The SmarK DVD Rant – Action Comics
by Scott Keith on March 24, 2010

- OK, this one is probably a bit of a stretch, but bear with me.

My eternal quest to string together somewhat-related DVD reviews brings us this time around to a pair of comedic-slanted action movies, one of which is much better than the other. I’ll leave it to the reader to guess which one I liked more. See if you can figure it out by the end of the review!



The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

I fucking hated this movie. Oh, sorry, I’ve gone and ruined our little contest already.

This one really hurt me as a fan of the first movie because the wait for the sequel was so long and the story behind it was actually far more interesting than the finished product ended up being. Whereas the first movie was a kind of ironic celebration of style over substance, this one was just a boring mess. And given the maelstrom that is Troy Duffy’s life, you’d think that boring would be the last thing he could possibly be.

Picking up eight years after the first movie, the MacManus brothers and their father are living a life of domestic bliss in Ireland, looking like Jesus and raising sheep, until the death of their favorite second cousin (oh, sorry, I meant priest) brings them out of retirement, and THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL. Wherein lies the first problem, in that originally it wasn’t personal and it was basically business as directed by the Almighty, which allowed a certain detachment from the job. Their motivation this around is the same as a million other wannabe action heroes, and that makes it hard to set it apart from stuff like Smokin’ Aces 2 or any other crappy direct-to-DVD B-movie.

Case in point, subbing for gay FBI agent Willem Dafoe is supposed bombshell FBI agent Julie Benz, who is getting very overexposed lately. Yeah, she’s SMOKING hot, but given her involvement in both a Saw sequel and the misguided Punisher reboot, her career guidance could use some work. And her "southern accent" here doesn’t help. She’s supposed to be "so smart, smart people feel retarded" around her. She’s one of those magic Hollywood agents who can read a crime scene and magically recite the whole backstory, you see, which again was fine in 1999 but after 300 CSI spin-offs and rip-offs, it’s starting to get cliché. To say the least. Also joining the cast is Clifton Collins Jr. as his usual wacky Mexican character, this time a wannabe vigilante named Romeo. Why they keep him around is never adequately explained, much like a lot of character motivations in this thing. He proves somewhat useful, but considering these guys are taking down dozens of bad guys at once, is he REALLY that helpful in the grand scheme of things? I don’t see him jumping off any trampolines while shooting people, do you?

The weirdest subplot in this thing revolves around their father, Il Duce, who actually gets a BACKSTORY now to completely suck the mystery out of him. In what is either a ham-fisted or totally unintended ripoff of The Godfather Part 2, much of the movie follows the young killer from his days as a leather craftsman, up until the climax of this movie. Did we GIVE A SHIT about how he got his cool leather coat? No, we did not. The flashbacks are a major pacing issue in a movie that’s already 30 minutes too long, as disappointing bursts of action are spliced between LONG passages of talking to advance a plot that’s barely there in the first place. We spend far too long learning about the crime family headed up by Judd Nelson (!!!) before they meet their inevitable end. Oh, and Julie Benz’ character suddenly changes motivation halfway through the movie for reasons never explained. This kind of thing would be forgivable in a fast-turnaround home video sequel, but this was a movie in development for nearly 10 years! You’re telling me no one could sit down with Troy Duffy in the editing room and tell him to trim some of this shit out of the movie?

Given how much I was looking forward to it, this was a wholly disappointing experience. Recommendation to avoid.



Zombieland

Now this was a movie I loved.

Unlike our previous contender, this is a movie that MOVES. It’s 90 minutes long, with no fat to be trimmed off, and three definite acts. Act one, introduce the four characters and the zombie-infested world they live in. Act two, send them on a road trip to escape said zombies. Act three, big finale, lots of zombies, roll credits. There is as little bullshit here as they can get away with, and I appreciate that.

The impending Zombie Apocalypse is a subject that is woefully under taught in schools (do they even teach basic zombie survival skills before junior high these days?) and it’s good to see a cautionary tale such as this one doing just as good as drek like 2012. The Mayan calendar destroying civilization? That’s just STUPID. But zombies overrunning the modern world until only survivalists and awesome celebrities are left to repopulate the earth? That’s SCIENCE.

"Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg, in a role seemingly written for Michael Cera), lives in post-Zombie America by the graces of 30-some rules ranging from common sense about always making sure to shoot zombies twice in the head to more philosophical thoughts about enjoying the little things in life. The viewer is reminded about the rules in a variety of creative CGI shots, and some of the biggest laughs come from little callbacks to those rules long after the audience has forgotten about them. Joining him is "Tallahassee" (they only use city names so as not to get attached, you see), played by Woody Harrelson (clearly having a blast and enjoying every bit of cheesy action star silliness he’s given). Tallahassee is a man with only two goals in life: Find the last remaining Twinkies on earth and kill as many zombies as possible. Our heroes quickly meet Wichita and Little Rock, a pair of con artist sisters who are definitely smarter than their male counterparts, and off we go for a road movie in search of the last theme park left untouched by zombies. Everyone gets their little bit of backstory but things keep moving, leading to the cameo appearance halfway through the movie which elevates it to legendary status. I’m sure it’s been spoiled for you by now, but in case it hasn’t, it’s worth the wait. The final act, with Tallahassee getting to show every bit of his ludicrous zombie-killing skill, feels just as energetic and fresh as the rest of the movie. And the whole movie is short enough to never wear out its welcome. Given the amount of bloated and over-reaching "action" movies filling up multiplexes in the past couple of years, it’s very refreshing to see a movie that understands its own purpose and fills it so well. Highly recommended.



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