Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sean Penn, You're on Notice.

I got myself to a few movies this weekend (“Flyboys” and “The Science of Sleep”) among them and I’ve still got a few more to see, but I’m doing this review by itself because it is a bit long. So without “further Apu,” here is my look at one film in particular, that had a powerful impact on me.

All the King’s Men- Overacted, overwritten, and overwrought, Steven Zaillian’s remake of 1949’s Best Picture winner is a cinematic train-wreck.
Willie Stark (Sean Penn) is a simple man from a small town in rural Louisiana and he’s running for governor. He’s going to help the poor working man whether those with money and influence (the kind of people who are using him as a patsy) like it or not. Of course once he gets elected, life gets decidedly more complicated.
This film has got more problems than Marissa Cooper and Lana Lang combined. It all begins of course, with Zaillian himself, whose utterly “important film” script no doubt appealed to the vanity of a pretty stellar cast, but most notably to the vanity of Penn both as an actor and an activist. Penn’s performance is unforgivable. Actually to call it a performance would be an insult to performers everywhere, including monkeys with crash cymbals. It’s an utterly shameless, scenery-chewing (and stomach churning) display. There’s really only one word for it: Oscarbaition. I could almost, mayyyyybe let him off the hook slightly if he hadn’t already won for “Mystic River” (which he was genuinely great in). But he did. So I won’t.
Jude Law, God bless him, is absolutely powerless in his attempt to save this mess of a movie from itself. His second failed attempt at a southern accent aside (the first being “Cold Mountain”), he tries to give “Men” back a shred of dignity, but there’s nothing he can do. (And I say this as a big Jude Law fan.) Anthony Hopkins is fine in a small role, though he makes no attempt at not only a southern accent, but at any accent found anywhere on this continent. Of course given the rest of the cast’s lack of success, he probably made a wise decision. But wait, he’s still in “All the King’s Men,” so he couldn’t have been that wise after all.
The problems don’t end there either, oh no. James Horner’s attempt to give the film gravitas with a “sweeping” score only makes matters worse, along with Zaillian’s nonsensical choice to move the story out of the Great Depression and into the ‘50s. Willie Stark has no place here. Also, he goes from good to evil the instant he gets elected. In a story like this that transition has got to be a natural progression, not the flick of a switch. And ultimately there is absolutely no compelling reason for Law’s character, Jack Burden, to be so dedicated to Stark. Zaillian attempts to explain it (in a line included in the trailer) because Jack himself can’t even figure out why. Stark tells him, “Jack, you work fer me, ‘cause I’m da way dat I am, and you da way dat you are, and dat’s jus an arrangement found in da natu-al order a things.” Alright. Thanks for clearing that up.
One of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time, made all the worse by its belief in its own importance. 2.5/10


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