Monday, October 27, 2008

PRIDE & GLORY

“PRIDE & GLORY” (Edward Norton, Jon Voight, Colin Farrell & Noah Emmerich)
Odd title for a film about a whole lotta corrupt cops!
It’s all in the family fuzz-style as Edward Norton & the under-rated Noah Emmerich play brothers, Ray & Francis Tierney. Jon Voight plays their father, also a cop & Colin Farrell is Jimmy, brother-in-law to Ray & Francis, Son-in-law to Mr. Tierney. Francis heads a precinct – Jimmy leads one of his units. Ray, who was shot in the face a couple of years earlier holds down a safe desk job – until 4 of Jimmy’s men are found dead in an abandoned apartment. Dad ‘insists’ that Ray take on the case as the lead investigator to ‘get back in the swing of things’. Of course, what Ray discovers is that Jimmy is a crooked cop & Francis either has his head up his rump, or is in on Jimmy’s illegal doings.
When Francis is caught in a flat out lie to his brother on the identity of the cop that ‘blew the whistle’, Ray can only assume that Francis is not to be trusted either. Meanwhile Dad wants Ray to ‘do the right thing’ & ‘protect his own’ – which in this story is a contradiction in terms. Okay, so the dialogue is somewhat hackneyed at times, but it almost makes up for it with some fine acting by Norton & Emmerich, some decent acting by Colin Farrell, who hopefully has discovered he can’t handle a lead role & his future is in secondary characters (So he doesn’t have so much to memorize & is better adept at staying in character)& some so-so walk-thrus by Voight, only showing interest in his character when he has a few too many...
There a few extraneous scenes; such as an elongated Christmas dinner sequence - I’m sorry, I didn’t pay $8 to watch these people eat dinner for five minutes! But on the plus side – Not A Single Car Chase Scene! Now THAT was refreshing! There is a side-plot concerning Francis’s wife who is dying of cancer. It’s a pretty heavy & dramatic circumstance to just be used as a ‘sub’plot – I wanted to know more about the woman & how she became sick & what was her prognosis? Hey, there’s a better title right there, ‘Prognosis: Negative” (Oh wait, that might have already been used)
Just before writing this, I watched the ‘new’ Ebert & Roeper review this film & I gotta tell you, those guys are lame! Ben Lyons (Is that his name?) has the personality of a dead sea anemone & the goatee’d dork, though not as offensive as Lyons, reads his lines like George W. reading ‘The Little Engine That Could’. But it was the anemone who, after chastising the film for its lack of originality, claimed he didn’t like it BECAUSE there WEREN’T any car chase scenes! Yeah, that’s what would have made it less like every other bad cop vs. good cop story, a few car chase scenes! Either bring back Roeper or hire Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog to review films, but get these cookie-cutter milquetoast morons off of my TV – I need to watch that show to find out what some of the lesser publicized films are about & I can’t get a good read on them from this pair of twits... Anyway, off the soapbox & back to ‘Pride & Glory’ – Its worth seeing if you're an Edward Norton fan, the scene where he tells the ‘committee’ ”You’re not going to like what I have to say” is captivating & gives you hope that this film might offer up an exciting original finale... it sort of delivers on orginality, but it isn’t without its flaws & contradictions.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

“JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH” (Brendan Frasier, Josh Hutcherson & Anita Briem)
When I first saw a preview for this, I thought it was Brendan Frasier taking his niece & nephew to the center of the earth & it would be nothing but a kiddie flick with hokey 3D effects, but I was wrong; it’s actually, Brendan, his nephew & a very hot looking mountain guide named Hannah (Hoping to see the gorgeous Anita Briem in a sexier role in the near future) that travel to the center of the earth & find nothing but hokey #D effects... So even though I wasn’t turned off by the premise anymore, the end result is still a definite kiddie flick with hokey 3D effects (Though I saw it in ‘regular’ D)
This ‘re-make’ has nothing to do with the original film starring James Mason & Pat Boone, though the Jules Verne novel acts as the inspiration & guide book Frasier’s Professor Trevor Anderson uses to find his long lost brother (& father of nephew Sean-
played by special effects veteran child actor Josh Hutcherson)
The dialogue is dumb, the FX are hokey & childish, but damn, is that Anita Briem cute!
As much as I tried to forgive the film for the misguided tram car roller coaster ride and the two minute long falling sequence in which all three plummeters land unharmed, I couldn’t forgive the ‘running from the 25 foot tall Tyrannosaurus Rex for five minutes’ scene & the huge dinosaur doesn’t gain any ground on the Professor & the young boy...
Now, I know T. Rex’s existed, but I can’t really tell you if they were exceptionally slow runners, but I’m just guessing that anything that is four times the size of a pair of two-legged humans would more than likely be able to catch up to them in a foot race.
I disliked this movie from start to finish but yet I am not sorry I spent $3 at the now ‘bargain price’ East Valley Theatre to see it because now I know to be on the look out for that very fetching lass, Anita Briem (Appearing next in ‘The Storytellers')
I'd say if I were a child & had never seen a 3D movie before, I'd like to see this while wearing the stupid glasses & I'd probably think it was neat-o... but unfortunately I'm a grown up who needs his kiddie flicks to be a little more sophisicated than this silly re-make of a very well made implausible movie from MY
youth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

“WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” (Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Michael Wincott, Catherine Keener, John Turturro, Robin Wright Penn, Stanley Tucci & Sean Penn)
Parts of this movie work very well, it has a few laugh out loud moments, but mainly it consists of ‘winks & grins’ as Hollywood once again sets out to make fun of what ‘Hollywood’ does for a living (with an expose on how a film gets paid for & distributed)
Robert DeNiro plays Ben, A film producer badly in need of a ‘hit’ – His latest project is an off-beat thriller called “Fiercely” starring Sean Penn. “What Just Happened?” opens with a test audience at a special screening of “Fiercely”. Early reaction isn’t exactly enthusiastic so when Penn’s character is shot by the bad guys, the crowd yawns. But when the following scene depicts a graphic blood splattering shot of Penn’s canine companion taking a bullet thru the skull, the audience becomes downright hostile. On their comment sheets one person just wrote ‘F You’; another drew a huge hand giving the filmmakers ‘the finger’; other remarks were along the lines of ‘I hope you all rot in hell for killing that poor dog!’, while one ‘fan’ wrote, “You killed the dog! . . . Dude, that was awesome!” (Someone who thinks Sean Penn is actually Jeff Spicoli)
Catherine Keener plays a studio exec that is in charge of green-lighting this particular project; she tells Ben – change the ending, or we pull out.
Michael Wincott plays the British director/writer of ‘Fiercely’ & refuses to change his ‘masterpiece’. A wonderful performance which unfortunately suffers a bit from Wincott’s overly thick accent & extremely gruff ‘cigarette’ throat that makes some of his lines incoherent.
John Turturro is quite funny as Bruce Willis’ agent who has a stomach disorder.
Stanely Tucci isn’t very funny as Scott, a ‘script’ researcher that has recently begun dating Ben’s ex-wife(Robin Wright Penn)
& then of course there are the ‘real life’ cameos of Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis & Sean Penn playing Sean Penn. Penn is given second billing... Why, I do not know – he has four or five mumbled lines & is basically shown in the shooting scene over & over again, while Willis, way down in the list of credits is given a much meatier role as ‘difficult to deal with’ actor Bruce Willis. He shows up on the set for his next action blockbuster wearing a ‘Grizzly Adams’ beard & refuses to shave. He has a major hissy fit, screaming obscenities & destroying props while telling his agent & producer Ben that he will not shave because his fans will know which one Bruce Willis is – “Oh, there he is – the guy with the beard!”
So Ben’s assignments are to get the director/writer to edit out the murder of the dog in ‘Fiercely’ & get Bruce Willis to shave or they’ll shut down production.
One sideline to the plot involves an agent that recently committed suicide & Ben’s discovering that his teenage daughter was somehow ‘involved’ with the older man... Just to let you know ahead of time – this storyline is left totally unresolved. Scott’s affair with Ben’s ex-wife that he still is in love with... left totally unresolved. It’s like, if it doesn’t concern the movie business, it doesn’t matter if it’s left up in the air...
So sometimes this film clicks – the final cut of ‘Fiercely’ is hilarious - & sometimes it’s just scattered pieces of ideas that don’t fit together. Plus, you really have to want to know how the movie industry works to appreciate all the wheeling & dealing & meetings about nothing that take place. It is a good movie that could have been better with a few edits (more or less)

The SECRET LIFE OF BEES

“The SECRET LIFE OF BEES” (Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson & Paul Bettany)
This film is set in a very disturbing time in our nation’s history, thus making it very difficult to watch at times; yet amidst the racial injustices, the Boatwright sisters managed to carve out a nice living during the turbulent early-to-mid 60’s in the Southeastern United States.
The story concerns 14 year old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) who escapes her abusive father by running away with her black friend Rosalee (Jennifer Hudson) after Rosalee is beaten up by a crotchety old white man for trying to register to vote.
Paul Bettany plays the ‘somewhat over-the-top’ angry father & he makes it a little too easy to dislike his character. I will give this film some credit for not falling into that chick flick standard – All Males Are Cretins & Have No Redeeming Qualities – mode by bringing in a kindly white ‘lawyer’ (Of all characters to make likeable!)
But once Lily & Rosalee make it to their destination, a small town where Lily’s dead mother grew up, this becomes almost an all black cast filled with endearing, annoying & oddball women. On some levels it works (& I am, of course speaking from the MALE point of view) I thought Queen Latifah finally found a role that fit her perfectly (& it’s a good thing the Jenny Craig diet failed because a skinny Queen Latifah probably wouldn’t have worked here) I had not seen Dakota Fanning for a while & was
worried that my all-time favorite child actress had grown up & lost her natural ability to act, but gratefully, she is in fine form here. A truly disturbing sentence was uttered by a critic when a scene with Dakota & Hudson was shown & the critic said, “Dakota Fanning with Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson”... Something is very very wrong with the ‘Academy’ when someone with such minimal talent is an Oscar winner & the best child actor in history isn’t. Hudson’s attempt at acting in this serious film with light-hearted touches is downright embarrassing. Much more impressive were Alicia Keys & Sophie Okonedo as Queen Latifah’s sisters, May & June... & no, QL doesn’t play July Boatwright, that would just be silly . . . she plays August Boatwright. & did I mention that May’s departed twin was named April? Rosalee mutters, “I suppose next we’ll meet September, October & November” after meeting the 3 sisters & the overwhelming crowd of females in the theatre burst out laughing as though it was the funniest line they’ve ever heard... you woman are so easy to please sometimes, it’s scary!
The Boatwright sisters make a living by selling honey, August takes Lily under her wing & teaches her the ‘secrets of keeping a happy productive hive’, Rosalee joins May in the kitchen, while the good looking sister, June, just seems to sit around in Capri
slacks & acts disgusted by the nice decent guy that loves her with all his heart.
But it’s a nice though slow moving story – sometimes overly clich├ęd, but the connection between Lily & August is what drew me into caring about these people.
Lily becomes infatuated with the black boy that helps with the honey business & you know how well that’s going to sit with the racists in town. When the boy turns up missing after being caught sitting with Lily in a movie theatre, everyone is naturally concerned for his well-being, but for some reason this story takes just a totally off-the-wall turn that is suppose to be heavily dramatic; instead it comes across (to this particular male viewer) as forced & phony – so it lost me for a while with the maudlin funeral sequence.
I would like to say the ending is original & unexpected but... this IS a chick flick, so yes, it does fizzle out at the end by kowtowing to those who crave the proverbial ‘happy ending’. I would also like to say that despite the ending, I’d still recommend this film to ‘everyone’, but I can’t – for one reason & one reason only; for health reasons my wife & I are usually the last to leave the theatre, but when the closing song kept repeatedly asking me if I was aware that the sky was blue I couldn’t take it anymore & I struggled to get my crippled butt out of that theatre as fast as I could!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

BODY OF LIES

“BODY OF LIES” (Leonardo DiCaprio & Russell Crowe)
For the first 45 minutes or so of ‘Body Of Lies’ I felt like I was stuck in another ‘Syriana’; just a convoluted mess of a movie that shifts from scene to scene by telling us nothing more than the name of the city/building in which the segment we’re about to watch takes place. Discerning the bad guys from the good guys is nearly impossible & characters are introduced via quickie bio’s on a computer monitor, inserted into the storyline briefly & then shown as corpses that have been dumped like yesterday’s trash... But one thing kept this film from falling into that whirlwind of confusion – DiCaprio’s Roger Ferris is in practically every scene – he’s the constant that keeps the plot from becoming too bogged down with too many, “Who was that guy?” “Why did they kill him?” & “Just what in the heck is going on here?” questions.
Ferris is a CIA operative working the entire Middle East; wherever his contact in Washington needs him – that’s where he goes. Crowe plays the contact, Ed Hoffman; an overweight family man with a graying crew cut (Is this where Russell’s character from L.A. Confidential finally wound up?) who is constantly on the phone with Ferris. He drops the kids off at soccer practice while listening to his agent in the field call him 3 and 4 syllabled filthy names for not protecting someone who helped them – thus ending up in the morgue or a pile of garbage. Some accomplices are used without their knowledge & are placed in harms way by the ‘good guys’. & when they turn up missing, Crowe’s Hoffman can just shrug it off as a casualty of war, while DiCaprio’s Ferris must live with the consequences since he’s in the one being shot at & held accountable for Hoffman’s heartless decisions.
The film begins to make sense with the arrival of Mark Strong as the head of Jordan’s CIA counterpart, Hani Salaam. Strong, looking uncannily like Andy Garcia, plays the role exceptionally well; you’re never sure if he’s on ‘our’ side – ‘their’ side – or the most likely conclusion – he has his own agenda & you’re never sure what that entails... One thing is made perfectly clear, Salaam is not a man who want to have catch you in a lie – Even knowing this, Ferris decides to act on his own & runs the risk of being caught telling a whopper... This is where the movie switches from ‘at least I understand what’s going on now’ – to – ‘& not only that, it’s becoming an intriguing story’.
The biggest drawback to ‘Body Of Lies’ is the fact that most of Crowe & DiCaprio’s conversations take place over the phone – as the best scenes from an acting standpoint are when they are standing face to face, & there’s only a handful of those.
A love-interest is ‘tacked-on’ simply for plot reasons – Since Ferris hops from city to city & from partner to partner, he has no friends – no one that he would sacrifice anything to save, so Golshifteh Farahani (pronounced Shia Ioan LeBeouf Gruffudd) is introduced as Aisha, a nurse that tends to Ferris’s wounds after he is bitten by a rabid dog. When his cover is blown & the proverbial feces hits the fan, Ferris is forced to give himself up to the terrorist he’s been tracking in the hopes of saving her life after being photographed with him.
Everything ties together in the end & the finale is expertly written – from the way the terrorists ‘kidnap’ Ferris so that the CIA can’t follow him with their satellites – to the interrogation of Ferris by the ‘Bin Laden’ of this story. If you’ve paid attention to what was going on in the confusing beginning, you understand what happens at the end.
It took a long time for me to appreciate Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘style’ of acting but he has hit three home runs in a row with this, “Blood Diamond” & “The Departed”. Not that he hasn’t been in other excellent films (“The Aviator” & “Gangs Of New York” come to mind) but he’s never impressed me with his acting ability until recently – the kid is a bona fide movie star now. Unlike Tom Cruise, he can go head to head with a Russell Crowe & hold his own, instead of being embarrassed by looking amateurish next to a Paul Newman (Color Of Money) or Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men)
Russell Crowe’s performance isn’t that impressive but only due to the fact that he speaks most of his lines into a telephone that seems to be permanently glued in his ear – he shines when he’s in the same room with DiCaprio (& Strong) & even when he’s foiled by the bad guys & loses track of Ferris’ whereabouts, he delivers the words, “Sorry, kid,” with just a touch of actual regret & remorse – Yet you still get the feeling that he’s more concerned with who he will be able to get to replace Ferris in the field than he is with his fellow CIA agent’s safety...

Friday, October 10, 2008

RELIGULOUS

“RELIGULOUS” (Bill Maher)
I’m not a big fan of documentaries – the last four I went to were “Sicko”, “An Inconvenient Truth”, “March Of The Penguins” & “Fahrenheit 9/11” They were all mildly entertaining, but mostly educational (& I don’t like to put new info into my cranium as I fear it will push out relevant facts such as ‘Who wrote ‘Dandy’ for Herman’s Hermits?’)
This documentary was more entertaining than it was educational. Although the first thing I said to my wife when it ended was, “Unfortunately the people who should see this film, won’t.”
I would implore anyone who has been a low-impact church goer (You go on the days you feel you ‘have’ to; Christmas, Easter, etc.) or anyone who has questioned some of the stories that have been written as to how mankind came into being – to go see this film.
#1 – You more than likely will laugh more than you have at any documentary you have ever seen & #2 – You just might have an enlightened experience as to what religion actually stands for around this orb we call earth.
Bill Maher is a non-believer who was brought up Catholic & was forced to go to church services every Sunday with his father & sister. Mom never went. When he became an adult Bill discovered his mother was Jewish, but allowed dad to bring the kids up believing what he believed. Bill even admits to praying to God when he was in his forties after going thru a tough break-up with a longtime love interest. So the man knows his religion; knows what it’s like to be religious. What he does mainly in this documentary is travel around the world & asks various religious ‘staples’ – What do you believe & WHY do you believe it? The first question is easily answered, the latter isn’t.
Many times Bill isn’t even allowed to ask his questions because someone in PR recognizes him & has him ‘removed’ from the premises.
I’ve heard reviewers say that Bill doesn’t poke fun at the people he’s interviewing & for the most part that is true – he doesn't do it during the interviews – but in post production editing many film clips & captions are used to do just that. So if you are a person of a strong faith, this movie isn’t for you – You will be insulted because the filmmakers go after every known religion (& A couple of unknowns as well)
There is one scene with the most refreshing priest I’ve ever seen – I wondered why he would still stay in the ‘business’ after making some very strong un-priestlike comments on Jesus & those who take the bible literally as the word of God.
A Senator from Arkansas is interviewed and comes across as a fairly intelligent man, but the more Maher questions him on his ‘beliefs’ the more uncomfortable & less chatty the good Senator becomes. I liked him, actually – he knew when to shut up instead of continuing to sling the B.S. (like most politicians would)
That’s the pattern that emerges – those that allow Bill to complete his interviews are more than happy to espouse on ‘what’ they believe, but don’t seem to have a realistic explanation as to ‘why’ they believe it.
There’s a scene where some whacky theologian is building a religious museum where one of the exhibits shows plastics dinosaurs frolicking beside a pond with plastic human children – just to show that dinosaurs & mankind could have existed at the same time...
No, I am not making that up.
Even though I said this was an entertaining documentary (I even caught my spiritual, Catholic schooled wife chuckling on several occasions) I also feel it is an important one – I felt every American should have taken the time to see ‘Inconvenient Truth’ & ‘Farenheit 9/11’, but this one may be the most important one of all. I wondered if I could write an unbiased review of this film without injecting my own beliefs & I think I could have done so except in his closing statements Bill Maher urged those of us who already agreed with his philosophy to speak up & start spreading the ‘logic’. Why? Because the deeply devoted pious ‘leaders’ that are depicted in ‘Religulous’ are going to lead us all to an early grave unless we start un-brainwashing the citizens of America and get them to open their eyes to the truth about religious cults & false idols and join the civilized countries with the fewest percentage of population that think the stories in the bible actually happened instead of being at the highest percentage with the Turkeys...
Obviously by making such a statement I stand to lose some readers – I certainly hope that doesn’t happen; as I did with a film such as ‘Atonement’ when I asked for someone who liked it to tell me ‘WHY’, I’d like anyone that watched this film & found it to be offensive to do the same – Please explain ‘why’ it offended you.
There is a scene early in ‘Religulous’ where Bill joins a trailer full of ‘Truckers For Jesus’ & starts questioning their beliefs – with a tinge of sarcasm, yes, but he was basically asking them why they loved Jesus and one of the truckers stood up, said he didn’t like what Bill was implying & walked out. Yes, Maher thought that what they believed in was ridiculous, but wouldn’t you welcome the chance to shoot someone like that down (Not literally, as I’m sure that trucker would have liked) but go toe to toe with this mocking blowhard & stand up for what you truly believed? I would, but I'm a mocking blowhard with strong opinions myself!
As always, I welcome your comments whether you agree with my views or not - & that is one thing a film like this creates – lively conversation among intelligent beings.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

APPALOOSA

“APPALOOSA” (Ed Harris, Viggo Mortenson, Renee Zellweger & Jeremy Irons)
“Appaloosa” is no “3:10 To Yuma”; in fact “Appaloosa” borrows the main plot of “3:10” & doesn’t do it nearly as well.
What Appaloosa adds to the mix is a female presence... a very unwelcome female presence in the form of Renee Zellweger (as Allie)
She arrives in town for no apparent reason & immediately starts to flirt with the newly appointed town Marshall, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris)
I guess being old enough to be her father makes Allie look a lot purdier than she really is, but am I the only male in the world that doesn’t think Renee Zellweger is all that attractive?
It seems like every other movie she’s in 2 decent looking guys are fighting over her like she’s the second coming of Marilyn Monroe! To me, she looks like Yeardley Smith’s slightly better looking sister (Yeardley is known as being the voice of Lisa Simpson)
Anyway, back to the plot - Virgil is smitten by Allie’s ‘school marm’ demeanor & escalated by her whorish behavior in bed. They decide to build a house on the edge of
town.
The best part of ‘Appaloosa’ though is Viggo Mortenson’s portrayal of Virgil’s deputy & long-time friend Everett. The ease into which both Mortenson & Harris blend into their characters & react to one another is quite impressive & fun to watch. They didn’t absolutely blow me away like Crowe & Bale did in ‘3:10’, but they are the only reason I
would recommend anyone to spend money to catch this flick.
There are script problems & just something about Zellweger that just didn’t click with this film...
Virgil & Everett are ‘hired guns’ but perform the occupation legally by becoming lawmen. They are summoned to the town of Appaloosa in New Mexico when the Sheriff & his 2 deputies disappear after heading out to the Bragg spread to arrest two of his hired hands for murdering a young couple. When Bragg (Jeremy Irons) first appears he has a distracting English tint to his accent which disappears rather abruptly – other than that Irons is his usual top quality bad guy...
Virgil immediately adopts a fight fire with fire attitude & ‘legally’ guns down 3 of Bragg’s men for resisting arrest (Well, Virgil kills 2 of them, Everett nails the third)
This isn’t as heavy-handed as it sounds, there are several comedic moments usually uttered by the ‘I don’t give a crap what YOU think’ Virgil & also from Virgil’s inability to come up with the ‘right’ word to say – the less talkative Everett always spits it out for him.
The problems with the script derive from contradictions by Virgil – He allows Bragg to escape & then later says, “You can’t be a lawman & let somebody take your prisoner.”
He claims that he ‘Takes the legal side seriously’ followed by “What the hell am I if I don’t?” – This line comes after Virgil has beaten an innocent man unconscious...
There could have/ should have been a nice little twist in the plot to explain why Allie suddenly shows up in the middle of nowhere unescorted - they come up with a plausible reason for this & then dismiss it. Apparently she’s a more interesting character if she’s ‘just a whore’; an unfaithful, untalented, unattractive lying little whore... & yet somehow I didn’t like the addition of this character – She should have been a welcome sight, but nope, just doesn’t work here – she’s just annoying & there is no reason whatsoever for Virgil to stay with her.
“Support Your Local Sheriff” did the comedy better & “3:10 To Yuma” did the drama better (& was simply a much better movie from start to finish) but yet ‘Appaloosa’ is still an easy film to ride along with simply due to the characterizations supplied by Ed & Viggo.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

LAKEVIEW TERRACE

“LAKEVIEW TERRACE” (Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson & Kerry Washington)

I liked this movie until they decided to make Samuel L. Jackson’s racially biased cop a raving lunatic... To me, Samuel’s character, Abel Turner, was the good guy throughout most of the film. I’ll have to give away more of the plot than I normally like, but here’s the scenario; Abel lives in an affluent neighborhood with his teenaged daughter & pre-teen son. Mom’s absence is explained later. Abel’s ability to afford such a ‘luxury’ home on a cop’s salary is explained with one sentence, “Good thing I bought 20 years ago.”
Abel patrols the neighborhood nightly, turns on large spotlights to discourage would-be burglars from coming onto his property & insists that his children speak proper English, mind their manners & respect their elders... Yet, somehow he is portrayed as ‘the bad guy’. Abel has a Latino partner who seems a bit uneasy as he rides along in their squad car, but when the pair are called to a domestic disturbance where an ex-husband is threatening to kill his one time spouse & their child, Abel reacts in a professional manner while apprehending the would-be murderer who has shot at the officers 3 times. Abel has every right to blow this jerk away & yet he just scares the bejeezus out of the S.O.B. When the ‘should-be-grateful’ attempted murderer files a lawsuit against Abel, he is put on probation.
That’s Abel’s background; from what I witnessed, a caring, loving father who actually disciplines his children (The cad!) A good cop who risks his life to keep the streets safe for law abiding citizens & a man who cares about his home & neighbors - yet all the while clearly being pegged as the bad guy simply because he doesn’t like seeing a mixed-race couple moving in next door.
Which brings us to the ‘good guy’ Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) Chris is a pretentious jerk – whiter than milk, he thinks he’s hip because he listens to loud, annoying rap. He secretly smokes outside & carelessly tosses his butts into Abel’s yard. His own father-in-law doesn’t like him & makes it very clear that he doesn’t want this man to father his grandchildren – yet when Abel makes a racially suggestive statement concerning his marriage, Chris is outraged & acts as if the fact that he’s white & his wife Lisa (Kerry Washington) is black has never been an ‘issue’ with anyone until Abel came along!
The opening concern deals with one of Abel’s spotlights shining into the Mattson’s bedroom window... The simple solution is to buy a set of dark curtains, but instead Mr. & Mrs. Newcomer decide to complain to their cop neighbor who is trying to provide his children with protection to turn the spotlight off instead... Abel says he will, then doesn’t... I’d have done the same thing, except I’d have said, “Can’t you people afford curtains? – I’m trying to protect ‘our’ properties!”
Instead of making the logical solution by putting up curtains, Chris decides it would be more neighborly to set up his own set of bright lights & purposely aim them toward Abel’s bedroom window... & still, Abel’s the BAD GUY?
The Mattson’s have a pool in their backyard which is in plain view of Abel’s children’s bedrooms – they get to witness the couple getting naked & having sex to ‘Christen’ the luxury item. Abel is again regarded as a jerk because of ‘the way’ he complains about the frisky couple allowing his children to view their dalliance.
Time after time, Abel is regarded as the jerk, when to my mind, the Mattson’s were the rotten neighbors – I’d have been more than happy to live in Abel’s neighborhood, I would hate to have a**holes like Chris & Lisa living next door.
After a chance meeting at a local bar, Abel explains to Chris why inter-racial couples ‘bother’ him - & the story of what happened to his wife is revealed; so he actually has a reason to be somewhat resentful, whereas Chris’s father-in-law’s reasons for disliking him seemed to be because he was white & he married his daughter, yet dad-in-law isn’t portrayed as a ‘monster’ (Probably because they cast ‘Barney Miller’ cop Ron Glass in the role)
Eventually, of course, Abel goes overboard & becomes a raving maniac, but there’s absolutely no reason for it – HE’S the GOOD GUY! So instead of creating something new in the genre, the filmmakers fall back into ‘everybody expects the edgy cop to blow a gasket & go stark raving mad, so let’s give ‘em what they want!’
I hated the ending, it was predictable & totally implausible, as well as sending the message that most cops are trigger happy lunatics that will snap at the drop of a hat.
Samuel seemed to have a good time with this role, though; yes, his icy glares & wicked smirks gave cause for one to believe he wasn’t as ‘nice’ a neighbor as one might believe, but his deeds were honorable for the first two/thirds of the film & it was only for the sake of creating a ‘tension-filled’ showdown in the final scenes that they took this complex character & made him an unreasonable whack-job...