by Miguel E. Rodriguez
Director: Wayne Kramer
Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri
My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 41%
PLOT: A low-ranking thug (Walker) is entrusted by his boss to dispose of a gun that killed corrupt cops, but things spiral out of control when the gun somehow winds up in the hands of his neighbor’s son (Bright).
First of all, this is most assuredly NOT a remake of the quintessentially ‘80s comedy thriller of the same name, starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, who, although they were very funny, were two of the most unconvincing street cops since…ever.
No. This is one of the most twisted, sordid, blood-soaked retelling of a Grimms-esque fairy tale I’ve ever seen. Like someone kidnapped Quentin Tarantino and force-fed him only moonshine and methamphetamines for a week, then told him to sit down and re-write the story of Hansel and Gretel, but to make it take place in modern-day lower-middle-class New Jersey, and don’t forget the guns, Russian thugs, and brief, um, cunning linguistics.
Yeah. It’s that kind of movie.
I haven’t read the negative reviews of this film, so I couldn’t tell you what turned so many people OFF. I can only report what turned me ON.
A big part of it is the energetic storytelling at work: lots of digitally enhanced camera tricks, the occasional rewind, tilting the camera when you really didn’t have to, sudden speed-ups…very stylistic. Tony Scott did a bit of the same thing in Domino, released a few months earlier, and Oliver Stone sort of pioneered this kind of thing with the wildly weird Natural Born Killers. So it’s not like I haven’t seen this before, but it really works with this lurid material.
Which brings me to another big part of why I like this movie: the story. On the surface, it’s your standard kid-in-peril, race-against-time thriller. Paul Walker absolutely, positively HAS to get his hands on the dirty gun that Cameron Bright manages to steal and go into hiding with.
But tilt your head and squint your eyes, and you can see the whole thing is basically a guns-blood-and-broads version of a classic fairy tale, where a young innocent traverses the unforgiving countryside while being pursued by deadly forces. On the way, he meets up with various colorful characters, who aren’t all bad, but they’re certainly not all good.
In this case, instead of trolls and ogres, our innocent character encounters, not necessarily in this order: the Russian mafia, a hooker with a heart of gold, her vengeful pimp, a creepy homeless guy, crooked cops, his own abusive father, and, in the movie’s squirmiest moment, a creepy married couple who show an inordinate amount of compassion for, and interest in, this lost child, and who seem to have the most nefarious motives of anyone else in the film.
And that’s just the “B” story.
The “A” story revolves around Paul Walker’s character trying to retrieve the gun Bright has stolen. He bounces around like a pinball with his own son in tow, spewing profanity like it’s going out of style, beating up lesser thugs, lying to superior thugs, always just one step behind Bright who is sure Walker is going to kill him.
I dunno, for me, the dynamic camerawork and the shocking subject matter all worked. It’s a fun, trippy ride, with just desserts getting served all around. I’m sure people have an issue with the ending, but what would they have preferred when it comes to a popcorn movie like this?
After all, how do MOST fairy tales end?