Erasmus's silver-screen (clears throat, points to title line) digest will be fairly brief, as his trips to the googolplex have been infrequent of late. He's caught about three films over the couple months. These were, perhaps lamentably:
The Bourne Supremacy. Erasmus found this movie incredibly dull, dreary, visually incoherent in the action sequences, and fundamentally demoralized and demoralizing. Erasmus was a fan of the first one, not least for its introducing the luminous Franka Potente to widespread American audiences (those not hip to the incredible opera of Tom Tykwer). It was also a semi-faith update of Robert Ludlum's admittedly dated thriller classic. The film sequel barely nods to Ludlum's novel (no great loss, but fidelity might have proven better than the mess here).
Like a dismaying number of movies to come out of Hollywood over the past twenty years, this Supremacy leans on the depressing and utterly predictable cliché that the real villain in any complicated international intrigue will likely be a gray-haired white guy in a suit in Washington or Whitehall. While this may have been cutting and innovative in the '70s, amid the pervasive loss of trust in government institutions and concomittant flourishing of the paranoid political style, it's festered into mechanical tiresomeness over the last, say, decade and a half. Moreover, making a movie about the CIA in the post-2001 era and not, say, alluding to the agency's dreadful incompetence and/or any Middle Eastern affairs whatsoever? Seems like willful ignorance of the world today.
Finally, Erasmus's pet peeve is one he shares with the late Anton Pa'l'ch Chekov. At one point, Matt Damon's Jason Bourne has Joan Allen's CIA officer in his sights, literally. Said sights are mounted on arguably the finest sniper rifle ever built, the Walther WA-2000, which was so well-built that it was way too expensive for the military and police markets. Only about 72 were ever built, and one will probably run you about as much as a new Saab or Audi nowadays, if you can find someone who'd sell you one. At any rate, having given super-spy Bourne this super-gun, he's never written an opportunity to fire the damn thing. Was the insurance premium on the gun too much to snap off one half-charge .300 Winchester Magnum blank?
(Oh, and Karl Urban's Russian accent was freakin' ridiculous...)
- Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy wasn't quite as thoroughly hilarious as Erasmus had been led to believe from various friends and critics, but it had funny moments enough (and those moments were funny enough) that Erasmus did not begrudge handing over his eight bucks. Also, if Erasmus owned a novelty company, he would immediately proceed with the manufacture of "Sex Panther" cologne boxes.
Still, as an armchair critic, Erasmus would be remiss in not pointing out the flaw Anchorman shares with other movies written by SNL alums, in dropping in skit-like episodes that totally break the fragile satiric reality. Writers: character, character, and more character!
- Collateral, directed by the brilliant visual stylist Michael Mann, is a terrific flick. Sure, like many great thrillers (cf. Robert Ludlum supra), some of the plot points don't necessarily bear prolonged contemplation. Collateral is a superbly made thriller, an intense, gripping, fast-paced pas de deux (which in which Jamie Foxx generally keeps up with Tom Cruise and Cruise generally keeps inside a character).
Erasmus was never a Miami Vice fan (though he remembers a very eerie use of Peter Gabriel's "Biko" as a foreshadowing of death in one of the few episodes he saw), so he came to Michael Mann's mastery of crime late, with Manhunter (coincidentally with Brian Cox & Joan Allen who appear in The Bourne Supremacy). Erasmus has much to say about that film, but insufficient time. Suffice it to say that I've found Mann's crime-related work compelling since. He dares to combine gritty, pulpy narratives with gorgeous, beautiful photography. Many sequences in Collateral could be considered out of context as art, as stills or as film. No other working director pulls off this fusion of rough material displayed beautifully as well, especially within the constraints of the crime genre.
Collateral reminded Erasmus in certain respects of Donald Westlake's Parker novels, in which your narrative sympathy is kept with a thoroughly unsympathetic figure. In Collateral, however, this protagonist is provided with a moral, sympathetic, though flawed, foil. So the conflict must eventually come to a head. And it does, though what you'll really remember is the build-up.