Jason Isaacs

A Single Shot (2013, David M. Rosenthal)

A Single Shot is the best film noir I’ve seen in a long time. Director Rosenthal eschews trying to make a neo-noir and just sets a film noir in some backwoods region. It’s never specified and it doesn’t really matter. It’s beautiful and dangerous. From the first hunting sequence, there’s always danger in Shot.

Sam Rockwell plays a ne’er do well who finds himself in more trouble than usual when he crosses paths with some dangerous ex-cons. Of course, it doesn’t help they somehow know his best friend (Jeffrey Wright), his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly) and even his lawyer (William H. Macy). It’s when all these connections become clear–Macy repeatedly talks about what a small town everyone is living in–Shot’s noir status becomes clear.

Sure, Rosenthal and writer Matthew F. Jones make Rockwell’s character far more sympathetic than the traditional noir protagonist, which initially makes Shot feel a little more like a strange Kentucky Hitchcock picture, but it’s noir. When it the whole picture unravels and reveals all its strange connections through time… it’s noir.

Rockwell’s lead performance is amazing. If it were just him doing a one man show, it’d probably still be an excellent film. But Shot has an unbelievably good supporting cast. Wright’s fantastic–like he and Rockwell were competing for who could be more devastating in slurred monologue. Ted Levine’s got a great scene, Ophelia Lovibond is awesome. Joe Anderson and Jason Isaacs are terrifying as the villains.

Shot is great.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by David M. Rosenthal; screenplay by Matthew F. Jones, based on his novel; director of photography, Eduard Grau; edited by Dan Robinson; music by Atli Örvarsson; production designer, David Brisbin; produced by Chris Coen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Keith Kjarval and Jeff Rice; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Sam Rockwell (John Moon), Jeffrey Wright (Simon), Kelly Reilly (Moira), Jason Isaacs (Waylon), Joe Anderson (Obadiah), Ophelia Lovibond (Abbie), Ted Levine (Cecile) and William H. Macy (Pitt).


Soldier (1998, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Someone must have realized Soldier had a lot of problems because there’s a terribly edited montage showing how Kurt Russell’s socially engineered future soldier is crushing on Connie Nielsen while her husband Sean Pertwee looks on in concern.

It gives Soldier a Shane feel, something the rest of the film doesn’t have. Like I said, it’s an awful montage–mixing footage from previous scenes and future ones with no sense of time–but all of Martin Hunter’s editing for Soldier is awful so it’s not a surprise.

Soldier‘s about Russell being replaced by genetically engineered future soldiers, who are “better”, and protecting a bunch of colonists whose spaceship crashed on the way to paradise. It’s a garbage planet too, which means it’s not really a Western in space… it’s a Western on a space garbage planet.

Anderson’s direction is occasionally mediocre, but mostly bad. He can’t figure out how to direct a fight scene, which is bad for the big finale between Russell and muscle-bound grotesque Jason Scott Lee. He also can’t direct his actors, so Gary Busey just embarrasses himself and Jason Isaacs is more cartoonish than Elmer Fudd.

There’s also a lot of slow motion and bad zooms and godawful music from Joel McNeely. Worse, the slow motion and worst music coincide; Anderson doesn’t trust his viewer to pick up on anything.

Russell’s not bad, though he can’t compete with the idiotic production. Sean Pertwee’s pretty good as Van Heflin, though his highlights are inexplicable.

Soldier‘s ghastly.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; written by David Webb Peoples; director of photography, David Tattersall; edited by Martin Hunter; music by Joel McNeely; production designer, David L. Snyder; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kurt Russell (Todd 3465), Jason Scott Lee (Caine 607), Jason Isaacs (Colonel Mekum), Connie Nielsen (Sandra), Sean Pertwee (Mace), Jared Thorne & Taylor Thorne (Nathan), Mark Bringelsorn (Rubrick), Gary Busey (Church), K.K. Dodds (Sloan), James Black (Riley), Mark De Alessandro (Goines), Vladimir Orlov (Romero), Carsten Norgaard (Green), Duffy Gaver (Chelsey), Brenda Wehle (Hawkins), Michael Chiklis (Jimmy Pig), Elizabeth Dennehy (Mrs. Pig) and Paul Dillon (Slade).


Green Zone (2010, Paul Greengrass)

Most of Green Zone is the best film I’ve seen about the Iraq war, simply because Greengrass is often satisfied with letting the film just be concrete situations (he opens with Matt Damon and his crew having to deal with a sniper and it establishes a great tone). However, Green Zone isn’t just a war movie… it’s an action conspiracy thriller and one set in reality, so eventually the film has to turn Damon into a superhero.

The film bombed, which isn’t much a surprise given how Americans are happiest when avoiding critical thinking and intellectualism. And calling Green Zone intellectual is a stretch—it’s a slick Hollywood picture. It’s like Syriana distilled into simple syrup and added into an Orange Julius smoothie. But screenwriter Brian Helgeland does slick better than almost anyone and he turns in a fantastic script, just one with some problems….

Like how the film isn’t willing to condemn anyone except a singular corrupt Bush administration official… and U.S. soldiers who torture civilians are eventually given a pass too. For all the hubbub, it’s very diplomatic to xenophobes. It does team Bourne collaborators Damon and Greengrass again. It’s not like those movies were made for intellectuals.

The acting’s universally solid. Damon’s excellent (though even he can’t sell the end), as is Brendan Gleeson (playing George Clooney from Syriana). Jason Isaacs is great as one of the villains. Khalid Abdalla is good as Damon’s Iraqi sidekick.

It’s predictable, but extraordinary well-done thanks to Greengrass and Helgeland.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Greengrass; screenplay by Brian Helgeland, inspired by a book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran; director of photography, Barry Ackroyd; edited by Christopher Rouse; music by John Powell; production designer, Dominic Watkins; produced by Greengrass, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Lloyd Levin; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Matt Damon (Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller), Greg Kinnear (Clark Poundstone), Brendan Gleeson (Martin Brown), Amy Ryan (Lawrie Dayne), Khalid Abdalla (Freddy), Yigal Naor (Al Rawi) and Jason Isaacs (Lieutenant Briggs).


Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010, Brandon Vietti)

Apparently, given the chance, comic book writers write screenplays just like comic books. Sitting through Under the Red Hood is not an unpleasant experience–Bruce Greenwood, voice alone, is the best Batman since Michael Keaton, animated or actual–but it’s got an atrocious plot structure.

First, the movie would be unintelligible for anyone who didn’t read Batman comics. Screenwriter Judd Winick (who also wrote some of the comics this movie’s based on) has an endless amount of costumed characters show up. It’s firmly set in the comic book world, which makes it fail as a filmic narrative.

Fail might be a little harsh. Red Hood doesn’t succeed, but it isn’t Winick’s fault. Besides Greenwood, most of the voice acting is terrible. Jensen Ackles, voicing a grownup, evil Robin, finally answers the question about Batman and Robin’s sexual relationship–I’m pretty sure Cyrano never sounded as amorous as Ackles does when talking to Greenwood’s Batman. I wonder if they recorded together.

Even worse is John Di Maggio’s Joker. The character’s written as a lunatic, but Di Maggio plays a vicious thug instead, presumably a Dark Knight influence.

Speaking of influences, there’s a nice little homage to the Adam West show and lots of the production design owes to the Tim Burton films. It’s a very good looking animated movie when the poorly illustrated characters aren’t running around.

If it had just been a bit better plotted, it would have been much better. Still, might be worth a viewing for Greenwood’s performance.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Brandon Vietti; screenplay by Judd Winick, based on comic books by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Winick and Doug Mahnke and on characters created by Bob Kane; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Bruce W. Timm and Bobbie Page; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Bruce Greenwood (Batman), Jensen Ackles (Red Hood), John Di Maggio (The Joker), Neil Patrick Harris (Nightwing), Jason Isaacs (Ra’s al Ghul), Wade Williams (Black Mask), Gary Cole (Commissioner Gordon), Kelly Hu (Ms. Li), Vincent Martella (Robin) and Jim Piddock (Alfred Pennyworth).


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