COMPILED BY ERIX ANTOINE
It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD (Last Week’s Installment)
Erix here with a summary of this week’s goings on in The B Action thread, covering the discussion from page 1451 to 1453.
Things are off to an auspicious start as we all celebrate the real box office smash hit of 2011….
THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
Rene: In real life news, Osama Bin Laden has been terminated. Looking forward to the prestige action movie that Ridley Scott or Paul Greengrass will make. Then there will be the DTV action film that Isaac Florentine or John Hyams will make. I’m also hoping this leads to another Sniper movie that this time has Billy Zane and Tom Berenger together again.
Moltisanti: I’m not exactly sure how Bin Laden was whacked, but I’d like to think it went a little like this:
Erix: It’s so fitting that I had to find out on The B Action Movie Thread that Osama Bin Laden was deader than shit. I will read up on this. But I hope he got a spectacular comeuppance fitting of the villain that he was.
felix: I wonder who’ll be starring in the Hollywood adaption of this? Russell Crowe as the CONFLICTED Ranger Sergent who leads the raid in killing one of the World’s Worst Criminals. If Michael Bay is doing it, they’ll be calling in our favourite “World’s Best Oil Driller”.
Walker: Of all the people that are happy about this announcment, I’m sure it’s Kathryn Bigelow since her “smaller” film before Triple Frontier is about the hunt for bin Laden.
He also posts this commemorative MEME.
S.D. Bob Plissken is a little more tasteful.
HunterTarantino: I’d like to think bin Laden got some crazy Screwface-like death. And here’s a message for the Obama administration and the dudes who killed that bearded Antichrist:
But there’s more to this week than celebrating the death of human excrement.
Perfect Weapon posts an entertaining Seagal interview. It is PW’s opinion that this “humanizes” the Sensei. I have to agree.
Perfect Weapon also has the pleasure of watching some of the legendary Seagal SNL appearance.
Here is a recap of what I saw in the 37 minutes.
· No opening monologue.
· There’s a brief bit involving a funeral home promising no necrophilia. No, really.
· A bit involving a salute to a random soldier in the Gulf War. Tom Selleck is played by Adam Sandler and Barbara Mandrell is played by Jan Hooks. Hey, you do get to see Dana Carvey as the older George Bush AND Phil Hartman’s Charlton Heston impersonation.
· Yeah, no Sensei appearance yet.
· Finally, The Sensei appears. He’s a dad who talks to a punk kid (Chris Farley) who wants to go out with his daughter. Seagal is at his Seagal-est. He having Victoria Jackson as his daughter and a particularly dorky Rob Schneider as his son… wacky.
· Weekend Update With Dennis Miller
· A spoof of We Are The World and the like where celebrities sing about free-range chickens (don’t ask). There’s some humorous impersonations, such as Sandler as Axl Rose, and Michael Bolton as himself. Remember, he was the musical guest for this episode, although this is the only time you get to see him until the very end.
· Deep Thoughts, By Jack Handey. I can’t believe that’s one of the things I remember from this time of SNL, back when I actually watched and enjoyed the show.
· The Dark Side With Nat X. Yes, this is the bit with The Sensei as Andrew Dice Clay. WOW. What a sight that was to hear and see him in that role. Even better, the main talking point was how The Adventures of Ford Fairlane bombed at the box office.
· More Deep Thoughts With Jack Handey
· The end credits. Seeing The Sensei standing right by Bolton was also quite wacky.
So, I was hoping to see more from the guest host, but overall, for the 38 minutes I did see, I was amused often enough to make it worthwhile. Plus, Seagal as Dice Clay was great.
HunterTarantino: I’ve seen the whole episode, and it’s dreadful. What you miss is:
-Hans and Franz lionizing Seagal, and (I think) he attacks them.
-Seagal stumbles through the monologue, which climaxes with him singing “Kung Fu Fighting” and playing guitar. Yes, they go there.
-Tenelli: One Man Army, a very awful parody of his films where he gets yelled at and fucks up a lot and gets demoted to desk work with the “Makin’ copies!” guy that Rob Schneider played. I think he gets his ass kicked too.
-Michael Bolton’s segments, like anyone wants to fucking see that. Rights clearance stopped this, but trust me, you aren’t missing shit.
-Brace Steele: Greenpeace Photographer, which I believe was one of the only skits that Seagal’s grandstanding was successful in getting to the air. It’s basically a prototype for On Deadly Ground, where he crashes an oil company meeting, chastises them, and beats the shit out of all of them.
I know the book Live from New York is extremely thorough in discussing the entire staff’s frustration with him and his interference, such as the notorious skit Seagal thought up where he rapes women and it’s supposed to be funny (and sounded even worse than everything on the show itself).
A few bits from various sources about him on the show:
Tim Meadows telling Conan O’Brien about the experience:
“I say this with a little trepidation, but [the worst host ever was] Steven Seagal,” Meadows said. “Even though he could probably kill me.”
Meadows explained that the cast was taken aback at just how bad things were that week. Pressed by Conan, he explained.
“I don’t know why it was a surprise to everybody that he wasn’t funny,” he said. “You don’t go to Steven Seagal movies to laugh your ass off. So when he was on the show, he was a very sort of sullen, low-key guy. And I had actually written a sketch for him that didn’t get picked.
“So during like Thursday or Friday he came up to me and he was like ‘uh, listen the show is not very funny.’ And I was like, ‘yeah, well you know, you didn’t pick my sketch, so it’s not very funny.’ But I was just totally — he thought he had like a comrade. But I was like, ‘no man, I worked really hard. I am not your friend.'”
GabeT: I’ve seen it in individual interviews too, where they asked former cast members, who was the best host? And they’ll all give random names – Tom Hanks comes up a lot – but they ask who was the worst host and they say, “Oh, I couldn’t say that, that would be rude, it could jeopardize my job… but Steven Seagal.”
Crazy Jim: It still cracks me up that Steven Seagal’s idea of “comedy gold’ is an SNL sketch where he rapes people. I just wish there was video of him pitching it to the cast/writers.
Erix: HT is right about the episode… It’s simply abysmal. But I think it’s a must see for cultural purposes.
But there is good Seagal news. felix posts a clip where he announces an upcoming project.
Moving right along… There might be a couple of you that are interested in seeing Dylan Dog with Brandon Routh. And here’s lambaytor with an interesting review of it.
So I just saw Dylan Dog today. It was a solid film of the sub-genre. Brandon Routh plays the goods, a lot of the critics (pretty much all of whom seem to have gotten the film down on the ground and are now mercilessly kicking it repeatedly) complained he was trying to do some gruff hardboiled narration but he really isn’t, he just has a deep voice.
Sam Huntington has a lot of fun as his re-animated sidekick. The zombie jokes seemed somewhat out of place but this is a real kitchen sink movie so while his stuff was unneccessary I never found it to be detracting. He’s got kind of an Abbot and Costello vibe going on with Dylan that I think some may find annoying but I wasn’t bugged by it. Maybe I was just glad to see Superman and his pal Jimmy Olsen working together like they never actually did in the movie where they actually played those characters.
Peter Stormare has a fairly small but memorable role as the head of a werewolf clan. He doesn’t do much, but as usual his performance is a scenery chewing masterpiece with all of the subtlety to a brick hitting a child in the face.
Taye Diggs, for the first time I’m aware of, plays a role that doesn’t make me want to punch him until he dies. He’s finally seemed to find a good screen presence and his performance was one of the better parts of the movie.
The female lead, whose name I’m not going to even bother to look up, is terrible. Her lines are stilted and oddly spoken and her character has so little on-screen chemistry that even the film-makers just half-ass the love scene. Fortunately she doesn’t have that big a part.
For the most part they stretch their obviously small budget as far as it will go. The practical make-up (with the exception of the godawful Kurt Angle wearing even more godawful werewolf make-up) all looks uniformly great. I suppose some will take issue with the demon and the giant zombie looking kinda rubbery, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for big rubber monsters, maybe cause I grew up on 80s horror movies. The CG is kinda half-and-half, it’s at times great, at others kinda cheap but there are a couple spots where you could see that they were running out of money (a shoot-out at a vampire club really shows this more than anything) still they were pretty creative in their cost-cutting and it’s apparent that they tried which is more than can be said for most efforts like this.
As for story, it’s a pretty standard detective story/whodunnnit with supernatural elements. It’s equal parts Hellboy, Blade, Underworld, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but it feels like its own thing. The New Orleans location works excellently (in fact of all the many horror movies that try to make New Orleans work for them, Dylan Dog is the first film I’ve seen that actually makes that work.) Also the -G-13 rating never makes itself too unwelcome, there’s a few sequences that could do with some more blood but the movie never feels neutered. It’s not super original but it is fun and fairly competent at what it dose, it’s something I would watch again. In comparison to other films of the type it’s not as good as Hellboy or Blade or Blade 2 but it’s still better than Blade 3, Vanhelsing, Constantine, or any of the Underworld movies.
It’s needless to say that it’s not a whole lot like the comics. Though Brandon Routh does play Dylan Dog a hell of a lot better than Keanu Reeves played John Constantine.
GabeT informs us that they will be showing RAW FORCE at the NY Asian Film Festival and he posts the trailer to what he calls “ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE.”
The COLOMBIANA trailer is not exciting us that much, given that most of us are not too fond of director Olivier Megaton and The Transporter 3. We are slightly more intrigued by the “TAKEN in space” Besson-produced film LOCKOUT – slated for release in 2012.
Moltisanti posts this shot
HunterTarantino: Lockout (a title which I’m sure will confuse the shit out of any NFL fans who are nervous about the lockout cutting into the season) is also looking like a lot of fun too from that still. Pearce is always a welcome presence, and there’s a bright, shining Universal Soldier/No Escape vibe going on in that still.
Moltisanti: Looks more like a remake of me playing Photon circa 1987.
A comment that, in true B Thread tradition, leads to HT posting a bunch of ads for the now forgotten laser tag game. The best of which is this one.
Moltisanti: Those Photon ads really take me back. As does this segment from the Photon live action TV series:
That aired on actual broadcast television.
Just as we are not jumping out of our chairs for the upcoming films of Olivier Megaton, we aren’t all that thrilled with the upcoming CONAN. But little things help… Like this shot of thread superstar Stephen Lang, posted by wadew1.
Moltisanti brings us some interesting news.
Before Lundgren films his part in US4 in June he’s gonna start work on a film also shooting in Baton Rouge called STASH HOUSE for Joel Silver’s Dark Castle banner. Here’s the plot:
A young couple move into their dream starter house only to discover that the dangerous men on the lawn will stop at nothing to retrieve what they are now locked inside with.
Don’t know yet what part Lundgren will have but hopefully it’s one of the psychos trying to get in the house.
wadew1: Joel has finally revealed his ACE IN THE HOLE! No other producer has been clever enough to cash in on the PANIC ROOM CRAZE of ’02. I have a feeling Dolph will be playing the sensible family man who’s driven to kill the punks that have camped out on his freshly mowed lawn.
Perfect Weapon: Well, on Twitter Monday afternoon Dolph brought up the fact that he was about to go to Louisiana to be a part of a movie called Stash House… and that was it. He didn’t do any elaboration on whether-for example-he has a big or small role in the movie, or even if he’ll be a hero or villain.
Moltisanti: I don’t see Lundgren as the lead, my guess is the leads will be rejects from some CW show. If Lundgren isn’t one of the home invaders he’ll probably be the local Sheriff who responds to a disturbance at the house, doesn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary, and then takes a hatchet to the skull as he walks back to his squad car.
Jox: Dolph mentioned his busy line-up of co-starring roles to be colorful and we know how much he enjoys playing psychos so…
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
Picked up The Green Hornet on Blu-ray at Target, since it’s on sale there, and I got the second to last copy there. Then a few minutes after that, some other guy picked up the last copy.
I really like Daylight. I picked up the dvd for $3.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
MOLTISANTI GOES GA-GA FOR AN INNOCENT MAN
Degradation. Prison basketball. Hairy chest. Boxer shorts. What do these terms have in common? All are plot keywords assigned by IMDB to the motion picture AN INNOCENT MAN. There’s another keyword that fits the film missing from IMDB’s list. That keyword is “Magnificent.”
The idea of an innocent man going to prison has been a staple of the cinema for ages. But few movies dealing with this subject matter have packed as great a wallop as Peter Yates’ 1989 crime yarn. Tom Selleck stars as James Rainwood, a married employee for American Airlines, who finds his normal existence turned upside-down when two crooked cops mistakenly shoot him and then frame Selleck for drug dealing in order to cover up their disgraceful ineptitude. Once convicted Selleck is forced to learn the ins and outs of surviving within prison walls.
So why does AN INNOCENT MAN manage to take a standard concept and make it so captivating? Yates’ sure-handed direction is certainly key. Also gotta give credit to the film’s rousing score from Howard Shore, not to mention Joe Cocker’s end credits track “When the Night Comes.” But there’s no way around the fact that what truly keeps AN INNOCENT MAN as engrossing today as it was 20 years ago is the casting. Selleck anchors the movie and it’s the best he ever was on film. His character goes through a torrential emotional roller-coaster and Selleck provides just the right everyman quality to make the viewer keep a vested interest in his plight. It’s a shame that Selleck’s film career never quite took off and that to most of the public his most memorable big screen venture was THREE MEN AND A BABY. AN INNOCENT MAN showed he had much more to offer beyond changing poopy diapers with goddamn Mahoney.
Backing up Selleck is a whole slew of fine actors who turn in noteworthy performances. F. Murray Abraham steals every scene he’s in as Virgil, the convict who teaches Selleck how to stay alive in the Graybar hotel. The great Bruce A. Young is diabolically sinister as Jingles, the head of the Black Guerrilla Family who has his sights on making Selleck’s life pure hell. Laila Robbins has the thankless role of Selleck’s distraught wife desperate to prove Selleck’s innocence. She tackles the role with a combination of strength and vulnerability that is quite impressive for your standard “wife” role.
Quick side-note about Laila Robbins, she also played Steve Martin’s wife in PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES. Does anyone know the deal with that shot of her at the end of PLANES when Martin and John Candy finally arrive home for Thanksgiving? She looks like she just stumbled upon a triple-homicide. Go grab your DVD and look. Creeps me out.
No praise of AN INNOCENT MAN’s cast would be complete without signaling out David Rasche’s portrayal of the vile Detective Parnell. Like many children of the 80’s I first became a fan of Rasche via Sledge Hammer! So to see him a few years later play such a despicable pile of puke was a true jolt to my system. Rasche just oozes evil anytime he’s on screen. He’s so reprehensible in the movie that he completely overshadows his partner in corruption, Detective Scalise, played by Richard Young. But Young got to give Indiana Jones his hat so I don’t feel too bad for that dude.
AN INNOCENT MAN is often compared to Sylvester Stallone’s prison thriller LOCK UP, mainly because the two films came out around the same time. Though I feel there is a subtle difference between the two. Stallone’s character wasn’t innocent. He did the crime he was jailed for. Now does that condone the mistreatment he received from Donald Sutherland? Of course not, but it’s that ever so slight difference that causes me to feel more compassionate towards Selleck in AN INNOCENT MAN. One could compare AN INNOCENT MAN to SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Not me though, it’s an insult to mention AN INNOCENT MAN alongside that swill.
Peter Yates passed away earlier this year and he managed to carve out a decent little filmography to leave to the world, including the fine Robert Mitchum flick THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. Upon his passing the film cited most by the press was BULLITT. Classic chase aside, BULLITT never did a whole hell of a lot for me so the first movie that came to my mind when learning of Yates’ death was obviously AN INNOCENT MAN. It’ll likely be the first movie that always springs to my mind when the subject of prison flicks comes up at the local Chili’s not to mention the movie that proved without a doubt that F. Murray Abraham was right, life is a motherfucker.
RENE’S TAKE – THE RISE OF JIMMY RAIN
Tom Selleck has been one of my favorite actors since I was a kid. It’s a wonder I never decided to have a mustache. (Truth, I did have a mustache for about 3 weeks, before it was decided that a mustache alone just didn’t work for my face. A full goatee was a different story however.) It was around 1992 or 1993 when I saw An Innocent Man on NBC.
Poor Jimmy Rainwood. He gets shot by 2 cops IN HIS OWN PLACE, because they think he’s got a gun. It’s really a blow dryer. Since they’ve royally fucked up, they decide to plant a gun on him, and he gets sent to prison.
Jimmy Rainwood is a standup guy. He’s never been in trouble with the law, and he’s got a great job and great lady. Now he’s been sent to prison. As soon as he gets there he immediately makes an enemy with a thug named Jingles. Jingles is played by the acting powerhouse known by the name of Bruce A. Young. He who was a white man who became black in Naked Gun 33 1/3 and was a pilot who got eaten in Jurassic Park III.
Here he plays a mean bastard who always wants to start shit. Jimmy Rainwood meets a guy who tells him he can help him out, and that guy is quickly taken out. Jimmy wants to help him, but he’s stopped by F. Murray Abraham. This gent has been in prison for a very long time, so he knows the ropes, and of course he occupies the role of older mentor who shows the new kid the ropes and teaches him how to survive in prison.
There is the issue of taking out Jingles, and it becomes a conspiracy among a few fellow cons to poison Jingles’ food, so he has to go take a shit, and Jimmy shanks him in the toilet area. There’s a scene where Abraham teaches Jimmy how to use a shiv, and he shows him that he should break it off (it’s made from glass) so he bleeds to death. He does this, and is finally rid of his prison nemesis. Then he officially becomes JIMMY RAIN. He slicks his hair back, wears stylish shades, and now has a reputation in the prison. All thanks to Abraham’s tutelage.
Jimmy Rain gets paroled, but there is still the fact of the matter that he wants to get revenge on the 2 cops who did him wrong. He gets help in the form of M.C. Gainey, who is also a recent parolee, and helped with the downfall of Jingles.
The 2 cops are played by David Rasche and Richard Young. Richard Young who was the man who gave Indy his hat, and was in Friday The 13th Part V. I’ll be upfront about David Rasche. The only thing I’ve seen him in was Cobra, and I’m not very familiar with the work he’s most known for, Sledge Hammer!, but he does a fine job playing an asshole cop who you can’t wait to see get what’s coming to him.
Another thing of note in the movie is a really dangerous car stunt that happens during the end of the movie. It just looks PAINFUL. If you’ve seen the movie, or if our collective takes on it have spurred your interest, check it out. You’ll wonder if you’ve just seen someone get critically injured on film.
Between this 1989 film about a prison, and the other 1989 prison film, Lock-Up, this is the clear winner. I don’t hate Lock-Up like Mike does, but that one does have a great Bill Conti score. That and Sonny Landham who has the Jingles role in that film.
Last but certainly not least, we get to the director of this film, Peter Yates. The sadly recently deceased Mr. Yates, directed the Steve McQueen hit, Bullitt, and also the fine Robert Mitchum production, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (saw most of it last January on TCM, but still need to finish it) as well as The Deep, Krull, and the film Roommates, which stars Peter Falk, and the man who’s name Nick yelled on the most recent CHUD Friday Wrap Up video, D.B. SWEENEY! I saw this movie once in middle school. It was a quite the funny little movie. Especially how Falk’s character is already old when Sweeny’s is a kid, and their at a baseball game, kid Sweeney gets a foul ball, the guy next to him steals it from him, and Falk asks nicely for the guy to give the ball back to kid Sweeney, and when the asshole says no, Falk calmly removes his hat, and HEADBUT’S the guy in the nose! Yeah, Peter Yates was a great director, and it’s really sad to have lost him.
ERIX GIVES AN INNOCENT MAN A SECOND LOOK
I have an interesting relationship with this film.
I first saw it during my Discovering The Cinema Of Peter Yates period of the mid 90s. This was a time, circa 1992 or 93, that I was watching a lot of Peter Yates movies back-to-back. I don’t remember the reason. I think it was because my father had decided to all of a sudden complete his collection of Peter Yates films on VHS.
These are the films I saw during that period.
The House On Carroll Street
Year Of The Comet
And so, I eventually found my way to the one with Tom Selleck. And I’m not going to lie. I was underwhelmed. My general opinion at the time was: “Oh well… Here we go with another bland, unsatisfying film directed by Peter Yates.”
Rediscovering the movie in preparation for this column, I have to revise my opinion a little. I still think it’s… How shall I put this? … Um… WHITEBREAD AS FUCK is, I think, the appropriate lexicon to get my point across.
Now then, I don’t mean to suggest that this makes it a bad viewing experience. Or that it’s, necessarily, a bad element for the film. When your hero is Tom Selleck, you’re probably aiming for a certain quality and I think the film achieves exactly the quality it wants.
I will revise my opinion by saying that, if I was bored out of my fucking mind in 1993, I was quite entertained the other night. There is a very compelling center to the narrative, achieved by the gravity of Tom Selleck’s engaging performance. He sucks you in to the extent that you are wrapped up in his (quite believable) transformation from James Rainwood – airline yuppie to JIMMY RAIN – BADASS CONVICT.
And it’s more than him growing a handlebar and slicking his hair back. In the post prison third act, he carries himself with a swagger that is unmistakable. It’s the kind of thing where you really wish he’d try his hand at playing a straight-up villain. I think he’s definitely got the chops to be a compelling and scary bad guy. There’s more to Selleck than grinning like a jackass and shifting his eyebrows up and down while the music of Mike Post plays in the background. An Innocent Man shows that.
The villains are a different story. I’m balls deep in Miami Vice right now, as all two or three of you who follow my blog are well aware. And maybe that’s why, this time around, I was really able to appreciate what David Rasche and Richard Young do. I don’t know if it was intentional. Or if Rasche drew on his Sledge Hammer! expertise. But these bad guys come off as a bit of a parody of the heroes in an 80s cop show… Vice in particular. Rasche, in fact, does this odd manic variation on Sonny Crockett. His portrayal of a cokehead cop, who is so hopped up he can’t keep a house’s address straight in his head, is mannered and caricatured but not necessarily inauthentic.
Cocaine has never really been my thing. But, well, I know people. We’ll leave it at that. It’s entirely possible that a cocaine addict is actually living out the Looney Tunes cartoon playing in their minds. Rasche embodies that. And he has a great bit where he gets to call Selleck’s wife (played by the very sexy, in a completely Wonder Bread way, Laila Robins) a Crusading CUNT!
F. Murray Abraham is one of those great actors that, for some reason, always winds up in movies that are “beneath him.” But he always gives those movies an air of class. He is very likable as Virgil Cane – the seasoned con who gives Selleck a crash course in how to earn respect.
The crash course basically involves Selleck having to stab Bruce A. Young in the chest with a plexiglass shiv. But Bruce A. Young (a wonderful character actor) said “Don’t you EVAH touch me you WHITE MUTHAFUCKA!” so, I guess he deserves it.
Anyway… It’s still a bland and, yes, VERY WHITE prison movie. But An Innocent Man gets good marks from me because it is able to use those suburban elements very well in crafting an engaging middle-class adventure.
Fear Can Hold You Prisoner, Hope Can Set You Free
A PETER YATES FILM
There is your tell-tale sign of what kind of movie you’re going to be getting out of An Innocent Man. The same guy who directed Bullitt and its iconic car chase (a classic example of a masterpiece of a scene lost in a very good – but not great – film that wouldn’t have been as revered or remembered without it) also lent his eye to the one of my mom’s favorite thrillers of all time, Suspect, a not exactly high-octane courtroom drama where Cher and Dennis Quaid fall in love trying to clear deaf-mute Liam Neeson of murder charges. More shocking, the man who directed fucking Krull also made The Friends of Eddie Coyle, one of the best “hidden gem” films of all time (until Criterion so kindly saved it and finally got it out on DVD) featuring arguably Robert Mitchum’s best performance.
It goes without saying Yates was not exactly an auteur. He’s not Scorsese or Kubrick in any way—he was a journeyman, a true hired gun in the industry whose filmography provides for a startlingly diverse list of projects yet lacked the voice of an individualist. He was involved in some great films, yes, but more than anything, he was just the sort of guy you hire for your movie to get the job done.
An Innocent Man is not like anything Yates ever made, but at the same time, it feels very much in the same vein of Suspect, where it walks a fine line between a serious, prestigious drama and thrilling action entertainment. Unlike Suspect, however, which has a silly twist and has no real purpose for its genre elements, it works in its favor. The synergy of An Innocent Man’s distinct two sub-narratives of the plight of Jimmie Rainwood (Tom Selleck)—as the scapegoat of a drug bust gone bad trying to prove his innocence and his struggle amplify his masculine identity while incarcerated—is the anchor of the film, and at the very least, it has the honorable distinction of confusing video stores whether to label it an action film or a drama.
To a degree, the film has the same ideology as the Death Wish series and other films, where the action hero is portrayed as the Everyman. In this case, it’s “Jimmie Rain,” as he’ll be known in the joint, who is an airline engineer living the American Dream—a comfortable, lucrative job, a loving and caring wife, and a beautiful seaside home in Long Beach. Naturally, the American Dream becomes a nightmare when super-corrupt narcs Sledge Hammer and the dude who gave young Indiana Jones his fedora get their address for the big takedown wrong, and in a fit of Hard-Assed Narcotics Detectives Do Not Discriminate and Shoot Anything That Moves, they mistake a blow dryer for a gun and shoot him down. Then, so these guys can continue to live in Fantasy Renegade Detectiveland without repercussions, Jimmie gets shipped off to a maximum-security penitentiary.
As soon as Philip Baker Hall ships Jimmie off to the joint, this is where An Innocent Man drops the prestige drama routine and becomes a genuinely intense and badass film. In some column-endorsed perfect alternate universe, both Selleck and F. Murray Abraham received Oscar nominations for their performances in the film—more so the latter (more on him in a bit) than Selleck, who plays against type as a man who is not inherently masculine. Not only did he have charisma in spades as a leading man—face it, Runaway is a really fun sci-fi/action yarn—his association with something so Middle American and pedestrian like Three Men and a Baby demanded something more hard edged. Predictably, building up the courage to shank a motherfucker named Jingles will do the trick.
F. Murray Abraham, however, is the real scene stealer and scenery chewer here as Virgil Cane, time-worn con whose blunt, pessimistic outlook on the world around him is “Ain’t life a motherfucker?” Cane is the conscience of Jimmie’s story, and Abraham’s performance conveys a peculiar, fraternal warmth while basking in his cynical mindset. He’s a felonious Obi-Wan Kenobi that rides on the actor’s exaggerated yet magnetic capabilities, the sort of performance that fully engulfs everything else around him and makes him the star of the show.
If anything, Abraham’s performance An Innocent Man is almost like films like Street Smart or Primal Fear, where one supporting performance elevates the film from something adequate to a truly worthwhile and powerful experience. Still, Selleck does extremely well in his role, and it’s a delight seeing a criminally underutilized character actor like David Rasche play such a heartless scumbag (basically, he’s the evil twin of Sledge Hammer).
Everyone remembers how 1989 was the year for underwater genre films battling for glory, but it was also a year where three action films (well, two dramas with action overtones and one inherent buddy cop movie) utilized prison life. Tango & Cash and An Innocent Man were, of course, the gold standards, but then there’s Lock Up.
I’ve said it before in the column and many times in the thread, and I’ll say it again: I abhor Lock Up with every ounce of hatred in my body. In my eyes, it’s Stallone’s worst film, an embarrassing attempt at a prestige picture which, unlike An Innocent Man’s successes, continually gives the viewer the finger with its silly madness and ends with an anticlimax, after a film filled with anticlimaxes as script beats.
A lot of my hate on it relies on Donald Sutherland’s almost legendarily terrible villain. We know he’s a villain because his first name is Warden (he has no first name) and his last name is DRUMGOOLE. Sutherland speaks with an inconsistent faux-British accent and engineers Frank Lee-oh-nay through a disgusting gauntlet of grade school tomfoolery that would have anyone scrambling to go on a murderous rampage.
It’s like the Pee-wee’s Big Adventure breakfast machine of extreme bad luck:
- Drumgoole basically kidnaps him and FORCIBLY holds him hostage as a prisoner. And we’re trying to make this a legitimately effective film?
- He finds solace in refurbishing an old Mustang, only for the guards to destroy it and kill the young, strapping jailbird First-Base as he drives it away. Come on.
- Lee-oh-nay gets thrown in solitary in a shithole that makes the confinement Andy Dufresne got thrown in look like a five-star hotel suite.
- …and six weeks later, Leone is greeted by an ass kicking from the guards!
- Stallone plays a man so pussy-whipped by Warden Snidely Whiplash that he doesn’t kill Sonny Landham after beating the shit out of him for doing extremely malevolent things like stealing his lunch…only to get shanked for it! He deserved it all right, I’ll give them that.
- Drumgoole’s scheming further involves reducing a prisoner’s time if he rapes and kills Leone’s girlfriend, and uses Tom Sizemore (in his film debut) as a pawn for fucking with Leone even more by helping him escape…into Drumgoole’s crosshairs.
- After all this, we get this cool setup of Leone about to execute Drumgoole in the electric chair, only for it to be ANOTHER RED HERRING because he removed the main fuse, appeasing John Amos and the other guards.
Oh god, fuck this movie. I can’t even write anymore about it. It pisses me off that much.
Selleck had it so much better.