September 5th, 2009

THE INFORMERS (2009) **

Director Gregor (Buffalo Soldiers) Jordan’s The Informers is based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.  Like most of Ellis’ work, it’s all about yuppies doing drugs, having sex, and doing despicable things to themselves and/or each other.  The film is structured sorta like Magnolia.  We follow various characters around and their storylines intersect with each other until the end when (most) everyone has kind of a revelation that they’ve pretty much fucked their lives up.

 

What separates The Informers from other Ellis inspired films such as American Psycho, Less Than Zero, and Rules of Attraction is that all of the yuppie asshole shenanigans are pretty much pointless.  Whereas the other Ellis movies offered some sort of commentary on the attitudes and mores of the 80’s, The Informers has no such insights.  Basically what we’re left with is an empty movie about empty people.

 

It doesn’t help that the performances are all over the place.  As the two bisexual pretty boy lovers, Jon Foster and Austin Nichols are too much like a Ken Doll to be called real characters.  I didn’t really give a shit about Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger’s crumbling marriage either because they too were so thinly sketched that it made it hard for me to care.  The people who come off the best in the film are Mickey Rourke and the late Brad Renfro as a pair of oddball kidnappers.  Also worth mentioning is Amber Heard as the bed-hopping whore who gets the AIDS.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her “performance” was good, but she gets naked in just about every scene.  And if you consider showing off her tits a “performance”, then she had some of the most perfectly rounded performances I’ve seen in a long time.

 

Best line:  “Just because you and mom are a couple doesn’t make us a family!”

GOOD DICK (2008) ** ½

Marianna Palka wrote, directed, and stars in this uncomfortable slice of Independent Movie Romance.  She plays this introverted shut-in who only leaves the house to rent porno movies at her local video store.  The clerk (Jason Ritter, star of Freddy vs. Jason and son of John Ritter) falls instantly in love with her, mostly because of her rabid interest in porn.  And by love, I mean he stalks her.  When he finally gets the gonads up to ring her doorbell, thus begins one of the most truly head-scratching courtships in cinema history.

 

I don’t wanna spoil a whole lot of what goes down in Good Dick because that’s what kept me watching.  I wouldn’t necessarily call the flick a “Good” movie but there were a lot of moments of sheer What-the-Fuck-are-These-People-Doing that made it interesting.  Palka is a solid enough actress, yet as a director she really knows how to get under the audiences’ skin and effectively paints a portrait of two hopeless losers falling in love. 

 

Having said all of that though, this movie really pushes the boundaries of awkwardness.  Eraserhead’s family dinner was a cakewalk compared to some of the character interactions in Good Dick.  It’s a toss-up to which character is more pathetic.  Is it Ritter for completely lacking any self-respect, or is it Palka for merely putting up with him?  Although I had a morbid curiosity of where these two people were going in their dead end relationship, I have to say this is definitely not a “fun” movie. 

 

On the other hand, I dug it because it didn’t follow the usual RomCom clichés.  It also had a cool early Hal Hartley vibe going on that I appreciated.  This might be one of those times where I watch a movie and am completely baffled by it but see it again in the right frame of mind a couple years later and think it’s brilliant.  Until that day, I’ll just give it ** ½ and make a memo to myself to take another look-see in the future.

POWERFORCE (1983) ***

An American agent named Jack Sergeant (Bruce Baron) is given orders to rescue a kidnapped princess from some greasy fat dude.  Sergeant can’t do the job alone so he hooks up with this elite ass-kicking squad called Dragon Force led by Tan Lung (Bruce Li in his final feature film appearance).  At first, Tan is unsure that Jack has what it takes to join the team but after he passes his initiation with flying colors, he is allowed to become an honorary Dragon Forcer.  In the end, Dragon Force shows up at the villain’s island hideout to do battle with his endless army of ninjas and rescue the princess. 

 

Powerforce is the kind of dumb movie I enjoy.  It’s certainly stupid but it’s the right kind of stupid.  Although there is some jokey stuff in the movie, for the most part, it takes itself very seriously.  The intentional humor is pretty much limited to a Q style gadget maker named “Achoo” (whose inventions include a bulletproof T-shirt).  And yes, there is a scene where Sergeant sneezes and Achoo asks, “Were you talking to me?”

 

The subject matter the movie treats with utter sincerity includes the “Virgin Princess” (very rarely does anyone call her by name, they just call her “Virgin Princess”), naked acupuncture brainwashing, snakes that suck poison OUT of people, and exploding ninjas.  Seriously, a lot of weird shit goes down in this movie.  It’s nothing for Sergeant to be walking casually down the street and then be assaulted by an assassin wearing a red wig and sporting a white porcelain mask.  Sergeant handles this bizarre looking fucker without even batting an eye.  He never asks, “What the fuck is this Kabuki looking bastard doing here?”, he just takes care of business. 

 

There’s a bunch of these odd little touches peppered throughout Powerforce that endeared it to me.  Like how all the American actors were dubbed even though they were clearly speaking English.  Equally funny was the fact that it sounded like the dubbing was all being done by the same two voiceover guys.  I think the most uproarious thing about the whole deal was that the secret team of assassins was named “Dragon Force” but the movie itself was called Powerforce.

 

Now Powerforce isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  It gets off to a rollicking start, I’ll give it that, but the movie loses a little something once Sergeant begins taking a backseat to Lung.  Another debit was that with the exception of Sergeant and Lung, the other Dragon Force members never really became characters themselves.  There was the samurai, the girl, and the bald guy.  That more or less sums up their entire character arcs right there.  The zany factor also decreases drastically in the film’s second act too.  The flick at least finishes strong and by the time the seventh or eight ninja exploded during the climax, I had to admit that this movie was pretty fucking hilarious. 

 

I’m quite willing to live with the film’s shortcomings.  If anything, Powerforce rocks in the dialogue department.  Here’s just a sample of the delicious dubbed dialogue: 

 

“Call me Rich… because I am!”

 

“There are no Sergeants here!  We’re only interested in privates!”

 

“Blood will flow from the body’s five holes!”

 

AKA:  Dragon Force.