Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Hell (2003)

For a brief (very brief) moment in time, I was wanted by the authorities on drug charges.  Okay, maybe that’s blowing it out of proportion just a bit.  Either way, here’s what happened.  I and some friends of mine went to Canada on a fishing trip.  I had then and have now no interest in fishing or in being out in a cabin, but I did have a big interest in being able to drink legally (I was younger then; thank God for the moral turpitude of our neighbors to the North) and visit certain types of bars (the sort where there are more women dancing than men, usually).  In order to maintain the façade of at least looking like a fisherman and in the unlikely event I wound up actually trying to catch a fish, I had borrowed my brother’s tackle box for the week.  

Anyway, as we were coming back across the border into New York, the good border agents must have sensed some perfidy going on, and they asked that I pull my car over to be searched.  No big deal.  Imagine me and my passengers’ surprise when the police separated us into three rooms and began grilling us about what “junk” we had been “partying” with all week long.  We pled ignorance (which was the truth).  After prolonging our anxiety to the maximum, the authorities let us know that they had found drug paraphernalia in my tackle box, and that was why we were just moments away from body cavity searches and being thrown in the pokey (but maybe not necessarily in that order).  It appears that there was a small syringe in the box for injecting worms with air to make them more visible and appetizing to animals with brains the size of a hair’s circumference (feels like the angling equivalent of anabolic steroids to me).  After much begging, pleading, and borderline bawling, we were released on our own recognizance, sans needle.  They don’t call me the Teflon Todd for nothing.  The coppers will never catch me.

Kyle (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an “American” working a construction site in Russia.  One evening, his wife Grey (Marnie Alton) is attacked and murdered by Sergio (Michail Elenov) while Kyle is on the phone with her.  Kyle gives chase, and eventually Sergio is captured.  However, some (unseen) negligence on the part of the police allows Sergio to go free.  Sergio taunts Kyle, and unable to live with the injustice, Kyle snatches a guard’s pistol and shoots his wife’s slayer to death.  Kyle is subsequently shipped off to Kravavi Prison, where General Hruschov (Lloyd Battista) and subordinates like Tolik (Carlos Gòmez) run the place with an iron fist, even staging bare knuckle fights between inmates.  Resisting the pressure to give in, Kyle is placed in a cell with 451 (Lawrence Taylor), a silent giant known for murdering his various cellmates.  Will the “Muscles From Brussels” survive?

Ringo Lam’s In Hell is a Prison film which is a surprisingly mature work for its exploitative elements, and while it’s not The Shawshank Redemption, to be sure, it does deal with some of the same themes.  It just deals with them through bloody, gladiatorial fights rather than through the more subtle protestations of one man and his interior struggle against the systematic subjugation of the human spirit.  The central conceit of every film of this ilk (or at least the ones I’ve seen) is the death of hope.  Even in prison, Kyle starts off close to normal, but when he is stripped upon entering the jail, he hides a photo of Grey in his underwear.  He can give up his worldly possessions if he has to, but the things which link him to his one love (the photo and his wedding ring) are the things he resists conceding (he gets to keep one of the two).  They are the chain binding him to the outside the world, to hope, even though his sentence is life without parole.  There can be no legal exoneration for Kyle, since he actually committed the crime for which he was convicted.  His spiritual redemption must be achieved by holding on to hope and passing that hope on to others.

This sense of hope ties directly into the humanity which the institution endeavors to destroy.  There are regular fights in the prison yard, ostensibly for the various gangs to settle their disputes.  But their actual purpose is to give the wardens of Kravavi and some other jail to make wagers and to amuse them and their families.  Consequently, the prisoners must be treated as savages, brought down to the level of animals in order to fight blindly, believing that they do it for power and respect (which in some ways is true).  Yet, if this were in fact solely the case, it could be argued that there is some merit to the combat.  However, because the fights are staged for reasons other than the fights themselves, there is no honor to be gained, and it is humanity which is lost.  Most significantly, this thematic conversation is embodied across four characters.  Billy Cooper (Chris Moir) is young and unassuming.  He is violated physically and sexually on multiple occasions.  He cannot effectively fight back, but he refuses to give in mentally.  Conversely, Boo (Milos Milicevic) is the result of the institution claiming total victory.  He is a gargantuan monstrosity, both non-verbal and literally faceless.  He exists solely to please his masters through the bloodletting he delivers unto them.  451 is a completely institutionalized man, but he has maintained his humanity, because he has the physical ability to withstand corporeal attacks and he has the mental ability to recognize the prison for what it is and to build a fortress inside his journals to sustain his humanness.  Sure, he has to kill the occasional yardbird who violates his rules, but that’s because he understands what the violation of his personal laws will mean to his survival inside the walls.  

Kyle needs to learn from all three of these characters, to become a gestalt of them and save himself.  This requires both death and resurrection (figuratively, of course).  Kyle must descend into the “Hell” in the basement of the prison and below the toilets (there is a river of effluent flowing through the solitary cell in which he finds himself).  It is here that Kyle will try to commit suicide several times and fail.  It is here that he will develop his body into the tool it must become to dominate the fights.  It is here that he will form a simplistic, empathetic connection that will aid him later.  Kyle’s old self may be dead, but his new self is still not what it needs to be either, because he has forgotten what that which kept him human.  In order to overcome the prison and become a leader in a spiritual sense, it will be through self-sacrifice and passivity, not uppercuts and roundhouse kicks (sort of).  It is this sort of subjugation of expectations which I would suggest In Hell a cut above what’s typical for the genre, and it manages to do this while satisfying as an Action film.  This is a solid film on multiple levels, and its appeal should extend beyond Van Damme’s core fan base.  Ergo,  I have no problems with recommending this film to you.  Enjoy.

MVT:  Van Damme shows that he’s capable as an actor when he tries (and I would say he’s been proving this quite a lot of late).  The fight scenes are surprisingly not focused on making him look glamorous, and that’s a hell of a risk for a performer who made his bones the way he did.  I wouldn’t go so far as saying that this is Oscar caliber work, but Van Damme does manage to engage the viewer in the character’s journey, and to me, that’s what acting is.

Make Or Break:  The Make is the training montage around the midpoint of the film.  It not only shows Kyle getting himself in fighting shape, but it also crosscuts with more of Billy’s story as a contrast in approach.  These two men are resisting with what they have (or think they have), and the sequence is a nice summation of the film’s conflicts through largely visual methods.

Score:  7/10

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2012 in Three Sets of 10: Karl Brezdin Can't Do Math

For me, 2012 was about films which moved me in some meaningful way. Some films made my neurons fire on all cylinders. Others delivered visceral thrills through amazing sequences of movement and light. Many of my favorites, however, squatted brazenly and took a dump on my heart. Among so many others both seen and missed, the films in the list below stamped 2012 as a tremendous year for cinema.

1) Oslo, August 31st
The best film I had on this list for 2011 was Take Shelter. That remained the case up until I saw Steve McQueen’s Shame, starring Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender’s penis. Apparently, I’ve got a thing for character-driven thought pieces about addiction, because my favorite film of 2012 is about a recovering heroin addict. Anders Danielsen Lie keeps it in his pants for a terrific lead performance and I was more emotionally invested in this character’s story than any other this year.

2) Holy Motors
If one was looking for a film this year that featured humor, horror, a prosthetic stiffy, hair-eating, and Kylie Minogue, one need look no further than Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. It combines visually fantastical sequences with quasi-episodic storytelling and is highlighted by the wildest performance this year from Denis Lavant (sorry, Joaquin). It’s a dense slab of meta-cinema and its arthouse touches will leave a lot of people cold, but I found it to be one of the richest and most rewarding theater experiences in recent years.

3) This Must Be the Place
Just when I’d forgotten just how terrific Sean Penn can be as a leading man, he goes and gets transformative on us in Paolo Sorrentino’s English-language feature debut. Beyond some awesome David Byrne concert footage and a great performance from Frances McDormand, this is a beautifully shot film that you’ll wish you could hang on the living room wall. There are images from the last 20 minutes that are still etched in my memory.

4) Amour
Michael Haneke does raw and real like few other directors, and this one packs a wallop. Beyond Emmanuelle Riva’s stellar performance, the movie is well-paced and the direction is terrific. The camera barely leaves the apartment in which the couple resides and there’s an almost complete absence of recorded music. This is the end-of-life movie to rule them all. You might want to go out for something cheery like ice cream or whiskey afterwards.

5) Hara-Kiri
If, for some wild reason, Takashi Miike decided to do nothing but samurai period pieces for the rest of his career, we’d be all the richer for it. This remake of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 masterpiece is in good hands. Miike doesn’t shy away from silent moments, he composes his shots beautifully, and handles the emotional qualities of his characters with purpose and care. The first and final acts are incredible filmmaking.

6) The Raid: Redemption
Respectfully, anyone who says this film was by-the-numbers or anything other than a huge step forward for action film might need to give it a rewatch or ten. This features some of the most inventive and sadistic fight choreography in years, with heaps of tension laced between. I look forward to Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans making films together for the next decade and trying to top what was accomplished with this landmark work.

7) Zero Dark Thirty
Due in part to the universal praise this film received, I’ll have to admit that I was chilly on Kathryn Bigelow’s newest joint. The real-life events on which the film is based were so fresh that this reeked of too-soon sensationalism, and I couldn’t help but feel that this was going to be another two-hour commercial for U.S. military might. I couldn’t have been more wrong, though. The film cooks like the finest of police procedurals at a rolling boil for a good 110 minutes before a tense and shadowy climax. Chastain is terrific and you can forgive a few of the WTF cameos because the movie is that good. Captain Jack Harkness AND Scott Adkins?

8) Killer Joe
I haven’t seen The Paperboy yet, so for the time being, this remains my favorite Matthew McConaughey film of the year. His performance as the titular Joe is nuanced and layered, and recalled the menacing and gentlemanly balance on display in Robert Mitchum’s role in The Night of the Hunter. William Friedkin shifts between sleazy and silly tones effortlessly, nudging the audience to alternate between winces and laughter throughout.

9) How to Survive a Plague
The story and struggle of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and its activist efforts during the early days of the AIDS crisis is powerful, sad, and uplifting all at once. I was especially surprised by the film’s heavy reliance on primary-source archival footage of the group’s meetings and demonstrations. It’s a testament to how well ACT-UP documented itself that the narrative cohesion would have suffered in the absence of it. As a burgeoning professional in the field of archives, it was a personal affirmation that yes, preserving history for future audiences is really fucking important.

10) The Kid with a Bike
There were few debut performances from child actors better than Quvenzhané Wallis this year, but Thomas Doret as the restless, abandoned character of Cyril was one of them. All the layers of this boy’s hurt -- rage, sadness, and distrust -- are peeled back and made palpable by skillful direction from the Dardenne brothers and Doret’s steely demeanor. This one hit all the right emotional beats for me and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little dust in the room during the last 15 minutes of this film.

The Best of the Rest

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
End of Watch
The Master
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
5 Broken Cameras
Kill List
Sleepwalk with Me
John Dies at the End

Searching for Sugar Man
The Deep Blue Sea
Cannibal Warlords of Liberia
Safety Not Guaranteed
Django Unchained
The Imposter
The Loneliest Planet
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Episode #224: The Gents List 2012

It's finally here ladies and gentlemen!!!

The Gents bring you their top films of 2012, It was another glorious year for cinema and we had a ton of fun cramming and sharing that experience with all of our listeners, we do this for you guys and gals after all!!!
We also get top lists from Paul, Speedy, Back of Forest Whitakers Neck, Matt from Entrails to the Skeleton Closet, CDR from The Mill Creeps, Vishnu, The Lightning Bug, Wendi, Paul A., Greg, The Keyboard Monkey and Kelly B.!!!

Thanks so much for another great year from us to each and every one of you and oh by the way? Time to get started on 2013!!!

Direct download: Top0f2012.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Evictors (1979)

If you have been reading my reviews for any length of time (and a big thank you to all five of you who have remained stalwart in that capacity), then you know of my distaste for the great outdoors in general and the less civilized areas of same in particular (the size and amount of which are expanding exponentially, especially in more populated areas, in my humble opinion).  Even so, swamps and bayous fascinate me.  It’s not that I have any desire to ever visit one and get eaten alive by any of a cavalcade of animals either predatory or parasitic, but they do have a particularly beautiful look to them, don’t you agree?  They can be as alluring as they are forbidding.  Like the angler fish or the pitcher plant, it would be easy to be lured into a fen just by following your sense of wonder for nature (not necessarily because a swamp smells good enough to eat, though, I’d wager) only to have the deadly trap sprung faster than you can say “gator bait” and wind up as bulk in some animal’s stool.  I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility that you could be rescued by, say, Swamp Thing or Man-Thing, and many people have proven that one could even live and thrive in marshland, but I tend to think my luck wouldn’t hold out.  It’s the optimist in me.

The late Charles B Pierce’s The Evictors (aka Leadsville Nights) opens in 1928 in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the Monroe clan is (not so ironically enough) being evicted from their home.  Naturally, the Monroe’s disagree with the bank’s claim, and they open fire on the banker (Jesse Cagle), G-Men (Owen Guthrie, Thomas Ham, Ron White), and assorted deputies who are there to enforce the eviction notice.  Needless to say, things don’t exactly pan out for the Monroes.  Fast forward to 1942, as local realtor Jake Rudd (Vic Morrow) accompanies young couple Ruth and Ben Watkins (Jessica Harper and Michael Parks, respectively) as they begin the process of moving into the old Monroe house.  Soon, a creeper who looks suspiciously like Dwayne Monroe (Glen Roberts) starts popping up and menacing Ruth, and not even wheelchair-bound neighbor Olie Gibson (Sue Ane Langdon) may be able to help.

 Much like Mr. Pierce’s more famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) films, The Legend Of Boggy Creek, Boggy Creek 2: And The Legend Continues, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown, this one starts off with the claim (or disclaimer?) that the events depicted are based on a true story.  Leapfrogging off the Docudrama genre, The Evictors emphasizes the idea of storytelling, itself.  As the plot trots along, we are treated to multiple flashbacks detailing the history of the Watkins’s new house since the Monroes were ousted.  This device performs multiple duties.  One, it gives us some exposition to try to piece together just what’s going on (though, honestly, there is very little mystery in the film to be sussed out).  Two, it gives us foreshadowing and builds some tension as to what is waiting in the wings for Ruth and Ben.  Three, it gives us a little bit of action and violence to hold over the more bloodthirsty in the audience (though, honestly, there is very little [if any] bloodshed on screen to be ogled).  

Of course, like any story told enough times, the details are bound to change, the original meaning muddied or lost altogether.  Pierce allows the flashbacks to play out but is always sure to remind us that what we have been seeing is being related by other characters who should not have been present to witness the scenes described and (we assume) were told these stories by someone else who was also not present when they took place, in all likelihood.  Aside from the fact that other owners of the house died, we cannot necessarily assume that they were killed by one of the Monroes (though the implication is definitely there).  By that same token, we can also make the assumption that there is a chance that not only are the flashbacks truthful but also could possibly be giving us more information than is present in the stories as told around the town.  In this way, then, they are fact and fiction, historical truth and urban legend.

The film also deals to some degree with the notion of the American Dream becoming the American Nightmare.  The Monroes owned their house, surely a component of their own dream.  Yet, for whatever reason, this dream becomes a nightmare when they are evicted.  Not only do they lose the house, but they come to physical harm when they fight against their eviction.  Likewise, the couples who inhabit the house after the Monroes are also starting from the perspective of the American Dream (and let’s just take it as given that owning one’s own house is part of the American Dream or at the absolute least was some years back).  And they all meet their deaths for stealing someone else’s dream, turning their own to nightmares.  There is also a facet at work that the house itself may be haunted and stands on cursed earth, though it’s never really explored, just sort of mentioned.

The Evictors plays with themes about the corruption of traditional values as embodied predominantly in the character of Ruth Watkins.  She and Ben are seemingly the perfect couple.  They are young, hard-working, honest, and pleasant.  Outwardly, there is no reason whatsoever given by the filmmakers to not like these two.  Yet, they are abjured by just about all the local townsfolk.  The audience knows there is no reason for such treatment, so the problem must be with the locals, not Ruth and Ben.  That the couple desires to be accepted by the people who are signified as having the actual problem is exactly what will pollute the Watkins’s values and drag them down.  Ben is offered draft deferment and a large bonus in return for working long hours, in some capacity turning away from the idea of service to his country in a time of war to further his personal gain and by extension neglecting his wife and leaving her vulnerable to dangers both emotional and physical.  Ruth learns to shoot a gun, a trait which she takes to like a duck to water but which  is a non-traditional proficiency for a woman (at least for the time the film is set and for the sort of background Ruth seems to come from but not necessarily for the story’s location or for all women, certainly).  These factors add up over the course of the film, culminating in a conclusion perhaps best described as mildly apocryphal.

With that in mind, I need to get something off my chest in regards to this film.  When everything is finally revealed, the effect was not one of discovery for me, it was instead one of indifference.  None of what goes on in the film is anything other than what it appears to be.  We know within just a few minutes of screentime how the entirety of the story will play out, what twists are going to pop up, and when they will do so.  The only two reasons I stuck around were to find out if I could possibly be wrong and receive a pleasant surprise (which didn’t happen) and because the technical level of filmmaking is indeed quite accomplished.  It’s like finding out that the woman you dig has inexplicably taken up with some chump you know for a stone fact is worthless, but there is nothing you can do, because the choices made that created the situation were not yours to make.  Your choice is how to react (or not react, which as we all know is also a reaction, anyway) afterward. 

MVT:  The acting in the film from the main performers is spot-on, and the players appeared to care about the material (and if they didn’t I perceived no indication, thus reinforcing my claim that the acting in the film is very good).  

Make Or Break:  The Break for me is the big disclosure scene, and that’s because there is decidedly nothing in the least disclosed that I didn’t already know.  There is no surprise in this surprise, and it doesn’t even add a little bit of color to make the non-reveals vary even slightly from what I knew was going to be revealed. 

Score:  6/10

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Episode #223: The Cop in Blue Jeans

Welcome to another fun filled episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week we bring another sponsored episode with coverage of The Cop in Blue Jeans (1976) directed by Bruno Corbucci and starring Tomas Milian and Jack Palance!!!
We also go over a ton of listener feedback again and get derailed a few times!!!

Direct download: The_Cop_In_Blue_Jeans.mp3 
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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Episode #222: Seven Murders For Scotland Yard

Welcome back to another GGtMC spectacular!!!

This week we cover another selection from and that film is Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (1971) starring Paul Naschy and we cover a TON of feedback gang.....and I do not mean that lightly....A TON!!!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Street People (1976)

Let’s talk for a moment about some of the great sunken (facial) cheeks in cinema history.  Now, they can be of any nationality, but in my opinion, the best ones are from Europe, Britain to be more precise.  For my money, no one, but no one, had a greater set of sunken cheeks than Peter Cushing.  The same man who destroyed Dracula and reconstructed Frankenstein’s monster on a multitude of occasions also had a facial structure that could be as couthie as it could be menacing.  Sure, the indented cheek look has become indicative of the drug-addicted, zombified, and just plain dead (have a look at Lon Chaney’s iconic makeup for 1925’s The Phantom Of The Opera, if you doubt, and yes, I know the Phantom was not actually dead, but he was meant to evoke the look of a deceased person), but there was a time when the sunken-cheeked were held in a higher regard.  

Giving the impression of aristocracy, I always expect any (male) royalty to look like Mr. Cushing (even though according to Wikipedia, he was made an Officer in the Order Of The British Empire but was never knighted and therefore denied use of the honorary title “Sir,” a travesty, if you ask me) or Henry VIII (all chubby and beardy).  There have been runners up, to be sure.  Ernest Thesiger appeared as severe as the taut skin stretched across his skull.  Ron Wood looks like he belongs more in a chartered accountant office than behind a guitar.  But it is Roger Moore whose cheeks actually come closest to embodying the duality that Cushing’s did so effortlessly, I think.  For the life of me, though, I always think he’s sucking them in, sort of the cuckoo of the sunken cheek set.  Maybe it’s all in my head, maybe Moore’s cheeks are like that naturally, but I just don’t believe so. 

Mafia boss Salvatore (Ivo Garrani) receives a visit from nephew, lawyer, and polyglot Ulysses (Moore, whose British accent is explained with the exposition that he was sent to school in England) to go over some paperwork involved in finally making Sal’s business legit.  Meanwhile, a massive cross which was imported by Sal from Sicily is unloaded at the neighboring dock for the sake of the fishermen and blessed by priest and former pal of Salvatore, Frank (Ettore Manni).  That night, the crucifix is stolen from the dock by Nicoletta, Pano, and Fortunato (Fausto Tozzi, Pietro Martellanza, and the great Romano Puppo, respectively) and opened to reveal a cache of heroin with which the trio absconds.  Infuriated that someone would use something he was responsible for to smuggle drugs into America without his knowledge, Salvatore approaches capo di tutti capi Don Continenza (Ennio Balbo), who puts out the order to have the three scalawags caught.  Reaching out to frequent partner and Formula One race car driver Charlie (Stacy Keach), Ulysses sets about tracking down the heroin, the thieves, and the person behind it all.

Maurizio Lucidi’s Street People (aka Gli Esecutori aka The Sicilian Cross) is a sort of odd duck in the Eurocrime subgenre.  There is a lot of footage that genuinely appears to have been shot on location in California (predominantly San Francisco) and involving some complicated car stunt work (the car scenes apparently being the ones shot and directed by Guglielmo Garroni), which would seem to indicate that a decent chunk of change was spent in the production (although  I couldn’t locate anything definitive in regards to the film’s budget for this review).  The film also has a light, adventuresome ambience, which is only augmented by the interplay between Moore and Keach.  

By 1976, Moore had established his more tongue-in-cheek/campier take on James Bond in Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, and his charming twofistedness bleeds into these proceedings.  By that same token, Keach had also established his gruff-but-endearing demeanor and sense of humor in such work as The Gravy Train (aka The Dion Brothers), and he is much more the rough side to Moore’s stiff upper lip.  Working against the film, though, is a script which is wildly convoluted and confused in keeping track of which characters are being referred to at any given time.  Granted, the version I watched is, by all accounts, the shorter of two by about thirteen minutes.  It’s within the realm of speculation that the protracted runtime clears up some aspects or constructs a more connected story, but since the longer of the two is seemingly the Swedish cut, I’d wager it’s just thirteen added minutes of hardcore pornography (just kidding).      

Anchored by the dichotomy between Moore and Keach, the film is filled with such juxtapositions.  The first and most obvious is that of the criminal versus the clergy.  Sal and Frank were close friends in Italy, but their paths diverged, so the two resent each other, though Sal still craves forgiveness and acceptance from his erstwhile amigo.  But as is typical in such films, it’s the priest who possesses the iron will to not buckle, no matter how he may feel about his friend deep down.  It’s interesting to note here that Frank really does feel nothing but contempt for Sal.  There is no redemption for the old Mafioso (at least in the eyes of this particular clergyman), despite his aim to reform and get out of the Organization.  As the search goes on, Charlie is placed as the street level everyman both in look and function.  He talks jive with an old drug pusher (trying to “get to Dream Street, Mama”) and his buddy Chico (Charlie threatens to spread the word that Chico is “a turkey deluxe”) who inhabits a strip club where the racer is well-known (the significance being that Charlie is a man who cannot control his desires/emotions like Ulysses can).  Of course, Ulysses is always meticulously dressed and always in control.  He is as skilled physically as Charlie, but his first weapon is his mind.  The two are further joined/separated by their motivations.  Charlie is doing this work simply for the bread.  He is mercenary in his actions.  Ulysses is also interested in the money, but he will work for free if it means his honor is threatened or he needs to take care of “a family matter” of one variety or another.    
It’s this sense of honor which is most at risk in Street People.  There is a pall of duplicity hanging over every frame of the film, and we expect every single character to have ulterior motives for what they do.  We expect them all to be villains at heart, and that they’re not (there’s really only one, to be honest) is an intriguing subversion of audience assumptions.  Even Ulysses is not completely honest with the people he claims to love like family, but this plot path ultimately just peters out and fades away.  When everything is revealed at the climax, though, it’s all so simple and relatively obvious, the whole excursion feels just a little like a waste.  That the film doesn’t hold together at its core isn’t the worst thing that could happen, since the individual elements/scenes work well enough in and of themselves that by the end credits, the film is not quite adiaphorous and in fact leans more toward satisfying than offputting.  But if you’re looking for coherence, seek it elsewhere.

MVT:  Keach’s onscreen portrayal of Charlie is just big enough without going too over the top.  His constant jabs at Ulysses (treating him with a sense of faux reverence and reminding him that he can be a pompous ass, a trait Ulysses seems to embrace) are an amusing way to define the relationship between the two.  Plus, any character that can talk as much jive as well as Charlie can has to be cool, right?

Make Or Break:  The Make is the scene where Charlie takes a car for a test drive around the streets of San Francisco (you can imagine what happens).  It’s funny, and well-shot, and impressive for what they accomplished onscreen.  It’s essentially a non-car-chase car chase scene, and it worked superbly for me on all levels.

Score:  6.25/10