(UK/Germany/Australia - 2014)
A cursory glance at some of the names associated with THE DOUBLE guarantees it'll at the very least be an interesting experience. Directed and co-written by comedian, music video director, and THE IT CROWD co-star Richard Ayoade, the film also lists Michael Caine and Harmony Korine among its producers, it's co-written by Korine's younger brother Avi, and in addition to Shawn and Moriarty, its eclectic supporting cast features, among others, James Fox, Noah Taylor, Rade Serbedzija, Chris O'Dowd, and Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis as an irate janitor. THE DOUBLE obviously owes a huge debt to Terry Gilliam and Orson Welles, but it still manages to be a unique and very well-executed bit of paranoia, dark comedy, and bleak misanthropy, anchored by two brilliant Eisenberg performances that play to both of his screen personas and allow him to take them into some dark places. Only released on 16 screens and VOD, THE DOUBLE didn't get much of a push from Magnolia and grossed just $200,000, but it shouldn't take very long for it to become a word-of-mouth cult item. (R, 93 mins)
A GOOD MAN
(US - 2014)
blues album or is seen hanging out with his close personal friend Vladimir Putin. Most of Seagal's DTV titles are thoroughly worthless, with the once-engaging action icon setting new benchmarks in apathy by letting his obvious double handle everything from strenuous fight scenes to simple shots where his back is to the camera and he answers questions by nodding. If you see enough of these, you start to notice that it's frequently only really Seagal if he has a close-up or if it's a two-shot and he's talking, and even then, sometimes the co-star is much shorter and "Seagal"'s head is out of the frame. There were even a few instances in the mid-2000s where his performance was badly dubbed over by someone else for some unexplained reason. Seagal puts the bare minimum amount of work into most of these productions but, like a broken clock being right twice a day, a couple of them have been accidentally decent, like 2009's THE KEEPER and 2010's A DANGEROUS MAN, the latter being better than most of what he had in theaters during his late '90s decline before 2001's EXIT WOUNDS gave him a very brief comeback.
A GOOD MAN is typical of Seagal's straight-to-DVD output. It's hardly the worst of the lot, but that doesn't exactly merit a recommendation. Rather than being aggressively shitty, it's merely predictable and boring, with Seagal as Alexander, codename "Ghost," an ex-covert ops guy living off the grid in "Eastern Europe" (like many of Seagal's movies these days, this was shot on-the-cheap in Romania) after a raid on a Middle East terrorist compound went south two years earlier. Ghost involves himself in the troubles of attractive neighbor Lena (Iulia Verdes) and her kid sister Mya (Sofia Nicolaescu), whose safety is jeopardized by their American half-brother Sasha's (Victor Webster) involvement with Russian mobster Vladimir (Claudiu Bleont). Sasha owes Vladimir a ton of money via a debt accrued by his late father, and Ghost sees this as the perfect opportunity to start a war between Vladimir and terror cell financier Mr. Chen (Tzi Ma, best known for the Coen Bros. remake of THE LADYKILLERS), who was responsible for what went down in the Middle East two years earlier. A GOOD MAN offers everything you expect from modern-day Seagal: the star using a ridiculously affected and completely inappropriate accent, thankfully abandoning his N'awlins drawl of recent years but resorting to an even more ludicrous-sounding hip-hop dialect that sounds like Drexl Spivey after a root canal. This leads to a mush-mouthed Seagal shouting things like "All y'all muthafuckaz," and "I wondah how much pussy he get?" proving that at no point during filming did director Keoni Waxman pull his star aside and remind him that he's 62 years old. There's also the now-standard Seagal fighting style, which consists of being there for the close-ups and sticking his arm out so a bad guy can run into it while Waxman shakes the camera around to simulate "fighting action" before cutting to actual fighting with "Seagal" shot from behind as his younger and more svelte double does the heavy lifting. Finally, about an hour or so in, we get another signature move in the modern Seagal repertoire: the mid-film sabbatical where he disappears for 20 or more minutes while a co-star--in this case, Webster--advances the plot and gets a bunch of action scenes. Seagal stars in a lot of movies, but he's one of the laziest actors in the business and A GOOD MAN does nothing to counter that reputation and halt his ongoing free-fall into irrelevance. (R, 103 mins)
(UK - 2013; US release 2014)
DOM HEMINGWAY starts off so darkly hilarous and gloriously foul and profane that it's dispiriting when it veers off into the realm of feelgood redemption dramedy at its midpoint. Law's performance--one of his best--keeps things afloat but the shift in tone is cumbersome, to say the least. It's hard not to laugh at Dom incorporating James Taylor lyrics into a bile-soaked tirade that also has him threatening to "throat-fuck" Fontaine, but it's awfully difficult to buy him getting all misty over the grandson he never knew shortly after. It's not that a sociopath like Dom can't find genuine emotions of that sort deep within himself--it's that the film doesn't feel genuine in the journey of its central character. Dom is whatever the plot needs him to be at any given time, and even Evelyn's change of heart about her dad doesn't really ring true. The first half of DOM HEMINGWAY is outrageously entertaining, but it fizzles once Evelyn enters the story and never regains its footing. It's too bad because until the film starts stumbling and bumbling, it features some of the finest work of Law's career, and he gets some excellent support from Grant as his perpetually suffering yet always loyal sidekick. It's not always successful, but they make it worth seeing. (R, 93 mins)