Tag Archives: Mean Streets

Harsh Times: Get Some Christian Bale

In one of my favorite Christian Bale films, Bale plays a hardened soldier newly returned to South Central Los Angeles. With new promising jobs for himself on the horizon, Jim Davis (Bale) has his feet in two camps. In one, Davis is a well-to-do yet slightly skewed veteran soldier that wants to bring his loving Mexican girlfriend to the U.S. and marry her. In the other, Davis has returned to his old haunts around the streets of L.A., drinking and living the life of a hoodrat. Cruising around with his friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodriguez), attempting to right their lives but always falling short.

Jim Davis, although its not explicitly stated, suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. After serving over in the Middle East, Davis suffers from bouts of extreme anger and unquenchable violence. This get him in some trouble throughout the film. In a manner of speaking, Davis becomes his own undoing, turning into a destructive time bomb ready to explode at any moment, hurting those he cares about. As an outsider viewing this, Alonzo (Rodriguez) is a spectator to the bomb

Two thugs, cruisin’ to get their. Rodriguez is creepin’ a bit hard on Bale though…

show. Both serve as peer pressure for the other, although, in the end, Davis seems to want to remain in his in between life much longer than Alonzo does.

The film starts with a bit of iffy war footage of Christian Bale running around in trenches, letting his gun go at will and laying waste to the terrorists. This is juxtaposed to the waking fear that he feels when he wakes up in the squalor of his girlfriend’s poverty in Mexico. Marta (Tammy Trull) is a wonderfully devoted character who is only a product of the environment around her. She makes the best of what she has and loves Davis dearly. Jim loves her too, and surprisingly never cheats on her. In this movie, Spanish is the language of love, spoken competently by Bale in this film, as if he picked it up after falling in love with Marta. The language barriers and connections in this film between the white and Latino characters is one I applaud in its representation in the film.

The hardened stare of a killer.

I was also impressed with Freddy Rodriguez’s performance in this film as well. Not seeing him in much other than the Grindhouse films and Six Feet Under. His voice is more recognizable than his acting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because he ran his mouth in this film. Sylvia, played by Eva Longoria, was just thoroughly average in this film, as she usually is. (I did surprisingly like her in Over My Dead Body… if that’s what it’s called). Terry Crews, star of The Longest Yard and The Expendables, made a surprise appearance as a semi-believable street thug, providing some of the only comedy in the film. And last but not least, J.K. Simmons made an appearance as a Homeland Security agent looking to hire Davis. He’s always believable as authority figures in his films.

In this film comes a lot of the breakdown of what happens to someone who suffers through war. It may not appear during their service as in this film, but it may occur anytime after, triggered by any number of things. For Davis, I felt it was his return to a society that was just as cruel as the conditions he felt in

Look everyone, it’s the Old Spice Guy!

war times that did it for him. He came back to more of what he knew, and treated it like the warring sands of the Middle East. And what impressed me more with David Ayer’s writing and directing, is that he based these characters on real people from his experience in South L.A. This brought a new level to Christian Bale’s acting and the way in which his character was formulated.

Bale and Rodriguez getting the direction they need from Ayers.

Let me say again how impressed I was with Christian Bale’s acting in this film. As one of my favorite films of his, Christian Bale does nothing less than attempt and succeed at an American accent. Although I felt that the lingo used in this film was a bit over the top, when it was used, it was more than likely appropriate. With some tricks of the trade thrown in there and some real mean streets shizz, it wasn’t a stretch to believe the events of the film. But it just goes to show that the corruption of the streets can easily lead to a tragedy. And the way that Christian Bale portrays that breakdown of a character, up to the tears and fear, its a commendable performance. Not to mention how frightening Christian Bale becomes when he’s serious. I wouldn’t wanna deal with him in a dark alley.

So with his performance, some true to the streets gang banging, and the whites vs. the latinos really

Jim Davis, rollin’ hard to get his.

adds a lot to a well written story. The psychological thriller elements of the film are well delivered and I can connect things I’ve witnessed in my life to the events onscreen. On a touchy subject like the recent tours of duty over in Iraq and Afghanistan, this movie touches just the right spots with aplomb. I’ll give this one, as should be expected, a decent 84. out of 10.

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Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.