by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
From the Chilean action duo of Marko Zaror and Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, the filmmakers behind one of my favorite action flicks of past five years, Mirageman, comes their latest project, the balls-to-the-wall old-school hitman flick Mandrill. After witnessing his parents brutally murdered, Antonio spends his life transforming himself into a slick and suave bounty hunter code-named Mandrill. Mixing his considerable cool with a heavy-metal martial arts swagger, Zaror delivers some of the best action sequences this side of the Thai border. Meanwhile, director Espinoza infuses a real iconic chill to the whole thing, eschewing the typical MTV shaky-cam quick-cuts in favor of a laid-back, ’70s-esque, anti-hero Steve McQueen-like romantic vibe that is just as breathtaking to watch as the action sequences. When I reviewed Mirageman, I said that Zaror and Espinoza were the future of action cinema. With Mandrill, they prove it.
Takeshi Kitano could easily be called the Japanese Clint Eastwood— an iconic legend of total badassery that continues to write, star and direct in violent paeans to his own on-screen cool. But, while Eastwood tends to go for the self-effacing sputtered-out ending, Kitano goes for the kill ’em all and let god sort ’em out finale. His latest masterpiece is the Yakuza crime drama Outrage, an outrageous, involved, nervous-tick of a movie that ranks right up there with Scorsese’s best. He’s an old, hardened Yakuza go-to guy, witnessing the numerous double-crosses and double-dealing by the current family heads and the big boss. Torn between loyalty and ambition, it’s a constant struggle to maintain trust and respect in a criminal underground that is increasingly forgetting its time-honored traditions and very reason for being. Kitano forlornly moves in the background, silently, calculatingly sad, doing whatever he has to to get the job done. Outrage is a modern-day crime-cinema classic, filled with images that should be on the walls of every college dorm room.
Remember that Jeremy Piven piece of crap from the late ’90s called Very Bad Things? It was that supposed black-comedy about a group of wholly unlikable d-bags who accidentally kill a stripper at their bachelor party and have to try to fix it, with numerous hijinks ensuing. Remember that now? Well, Piven is back on familiar ground, only this time it’s less Hangover and more hanging yourself with your belt in the bathroom. In I Melt With You, Piven teams with Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and Christian McKay for a week of drinkin’ and snortin’, only, thanks to that ever-present middle-class ennui, serious depression sets in and the boys remember a suicide pact they made in college. Yeah, things get pretty intense, but also pretty unbelievably stupid — you want to put your hands through the screen and shake some sense into these morons, letting them know that not everyone’s life turns out the way they’d expect. It's a trainwreck that is uncomfortable to watch, with no redeeming value, entertainment or otherwise.