Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Creep Shows

In Perfect Stranger, a tick the boxes thriller made by James Foley, the otherwise routine events taking place are enlivened by the array of male characters that Halle Berry, as a crusading tabloid reporter, has to deal with. She starts by exposing a family values Senator as a closet gay with a penchant for importuning the late adolescent interns that work in his office. Next is her associate at the paper, a techno wiz whose talent for busting into computer systems is used to move the plot along at a rapid clip. He’s a self-pitying alcoholic with unrequited lust in his heart for Halle and a general contempt for humanity as well as the law. Then there’s the key subject, Bruce Willis a rich womanizer with a team of harridans around him he’s obliged to outwit if he wishes to pursue his extra-marital amours. There is a spineless newspaper editor who is warned off the story about the Senator. Finally, there is an ex-boyfriend trying to ingratiate himself back into Halle’s favors while continuing to cheat. The only person with any moral compass is a female cop. The writer of the film was, however, a male.

Shooter also has its fair share of creeps, those prepared to betray their friends for what they think is the national good. It’s predicated on the idea that a Senator from Montana is controlling a rogue element within the CIA and that element is orchestrating what at first seems is a plan to foil a Presidential assassination but turns out, naturally, to be something else. Mark Wahlberg, seen at the start undertaking covert and violent military action inside a sovereign foreign nation, gets the chance to say a few speeches which are of the a plague on all their political houses kind before embarking on revenge soaked mayhem worthy of Takeshi Kitano. One point of great interest is that the great Levon Helm, master musician from the long lamented The Band, has a cameo as an arms expert, the second such appearance, after his terrific little contribution to The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, It’s a scene which snaps the brain back to full attention.

Far better than both is Matthew Saville’s Noise, which may be just about the best crime picture ever made in Australia. Young cop Graham already has an attitude problem when he gets consigned to sit in a caravan sited in a shopping centre way out in the bleak western suburbs of Melbourne. He’s there in the hope a local will come forward with information about a mass killer on the loose. Graham admits he’s fairly dumb but he has got down pat, and its brilliantly rendered by Brendan Cowell in a performance that ought to street the opposition in the AFI Awards, the young cop’s ability to be nasty, cynical, offensive and intimidating all at once. Graham’s girl friend is also a cop but she plays in the police band. Together they smoke a little dope and bicker. She thinks he's keeping secret from her that he's got cancer. But the plot is driven along by having Graham suffer not from cancer but from tinnitus. Shades of Insomnia here. Graham sees it as an escape into being a compo case. It’s immediate effect is to cause his judgment to go astray at key moments and for his supervisor to take a dim view of his work. The slow build-up, the creation of an authentic milieu and sheer blinding accuracy of the portrait of the dumb cop at the centre of it all is brilliant. My admiration for it grows because the film, unlike too many others of its current ilk, owes nothing to the odious example or methods of Quentin Tarantino, the current fashion-plate for crime movies. This is deadly serious stuff and it eschews all flashy violence in favor of a slow burn that maybe suggests David Fincher and Seven in particular may have been a very worthy model for making such an intense and involving piece of work.

Finally there were a lot of creeps on show in Bastard Boys, but not anywhere near enough. Surprisingly given the general level of caricature that others have graced with that ugly word docudrama, I actually felt a little sympathy for Chris Corrigan. Not for what he did but for the way he was represented as this rather pathetic nerd - friendless, cold, greedy, impatient and utterly lacking in political judgment. But the real creeps were almost entirely absent. The film-makers were either not interested in, or too frightened of delving into, just what role the odious Peter Reith and John Howard had in it all. Reith is portrayed as pretty much an innocent bystander. Anybody who has dealt with Reith never has any trouble in saying how he was prepared to lie and deceive at the drop of a hat. “Born to plot” he once said of himself! Leaving him out and concentrating on the workers and unionists only told part of the story. As Chris Corrigan told Crikey and The Daily Telegraph: “I think the Government gets off very lightly, given that they concocted the whole scheme and John Howard personally signed off on it. We have the cabinet documents, and he signed off on the sacking of the entire workforce. The producers originally told me they weren’t making a boring tale of class warfare but the production serves it up in spades...I will be surprised if anyone other than welded on members of the industrial left can survive four hours of this tedium.” Well over 900,000+ watched on both nights so one's tedium is another man's rivetting drama.

The scriptwriter claimed in a piece in the SMH that she was being fair and objective to all. She said nobody would be interested in a polemic. Dont know where she got either of those ideas. Not from watching Ken Loach's masterly Days of Hope.

Still, in an election year it’s good to know that the ABC and it’s current management will now have managed to be consigned away with all the other voodoo dolls that will have pins stuck into them for the next six months or so by an increasingly rattled government smelling of defeat. Hopefully Labor will show its gratitude following a Rudd election victory and enable the Corporation to commission more interesting left wing drama. With a bit of practice we may even discover in our midst our very own Loach.

1 comment:

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