(US - 2016)
|So are some movies.|
DAUGHTER OF GOD got positive reaction from test audiences, but Lionsgate insisted they were promised a commercial Keanu Reeves thriller, and no one was going to confuse DAUGHTER OF GOD with POINT BREAK, SPEED, or JOHN WICK. They proceeded to take the film away from Linton, gutting it from 126 minutes to 102, losing much of the cultural elements--most of DAUGHTER OF GOD was in Spanish with English subtitles--and eliminating entire subplots and characters. The biggest change they made was cutting down the screen time of those who remained in the film while keeping everything with Reeves, who signed on for what was to be Hoffman's small supporting role--a big-name actor doing a solid to help out a new indie filmmaker--but was now the co-lead with as much screen time as de Armas. A "source" claimed Reeves supervised the overhaul, first called WISDOM and then changed to the more lurid EXPOSED, though Reeves' rep insisted he had nothing to do with it. Realizing he was fighting a battle he had no chance of winning, Linton successfully petitioned to have his name removed as director, with credit going to Alan Smithee protege "Declan Dale," while remaining credited for his screenplay under his own name. It should go without saying that EXPOSED, in its released form, is almost cataclysmically awful and borderline unwatchable, the logical end result of trying to turn a low-key and largely foreign-language art-house drama into a mainstream cop movie. Disjointed and dull, with fantastic elements that make appearances as random as those of the recognizable character actors in the supporting cast (Christopher McDonald plays Galban's captain, and Michael Rispoli appears a couple of times for some reason), and with the war in Afghanistan and child abuse subplots now looking exploitatively wedged in and quickly abandoned, the film makes no sense at all and more or less just ends in the least satisfying way possible, topped off with the bonus of glacially slow closing credits to inflate the truncated running time by another ten minutes. It's certainly a possibility that Linton's director's cut of DAUGHTER OF GOD is a worthwhile film, though considering he named an inner city, African-American crime lord "Black Jones," one shouldn't be too quick to assume it's a lost masterpiece. Lionsgate dumped EXPOSED on VOD and in as few theaters as contractually required with no publicity at all. Welcome to Hollywood, Gee Malik Linton! (R, 102 mins)
(Italy/France/UK/Switzerland - 2015)
THE GREAT BEAUTY, set at an almost tomb-like resort in Switzerland. Like the guests, the film never seems to leave that location, at least until the final scene, with the primary focus on two elderly friends, both artists, both feeling the effects of a lifetime of love, loss, regret, and age, with the looming feeling that death is waiting just around the corner. It's a film of much sadness and melancholy, but it's not a depressing downer, and is in fact quite funny at times, even if it's not what US distributor Fox Searchlight seemed to pass off as a GRUMPY OLD MEN for the art-house crowd. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a legendary composer and conductor, now retired and refusing an offer by an emissary of the Queen to be knighted and to perform his most famous piece, "Simple Songs," at a gala event for the Royal Family. Fred's best friend of 60 years is renowned filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel, in his best role in years), who's working with four young screenwriters on what he intends to be his final masterpiece, his "testament" to a life in cinema. You can already sense the Fellini homages in the form of nude bodies--young, old, toned, and flabby--posed in pools and saunas in an almost still photography fashion, coupled with Visconti shout-outs in the ornate but dreary resort that's still a draw for the jet-set but, like its central characters, has seen better days.
(US/UK/France - 2015)
THE KRAYS was a mean, tough chronicle of twin British gangster siblings Ronnie and Reggie Kray played by two-years-apart brothers Martin and Gary Kemp, best known as, respectively, the bassist and lead guitarist of the '80s radio staple Spandau Ballet. LEGEND--what a terrible title--is based on John Pearson's book The Profession of Violence, and tells essentially the same story, with Tom Hardy playing both roles. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (PAYBACK), who won an Oscar for his L.A. CONFIDENTIAL screenplay, LEGEND has Hardy turning in two distinctive and vividly exceptional performances as the gay, hot-tempered, paranoid schizophrenic Ronnie and the ostensibly more focused and level-headed Reggie, but one of the key facets of the film is how their personalities eventually cross over to the point where Reggie gets so out of control that an on-his-meds Ronnie is the one who has to calm him down. LEGEND doesn't have much to go on other than Hardy's performances. Helgeland is content to let his star carry the weight of an otherwise rote and routine gangster movie that borrows liberally from Scorsese, right down to a long GOODFELLAS tracking shot when Reggie takes his girlfriend and eventual wife Frances (Emily Browning) to a nightclub, and pissed off British mobsters constantly calling each other "cunts" instead of "jerkoffs." The time element in LEGEND isn't handled very well--we know the Krays ruled London from the late '50s to the late '60s, but the film seems to start in the late '60s and we see their ascent in the nightclub scene after a partnership with Philadelphia-based gangster Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri shows up for a couple of scenes), a top underling of Meyer Lansky. There's conflict with the Krays' cash handler Leslie Payne (David Thewlis) and hapless flunky Jack McVittie (Sam Spruell), whose brutal murder at the hands of an enraged Reggie is what would eventually be the beginning of the end for the Krays, with Reggie sentenced to life in prison in 1967, though he'd get a "compassionate release" in 2000, when he was dying of cancer and had only a few weeks to live (Ronnie would succumb to a fatal heart attack in prison in 1995).