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Jan 2004
Issue 044

KS Classifieds combined with Kansai Scene this issue!

The Recruit


Action-Thriller/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/115 minutes
Starring: Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Bridget Moynahan
Director: Ronald Donaldson
Touchstone Pictures

James Clayton (the steamily unshaven Colin Farrell) is unlikely spy material. He is a part time bartender and a casually talented computer nerd who is in no rush to do anything with his life. However, CIA bigwig Walter Burke (the effortlessly convincing Al Pacino) knows talent when he sees it and draws Clayton into the Agency. Of course, any normal, balanced kid would have told the creepy Burke where to get off, but Clayton for all his laid-back way is damaged goods. His own father was Agency and died in the line of duty when Clayton was but a nipper. Going along with Burke is his way of getting closer to his long lost dad.

Extra incentive to hang in there through the CIA’s exacting training is provided by love-interest Layla (Bridget Moynahan). Naturally, Clayton finds himself in deeper than he ever anticipated when Burke uses him to expose a CIA mole and the unpleasant stuff hits the fan.

Burke’s wise aphorisms of survival for the recruits are: “trust no one”, and “nothing is as it seems”, which just happens to be a summary of the tight and twisting plot.

Al Pacino is his grizzled best, Colin Farrell fairly buzzes in this rehash of the veteran-rookie relationship, and the direction from Ronald Donaldson, known for Thirteen Days and No Way Out, is expert. Yet this is a film that doesn’t quite deliver what it promises. Leave your brain in ‘enjoy’ mode — and there is a lot to engage you in the acting and the action. However, at times the plot tests your credulity and common sense. If you start to think about it, it begins to unravel. Perhaps the plot suffers from twist overload.

The film is sold partly on its supposedly authentic insights into CIA recruitment and training at a facility known as The Farm, which provides some of the films compelling scenes. However, don’t forget Burke’s advice that nothing is what it seems: when asked about the film’s accuracy in depicting the recruiting and training the real-life CIA spokesman would neither confirm nor deny.

Once Upon a
Time in Mexico


Action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/103 minutes
Starring: Julio Bandero, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Columbia Pictures

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is to Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi series what The Good the Bad and the Ugly is to Sergio Leone’s Man with no Name trilogy of spaghetti westerns. Except that it’s not a western and the Leone film after which it was named, Once Upon a Time in the West, was not of the spaghetti-Eastwood trilogy. The title and parallel were suggested by Quentin Tarantino, so there’s no need for the idea to make any sense.

The point is that the first of this trilogy, El Mariachi, was an ultra-low budget ($7,000) cult success that made the name of the director and led on to increasingly ambitious and successful sequels. The second film in this series was Desperado; this is the third.

Rodriguez is keen to point out similarities to the Mad Max series for the same reasons of budget, style and commercial trajectory.
Rodriguez, who wrote, directed, filmed, edited, wrote the score — did everything but make the tea — is going for the quirky off-beat angle on action flicks — see above mentioned influences.

Julio Banderas is El Mariachi, a guitar-wielding, singing sort of action hero who is drawn out of self-imposed hermitage by the CIA to go after a typically noisome revolutionary/drug lord kind of bad guy. Of course, El Guitar Hero is in recluse mode in the first place because someone murdered his family, and of course the bad guy in the CIA mission is the very same murderer. Murder and revenge: now there’s a novel motor to a plot.

With a thoroughly pumped, thoroughly louche Johnny Depp playing the CIA agent (and just about stealing the show), Willem Dafoe in his most gravelly groove, the palpably exuberant direction of Rodriguez, and (sit down and take a deep breath) Mickey Rourke doing his own Chihuahua-cuddling Dr. Evil thing, you can’t go far wrong with this film.

So what if the expansive plot suffers from being compressed into an hour and half, it’s that much fun you really won’t notice the creaky bits until you’ve long left the cinema.

Film Reviews: Chris Page

Also playing

The Matrix Revolutions

There's a lot of hush-hush for the final chapter
of the Matrix. Warner Brothers have not offered reviews or trailers so we have to presume that on November 5th, the rebels' long quest for freedom culminates in a final explosive battle. Will Zion survive the attack of the Machine Army as they wage devastation? And where exactly does Neo fit in all this and how will he end the war and save all of humankind?

Cast: Keanu Reeves/Laurence Fishburne
Director: by Andy and Larry Wachowski
Warner Brothers


Billy Connelly plays an archaeology prof digging up Medieval castles in the ever-photogenic Dordogne who is inadvertently dropped down a wormhole in the space-time continuum by his corporate spon-sors. His students only find out about this when they stumble upon his specs and a handwritten note in a chamber that has been sealed for six hundred years. Figuring out that he has been dumped into the year 1357 they rush through the same wormhole to rescue him only to find they are all in the middle of a bloody conflict between England and France.

Starring: Billy Connelly, Paul Walker, F. O’Connor
Director: Richard Donner
Paramount Pictures

Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey — self-declared Jerry Lewis on acid —gets together again with director Tom Shadyac to recreate the Liar Liar team — so if you saw Liar Liar, you should be cued to the goofy tone of this film. Carrey is Bruce Nolan a TV reporter who thinks he should be running the show. He misses promotion and goes ballistic, cursing God for mismanaging the universe of Nolan. God, played perfectly by the ice-cool Morgan Freeman, calls Nolan's tune and turns the universe over to him for a while. Perhaps being the main man isn't all that Nolan thinks it will be.

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/101mins
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, M Freeman
Director: Tom Shadyac
Universal Pictures

Daddy Day Care

Self-absorbed careerist daddies Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and Phil (Jeff Garlin) mess up their bright careers in advertising and suddenly find themselves unable to pay for their kids to attend their up-market day care centres so they decide to set up their own school. How difficult can it be to look after hordes of screaming brats? Their anarchic
school takes off big time, and piques the owner of conservative rival school ma'am Miss Gwyneth Harridan (Anjelica Huston) who sets out to put them out of business.

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/93mins
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston
Director: Steve Carr
Sony Pictures

Phone Booth

This has to be the suspense movie of the year: 20 years in gestation, ten days in shooting on one location — with a novel plot and immaculate execu-tion. New York wide boy Stu (Colin Farrell) finds himself in Manhatten's last pay phone in the sights of a sniper who seems to know all about him. Put down the phone and he gets shot. Keep the phone to his ear as his life is stripped bare and he may get shot anyway. The police think Stu is a killer and are ready to shoot him too. Tense and inventive.

Suspense/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/81mins
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, F Whitaker
Director: Joel Schumacher
Fox Pictures

Goodbye, Lenin!

A genuinely original and funny film about a young man who tries to keep the collapse of East Germany from his mother. Mum lapses into a coma in 1989 just before the Berlin wall comes down and the process to reunification gets under way. How-ever, Mum is a big fan of the old way of life, so when she does come round and the doctor says that the slightest shock could kill her, the son embarks on an elaborate deception, filling the house with relics of the past and enlisting the neighbours’ help to keep the changes from her.

Comedy-drama/Germany/ German/121mins
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Kathrin Sass, Maria Simon
Director: Wolfgang Becker
X Filme

Beyond Borders

Sarah Jordan (Angelina Jolie) is a rich American living in London who at a charity event is arrested by the sight of macho aid worker Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) gate crashing with a starving Ethiopean kid in his arms to accuse the rich of double standards. This act propels Ms. Jordan into an orgy of international acts of mercy, ferrying, cartloads of urgent supplies to Callahan's aid group in the world's trouble spots. When Callahan and Ms. Jordan get the hots for each other against a backdrop of starving refugees the film reveals itself as a steamy romance.

Romance/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/127mins
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Linus Roache
Director: Martin Campbell

The Brown Bunny

Low key, sensitive art film — or a crock of rubbish? Man of parts Vincent Gallo is Bud Clay, a man in pain travelling across the US to find his lost love played by Chloe Sevigny. On the way he meets up with a number of women who succumb to his moody looks. There are long brooding shots, some very graphic sex, and the film eschews plot for contemp-lation while Gallo, who also wrote and directed, gives a quietly intense performance. The Brown Bunny was booed at Cannes but was received well at the Toronto festival.

Art/US/ English (Japanese subtitles)/90mins
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs
Director: Vincent Gallo

Darkness Falls

The moral of this film seems to be: don’t brutally murder nice old ladies because their spirits will come back to inconvenience you forever. Hero Kyle (Chaney Kley) thinks the tale of the murdered biddy haunting the town is just a story until the ghost catches him and kills his mother. The cute thing about this particular ghost is that it hides in the dark waiting to be seen before pouncing. Since we don’t see well in the dark, it can’t have too many victims. Formulaic, stock horror without anything new to recommend it.

Horror/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/86mins
Starring: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie
Director: Jonathon Liebesman

Dracula 2: Ascension

In this uninspiring sequel to Dracula 2000 a bunch of kids, who are as daft as they are curious, decide to dissect the desiccated corpse of one Count Dracula (who also happens to be Judas Iscariot — you learn something new every day.) What they are hoping to find is the essence of his vampire nature.
I guess they had show and tell. Of course, a dead vampire is rarely a dead vampire and on top of that the kids are now on the Vatican’s hit list with one of the Pope’s top assassins trying to rub them out.

Horror/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/84mins
Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Jason London, Roy Scheider
Director: Patrick Lussier

The Last Samurai

Tom Cruise is an officer in the US 7th Cavalry in the late 19th century who is sent to Japan to help train the country’s modernising army. He is sucked into the battle between the country’s traditionalists and the grasping modernisers and finds himself a priso-ner in a remote mountain village, home to samurai Ken Watanabe. Here he learns the asceticism and philosophy of the warrior and finds salvation from his tortured past. A muscular film in the tradition of Kurosawa in which the powerful performances of Watanabe and Sanada deserve lots of Oscars.

Historical/US/English and Japanese/E&J-subtitles
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Edward Zwick
Warner Brothers

Finding Nemo

The lavishly reproduced views of coral reefs and the deep blue ocean show Pixar well in control of their craft. All the quality of plot and humour and wry observation that make their other films — Toy Story, Monster’s Inc. — so successful are here as Marlin the neurotic clown fish sets off to find his missing son Nemo. How will a small fish rescue his son from a dentist’s office in the centre of Sydney? How will he get there from the reef? Plenty of humour for the young and old, and an affectionate, wry look at ourselves.

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/93mins
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston
Director: Steve Carr
Sony Pictures


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