Monthly Archives: May 2010

Steve McQueen-a-palooza: Sam Peckinpah vs. Steve McQueen, and The Winner Is…?

title: The Getaway
director: Sam Peckinpah
cast: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickins
one sentence or less: Peckinpah def. McQueen

It is a great credit to Steve McQueen’s star power that his character, unlikeable though he may be, gets through to the end of Sam Peckinpah‘s “The Getaway” with the audience still on his side. The second of two films McQueen and Peckinpah did together, “The Getaway” drew the derision of critics and an enormous audience at the time of its 1972 release. Its $26 million box office take made it one of the biggest hits of McQueen’s career (as well as Peckinpah’s, for that matter), and it also marked the first time in which McQueen’s alpha male persona was subordinated to the style of his director. The results are mixed at times, but in spite of a character that shoots cops, murders politicians, beats his wife, and is in a foul mood for most of the film’s running time, McQueen’s star is so firmly fixed in Hollywood’s celestial body of “good guys” that we can’t help but root for him. It was very smart casting by Peckinpah and a major coup for the always beguiling McQueen.   Continue reading

Revenge, Cranky Old British Man Style

title: Harry Brown (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
director: Daniel Barber
cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunningham, Charlie Creed-Miles
one sentence or less: They just don’t make ’em like they used to…

Man, “Harry Brown” starts off really promising. The latest English revenge thriller (calling something bereft of thrills a thriller seems a bit disingenuous…but I’ll play along) starts off showing a gang initiation shot on what we later learn is a shaky cell phone camera. Guns are handed out, crack is smoked, gang stereotypes are exploited. The film then smashes into quick cutting and very precise sound design that place us into the driver’s seat of a dirt bike as it zips around the courtyard of  a London housing project. The dirt bike driver and his companion on the back shoot at and kill a woman with a baby carriage before driving off. The bike enters the road recklessly and is creamed by a speeding truck. It’s actually a very exciting introduction to the world of this grimy, dark little film, that the rest of the picture  just can’t live up to. Continue reading

Revenge, Gloriously Post-Modern Style

title: Inglourious Basterds  (Universal)
director: Quentin Tarantino
starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbinder, Melanie Laurent
one sentence or less: “this might just be my masterpiece”

My appreciation of Quentin Tarantino comes in waves. When “Inglourious Basterds” dropped into theaters at the end of last summer my feelings could be described as lukewarm at best, and I knew that seeing “Inglourious Basterds” was not a good idea. I let the hype, criticisms, DVD release, and Award season pass by before I finally felt ready to sit down for a viewing. In the interim my esteem for Tarantino, while not necessarily reaching the fever pitch it started at, had grown. But, even with the award nominations and praise of friends still rattling around in my head, I was still unprepared for the filmmaking mastery and intellectual power on display in “Inglourious Basterds.” Continue reading