jon: day four

"i'll tell you what i'm blathering about...i've got information, man! new shit has come to light! and shit..man, she kidnapped herself!" - the dude, the big lebowski (1998)

we move from the heist to a more personal crime for day four. today we focus on kidnapping. we start with a particularly hot mess from martin brest, gigli (2003).

ben affleck plays a low-level mob enforcer who is charged with kidnapping the mentally challenged younger brother of a federal prosecutor. to insure the scheme's success, his boss puts another operator on the job - the smarter, tougher jennifer lopez. the trio drives back and forth between some nondescript los angeles locations. christopher walken makes a batshit crazy cameo. jonathan winters used to do this thing where he would show up for the tonight show or dean martin variety hour with nothing prepared, raid the wardrobe closet and just make something up on the fly. that's sort of what al pacino's five minutes are like in this film. most importantly, affleck is up to his old tricks saving those crazy, mixed-up lesbians from themselves again, as his charms are just too much for lopez's lesbian character to resist. it's ridiculous from stem to stern, a lesbian conversion fantasy punctuated with an occasional slit wrist and bullet to the forehead. i didn't think the guy who made midnight run (1988) could miss the mark so badly. and this recurring theme of affleck's goes back a lot farther than chasing amy (1997). in 1993 he directed a short film called i killed my lesbian wife, hung her on a meat hook, and now i have a three-picture deal at disney. i kid you not. i am going to take a shower and then we'll get to the next movie.

which happens to be christopher mcquarrie's the way of the gun (2000).

ryan phillippe and benecio del toro are two career petty criminals who, while visiting a sperm bank to make donations, decide to kidnap a woman who is the surrogate mother for a wealthy couple that apparently can't conceive. they take it on the lam and the millionaire father-to-be, who has some unsavory resources at his disposal, sets james caan on their trail. things head south, figuratively and literally, for the pair and they go all in for a fifteen million dollar ransom payoff. the construction of the complications is a great idea, on paper. instead of the usual wild spiraling out of control that we usually see with films like this, what we get instead is a collapsing in. layer upon layer of subterfuge turns back in on itself until these two find themselves unable to escape the gravitational pull of this black hole of deceit and mayhem. it's a shame that it also makes things too convoluted. the first act is lean and interesting. it's peppered with excellent, observant dialogue and the way that the shootout/chase at the fertility clinic plays out is clever and inventive. the longer things go, though, the more the film loses its way. pair mcquarrie with a good editor and you might really have something. one thing i am glad for, viewing this again ten years down the road, is that this time i don't have to listen to anyone talking about how tarantino-esque it is. it's nothing of the kind. in the late nineties/early 2000s, that observation was nearly inescapable if you had gunplay and above average dialogue. it actually owes more to peckinpah, if anything. it's solid, probably the best thing phillippe has ever done and i appreciate that the assassins that bring them down aren't slick and professional. they look like middle school principals in cheap windbreakers. it's perfect that those guys are the last thing they'll see as they lie there, covered in blood and dust, watching fifteen million dollars get away from them. it could end no better way than adding that insult to injury.

we go from ambitious and flawed to precise and sterile with ron howard's ransom (1996).

mel gibson in a characteristically tender phone moment.

mel plays a maverick (hey-o!) bajillionaire airline magnate whose son is kidnapped from central park one sunny afternoon. after a botched ransom drop, mel goes rogue, turning the tables on the kidnappers by offering the ransom as a bounty on their heads instead, vowing to never rest until they either return his son unharmed or he has obliterated them from the face of the earth. hint: the ol' crazy eyes work in mel's favor when he's selling that. there are twists and more twists, all of which arrive right on schedule, and the child is recovered. but wait, even more twists, right on cue. almost nothing for me in this one. ron howard is so...competent. everything moves along like clockwork and even if you don't know what the surprises are going to be, they never fail to arrive right on the beat. the conclusion is never in doubt, just another one of those things that you set up to watch it run. i didn't learn anything about myself. i didn't learn anything about anyone else. delroy lindo shows up, that's a plus, but what he's given to do is so textbook and repetitious they could have filmed one scene with him and just cut it in over and over again. the crew of kidnappers is full of interesting actors as well, but it doesn't really matter much. everyone is just a cog in ron howard's ruthlessly boring machine.

closing the show we have mike barker's best laid plans (1999).

cut the kid a break. it's hard to be america's plucky li'l sweetheart when you've been handcuffed to a pool table all night. this was yet another junior varsity neo-noir where no one is what they seem and things go haywire. sorry, that's all the plot rehash you're getting on this one. this movie comes from that sad time before josh brolin figured out that stoic and rugged was his bread and butter. it breaks my heart a little bit to see llewelyn moss be such an insufferable whiner. the one thing i enjoyed about this film is how the final cold light of day made all the ill business of the previous long, dark night of the soul seem comical in retrospect. you should be able to have a good laugh at yourself when you realize that you almost framed your friend for statutory rape, faked your girlfriend's death and stole an irreplaceable piece of history all for naught. oops. my bad. this "no one is what they seem" schtick is reaching its limit. the whole time, i was thinking about/longing for something like the last seduction (1994) where the schemer is exactly what she seems - bad news all the way around. blatant. lethal. the queue teaches you early and often, though, that you can't win 'em all.

tomorrow focus shifts to the other side, as we spend a day with the boys in blue.

prepare to be served and protected.

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