Monday, August 24, 2015

Goodbye, Mr. Woo!

So Erika and I are working our way through the Mission Impossible movies, hoping - if we get through them in time - to be prepped for a theatrical screening of the new one (is it still even playing? Are we too late?). I love the first one in the series, which is a masterfully-crafted, rather old-fashioned (if somewhat loud) thriller. It's as good a film as Brian de Palma ever made - I'm a fan, by the by - without it being an overtly "Brian de Palma" movie, if you see what I mean (he has projects that are obviously more personal than others; MI 1 does not seem to fit among them). Anyhow, we both liked it when we watched it a couple of weeks ago, and are now finally tackling the second - a hurdle for me, because it's a film I totally hated on first run, when I saw it in Japan. I hated it so much, in fact, that it threw me from attempting any of the subsequent films in the series.

So far - we're paused, about half an hour into it - I'm being reminded why I hated it, mostly. While I admit that there IS a kind of style and craft at work, it's such an obvious, cliched, unsubtle, over-the-top sort of style - the stuff of rock videos, perfume commercials, and maybe Robert Rodriguez when he doesn't have Quentin Tarantino writing for him - that I can only chuckle derisively at it and roll my eyes. I can't get involved in it as story; the characters that it invests with beauty - Cruise and Thandie Newton - mostly just annoy me; and if Woo's hammy, corny, bigger-than-life directional style wasn't enough to put me off, we have one of the hammiest, corniest screenplays that Robert Towne ever penned (did he DO anything good other than Chinatown? Have I seen it?). Everything about this movie seems to suggest that it thinks its audience are a bunch of fucking idiots. Since it was the third most successful film of the year 2000, we gather, maybe the filmmakers were actually onto something at the time...

But audiences are getting smarter, I suspect. Windtalkers and Paycheck, both of which I had forgotten were John Woo movies until just now, both tanked at the box office and were commercial failures to boot. And I now discover - since MI2 got me wondering what Woo is up to these days - that Woo in fact, though still living in America, has actually returned to making movies in his home country.

In honesty, I don't mind. I haven't enjoyed ANY of his American movies (though Face Off had moments). I liked his Hong Kong films well enough, though I haven't seen any in years. But I think for whatever reason John Woo is someone who does better work in his home country, in his home idiom... I will not miss his presence in American cinema. Sorry, Mr. Woo, and goodbye.

Anyhow, Erika's off the phone now... We should get back to MI2...

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