Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John Woo hates American film goers

John Woo had toiled away in anonymity in the Hong Kong movie industry for seventeen years before his critically and internationally acclaimed, genre redefining blockbuster A Better Tomorrow was released in 1986. The film was widely praised for its exceptional performances (including that of Chow Yun-Fat) and highly stylized action sequences, and went on to inspire many successful American filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi, and the Wachowski brothers.

Woo’s next few Hong Kong produced projects – A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer, Bullet in the Head, and Hard Boiled – were all similarly well received, and he began earning comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock (from Sam Raimi), Michelangelo (Quentin Tarantino), and Martin Scorsese (Jean-Claude Van Damme, and if anyone knows quality cinema, it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme).

I’m telling you all of this to properly put in perspective how egregiously and sickeningly horrible John Woo’s contributions to American cinema have been. Just as a refresher, here’s what he’s blessed us with so far:

Hard Target: Arguably his best American movie, in an entirely guilty pleasure kind of way. Wilford Brimley and Van Damme’s pantheon level mullet (take a second and bask in its glory) alone make this movie tolerable. Unfortunately, the actual filmmaking paled in comparison. Its budget was about $15 million, it made about $32.5 million in the US. Although I don’t completely agree, this is a great quote from a critic reviewing this movie: “Hysterically inept attempt at action filmmaking.”

Broken Arrow: Normally I wouldn’t complain about your average dumb action movie, but I couldn’t even enjoy this when I was fourteen. And if a fourteen year old boy can’t enjoy your movie filled with stealth bombers and nuclear explosions because it doesn’t make any sense, then you, sir, have made a terrible movie. Not only does it not make sense, but it’s also incredibly predictable. Now tell me, how the hell does that happen?! Now the movie makes even less sense! You’re into negative sense-making! Gaah! Estimated budget: $55 million. US gross: $71 million. Favorite critical review: “If movies were censored for implausibility, this would be deemed unfit for public viewing.”

Mission Impossible II: This is shiny-packaging-with-nothing-inside movie making at its finest. I’m not sure which part of this movie was more absurd: the kicking the gun that was buried in the sand that in turn comes to float perfectly at eye level then grabbing it and shooting the bad guy, or everyone wearing masks to the point where the links between actor and character become nonexistent. I’m sure someone could make the argument that this was the screenwriter’s commentary on the true nature of identity, but the utter inanity of the rest of the movie would tend to disagree. Budget: $125 million. US Gross: $215 million. Spot-on critical review: “Even more empty a luxury vehicle than its predecessor, M:I 2 pushes the envelope in terms of just how much flashy packaging an audience will buy when there's absolutely nada inside.”

Face/Off: Shut up. This movie sucked, and you know it. Granted, it’s not as bad as the previous two, but the horrific performances and almost non-existent plot are completely disguised for most people by the flashy action sequences and massive explosions. But here’s the thing: the action sequences aren’t even that good! They’re cheesy but with slow motion gravitas. C’mon, Miami Vice had better boat chases. Plus why would I want to see a terrible actor trying really, really hard to act exactly like another, different terrible actor? And then you have the second guy trying to act just like the first guy! Whose idea was this?! I’m mildly surprised that the universe didn’t rend itself asunder right then and there. Budget: $80 million. US Gross: $112. “A $100 million movie with a $3 plot.”

Windtalkers: Ugh, Windtalkers A brilliant idea for a story, executed about as horribly as one could imagine. “Hey, we should make a movie about Navajo code talkers during World War II, nobody’s ever done this before!” “Great, get me Nic Cage and Christian Slater on the phone!” There’s really not much more I need to say besides: Production Budget: $115 million. Adverting Budget: $30 million (largest ever). US Gross: $40 million. “It's a film so terrifically inept, on so many levels of direction, performance and intent, that it demands and receives its audience's full, stunned attention.”

Paycheck: I haven’t seen this, and neither has anyone else I know. Not a good year for Ben Afflek: Paycheck, Gigli, and Daredevil. That agent better be jobless right now. Budget: $60 million. US Gross: $54 million.

Although this increasingly long rant may make it appear otherwise, I don’t think John Woo is a terrible film maker. The movies he made in the Hong Kong industry prove that, and were some of the best that the action genre as to offer. His American movies, on the other hand, have been just plain bad when viewed in a vacuum, and nearly unforgivable when viewed in the context of those earlier successes. At least the box office numbers seem to suggest that America is catching on. With that said:

“I've gotta go. I've got a government job to abuse, and a lonely wife to fuck.”
-Castor Troy


16 comments:

Brian said...

Realizing the amount of shit that I will get for saying this... Cy, you have deeply insulted me.

Mikey K said...

you know what deeply insults me? cardinal fan law students who wear pink shirts.

Brian said...

if we were playing a sport i'd yell "scoreboard" but for now i'll just say "paycheck".... low blow?

Brian said...

I'm going to go ahead and apologize... money and paychecks are not things to be thrown at friends... especially from those of us still in school and thousands of dollars in debt!

Mikey K said...

yea, i was going to say, i'm getting a paycheck, you're not...

Cy said...

It's true. There's no better way to sound like a douche nozzle...

Candice said...

Maybe the problem is not the director, but the average American film-goer.

Mikey K said...

"you stupid americans just don't understand good action flicks" - love candice

Candice said...

I was more PC about it. :P

Cy said...

Seriously Kinsella, those Canadian action movies kick ass. Like, umm...

Dave said...

K, didn't you go see Gigli in the theater?

Mikey K said...

no. i do love maid in manhattan though

Cy said...

Nice try guys. You're not going to bait me into posting a 1500 word rant about Jennifer Lopez movies.

Mikey K said...

though i may have a 700 word rant about how AWESOME they are

crash-dev said...

Hard Target is FANTASTIC. It is without a doubt his best American movie. Are you ignoring the fact that the main bad guy is Bishop (aka Lance Henriksen).

From his IMDB bio:
"An intense, versatile actor as adept at playing clean-cut FBI agents as he is playing psychotic motorcycle-gang leaders, who can go from portraying soulless, murderous vampires to burned-out, world-weary homicide detectives, Lance Henriksen has starred in a variety of films that have allowed him to stretch his talents just about as far as an actor could possibly hope."

I also think it is the arguably the best Van Damme movie, although Bloodsport probably has a better argument.

crash-dev said...

I saw Paycheck once. And then I saw A Better Tomorrow afterwards to see what it was that was so great to let this guy keep making movies...

and I'm still wondering...