Matthew Lillard

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.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

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).


SLC Punk! (1998, James Merendino)

SLC Punk! is controlled chaos. Or chaotic control. Director Merendino is incredibly careful about everything–how he uses crane shots to open up the low budgeted film, how he and Esther P. Russell cut scenes, which flashback footage goes where, how protagonist Matthew Lillard’s narration works (hint: it’s in an Austenian sense), how the film fits together. SLC runs just over ninety minutes and the first twenty-five of them are precisely layered flashbacks and flash forwards. Merendino’s meticulous.

But the secret of SLC Punk! isn’t how its not really an extreme comedy or how its Jane Austen with eighties punks, it’s the film’s sincerity. Merendino structures the film–and Lillard’s character and performance–to force an investment and an interest from the viewer. SLC isn’t a passive viewing experience; it isn’t set up to function as one.

The film gets serious once Merendino runs out of fast jokes–not even cheap ones, just fast ones. At the same time, Lillard gets serious too, only since he’s narrating in the past tense, Merendino’s forcing an examination of the previous (comedically played) events. The film’s final flashback, ostensibly promising the great reveal, instead just further shows Merendino’s sincerity and his dedication to it.

Great performances all over–Lillard, Michael A. Goorjian as his best friend and alter ego, then Jason Segel, Adam Pascal, Til Schweiger as their sidekicks. Merendino’s enthusiastic about the actors and in how he showcases them.

SLC Punk! is excellent. Merendino, Lillard and Goorjian do outstanding work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by James Merendino; director of photography, Greg Littlewood; edited by Esther P. Russell; production designer, Charlotte Malmlöf; produced by Sam Maydew and Peter Ward; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Matthew Lillard (Stevo), Michael A. Goorjian (Bob), Annabeth Gish (Trish), Jennifer Lien (Sandy), Jason Segel (Mike), Adam Pascal (Eddie), Til Schweiger (Mark), James Duval (John the Mod), Devon Sawa (Sean), Summer Phoenix (Brandy) and Christopher McDonald (Stevo’s Dad).


Wicker Park (2004, Paul McGuigan)

Wicker Park is a psychological drama, not thriller. While director McGuigan occasionally uses thriller-like foreshadowing or ominous sections, Park never forecasts its narrative. Protagonist Josh Hartnett skips an important business trip to China to search for an ex-girlfriend, but he does it all where he lives. The film takes place over three or four days in Chicago, where Hartnett lives, yet he’s outside his regular life.

He’s hanging out with Matthew Lillard, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, and pretending to his current girlfriend he’s in China. There are multiple flashbacks explaining the ex-girlfriend (played by Diane Kruger). McGuigan and editor Andrew Hulme use generic transitions between past and present, but between the acting and Cliff Martinez’s score, Park never feels quite in one time or another. It’s never confusing to the narrative, it’s just always clear Hartnett’s character is existing contemporaneously in both times.

Most of the acting’s excellent–Rose Byrne is fantastic, Hartnett’s great. Lillard’s good, even though his character’s dreadfully underwritten. Except in a film with four principals and almost no supporting cast, a weak link hurts.

Kruger is awful. She’s incapable of affect or personality. Her performance severely hurts Park.

McGuigan seems to realize it, because the finish makes up for Kruger with nothing more than music and editing and placement of actors. McGuigan always keeps the film objective, which helps with that timelessness. It also means he can sell a wholly artificial ending on nothing but technical quality.

And he does.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul McGuigan; screenplay by Brandon Boyce, based on a screenplay by Gilles Mimouni; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Andre Lamal, Marcus Viscidi, Gary Lucchesi and Tom Rosenberg; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Matthew), Rose Byrne (Alex), Matthew Lillard (Luke), Diane Kruger (Lisa), Christopher Cousins (Daniel), Ted Whittall (Walter) and Jessica Paré (Rebecca).


Serial Mom (1994, John Waters)

Serial Mom gets a lot of mileage out of its concept–Kathleen Turner’s June Cleaver as a serial killer (actually, spree killer)–before it runs out of gas. Sadly, once it does, all of the plot problems become clear. But then Waters brings it to court and Mom is reinvigorated. Turner’s not special during the first hour or so, but she’s fantastic for the last third, when she’s defending herself in court.

Waters’s script seems incredibly fast and loose (like parent-teacher conferences being called a PTA meeting). For a while, he’s able to get away with it as he introduces all these annoying sitcom-esque characters for Turner to murder. Then he brings in two lengthy chase sequences back-to-back and it crumbles.

It doesn’t help the second one involves Justin Whalin, who’s simply awful in the movie. Waters can get away with a lot of goofy casting (Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords–Bess Armstrong’s in it way too little) but Whalin’s incompetent.

The supporting cast is good. Sam Waterston’s the hapless husband, (way too old for high school) Matthew Lillard is the teenage son, Ricki Lake’s the daughter with self-image problems. Lake’s performance is a tad broad, but she’s still rather likable.

Robert M. Stevens’s photography is good–he and Waters use a vibrant color scheme (Baltimore’s probably never looked so nice)–and Basil Poledouris’s score is fun.

Unfortunately, Waters’s closing gag ruins the film. He can’t seem to decide what he wants to do with it.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Waters; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Janice Hampton and Erica Huggins; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Vincent Peranio; produced by John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov; released by Savoy Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Beverly R. Sutphin), Sam Waterston (Eugene Sutphin, D.D.S.), Ricki Lake (Misty Sutphin), Matthew Lillard (Chip Sutphin), Scott Morgan (Detective Pike), Walt MacPherson (Detective Gracey), Justin Whalin (Scotty Barnhill), Patricia Dunnock (Birdie), Lonnie Horsey (Carl Pageant), Mink Stole (Dottie Hinkle) and Mary Jo Catlett (Rosemary Ackerman).


Wing Commander (1999, Chris Roberts)

Watching Freddie Prinze Jr. court Saffron Burrows feels like some kind of archaic punishment. It’s the filmic equivalent of the rack.

Thankfully, not all of Wing Commander concentrates on the courtship, which might very well be the anti-Christ of screen romances–trying to decide if it’s Prinze or Burrows who gives a worse performance (Prinze through his abject incompetence in the acting profession and Burrows through her ludicrous posturing) can occupy a lot of the viewer’s time.

There isn’t really anything else to do during Wing Commander once Ginny Holder dies. She and Matthew Lillard are fantastic together and then she dies and then it gets worse. Sure, it’s always bad, but at least she and Lillard have this wonderful romance going; even with the film’s present action running something like sixteen hours, the two of them make it work.

Director Roberts created the source video game (I think) and directed the live action sequences for some of the video game sequels and that excellent experience shows. Though he does seem to understand how to construct a basic battle scene (the film owes a lot to World War II films, both submarine and air force ones), he can’t direct actors. With Lillard, it’s fine. With almost everyone else, it’s a disaster. Besides Lillard and Holder, the best performances are bit ones from Hugh Quarshie and Simon MacCorkindale. David Suchet looks embarrassed if not humiliated and Jürgen Prochnow has certainly seen better days.

It’s hard to believe it opened theatrically.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Roberts; screenplay by Kevin Droney, based on his story and the video game created by Roberts; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Peter Davies; music by Kevin Kiner and David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Todd Moyer; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. (1st Lt. Blair), Saffron Burrows (Lt. Cmdr. Devereaux), Matthew Lillard (Lt. Marshall), Tchéky Karyo (Taggart), David Suchet (Capt. Sansky), Jürgen Prochnow (Cmdr. Gerald), David Warner (Adm. Tolwyn), Ginny Holder (Lt. Forbes), Hugh Quarshie (Obutu) and Simon MacCorkindale as the flight boss.


The Groomsmen (2006, Edward Burns)

The Groomsmen looks wrong. The film doesn’t have any grain and the lighting suggests it’s shot on some kind of DV (it isn’t). Everything is very controlled–a bright outdoor scene doesn’t seem bright in Groomsmen, it seems like the color has been toned down so as not to offend. It looks like a Mentos commercial really, and that defect doesn’t make any sense. Burns has made films for quite a while now. There’s no excuse. Unless the DVD transfer is just a disaster or something.

It doesn’t help Burns coasts through The Groomsmen in every way possible. I kept waiting for some great shots, but there was literally only one. A very steady Steadicam tracking shot. Every other shot in the film was generic and felt like Burns wasn’t even paying attention when he was setting it up. The film’s got a gradual build-up, so I gave him some benefit of the doubt–and then tracking shot reassured me–but then nothing else ever appeared. But he’s also disconnected with the picture as a writer and actor as well.

The Groomsmen is chock full of characters–Burns, brother Donal Logue, cousin Jay Mohr and friends Matthew Lillard and John Leguizamo. All of them have a subplot going on except Lillard, who owns the bar and is happily married with a couple kids. I assume his subplot is supposed to be the missed high school glory days, but it really isn’t. Lillard’s character is too well-adjusted. Lillard might give the film’s best performance, it’s either him or Logue. While Lillard was flawless, I never thought Logue would be capable of giving such a nuanced, haunted performance.

Burns is able–as a writer–to not give himself many scenes as an actor and he doesn’t. His subplot, ostensibly the main plot, is boring. His absence is almost immediate, which made me think he was going to use the time to concentrate on the film’s direction. He doesn’t. The direction shows a shocking lack of attention and there’s certainly nothing innovative.

There is some funny stuff in the script, but it feels undercooked, like Burns produced an unfinished draft. Too many characters to follow, some conversations too loose, the sort of things he should have cleared up. Mohr’s essentially playing an idiot–he’s the comic relief–and it’s fine. Leguizamo’s good. Burns is clearly an acting piker here, but Heather Burns (I don’t think she’s a relation) is good as Logue’s wife. Brittany Murphy, as Burns’s fiancée, is fine. He keeps the women, with one exception, at home and it hurts the film. The characters start in situations Burns can never make reasonable. They just seem silly.

But the main, male characters don’t even go through interesting arcs. Nothing in the running time should bring any eureka moments for these guys, it’s all stuff they could have hashed out in the first five minutes. Burns feels like he’s got a collection of notecards with pat movie psychoses and he’s assigning them one by one. It’s a shame, since he certainly didn’t start out this way.

The Groomsmen isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s exceptionally disappointing.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, William Rexer; edited by Jamie Kirkpatrick; music by Robert Gary and PT Walkley; production designer, Dina Goldman; produced by Margot Bridger, Burns, Aaron Lubin and Philippe Martinez; released by Bauer Martinez Studios.

Starring Edward Burns (Paulie), Heather Burns (Jules), John Leguizamo (TC), Matthew Lillard (Dez Howard), Donal Logue (Jimbo), Jay Mohr (Cousin Mike Sullivan), Brittany Murphy (Sue), Shari Albert (Tina Howard), Jessica Capshaw (Jen), Spencer Fox (Little Jack), Kevin Kash (Strip Club MC), Amy Leonard (Crystal), Arthur J. Nascarella (Mr. B), John F. O’Donohue (Pops), Joe Pistone (Top Cat), Tito Ruiz (Man in Bar), John Russo (Little Matt) and Jaime Tirelli (TC’s Dad).


Scroll to Top