Mini-Reviews: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, 2 Guns, The Canyons
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters:
“Film adaptations of young adult novels seem like easy targets for critical beatdowns. They’re simplistic, with rote characters, broad strokes mythology, an all-encompassing lack of surprise, and an overly-serious tone. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters certainly checks off the first three on the list, so its potential impact doesn’t have the highest of ceilings. However, unlike other cinematic YA fare, it thankfully never gets bogged down with taking itself seriously, which elevates it above the rest. It airily pushes its plot quickly forward, never masking the elements it heavily borrows from other superior books/films, and doles out one-liners that tiptoe shockingly close to irreverent. Logan Lerman and the rest are undeniably bland, yet they’re sweet, genuine, and funny enough that I can’t imagine hating them. If critics are bullies for young adult movies, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the potential victim charmingly asking, “Hey, you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would ya?””
Read the rest at Movie Mezzanine.
2 Guns qualifies as Cotton Candy Action, a genre of my own invention. Cotton Candy Action is completely satisfying; it delivers exactly what you want at that moment… yet it’s so light and devoid of filling material that the next day, you’re likely to forget you even had it. 2 Guns pairs Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as an DEA agent and a navy intel officer, both undercover as scumbags to try to nail a Mexican drug pusher named Papi (Edward James Olmos!). Unfortunately, when they try to rob a bank to take some of Papi’s dirty money, they accidentally rob 43.125 million dollars from Earl (Bill Paxton), a CIA agent with a hard-on for violence. The plot is convoluted, but who cares? It’s all about delivering plenty of action and one-liners for these actors to have fun chewing on. Paxton obviously waltzes away with the movie, getting to ham it up viciously as the villain, but I was very surprised by Wahlberg, who here shows more personality than usual: it’s his best work in this genre to date. Ultimately, 2 Guns doesn’t give you any particular sequence or moment that would stick in your brain: I saw it days ago and struggle to recount specific beats. However, I do remember having a silly smile on my face throughout: it’s tailor-made to do nothing other than bring comfort to the target audience for 100 minutes. I’m okay with that.
By now, you may have read the outstanding New York Times article about the troubled production of The Canyons, the Paul Schrader/Bret Easton Ellis/Lindsay Lohan clusterfuck that seemed doomed from the get-go. The movie certainly isn’t terrific, but I was surprised to find more successful sequences within than I would have anticipated from that Times piece. The film is on the whole incredibly stilted (perhaps due to the inherent stylistic differences between Schrader and Ellis), which wears on the viewer until the final act is a bit of a chore. However, several things arched my eyebrow in delight. First off, Lindsay Lohan plays her part with soul and grit; it’s easy to see similarities between her character and her own checkered recent history, and she brings it all to the table in a compelling fashion. James Deen, the porn-star-turned-actor in the lead, gives a heavily stylized performance, forever hiding behind a smirk… but it’s exactly what the role asks for. One could argue this is the quintessential Bret Easton Ellis performance in all of his cinematic adaptations. The dark comedy found in the shallow Angelenos, their incessant cell phone use, their casually flexible sexuality, and the vindictiveness of the wealthy West Coast trust fund babies generates real sparks here and there. Unless you’re an Easton Ellis or a Lohan disciple, you’ll likely find it to be an empty mess. It is a mess… but its emptiness is intentional, and it makes The Canyons far more compelling than most failures.