Posts Tagged ‘Joel Silver movie’



USA 2010  Directed by: Sylvain White Written by: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt Characters: Andy Diggle Produced by: Kerry Foster, Akiva Goldsman, Joel Silver Cinematography by: Scott Kevan  Editing: David Checel   Music: John Ottman  Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patrick, Holt McCallany, Peter Macdissi, Peter Francis James, Tanee McCall

Once in a blue moon graphic novels containing adult material are adapted for the silver screen. This fan material is traditionally very hard to make into good movies: storyline and characters are often too unconventional, violence levels too high and foul language too frequent, and with just the fan boy crowd knowing the original graphic novels and with strict ratings the marketing opportunities are rather limited.

From the economical point of view you’ll have to give it some serious thought before you greenlight a movie like this. And even then the enterprise can fail miserably. Either you do it a 100% or you don’t do it at all. There is no such thing as half pregnant, and there is also no such thing as half authentic when it comes to comic books with a grown-up audience in mind.

The last PUNISHER – WAR ZONE succeeded because it stayed true to the original (and so did Goldblatt’s PUNISHER before it was censored for an R-rating). ELEKTRA was a joke, because executives figured they have to pour gallons of softener over the movie to make sure it just indicates violence instead of showing it (even TOM & JERRY are more excessive than ELEKTRA). Elektra, in fact, as probably killed more people than any other Marvel character.

And then there was GHOST RIDER, and if you know the graphic novel and have seen the film it needs no further explanation what you should or shouldn’t do when adapting material like this. GHOST RIDER is a wonderful manual of how-not-to-do, and for many more reasons many other great creative works for mature audiences will never make it into cinemas, and if so they’ll be painful to watch or at least utterly forgettable attempts.

Now THE LOSERS has arrived: brash, loud and violent it ploughs its way through territory previously associated with THE PUNISHER, mercenary movies, James Bond franchises, MIAMI VICE or the A-TEAM. It retains a graphic novel’s episodic character, jumping into the story at the beginning and leaving it without a real ending, preparing ground for part two. Nevertheless it’s satisfying enough for us not to leave the theatre puzzled. On the contrary, it leaves us wishing for more.

The comic character of the material is well captured in many of its highly stylized sequences, notably the fabulous initial fight between Clay and Zoe resembling a ballet-like choreography that quickly turns into a mating ritual (which continues with its anticipated last act later). The villain consequently is a larger-than-life figure whose overacting is methodological and fits the character once you get it. The story dares to go far beyond Bond nonsense, dealing with warfare 3.0 and ridiculous amounts of money and material. The plot twists the movie pulls out of the sleeve are equally ridiculous: what works for graphic novels doesn’t necessarily work in movies, so THE LOSERS appears very jumpy at times, with the characters often acting beyond reason and very little insight into their behavior.

That doesn’t mean the characters are flat though: thanks to the humor THE LOSERS feels human and it is actually really funny. Clocking in at about 90 minutes the movie spends most of its time on humor and action (PG-13 that is, and that’s good enough here), and it’s simply too fast paced to go into details. It doesn’t ask questions, it just presents us with the bare facts. We can take it or leave it, but THE LOSERS always quickly moves on. No rest for the wicked.

THE LOSERS is conceptual and comical, and without buying into that there is no way you’ll consider it a good movie. But just like assessing a graphic novel doesn’t exactly follow the same parameters as assessing a work of literature, THE LOSERS scores pretty high once put in perspective. It is anything but perfect, with a low-key cast and director, limited depth and many other small issues, but it still comes out superior to junk like GHOST RIDER thanks to it’s gung-ho attitude and staying true to the comic series.

This isn’t Toontown, this is Space Mountain. The best you can do is to enjoy the ride. If you can’t do that, don’t watch it. If you can, the reward is all yours. So buckle up and never take your eyes off the road ahead.





USA/D 2009  Directed by: James McTeigue   Story: Matthew Sand   Script: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynsk   Production: Joel Silver, Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Grant Hill  Cinematography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub   Editing: Gian Ganziano, Joseph Jett Sally   Music: Iian Eshkeri   Cast: Rain, Naomi Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi

And now for something completely different: the new, highly anticipated Wachowski brothers movie has arrived hot from the press. NINJA ASSASSIN, directed by James “V FOR VENDETTA” McTeigue continues the zigzag course of the MATRIX inventors and surprises us once more. Only this time not positively.

It would be a pure waste of time to describe the thin Plot in more than three sentences. For the sake of it thus sentence 1: a Ninja clan kidnaps children and turns them into Super-Ninjas. Sentence 2: One of the students develops his own opinion, turns against the “foster father” and everything escalates in an international guerilla war between Ninjas and police authorities. Sentence 3: Naturally, there’s also a love story.

NINJA ASSASSIN certainly wins the accolade for the worst script in recent years. I can’t imagine how such a lame story, which in addition is dreadfully written and unbelievably formulaic, featuring horrible dialogue and tremendous loopholes was ever greenlit. Any dialogue from any of the DIE HARD sequels seems like a work of Keats in comparison. NINJA ASSASSIN crosses the border to ridiculous terrain more than once and there are dozens of plain stupid scenes that leave us wondering what drugs they were on when shooting the movie. In addition the whole cast performs far below average and are a shame for anyone considering himself a serious actor. Mostly NINJA ASSASSIN is not much better than a school play.

The next problem is the aesthetics: the visual style of NINJA ASSASSIN is unbearable. The lighting must have been done by a blind person, whereas color and contrast are on Telenovela level (even the production stills look better than the film itself) and the framing and camerawork are extremely random, if not clumsy. It appears that McTeigue is simply the wrong man sitting on the director’s chair. V FOR VENDETTA already displayed his talent for wasting opportunities rather than seizing the possibilities the graphic novel offered. NINJA ASSASSIN now is no exception, but by comparison however it’s a genuine disaster. The editing more than once recalls “fond” memories of B-Horror movies and C-Ninja movies of the 70’s and 80’s, which often most inelegantly were cutting back and forth between static dialogues or badly choreographed action sequences. The hiring of Sho Kosugi, who’s mumbling his way through the film in a Brando-like tone and manner, should have been a warning sign. NINJA ASSASSIN was a great chance to pay homage to the Ninja movie subgenre, but McTeigue is not able to abstract, adapt and revitalize the genre in any appropriate way – or at all, that is. And no: NINJA ASSASSIN clearly is not that lousy on purpose, trying to be a smart B-movie satire or reminiscence.

So what’s good about NINJA ASSASSIN? If you subtract all the endless flashbacks and Rains training sequences (which make for a substantial part of the film) you can enjoy a splatterfest rarely ever seen in mainstream cinema. Once again the major studios get away with everything: NINJA ASSASSIN dwells endlessly in scenes of graphic violence. Separated limbs and divided bodies are displayed throughout the entire film and blood spurts without any sense out of everything the camera captures. NINJA ASSASSIN without a doubt contains some of the most brutal killing scenes of modern mainstream cinema, in case this alone is of any interest. However, ICHI THE KILLER was there first and did what it did earlier, better and with far less budget. And in a way it feels like FUDOH, another Miike film, was the blueprint for some of the choreographed violence now shown in NINJA ASSASSIN.

NINJA ASSASSIN will certainly not disappoint all those who expect a maximum of blood and gore. Thank god that nowadays we don’t have to sneak into some dodgy video rental store anymore to get this kind of fare, but instead are being served in the glossy multiplex cinema downtown. The marketing people should have really come up with the idea to produce NINJA ASSASSIN barf bags and hand it out to all those couples who ended up watching the film accidentally because of oh-so-cute Rain. Some will certainly need it. Hurray, isn’t that fun seeing nameless cannon fodder being turned into minced meat by the minute.

The bottom line: NINJA ASSASSIN is the worthy successor of AMERICAN NINJA and Rain is the Asian Michael Dudikoff. I guess congratulations are in order. In some twisted sense the film may have a certain charm (at least for those who indeed grew up with junk like AMERICAN NINJA), but the result is hardly what the Wachowskis had in mind and the audience is expecting. Let’s quickly summarize NINJA ASSASSIN: sorry effort.