Monday, November 22, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: FAIR GAME (2010)

I was in San Diego this week and whenever I hit the road, I enjoy taking in films in new and strange places.  The location of my hotel put a damper on my options in terms of local theaters and I was left with the La Jolla AMC 12 as my closest spot.  It served its purpose, but I much more enjoy seeing films in historic or unique venues.  AMC always comes through in the clutch, even though the 12 is your standard big picture movie house.  This one is built into a small mall, unlike the Kansas City AMC's which are all stand-alone buildings.

I got to see Unstoppable with a band of my fellow travellers.  It was one of our group's Birthday (Happy Birthday Chrystal!) and we opted for a little Denzel.  You can never go wrong with a little Denzel. 

Unstoppable was a monumental flick for a few reasons.  First, we had the birthday and a birthday movie is always a good thing. Second, Denzel and Tony Scott is always a great pairing.  And third, this film is essentially our introduction to the new Capt. Kirk, in his first post-Kirk, non-Kirk role.

Unstoppable was a great ride, but I don't want to write about a flick that has been blogged on so thoroughly already.  The Reel Rhino thinks this flick is great fun and gives it a solid 4 of 5 horns.

As for FAIR GAME....that's a whole other story!

You may have noted the 2010 designation in the title...that is of course to avoid confusion with the 1995 entry of FAIR GAME...starring the always stellar Billy Baldwin and Cindy Crawford....the IMDB description reads as follows: Max Kirkpatrick is a cop who protects Kate McQuean, a civil law attorney, from a renegade KGB team out to terminate her.

YIKES...that sounds like a winner for mid-90's action fare, but somehow it only managed a 3.9 IMDB score.  Whoda-thought-it?

I have never seen the 1995 entry, but perhaps I would have enjoyed it more.  Sadly, I was not a fan of this more recent go at the title, a Doug Liman film starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.  This story is the real life story of outed super secret spy Valerie Plame Wilson.  Plame was a CIA undercover agent who was running assets in the Middle East at the time her identity was abruptly made public.

Does this sound like the real life stuff that movies were made for?  Hell yes!  If it wasn't a movie, the first thing you would think after reading either Plume's book, or her husband's, is: 'why isn't this a movie?'

Oh, but it is a movie; it is.

This effort is written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and is based on the books written by each Plume and Joseph C. Wilson IV, her husband and former United States Ambassador to five different African nations, including Niger, which is the focus of this tale. 

Plume recommended her husband to her superiors as a potential candidate to visit Niger to investigate the suspected sale of yellow cake uranium to Iraq in the WMD investigation following the 9-11 attacks.  The CIA sends Wilson and he finds nothing.,  But the government spinsters took Wilson's negative findings and went public indicating that there was in fact evidence of a yellow cake sale.  In matters not so serious, I typically love yellow cake.

Wilson is furious when he sees Bush's speech indicating evidence of a yellow-cake sale from Niger, which he assumes is based on his intel.  Wilson's demeanor through the film is that of a stuffy academic with a very, very healthy ego.  In this film, the invasion of Iraq is presented in based in part on his findings, which was as said, false.  A man with his self-image, and I don't mean that in a good way, would not stand for such an atrocity.

Wilson writes an op-ed piece in the New York Times concerning this fallacy and it infuriates the powers on the hill.  Scooter Libby and Karl Rove in particular take umbrage with this claim that the yellow-cake intel was bad.  They start digging, and the story really takes off.

Here is where things get dicey.  The first hour of this movie is a mindless string of scenes, many starring name actors, trying to get you invested in the build up towards the invasion of Iraq. 

This build up should up should be engrossing.  The presence of these named actors should be the seeds needed to grow a decent flick.  This should be a fantastic ride for the viewer in a very terse thriller.  It is not.

The film seems to be acted with great dexterity but the story is told in extremely poor fashion.  I don't know if it is in the writing or the directing, but this film falls extremely short of its mark. 

I am leaning towards Doug Liman as the culprit.  Liman's last effort was an absolute train wreck: Jumper.  Remember the Hayden Christensen stinker about a boy with the ability to transport himself, or "Jump" from place to place.  Not good.  Not good at all.

Liman did give us Swingers, but I attribute the success there to the spectacular script from Jon Favreau.  He also gave us The Bourne Identity, but again Tony Gilroy's script was the creative background for that film.  Perhaps he showed some chops with Bourne but this was something of a standalone.  Many argue that he kept the train a rollin' with Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but I argue that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a failure from what it could have been.  It suffered also, from Brangalina-itis, a debilitating disease of the film industry (see also: Bennifer and the atrocity that was GIGLI).

Liman doesn't have a reliable enough track record to not look his way first when considering the blame.  And in my humble opinion, there is some blame to be thrown here.

This film gets mired in a bunch of unrelated scenes that are supposed to tie everything together and instead make everything worse.  It plays out just as it sounds - the scattershot plot details are muddled and do very little more than confuse the viewer.

It is nearly a full hour before we get to the reveal.  The outing of Valerie Flume.  If her reaction would have given us high drama and drawn in the viewer, I would have forgiven the first hour.  The post-outing drama that unfolds is just as scattered and boring as the build.  In fact, the road to resolution is even worse.  We get more of Wilson's ego and little more than a stoic response from Flume, who is in reality furious and frightened at the same time.

Perhaps everything seems so disjointed because this film is completely devoid of emotion both on screen and in terms of what is stirred in the viewer.  From the first credits to the end roll, I felt nothing.  I will use the word disjointed again, because that is how it felt.  Perhaps with a more coherent story line, things would have played out differently and I would have been drawn in a bit more.

I started writing this last night and I have picked it back up watching Hot Tube Time Machine with some friends who are in town.  I am bored with FAIR GAME and I am done writing about it.  I hope to get to see Harry Potter soon. I hear it is fantastic and it is very, very dark.

I also want to see The Next Three Days.  It actually looks like a different take on the standard action drama.  The Next Three Days is going to pale at the box office next top HP 7 Pt. 1, but Russell Crowe still has it and I hope some folks make it out there to check him out.

As for Fair Game, I really didn't like it...2 of 5 horns from the Reel Rhino and I think that is being generous.  The best one-minute of that movie is the last minute.  An impassioned speech by Sean Penn about the responsibility of the people to protect themselves from oppression and tyranny. It is a well delivered speech that stirred the only emotions in me that I felt the entire film.  This was a poorly made movie of a fantastic story.  

I will catch up with you soon...till later, take care.
The Reel Rhino 

1 comment:

  1. I saw Scott Pilgrim this weekend. It was the best movie ever, and I watched the first hour three times. Partly because I kept falling asleep (which was no reflection on the goodness {Mr. Goodemoot} of the movie, but of my general inability to stay awake in the dark) but mostly because it was so danged funny that I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.
    And it's Jake's favorite movie too. Not that I usually let him watch that sort of stuff, but it was pretty harmless in the baby-rating department.