Quick Movie Roundup [Filmmakers Bleed]
September 9th, 2010 by Dan

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

The disparate visual elements of an "Oriental Western" are both jarring and awesome

Saw a couple of movies recently. Here’s what I think of them:

A Prophet

French movie about a French prison. Our hero, Malik El Djebena, is thrown in jail for six years for beating up a police officer. He quickly finds himself in unwillingly in the service of the Corsican crime family that runs the place, but his latent intelligence allows him to quickly find his bearings and start to make something of himself during his time in jail.

The director, Jacques Audiard, has come out saying that the movie is about “creating icons, images for people who don’t have images in movies, like the Arabs in France,” and it shows. Malik is almost a Mary Sue able to somehow become loved and respected by every criminal group in France with very little consequence. Seriously, nothing bad ever happens to Malik once he takes his life into his own hands. I suppose Arabic kids in France now have someone to look forward to, but I found myself yawning at the lack of any real tension or interesting action.

More importantly, Malik’s whole prophetic role lasts about two scenes long and takes up maybe five minutes total of worthwhile screen time. Why is this movie called A Prophet? This one can be skipped.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

When you advertise a movie as an “Oriental Western”, you’ve got my attention. I had no idea if the plot took place in the American West or some Asian equivalent, but I immediately pushed this title to the top of my Netflix queue to find out.

Turns out that TG, TB, TW takes place in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation of Korea. This being a (South) Korean movie and taking place in the 1930s when Japan was occupying Manchuria on top of Korea, the film itself is full of cultural import that I’m sure I understand very little of. What I do know is that the movie has dialogue in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, which is pretty neat. The main characters seem to all be Korean, but the antagonists run the gamut from Koreans who sympathize with the Japanese, Manchurian (Chinese) bandits, and the Japanese army. All of these characters are chasing after a treasure map leading to a fortune that could save the Japanese Empire, restore glory to Korea, or provide untold riches to bandits, etc.

I may be missing some of the stereotypes here, but the obviously present ones seem to be culturally universal. There’s The Good, a very clean-looking Korean bounty hunter chasing both of the other characters, The Bad, a sociopath obsessed with killing and honor, and The Weird, a bumbling idiot thief who mysteriously always escapes disaster as the last man standing. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. What is original, to me, is seeing the marriage of East and West. We have a train robbery with guns, but also a guy carrying a giant warhammer and dressed kind of like a Hun. Saloon and brothel scenes exist, but this time with a decidedly Asian flavor to them. I’d even go so far as to say that there’s a Native American component included, since the Manchurians seem to have the most traditional dress and lowest tech level.

TG, TB, TW is not an amazing movie, but it’s tons of fun to watch and a super interesting look at the western genre from an eastern standpoint. Definitely worth watching.

Get Low

Get Low is such an indie movie.

That’s not meant as a pejorative, unless you hate indie movies. It’s slow, quirky, and mostly full of dialogue. If you don’t like these things then I doubt you will like this movie.

The premise is that Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) wants to have a living funeral so that he can hear stories told about him. He goes to Bill Murray’s funeral home (that’s not the character name, but he’s really just playing Bill Murray, so I’m calling him that) and he decides to make a whole thing out of it: inviting the whole town, starting a raffle, hiring performers, etc. while his younger protege feels uncomfortable about the whole thing and wants to get to the bottom of why this old man has been a hermit his whole life.

Our end result is what you’d expect from the get-go. Old Man Bush has a dark secret that he desperately wants to get off of his chest. A secret so bad that it forced him to become a recluse rather than deal with it. Honestly, I thought the whole thing was a little anti-climactic.

The real reason to watch this movie is Bill Murray. He’s at his best here as himself being as dry and sardonic as you’d expect him to be. Only problem is that he doesn’t fit in with the old-timey cast. He feels too modern, too knowing, too funny to really exist in the late 1930s time period that this movie occupies. Still, he’s funny, Duvall is funny and poignant, and Sissy Spacek is also quite good. Lucas Black should also get good mention for his clean-living, young protege role, even if it is a little cliched.

Worth seeing? Yeah, but maybe wait for it to be on Netflix.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Good, Weird, Bad

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