I have 493 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Give ‘Em Hell, Malone (2009)
What’s it rated? R for a squib parade, some gruff language and Elsa Pataky’s accent.
Did people make it? Directed by Russell “The Quickening” Mulcahy. Acted by Thomas “Thursday” Jane, Ving “Day of the Dead” Rhames, Elsa “Beyond Re-Animator” Pataky, Doug “Eugene Victor Toombs” Hutchison, Leland “Get this thing off me! Get this thing off me!” Orser and French “Funnier Andy Dick” Stewart.
What’s it like in one sentence? A hardboiled neo-noir action comedy with identity issues.
Why did you watch it? Chewer Eric Lensherr tossed the idea out and then a few other noble Chewers tried to warn me off of it. I don’t read good.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Malone (played with lantern jawed sincerity by Thomas Jane) is a moody gun for hire sent to retrieve a mysterious briefcase from a building full of angry bad guys with also guns. After getting the case and shooting his way out, Malone finds himself on the run from power mad gangsters, a sadistic Japanese schoolgirl, lipless firebugs and a frowny faced Ving Rhames. Will he succumb to all the heavies who want him dead, or will he get the girl and ride off into the sunset? The world may never know… since they didn’t watch the movie.
Thomas Jane: So Deep Inside, She Doesn't Even Know He's There.
Play or remove from my queue? That right there is a tough question. I guess I would have to say play the movie, even though the amount of stuff that doesn’t work equals the amount that does. Watching this movie, I found myself going back and forth between loving it and hating it so many times that I have firmly landed right in the center of both camps. It’s a solid C grade picture that entertains for most of it’s running time, unless you take a moment to think and then it all turns to brown waste products (shit). Especially the ending.
I also have a love\hate relationship with Russell Mulcahey and the way he chooses to do his directorial business. He always tries interesting things, but if he has a low budget that he’s working with, he somehow doesn’t have the skill to make it look like anything other than slapdash. I love the original Highlander, The Quickening‘s Renegade Cut is much better than the theatrical but still a little brain damaged, Resident Evil:Extinction is the best R.E. movie aside from the original and Ricochet was mind fuckingly amazing when I was 12, but I haven’t revisited it since and have no idea if it still stands up. But, regardless of my love, all of those movies are flawed in the extreme and Give ‘Em Hell, Malone is no exception.
Naturally, the one thing everyone will love about this movie is the show stopping opening gunfight. Thomas Jane shoots his way through a building full of thugs to get a briefcase he was hired to retrieve by a stereotypical Femme Fatale, played with a remarkably confusing accent by Elsa Pataky. He goes room to room, and methodically murders every soul in the way of his bulletude. What works so well about the gunfight is that it seems like every single bullet finds a home, whether it’s blowing through the bridge of a gangster’s nose or taking chunks of plaster out of the wall. It’s not just a bunch of firing blanks and ill timed squibs (although there’s a million, just not ill timed), this gunfight seems meticulously choreographed to the point where I don’t think there’s a bullet unaccounted for. The only problem is that (judging from the film that follows) they spent their entire budget on the set piece, leaving the rest of the film to look cheap and rushed and all the stylistic flourishes in the shoot-out are absent from the rest of the film.
The script bounces back and forth between awful and witty so consistently that I had trouble deciding whether it was passable or not (just barely) or whether the actors were even selling the dialogue (for the most part they do). The film wants to be a goofy farce one minute and then it wants to be a gritty detective novel the next. Malone is not so much schizophrenic as it is incredibly confused by it’s identity. I love movies that change up their tone at will (see From Dusk Till Dawn and Super), but you have to be committed to the tone you’re going for, or else it all just seems too lightweight and inconsistent to give a shit about.
Thomas Jane isn’t really stretching here and basically plays Malone how he played The Punisher (squinty + gravelly), but after seeing him in Stander, I know he’s got more range than he let’s on and, even though I haven’t seen any of Hung yet, I feel like Jane should be doing a lot better in his career by now. Ving Rhames is fine as one of Malone’s adversaries, but is wasted in a role that should have been filled by someone like Michael Clarke Duncan. Elsa Pataky is hot as the untrustworthy damsel in distress, but sounds like English is a bitch to wrap her mouth around and is stuck playing the most underwritten role in the film. Doug Hutchison overplays the psychotic pyromaniac Matchstick with such gusto that he actually goes so far into hammy ridiculousness, he actually circles back around into the realm of relative believability. Matchstick is a wacky Bizarroverse riff on his Loony Bin Jim character from Punisher: War Zone, yet he managed to not repeat himself too badly. Amazingly, the performance of the film belonged to French Stewart (playing shitty ass lounge singer Frankie the Crooner), who I grew to find teeth-grindingly annoying on Third Rock From the Sun. He made me laugh out loud at least a half dozen times throughout the film and played such a cynical, sleazy, two-bit sack of fuck, that I found myself wishing I was watching his movie instead of Malone’s.
The story is so convoluted it almost seems like they missed the point of trying to make a film noir homage. The thing about Chinatown or Casablanca is that they are deceptively simple and slowly open up to the audience like a flower, whereas Give ‘Em Hell, Malone layers so many red herrings on top of each other that it feels like the whole film is just the first act of a much larger story (and with some judicious editing it could have been.) But where the movie crosses into unforgivable for me is that it ends with a “To Be Continued” instead of an actual ending. It seems like the whole point of making movies like this is to do something different and original, creating a new hero and world instead of making another sequel or remake or re-boot. By having the “To Be Continued” tacked on to the end of the film cheapens everything that came before by making the whole thing incomplete. Great, you started a series, but you only made part of a movie. It makes me feel like not enough was thought was given to the film’s audience to make a complete film before aiming for a franchise.
"Take it back. I would have made a much better Jonah Hex than Brolin did."
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Russell Mulcahy made Give ‘Em Hell, Malone because he was so disappointed in the final version of The Shadow that he wanted to make something closer to what his original vision for what that film was. I haven’t seen The Shadow since I was a kid, but I remember my easily impressed younger self not being very taken with it but my younger self would have been head over heels for this one. Sign of improvement?
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Why? Black Dahlia (because it’s noir. And worse), Shutter Island (because it’s noir. And much, much better), Law Abiding Citizen (thematically similar; equal in quality), Blood Work (not similar at all) and The Girl Who Played With Fire (halfway through watching the film and I see no similarities).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Why? The Goon comic series by Eric Powell, Sin City, Chinatown, Rep Man and Eat, Pray, Love. Four of these things are much better than Malone is. One of these things gave me a prolapsed colon.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.7
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.5
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes, but since the movie clearly expects a sequel and there’s not one forthcoming, it’s a little like watching a pilot that didn’t get picked up for a season order. I’m going to land on the side of recommending it just for French Stewart’s comedic stylings and Doug Hutchison’s scenery chewing master class. And, as much shit as I gave Thomas Jane in the review, I love that motherfucker. The Mist 4 EVA!!
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched a nasty little thriller in my queue called Shuttle that’s worth your time. It’s a half an hour too long but super intense almost the entire time. Speed watch it at least. I also watched the new Game of Thrones, which I bet non readers might have thought was uneventful. But there were events. If you’re not a fan of the show yet, believe me when I tell you that you will be. No doubt in my mind. Arya having her first dancing lesson gave me chills.
Next Week? Your turn to pick, true believers. I have a couple early votes from Chewers for Eraserhead and Safe Men, but the final vote is yours.
"C'mon Tom, please stop calling me knife dick."