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Tag Archives: Amber Heard
In “The Rum Diary,” Amber Heard’s Chenault — gorgeous and earthy, enigmatic and plain-spoken — is caught between the boozy, woozy idealism of Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) and the more sober, serious and scary realpolitik of the capitalist Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) . We spoke with Heard in l.A. about period glamour, the film’s subtext and her never-released-in-America horror classic “All the Boys Love Mandy lane.”
When you read the script and there’s so much focus on glamour and tropical Puerto Rico in the ’60s and great cars, does that sink in, or do you have to show up on set in the outfits, in the car, in the art deco lobbies to really appreciate it?
Heard: The beautiful thing about this story is that Puerto Rico is, in many ways, a character in our story. Puerto Rico is a texturally rich platform; it’s beautiful and visceral and has all these things about it that really loans itself toward our story, but it’s also very much a part of the world that gave Hunter S. Thompson this story and mirrors his own journey as he’s writing this story. The duality and dichotomy of what was happening at the time in Puerto Rico and still exists in Puerto Rico in many ways mirrors the situation that we have in our story: The Paul Kemps of the world versus the Sandersons of the world, and that weight, that mode of operating, that struggle, that perfect place for this story to happen.
When “Drive Angry” starts — full of sweaty, swearing, spitting, sex-starved Southerners — it’s easy to think that Patrick Lussier‘s Satanism-and-salvation exploitation flick will be full of grisly guts and grindhouse goofiness. After some initial shooting and killing, our badass anti-hero Milton (Nicolas Cage) extracts information from a randy diner waitress before kissing her roughly and reiterating his demand for black coffee with sugar into her trembling mouth. Another waitress from the same diner, Piper (Amber Heard), quits in a huff and rushes out, striding towards a ’69 Charger in a pair of Daisy Dukes offset by cowboy boots while Peaches’ single “F— the Pain Away” booms and blares on the soundtrack. It is hard to imagine “Drive Angry” sustaining this level of trash-tastic hysterical hokum, and I regret to inform you that it does not, even with all of the above in 3-D.
Cage plays John Milton — yuk it up, English majors — a man on a quest to save his granddaughter from the band of Southern Satanists who killed her mom and intend to sacrifice the little tyke in three days to bring about hell on Earth. Led by Billy Burke, clad in Neil Diamond sideburns and swagger, the cult tries to keep Milton from his mission. Milton’s also being chased by The Accountant (William Fichtner, proving that even bargain-basement Walken is treasure beyond measure with his witchy, twitchy work), who is determined to get Milton back to the place he escaped from … HELL ITSELF, Dunh Dunh Dunh.
But “Drive Angry,” susceptible as it is to automotive metaphors, runs out of gas. It’s a remarkably long 106 minutes, when a leaner, cleaner running time might have made the film’s sickness feel more like a raging fever and less like a lingering malaise. And it wants to be sick: There’s blood, ball-busting and beatings aplenty, with Cage shooting a group of assailants not, in the familiar action-film cliché, post-coitally but, rather, in a twisted new twist, mid-coitally. Lussier dishes out gore, blood, breasts and bullets like he brought them in bulk to hurl off the screen. The action plays out like an insane version of a Road Runner-Coyote cartoon, or a Southern-fried swamp boogie version of “Terminator 2,” with two unstoppable forces moving toward a child in the name of their mission. (Both Milton and The Accountant are kinda-sorta invulnerable, which ratchets up the spectacle even as it dials down the tension.)
The action is also undercut somewhat by Cage, whose mood seems more ambivalent than anything else. (Clive Owen, in the similar — and similarly disappointing — steroidal action film “Shoot ‘Em Up” at least did a better job of maintaining a Gonzo intensity that Cage can’t quite find here.) The movie also slows down near its end to convey Milton’s torment and emotions, a pause for nobility as welcome as someone shoving a multivitamin on you in the later courses of a barbeque buffet. More damaging is the realization that while Lussier may have a financially successful track record making 3-D movies (including “My Bloody Valentine“), you can tell he doesn’t have an artistically successful track record making movies of any kind. Much of this leaps and bucks off the screen thanks to the “miracle” of 3-D, but the film around those snappy illusions is dim, washed-out and ugly. The film’s posters crow how it was “Shot in 3D” — presumably for the clarification of the discerning cineaste who wants to see Nicolas Cage shoot someone while he’s screwing someone else in 3-D, but not if it was converted to 3-D in post-production — but, watching the film’s crowded, dreary scenes, you’re more inclined to wonder if it was shot at all.
Heard’s hellcat and Fichtner’s infernal bureaucrat are both easy to watch — so much so that you wish there were a better movie around them. But the thick, lustrous gloss of depravity over this movie’s tired bones gets thin over time, and when you consider that he’s supposed to be on a revved-up rampage of revenge, Cage feels curiously stuck in neutral. Brandishing enchanted instruments and mortal weapons, John Milton’s supposed to be a fearsome avenger with his pedal to the metal. Cage has been down this road so many times before, though, that we can feel “Drive Angry” coasting when we — with no small amount of guilt, and no small amount of frustration — wish it had maintained the courage of its first flush of perverse convictions and just stayed in the red.
“The Stepfather, which wasn’t screened for critics until the morning of its release, is another in a long-ish line of ’80s horror remakes being brought to you by Hollywood, the town where “institutional memory” is, through some miracle of compression, a four-letter word. The original The Stepfather had a few things going for it: It had a great lead performance by Terry O’Quinn (now best known as Locke on Lost), solid direction by Joseph Ruben and a script by Donald Westlake. Westlake (who passed in early 2009) wrote very funny crime novels under his own name and very serious crime novels under the name Richard Stark, and perhaps that explains the morbid charm of The Stepfather — the mix of suburban social satire and slasher-film stabbings and slayings.
The new iteration follows the basic plot of the original all too closely: We start with a man calmly trimming his beard and tidying up before he leaves a suburban home … with four dead bodies in it. Gerry (Dylan Walsh, best known for TV’s Nip/Tuck) is next seen a few months later in Portland, pulling a flirty bit of meet-cute with recently-divorced Susan Harding (Sela Ward); flashing forward again, Susan’s son Michael (Penn Badgley) is coming home from military school to his girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard), his sister and his brother …and his mom’s new fiancée, David, who we know (and they don’t) is also known as Gerry. …”
– from my redbox Review