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, February 26, 2013

Broken Effects

A few weeks ago I finally caught up with Broken City, this year's MLK Weekend film from Mark Wahlberg, and was a little quicker to see Side Effects, the new movie from director Steven Soderbergh.

There's a lot I can say about Broken City, not much of it good.  Wahlberg is a cop who's on trial for killing a teen in a housing project without just cause, he's found not guilty but there's some evidence we don't see that comes into the possession of the mayor played by Russell Crowe.  Several years later, Wahlberg isn't making ends meet as the head of a private detective agency, he's happy to get a call from the Mayor offering a lot of money to find out whom his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is sleeping with.  This is happening in the midst of the Mayor's re-election campaign, and we find out that the chief aide to the Mayor's opponent seems to be Catherine Zeta-Jones's paramour.  All of this ends up tying in to some possible scandal with the sale of a public housing project to a private developer.  And all of it's a mess.  Let's start with the script, which is too convoluted to follow without the script in hand and not really worth following.  It's a script that has the candidate running against Crowe doing debate prep right in front of the windows of a storefront campaign headquarters instead of in an actual private place.  It's a script that has the mayor's wife and his opponent's chief of staff heading off to Montauk in the days immediately ahead of the election for a rendezvous, as if neither of them would have other engagements or better things to do or not be missed or have their absences questioned at this crucial point in the campaign when they disappear for what would pretty much be a full day to get out to Montauk and back.  It's a script where the climax depends on Mark Wahlberg making a decision about whether it's worth his going to jail for the murder he was acquitted of if it will mean the bad guy will go to jail as well, ignoring common sense (I don't think I'd go to jail in order to send somebody else to jail) and the legal principle known as double jeopardy under which Wahlberg's character could maybe face a civil suit but probably not be re-tried for a crime he was acquitted of.  It's a movie filled with people who are either wrong for their parts or not directed well enough to fit into them.  The mayoral candidate played by Barry Pepper just seems off, Crowe seems off as the Mayor, I don't often see a movie where so many parts seem filled by people who just aren't quite right.  It's a movie where the main revelation involves finding somebody's name on papers that aren't secret and which almost certainly would have been uncovered well before they are in the real world no matter how few newspapers are around to look at old papers like these.  It's a movie where people buy tickets in Grand Central Terminal then go to an above-ground platform to board the LIRR to Montauk when the LIRR doesn't stop at Grand Central, which doesn't have any above-ground platforms.  This will take a place next to Tony Scott's remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 as how not to do a New York movie.  The director of this mess is Allen Hughes.  

Side Effects was better, but weird.  Rooney Mara (Dragon Tattoo) is depressed even though her hubby (Channing Tatum) is just out of jail after an insider trading conviction.  She's given a drug by psychologist Jude Law to help her deal with her depression.  It doesn't help much, there are side effects, she sleepwalks.  During one such incident she stabs Channing Tatum quite nicely in the gut and ignores him as he bleeds to death in their apartment.  Jude Law is castigated for prescribing the drug, he is convinced he's the last person to blame, and he sets out to find the real story, going all kinds of Moby Dick and Captain Ahab in the process.  I was entertained by the movie, this is a good cast with people who work well, Steven Soderbergh always directs with panache and vision and style.  It's hard to talk too much about this movie without spilling things that shouldn't be spilled, at the same time I'm uncomfortable putting the movie in a spoiler free zone because I was certainly offput by some of the kinkier directions the script took.  There are all sorts of things worth seeing in the film, and yet I hesitate to give it a recommendation.

And to comment briefly on one other movie, because I want to try and blog on as many reviews as I can this year...  Molly's Theory of Relativity is an indie movie that opens in New York this week, and I walked out of a preview screening.  The script doesn't sound like real dialogue people will say, it's acted by people who are not good actors or just not able to act out the words in this script, it's not visually interesting.  Odds are it won't come to a theatre near you.  If it does, feel free to skip it.

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