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Notes from the Labyrinth
Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
this afternoon's movie 
7th-Jul-2003 09:02 pm
Sidneyia inexpectans
The Italian Job.

Short review: Don't bother.

I really dislike Mark Wahlberg, and I've never yet enjoyed a movie where I was supposed to like and sympathize with his character. (Which is why both Boogie Nights and The Corrupter worked so well for me.) The dialogue was lame like a lame, lame thing, and the pace was, well, plodding. Seth Green was wasted; according to heresluck, so was Mos Def (I've never seen him in anything else, so I can't speak from personal experience on that one, but it certainly was a thankless role). Donald Sutherland and Edward Norton were both sleepwalking (I was amused to discover on the IMDb's trivia page that apparently Norton has made it very clear that he made this movie for contractural obligations only, not by choice), and I discovered that I also really don't much care for Jason Streatham (whose name I may be misspelling, but frankly I can't be bothered to go look).

Of course, The Italian Job also suffers from the fact that we watched Ocean's Eleven last week, which does have powerful charisma in its lead-man, has genuinely funny dialogue instead of trying-to-be-funny dialogue, and above all has that frenetic, breathless pace that is so necessary to heist movies. Payback has it. Get Shorty doesn't. The Pierce Brosnan remake of The Thomas Crowne Affair has it in patches. If it weren't so hot and my brain wasn't so useless, I could probably think of other examples.

I did like Charlize Theron, and I bought her as a safecracker. What I completely didn't buy was that she would imagine this caper constitutes "revenge" for the death of her father. Because it doesn't. It obviously doesn't. Revenge is the bailiwick of the mother-freaking Ukranians (one of the film's few good lines), and they get the job done. The script was trying too hard to make us like the characters--they can steal the gold (although notice that it's very carefully constructed as a victimless crime), but they can't have blood on their hands, or do anything the least bit unsympathetic (except for blowing up half L.A., apparently). And no repercussions? nobody else wants this gold? the people it BELONGED to aren't tracking it down? And if Charlize Theron really wants revenge on Steve, why doesn't she just call the cops and bust his ass? And if we're supposed to like these people, they should have given the CHARISMATIC actors more to do.

Or perhaps that's just that I really don't like Mark Wahlberg.
7th-Jul-2003 07:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't mind the movie that much, but I'm aware that I enjoyed it in a very "turn brain off, squeal over adorable itty-bitty cars" kind of way. Have you seen Jason Statham in Snatch? You might like that one better. :o)

By the way, I dreamt last night that I was checking my LJ (sure sign of geekdom, dreaming of reading LJ) and I remember seeing a post from you saying that you'd finished your dissertation. Thought you'd might like to know that, in some alternate dream-verse, it's done. ;o)
7th-Jul-2003 08:02 pm (UTC)
By the way, I dreamt last night that I was checking my LJ (sure sign of geekdom, dreaming of reading LJ) and I remember seeing a post from you saying that you'd finished your dissertation. Thought you'd might like to know that, in some alternate dream-verse, it's done.

Right. I'm choosing to regard that as an omen. :) I need all the encouragment I can get.

I did like the Minis, and I loved that they let Charlize Theron's character drive like a maniacal genius. You know, the whole time I was TELLING my brain to shut the fuck up already, and it just wouldn't. It persisted in sneering at Mark Wahlberg. *sigh* Stupid brain.

10th-Jul-2003 10:17 pm (UTC)
Those are not real Mini Coopers.

No way!

As for whether it's possible in the back of a Mini, I'm claiming thw Fifth on that. And besides, it was a van.

7th-Jul-2003 08:05 pm (UTC)
I saw this.

I was determined to have a good time, and had not recently seen Ocean's 11.

So as long as I could ignore anything Mark Wahlberg said that was supposed to be emotional, I did fine. I admired Sutherland, and Green, and everyone else, and just turned my brain off and enjoyed Mini Coopers.
7th-Jul-2003 08:14 pm (UTC)
You know, I suspect I would have been just fine if I could have mentally edited out Mark Wahlberg and replaced him with someone else. Anyone else, really. But the Mark-Wahlberg-ness of it made me grumpy, and once I started finding fault, I just couldn't stop. A bad habit of mine.
8th-Jul-2003 05:08 am (UTC)
The funny thing is, Mark Wahlberg to me in this movie was like a placeholder. He did very little acting, and was mostly just there. I have no strong feelings about him anyway, and really didn't notice him at all.

Weirdly, he looks vaguely like Matt Damon, and I'd just seen _The Bourne Identity_ the night before, so that was a little disorienting.

Anyway, like I said, this was probably a very uninspired caper movie, but I have such a weakness for the things I enjoyed it anyway.
8th-Jul-2003 07:02 am (UTC)
Well, but he was theoretically the emotional heart of it. And he was certainly theoretically supposed to convince me he was in love with Theron. No such luck; I had to manufacture that myself.
8th-Jul-2003 07:21 am (UTC)
Ah. I don't watch caper movies for emotions or character development. When I get it, that's great, but I don't require it. I also don't require realistic romances, unless the movie makes that central to the plot, which I didn't think that this did. Otherwise I'm happy to wave it aside as part of the scenery required by the genre.

I have to not actively *dislike* the characters--I don't like _Heist_ or _The Thomas Crown Affair_ for that reason. But as long as I don't actively dislike them, I'm good.

I *said* I have a serious weakness for the things . . .
8th-Jul-2003 07:49 am (UTC)
If I could have edited in Matt Damon (who I'm also not terribly fond of, but who CAN act), I would have been fine.

Yes, Wahlberg's character is a place-holder. They're all placeholders--that's part of the problem. Also, as my husband said, this was a movie that wanted to be funny, but couldn't figure out HOW it wanted to be funny. Having noticed that the original starred Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and Benny Hill, one begins to see where the difficulties might have started to creep in.

But, returning to my original complaint here, it's not so much that Wahlberg's a placeholder as that he isn't an entertaining place-holder. I'll watch Seth Green type, perfectly happily, even though, as heresluck pointed out, it's not gripping action. But Wahlberg doesn't have that for me.

Right. I'm letting go of this now. It's far from the worst movie I've ever seen--far even from the worst movie I've ever seen in the theaters. I think that honor would have to go to Titan A.E., with a saver on Boomerang. (Titan A.E. was my own fault, but I was not the person responsible for choosing to see Boomerang. I'd just like to make that clear.)
8th-Jul-2003 08:34 am (UTC)
...as my husband said, this was a movie that wanted to be funny, but couldn't figure out HOW it wanted to be funny.

Actually, I said that. *g*

Poor cranky Truepenny; I'm sorry the movie irritated you so much. We'll go see the little talking fish next time. ("Go monkey! Choose monkey!") And if you're ever in the mood for a lightweight but well-done romantic comedy, we can rent Brown Sugar and you can see Mos Def being funny. Also? Queen Latifah. :::swoons:::
8th-Jul-2003 08:50 am (UTC)
Argh! V. sorry. No brain. Mirrorthaw must have said the same thing later, because I have a distinct memory of him saying it while dicing cucumber. Or perhaps I'm just on crack.
8th-Jul-2003 08:58 am (UTC)
Well, it's entirely possible that he said it too; I wasn't there for the cucumber-dicing. But I said it first! (in the car on the way home.)

Not that I'm the slightest bit competitive about it, mind you. *g*
8th-Jul-2003 09:07 am (UTC)
I'm not at all arguing that you said it first. *sigh* And here I was so pleased with myself for remembering that *I* didn't say it.

The insight is yours. :)
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