|"I'd rather look like this than continue trying to speak with|
an American accent...."
1) Even though this is treated in almost every way like a classic super-hero movie, this is Sam Raimi’s love letter to pulp heroes. Liam Neeson’s Payton Westlake is such a mash-up of a number of pulp characters (the intelligence of Doc Savage, the madness of The Spider, the chameleon-like nature of The Avenger, the visual of The Shadow) that he becomes Pulp Fiction’s Greatest Hits.
2) Boy, the non-Americans in this film can’t keep an American accent worth a damn. Neeson struggles until he just gives up on it about midway through--maybe using the fact that Westlake damaged his body so much it altered his nationality--and Colin Friel’s Strack sounds like a bad imitation of every third Warner Brothers Gangster from the ‘30‘s...
3) ...which is pity, because the script by Chuck Pfarrer and a slew of other people gives Strack a lot more shading and nuance than it gives the person we’re supposed to react to as The Biggest Bad, Larry Drake’s Durant. From his background as a developer’s son made to work the high steel by his dad to his motivations, Strack ends up an intriguing presence. Compared to him, Durant is just Pure-D-Mean.
|"I's A Bad Guy! A BAD GUY!"|
4) I really did like Frances McDormand’s Julia (Hell, when I first saw this I thought she was, ummmm, rather sexy), but the reason she works is solely because of McDormand. Julia is a criminally empty role to the point where I didn’t know what she actually did for a living until late in the last act. Even with all the posturing about her as an active participant, Julia is nothing but a damsel in distress there to be threatened and saved.
5) I certainly respect the moment where Raimi uses CGI to amplify his own stylized tendencies, like when he uses it to ‘break down’ the backgrounds during Payton’s seizures. But the few times when it’s being used to make stunts safer (particularly every time Payton swoops down over another character) it sticks out like a badly burned face.
6) I find it fascinating that the macguffin is this plastic flesh, yet the thing that the film is uncannily prescient about is the manufacturing process; Payton is using a 3-D printer!
7) I wonder if the film would have benefitted more by being set in an identifiable city. I have to think Raimi patterned his no-name city after Detroit, and I can’t help thinking Strack’s argument about tearing-down-to-build-up would be more persuasive if the setting was this great American city that had almost turned feral.
|"And one of my particular skills is the ability to make a|
stupid face while the background explodes..."
8) I’m pretty sure it’s Raimi and company trying to keep the story true to the rather sketchy nature of the genre, but this is a seriously underwritten script. This is the ultimate film where no one seems to have a life before the movie begins. They just exist, with the possible exception of Strack.
9) Even though this is a fairly violent film, albeit one that is not gory about it given its rating, it’s a real shock to hear some of the cursing in it. Maybe it’s because ‘you must be shitting me’ never appeared in an actual pulp adventure tale, but the examples of swearing stand out as an anomaly.
10) ...although, oddly enough, the Raimi-isms (I’m looking at you, Rivet-cam) actually make sense in this world, as they exaggerate the cartooniness of the film itself. They fit more seamlessly here than they do later on in the Spider-Man films.
Overall...a seriously flawed but entertaining film that can be seen as the beginning of a transition from cult to mainstream director for Raimi.