Friday, April 5, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray: THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS (2013), THE COMEDY (2012) and RED DAWN (2012)

(US - 2013)

A tired post-Tarantino knockoff that plays like a white-trash BOONDOCK SAINTS by way of SMOKIN' ACES and isn't nearly as witty and quotable as it thinks it is, the barely-released THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS has the titular Oodie brothers--Brick (Clayne Crawford), McQueen (VIKINGS' Travis Fimmel), and Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore), who used to be a pro wrestler known as The Dixie Reaper--hired by Celeste (Eva Longoria) to retrieve her disabled godson Rob (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from her psychotic drug lord ex-husband Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton).  This out-of-town job doesn't sit well with the corrupt sheriff (Andre Braugher) who farms his dirty work out to the Oodies to keep his town in order, and now he has to contend with an ambitious ATF agent (Paul Wesley) who shows up to take them down.  Once they get Rob, they have to deal with various assassins dispatched by Carlos, including a crew of lethal prostitutes led by DEATH PROOF's Zoe Bell.  Directed and co-written by one Barry Battles, THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS starts out OK enough and feels like it might be guilty pleasure material, but it quickly runs out of gas and laughs and just gets dumber and duller as it goes along. Thornton seems to be enjoying a chance to overact in a "Gary Oldman-in-THE PROFESSIONAL" sort-of way, but he only has a few scenes and Longoria even fewer, despite their being prominently displayed in the poster art.  Also with Agnes Bruckner, Natalie Martinez, Michael Rapaport, and songs by Clutch, Five Horse Johnson, Hank Williams III, and, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the spectacularly forgettable THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS barely qualifies as background noise. (R, 98 mins)

(US - 2012)

This abrasive, frequently squirm-inducing mumblecore black comedy is a scathing indictment of the entitled, ironic, mocking hipster, cast with people generally revered in that particular culture, making it one of the most bile-filled auto-critiques you'll ever see.  Tim Heidecker (of the Tim & Eric comedy duo) is Swanson, the worst embodiment of the disaffected Williamsburg hipster, a slacker and trust-fund man-child who's about to land his dying father's estate.  In his late 30s, Swanson's never had to work a day in his life and idles his time away endlessly dicking around to amuse himself:  needling his father's male nurse by making fun of his job and questioning his manhood; going into stores and pretending he works there; harassing cab drivers (his actions even cause one to be assaulted), going into a bar in an African-American neighborhood, shouting "Williamsburg, represent!" and asking where the bitches are; bringing up Hitler at a party ("If you take murder out of the equation..."); and otherwise generally being a complete dick, usually solo or sometimes with his equally insufferable friends (played by Heidecker's Tim & Eric partner Eric Wareheim, LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, and Gregg Turkington, aka Neil Hamburger).  Swanson has nothing to do and nowhere to be, but Heidecker does a good job of showing the self-loathing under Swanson's above-it-all exterior.  There's hints of a painful past (mother is not in the picture; his brother is in an institution, and he has some kind of past with his sister-in-law that's never specifically detailed, though it's pretty clear they were a couple at some point) and, by the end, signs that he's growing up.  Even if you don't like Tim & Eric or 2012's dubious TIM & ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Heidecker and Wareheim are just actors here), you'll find Heidecker's generally serious performance a bit of a revelation.  Co-written and directed by Rick Alverson, and produced by the FOOT FIST WAY/OBSERVE AND REPORT/EASTBOUND AND DOWN team of Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill, along with Larry Fessenden, whose demands for a subplot involving Swanson's search for the Wendigo were apparently ignored.  (R, 94 mins, also streaming on Netflix)

(US - 2012)

This pointless remake of John Milius' jingoistic, Reagan-era commie paranoia favorite from 1984 (also famous as the first film released with a PG-13 rating) gathered dust on a shelf for three years while MGM tried to restructure its finances.  Then, so as not to offend China, the villains were changed from Chinese to North Koreans, necessitating reshoots and other tweaks courtesy of dubbing and some CGI.  It's all for naught.  RED DAWN '84 is hardly a great film, but it is a great snapshot of a point in time where something like that seemed like it might be possible, at least to impressionable teenage boys and hardcore right-wingers.  RED DAWN '84 had a personality and even in its own context, had a sense that the stakes were high and that anyone could be killed, quite coldly, at any moment.  RED DAWN '12 is just a lazy retread that's all platitudes and slogans shouted by people who don't sound like they know what they're talking about.  Chris Hemsworth is passable in the Patrick Swayze role, as a Marine on leave who happens to be crashing at his dad's (Brett Cullen) house when the "North Korean" army parachutes into Spokane and takes over.  Hemsworth leads a ragtag group of freedom fighters who dub themselves "Wolverines," including his high school QB younger brother, played by an astoundingly ineffective Josh Peck, as they run around town punking the "North Koreans" with bombs and graffiti.  Most of the reshoots are obvious, but none more so than an early scene where Hemsworth starts delivering a voiceover lecture about "North Korea" that he's clearly reading from a sheet of paper for the first time, then there's a cut to Peck, who's suddenly about 15 lbs lighter and looking a decade older than in the previous scene, with a raspier voice saying something like "North Korea?  But, like...why?"  Peck, formerly of Nickelodeon's DRAKE & JOSH, is incredibly awful throughout, but it's not like the performances matter.  The same goes for logic:  why are some residents rounded up and thrown in internment camps while others are free to shop and eat at Subway?  And with what money?  An inauspicious directing debut for veteran stunt coordinator and second-unit director Dan Bradley, RED DAWN can't provide a single justification for its existence, and its flag-waving and chest-thumping just feels contrived and phony, and it's not even entertaining even on a "something to kill an hour and a half" level.  Also with Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, ESPN's Mark Schlereth as the football coach, Will Yun Lee as the "North Korean" commander, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Powers Boothe.  (PG-13, 93 mins)

1 comment:

  1. "Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Powers Boothe" Ha! That's exactly what I thought. I like to think of him as the 21st century's Powers Boothe or America's less talented Javier Bardem.