Thursday, December 07, 2006

Movie Roundup (1st - 4th December)

I love writer / director Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium - it wasn't an original masterpiece or anything, but it was fairly well written and directed, had some unique action sequences, a strong cast (Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Emily Watson), and atmospheric locales in which its dystopia took place (filmed mostly in Berlin). Ultraviolet has none of this. Yeah, Equilibrium had absurd elements, but Ultraviolet stretches suspension of disbelief and audience goodwill way too far. The story - dystopian future society where a repressed (diseased) minority are persecuted and fight back against the oppressive regime. Violet (Milla Jovovich) is a seemingly invincible freedom fighter who steals the 'ultimate weapon' from the bad guys, only to discover that it isn't quite what she was expecting. Which leads to a lot of poor special effects and action scenes (seriously, what kind of idiots attack with their braided hair?). It may have been low budget and it may have been edited by the studio, but the film is poor at a very fundamental level. Give it a miss...

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
The first part of Park Chan-wook's 'Revenge' trilogy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is an unflinchingly brutal and tragic tale of revenge spiraling out of control. Ryu, a young deaf mute, attempts to take care of his extremely ill sister - she needs a new kidney. Unfortunately, a deal with black market organ dealers goes pear shaped, and Ryu (together with his girlfriend) is forced to kidnap a little girl and hold her for ransom in order to get money for a kidney via legitimate channels. To say any more would be to spoil the sequence of events that leads up to the films devastating climax; characters whom we can actually sympathize with are driven by their misery and despair into committing horrific acts of retribution.

While not as memorable or as propulsive as Oldboy, Mr. Vengeance is stylishly directed and superbly acted, and is populated with both beautiful and gruesome imagery. There are lots of everyday 'real' moments, and the story flows in an unpredictable manner even though certain events have a feeling of inevitability. Which brings me to the violence - yes, there's lots of it, much more so than Oldboy. Is it gratuitous? I think it walks a fine line; I accept that is has to be brutal at some level, because these are brutal acts, and it prevents the acts of revenge being carried out from being something the audience can really get behind (which is how a typical action movie would be constructed). But... toning it down a little probably would not have hurt the film.

Worth watching, if you can stomach the violence...

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