MARCH 15, 1999:
THE CORRUPTOR. Mark Wahlberg, sans prosthesis, and Chow
Yun Fat, sans his usual charm, star in this extremely bloody buddy
movie. Two officers, one white, one Chinese, must fight their
way through a corrupt Chinatown that threatens to take their souls!
Yawn. Lots of dead people, naked people, and dead naked people,
and a car chase with the highest level of collateral damage (i.e.
bullet-riddled pedestrians) make this a rather tasteless outing,
but it might appeal to hardcore fans of blood, death, and Mark
8MM. The premise of an investigator hired to determine
the authenticity of a snuff film is intriguing and full of potential.
Unfortunately, this character drama revolves around an unsympathetic,
two-dimensional protagonist and is told in a strikingly conventional
manner. Tom (Nicolas Cage) is in almost every scene, yet we learn
very little about him as he navigates a porn underworld in order
to locate the makers of the film. Mostly he death marches through
his investigation, occasionally grunting to his wife (Catherine
Keener) on the phone or getting tours of XXX-rated flea markets
from Truman Capote-reading skin trader Max (Joaquin Phoenix).
And I don't know what director Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo's
Fire, The Lost Boys) did to his star, but poor Cage was so
very sleepy he could barely keep his eyes open during most of
8MM. Me, too. --Higgins
THE GENERAL. Director John Boorman made his name with the
extremely effective and disturbing Deliverance. He went
on to direct an extremely eclectic mix of films, from the bizarre
Wizard of Oz/post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy Zardoz
to the schmaltzy-sweet environmental film Emerald Forest,
to the pagan retelling of the King Arthur legend in Excalibur.
What all of these films had in common were vast, colorful and
wide-open shots of seemingly magical outdoor scenery. The General
is a complete about-face: black and white, with lots of close
up, claustrophobic cityscapes. Its engaging story is about the
leader of a gang of Irish criminals whose elaborate plans for
heists, hold ups and obstructions of the criminal justice system
are funny until they become tragic. This would be a perfect "small"
film if it were only a little shorter; as it is Boorman succumbs
to the current vogue for adding 30 minutes more film than necessary.
Still, The General is a strong effort that adds a new wrinkle
to an interesting career. --DiGiovanna