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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Takers on The Town

New York City might be one of the best cities in the world, but not on account of its movie theatres. So when I stopped over in LA on the way to Australia, I was happy to find time to see Takers at the Regency Bruin Theatre in Westwood Village. The Bruin was built in 1937, and it's distinctive outside but not so much so currently on the interior, where I'm told there were interior murals that have been painted over in the 700 seat auditorium, which is very similar in dimension to the front section of the Ziegfeld in New York. Not the nicest single screen theatre, but nice enough. If I want great in Westwood, clearly I'll need to get to the Village theatre that's across the street from the Bruin, and which goes twice as many paces across the back screen end of the theatre, bigger even I think than the main screen of the RKO Stanley Warner Rt 4 Paramus Quad. Cinema Treasures stats say The Village seats twice as many people as The Bruin.

In any event, of the 700 seats in the Bruin for my showing of Takers, there were 3 that were occupied. One had me in it, and my backpack was draped over two more. Yes, it was a private screening, exclusive, all for me, my very special individualized moment to see Takers. I sure hope they do better business on the weekends than on a Monday afternoon.

I'd love to find out just how Takers got the green light, because the script's a mess. The movie that results is way less of a mess than the script. The cast is nice to watch, Matt Dillon playing the adult with a bunch of younger actors like Paul Walker (Fast & Furious) and Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights) and Jay Hernandez (Crazy Beautiful, The Rookie), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker, Shattered Glass) who are at least solid more often than not and always pleasant to look at. There are some great action sequences directed with verve, energy and most especially clarity by John Luessenhop. There's a great extended chase scene in downtown LA that takes us in and out of buildings and up and down and all around and just fantastic filmmaking, with the one caveat that maybe if I knew LA I'd realize the geography of it was ludicrous. Or maybe not, maybe it's not only energetic and full of verve and geographically nailed to a "t." But the action sequence starts with an attempted heist that doesn't make any sense, it's just way too complicated and not in the acceptably fun way that the opening heist is. I can't figure out who I'm supposed to root for. It's like the odd-numbered reels are from a movie where we root for one or another of the bad guys as an anti-hero lead, the even-numbered leads where we root for Matt Dillon as a straight on good guy, the prime-numbeer reels where Matt Dillon's partner is a conflicted cop whom we're still supposed to love. Nor does it help that I can't see much of a difference between a Paul Walker and a Hayden Christensen, so I wasn't always entirely sure which gang member was which. It's very difficult to make a good movie from a bad script, and Takers isn't. But I could definitely recommend giving it a rent when it comes out on video in January. If you think it's the kind of movie you might like, there's a good chance you'll get reasonable enjoyment out of it. And it's January, usually not many good movies opening in theatres then so what a perfect time to enjoy an energetic if imperfect movie with at least one extended action scene that will probably become a film course staple in five or fifteen years.

I did not have a private screening for the somewhat better The Town, which I enjoyed at the AMC Loews 34th St. here in New York City. Script-wise, The Town certainly has its good guys and bad guys down. It's an anti-hero movie, so the good guy's a bad guy. And the bad guy's the cop, but a good cop who's a bad guy just because he wants to get at our anti-hero. The Town borrows from a better class of movie cliches. Plenty of movies about cops and robbers and anti-hero Boston good guys have been made, and the strange thing is how many of them are actually kind of good. The Town appeals to more of what the Hollywood marketing types call "quadrants," meaning here that there's a juicy enough role for Rebecca Hall as the love interest that the movie can attract women and men. I don't think Takers is much of a chick flick at all. The Town has a much better cast. Ben Affleck vs. Matt Dillon isn't David vs. Goliath, but when you get below that... The Town has Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite, both character actors of real distinction, filling in important roles in the supporting cast. Jeremy Renner, an Oscar nominee for Hurt Locker, is on board. IMDB.com puts the budgets at 37M vs. 20M, so there's more money to give more sheen and luster to all of it. With this and Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck is showing some genuine directing chops. And after a few years wandering the acting desert making some bad choices to do things like Daredevil, he's starting to find his groove again picking good roles that are well-suited to his talents. And to look at the differences another way that ends up similarly, there's that big extended wonderful LA chase scene in Takers that's all about the adrenaline rush and the action, while the similar good extended scene in The Town is for a heist scene at Fenway Park that has antecedents going back to Stanley Kubrick's The Killing and almost certainly further back than that.

Probably safe to say both these movies did a little better than expectations at the box office, and both ending up with domestic box office proportionate to the budgets, so everyone can be happy in relative terms. Both movies deliver reasonably well for their target audiences.

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