Friday, February 22, 2019

The Current Cinema 19.1


There's a trend in modern crime films I like to call "New American Miserablism". I suppose the grandfathers were David Fincher and Michael Mann, now carried forward by any young filmmaker treading into the noir tinged waters. Even the small screen isn't immune, specifically behind the grandiose darkness inherent in Nic Pizzaloto's "True Detective" series. Granted, even I'm worn down by the heaviness permeating these efforts. So why is Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer"- a crime film especially miserable, right down to the grizzled makeup coated across Nicole Kidman's face to exemplify the haggard weight of her world bending upon her- different? Well, it is and isn't. The film trades in so many themes and situations that have dotted the noir landscape in the past, however Kusama and screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi resuscitate their effort into something special because of the layered storytelling whose timelines slowly reveal a painful tendency to protect only the best things from a very bad time. In addition, Kusama's crisp style renders a ubiquitous Los Angeles with new eyes, portraying viaducts and side street banks with just as much underlying ferocity as many other films have treated the beaches and Pacific Palisades mansions. "Destroyer" is a tough, meandering and ultimately a fragile personification of 'miserablism' done with grace and, well, heart.

Cold Pursuit

Mildly watchable, Hans Petter Molland's remake of his own 2014 film simply substitutes Native Americans for Serbs and Colorado mob bosses for Norwegian thugs. He does keep the same name, Nils, for Liam Neeson as the affronted father seeking cold-blooded retribution for the death of his son however. Gussied up with some stylish visuals, "Cold Pursuit" still manages to sabotage itself at every turn. Intermittently enjoyable for spurts, it then proceeds with some offhanded bigotry or scene-chewing just for the sake of chewing scenery and immediately re-asserts itself as the worst type of pop culture tinged thriller that loves itself for switching from a groovy 70's tune to Aqua's Barbie Girl song.

Alita: Battle Angel

I like my science fiction a little goofy and innocent, unlike the usual dark, brooding affairs we generally get (Denis Villeneuve's "Bladreunner 2049" being the exception). Which is why Robert Rodriguez's "Alita: Battle Angel" is a pure delight. Not only does his cowboy aesthetic fit perfectly within a startling neo-punk framework, but the story of a robot (Rosa Salazar) loving brought back to half-life by a surgeon (Christoph Waltz) is chock full of imagination and heart. And for once, I don't mind a franchise-establishing cliffhanger ending. I can't wait for more.