Have You Ever Seen...
A History of Violence (2005)
When I first saw this I didn't have the context of David Cronenberg's other works in my head, so I just took it in as a good crime film. I never really returned to it though, so this viewing was really enjoyable since I have a better appreciation for everyone involved in the project.
If you've never seen this then I don't want to give away too much because I feel like this is a movie that works really well on its slow reveals. I'll just toss in a couple random notes though:
- Definitely check out the special features. There's a great section about a deleted scene that is the most Cronenbergian dream sequence and Cronenberg was just like, "Huh, this seems unnecessary even though it's my jam. We'll cut this out first." I just appreciate that level of self-control.
- It didn't click until now that Howard Shore did the music, and there are a couple sequences where I was like, ".....Are they leaving the Shire? Are we going to Mordor?"
- All of the performances are top notch, but extra shout out to Stephen McHattie because I feel like he never gets enough appreciation. Or is generally misremembered as Lance Henriksen instead.
- Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Viggo Mortensen looks at David Cronenberg. That is perhaps the purest love.
I will also note that I do love this movie for its violence (and its statement on violence), because there's not like a lot of it but when it does happen it's quick, nasty, and realistic.
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
I didn't think this would hold up and oofta.....just oofta. This is like the embodiment of the concept of edgelord, with just enough fun yet stupid choreography to almost make it worth some of your time but not really. Just go watch Hard Boiled instead.
Clive Owen is a drifter who randomly encounters a pregnant woman fleeing some thugs. The woman gives birth then dies, and the rest of the film is just Owen and the baby on the run from hitman Paul Giamatti, killing an endless army of thugs with 'sick' gun fighting moves. The film prides itself on creating edgy scenes, like Giamatti commenting on the dead mother's breasts and later fondling them. This has all the hallmarks of a Mark Millar script from the early aughts (I would say think Nemesis, but I don't want to force anyone to ever remember that crap), but without the charm of any of the artists that collaborated with Millar.
Visually there are some ok fight scenes but for the most part they kind of blur into a gritty mess that just leaves a greasy smear in your memory. Kinda like when a dog drags its butt across the carpet, but with a bad script and a bit sexists.
Coincidentally, Stephen McHattie pops up in the film as well. That's sort of the only reason I'm not giving it a lower rating.
Warlock (1989) & The Warlock: Armageddon (1993)
Oh Warlock, you wonderful imperfect creature you. I will always appreciate your brand of schlock and the perfect casting of Julian Sands.
If you've never seen, Warlock is basically Terminator, but with magic and backwards. Sands plays The Warlock who on the eve of his execution in 1691 is rescued by Satan and teleported into the future to late 20th century Los Angeles. He's tasked to reassemble The Grand Grimoire, a book that will reveal the true name of God and if you say it backwards you'll undo creation. Because sure, why not. Meanwhile, witch hunter Giles Redferne (played by Richard E. Grant, Classic Loki from Loki) follows the Warlock to the future present and teams with a waitress who has been cursed by the Warlock.
A lot of the fun comes from the use of actual witch lore that they sprinkle throughout the movie. There's a particularly creepy bit about how he creates a flight potion and they infer most of what he does without really showing how he attains it. Stuff like that and all of the little tricks the witch hunter uses to track and deter the Warlock's powers are just a lot of fun. Plus, despite the low budget nature of the film, the edits and practical effects are solid enough to take the edge off of the weaker special effects.
The movie shines whenever it's focused on Sands as he just exudes a solid range of evil. He pulls off a nice mix of charm, cold detachment, and gleeful sadism that's somehow a perfect balance of schlock and classy. Richard Grant does a great job as the witch hunter as well, but the lead actress is just kinda...there. There is nice cameo from Mary Woronov though, and it's a fun little role as a fake psychic who's actually psychic.
Like I said, it's not perfect, but it is fun. I'm also a fan of when the villain is slightly more the main character of the story without them trying to make them relatable. The heroes are there to give us what we're supposed to glom onto, but really, this is the Julian Sands show. And now knowing what comes after 1989, you can't help but root for him to read that name backwards and undo creation so we could skip the past few years.
If the first film was Terminator then this is basically the Infinity War (or more accurately, Thanos Quest). The Warlock is resurrected (in a particularly nasty scene) so that he could gather six magical rune stones that will free Satan from Hell. And hey, Infinity Gauntlet was published in '91, so all it would take is for script writer Kevin Rock to have been a casual Marvel fan...
The film follows two threads, one good schlock and the other unbearably boring. The good stuff is, of course, all Julian Sands related as he travels the country murdering people in inventive ways so that he could gather the Infinity Gems. Druid Stones. Infinity Druid Rune Gems. Whatever. The bad section is about the secret druids who are trying to prevent his rise and the young lovers who are destined to blah blah blah blah. It's dull as hell, terribly acted, and very easy to fast forward.
Just make sure to stop for all the Sands scenes because he's nastier in his murders and they have more fun. The budget did take a heavy hit though (down to $3 million from the original's $15 million). It's a weird balance because in some ways some of the 1993 effects are stronger, but the cuts and edits are less clever. Some of the ideas for The Warlock's rampage are more clever, but they lack the charm and real lore aspects of the first movie.
This is very much a step down from the first film, but by the end of the first movie you we're kinda wishing to see The Warlock murder more people. This sequel is very much just a direct answer of, " Whelp, here ya go."