Monday, March 7, 2011

Capsule reviews: Blood Work, War

 Blood Work (2002, Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood has had such a long, accomplished in film. An actor, a screenwriter, a director, even a songwriter at times, Eastwood seems to have done it all, as well as earn considerable accolades. He even directed a movie in another language (2006’s Letters From Iwo Jima)! With so much output of work, it comes to no surprise that not everything will hit the mark. Blood Work, alas, misses the mark, and in some rather embarrassing ways in fact. Written and directed by the Eastwood himself, the film follows a retired FBI agent who is sentimentally, morally if you will, dragged back into service one last time after receiving a heart transplant. The catch is that the heart that keeps ticking for him was that of a murder victim, whose sister pleads him to find the perpetrator of the crime. I don’t know, am I just out of sync here or does that sound like a really silly plot for a supposedly serious cop drama?

Things don’t get much better from there. It appears the killer Clint and the sexy woman are chasing has an affinity for killing people with a rare blood type. This is a brilliant discovery made by Clint after he, the old timer, makes the younger generations of detectives look like a bunch of chumps in a few scenes. For some reason he lives on a boat ‘because he doesn’t like doing the lawn.’ Jeff Daniels is a slacker who lives on a nearby boat at along the same dock who tags along to drive Clint from place to place as the hero follows his nose for clues. After a series of mundane interrogations and scenes of Clint snooping around, it is revealed, for some inexplicable reason, that Jeff Daniels is the killer. What? Why?!? Ah, yes, because he after being shot by Clint two years ago. Clint also has sex with the woman who hired him for the job. She has a cute kid (not with him, mind you). Yikes… I have a lot of admiration for Eastwood, I honestly do, but Blood Work is such a mess of a film. A complaint I can sometimes level at a film I don’t enjoy is that It was based off some interesting ideas, but the execution didn’t mesh well. Apologies to fans of this movie, but I don’t even think the ideas behind the movie are very interesting. A 2 year revenge plan based on hunting down people with rare blood types? What the fuc…The reveal of the killer’s identity and the subsequent climax are nothing but a series of tired clichéd scenes. The only, only thing I liked about this movie was Jeff Daniels as the lazy, dopy partner before he goes crazy upon revealing his true nature near the end. Gran Torino, which I really did not like, is better than this. At the very least Torino had some semi-camp value to it.

War (2007, Philip G. Atwell)

Known mostly for rap music videos, Philip G. Atwell took on a strange but intriguing script to direct War, which has as its two principle stars Jason Stathan and Jet Li as opposite foes. Stathan is a federal agent on the west coast who obsessively tracks down Jet Li, a remarkably swift assassin,  after the latter laid to waste his partner and the man’s immediate family. The bizarre story also explains that the villain played by Li has had facial surgery performed more than once in order to change his appearance, something that comes into play in a rather 'what the hell?!?' fashion later on. While Stathan continues to freak over the potential of finally catching his most hated nemesis, Li plays on old game of Yojimbo (not Chinese, but it will do for the purpose of this review) with two important cells of Yakuza and Triad clans in San Francisco. What we have left is Stathan acting like a badass in order to catch Li, Li acting like a bad ass while escaping Stathan and pitting two clans against each other, with a bunch of Triad and Yakuza blokes behaving like bad asses towards each other. John Lone (M. Butterfly) also co-stars!

It is a lot of plot lines, perhaps even too much for a movie of this sort, whose primary function is to entertain through the proper delivery of high-octane shootouts and jaw dropping stunt work. Some sword fights are also added to the mix just in case one gets bored with running, jumping, shooting, high speed driving, big ass explosions, kicking and punching. One wonders why we need to follow all of these characters, some of which clearly do not absolutely require as much screen time as they are awarded. There is a really, really audacious reveal (audacious in how it tries to shatter any attempts at keeping thing logical) that makes the ending that much more strange. Having said all that, and I admit I haven’t made the movie sound terribly good up until this point, I very much enjoyed it all. The action is well handled, especially a shootout at a Japanese restaurant that turns into a frantic fight between Jason Stathan with a bunch dudes attacking him with knives and various other pointy objects. I think another element that attracted me was how a single movie pitted Yakuza against Triad, something we don’t see that often, least of all in Western cinema. I’m not saying the film does so in any profound, clever manner, only that it was ‘cool’ to have both gangs go toe to toe in the same picture. This is a silly film, but it knows it’s silly and knows it just wants to have a good time with people getting kicked and shot in the head. Winner!


Ty said...

Thought War was a fun action flick! Loved the last fight between Li and Statham!

Courtney Small said...

I was not a fan of either of these films. If I had to re-watch one again it would most likely be War. While the film is not successful it does pass the time a lot quick than having to sit through Blood Work's nonsensical plot turns.