Jason Patric

Narc (2002, Joe Carnahan)

In addition to starring in Narc, Ray Liotta also produced, which makes sense because the film gives him a great part. Narc is about disgraced ex-cop Jason Patric getting back on the job because the department (Detroit, with Toronto standing in but never noticeably) has a dead cop and they need a fresh set of eyes. Why Patric? Because otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie? Ostensibly it’s because Patric was an undercover narcotics officer (subtle title nod) and the dead cop was also an undercover narcotics officer (something writer and director Carnahan somehow manages to forget to establish, but hey, the script’s often messy). Basically it’s a Hail Mary pass.

Only Patric’s gotten to be a pretty okay guy since leaving the coppers and wife Krista Bridges doesn’t want him going back. He hems and haws a little bit about it, but he’s not going to listen to her, of course. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie. Also because Carnahan avoids doing real scenes between Bridges and Patric like the film depends on it. And it probably does. Narc relies on Patric to be able to give the impression of being the lead in some kind of character study when it turns out Narc isn’t going to be about Patric at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Patric takes one look at the files and decides the department needs to bring back Liotta, who’s the bad cop the good cops love (he beats up suspects, plants evidence, whatever). The silly liberals in the city have taken Liotta off the case—even though he knew the murdered cop (Alan Van Sprang in flashbacks)—and he’s got a great conviction rate. Patric convinces boss Chi McBride (great in a nothing part) to bring Liotta back and now it’s time for the second act. Second act basically becomes a study of Liotta, with occasional cuts to Bridges being mad at Patric and Patric ignoring her because it’s a cop movie and silly woman. Also there are these gorgeous shots of Patric by himself in the urban blight considering his existence, set to the wondrous Cliff Martinez score, with even more wondrous Alex Nepomniaschy photography. Narc often looks and sounds fantastic. Not so much when Carnahan’s doing this silly quartered screen thing showing Patric and Liotta’s amazing investigatory skills; the sound design is intentionally confusing and pointless. Kind of like the amazing investigatory skills—all Liotta and Patric end up doing is showing the dead cop’s photograph to various Black guys in bad neighborhoods. There’s a lot of lip service paid to the possible racial unrest Liotta will bring to the investigation—because he’s the racist bad cop good cops love, even Black commander McBride—but all the actual bad guys are white. Does Liotta ever realize he’s wrong based on empirical evidence? No. But whatever. It’s not like the investigatory aspect of Narc is its strength. Carnahan doesn’t write a great mystery, he directs a great gritty character study and pretends his script is going to match. It eventually doesn’t (the third act), but thanks to Liotta’s performance and the perception of Patric’s at the time, Carnahan is able to then pretend he’s been doing an intentionally peculiarly plotted mystery the whole time.

And he gets away with it. Narc is not, in the end, a success. It does not realize its initial ambitions or narrative gesture. But the film gets away with it because of the intensity of the acting, intensity of the filmmaking. Who cares if Patric’s character entirely changes in the last thirty minutes. Maybe we never knew him at all, maybe we were just projecting, maybe Liotta was just projecting, maybe everyone was just projecting onto Patric’s tabula rasa. We weren’t, of course, and not just because it’s impossible to project onto Patric; his handlebar mustache and soul patch would get in the way.

But Carnahan is able to get away with it, because of built-up goodwill and (apparently) de facto liberal sensitivities.

In its third act, Narc becomes one of those mysteries where the resolution doesn’t have to succeed so much as not screw up the previous two acts too much. A bummer to be sure, but still an extremely well-made film with two great lead performances. Even if Patric’s character goes absurdly to pot.

Carnahan and his production designers, Greg Beale and Taavo Soodor, do spectacular work. Especially on the limited budget. The limited budget kind of perturbs when you realize it’d have been very cheap to do those much needed scenes between Patric and Bridges and Carnahan just chokes on it instead. That Nepomniaschy photography is great, that Martinez score is great, Liotta is great, Patric is (mostly) great. So what if the second half of the script’s shaky and Carnahan doesn’t know how to establish ground situations.

The script is just a delivery system for the filmmaking, the acting. Not ideal, not successful, but… good enough. Especially since the dialogue’s solid (there’s just not enough of it).

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Joe Carnahan; director of photography, Alex Nepomniaschy; edited by John Gilroy; music by Cliff Martinez; production designers, Greg Beale and Taavo Soodor; produced by Michelle Grace, Ray Liotta, Diane Nabatoff, and Julius R. Nasso; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Jason Patric (Nick Tellis), Ray Liotta (Henry Oak), Krista Bridges (Audrey Tellis), Chi McBride (Captain Cheevers), Tony De Santis (Medical Examiner Art Harlan), Anne Openshaw (Kathryn Calvess), Bishop Brigante (Eugene Sheps), and Alan Van Sprang (Michael Calvess).


The Beast (1988, Kevin Reynolds)

The Beast has a lot going for it, so its failure to connect–which is wholly director Reynolds’s fault–is a bit of a disappointment. The second half of the film has an accelerated pace. While the whole thing takes place over a couple days, the second half is an odd combination of summary and real time. Reynolds can’t pull it off. Peter Boyle’s fine editing can’t hide it either.

And some of the problems are writer William Mastrosimone’s fault. After establishing this wonderful antagonism between George Dzundza (as a Russian tank commander in Afghanistan who starts to lose it) and Jason Patric (his sane, and humanist, subordinate), Mastrosimone fails at establishing the camaraderie between Patric and Steven Bauer (as a Mujahideen). Patric and Bauer are both good enough to create said camaraderie and Reynolds certainly tries to engage it. But then acting and directing aren’t enough and the relationship needs the script and Mastrosimone’s too busy playing Patric’s dimwitted fellow tankers, played by Stephen Baldwin and Don Harvey, for laughs. It’s strange, especially since the first half of the film is able to balance it all out.

All of the acting in The Beast is strong. Dzundza gets the flashiest role, but Patric’s great, Bauer’s surprisingly strong (especially since once he and Patric cross paths, he takes a backseat in all his scenes). Baldwin, Harvey (especially Harvey). The supporting cast–Erick Avari, Shoshi Marciano, Kabir Bedi–all real good. When The Beast peaks and starts to slide in the third act, it isn’t the fault of the actors.

Reynolds shoots either close-ups or long shots. Whenever he does a medium shot, it’s a surprise; he’s composing for the eventual home video, pan and scan release, which is simultaneously unfortunate and also the only way he could have done The Beast. The desolate backdrops and the close-ups of the tank’s moving parts set to Mark Isham’s minimalist score work towards a certain transcendence.

Except, of course, Douglas Milsome’s photography is shockingly flat. Coupled with Reynolds’s impatience, the film’s visual sensibilities works counter to Isham’s score and the acting tone.

The Beast makes an intense impression throughout, but not much of one as the end credits begin to roll. It’s very close to being successful.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Reynolds; screenplay by William Mastrosimone, based on his play; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Kuli Sander; produced by John Fiedler; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jason Patric (Koverchenko), George Dzundza (Daskal), Steven Bauer (Taj), Stephen Baldwin (Golikov), Don Harvey (Kaminski), Erick Avari (Samad), Kabir Bedi (Akbar), Shoshi Marciano (Sherina) and Chaim Girafi (Moustafa).


Incognito (1997, John Badham)

Despite trying to appear dark and serious, Incognito is actually a rather light outing. Sure, protagonist Jason Patric is something of a jerk, but he’s a lovable jerk. And he’s usually in the right.

Patric is an art forger who reluctantly sets about creating a new Rembrandt. He’s working some very annoying people, played by Thomas Lockyer, Simon Chandler and Togo Igawa, but the money’s good and Patric also wants to tour Europe with his ailing father (Rod Steiger showing off he can still run away with a glorified cameo).

Europe’s a big thing in Incognito. It almost feels like a continental adventure until Patric ends up stuck in England, though he’s got Irène Jacob as a love interest and she’s definitely not English. Patric and Jacob have a nice little arc together, which probably takes up twenty minutes–Jordan Katz’s script is smart enough to bring her in earlier so the viewer is already hoping she’ll come back. Like I said, Incognito is a light thriller. There’s a lot of humor eventually

There’s also a lot of awesome montages involving art forging. Director Badham has some terrible crane shots in the film, but he does a good job for the most part. He makes England very exciting. It helps he’s got Patric and Jacob; they both do great work, even though she doesn’t have much of a character. Patric’s got more depth, but he brings it, not the script.

Incognito works out rather nicely. It’s confident, measuredly ambitious and rewarding.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Badham; written by Jordan Katz; director of photography, Denis Crossan; edited by Frank Morriss; music by John Ottman; production designer, Jamie Leonard; produced by James G. Robinson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jason Patric (Harry Donovan), Irène Jacob (Prof. Marieke van den Broeck), Thomas Lockyer (Alastair Davies), Simon Chandler (Iain Ill), Togo Igawa (Agachi), Michael Cochrane (Deeks), Pip Torrens (White), Ian Richardson (Turley) and Rod Steiger (Milton A. Donovan).


Quality Time (2010, James Redford)

Redford sort of comes up with a new genre in Quality Time, the suburban amusement. It’s innocuous but realistic, with Jason Patric trying to get his kids to the school bus early.

Patric is the essential element as he’s able to bring the reality the film needs, whether it’s begging one daughter to hurry up in the bathroom, swearing as he searches for his keys (waking his sleeping wife) or yelling at another driver. Quality Time feels miserably real.

It all holds up until the last moment, when—even if it’s an amusing moment—Redford lets the film become a bad car commercial. He ends it on a predictable joke and kills the momentum.

Otherwise, Redford’s writing and direction are both strong. He’s got a good ear for dialogue and he has some great shots.

Quality Time was never going to be profound, but it shouldn’t have been cheap either.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by James Redford; director of photography, John Kiffmeyer; edited by Stan Webb; music by Ken Cook; produced by Redford and Doug Nichol.

Starring Jason Patric (Dad), Lena Redford (Haley), Matthew Jackett (Evan) and Sacha Karnofsky (Sophie).


Frankenstein Unbound (1990, Roger Corman)

Philosophically speaking, Frankenstein Unbound is utter nonsense. Corman’s inclusion of that element seems to be more for effect than anything else–primarily, it takes advantage of Nick Brimble’s fine performance as the Monster. But it also has to do with how Corman uses his protagonist, John Hurt.

Unbound is a time travel picture (it filmed before Back to the Future Part II came out, so the similarities are likely coincidental) and, in many ways, it’s a fun time travel picture. Before he realizes what’s going on around him (that Mary Shelley based Frankenstein on actual events), Hurt is just having a good time. He’s so exceptionally passive, it’s hard to take him seriously as a protagonist, but it’s also hard not to like him.

Hurt’s never concerned about negatively affecting the past–he’s already ruined the world, but he takes it in his stride–and it eventually gets him involved with Mary Shelley (still Mary Godwin), played by Bridget Fonda. Even though the age difference should make it creepy, Hurt and Fonda sell the relationship.

But the film’s great performance is from Raul Julia. His Frankenstein is insane, evil and selfish and Julia makes every scene he’s in a delight.

Corman’s approach is objective–neither Frankenstein nor the Monster are judged, which seems to be the point, as Hurt spends a lot of time watching the events unfold in front of him.

Excellent music from Carl Davis, lovely Italian locations and good special effects.

Even though it stumbles, it succeeds.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Corman; screenplay by Corman and F.X. Feeney, based on the novel by Brian Aldiss; directors of photography, Armando Nannuzzi and Michael Scott; edited by Mary Bauer and Jay Cassidy; music by Carl Davis; production designer, Enrico Tovaglieri; produced by Corman, Kobi Jaeger and Thom Mount; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring John Hurt (Dr. Joe Buchanan), Raul Julia (Dr. Victor Frankenstein), Nick Brimble (The Monster), Bridget Fonda (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Catherine Rabett (Elizabeth Levenza), Jason Patric (Lord George Gordon Byron), Michael Hutchence (Percy Byshee Shelley) and Catherine Corman (Justine Moritz).


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The Losers (2010, Sylvain White)

A friend of mine (colleague might be the better designation, but friend first, I suppose) has given up on punishing slash hating films for having bad endings. I disagree. Otherwise, I’d give The Losers four stars and scream recommendations for it from the rooftops. Because the end of The Losers, an exceptionally problematic action revenge picture, is the greatest thing ever. It might actually be the best ending of a film ever.

I’m even calling it a film. Literature is nothing but good fiction writing and the end of The Losers is nothing but good film.

The Losers fails for a lot of reasons. Mostly because it utterly wastes an excellent cast. Chris Evans might be taking on the only great role left in adapted fiction (he’s due to be Captain America) but The Losers almost completely wastes him. Almost. It’s nice it doesn’t, because it certainly wastes its other exceptional cast members.

Columbus Short, a fantastic character actor, is reduced to a nothing role; his finest moments are basically when he directly echoes his role on “Studio 60.”

Óscar Jaenada has like ten lines. They’re all good. It’s too bad the film doesn’t do anything with him. (Look at me, still calling it a film).

In case you’re counting, The Losers doesn’t get four stars because of its exceptional, wonderful, better than Ocean’s Twelve ending, but it does get 500 words instead of the usual 250.

Idris Elba is fantastic throughout–like Short and Evans–but Elba gets the most screen time of the three actors. He doesn’t get the best material (Evans does) but he’s so good, even when the script fails on him.

Because, really, The Losers ought to be about him and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s relationship. It’s more than a friendship, more than a partnership, it’s about men working together and relying on each other. But The Losers isn’t about any of that thoughtful nonsense. Instead, it’s a modified adaptation of a really mediocre comic book.

The comic has really good art and really paltry writing, until the writing gets plain stupid. The film doesn’t go as stupid as the comic, but it gets pretty bad. The comic, however, never thought of having Zoe Saldana’s mercenary be a complete joke. Saldana’s performance probably knocks The Losers down a full star. Between her and Morgan (he’s too passive as the ostensible lead), there’s just no way for the film to recover.

Though having nineties guy Holt McCallany is nice; he plays Otis to Jason Patric’s Lex Luthor. Imagine if Gene Hackman had played Lex Luthor with total derision and visible loathing for the role and you’re about a tenth of the way to how awful Patric’s performance gets. He’s clearly upset he’s in this film. I hope he put in a nice pool.

White’s a mediocre director. He’s unimaginative and shoots an action movie like Tony Scott would. Terrible lighting from Scott Kevan (probably White’s fault). Okay music from Ottman.

But greatest ending ever. Don’t stop believing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvain White; screenplay by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, based on the comic book by Andy Diggle and Jock; director of photography, Scott Kevan; edited by David Checel; music by John Ottman; production designer, Aaron Osborne; produced by Joel Silver, Akiva Goldsman and Kerry Foster; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Clay), Zoe Saldana (Aisha), Chris Evans (Jensen), Idris Elba (Roque), Columbus Short (Pooch), Óscar Jaenada (Cougar), Holt McCallany (Wade) and Jason Patric (Max).


The Lost Boys (1987, Joel Schumacher)

Not being a girl, I never really got The Lost Boys. I didn’t even see it until I was in my late teens, hunting down Jeffrey Boam’s screenwriting credits. Seeing it now, it’s not just clear how much the film wastes wasted Michael Chapman’s cinematography or how Schumacher makes Corey Haim the only gay leading character in a major Hollywood film I can think of, but also how impossible it would have been to identify with the film as a boy. It’s not like The Monster Squad or The Goonies; Schumacher’s gearing this film specifically for the teenager girl audience. Its infinite depths of gay subtext, while amusing during the more tedious stretches, are really meaningless.

I also can’t remember many other popular vampire films where the rules of vampirism aren’t fetishized. There’s lip service paid to them here, but The Lost Boys plays it pretty loose with the rules (like when Jami Gertz enters Haim’s house uninvited or antlers killing a vampire).

Haim’s not good. He’s not even personable enough to be obnoxious. Corey Feldman’s bad too. Jamison Newlander’s fine, so much so, it’s surprising he didn’t go on to more.

Jason Patric, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann and Barnard Hughes are all great. Patric’s got some lame scenes too, so when he does good work, it’s impressive–he’s got a lot to overcome.

The vampires are mostly lame, Alex Winter being the lamest. Their makeup is from the Cat People remake….

Still, it’s not as bad as I remembered.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Schumacher; screenplay by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam, based on a story by Fischer and Jeremias; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Robert Brown; music by Thomas Newman; production designer, Bo Welch; produced by Harvey Bernhard; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jason Patric (Michael), Corey Haim (Sam), Dianne Wiest (Lucy), Barnard Hughes (Grandpa), Edward Herrmann (Max), Kiefer Sutherland (David), Jami Gertz (Star), Corey Feldman (Edgar Frog), Jamison Newlander (Alan Frog), Brooke McCarter (Paul), Billy Wirth (Dwayne), Alex Winter (Marko) and Chance Michael Corbitt (Laddie).


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