January 9th: Kicking arse and taking names since 2009

17. The Foot Fist Way (Jody Hill, 2006)

 

Courtesy of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and their ‘Funny or Die’ website and taking its cues from Napoleon Dynamite and The Office this is one hell of a quotable comedy. As a result it will be brilliantly appropriate for repeated drunken viewings. Comedy is a difficult subject to review, it engenders a much more subjective viewpoint, one persons Bill Hicks is another persons Jethro. So take it from me, if you thought The Office was cringe-worthy or that Napoleon Dynamite was just plain weird, steer clear of this. If you thought they were funny then give The Foot Fist Way a try and marvel at Danny McBride’s creation, Tae-Kwon Do instructor Fred Simmons. A man who is so comically unaware of his failings that by half-way through the film you’ll be willing this loser to succeed. And for what it’s worth I laughed my arse off from about 10 minutes in, right until the end.

 


 

18. Taken (Pierre Morel, 2008)

 

Taken is a truly post-Bourne film. We’ve moved on completely from the muscle-bound action heroes of the late 80s and early 90s via the wire-fu and firearm acrobatics of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and John Woo respectively. Where are we now? Taken is a great illustration of the current trend, the fighting and gunplay are bonecrackingly kinetic, Europe is the preferred backdrop and torture is an acceptable tool in the burgeoning arsenal of the hero. There’s a very economical approach to narrative, the set up is dealt with in 15 minutes. Liam Neeson is Bryan Mills, his daughter has been kidnapped and he is going to tear-arse around Paris cracking heads and gunning his way through the criminal underworld until he gets her back. Hmmm, succinct. There really is no narrative progression from 15/20 minutes onwards, instead there is pain. Skull-crunching, limb-busting pain. It’s worth noting that Bryan Mills is a curiously unsympathetic hero, he genuinely doesn’t care who he steps on to get back his daughter – innocent or guilty – they’re in his way. In this way the film differs from the Bourne trilogy, as it ends you’ll feel no sense of empathy with Mills, you certainly won’t like him.

Whilst it may be an unsatisfying meal for your mind, Taken is a feast for the eyes and a shot of adrenaline in the arm. It mightn’t linger long in the memory but the sight of Liam Neeson smacking someones head in a car door certainly entertains.

16 thoughts on “January 9th: Kicking arse and taking names since 2009”

  1. I wasn’t taken with Taken. Its defenders will proclaim “its only a trashy action film. Don’t take it seriously” and use it as a licence to compromise on quality. Given the budget and the resepective talents of Neeson and Besson, i’m not really willing to make this concession. This is prime Seagal, Van Damme, et al territory but with a bit of post Bourne gloss. The performance and script are as lumpy as 3 day old porridge with flour stirred in using my nob. The bilge concerns the usual dysfunctional American family whereby estranged father goes in search of his nabbed, pampered bitch daughter in Paris. And thats it. I’m all for lean mean action films but i’ve seen more depth in a piss puddle. Its also worth noting the racist overtones which are as subtle as a BNP meeting. Its nasty Eastern Europeans who take our perfect US girl with the aim of pushing her into drugs and prostitution. But these are merely lower league until they are usurped by current champions of the people-its-ok-to-hate league, Arabs (i hear the Russians are climbing back up the league after dominating the 80s. Bit like Liverpool FC. They were red as well). Their introduction serves no discernable purpose other than to show they are responsible for yet another of the world’s ills. The final confronation between our hero and a Jabba the Hut style baddie is comically lacking in any tension. I’ve been more fraught trying to get the last of the ketchup out of the bottle. In its defence, the fight scenes are well constructed with plenty of head smashing and the requisite crunching sound effects. Back on the offence, the car chase was just shit. Was like a Top Gear segment only without some nob in a white helmet and a gurning Clarkson. You may have guessed i didn’t like this film. I’d rather see Jean Van Damme play Macbeth than watch this lazy piece of cinema again. This can be left to the easily pleased.

  2. All fair points. It’s probably worth remembering that the film is less racist than it is sexist. No woman in the entire thing comes out with any degree of sympathy, the mother – stupid and irresponsible, the daughter – useless and runs like Bambi on ice, the best friend – stupid and obviously chucks it about a bit and the policemans wife – woefully unaware that her husband is a massive bastard. I’d certainly put that above the cause of racism which could equally be levelled at the excellent Eastern Promises.

    I thought it was interesting that they’d made Neeson’s character such a bastard though, I quite liked that. I didn’t like him at all by the end of the film but I wanted to carry on watching him throughout just to see what depths he’d plumb for his cause.

    I didn’t hate the car chase – but I can’t actually remember what happened in it which tells you all you need to know.

    Cheers for the comment chap.

  3. Hmm, i wouldn’t compare it to Eastern Promises in that regard. Thats a well constructed story whereby the characters have been given depth. Not one dimensional stereotypes as represented in Taken. I think Eastern Promises deserves a more detailed discussion regards the race element rather than a tenuous link to this film.

    As for Neeson’s character. I’d say it was an accident he comes across as a bastard. More a case of underwritten so all we get is paranoid dad and action dad.

    Agree with you regards the depiction of women though. However you’ve overlooked the crucial part of Holly Valance looking fit. If thats not a positive role model, i don’t know what is.

    1. You’re right (people never say this on the internet), I was merely referring (with unfortunate brevity) to Eastern Promises in terms of its placement of Eastern European characters as career criminals involved in trafficking and prostitution. Of course it’s a far superior film as you say, which I’d review – but for the fact that I’ve seen it already.

      It’s no accident he comes across as a bastard – he fries that bloke in the basement! Bastard. Shoots that woman at the dinner table! Bastard. Of course it isn’t really explored as to how he manages to live with this level of violence, as it is ironically in Cronenbergs A History of Violence.

      She can’t act, Valance, she was useless too.

  4. Is this the “I want to be Mark Kermode” Society?

    Can i join it?…… just so I can quit straight away, as it’s for people who sound like they have too many cocks in their mouth.

  5. I should be, having to listen to you all the time.

    Anyway carry on, just with less ‘Kermoding’. That goes for the pair of you.

  6. There’s me thinking it was a film blog! If you don’t like it Stifler, you can always return to your RapingDogs forum

  7. Surely drivel inspired films are kind of the point – i know there are concessions you have made but in making this concession you have missed the whole point of creating a film like Taken. Not everybody all of the time is in the mood to watch a film and wonder what philosophical ideals lie within. Much like when you get in from work. Not everybody wants to pull a whole pig from the walk in freezer, butcher it, dice it, crack out the blow touch and nail it to the roof and leave it for 2 hours whilst it aquires the correct texture, sometimes a bloody good takeaway is all you need. And i guess that’s my point for a full 3 course meal, try the local art house and let yourself debate the meaning of the film until your nose hair grows faster than your pubic hair and you have to trim your ears, for a good curry without the preparation (or the need to get the ladder out) then a good trashy action film is all we really need.

  8. With all respect I’d like to counter that. It’s possible to make films that operate both as ‘Saturday night action’ and as an intelligent artistic product. It just takes more work and as a result there are less of them about.

    I absolutely hold no truck with the idea that a film can exist harmlessly on the ‘brain candy’ level. Because the messages within will get through, whether conciously or subconciously. Now, in the case of Taken, it is in some ways racist and and sexist and on top of that it doesn’t say very much in a constructive manner. In fact it legitimises illegal acts in foreign countries which is something America has been buggering about with a lot lately. But I gave the film credit for the action and the moral ambiguity of the lead character. The action is good kinetic stuff and the film is worth a watch (but the I rarely find a film that isn’t worth a watch). It’s interesting to see how Taken fits in with a larger context of US/European cinema products and to think about why it is the way it is.

    For what it’s worth I was entertained by Taken whilst being perturbed by its subtext. It doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the process of watching it. I find it beneficial to be as objective as possible when looking at something like that.

    Also I believe that every film, from Triumph of the Will to Finding Nemo has something interesting about it and I’ll try to find that kernel of interest and bring it into what I say in the blog.

    The ‘get in from work’ line never gets old does it? People say it all the time – ‘ooh I just want to switch my brain off’ that’s called death. Don’t switch your brain off. People who say this aren’t usually brain surgeons – they’ve earned the right to ‘switch off’ most people could do with coming home and switching on!

  9. Death? – that’s a bit extreme, but wanting to figure whether or not the Higgs boson does actually exsist is not my idea of fun. I guess what i’m trying to say (and i maybe a little contraversial here) most films serve a purpose depending on what it is you are looking to achieve, (and before anyone mentions it – i know it wasn’t a film) Dead Set was a prime example, outright gore an unashamed by this as that was it’s purpose – and just what i was in the mood for that night – plus it kept the squeamish other half quiet though fear of seeing one of the characters sharpen his knife on a severed forearm again.

    This may or may not be the most agreeable way to look at things but it keeps me from becoming disillusioned of why seemingly useless crap keeps on coming and coming.

  10. Ah, I was being a little melodramatic with the ‘death’ comment. I was taking the term literally, ‘switch my brain off’ as a desire for death.

    No – I concur that you can sit and watch something purely for the surface aspect. Superficial entertainment is fine. But that doesn’t exclude the existence of the subtext whether you like it or not, it will still be there – whether intentionally included or not.

    Dead Set is a great example of this. Brooker himself said he wasn’t attempting to make a comment on society’s zombie like approach to reality television and the mob mentality of those who follow the tabloid reporting. But that’s tough. His intentions are, for want of a better term, irrelevant in that respect. Dead Set is a social commentary by virtue of its creation by a member of our society and its subject matter and setting. Intentionally or otherwise Dead Set provides an exaggerated glimpse in the mirror. A people abandoning any small vestige of civilised society when presented with the freakish kabuki of modern television. And I know how that sounds, pretentious and elitist. But it’s also a relevant reading of the material.

    And you know what. I enjoyed the gory bits too.

    I suppose my point is that I won’t criticise someone for not seeing the subtext, the meaning or the message. But it’s not on to suggest that because they don’t see it (or don’t want to see it) it is, by definition, unimportant or irrelevant. Hence the praise for Taken’s action and the criticism for the sexism.

    It is all fair comment.

    p.s. This is touching on a theory I have been formulating for a kind of film criticism that doesn’t seem to be obviously present anywhere else at the moment. It’s the kind of thing I’m aiming for in this blog – a collision of the average review and the highbrow. (not that I’m suggesting for a second that I have managed to achieve this as of yet).

  11. All very valid points, my worry is that if a script writer doesn’t set out to make a statement a genuinely good action film could fall under the umbrella of complete drivel if looked at in the wrong context e.g the transporter, brilliantly pointless with enough action to appeal to the i’m drunk / stoned / other situation and not too hard on the brain.
    I think were are almost on the same page on this one.

    Dead Set by the way touched on one other “taboo” that left me shocked, almost appalled until i warmed to the idea – running Zombies, but i’ll let our Charlie off on this occasion.

    P.S can i suggest Themed weeks? Each week the films must be from a particular genre/decade/director or leading actor/ess
    This way i’ll really look forward to “Adult Film Week”

  12. haha, i love the old “you’ve missed the point” debating cliche! I wasn’t suggesting there isn’t place for drivel action films. I love action films. I just want them to be good. Look at the plot for Predator. Its hardly complex is it but how fucking good is it? Thats my idea of saturday night film bang bang. But maybe you’re right. It might be my expectations are too high. Although i liked The Transporter too.

    To summise, Taken is shit! I’m glad i missed its point

    Chris finds The Transporter erotic. And anything with Vin Diesel in. True Fact

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