DVD Releases: Get Smart, Redbelt, In Bruges
Get Smart (on DVD now): As a huge fan of the core material and many of the people involved in the production, I was wildly disappointed with this film. Yet even those who aren’t familiar with the hysterical television show starring Don Adams will find reason to be disappointed. The laughs are few and far between. What’s worse, Steve Carell seems bored playing the lead role. It’s as if he realizes there’s an enormous flaw in the character as written for this film—he acts intelligently enough that his stupid pratfalls are unbelievable, but he’s not intelligent enough to make his smart moves believable either. The filmmakers want to have their cake and eat it too with the main character, and it sacrifices all of the laughs as a result. The action sequences work better than the jokes—and in a comedy, that’s not good. One of the biggest failures of the year, bar none.
Redbelt (on DVD now): Don’t assume or read anything about the plot of this film… just know that it is not about mixed martial arts. Not at all, in fact—it’s your prototypical David Mamet film, filled with double crosses, slick fast talkers, and that trademark jerky dialogue filled with interruptions and half-finished phrases. Some of his regulars show up and do great supporting work (Ricky Jay, Rebecca Pidgeon, Joe Mantegna), but Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of the more underrated actors of the last ten years, does a terrific job carrying the film on his back with a strong, quiet dignity. The movie’s ending is corny and doesn’t ring true to the rest of the film. Still, it’s a nice exercise from Mamet with a great lead performance that’s definitely worth a shot.
In Bruges (on DVD now): What a thrill it is to know that Martin McDonagh, the most unique voice in theater since Mamet, is able to translate to film just as successfully. In Bruges is one of the best films of the year, a pitch black comedy about seedy Irishmen—not anything new for McDonagh, but it’s invigorating to watch three actors of the caliber of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ray Fiennes tackle the profane poetry of the dialogue. The script is full of howlingly funny and politically incorrect speech, and McDonagh reveals the characters little by little as the film progresses, giving us despicable men who we still understand and care for by the end. Mamet’s first film, House of Games, perfectly encapsulated his theatrical style with sure-handed vision. This is McDonagh’s first feature length film (after his Oscar-winning short, Six Shooter), and it achieves similarly admirable success. I can’t wait to see what else he delivers in the future.