Joss Ackland

Moscow Zero (2006, María Lidón)

Someone read the script to Moscow Zero and wanted to direct it? I guess given the director goes by an alias (Luna) instead of her name–she’s like the female, Spanish McG or something–it should be a surprise. What is a surprise is the presence of Val Kilmer and Rade Serbedzija in this piece of nonsense.

Well, I’m only guessing at the presence of Val Kilmer. I never saw him before I stopped watching the film–between the bad, creepy ghost bad guy video effects and the little kid turning out to be a ghost (apparently), I’d had enough.

Kilmer does a lot of bad movies these days and I guess him being in this bad movie shouldn’t be a surprise (I’ll bet they paid his airfare to Moscow). It’s a tragedy no one comes along and gets him into a role an actor of his ability deserves.

But Serbedzija… him I can’t understand. His character is essentially a nutty professor who is searching the Moscow underground for Hell. Except there’s nothing really made of whether it’s literally Hell or some mythic Hell. He talks to himself the entire movie. It’s awful.

Vincent Gallo is the ostensible lead and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him lead a movie before. It’s a shock Moscow Zero didn’t end up in Hell right away under his terrible guidance. However, the revelation he’s a priest, coming moments before he makes eyes at Oksana Akinshina is something to see.

“Luna” is a joke.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by María Lidón; written by Adela Ibañez; director of photography, Ricardo Aronovich; edited by Elena Ruiz; music by Javier Navarrete; produced by Dolo Magan; released by Valentina Pictures.

Starring Vincent Gallo (Owen), Oksana Akinshina (Lyuba), Val Kilmer (Andrey), Sage Stallone (Vassily), Joaquim de Almeida (Yuri), Rade Serbedzija (Sergei), Alex O’Dogherty (Pavel), Julio Perillán (Alec Miller) and Joss Ackland (Tolstoy).


The Black Windmill (1974, Don Siegel)

The Black Windmill features Michael Caine and John Vernon shooting it out with Uzis. I’m sorry, I’m wrong. They’re shooting it out with MAC-10s. It’s an absurdity worthy of Siegel’s directorial protege Clint Eastwood–actually, Eastwood might have been paying homage to Siegel’s choice of lunacy here in Blood Work (when the serial killer happened to have an M-16 handy). Without Eastwood the star, however, Siegel is lost. The Black Windmill is excruciatingly boring. Something about the way it’s shot makes it unpleasant to watch. It’s too muddy and Siegel’s out of place shooting in London. He feels like he’s shooting a tourist film, not something natural.

Shockingly, the film does offer one of Michael Caine’s finest performances. Really. The script occasionally fails him, especially when it comes to the story between him and his wife (played by Janet Suzman, who fluctuates). It’s too short on the character relationship and too heavy on the bad intrigue. There are some nice performances in the film–Donald Pleasence is great as Caine’s suspicious, clumsy, neat-nick boss. Joss Ackland shows up for a few minutes and is real good. John Vernon is terrible. I once tried watching this film… ten years ago, probably, and Vernon’s scenes probably made me turn it off. He does accents (poorly) and then he’s just in the film far too long. John Vernon is fine, so long as he’s not around too long. He’s around way too long in The Black Windmill.

Some of Siegel’s work–just the shot construction–is really nice. The action scenes are mostly crap, just because he’s so out of his element, but he takes a sensitivity to the actual relationship between Caine and Suzman–Caine’s a spy whose son is kidnapped (it makes no sense, which is why I didn’t bother bringing it up earlier)–and it’s a sensitively I’m not used to seeing from Siegel. It’s a sparse sensitivity, but I would have loved to have seen more. Instead, there’s three or four chase scenes and a shootout. With John Vernon and Michael Caine and machine pistols….

1/4

CREDITS

Directed and produced by Don Siegel; screenplay by Leigh Vance, based on a novel by Clive Egleton; director of photography, Outsama Rawl; edited by Antony Gibbs; music by Roy Budd; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael Caine (Maj. John Tarrant), Joseph O’Conor (Sir Edward Julyan), Donald Pleasence (Cedric Harper), John Vernon (McKee), Janet Suzman (Alex Tarrant), Delphine Seyrig (Ceil Burrows) and Joss Ackland (Chief Superintendent Wray).


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