Mini-Reviews: Headhunters, Dark Shadows, Get the Gringo
Funny that it took a Swedish film to give me the artfully executed laughs and suspense that I hope for in a Hollywood summer thriller. Headhunters, directed by Morten Tyldum, deserves to be a box office smash, and while audiences will undoubtedly attend the inevitable American remake, this one boasts enough sex, intrigue, violence, and dark humor to titillate any average moviegoer who seeks it out. While it showcases the steely good looks and cold intensity of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones, the real star is Aksel Hennie– as the art thief in over his head, he gives easily one of the best performances of the year to date. I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprises in store, but several scenes are hilarious, macabre, and emotional… sometimes in the same scene. It’s Coen Brothers meets Guy Ritchie on a Scandinavian vacation. If that doesn’t entice you, you’re a lost cause.
It’s easy to envision the pitch (“Johnny Depp plays a vampire!”) causing studio heads to salivate, and apparently the source material is a cult favorite, but in the Tim Burton adaptation of Dark Shadows, there isn’t any substance pulsing through its veins. The opening fifteen minutes, which tell the history of the Collins family, the witch Angelique (Eva Green), and the man who shuns her, Barnabas (Johnny Depp), is a fairly straight-forward and compelling set-up, complete with gorgeous cinematography, production design, and music. While the technical elements remain sterling, the “story” quickly devolves into hokey fish-out-of-water humor– they spent $150 million on this film, and for at least one day, hundreds of people were committed to filming a scene in which Johnny Depp is confused by what paved roads are. This is utterly baffling to me. Most of the rest of the film plays like an SNL sketch, but not a particularly awful one, just an utterly forgettably bland one. The more you think about the film, its hacky dialogue, and its total contempt for character arc and development (one character turns into a werewolf with literally no warning and no explanation), the more you’ll dislike it, but don’t worry– you won’t remember the details long enough after leaving the theater for this to happen.
Get the Gringo:
There are few cinematic pleasures quite like watching a top-notch tough guy actor exact revenge upon his enemies. All Get the Gringo had to be was a retread of Payback set in Mexico, full of rough violence and Mel Gibson sneering, and it would’ve been incredibly fun. Instead, the first hour or so languishes in a sea of inaction and dull voiceover narration. After an opening sequence in clown masks for no apparent reason, the thoroughly uninteresting and undeveloped main character, played by Gibson, is thrown into a Mexican jail. He befriends a young Mexican boy (the kid from The Sitter) and plots his escape. And plots. And plots. I’d have no problem with all the waiting if the characters were complex and interesting, which they aren’t, or if the dialogue was fun and noirish and quippy, which it isn’t. They even have the always-awesome Peter Stormare in the film, and they don’t even let him ham it up! There is a fun sequence once Gibson finally leaves the prison, but by then, it’s too late to save. They should’ve gotten Get The Gringo a better script.