About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Edge of Daybreak

Edge of Darkness, seen Tuesday evening Feb. 9 2010 at the AMC Loews W. 34th St., aud. #4, was a pleasant surprise. It's one of those films that could, from the credits, go either way. Do you encounter the director Martin Campbell who did Vertical Limit, or the one who did Casino Royale? Mel Gibson? Is that the Lethal Weapon guy, the Lethal Weapon 4 guy, the Mrs. Soffel guy? It turns out to be a movie co-written by William Monahan, whose screenplay for The Departed was an excellent adaptation of the very good Korean movie Infernal Affairs. It turns out to be a movie edited by Stuart Baird. Now, who pays attention to who edited a movie? But Stuart Baird is the long-time go-to guy for Richard Donner, starting with The Omen and Superman, and with Mel Gibson dating back to Lethal Weapon, Maverick, one of those editors who works with people forever the way Thelma Schoonmaker has edited Martin Scorcese since forever or Michael Kahn has edited Spielberg for over 30 years dating back to Close Encounters. It's the movie that takes an actor named Shawn Roberts who's done plenty of TV but nothing anyone's really noticed and puts him in and gets a well-textured and interesting performance in a small but important role, and is otherwise filled with interesting actors doing interesting roles. Critics have said, true enough, that Ray Winstone kind of steals the movie from Mel Gibson, but the movie's full of nice supporting turns. It's one of those things that says A people aren't worried to surround themselves with other A people because they have the self-confidence not to worry they're going to be overshadowed. A movie with some nice old-fashioned subtle musical scoring by Howard Shore (LotR).

It's a movie good enough that I really noticed when it fell short of the mark. It does so once out of necessity, lingering for a second or two longer than you'd expect on the face of a young policeman. So yes, this cop plays an important role later on that justifies that strange extra second or two of screen time, but... it's such an intrusive and glaring second or two that I wish there was another way. And there's one three minute stretch around 90% of the way through the movie that's just silly and entirely unnecessary, and I wish somebody had noticed in time to leave it on the cutting room floor. But most of the movie is reasonably taut and suspenseful and well-crafted.

So worth seeing.

And then there's Daybreakers.

Ethan Hawke is an actor whose done a lot of interesting work for over 20 years now, along with Robert Sean Leonard a real stand-out to emerge from the plentiful supply of male adolescence in Dead Poets Society. Seems to me he should have had more of a career than he's had, and in part that's because he makes two or three strange choices for every logical one, and then one out of three of those strange choices is interesting strange and the rest of them are just strange.

Daybreakers is definitely one of his interesting strange choices, and should probably go on double bills with the equally interesting and strange Gattaca from a dozen-ish years back.

It's a vampire movie that goes in some very interesting directions. What happens when everyone becomes a vampire, turning humans into an endangered but very necessary species because the True Blood efforts in this world aren't meeting with success. So human blood is a vital necessity, there are fewer and fewer humans to supply it, and the vampire population is not happy.

Ethan Hawke plays a hematologist for a pharmaceutical company that's looking for a cure while also farming humans in a large slowly emptying tank.

The movie heads off in some interesting directions. Hawke will find his way to a different cure that is not intuitive. That cure will have some implications that are kind of clever, leading to some final act twists on the standard vampire movie that are fun and intriguing. There are often some interesting things going on a little bit off to the side of the main movie. As with Edge of Darkness, there is some nice stuff going on with the casting, not just with Hawke but with Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and an interesting turn by young Australian actor Michael Dorman in the same way you've got the interesting turn from Shawn Roberts in Edge of Darknesss.

But the movie matches all of the interesting stuff with a lot that is archetypal and familiar, battles between father and daughter, between brothers.

It's a whirlwind of the offbeat and interesting and the obvious and uninteresting, in the same line or same scene or same frame oftentimes.

If you're remotely interested in vampire fiction, this is definitely a must-rent. I'm certainly glad to have seen it, can see why its theatrical run has been a quick in-and-out, but wouldn't be surprised if it's a movie people are talking about and referencing for a lot longer than its theatrical run alone might suggest. Which I think is the case for Gattaca as well, and for other of Ethan Hawke's strange choices. I should be happier than I am that an actor who has the smarts and talent to be Big has instead chosen a stranger road.


lexcade said...

i haven't seen either movie yet (darn recession!), but i wanted to see them both, especially daybreakers b/c i love me some non-twilight vampire fiction (lestat is my edward). i didn't know robert sean leonard is in that, though. i LOVE him on house, and of course, dead poets society. he picks interesting projects, and it would be nice for his career to extend beyond house the way hugh laurie's has (sort of).

thanks for the reviews. i'll definitely rent them both.

Jon Sprunk said...

We'll definitely rent Daybreakers. Thanks for the review.