Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Mid-Week post: 1989 and all that…

'I hadn't intended this...' I thought as I staggered up to bed at five in the morning last Saturday!

It had all started with such promise, with the anticipation of friends for supper followed by a couple of classic films. We had enjoyed a few cans of beer and a very tasty round or two of chicken fajitas kindly cooked by one of my guests (a rare and real treat!). Recovering from a hangover from the night previous I was wary about embarking on anything too strenuous least of all a film marathon from quite possibly one of the worst years that post-war popular culture has ever experienced, But then came the challenge. 

'Henry,' one of my more mischievous friends said with a raised eyebrow, 'really want to watch a film or two this evening, but we want to watch something in your collection that you have never seen'. A film in my collection I had never seen! It was almost unthinkable, however, going down to scour the shelves I eventually found four flics that I had not as yet watched. 

The first one was a write-off, Tintin and the Blue Orange… I had never watched this French, live action version of one of my favourite childhood heroes chiefly for the reason that I was sure that it would disappoint me just as much as Spielberg's live-action travesty (not bad, but worse…mediocre). The other three were of a different calibre and, what was strange is that they all dated from 1989. The first was an often overlooked Steven Seagal film called 'Marked For Death' (after watching it you might see why). 

Marked for Death was Steven Seagal's 3rd film coming in the wake of Nico (Above the Law) and Hard to Kill. Like all of his films every villain is a crude stereotype. In this case it was a group of voodoo practicing yardies who dealt drugs to kids and metered brutal, torturous punishment to their foes. Something must have been wrong with the sound because I seriously could not understand either what the yardies talking about in native Jamaican dialect nor most of the other American supporting cast. The amount of plot introductions that never come to a conclusion in the film is bizarre. At the beginning he polishes a gimmicky looking antique zip-gun (for about five minutes - implying that it will be used in the final battle to save himself) which we never see again. His niece gets gunned down, she's on life support, we never find out if she lives or dies; a sexy FBI agent takes a shine to him (again she seems to have no relevance whatsoever to any of the plot!). No this film literally ends after he kills the bad guy, tells his partner 'It was worth it / one hell of a ride' and walks off down an alley carrying a dead comrade. Methinks that either the producers ran out of money, or the director, realising that this was a true turkey, gave up on it completely!

When one thinks of Al Pacino's great films, Sea of Love never seems to feature. Finding the grizzled actor at the crossroads of middle age, this seemed to be Pacino's attempt - like plenty of other seasoned actors - to 'cash in' by embarking on a polished, psychological thriller, so popular in the late 1980s. Whilst okay, Frantic (1988) or Fatal Attraction (1987) it is not! What would be a rather poor film is just saved by some great support from a rather youthful and ever dependable John Goodman who provides the wisecracks and, surprisingly acts as a great foil to an intense and maniacal performance by Pacino. About that, I wish I could say that Big Al  gives a bravura performance, but it is so hammed, there are moments when his eyes literally seem to pop out of his head (if there is one thing I don't associate with a Pacino performance it is true fear or terror) - there were moments when I slightly guffawed. The plot was also incredibly thin, I thought - although feel free to correct me - that the killer was blatantly obvious from the introduction of the character. Again whilst Ellen Barkin is mildly attractive as the femme fatale, their is no chemistry between her and Pacino, which makes the erotic moments look pretty cheap and seedy. I think my friends liked it a little more than I did, although I think they will agree that it has been overlooked in a catalogue of Pacino's best films for a reason. 

Finally came a film that should never been made, One Man Force. What can you say about a movie who's trailer opens with such dialogue:

'He was a dedicated cop, sworn to uphold the law. Until an act of violence pushed him over the edge...'

The warnings were all there in the above, as well as a stellar cast list, you can imagine the guy who narrate trailers say it: John Matuszak (from the Goonies), Ronnie Cox (from Robocop and Beverley Hills Cop), Sam J Jones (From Flash Gordon), Sharon Farrell (of Lone Wolf McQuade) and Charles Napier (from Rambo). This is a film made from the creme de la creme of supporting/bit-part role actors and the high quality of their performances proves it! The action is well served by some of the worst cinematography in the history of cinema, watch how the director and editor abuse the set piece fights by cutting angles before punches have connected. All this is set to a sizzling score which seems to have been culled and rehashed from a number of Harold Faltymeyer lesser known soundtracks. Then we come to the protagonist…anyone who has seen Matuszak in the Goonies will have no idea of his sheer inability to deliver convincing dialogue, it is laughable. Also he is far too large a character, he fills the whole scene, he's bigger than Arnie! (true he was a former defensive lineman for Oakland Raiders), to see him chasing hoodlums is enough to buy this film, it's like watching a pool table trying to jump over a hurdle!  However, despite this, I urge you to purchase this film for it's price of £0.01 on Amazon as it is a true masterclass of how not to make one! You notice how Ronny Cox (the only actor of some success of the group) never refers to this film in any interviews he has give as one of the finer moments in his career. Truly terrible...

What a slew of awful films! yet I was in good company, with some fine liquor, a passable cigar. To be fair I had a lot of fun, the one great thing about a bad film is just how amusing it can make a Saturday night spent at home! 

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