Jesse Bradford

Hackers (1995, Iain Softley)

While Hackers is a terrible film, it does afford one the opportunity to see Jonny Lee Miller attempt to essay his lead role as a Ferris Bueller-type thing, only to instead do a strange rendition of Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty. It’s not worth seeing for this performance, not at all, but if you’re ever stuck watching the film, it is something to look out for.

The film’s so patently inept, it’s hard to find anything worth remarking on. Bad production design, bad photography, lame music, truly awful writing from Rafael Moreu. I mean, the script is something to behold. Again, not worth watching for it because director Softley really takes his job seriously and he’s really bad at it so Hackers isn’t even fun camp. It really ought to be, but it isn’t.

Camp might excuse the costume design or the performances.

There are a number of good actors or actors who have given good or excellent performances cashing a check in Hackers. None of them give a good or acceptable performance in this film–though I suppose Alberta Watson comes the closest–but I’m not sure it’s worth picking on anyone in particular. Though I finally understand how people can find Matthew Lillard annoying, because when he does the obnoxious schtick dressed like a cyberpunk scarecrow in terrible lighting, spouting atrocious dialogue, it is annoying. It’s a bad performance of that schtick, utterly lacking in any integrity.

Jesse Bradford, on the other hand, has plenty of integrity. He tries really hard with his part of the square white teen hanging out with all the early-to-mid twenties actors pretending to be teens. He’s always smoking a cigarette and he looks like a real, pack-a-day smoker. He clearly worked on it. It doesn’t fit the character at all and Softley doesn’t know how to glorify smoking,w hich, really, means you shouldn’t be allowed to make a film. At least not one set in the United States or France or even the UK–it’s important to know how to glorify smoking. It’s a very important part of cinema.

I feel worst for Renoly Santiago, who isn’t good but does do his job; Hackers abandons him. After being the third most prevalent character for the first act and a half, he vanishes. It’s idiotic.

Really dumb montages and “inside the computer world” sequences. Hackers is desperate to be cool. It’s desperate to be trendy, it’s desperate to be hip. And it’s not. It’s awful. It’s chilly. And chilly ain’t never been cool.



Directed by Iain Softley; written by Rafael Moreu; director of photography, Andrzej Sekula; edited by Chris Blunden and Martin Walsh; music by Simon Boswell and Guy Pratt; production designer, John Beard; produced by Michael Peyser and Ralph Winter; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller (Dade), Angelina Jolie (Kate), Jesse Bradford (Joey), Matthew Lillard (Cereal), Laurence Mason (Nikon), Renoly Santiago (Phreak), Fisher Stevens (Eugene), Lorraine Bracco (Margo), Alberta Watson (Mrs. Murphy) and Wendell Pierce (Agent Dick Gill).

Item 47 (2012, Louis D’Esposito)

Item 47 is exceptionally lame. Though it is well-acted and Marvel did pay for a Cars song over the end credits….

47 is an “aside” Avengers sequel, but more to the events in it. SHIELD agent Maximiliano Hernández’s mission is to find a Bonnie and Clyde team using an alien gun. But they’re really nice people, played by Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford. Director D’Esposito doesn’t get how to direct their scenes together so Caplan and Bradford are just stuck doing all the character work themselves.

Of course, if Eric Pearson’s script wasn’t so weak, 47 might be a lot better. He can’t write dialogue for the couple, but he can’t write it for the SHIELD agents either. The whole thing’s a setup for a weak punchline.

And 47‘s end credits are over two minutes long, which is way too long for a short. Cars song or not.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Louis D’Esposito; written by Eric Pearson; director of photography, Gabriel Beristain; edited by John Breinholt and Hughes Winborne; music by Christopher Lennertz; production designer, Shepherd Frankel; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Studios.

Starring Lizzy Caplan (Claire), Jesse Bradford (Benny), Maximiliano Hernández (Agent Jasper Sitwell) and Titus Welliver (Agent Blake).

My Sassy Girl (2008, Yann Samuell)

There is a star in My Sassy Girl–and it’s not Jesse Bradford, who handles the leading romantic comedy man role effortless–it’s cinematographer Eric Schmidt, who makes New York City vibrant. There’s a lot of good in Yann Samuell’s direction (his composition is fantastic, his fast-fowarded transitions are, no shock, atrocious), but Schmidt’s cinematography brings that composition to life. There’s a soft texture to it, almost artificial, as though the filmmakers shot in Canada and put in digital backdrops (they didn’t). Schmidt’s idealized New York never looks like Hollywood New York, which is nice. Instead, it kind of looks like Ed Burns’s New York, if Burns were doing a mainstream (though not exactly, more on it later) romantic comedy. Had Burns done this romantic comedy… even made notes on a bar napkin… I wouldn’t be leading this post raving about the cinematographer.

There are two damning defects to My Sassy Girl–and not even the stupid fast-forwarded transitions, which I too would guess as one of them. In order of importance, they’re Elisha Cuthbert and the production. Cuthbert’s got a couple problems. First, she’s awful. Second, My Sassy Girl is a remake of a Korean film–and it follows enough of that film’s story to allow for comparisons to the original actress. They aren’t just unfavorable to Cuthbert, they’re withering. Cuthbert doesn’t have a single good scene in the film–there’s one moment at the end when I thought she was going to have one, but then she pulls through and doesn’t.

Some of the problem with Cuthbert–I mean, she can’t really be unappealing all the time, right, someone cast her in the film–is the production. My Sassy Girl, besides the dumb fast-forwarding transitions, maintains a very strange tone for an attempt at a Hollywood romantic comedy. Samuell’s French and apparently the producers let him do some stuff and it really doesn’t work. But those flourishes are at the beginning and are just bad exposition. The tone for the film’s big romantic comedy ending is a clingy melancholic one, almost like a tearjerker. What works in a Korean film–which had a lot of playfulness this remake flushes–does not work in an American one, not because of culture or filmmaking skill, but because this film runs ninety minutes, the original runs two hours and twenty minutes. What’s getting cut is important stuff….

A lot of the cut material would have been for Bradford, who barely has a character. He and his movie friend–because it’s unclear how they’d ever become friends–camp out on a rooftop underneath the Empire State Building. The story of how these two guys decide to camp out on a rooftop underneath the Empire State Building… a lot more interesting than anything going on in the film. Too bad it happens off screen.

Bradford manages the narration as well as can be expected, but it’s bad. At times, he almost looks embarrassed and he should be. Bradford’s performance–as well as Chris Sarandon, in a small role–make the film’s failure for legitimacy even more glaring. It’s clear the filmmakers were going for something different than the traditional romantic comedy, something staying in the spirit of the original, but it’s incompetently handled. The title makes no sense in the remake’s context (it’s a story point in the original). Such a big oversight is something I’d think screenwriter Victor Levin would notice and remedy, but he doesn’t.

It’s not a disappointment at all (in fact, once Schmidt starts shooting those New York exteriors, it’s frequently lovely… visually anyway), just because it opens so poorly and has to get better. And Cuthbert’s bad from the start, so there’s no expectation she’ll get any better. At least it’s something standard handled with a more artful touch.

And Bradford does make a lot of it worthwhile.



Directed by Yann Samuell; screenplay by Victor Levin, based on the film by Kwak Jae-Young and the novel by Kim Ho-sik; director of photography, Eric Schmidt; edited by Anita Brandt-Burgoyne; music by David Kitay; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Paul Brooks, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary and Jay Polstein; released by Gold Circle Films.

Starring Jesse Bradford (Charlie Bellow), Elisha Cuthbert (Jordan Roark), Austin Basis (Leo), Chris Sarandon (Dr. Roark), Jay Patterson (Roger Bellow), Tom Aldredge (Old Man), Louis Mustillo (Doorman), Brian Reddy (Mr. Phipps) and Joanna Gleason (Aunt Sally).

King of the Hill (1993, Steven Soderbergh)

Two major things about Soderbergh’s approach to a memoir adaptation. They’re somewhat connected, so I might not manage to separate them out. King of the Hill has no frame, it has no narration. It has no context. It does not feel, at all, like a “true” story because there’s no attempt to classify itself as a true story. It drops the viewer right in, gives he or she a subtitle notating the setting and time and nothing else. Soderbergh creates, at times, a stylistic euphoria–starts right at the beginning doing it even, maybe the third or fourth scene–and the approach makes King of the Hill different. Even though it’s based on a memoir, by never involving “reality,” Soderbergh makes the plot’s conclusion unsure. Anything could happen.

As innocuous as the story might sometimes get–since Jesse Bradford’s protagonist is so self-sufficient it’s hard to remember he’s thirteen–Soderbergh infuses the film with a constant danger. Sometimes the danger is age-appropriate, sometimes it’s a lot bigger. Around the midway point, I had to remind myself Soderbergh was not telling a story about his youth. I had to remind myself Soderbergh wasn’t alive during the film’s time period, it wasn’t based on his childhood–the film envelops the viewer. Soderbergh immediately establishes his characters and then everything else is experienced at Bradford’s pace. Characters enter and leave the story, with the entire story through Bradford’s perspective. The viewer occasionally gets other things, very brief glimpses from other character’s perspectives, but the whole show is Bradford, which might be why he’s never been able to follow it up.

The other performances are excellent too, with Adrien Brody in the film’s flashiest role. Soderbergh’s cinematic storytelling here is accomplished, there’s no other word. He incites the viewer to figure things out by a character’s presence, not to be cute, but because a successful King of the Hill viewer is a participatory viewer. It might by with the film did so terribly. Also good are Cameron Boyd as Bradford’s brother; Amber Benson as his friend–I find I’m not enumerating the adults as much, which is because of the way the film portrays them. It’s difficult to put them, having just watched the film, in an easy to discuss context. Spalding Gray is quite good in his small part as is Kristin Griffith in her two scenes.

The film’s character relationships are complicated and hard to unravel. Soderbergh manages moments of severe gravity with silence from the characters and Cliff Martinez’s delicate score. Martinez and Soderbergh seem to take some of the tone–and the music’s effect on the tone–from Badlands, which is an odd influence for a movie about a kid–King of the Hill is not a kid’s movie at all. It isn’t a feel good movie. It’s a sometimes unsettling film about survival and self-sufficience. Without ever using the word “depression,” Soderbergh has made one of the best films about the Great Depression.

It’s kind of like Maugham with kids (and in America and during the Great Depression).



Directed and edited by Steven Soderbergh; screenplay by Soderbergh, based on a memoir by A.E. Hotchner; director of photography, Elliot Davis; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Gary Frutkoff; produced by Albert Berger, Barbara Maltby and Ron Yerxa; released by Gramercy Pictures.

Starring Jesse Bradford (Aaron), Jeroen Krabbé (Mr. Kurlander), Lisa Eichhorn (Mrs. Kurlander), Karen Allen (Miss Mathey), Spalding Gray (Mr. Mungo), Elizabeth McGovern (Lydia), Cameron Boyd (Sullivan Kurlander), Adrien Brody (Lester Silverstone), Joe Chrest (Ben), John McConnell (‘Big Butt’ Burns), Amber Benson (Ella McShane), Kristin Griffith (Mrs. McShane), Chris Samples (Billy Thompson), Peggy Freisen (Mrs. Thompson), Katherine Heigl (Christina Sebastian) and John Durbin (Mr. Sandoz).

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