Peter Stormare

Lockout (2012, Steve Saint Leger and James Mather), the unrated version

The funny thing about Luc Besson getting sued over lockout and losing—to John Carpenter, who sued based on the film’s similarities to Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.—is, yes, the film rips off Carpenter’s Snake Plissken duet, but it also rips off Die Hard and Die Hard 2 while seemingly reusing dialogue from Besson’s own Fifth Element. Every time action hero Guy Pearce drops a one-liner, you can tell they wish it could’ve been Bruce Willis, which just would’ve been creepier given the age difference with damsel in distress Maggie Grace. Pearce and Grace have a sixteen year age difference and zero chemistry and Pearce’s teasing never really comes across as flirting. Often because Grace responds with some flat rant about Pearce being sexist, even though you can tell he doesn’t mean it any more than he means anything else in his one dimensional performance. So she comes off like she’s exaggerating, which serves to de-power her. It’d be a lot more gross if Grace weren’t terrible. Since she’s terrible, it’s hard to take any of her performance seriously. She’s not bad at the terrified bit, but directors Saint Leger and Mather don’t utilize it, which is probably better anyway given she’s mostly just terrified of Joseph Gilgun’s rape threats.

Lockout is nothing if not efficient in its cheapness.

Grace is the president’s daughter, on a fact-finding mission to an orbital prison where all the inmates are cryogenically frozen. Lockout is a future movie, set almost a hundred years in the future but things mostly look the same because then the CGI animators can just reuse existing models. Lockout looks like an exceedingly competent sci-fi TV show, one where they cut corners by speeding through establishing shots instead of emphasizing the visuals. It’s not even until the end the significant cheapness catches up, when there’s a shot of a city skyline and it’s a static image more appropriate for computer wallpaper than trying to suspend disbelief.

But the technical competence works against—oh, right, they also rip off the Death Star run from Star Wars—the technical competence works against the film because then it never quite gets to be campy. And Pearce isn’t trying anything with his performance so he’s never amusing. Grace doesn’t even seem to be aware trying is a possibility, though maybe it’s not given the character. Again, she’s at least good at being terrified. Pearce isn’t good at anything. He doesn’t even fall right. Lockout has got some terrible stunt work and fight choreography. Saint Leger and Mather are real bad at their jobs. So bad. Watching them work makes you sympathetic not for Grace or Pearce, but the other actors who their managers represent because clearly they’re in need of better representation. No one should have done Lockout. Definitely not Peter Stormare, who’s the government heavy out to railroad Pearce. Lennie James is actually good as the fed who knows Pearce and defends him but he shouldn’t have done the movie. If you can be good in Lockout, you can be better in something else.

Further examples being Vincent Regan and Gilgun as the prisoners who take over when the opportunity presents itself. Gilgun’s good… enough you might want to see him in something else. Regan’s better in Lockout but less encouraging of other projects. He’s resigned to the role. He’s got more life in him than any of the good guys, but he’s still pretty resigned.

Peter Hudson’s not great as the President. Not sure how they didn’t think to get a name cameo for that part. Stormare, who’s terrible, would have at least given the casting some personality instead of generic Hudson.

I should probably just cut my loses and take it as a win the film didn’t continue identifying each location every third shot, which is always an establishing shot of a different location. Lockout’s very silly and very inept.

And plagiarism. It’s plagiarism. Lockout is pointlessly plagiarized from better source material.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Steve Saint Leger and James Mather; screenplay by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson, based on a story by Besson; director of photography, Mather; edited by Camille Delamarre and Eamonn Power; music by Alexandre Azaria; production designer, Romek Delmata; costume designer, Olivier Bériot; produced by Marc Libert and Leila Smith; released by FilmDistrict.

Starring Starring Guy Pearce (Snow), Maggie Grace (Emilie), Lennie James (Shaw), Peter Stormare (Langral), Vincent Regan (Alex), Joseph Gilgun (Hydell), Jacky Ido (Hock), Tim Plester (Mace), and Peter Hudson (The President).


Fargo (1996, Joel Coen)

Much–probably most–of Fargo is exceptional. The Coens take over half an hour to bring their protagonist into the movie. They spend that first half hour with the villains, even having time to make said villains simultaneously lovable and even more dangerous. William H. Macy isn’t just some loser who schemes to rip off his father-in-law, he’s a dangerous sociopath. It’s amazing what the Coens can fit behind those goofy accents and the folky talk.

And those levels of Fargo are what make it so fantastic. Frances McDormand isn’t playing a silly sheriff, she’s playing this incredible investigator who just happens to sound like she lives in a waffle commercial. All of the police work in the film is thoroughly executed; the cops aren’t of the Keystone variety.

But the Coens don’t engage with this situation. They don’t force the viewer. They don’t even acknowledge it. They’re playing it straight.

Until the end. McDormand stumbles across the bad guys by accident. Even worse, there was a plot point earlier to set up an actual investigatory discovery of the bad guys and the Coens skip it. Very disappointing.

Otherwise, the film is fantastic. Great photography from Roger Deakins, wonderful score from Carter Burwell. Fargo speeds along too. There’s never a slow moment.

The supporting cast–Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare, John Carroll Lynch–is great. Buscemi has some exceptional rants throughout.

McDormand and Macy are both excellent. McDormand even manages to sell the questionable stuff at the end.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Coen; written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; director of photography, Roger Deakins; edited by Roderick Jaynes; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Rick Heinrichs; produced by Ethan Coen; released by Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

Starring Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson), William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), Steve Buscemi (Carl Showalter), Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson), Peter Stormare (Gaear Grimsrud), Kristin Rudrüd (Jean Lundegaard), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson) and Steve Park (Mike Yanagita).


Tai Chi Hero (2012, Stephen Fung)

Tai Chi Hero basks in its extravagance. Whether it’s the kung fu fighting, the battle scenes (these are different types of scenes) or just the imaginative steampunk gadgets, Hero always invites the viewer to enjoy what it’s creating.

And when Fung has to come up with something different? He does. And he does a great job with it. I had to take a step back and think about the big choice he makes, but it’s the right one-the only one he could make for the film.

He does turn back on the extravagance a little with a final gag, however.

Hero directly continues the previous entry (Tai Chi Zero), complete with an opening flashback of memorable events. It probably stunts the drama a little, which involves Eddie Peng’s wiener-boy of a villain plotting against the peaceful village as his ex-girlfriend (Angelababy) tries to teach her platonic new husband (Yuan Xiaochao) kung fu. Her father (and Yuan’s friend) Tony Leung Ka Fai tries to help out, but he’s got his ne’er-do-well eldest son (Feng Shaofeng) back in town.

Most of the film plays like a soap opera, since it is such a direct continuation of the previous one, but director Fung always keeps it light and fun.

The biggest problem is after Yuan gets good at kung fu… Angelababy stops being such a driving force in the picture. There’s also Feng running away with the first half or so of the film.

Still, Hero works out.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Fung; screenplay by Cheng Hsiao-tse and Zhang Jialu, based on a story by Chen Kuo-fu; directors of photography, Peter Ngor, Lai Yiu-Fai and Du Jie; edited by Cheng, Matthew Hui and Zhang Weili; music by Katsunori Ishida; production designer, Timmy Yip; produced by Wang Zhongjun, Wang Liqun and Zhu Jing; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Yuan Xiaochao (Yang Lu Chan), Angelababy (Chen Yunia), Tony Leung Ka Fai (Uncle Laborer), Eddie Peng (Fang Zi Jing), Nikki Hsieh (Sister-in-Law) and Peter Stormare (Flemming).


Constantine (2005, Francis Lawrence)

Until the last minute, which introduces the idea Keanu Reeves is going to be narrating the film (which doesn’t start with him and has a number of scenes without him), I was going to say nice things about Constantine. I wasn’t even going to point out the son of the devil who’s coming to Earth is doing it through an illegal immigrant from Mexico. I wasn’t going to mention how Tilda Swinton seems to be the go to androgynous actor. I was even going to say something nice about the music, but the end credit music, which comes right after that lousy voiced over narration, it’s awful.

It’s definitely one of Reeves’s better performances. He never once comes across like Ted.

Rachel Weisz is terrible–I can’t believe she’s won an Oscar–but Shia LaBeouf is mildly amusing as the sidekick and Djimon Hounsou’s solid in a smaller part. Peter Stormare has a good cameo as Satan. Swinton’s awful.

Lawrence does a pretty good job directing, which I found odd since he did such an awful job with his Will Smith as a scientist movie–maybe that one was just too unbelievable. There’s some nice Panavision composition, but Lawrence shoots LA like it’s New York, which isn’t bad at all, but is peculiar–as compared to Sam Raimi, who shoots New York like LA.

The special effects are all right, the movie moves at a decent pace. It’s totally fine until the last minute, like I said, when it flops.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Francis Lawrence; screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, based on a story by Brodbin and the DC Comics character created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Wayne Wahrman; music by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt; production designer, Naomi Shohan; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Erwin Stoff, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Akiva Goldsman; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Keanu Reeves (John Constantine), Rachel Weisz (Angela Dodson), Shia LaBeouf (Chas), Tilda Swinton (Gabriel), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Father Hennessy), Djimon Hounsou (Midnite), Gavin Rossdale (Balthazar) and Peter Stormare (Satan).


Horsemen (2009, Jonas Åkerlund)

Horsemen went direct-to-video with Dennis Quaid and Zhang Ziyi. It’s surprising because it’s a Platinum Dunes production–the guys who remade Friday the 13th; I thought Michael Bay would have a firmer distribution deal.

The director, Jonas Åkerlund, is fine. With a better script, he might have made a better movie.

Horsemen would have been more successful as a TV pilot. It’s decently paced at its ninety minutes. Things start to fall apart halfway through as the dynamic changes occur. Quaid and Zhang–with Zhang as Hannibal Lecter–facing off is a disaster. Zhang’s terrible once the character changes.

The script’s incompetent but it does pace the film with the scenes–almost–in vignettes. There’s a good, short sequence with Patrick Fugit. Fugit’s good. Paul Dooley shows up for a little while and he and Quaid have a Breaking Away reunion (though I can’t remember if they had any scenes together in that film).

Peter Stormare’s awful enough to make one forget he’s ever been good.

It’s a dumb family drama with Quaid and his two sons. Quaid’s not really good, but he’s not terrible. Clifton Collins Jr. is great. One of the more interesting things in the film are he and Quaid’s hairstyles. They both have these late seventies cop movie hairstyles.

A lot of the film relies on Lou Taylor Pucci, as Quaid’s older son. He’s not bad, just ineffectual. Fugit would have been a better choice.

I was expecting to turn it off but didn’t.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund; written by Dave Callaham; director of photography, Eric Broms; edited by Jim May and Todd E. Miller; music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek; production designer, Sandy Cochrane; produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Aidan Breslin), Zhang Ziyi (Kristen), Lou Taylor Pucci (Alex Breslin), Clifton Collins Jr. (Stingray), Barry Shabaka Henley (Tuck), Patrick Fugit (Corey), Eric Balfour (Taylor), Paul Dooley (Father Whiteleather), Liam James (Sean Breslin), Chelcie Ross (Police Chief Krupa) and Peter Stormare (David Spitz).


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