. But these films turn established stars into violent perpetraters.

KM: So true. What are they doing in these films? Are they excising their own demons? I know we were talking Edge, but really, that movie did what I was expecting. I expect Mel Gibson to get "injured" and then to come back with a fury and "get even." But, really, what were Foxx and Butler thinking? Is it the movie they read when the accepted their parts?

JM: Before we get too carried away, the plot(s). In Edge, Gibson is Thomas Craven, a Boston homicide detective whose daughter is killed in one of the most gleefully violent scenes in recent years. He then goes on an "explosive" investigation where he discovers "extraordinary" corruption, "hidden" secrets, and "government corruption." So the plot is utterly ridiculous and in way over its head. The only thing of note about the film, really, is its ugly violence that is portrayed as valiant in the face of fatherly love.

KM: In Citizen, Butler plays a genius who watches the rape and murder of his wife and daughter...though the movie forgets the wife very early on and becomes a story about a guy avenging his daughter. Only this guy is a twisted genius who can torture and kill in labyrinthine fashion without anyone knowing how or why. He essentially becomes Jigsaw, hacking up, blowing up, and destroying anyone even remotely connected – and some not connected at all -- to the injustice that befell his family.

JM: The films are correlated in interesting ways. Law Abiding Citizen actually is better directed than Edge of Darkness. F. Gary Gray, who directed great crime thrillers like Set It Off and The Italian Job, makes his film look great, which in my mind only makes the evil more insidious. Edge was directed by Martin Campbell, whose masterful work in Casino Royale is made curious by the fact that this new film looks pretty cheesy...by-the-numbers visually. Edge's biggest surprise, though, is its co-writer, William Monahan, Oscar winner for his brilliant script for The Departed. You can see the strands of Monahan's worldview in bits and pieces of Edge, but the film obviously favors the version of the script written by Andrew Bovell -- a re-write likely demanded by Crazy Mel himself -- that takes away any interesting psychological context and replaces it with simpering cynicism.

KM: Oh, and don't forget the "Fatherly" endorsement it throws at us near the film's end! Not only can you go on a tirade and kill everyone in your path, but it leads you back to your daughter, in a roundabout way (not gonna give it all away). Gag me. I would draw some parallels to The Book of Eli, but I know that would be true fighting words, so let me just say, I am ready to go and see something other than gorey violence to avenge a person or book.

Both movies also have in common that the guys seem heroic in some way. Obviously, the portrayal of Gibson is even more so, but I got the gut wrenching feeling that we were supposed to want Butler to defend his child's honor. And although I found Edge ridiculous, it’s easier to "root for" (shame on me) a gunshot and poison than crude dismemberments.

JM: If we must evaluate one form of audience rape over another, then I suppose I'd agree with you.

KM: You have to agree that Michael Haneke would be laughing... or maybe crying is more to the point.

JM: Yes, Haneke (whose The White Ribbon is on track to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar) needs to make ten more movies just to counter-attack this onslaught of heinous American hubris in films like Edge and Citizen.

KM: Are we ready to grade these and move on to happier film-going times?

JM: Why not...let's start with this week's DVD and Blu-Ray abomination. I'm slapping Law Abiding Citizen with an F.

KM: Oh, baby, a man after my own heart. That shit so deserves an F. Well done and well played.

JM: And Edge of Darkness?

KM: I guess because I expected it to just be a tension builder and then reliever, I will not flunk it outright. I would, however, give it the stinky D+ it deserves.

JM: Edge of Darkness, in my view, is an early contender for Worst Film of 2010, ugly and repugnant, and deserves a D-. And I would challenge anyone who would take issue with our grades to drop everything, go rent Michael Haneke's Funny Games, and then report back to let us know what they think about these movies...and themselves.

KM: Amen to that.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, these both sound terrible. It seems that Butler after 300 is just picking up any action film going or more the producers and film companies are picking him.

Since the first Saw completely changed the horror genre and mixed it with a bit of action, everyone has been trying to ape it and make it even more about action and less about the psychology of it all.

At least the first Saw had some moral compass to it that made you look at your own actions with consequences. Fair enough Jigsaw goes to extreme lengths to make the characters realise their wrongs when maybe a stern conversation would have been sufficient.

Anyway I will definitely make sure not to see these unless it's for laughs in a few years when they are in the bargain bin then.

K McKiernan said...

Not really sure they are even worth the bargain bins, but you are right, that is the only way to do it if you are going to! :)

You made me laugh with your "stern conversation." HA!