Volume 20, Number 39 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 15 - 21, 2010
Koch on Film
By Ed Koch
Animal Kingdom” (+)
This movie is not as terrific as it could have been.
Jacki Weaver plays Smurf Cody — the mother, grandmother and pillar of strength to a family of crooks living in Melbourne, Australia. One of her sons, Pope (Ben Mendelsohn), is feared by his brothers and Smurf’s 17-year-old grandson, J Cody (James Frecheville) — who lives with his relatives. \J’s mother died from a drug overdose. In a voice-over, he tells the story and fills in the missing facts to complete the narrative. Another of Smurf’s sons, Darren (Luke Ford) — who appears to be mentally challenged — is not certain about his sexual orientation.
The plot involves police corruption and a police execution of a family member (with a comparable retaliation). The number of killings should satisfy anyone’s need or interest in viewing violence, but they don’t. The movie certainly doesn’t meet the standards set by Quentin Tarantino in his scripts. Other drawbacks for me were the low decibel level of the film and the fact that the Australian accents were sometimes difficult to understand. So, while those who like the genre will enjoy this movie, it could have been much better. I saw the picture at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 E. Houston).
Rated R. Run time: 95 minutes.
There are no belly laughs in this flick, but there are plenty of smiling faces in the audience — thanks to frolics galore with a little slapstick and shtick thrown in. There’s even an old Hollywood ending, which I haven’t seen for years (two lovers run toward one another for what looks like a kilometer).
The opening scenes take place in Morocco, and the closing ones in Monaco. The two principal actors, whom I have never seen perform before, provide very skillful and amusing moments.
Alex (Romain Duris) is a professional lover (not a gigolo) usually hired by families to end a romantic relationship in which their daughter is involved. Alex gets the woman to fall in love with him but never becomes intimate with them which (would violate his contract with the family). He is assisted in his business by his sister, Melanie (Julie Ferrier), and her husband, Marc (Francois Damiens).
The action focuses on Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) — who is engaged to Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln), a rich Englishman her father doesn’t want her to marry. It all becomes complicated when Alex and Juliette fall in love.
The plot is often trite and sometimes perilously close to becoming a soap opera or sitcom, but it ultimately adds up to a modestly entertaining film. I personally much prefer a French film noir to an English trifle dessert. I saw the movie at the IFC Center located on Sixth Avenue and West Third Street.
Not Rated. Run time: 105 minutes. In French, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic and Mandarin. Currently playing at IFC through (at least) Sept. 23. IFC is located at 323 Sixth Ave. (at W. Third St. Call 212-924-7771.
“The American” (+)
George Clooney is a fine actor. To his credit most, of his films (in which he plays the same role over and over) have been very successful. The most recent example was “Up In The Air,” which was a light, romantic box office hit.
“The American” is a morose, silent, slow-moving picture that includes full frontal female nudity. Everyone in this movie is either extremely beautiful or very handsome. Indeed a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido), is absolutely off the charts beautiful. In one water scene she reminded me of Hedy Lamarr when she first came on the Hollywood scene so many years ago.
George Clooney, who goes by several names in this film, mostly Jack, is an assassin. When we meet him early on, he is in Sweden with another beauty, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), where a murder takes place. Jack, who has to flee for his life, is directed by his handler, Pavel (Johan Leysen), to go to Italy. He ends up in a small mountain town, Abruzzo, 100 miles northeast of Rome. The scenes of Italy – villages, highways, mountains and local people -- are gorgeously photographed.
Although this is one of the slowest paced films that I can recall seeing in a long time, and nothing in it is clearly stated, it is well worth watching and figuring out what is happening. I saw it at the AMC Loews Kips Bay, at 570 Second Ave. (at 31st St.).
Henry Stern said: “This was a movie about assassins, so as you can imagine there was a substantial body count. The photography was beautiful and the characters were enigmatic. If there were an Oscar for the movie with the fewest spoken words, ‘The American’ might win it. The best parts of the film were the views of rural Italy and its mountains, which look as they did centuries ago, except for the cars and guns. Consider the movie a travelogue; from your seat you can admire the scenery and observe the people, especially the priest, without the danger of freezing or being shot. Of course you would miss the sex with beautiful Italian women, but you can’t do that from Kips Bay.”
Rated R. Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.