*. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this one. It’s not very good. But then, it’s not all bad.
*. A remake of the 1971 classic was pointless, since it was only a generic gangster revenge plot anyway. That said, I thought they did a decent job here updating it and transplanting the action to the U.S. The changes made sense, especially taking the pornography story and moving it online.
*. But if there was a good idea there, it was very poorly executed. I suppose the first thing that sticks out is what director Stephen Kay refers to as the “strange visual style.”
*. What this means is not so much the deliberately drab pallette. This is Seattle, after all, a location that is now synonymous with rain (think Verbinski’s The Ring for another contemporary example). What I mainly mean by the visual style is the editing.
*. This movie looks like it was cut with a weed-whacker. I mean, the fight scenes in particular are a joke.
*. The editor was industry veteran Gerald Greenberg, who also edited The French Connection, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Apocalypse Now, Scarface, and The Untouchables. According to Dede Allen he also did the bloody ambush at the end of Bonnie and Clyde. That’s quite a C.V. However, as I wrote the line about editing with a weed-whacker I was reminded of having said that I thought Heaven’s Gate, a movie edited to a very different pace, looked like it “was cut with a chainsaw and put back together with hockey tape.” Greenberg edited Heaven’s Gate as well. I guess sometimes he nods.
*. I don’t believe in frantic editing just for its own sake. Kay says that it deliberately goes crazy starting with the scene where Stallone watches the porn video, but why even use it in that scene? Caine played most of that scene in one long take, which made sense. I mean, he had to really act it, and Stallone isn’t in the same league, but still, chopping this scene into pieces just distracts us and diffuses its emotional impact. And look at the ending, as Stallone gets in his car and drives out of the cemetery. Why so many cuts, and shifting the film speed? It looks ridiculous.
*. The film’s flawed execution also comes down to casting. Not cast, but casting. The cast here isn’t so much bad as it is miscast.
*. Stallone can really do a rolling strut in those shiny silk suits nicely, but he seems less than invested in the role. Mickey Rourke is merely a grotesque and does anyone buy him as a dot-com entrepreneur, even of porn? Miranda Richards and Michael Caine both seems way out of place with nothing in the way of characters to hold on to. Alan Cumming may be the worst choice of all, neither an authentic nerd nor wimp. And where is his security detail?
*. Rachael Leigh Cook has the only face that seems like it belongs here, and she’s very good. She’s also a big part of the one scene that saves this movie for me, which is the one where she’s with Stallone on the roof and they’re talking about her sex tape/disc without ever directly getting into it much. Because, after all, nothing has to be said.
*. I thought this scene was terrific, capturing in an authentic and honest way how real people address such issues. Both Stallone and Cook are great. Just look at how their eyes dance away from each other. And the script is excellent here too, as they both say exactly what each of them would try to say, each in their fumbling ways. It’s actually one of my favourite dramatic scenes from any movie of this period (honest!). But nothing else in the film is nearly as good.
*. It’s odd that Stallone doesn’t have an umbrella in the opening funeral scene (he’s too cool for one, I suppose), and yet even standing out in the pouring rain his face never gets wet.
*. Many scenes and snatches of dialogue are kept from the original verbatim but the phone sex has been tamed down considerably. So much for movies becoming more permissive.
*. Another necessary change was the ending. On the commentary to the original film Michael Caine talks about how un-American it was to end the movie with the hero being killed. Even back then it was felt that you had to keep things open for a sequel. This is something Stallone knows well, being Mr. Franchise. Has Stallone ever died in a movie? I feel he must have but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. The guy is indestructible.
*. Even in 2000 I think that boasting that you have “more money than God” means you should have a little more than $900 million. Kinnear isn’t even a billionaire. He has no business pretending to be a rich man.
*. I’d read Ted Lewis’s novel and seen the original movie several times, but at the end of this one I was still lost as to what had actually happened. It seems as though everyone was involved in the murder of Jack’s brother, but it’s unclear to what extent. Even the flashbacks are of no assistance. Apparently bringing Brumby back at the end was an afterthought, not in the original script. But why take a perfectly good plot that makes sense and scramble it up so that it doesn’t? Is it that we don’t care about such things any more?