Christian Slater

Young Guns II (1990, Geoff Murphy)

In many ways, Young Guns II is an improvement over the first. Geoff Murphy knows how to direct a Western, at least until he has to do a showdown scene and then he’s in trouble, but if it’s general Western action, he can do it. And he’s got the same cinematographer as the first movie, Dean Semler, who this entry has a far better color palette to work with. It’s lush. Young Guns II is a lush film.

It’s a bad film too. But lush.

The big problem is how the film treats Emilio Estevez’s Billy the Kid. His psychotic behavior isn’t even a plot point. He’s just rambunctious and a little shit. Emilio Estevez’s Billy the Kid is Dennis the Menace. He’s a twerp. Estevez, screenwriter John Fusco and director Murphy are all on the same page with the character. He’s a murderous twerp, but he’s just a twerp. Any sense of reality is out the window straight off in Young Guns II. The cost of the lushness.

Estevez is bad and not in an interesting way. Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips look trapped. Neither of them get a subplot. They get pretend subplots, but not actual ones. New cast member Christian Slater is awful. Alan Ruck isn’t bad. William Petersen’s a lame Pat Garrett.

There are a lot of great character actors and just plain familiar character actors filling out the film’s supporting cast and none of them are actually good. I mean, seeing Viggo Mortensen as an uncool government employee is something, but it’s not like he’s good. Tracey Walter’s not even good in Young Guns II. Murphy can’t direct actors. Okay, maybe he wasn’t in on the changes to how to portray Estevez.

Jenny Wright is actually pretty good in a tiny part.

Excellent production design from Gene Rudolf–another of the improvements over the first film–and a really weird, bad score from Alan Silvestri. He hits a lot of the regular Silvestri cues, occasionally to success, but it’s omnipresent and too loud. He also has a theme similar to the opening of Time After Time and you just sit there and wish Cyndi Lauper would start singing so there’d be something good.

It’s okay until the third act? I mean, it’s fine until the third act. I don’t know why I’m trying to be nice. Oh, because I’m listening to Time After Time and I have goodness, which Young Guns II doesn’t really offer.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Geoff Murphy; written by John Fusco; director of photography, Dean Semler; edited by Bruce Green; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Gene Rudolf; produced by Irby Smith and Paul Schiff; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Emilio Estevez (Billy), Kiefer Sutherland (Doc), Lou Diamond Phillips (Chavez), Christian Slater (Arkansas Dave), William Petersen (Pat Garrett), Alan Ruck (Hendry William French), R.D. Call (D.A. Rynerson), James Coburn (John Simpson Chisum), Balthazar Getty (Tom O’Folliard), Jack Kehoe (Ashmun Upson), Robert Knepper (Deputy Carlyle), Viggo Mortensen (John W. Poe), Tracey Walter (Beever Smith), Bradley Whitford (Charles Phalen), Scott Wilson (Governor Lewis Wallace) and Jenny Wright (Jane Greathouse).


Bed of Roses (1996, Michael Goldenberg)

A couple immediate thoughts occurred to me as Bed of Roses started. First, is it a good idea to be watching Bed of Roses? (Spoiler: no, it’s not). Second, what’s going on with Mary Stuart Masterson’s performance? It’s not a movie saving performance because it’s a terrible part. Only director Goldenberg (who also wrote the film) really wants to make it seem to be a good part. Bed of Roses is a lower, but still reasonably budgeted nineties version of a New York soap opera. Masterson’s the professional woman who just doesn’t have it all, even though it seems like she does. She meets a guy–Christian Slater–who is stalking her and grooming her but it turns out his really okay and wonderful and is just what she needs to get over a childhood of exceptionally bad abuse.

Except Bed of Roses doesn’t talk about the abuse. Masterson’s got this character who is never allowed to develop. It’s mortifying, but that weird thing about Masterson’s performance is she’s great. She is great at making this character, who gets treated terribly by the script and has absolutely no depth beyond being a victim and then awkward holding a baby, she does great. She doesn’t make the character work, she doesn’t make the film work. But she delivers this tragic, terribly written role. She’s acting opposite Christian Slater, after all, and he doesn’t bring anything to the film. He actually seems to enjoy the parts where he’s being manipulative more than the parts where he’s courting.

So, no, I shouldn’t have watched Bed of Roses, but I’m still stunned by how good it is at what it does. Goldenberg does a fine job directing. Sure, he’s stuck with Slater, but he takes full advantage of the more capable actors–Josh Brolin, Ally Walker, Brian Tarantina. It feels serious. Adam Kimmel’s gorgeous photography, Michael Convertino’s score, Jane Kurson’s editing. Bed of Roses can’t be better at what it does. It’s beautifully executed. It’s just manipulative and condescending.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michael Goldenberg; director of photography, Adam Kimmel; edited by Jane Kurson; music by Michael Convertino; production designer, Stephen McCabe; produced by Allan Mindel and Denise Shaw; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Mary Stuart Masterson (Lisa), Christian Slater (Lewis), Pamela Adlon (Kim), Josh Brolin (Danny), Ally Walker (Wendy), Kenneth Cranham (Simon) and Brian Tarantina (Randy).


Pump Up the Volume (1990, Allan Moyle)

Everything director Moyle does in Pump Up the Volume builds the rest of the film. It’s not exactly he’s building good will, he’s shaping the possibilities of the film. It makes for a film where you can have a car chase, a comic relief moment, an inspirational message and a quiet character moment all in the same five minutes.

For example, while Christian Slater is definitely the film’s lead, it’s questionable whether or not he’s the protagonist in the traditional sense. He guides the viewer through the film far less than his romantic interest, Samantha Mathis. Moyle isn’t doing a character study or even an epical high school student story. It turns out he’s doing a story about a high school and finding the most interesting people in it, while focusing harder on a couple of them.

The film’s construction is brilliant, down to how to opening titles establish the ground situation and some of Slater’s character. In the first half of the film, Moyle gives Slater a bunch of monologues, which Slater nails, but these sequences are also extremely well-constructed by Moyle and editors Larry Bock and Janice Hampton. They’re transfixing. Volume succeeds because Moyle figures out a way to make Slater’s pirate radio DJ just as compelling to the viewer as the film’s characters.

Slater and Mathis are both fantastic. Lots of great supporting performances–Billy Morrissette, Ellen Greene, Scott Paulin and Annie Ross are standouts.

Moyle crafts Pump Up the Volume precisely and to great success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Allan Moyle; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; edited by Larry Bock and Janice Hampton; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Rupert Harvey and Sandy Stern; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Christian Slater (Mark Hunter), Samantha Mathis (Nora Diniro), Ellen Greene (Jan Emerson), Scott Paulin (Brian Hunter), Mimi Kennedy (Marla Hunter), Cheryl Pollak (Paige Woodward), Billy Morrissette (Mazz Mazzilli), Andy Romano (Murdock), Anthony Lucero (Malcolm Kaiser), Robert Schenkkan (David Deaver) and Annie Ross (Loretta Creswood).


Bullet to the Head (2013, Walter Hill)

Bullet to the Head feels a little like an eighties buddy action movie. Between Sylvester Stallone in the lead and Walter Hill directing, it should feel more like one. But Stallone plays this one mature. He might not be playing his actual age (probably sixty-five at the time of filming), but he’s definitely supposed to be older. The film has Stallone narrating like it’s a noir–it’s not–and nicely uses pictures of him at younger ages as various mug shots.

Sarah Shahi plays his adult daughter, so there’s that maturity again. The relationship between Stallone and Shahi, mostly one or two of their scenes, is Bullet at its most sublime.

Where the film goes off the rails is Hill. The direction feels like generic modern action. Sure, the New Orleans locations give the picture some personality, but not enough to compensate for the lack of directorial presence.

While it resembles the buddy action movie genre, Bullet doesn’t actually belong. Stallone’s a hit man, his sidekick’s a moronic cop (played by Sung Kang). Kang’s bland but not unlikable; Stallone’s so mean it earns Kang sympathy. Stallone’s more likable because Kang’s an idiot.

And then there’s the jokes. The best writing in Bullet are Stallone’s Asian jokes. The one liners are leagues more inventive than anything else in the film.

As far as the supporting performances… Jason Momoa and Jon Seda stand out. Shahi’s undercooked.

Bullet’s fast, loud and not terrible. It could be better, but doesn’t need to be.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Walter Hill; screenplay by Alessandro Camon, based on the comic book by Matz and Colin Wilson; director of photography, Lloyd Ahern II; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by Steve Mazzaro; production designer, Toby Corbett; produced by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Alexandra Milchan and Kevin King Templeton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (James Bonomo), Sung Kang (Taylor Kwon), Sarah Shahi (Lisa Bonomo), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Robert Nkomo Morel), Jason Momoa (Keegan), Jon Seda (Louis Blanchard), Holt McCallany (Hank Greely), Dane Rhodes (Lt. Lebreton), Marcus Lyle Brown (Detective Towne), Brian Van Holt (Ronnie Earl) and Christian Slater (Marcus Baptiste).


Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, Kevin Reynolds), the extended version

It’s sort of amazing how little personality Kevin Reynolds brings to Robin Hood. I suppose his direction is adequate, but his shots are absent any creativity. Of course, maybe the shots were very creative and then Michael Kamen’s score–a combining, for the most part, of his Die Hard and Lethal Weapon scores–came in and ruined it all.

There are strong elements to the film. Alan Rickman, in the other major Die Hard connection, takes the idea of a sinister villain and turns him instead into comic relief, while maintaining the villainous attitude. Reynolds’s best direction is of Rickman, as Reynolds seems to understand what he’s doing.

Morgan Freeman, Nick Brimble and Michael Wincott are all good. Freeman’s Moor among the Englishmen is some of the script’s sillier developments (oh, wait, I forgot Geraldine McEwan’s witch).

Christian Slater is bad; Michael McShane’s Friar Tuck is weak.

As for the leads–Kevin Costner is appealing enough, if way too old to be playing the character as written. And then there’s the issue of his hair–he’d need a hair stylist in Sherwood Forest every day to get that bouffant style going. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio disappears for long stretches (the film’s too long by about a half hour but the script’s structure needs time to play out) but she’s fine. She’s not in it enough to really make an impression.

Robin Hood’s generally a tolerable blockbuster. Better composition–and consistent photography (Douglas Milsome is all over the place)–would have helped.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Reynolds; screenplay by Pen Densham and John Watson, based on a story by Densham; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Graysmark; produced by Densham, Watson and Richard Barton Lewis; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Costner (Robin Hood), Morgan Freeman (Azeem), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Marian Dubois), Christian Slater (Will Scarlett), Alan Rickman (Sheriff George of Nottingham), Geraldine McEwan (Mortianna), Michael McShane (Friar Tuck), Brian Blessed (Lord Locksley), Michael Wincott (Guy of Gisborne) and Nick Brimble (Little John).


Mindhunters (2004, Renny Harlin)

Want to see an amazing, can’t-believe-I-haven’t-heard-of-him performance by Eion Bailey? See Mindhunters. Want to see a goofy, affable Val Kilmer performance (maybe the first of its kind since Real Genius)? See Mindhunters. Want to see Christian Slater’s possibly best performance since Pump Up the Volume? See Mindhunters.

Want to see a terrible Jonny Lee Miller performance, where he tries a Southern accent? Mindhunters. Or LL Cool J totally failing in a major role (since he established himself as the likable but possibly tough supporting character)? Mindhunters again. Want to see something where you’re shocked to remember Renny Harlin directed Die Hard 2? Not kidding, Mindhunters.

I didn’t fit Clifton Collins Jr. giving a bad performance (the first I’ve seen from him) in that last paragraph. Oops.

Mindhunters appears to be Dimension’s attempt to turn Kathryn Morris into its Julia Roberts (and Patricia Valesquez, in maybe the film’s most absurdly awful performance, into its Angelina Jolie).

The film’s a considerable disaster, if only because the pacing is so idiotic–it didn’t get a theatrical release and it’s easy to see why. Unlike some of the other atrocious (but theatrically released) Dimension efforts, Mindhunters doesn’t even have a compelling cast. While there are good actors and good performances (the two are not corollary, however), Mindhunters would have been better served as a network miniseries. The script’s weak characterizations and Harlin’s laughable direction do the film no favors.

Though, I suppose, Charles Wood’s production design is good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin, based on a story by Kramer; director of photography, Robert Gantz; edited by Neil Farrell and Paul Martin Smith; music by Tuomas Kantelinen; production designer, Charles Wood; produced by Cary Brokaw, Akiva Goldsman, Jeffrey Silver and Rebecca Spikings; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Eion Bailey (Bobby Whitman), Clifton Collins Jr. (Vince Sherman), Will Kemp (Rafe Perry), Val Kilmer (Jake Harris), Jonny Lee Miller (Lucas Harper), Kathryn Morris (Sara Moore), Christian Slater (J.D. Reston), LL Cool J (Gabe Jensen) and Patricia Velasquez (Nicole Willis).


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