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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

MAY 11, 1998: 

THE BIG HIT. Mark Wahlberg plays that new breed of comic hero, the Funny Hit-Man. Hopelessly insecure and yet super-competent when it comes to killing, Wahlberg's character is about as funny as a whimpering Doberman that occasionally mauls babies. One minute he's cute and soft-spoken, the next minute he's chopping off somebody's leg. Taken as an irreverent joke for the hipster teenage set, The Big Hit does have some amusing ideas (the climax revolves around Wahlberg's efforts to return an overdue video while evading assassins), but the empty-headed screenplay can't keep up with them. This movie's idea of witty dialogue is when somebody says "Do you want the truth?" and somebody else shouts, "You can't handle the truth!" That's not parody; that's parroty. Hong Kong director Che-Kirk Wong directed this slam-bang action/comedy/parody slush, providing yet another reason for ending our love affair with tongue-in-cheek violence.
--Woodruff


BUTCHER BOY. A disturbing adaptation of Patrick McCabe's disturbing novel, Butcher Boy follows the sad and tempestuous formative years of Francie Brady (Eamon Owens), a 10-year-old Irish boy facing the problems Irish boys inevitably face in literature and movies: alcoholic, violent da's, crazy ma's, and viciously provincial townsfolk. Francie manages to escape the horror of his everyday life by retreating with his buddy Joe (Alan Boyle II) into a fantasy world fueled by comic books and movies. As the tragedies in his life mount, the volume of his fantasy world goes up, until all sorts of violent and insane acts seem, well, fun--both to Francie, and to the spirit of the movie. Director Neil Jordan mixes elements of Trainspotting, The English Patient, Sling Blade and The Wonder Years into a goulash that's both original and unsettling, reminding us how scary and beautiful the world can look to a child.
--Richter


NIL BY MOUTH. Gary Oldman directs this story about unpleasant Englishmen who attack each other, beat their wives, take drugs, and shout at each other for no reason. This film is the cinematic equivalent of a two-hour drum solo by a one armed drummer: the tone is relentlessly loud and becomes mind-numbingly dull after the third or fourth beat(ing). Imagine having your head stuck in a vise while a drunken cockney screams in your ear, and you've pretty much summed up this unfortunate attempt at a career shift for the rapidly fading Oldman.
--DiGiovanna


SLIDING DOORS. Suppose that at a crucial moment, your life branched in two directions: In one, you become Gwyneth Paltrow with a bad haircut, and have to support your cheating, lay-about husband by working two jobs in the food service industry. In another, you become Paltrow with a great haircut, and fall in love with that cute guy who played "Matthew" in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Now imagine that every line of dialogue you and everyone else utters sounds exactly like the way people really talk, which is to say largely without wit or charm. Now imagine that for 99 minutes an audience must watch this incessantly talky scenario. Wouldn't you at least do a nude scene to keep things interesting? Sadly, in spite of the fact that there are technically two Paltrows in this film, and therefore four Paltrow nipples, none ever appears, as though the film were shot in some nipple-free alternate universe. An eerie, disturbing experience, to say the least.
--DiGiovanna


WINTER GUEST. This slow moving film follows four couples through a largely uneventful day in an English coastal town. A mother and her adult daughter walk the icy beaches arguing about everything; two schoolboys smoke cigarettes and play with fire, two elderly women attend a funeral, and a teenage girl taunts and then falls in love with a teenage boy. Mostly, the appeal of this film is in its cinematography. Lensman Seamus McGarvey has a sense of composition that could only be compared to John Toland's. Each shot has the balance and sensitivity of an Ansel Adams photograph, with objects interacting by virtue of shape and position to produce pleasing geometries. Unfortunately, the interactions of the characters are often much less interesting, though the story of the teenagers finding love is compelling--if frustratingly limited and interrupted by the other three scenarios.
--DiGiovanna



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