Tag Archives: John Boorman

21 and Over – Time to grow up

I.D. but no I.Q.:

I.D. but no I.Q.: Miles Teller, Justin Chon and Skylar Astin in 21 and Over

You know, just because I review films doesn’t mean I should make them. You probably wouldn’t like a film I’d direct. I’d probably end up giving it a bad review.

So why writers of hit movies so often think that they should sit in the director’s chair and tell everyone exactly how their script should be realised is beyond me. David S. Goyer wrote the first two Blade movies before directing their bastard child Blade: Trinity. Years before him novelist William Peter Blatty took the reins on The Exorcist III after John Boorman’s disastrous sequel, and hardly did a better job. Robert Towne’s writing credits include Chinatown, Reds, Mission: Impossible and consulting work on Bonne & Clyde and The Godfather; his directorial career is hardly worth glancing at.

So if these writers failed, what on Earth made The Hangover’s two scribblers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore think they could run matters on their own? If anything the success of The Hangover was far more tied to the unexpected chemistry between its leads than to its “ingenious” scripting.

Cobbling together a new narrative from run-off from The Hangover mixed with clumps of Old School and Weekend at Bernie’s, 21 and Over would be a new low for teen gross-out comedy if Project X hadn’t already licked that particular floor. Drunken mayhem, awkward sexual encounters and jokes about race, mental health and homosexuality are hardly new, and they’ve rarely been performed with such commercialist laziness.

To celebrate his coming of legal age, Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) two oldest school friends Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) pay him a surprise visit at his college to show him the night of his life. Unfortunately the overworked med student has that all-important job interview the next morning and a very scary dad who arranged it for him, so the pals’ visit was in vain. Ah sure, they can go out for just the one, can’t they?

A few bars later and Jeff Chang is passed out and Casey and Miller have no idea how to get him home. Casey falls madly in love with the first girl he meets, Nicole (Sarah Wright), but in a collision of clichés so ferocious it could reveal the Higgs boson, she is both leaving for South America the next morning and dating a jerk jock. Jeff Chang ends up dressed in women’s underwear with rude words written on his face, while Casey and Miller must escape a fearsome Latina sorority while playing drinking games to find out where Jeff Chang lives (you can stop even trying to make sense of this now).

So many moments in 21 and Over reveal the writers’ ability for comic set-ups, from a buffalo stampede at a pep rally to the heroes’ theft of a golf cart, but filmmakers Lucas and Moore repeatedly show their inability to execute their own gags. Jeff Chang gets so drunk he climbs up on a bar and pees on it; later he rides a bucking bronco and vomits in bullet time. The ideas are there, but there’s no humour built into them other than what they are, which it turns out is just nasty. Your enjoyment of this film will be directly correlated to how funny you find the idea of a man eating a tampon. The only truly strong gross-out laugh in the whole movie comes in the third act with an accidental circumcision, but it’s far too little far too late.

Where exactly the heart of this film lies is unclear. Jeff Chang may have just turned 21, but it’s hardly his first time blowing off steam or having a beer – he just has an I.D. for it now. The script attempts to unearth why old friends drift apart, as the leads discuss their physical and emotional distances from one another, but it’s very clear that there is no reason why these characters would ever be friends in the first place, especially as Miller fills most of his dialogue to Casey calling him “Jew” and detailing what he would like to do to his sister. A surprising subplot about mental health issues invades the film halfway through, but is shed with violent immaturity as the trio of friends null the pain with alcohol and camaraderie; perhaps the worst advice ever handed down to young viewers of American movies.

Perhaps the only interesting element of this film is how Chinese money was accepted by the producers to film extra material for a Chinese cut of the film. In this version, not coming to a cinema near you any time soon, Jeff Chang is an international student who is so scandalised by American debauchery that he returns to the People’s Republic a wiser, more sober person. There’s a moral in that, something missing from every frame of the US cut of 21 and Over. At least film studies students for years to come can spend their time poring over the differences between the two versions, so someone can get something out of this film’s existence.

If you’re looking for laughs, or excitement, or character development and storytelling, you’re not just in the wrong place, but you’re in the wrong state of mind (or on the wrong substances). If you’re 21 or over, you’re too old for this crap.


(originally published at http://www.filmireland.net)


1 Comment

Filed under Film

Parker – Revenge is a dish best served short

Stath of the union - Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez in Parker

Stath of the union – Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez in Parker

With all the (negative) press being dumped on the recent returns of ’80s action heroes Arnie, Stallone and Bruce Willis, spare a little thought for poor Jason Statham. Only 12 years Bruce’s junior, The Stath became the go-to action hero just as Millennials began to tire of macho heroics in favour of CGI nonsense. With the notable exception of his Transporter series, almost all of the films Statham has headed have struggled to recoup their cost in cinemas, despite regularly becoming staples of man-sized DVD collections afterwards.

Parker is likely to do the same. A basic revenge/heist caper in the vein of Point Blank – its tagline, “Payback has a new name”, seems to draw on the disastrous Point Blank remake PaybackParker finds The Stath left for dead by some co-conspirators, and vowing to take them down on their next job. The film is based on the book Flashfire, the nineteenth (!) book in the Parker series by American crime fiction author Donald Westlake, who wrote under the nom de plume Richard Stark. Unsurprisingly, that series also bears the inspiration for Point Blank, although it’s troubling to note that John Boorman’s film was based on a different Parker novel. Do they all begin with Parker being betrayed? Probably.

Dodging mob hitmen, Parker tracks his prey to Palm Beach, Florida, where his former colleagues plan to rip-off some very wealthy retirees. He finds a sidekick in mousy real-estate agent Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), struggling with banking debts (ooh, how contemporary!), and sets about sabotaging the heist.

There is very little more to Parker than this, and yet the film is padded out to a scandalous two-hour run-time. Featuring only three proper action scenes and a confused romantic subplot, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where the editors should have made cuts, without reducing the film to 70 minutes. While the central fight scene between Parker and a hitman in a plush hotel room is about as visceral a donnybrook as The Stath has ever performed, the good it does is largely undone by the final showdown, wherein the odds have been so teetered in Parker’s favour that tension is nowhere to be found.

Still, despite all its problems, Parker is hardly a disaster. Directed by Taylor Hackford (Ray), it’s never short of competently made. Statham brings his earnest A-game, as always, and fires off one or two chuckle-worthy one-liners. Lopez gets mileage out of recycling her Wedding Planner character, although Patti LuPone steals many of her scenes as her overbearing mother. Michael Chiklis is sufficiently tough and gruff as the villain.

But really it all comes down to its length. Twenty minutes shorter and Parker could have been an easily recommended diversion. As it is, it is just a bit exhausting. It’s not that there are particularly bad scenes in it, but rather far too many unnecessary ones. Wannabe script editors could learn a lot by counting them. That’ll help you make it through the movie.

Don’t expect any of the remaining 23 Parker novels to be made into films any time soon.


(originally published at http://www.filmireland.net)

1 Comment

Filed under Film