The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on October 17, 2003 · Page 143
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 143

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Friday, October 17, 2003
Page 143
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ET_E_6_E6_LA_1_10-17-03_fr_1_CMYK 2003:10:16:14:42:03 E6 FRIDAY,OCTOBER17,2003 CALENDAR LOSANGELESTIMES MOVIES MPAA rating: R, for violence, language and some drug content Times guidelines: Graphic scene of torture and its aftermath, multiple killings and physical attacks Cate Blanchett ...............................Veronica Guerin Gerard McSorley .................................John Gilligan Ciarán Hinds ........................................John Traynor Brenda Fricker ...................................Bernie Guerin Don Wycherley ..................................Chris Mulligan A Jerry Bruckheimer Films presentation, released by Touchstone Pictures. Director Joel Schumacher. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Executive producers Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Ned Dowd. Screenplay Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue. Story Carol Doyle. Cinematographer Brendan Galvin. Editor David Gamble. Costumes Joan Bergin. Music Harry Gregson-Williams. Production design Nathan Crowley. Art director Julie Ochipinti. Set decorator Paki Smith. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. In general release. ‘Veronica Guerin’ MPAA rating: R, for strong horror violence/gore, language and drug content Times guidelines: Pot smoking, eviscerated bodies, amputated body parts Jessica Biel ......................................Erin Jonathan Tucker ......................Morgan Erica Leershen ...........................Pepper Mike Vogel ......................................Andy Eric Balfour ...............................Kemper Andrew Bryniarski ..................Thomas Hewitt/Leatherface New Line Cinema presents in association with Michael Bay and Radar Pictures a Platinum Dunes/Next Entertainment production, released by New Line Cinema. Director Marcus Nispel. Writer Scott Kosar. Based on the screenplay by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. Producers Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss. Director of photography Daniel C. Pearl. Editor Glen Scantlebury. Music Steve Jablonsky. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. In general release. ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ By Kenneth Turan Times Staff Writer There’s something terribly demoralizing about “Veronica Guerin,” and it’s not just that its subject, a crusading Irish journalist played by the protean Cate Blanchett, was murdered in Dublin in 1996 by criminals she was in the process of exposing. And it’s not that what’s on screen is more schlocky than satisfying. “Veronica Guerin” is far from the worst film you’ll see this year, and it’s far from the worst film its director, Joel Schumacher, has ever made. (“8MM” anyone? I thought not.) Rather, what’s especially disheartening is the large gap between what’s on the screen and the significant, meaningful work its creators sincerely believe they’ve made. Hollywood’s familiar overdo-the-obvious sensibility has been so internalized that filmmakers don’t just think it’s the best way to make money-making movies, they think it’s the best way to make any kind of movie. Director Schumacher (most recently “Phone Booth,” “Bad Company” and “Tigerland”) is by this point in time practically avirtuoso at the studios’ favorite ploy of pandering to audiences by playing on easy emotionalism. With “Veronica Guerin” he managed to do that, as well as indulge some of his darker preoccupations, all under the guise of Doing the Lord’s Work.Not wanting to keep those who don’t know the real story in suspense, “Veronica Guerin” opens with its heroine’s murder. It immediately flashes back to two years earlier when this reporter for Dublin’s Sunday Independent decided to change beats. Known for her work on church and corporate scandals, Guerin wanted to write about the hard drugs that were getting more pervasive in her city and the crime lords who were making fortunes off of them. In case we have any doubt as to her motivations, “Guerin” shows our heroine discovering a neighborhood where discarded drug paraphernalia are practically fetlock deep in the streets. And they show the cutest toddler in all of Ireland playing with a found hypodermic needle. Hey, we’re talking problem here. Schumacher has intelligently said he might not have made “Veronica Guerin” if Blanchett hadn’t agreed to take the lead. This is an actress who can play anybody anywhere, who is so thoroughly convincing in her Irishness it’s actually a shock to remember she’s in fact Australian. Blanchett’s Veronica, like her real-life model, looks quite the modern career woman in her tailored pants suits and short hair. She is, as people say, “bold as brass,” willing to be flirtatiously manipulative — an Irish Erin Brockovich, if you will —to get the information she needsfor her stories. Like most successful reporters, Guerin has an almost primal drive to find things out. She’s relentless and fearless, a bulldozer who goes directly at what she’s been warned most strongly against. She so loves her work and believes in its value that not even personal danger dissuades her. “These people,” she scoffs, “issue death threats if their laundry is folded wrong.” Blanchett is incapable of giving an uninteresting performance, and her presence is certainly the best reason to see “Veronica Guerin,” but it is, finally, not close to her best acting. Because Schumacher doesn’t understand subtlety, he has difficulty eliciting it from his actors, and Blanchett’s work feels at times one-note and repetitive in a way that it never has before. Both the film and Blanchett suffer because, as written by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, “Veronica Guerin” surrounds its central character with people who have even less dimension than she does. Meanwhile, every hint of emotion is telegraphed with Harry Gregson-Williams’ overemphatic score. Consider a mother (Brenda Fricker) with that old Irish twinkle in her eye and a husband (Barry Barnes) who’s certainly the most understanding spouse in the entire European Union. John “Coach” Traynor (Ciarán Hinds) is the most transparently two-faced of informants. And John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), the inevitable Mr. Big, is a crime lord with a temper more terrible than any 2-year-old’s and considerably more muscle to back it up. And isn’t that Colin Farrell, Schumacher’s hot young protégé, showing up to do a tiny cameo, likely because the director thought it would be fun? Speaking of fun, it’s in the depiction of the criminal underworld that we can see familiar Schumacher preoccupations. Here are Dublin’s bad guys, dressed in Batman black leather and sleekly sinister black helmets. Here’s a particularly unsavory torture sequence (yes, we get to see the results). Hereare so many visits to skanky brothels that if you didn’t know any better you’d think the director really wanted to do “8MM: The Sequel” and rejoiced when he found the perfect cover story. But that would be unfair. This is the noble story of a crusading journalist who changed people’s lives. In case you forgot. Jonathan Hession FEARLESS: Cate Blanchett plays investigative journalist Veronica Guerin, murdered for trying to expose Dublin drug lords. REVIEW Good intentions It’s an interesting story, but Joel Schumacher’s ‘Veronica Guerin,’ about a crusading Irish journalist, doesn’t quite rise to the occasion. By Manohla Dargis Times Staff Writer For those who have feverishly believed that what the world needs now is a remake of the 1974 horror movie “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” may I suggest ...therapy. Barring some extensive time on the couch, however, anxious gore- houndsmay want to redirect their expectations back to Tobe Hooper’s original feature. That skin-crawling shocker about a chain-saw aficionado nicknamed “Leatherface” may not be one for the ages, but compared to the remake it’s some kind of freaky classic. As in Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” the crazy in Hooper’s film was loosely based on Ed Gein, a Wisconsin nut job who, after years of grave robbing and human slaughter, was forcibly retired in 1957. Gein’s murders were stomach-churning by any measure, but what ensuredhis ghoulish celebrity were his forays into folk art, haberdasheryand home decoration. The Martha Stewart of serial killers, he turned skulls into bowls, lips into necklaces, and fashioned suits out of human skin; indeed, it was his latter interest that inspired the cross-dressing, sewing-machine- savvy Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs.” The baroque nature of Gein’s atrocities turned him into a cult figure, guaranteeing him a permanent berth in true-crime annals and our collective unconscious. Shot in a sticky summer in 1973, Hooper’s low-budget independent feature effectively played up the grotesque aspect of Gein’s barbarism, pushing the horrorto gagging extremes. Alternately boring and exceedingly unnerving — with an occasional spasm of grotesque humor — the first “Massacre” didn’t rely on buckets of blood and the usual slasher-movie tricks. Rather, it played on terrors that were closer to home, namely the notion that the friendly old coot living next door might actually be butchering people rather than deer. Hooper’s co-writer Kim Henkel once claimed that “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” was about “the moral schizophrenia” of the Watergate era. That’s a sweet-smelling crock, even if the cast and crew conned themselves into thinking that was the case.In truth, the story Henkel and Hooper cooked up was pure exploitation. The only difference between their brand of horror and the more primitive kind cranked out by Herschell Gordon Lewis (the grindhouse au- teur of movies like “The Blood Feast”) was that Henkel and Hooper’s exploitation was far more artful and knowing. Lewis never made it to Cannes; Henkel and Hooper did. A commercial smash, “Massacre” ushered in a golden age of horror and, more dubiously, helped legitimize gore for mainstream consumption. For better and sometimes worse, it also proved that serial killers are good for business. Slightly retooled by credited screenwriter Scott Kosar and directed by newcomer Marcus Nis- pel, the remake of “Massacre” follows the original story in broad outline if not detail. (For some reason, the word “chain saw” is now spelled as one word rather than two.) As in the first film,the talented cinematographer Daniel C. Pearl is behind the camera, giving the images plenty of polish. Five young people turn off a Texas highway one afternoon and end up in a house of horror. As in the original, the story essentially plays out as an extended game of cat and mouse in which the cat is a tubby fellow (Andrew Bryniarski) wielding a smoke-belching chain saw. And, once again, adysfunctional family lurks in the background, wielding forks, knives and invective. There’s nothing wrong with remakes, but as this movie amply proves, there’s often nothing right about them, either. At once more broadly comic and more overtly sadistic (toward the characters as well as us), the new “Massacre” works hard to scare the pants off the audience and mostly succeeds through slamming edits, loud noises and lots of realistic-looking blood. For all its Grand Guignol, the original movie relied as much on eerie quiet and its extraordinary production design — a-clutter with bones, skulls and feathers — for its shocks. The remake moves faster and sounds louder, but comes off as callous rather than creepy. What’s gone missing in the years between the two films is the proverbial calm before the carnage — the silence just before the chain saw starts whirring. REVIEW ‘Massacre’: gory, with little story A blood-soaked remake of over-the-top 1974 horror flick makes the original look good by comparison. Van Redlin WELCOME TO TEXAS: Andrew Bryniarski as a killer. By Kevin Thomas Times Staff Writer “The Flower of Evil,” Claude Chabrol’s 50th film in a 45-year- career, finds the New Wave pioneer in top form. On its inevitably stylish surface this film seems business as usual for Chabrol: There’s the handsome, well-mannered bourgeois family with its equally handsome ancestral manor house and all kinds of dark doings, past and present, threatening to break through the façade of respectability. As similar as so many Chabrol films are to each other, they are all different because his people are so thoroughly and individually characterized, and this film further possesses a graceful briskness and economy that can be achieved onlythrough long experience. More than anything else, Chabrol loves to stage an especially nasty or messy murder or accidental death to reveal bour- geois hypocrisy. But Caroline Eliacheff and Louise L. Lam- brichs’script, which Chabrol adapted in addition to writing its dialogue, allows him to express considerable compassion for those he feels deserving of it while also accepting hypocrisy as an inevitable part of life. As François Vasseur (Benoît Magimel) wryly observes in the film, “Hypocrisy is civilization.” François, a law student, has just returned home, in the Bordeaux region, after three years studying in America to escape his family, which he feels is stifled by its past. His elegant stepmother, Anne (Nathalie Baye), is running for mayor, much to the displeasure of her spoiled child of a husband, Gérard (Bernard Le Coq), who owns and operates alarge, newly expanded pharmacy and medical lab. He plays around but still wants his wife’s undivided attention. Also, Anne’s campaigning is not without risk, for the classy Charpin- Vasseurs have an unseemly number of skeletons rattling around in the closet. Just for starters, François’ great-grandfather Pierre Charpin was an enthusiastic collaborator with the Germans who met ascandalously bad and murky end. Also, that Gérard’s first wife, sister to Anne, and Anne’s first husband, were killed in the same car accident in 1981, raised plenty of local eyebrows. Tension thus starts building beneath the polished surfaces of the Charpin-Vasseur estate as the long-standing but unstated attraction between François and his half-sister Michèle (Mélanie Doutey) intensifies amid other emotions simmering within the family. Coming to the fore as events unfold is François’ resilient great-aunt Line Charpin (Suzanne Flon), keeper of the family secrets and the family’s clear-eyed mainstay, a woman of deep sorrows but also of much strength and daring as well as loving attentiveness. As “Flower of Evil” (“La Fleur du Mal,” in its original French) unravels, Chabrol ponders the lingering, unresolved guilt that can endanger a family from one generation to the next yet also marvels at the paradoxical nature of the possibilities for redemption. Alot of what goes on in this film is darkly outrageous yet is always persuasive, thanks to a fine ensemble cast that includes Chabrol’sson Thomas as Anne’s attentive aide, who is also running as her deputy. But it is Flon, adelicately formidable grande dame of the French cinema, who is the mainstay of “The Flower of Evil” as she is of its haunted family. This is another gratifying gem from a master. REVIEW Chabrol shows his compassionate side in ‘Flower of Evil’ Jeremie Nassif SECRETS ARE REVEALED: Benoît Magimel and Mélanie Doutey in “The Flower of Evil,” director Claude Chabrol’s 50th film. MPAA rating: Unrated Times guidelines: Complex adult themes, some violence Nathalie Baye ................................Anne Benoît Magimel .......................François Suzanne Flon .........................Aunt Line Bernard Le Coq ..........................Gérard Mélanie Doutey ........................Michèle Thomas Chabrol .....................Matthieu A Palm Pictures release of a Marin Karmitz presentation of a co-production of MK2 and France 3 Cinéma. Director Claude Chabrol. Producer Marin Karmitz. Executive producer Yvon Crenn. Screenplay Caroline Eliacheff and Louise L. Lambrichs; adaptation and dialogue by Chabrol. Cinematographer Eduardo Serra. Editor Monique Fardoulis. Music Matthieu Chabrol. Costumes Mic Cheminal. Art director Françoise Benoît-Fresco. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At selected theaters. ‘Flower of Evil’

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