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Loving The Hated Ones Part II

by Dominic Corry, from Eating Movies, January 25 2012,

In the second ever blog I wrote for this site , I talked about movies that seem to draw mostly hate from audiences, but which inspire only love within me.  Since writing that, several other films which fit this bill occured to me, so here I am with a follow-up.

Although I am going to maintain the existing title of this now recurring feature, I’m relaxing the definitions of both the Love and the Hate. Let’s just say this is a place to celebrate films that are overlooked, ignored or otherwise marginalised (by audiences or critics), but which I maintain a soft spot for, and I consider very much worthy of your attention.

In the years between the fantastic 2003 action throwback Welcome To The Jungle (aka The Rundown) and last year’s Fast Five, Dwayne ’The Rock’ Johnson pretty much only made terrible movies, most of them aimed at a family audience.

The one exception is a criminally underseen 2010 action thriller that showed just how much he’d been wasting his time with all that namby pamby kids stuff. Critcally lambasted (44 on Metacritic) and failing to make any kind of impression at the US box office, Faster went straight to DVD in this country, where I recently got around to watching it. And boy is it awesome.

The kind of straight-down-the-line action movie that barely exists anymore, Faster stars Johnson as a recently released convict on a no-nonsense mission of revenge. Billy Bob Thornton plays the junkie cop on his tail and British actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays a hitman sent to take him out. These three characters are known only as The Driver, The Cop and The Killer. Rad.

There’s something pure about Faster that I really responded too. The film features numerous ridiculous elements, but keeps a straight face all throughout.

One of the crazier aspects is the fact that Jackson-Cohen’s character is a young dotcom billionaire who after conquering Silicon Valley, Mt. Everest and numerous other pursuits (“I’ve beaten yoga“ he says at one point), turned to professional killing as the ultimate expression of human achievement. It’s like if Mark Zuckerberg became a hitman. It’s choice.

Faster is a slick modern action movie with a decidedly ’70s undercurrent, and is the final argument that The Rock should only star in R-rated movies. You get a sense of the bad-assery in the (very violent) red-band trailer below, which sadly only hints at the crazier stuff: 

Few recent films more accurately represent the modern film marketplace than 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Brand-nostalgia plus toy-marketing usually equals awful cinema (are you listening Mr. Bay?), but I found myself completely won over by the cheezy charms of the G.I. Joe movie.

Director/co-writer Stephen Sommers has made his fear share of stinkers (The Mummy Returns; Van Helsing), but it’s the Sommers of Deep Rising and The Mummy that makes G.I. Joe such fun. The action is great, the sets splendiferous and there’s a cackling mad scientist as the villain.

But most of all, I think I liked G.I. Joe because everything that happened on screen was very much in line with what I was picturing when I played with G.I. Joes as a boy. That boy remains inside me (he lives in my small intestine) and he was filled with joy while watching this movie.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is definitely not for everybody, but if you’re on the fence, give it a shot yeah, and don’t be put off by the lips on Snake Eyes’ ninja mask.

The Stephen Sommers-less sequel coming out later this year and the trailer makes it look pretty rank (except for that rad ’ninjas-on-the-cliff’ bit), and has culled certain cast members in favour of others, which means no more evil Joseph Gordon-Levitt unfortunately.

The next hated film I’d like to big up is Batman Forever. Stop laughing. The two Schumacher Batman films, the second of which is of course the notorious mega disaster Batman and Robin, are generally lumped together. Although the aesthetics on display in Batman Forever foreshadow its hideous follow-up, the film is not nearly the disaster that Batman and Robin was, and deserves to be assessed seperately.

Batman Forever, for all it’s faults (too much colour; Tommy Lee Jones), has heaps of cool action and is consistently rewatchable. Plus it features what I consider to be one of Jim Carrey’s best ever performances. His very physical work as The Riddler lights up the film, and his man-crush on Bruce Wayne makes for a decent number of chuckles. The Batman four-film DVD box set features frank and illuminating commentaries from Joel Schumacher on both of his films, and they’re very much worth listening to.

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to really enjoy a Bond film since 1989’s Licence To Kill (Dalton rules!). It’s a common complaint, Bond just seems too much like an obselete character in today’s world.

The International, the 2009 flop from director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), covers similar territory with a much more grounded approach. It sets up believable motivations for the dastardly behaviour of the films villains and globe-trots with much more variety and dexterity than the Bond films.

Clive Owen is awesomely beleagured in the lead role, and the action scenes are epic and stylish. I’ve struggled to discover fellow fans of this film, so do me a favour please and become one.

Do you count yourself a fan of any of the films I’ve discussed here? Any film you consider unfairly maligned or dismissed? Comment yo!