DEJA VU (2006)
I’ve never met Denzel Washington, and can’t give a first hand account of his wit, but he certainly plays “smart” well, which can often be a pretty hard attribute to fake (For reference, see Denise Richards as Nuclear Physicist Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough).
What he doesn’t play convincingly is stupid. Now, this is where the movie becomes confusing; Denzel’s character is supposed to be almost abnormally observant, to the degree that some top secret branch of government super-cops hires him on the spot to help find a terrorist bomber.
Now why would this character watch what has been established as surveillance footage of one of the deceased victims, and ask “Can she hear us?”. I mean, to be fair, this footage does turn out to be a bit of a wormhole, but Denzel doesn’t know that. Isn’t that kind of a leap in logic?
There are several leaps in logic in this movie, even on top of the usual nonsense that comes with a time travel plot. Character motivations are highly questionable all around, the plot makes little to no sense, and it has some of the worst dialogue outside of an Ehren Kruger film.
There’s an extremely forced and silly car chase scene, in which Denzel proceeds to kill more people in traffic collisions than actually died in the terrorist bombing. It also suffers from the fairly common sci-fi ending in which problems are thwarted via supernatural means, but there would be absolutely no way to prove that to the police.
6 out of 10
AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007)
Ridley does his version of Heat, bringing two fantastic actors together for a cops and robbers film in which they share about one and a half scenes together.
Denzel and Russell are both good in this (Well, Denzel’s kinda evil, but you get the point), but there really isn’t much to work with here. It’s the standard Rise and Fall of the Gangster plot we’ve seen a thousand times before, but with all of the prurient and violent bits drained out. And it goes on, and on, and on. . .
And let’s be honest; True story or not, that ending is horrible. Even worse is the “Extended Cut” ending, which plays like the pilot for a buddy cop show. Actually, for a laugh, that ending is worth a watch sometime.
There’s quite a bit of potential here, but the pacing is terrible, and I’m pretty sure that Ridley has no idea what the point of this film is.
6 out of 10
BODY OF LIES (2008)
With all the discussion of the pros and cons of the US invasion of Iraq, I’d like to point out one relatively minor con that doesn’t get as much media attention: The never ending glut of movies about the invasion of Iraq.
And I’m not just talking about movies that directly reference Fallujah in their narrative. I’m also talking about all of the films where the subtext is about the Iraq war, which is a large percentage of the films produced this decade. Particularly big budget action films, from Avatar to Prince Of Persia. I get it, guys; War is bad.
Which is why it’s quite refreshing to see a movie that deals with American incursion in the Middle East with a bit more “balanced” perspective. Sure, DiCaprio’s frazzled spy is a hero, but he’s also someone who will lead innocent people to their death in the service of the “greater good”. And he’s a damn boy scout compared to his boss, played by Russell Crowe. Crowe is playing a game of chess, with the terrorists and DiCaprio as pieces to be moved around.
I’m a spy film fanatic, and as much as I do love the James Bond type of film, I also love the gritty, more realistic take on the job that writers like John Le Carre specialize in. This is much more in the Le Carre style. Strangely, though, the plot of the movie actually has a lot of similarities to the original Bourne Identity novel.
The chemistry between DiCaprio and Crowe is fantastic; These guys need to be in more things together. Easily one of my favorite Crowe performances: He’s one second the hero, the next second the villain; Sometimes completely ineffectual and charming, sometimes scheming and terrifying. And strangely, for a Ridley film, the action scenes are fantastic.
If you haven’t seen this one, and love a good espionage thriller, I would highly recommend it.
8 out of 10