Robert Davi

Swamp Shark (2011, Griff Furst)

It’s hard to explain why Swamp Shark is watchable. The primary reason–besides seeing what weathered professionals D.B. Sweeney and Kristy Swanson–is the Louisiana location shooting. Cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore really brings out the greens. Besides the terrible, digitally aided day for night scene, Swamp Shark looks better than it should. Even though the casting director forgot black people live in Louisiana too.

Furst isn’t much of a director, but he knows what to mimic and he rips off a couple memorable moments from Jaws and, in particular, Jaws 2. He also seems to understand the only way to make Swamp Shark palatable is to pace it like a traditional TV movie (it plays like an abbreviated miniseries) and not a film. The abbreviating works a lot better because the supporting cast is so terrible. There are a bunch of college kids in danger and they’re all awful. Well, mostly just Dylan Ramsey.

In the main cast, Jeff Chase and especially Richard Tanne are bad. Furst can’t direct actors, but it’s okay, because his editor, Matt Taylor, can’t cut dialogue scenes together.

Sweeney holds it together admirably, as does Robert Davi–even though Davi loses his accent after a while. Swanson never attempts an accent; she’s agreeable without being believable. She comes off way too smart.

Jason Rogel is amusing in a smaller role. Sophie Sinise leaves no impression.

Wade Boggs is awful; he doesn’t seem to get the movie’s laughing at him.

Swamp Shark is garbage, but surprisingly digestible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Griff Furst; written by Jennifer Iwen; director of photography, Lorenzo Senatore; edited by Matt Taylor; music by Andrew Morgan Smith; production designer, Jayme Bohn; produced by Kenneth M. Badish and Daniel Lewis; aired by the Syfy Channel.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Rachel Bouchard), D.B. Sweeney (Tommy Breysler), Robert Davi (Sheriff Watson), Jeff Chase (Jason Bouchard), Sophie Sinise (Krystal Bouchard), Jason Rogel (Martin), Richard Tanne (Tyler), Charles Harrelson (Noah), Natacha Itzel (Sarah), Dylan Ramsey (Scott), Lauren Graham (Laura), Thomas Tah Hyde III (Marcus), Ashton Leigh (Amber) and Wade Boggs (Deputy Stanley).


Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)

Talking about Die Hard is complicated for lots of reasons. Besides Aliens, I think it’s the best popular action film ever made and, given when it came out, it’s very familiar. It shouldn’t be full of surprises and, in many ways, is not (though Theo and Karl having a bet on Takagi is something new to me. So instead, when watching it, it’s an appreciatory experience, rather than a–it’s still critical, but since I’m not looking to assign a value, since I know the value, I’m trying to understand how it works.

Die Hard features brutal, terrible villains. Not at all likable, but there’s almost a Helsinki syndrome with them. Theo’s funny, Karl’s crazy, Hans is great to watch. The bad guys prove more entertaining than the “good guys,” with the standard exceptions of Willis and Reginald VelJohnson. That level is always in the film, regardless of what number viewing a person is having. The “Die Hard on a dot dot dot” action movie, which has almost become every action movie (except, oddly the last two Die Hard sequels), ignores the most interesting parts of the film. Villains who are fun to watch not because of their villainy, but because the characters are bad, but entertaining. There’s also the question of the short present action. The movie starts with Willis getting there and ends with him leaving. The situation (Willis visiting estranged wife) provides for a perfect exploration of the characters, without needless exposition.

But there’s also the developing relationships through the film. The dumb cop eventually becoming… friendly (only after the dumber FBI agents show up). McTiernan directs a confined story better than anyone I can think of–because he inserts the viewer in the building with the characters… But the viewer isn’t tied down to Willis, the viewer gets to move….

There’s an element of privilege to the film. Lots of the moments Willis gets–the quiet ones–are privileged moments (which makes the lack of respect for his acting at this point in his career a tad surprising), but they don’t compare to some of the other ones. Like when Bedelia sees her practically demolished husband at the end. Just her expression brings Die Hard to a level of reality, even with the jokes, even with explosions, very few films–none featuring off-duty cops with automatic weapons–ever reach. The film encompasses the viewer in a singular way, something none of the imitators (or sequels) could duplicate.

Obviously, Rickman is outstanding and Willis is great–the most interesting thing about the two is the lack of desperate struggle. By giving Willis Alexander Godunov as a nemesis, his relationship with Rickman becomes far more interesting. Godunov is, of course, a joy to watch.

I think the only acting surprise was De’voreaux White, who I never think about doing a great job, but does.

McTiernan’s never duplicated the quality, influence or depth of Die Hard–the understanding of people relating to one another–but then, screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza have never even come close… because another sterling aspect of the film is the conversations between the characters.

I didn’t do a particularly good job with this post but I don’t have to. Because Die Hard is, to quote a friend (on a different subject), undeniable. And because, once the experience is over… it’s hard to talk about.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; screenplay by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by John F. Link and Frank J. Urioste; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), Alexander Godunov (Karl), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennero McClane), Paul Gleason (Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), De’voreaux White (Argyle), Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis), Dennis Hayden (Eddie), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo), James Shigeta (Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi), Robert Davi (FBI Special Agent Johnson) and Grand L. Bush (FBI Agent Johnson).


License to Kill (1989, John Glen)

Occasionally, I feel like the English language doesn’t allow for–without a lot of adjectives–a reasonable description of something. In this case, I can’t possibly describe the heights of stupidity License to Kill’s screenplay reaches. I mean, for a film to feature a South American drug kingpin with a base more appropriate for Dr. No, it has to be pretty stupid. But for it to feature a chemistry-free, love-at-first-sight romance (between Dalton and Carey Lowell, whose character is terribly written and whose performance is nowhere near as bad as Talisa Soto’s) after a bar fight… it’s simply incredible. The “modernizing” of the Bond villain to the drug kingpin is ludicrous, even if Robert Davi has some good moments, really good ones, but to throw people to leftover sharks from Jaws: The Revenge….

License to Kill is so dumb, I forgot to open this post with the line I’ve been waiting to use–my friend refers to License to Kill as James Bond’s Lethal Weapon. Between Michael Kamen doing the music and Grand L. Bush having a thankless, minuscule role, it really is an attempt to Americanize James Bond and it’s a failure. John Glen doesn’t get how to do action scenes or fight scenes. He gets how to do great special effects scenes–or the second unit director does–but otherwise, Glen is a liability to a ultra-violent Bond film. I mean, Bond’s not just killing people in this one, he’s torturing them.

The setup with Bond in Florida for Felix Leiter’s wedding, not to mention giving him friends, really does work. It works so well, I forgot it was Priscilla Barnes (she’s okay–her character is apparently a complete drunk–but a “Three’s Company” connection is a little distracting). But everything falls apart when, instead of killing all the bad guys, Bond makes off in a hydroplane in a well-executed special effects and stunts sequence. The writers don’t get it, the director doesn’t get it… Dalton barely gets it.

Dalton’s performance as Bond is quite good, creating a character who can believably have friends as well as everything else (though he does not come off as irresistible, something the script requires of him). Desmond Llewelyn has a lot to do as Q becomes a field agent and he’s a lot of fun–even if he is a little odd in the otherwise dark story. Wayne Newton’s fantastic as a televangelist in an overblown cameo.

As a tonal shift, License to Kill is a mistake (the script belongs in a direct-to-video movie from the early 1990s, starring a soap star who thought it’d be his breakout role), as is setting the film in the United States. It’s over two hours, but it’s boring… it’s nice Dalton can pull off a boring James Bond and it’s too bad he didn’t make more… but what’s the point? It doesn’t work as action adventure and it doesn’t work as revenge action.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John Glen; written by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, based on characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by John Grover; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier), Robert Davi (Franz Sanchez), Talisa Soto (Lupe Lamora), Anthony Zerbe (Milton Krest), Frank McRae (Sharkey), David Hedison (Felix Leiter), Wayne Newton (Professor Joe Butcher), Benicio Del Toro (Dario), Anthony Starke (Truman-Lodge), Everett McGill (Ed Killifer), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (President Hector Lopez), Robert Brown (M), Priscilla Barnes (Della Churchill), Don Stroud (Heller), Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Kwang) and Grand L. Bush (Hawkins).


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