Mini-review: RocknRolla

rocknrolla-0The latest Guy Ritchie film, RocknRolla, is exactly what you’d expect: think Snatch but with Russians instead of Gypsies. The story has something to do with a real estate scam that goes slightly wrong when a painting gets stolen. That’s really the whole plot. A lot of other stuff happens, but it I spent most of the movie confused as to what was happening and why the story was evolving in this way.

As the movie progresses, the number of characters increases exponentially and it gets a little hard to keep track of them all. The plot is a little confusing and not that gripping. I guess Guy Ritchie either needs a new shtick or needs to be able to pull off his shtick as well as he used to. Oh, it is still entertaining to watch at times. It has such a unique sense of self that it is always at least somewhat interesting, and it has his typical dry humor. He has also clearly improved in some aspects of his filmmaking – the cinematography and visuals are better than in his previous films. But other than that, the movie doesn’t have too much going for it.

Mini-review: Amores Perros

Amores Perros, a film from 2000 by the same director as 21 Grams and Babel, has always been my favorite of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s. The story is in the same style, with disparate stories which are connected only tenuously. This style pops up all over the place, in films such as Crash, Traffic, and Magnolia. I had wondered for a long time where this style originated, and so I did a little digging and found out it has a nice and pretentious name: hyperlink cinema.

Hyperlink cinema attempts to tell a multilinear story, with metaphorical amours chiennes“hyperlinks” between the individual stories. For instance, Amores Perros links three stories through a car crash which effects the lives of all the characters. These kinds of links exist in other artistic forms as well – for instance, Nabokov’s Pale Fire links a story through a poem and its work of criticism.

The three stories in Amores Perros all involve love, in one form or another. The first is of someone in love with his brother’s wife; the second of love under pressure from a major injury; the final of a father for his daughter. The narratives are surprisingly complex and offer a vouyeristic look into other lives.

As you may suspect from the title, all the narratives contain dogs as a major cause for the action of each story. But be careful filmgoers – there is a lot of dog-on-dog violence in the movie. They never actually show any more of the dogs fighting than a lunge and initial quick bite, but you do see plenty of them dead. Unsurprisingly, the producers made the decision to put the “no animals were harmed” disclaimer at the beginning of the film rather than the end.

Overall, Amores Perros stands head and shoulders above the other hyperlink movies. It doesn’t shift back and forth too often between characters. The stories are focused, with small little breaks to catch up on what other events are going on. The acting is great. There is no cheesy “message” pushed in your face. It is more gritty and more real than the others. Its only real flaw may be the incredibly unsubtle music choices through the movie. But we can accept that every once in a while, can’t we?

Mini-review: Fearless

Jet Li is a badass. That is really all you need to know about him. If you want to know more, just know that he won the national wushu (martial arts) championship after three years of training and retired at the age of 17. I guess it was all just too easy. Fearless is Jet Li’s self-proclaimed final wushu epic, which is something that should sadden all of us.

fearless1Fearless is a movie split into three parts. The first details Huo Yuanjia’s mastering of wushu, and his increasing ruthlessness and arrogance. This leads inevitably to the second part of his life wherein, fallen, he wanders the land trying to find meaning. Of course, in the third part he returns to his home enlightened and intent on doing good. In this case, that means fighting a bunch of westerners to reclaim Chinese pride.

The first part of the movie is pretty good. The only quibble is that the use of Matrix-style camera techniques occasionally distract from the battles leaving one a little confused as to what just happened. Other than that the choreography is pretty decent, although definitely not Jet Li’s finest. It also sets up what could be a fairly interesting story.

The middle part is kind of what ruins the movie. The story is boring and cliched, the acting pretty bad. Unfortunately, the script is not strong enough to carry the movie without the martial arts.

The final part continues to expose the flaws of the central portion of the movie, and carries them further. The ‘moral’ is heavy-handed and silly, and the plot decays further. On the plus side, this is where all the best wushu is done. The fights are pretty awesome and the use of computer effects drastically reduced.

Overall it was an okay movie. Jet Li has done better choreography and had better acting performances, and still would have even if the silly Matrix-rotate-the-camera-in-slow-motion never happened. It could have used a little more extended fighting. But the visuals in general were beautifully done and it was worth watching. Also, I think I watched the directors-cut edition, which is significantly longer and probably a little worse for the lack of editing.