Chinatown (1974)

fuck yeah chinatown

By Franz

Spoilers ahead

“What did you do in Chinatown?”, Robert Towne asked one of his police friends. “As little as possible”, he answered as a joke. This stayed in Towne’s mind for a while and then he decided to write a story inspired by that line and his love for the 1940′ and ’50s classic film-noirs. The film was released in 1974 and was a huge success, not only at the box office, but it was nominated for eleven Oscars, only winning one though (Towne for his screenplay), since The Godfather Part 2 came out the same year, so nothing besides that was ever going to win the prices. However, Chinatown was still a success, making Towne a legend in the industry, Jack Nicholson finally became a big star, Polanski got an Oscar nod finally and it practically created a genre (or at least popularized it) neo-noir. It has been copied and parodied almost as much as Godfather Part 2 and Towne’s screenplay is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all time.

Chinatown is my favorite film, actually it’s tied with Terrence Malick’s debut film Badlands which came out a year before Chinatown did. However if you made me choose, pointing a gun at me, my friends, my loved ones and even my little black bunny (by God that’s a huge gun), I would choose Chinatown as my favorite of all time. It’s the film I can see about a hundred times and still find something new in it and appreciate something I didn’t before. It doesn’t “change” everytime I see it, rather it keeps getting better and better, but it doesn’t change. After probably hundreds of times of watching this, this is still the same movie I saw when I first saw this, but somehow I love every single time a little bit more. I remember thinking how “cool” this was when I first saw this and I still think that, it’s just so, lack of a better word, cool. While I adore Badlands and I could say the same things about that film, Chinatown is more “perfect”. There’s a difference between a flawless and a perfect movie, flawless just means there isn’t a single flaw in the movie but a perfect one means there isn’t any flaws and everything about it is amazing. I would call Badlands almost-perfect, but Chinatown is perfect. And it made me start writing, basically my first stories were just carbon-copies of Chinatown, as sad as that sounds.

Chinatown is about J.J “Jake” Gittes, a private investigator hired to find out if Hollis Mulwray has an affair. After finding out he’s the head of the water and power comity and that he has an affair, Mr. Mulwray is found dead by very questionable circumstances. The film then follows Gittes and the widow Evelyn Mulwray (played by Faye Dunaway) as Gittes’ tries to make sense out of everything.

The story is beautifully complex, with a lot of characters and a very dense story. And I’ll admit, the first time I saw this, I was kinda confused, but it was just so good I didn’t mind. The second time I saw this, I wasn’t confused at all, so maybe the first time I missed like a minute or something and it just happened to be a important part, so I don’t know. But the story is amazing, the little twists and turns it throws to you are surprising and intelligent as fuck. We slowly find out more and more about the mystery but the brilliant part about the film is it’s actually not about who killed Hollis, the real mystery is Evelyn. We’re constantly given more and more information about Evelyn and her past, but by the end we realize we don’t know shit. Evelyn is a complex character, she’s a upper-class lady, looks down on people a lot, she’s clearly hiding something, but Gittes isn’t sure what or is she even. There’s a sense of enigma in her, something that Jake just can’t understand, she’s vulnerable and very protective of herself, almost never telling anything personal. She’s difficult to make her talk, so Jake has to solve the pieces of the puzzle and make her talk. Faye Dunaway is fucking great as Evelyn, not only does she look like a lady in the ’30s, but the subtle things she does make the performance masterful. I love the diner scene, right after the infamous nose-cutting scene, and when Evelyn arrives, the waiter comes to ask what can he bring to her and she says “Tom Collins with lime, not lemon”, but she doesn’t say it to the waiter, she says it to Jake for some reason. I never understood why, is it because she looks down on the “not-upper-class-people”? Or does she want Jake to take care of her or something, I don’t know, but that moment always sticks to me. It’s the little subtleties she makes that make the character as great as it is.

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The Usual Suspects (1995)

usual

By Franz

This is going to have spoilers, so if for some reason you haven’t seen this movie or you some magical way don’t know the twist of the movie, skip to the overall sections near the end of the review (page 2)

This is one of those “modern classics” and while I really do enjoy this movie, I wouldn’t call this a “classic”. I’ve seen this a bunch of times and I just recently decided to re-watch it, mainly because I haven’t seen this in a couple of years. The first times I saw this, I really loved it, so did it hold up now? Well, let’s find out.

Characters/Performances

Kevin Spacey’s plays the lead Verbal Kint and he’s fucking great. This was during his “golden period” where anything he did was basically amazing. After American Beauty, he wanted to be a terrible actor and went on to do shitty performance after shitty performance (thankfully he’s been awesome in House of Cards). But anyway, Spacey’s very good in this. His performance is believable as a pathetic, naive, kind-of-a-loser. He’s charismatic and emotional and when the twist comes, it comes as a genuine surprise because of his performance was so believable. He’s good, but not American Beauty good.

There’s a lot of characters to talk about and all of them do a pretty damn good job. Benicio Del Toro is hilarious as the mumbling weirdo, Chazz Palminteri is wonderful as the tough cop, Kevin Pollock is funny and charming, Stephen Baldwin is okay as a semi-tough guy and Gabriel Byrne is fine. Honestly my favorite performance was Del Toro because he’s just so fucking weird and his voice is even weirder. The way he acts is just so perfect, it’s like he’s high during the whole movie. Baldwin is probably the most annoying of the bunch, but that may be because I think he’s a pretty awful actor. Byrne, while pretty good, is just kinda bland. They could have done a lot more with his character, but instead we get only a little bits and pieces of him. But he’s definitely not bad.

There really isn’t a lot to talk about, they’r all pretty good. Whatever.

Directing/cinematography/script/etc

Directed by Bryan Singer, the film is very intense. Or the last 10 minutes are at least. Honestly I was kinda disappointed by the film, sure it was entertaining, but after seeing the film couple of times, knowing the twist, the film is kinda meh. It’s fast paced and the events are very interesting and well-handled, but somehow I just wasn’t invested in it. But the last 10 or so minutes are fucking incredible. Even with knowing the twist, the directing, the writing an especially the acting in that scene is just wonderful. Singer handles the moment so well with the use of slow-mo and the slow build up to it all. It’s a classic scene for a reason, making the reveal of one of cinemas greatest twist so powerful and exciting. The moment when Spacey’s limb leg slowly turns to normal as he walks away is something I consider one of the most perfect ways to show the twist to the audience. Though I did feel they kinda dumb-ed it down when they just hammered the twist in with the fax machine things and couple of other things, it would have worked a lot better if they would have shown Palminteri looking at the wall and then the limb leg to normal thing. It would have been more subtle and effective. But whatever.

But like I said, the rest of the movie is just fine. It’s well written an acted, but the twist is really where the movie shines. If you’re a fan of mystery and/or crime films, you’ll probably see the twist coming, but it’s still a fantastic twist, even if everybody in the whole world knows it. I do feel kinda cheated considering 95% of the movie was just complete bullshit, but the writing was so entertaining that I didn’t mind.

The cinematography and the soundtrack are both fine, though I don’t feel the should get any special mention. Both were professional and effective, but nothing note-worthy. It looked and sounded fine, just like a film should.

Revolver (2005)

revolver

By Franz

Guy Ritchie is the not-so-good British version of Tarantino, but I will admit he has made two films I really liked: Snatch and, of course, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Everybody likes those films, but they’r right, those films are very funny, entertaining and have a fun old-school British crime thriller style mixed with some indie comedy. After Snatch, he made an awful film with his then wife Madonna, called Swept Away. It was shit, but I haven’t seen it fully, because it is shit. But I did see this fucking turd of a film, so I can at least review this. This is the incoherent mess known as Revolver.

I usually do my reviews in three sections (Acting, directing/script/etc and overall), but I’m going to do a different style here, because there is so much wrong about this. I’m just going to talk about the pro’s and cons of the film. But if this is the first film review you’ve read from me, trust me, I usually am not this hack-eyed.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers. If you want to know my opinion about this film without being spoiled, skip to the overall section at the end of this review, at page 3.

Cons:

The main problem of this film is simply, the script and directing. This is infamous on how ridiculously incoherent it is, how the plot not only makes any sense, but you have no idea what’s going on after the first twenty minutes. My sister saw this and told me to watch it, just so I could tell her what happened. And she’s a very smart woman, so yeah, I was expecting something complex, but it turned out to be just messy. It seems like they had a 300 page script and the film was going to be an epic crime film, at least two and a half hours in length, but it’s like they cut over a half of it out. After thirty minutes, the story starts gathering about a million different sub-plots that doesn’t feature any of the main characters, mainly just Ray Liotta’s hammy gangster and some Japanese dude. You really don’t give a shit about any of that, because they’r not the main characters. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem, a film should focus on more than just one or two characters, but when it focuses on them too much, to the point of seemingly forgetting Statham and the dude from OutKast, something’s not right. Especially when the performances are this poor, why would I care about Liotta when his acting is more scene-chewing than Nicolas Cages and Al Pacino’s cocaine addicted love child.