Unusually gritty and grounded, this terrorism thriller avoids the pitfalls of most overwrought action movies by creating characters and action situations that are unusually believable, even if the plot itself feels badly undercooked. The problem is that there isn't a clear sense of what's at stake here, because screenwriter Philip Shelby insists on continually blurring the mystery by withholding key details until he's ready to reveal them. So the cleverly played old-style suspense never quite pays off.
It opens at the US Embassy in London, where new security chief Kate (Milla Jovovich) has been alerted to the fact that terrorists are trying to get visas to enter America. Working with the ambassador (Angela Bassett) her team leaders (Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster), Kate narrows in on a suspicious doctor (Roger Rees) who's an expert in explosive gasses. But a shocking bombing stops her short, framing her as the villain. Now she's being chased not only by the Americans, but also a British inspector (James D'Arcy) and a ruthless assassin known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan). And Kate knows that she's the only one who can stop the nefarious plot, whatever it might be.
This is one of those films that enjoyably pushes its central character over the brink, so we can't help but root for Kate to get out of this seriously messy situation and save the day. Jovovich plays her in a plausible way as a capable woman who has no choice but to fight back and try to survive, because she's the only one who knows that she's not the real threat here. Everyone else is extremely shadowy, although McDermott gets to show a heroic side, as does the terrific Frances de la Tour as the only embassy staff member who believes that Kate is the good guy. Meanwhile, Brosnan gives a remarkably effective performance as a cold-blooded killer.
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As this massive blockbuster thriller progresses, it's impossible not to become amused by how ridiculous its script becomes. Because the production values are first-rate, with mammoth set pieces, rampant destruction and elaborate stunt action. Meanwhile, the plot and dialog are comically inane, to the point where knowing audience members start giggling helplessly. And frankly, these viewers will enjoy the film a lot more than anyone who tries to take it seriously.
The film opens with a harrowing scene in which Secret Service agent Mike (Butler) saves the President (Echkart) from an accident in which the First Lady (Judd) dies. So he's transferred to office duty, and now only keeps an eye on the White House from across the road. But this is how he spots a fringe group of radical Koreans launch an assault. Led by nutcase Kang (Yune) they storm the Oval Office and take the President, Defense Secretary (Leo) and others hostage. As Mike tries to break them free, he stays in touch with the temporary command centre at the Pentagon, where top dogs (including Freeman, Forster and Bassett) attempt to keep the menace from spreading.
But of course, these officials are useless, and it'll be up to Mike to save the day on his own, Die Hard-style. Improbably, all of his old access codes and passwords still work, so he's able to sneak around the White House and take out the villains one by one. Butler turns out to be rather good in this kind of meathead role, combining Bruce Willis' wit with Sylvester Stallone's brawn. By contrast, everyone else pretty much just sits around saying ridiculous things like, "Oh my God, we're doomed!" At least Leo gets to show some backbone.
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And Clooney has never had a role that was quite as emotionally resonant as this.
In sunny Hawaii, Matt (Clooney) has coasted through marriage and parenthood, focussing on his career and managing the estate of his family, which is descended from Hawaiian royalty. But now his wife (Patti Hastie) is in a coma, and he has to take responsibility for his free-spirited daughters, 10-year-old Scottie (Miller) and 17-year-old Alexandra (Woodley). Meanwhile, his cousins want to sell off a gorgeous tract of ancestral land in Kauai. Amid all of this, Matt finds out that his wife isn't going to wake up, and also that she had been having an affair.
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Not Connor Mead. McConaughey's latest egocentric womanizer has bedded thousands of girls in the name of casual sex, and they all come back to haunt him on the eve of his kid brother's (Breckin Meyer) wedding in Mark Waters' Ghosts.
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Sure, the vampire myth has been with us forever. One of the very first films was a vampire movie. We are indeed obsessed with these blood-sucking trollops. And yet, lately, the vampire film has fallen into a rut that I worry it can never pry itself out of. We don't see the vampires of yesteryear anymore. Gone are green skinned, hairy-eared ghouls that haunted graveyards and sucked the blood from corpulent women. Gone are the baby-bird-headed stick figures that lurked in foggy London alleyways. Today vampires are all glamorous, leather-bound martial arts experts. They have great hair (that's a side-effect of living forever), nice shoes, and groove to industrial music. They are the Goth fashionistas who are as infatuated with sucking blood as they with collecting Ferraris and having swanky parties.
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Let me recap what I could glean about the story, primarily from the Internet Movie Database and secondarily from actually watching the film: There are creatures of Korean legend, a Good Imoogi and a Dark Imoogi, who both want to become more heavenly dragons. The legend isn't well-clarified by the film's visualization of the non-dragon Imoogis, which bear a striking resemblance to a) giant snakes, b) each other, and, to a lesser but still confusing extent, c) dragons.
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Huston's most interesting decision was to riff off the title and shoot the entire picture in a golden sepia tone with only occasional splashes of color. The print was pulled from theaters when people didn't get it, but on DVD you can see it the way Huston intended, and it's unlike anything you've seen before.
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Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is the prosperous head of security at a Seattle bank. His wife, Beth, (an utterly wasted Virginia Madsen) is a successful architect who designed their gorgeous home. They have two lovely stereotypical kids and a dog, and in our first five minutes with them just about every major plot point of the film is telegraphed in 28-point blinking bold script.
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With Diamond Men, Forster effortlessly becomes one with his surroundings. Carrying a "live line" of diamonds (in a black briefcase) on the road as he travels from one small-town business to another in rural Pennsylvania, he's familiar with dingy coffee shops and cheap, out-of-the-way motels, comfortable with the interior of his Lincoln Town Car and his predetermined routine. He's an older man with a heart condition, 30 years peddling his wares, but Forster doesn't choose to arouse pathos in this tightly wound curmudgeon. Eddie's personality is best described as an undisclosed poker hand: quiet, inconspicuous, intense. With his tough, wrinkled face and world-weary disposition, Forster creates one of his most memorable characterizations and writer-director Daniel M. Cohen wisely uses him to carry the movie. He's in almost every scene, and Diamond Men is graced by that weighty presence. (The other main character is Eddie's world of highways and hotel rooms, photographed with unobtrusive sensitivity by John Huneck.)
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The result is one of the most vibrant and eye-opening films ever made, a bit of fantasy that seems devastatingly real -- because, in large part, it is.
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