Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass isn’t a superhero movie.  It’s a lazy mob saga drenched in fascism.

It’s not about likeable individuals with special powers who abide by a long established code of ethics to foil seemingly unstoppable supervillains.  It’s about wronged parties seeking misguided revenge against reckless, ordinary goons by targeting them for extrajudicial assassination.  How is this ok?

In yet another one of his strangest performances, Nicolas Cage is one of those wronged people.  He needlessly served five years in prison thanks to a frame job by a generic mob boss named Frank D’Amico.  Left alone to fend for herself, his pregnant wife died giving birth to their only child, the charismatic Chloe Grace Moritz.  (For some reason, Cage has documented his tale of woe in comic book form.)

No longer serving as a law enforcement drug warrior, he has been secretly training his game 11-year-old daughter to fight alongside him as they both attempt to take down D’Amico and his operation without any assistance from his former employers, his more sensible ex-partner (and one-time guardian of Moritz) being a notable exception.

In one of many uncomfortable scenes played for non-existent laughs (what a mistake to make this a comedy), Cage tests Moritz by popping a few “low velocity” bullets into her protected chest to prepare her for the pain of getting shot.  (Talk about Father Of The Year.)  At night, when they begin systematically eliminating D’Amico’s absurdly outmatched associates, she becomes a purple wigged, Lone Ranger masked Hit Girl and he becomes a Batman wannabe named Big Daddy.

Despite being petite, in a number of implausible sequences, this foul-mouthed sidekick singlehandedly takes out in brutal fashion a large number of D’Amico’s heavily armed men.  I haven’t witnessed action scenes this preposterous since the first Charlie’s Angels movie.

Meanwhile, Cage makes the odd decision to alter the cadence of his voice for Big Daddy in a very awkward way.  I’m not sure this was the intention but it sure sounds like he’s trying to imitate William Shatner with his sometimes delayed, sometimes bombastic staccato delivery.  It doesn’t work.  He sounds daft, especially in his final scene.

After taking out a bunch of D’Amico’s drug dealers, Hit Girl encounters Kick-Ass, a not-so-skilled wannabe superhero who’s only in this godforsaken place because he’s trying to impress a cute girl who unfortunately thinks he’s gay.  (Don’t ask.)

He’s really a nerdy high school kid tired of being picked on by those punks in the parking lot who keep shaking him and his friends down for their cash, phones and comic books.  When he’s not masturbating thinking about his busty English teacher (is that really appropriate attire to wear around hormonal young dudes, Mrs. Zane?), he dreams of transforming his defenseless self into a skilled, fighting machine.

Gene Siskel wisely noted that if a superhero doesn’t have a decent costume to wear, the movie won’t be decent, either.  When Kick-Ass orders a hideous green scuba diving outfit over the Internet, it’s one of the many reasons you question his sanity.

With absolutely no athletic ability whatsoever, he makes the fatefully foolish decision to confront his two parking lot tormenters where despite getting a few licks in, he takes the beating of his life.  Incredibly, he survives.  But more importantly he’s lost a lot of feeling and has acquired metal plates which means he can take even more punishment.  He’s The Brooklyn Brawler without any sense.

Inevitably, while confronting three attackers who chase and beat up a man for reasons that are never divulged, Kick-Ass becomes an Internet folk hero when cell phone videos of the battle are posted online. News channels cover the story while the local comic book store starts cashing in.  Craig Ferguson thinks he’s dressed like a transvestite.  So many missed opportunities for clever satire here.

Hit Girl and Big Daddy become his mentors but that will bite them in the ass pretty hard when Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad’s McLovin) transforms himself into Red Mist.  Despite his tricked out ride, he’s exactly like Kick-Ass, a lonely guy looking for a purpose and a self-esteem boost.  He contacts Kick-Ass through his popular MySpace page (the movie was released in 2010).

Unfortunately, he’s a deceptive little shit.  Frank D’Amico is his father.  Red Mist is bait for Kick-Ass to be lured into a trap that goes horribly wrong.  D’Amico is under the mistaken impression that an inept high school teen is responsible for his recent losses and not the vengeful ex-cop he doesn’t realize is out to get him.  In fact, he never learns this, even when he’s confronted by Cage’s daughter in a hyperviolent scene that is incredibly cringeworthy and irresponsible.

Besides the complete lack of funny, perceptive moments, it’s the grotesque violence that ultimately makes Kick-Ass such an off-putting film.  This isn’t a fun experience at all.

The movie can’t decide whether to be realistic or a fantasy so it tries to be both which fatally underscores its muddled existence.  While of course it’s believable that an inexperienced high school kid with zero martial arts training would repeatedly find himself on the receiving end of so many blows, there’s no way in hell a young child could ever inflict the kind of mayhem routinely seen in countless shoot-em-ups while only suffering a bloody nose.  And why does Hit Girl have such a potty mouth?  Did we not learn our lesson from The Last Boy Scout?

There’s a creepy scene where Kick-Ass sneaks into his high school crush’s bedroom while she’s brushing her hair.  After she understandably freaks out and proves once again that he’s such a wimpy character, he finally reveals his true identity and sexuality.  Then, they have sex.  Sure.

When Red Mist’s betrayal leads to the capture of Big Daddy and Kick-Ass, D’Amico arranges a live Internet broadcast where they are viciously beaten by his masked hired hands in front of the whole world.  (Would TV news channels really cut away because of excessive violence?  Give us a break.  And why would people be watching this on TV in the first place?)  A gal pal of Kick-Ass’ now-girlfriend hugs one of his terminally unfunny friends and looks away in horror.  Meanwhile, while his friend is getting humiliated in real-time, this guy is looking awfully pleased with himself.  And no, he doesn’t know Kick-Ass is his friend.  Still, as Hit Girl would put it, what a douche.

The very first scene in the film is a heartless swerve.  As the future Kick-Ass narrates his rationale for being a vigilante, we witness another poor misguided sap plunging to his death.  The movie wants us to believe our hero has already died two minutes in.  But then he reveals the man is an Algerian with mental health problems.  Tone-deaf.

Early on in the film, Cage’s former partner on the police force pays him a visit.  It’s the first of two personal warnings that D’Amico is after him (and one of his fellow officers is on his payroll).  As he leaves, he says something wise.  He tells Cage that he owes his daughter a childhood.

The makers of Kick-Ass owe us an apology.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 22, 2018
6:35 p.m.

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Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

Vin Diesel is one lucky son of a bitch.

Back at the start of the 2000s, he broke through in three films:  Pitch Black, The Fast And The Furious, XXX.  All were popular enough to spawn sequels.  But instead of appearing in the follow-ups to all three, Diesel restricted himself to just one:  The Chronicles Of Riddick, the second Pitch Black movie.

When 2 Fast 2 Furious and XXX: State Of The Union were released, he was persona non grata.  Hell, he was even killed off in XXX 2.  Instead of cashing in on his success, Diesel thought it was a better idea to appear in The Pacifier.  Yeah, it made a shitload of money, too, but try sitting through it.  Has anyone been begging for a sequel to that garbage?

His other film projects didn’t turn as a big a profit, though, so inevitably he came crawling back to the cinematic playgrounds responsible for his fame.  First, he returned to The Fast And The Furious franchise which added The Rock to the cast and became even more lucrative than before.  Then, he made another Pitch Black sequel, Riddick.

For a decade, Diesel expressed public interest in doing a third XXX.  But there was the inconvenient problem of his character being dead.  No problem.  Let’s just pretend he faked his death and we can all get back to cashing multi-million dollar pay cheques again.

Finally released in January 2017, XXX: Return Of Xander Cage is less a movie than a cynical exercise in formula restoration.  Like Vin Diesel himself, it is smug, contemptible and completely obnoxious.

If you recall the original, Diesel was an extreme sports fanatic recruited by Samuel L. Jackson for a top secret government program called Triple-X.  (Shouldn’t Diesel’s XXX tattoo on the back of his neck be redacted?)  He was essentially James Bond with no hair, lots of tattoos and little charm.  16 years later, he hasn’t changed.

When we first see him in number three, he’s become something of a folk hero.  Laying low in the Dominican Republic, the local townspeople want to see the Brazil-Germany football match on TV.  Long story short, Diesel makes it happen by stealing a satellite signal from a cable tower.  The whole sequence is played out mysteriously until all the TVs in the area tune into the match just as it begins.  (Def Con One this isn’t.)  Disappointing the Dominicans, not the audience, is the “crisis” he’s averting.

Instead of being approached again by Jackson (who must’ve studied John Malkovich in Red 2), Diesel is put through a strange test of sorts before conferring with an icy blond (and extremely dumb) Toni Collette, another high ranking government official although I don’t remember what her actual position is.  As we witness for ourselves at the start of the film, a satellite comes crashing down on Earth just as Jackson is pitching Brazillian footballer Neymar Jr. on joining the Triple-X program.

Before briefing Diesel, Collette reveals in a not very discreet meeting with other high ranking officials (can’t you morons afford curtains or better security?) that someone has a device her team has nicknamed Pandora’s Box because it has the ability to select any of a wide number of satellites as potential bombs to be dropped on people they don’t like.  (Why not drones?  Don’t satellites completely disintegrate upon entering Earth’s atmosphere?)

Why is this happening?  Two words:  mass surveillance.  They want it to stop.

Of course, this explanation turns out to be bullshit.  It’s all a ruse because some government officials want to discontinue the Triple-X program for good.  Why?  Who the fuck knows or cares?

The government meeting gets interrupted by what turns out to be another Triple-X agent.  He crashes through the windows with no curtains and somehow manages to singlehandedly take control without receiving so much as a scratch.  He also snatches what he thinks is the Pandora’s Box device right from Collette’s hands.  It’s actually just a prototype that can only select one target.

Along with his three fellow Triple-Xers, the international foursome retreat to an island in the Philippines where there’s considerable disagreement about what to do with the device they don’t yet realize isn’t the real Pandora’s Box.  One wants it destroyed.  The other wants to use it for some reason.  Neither decision will change anything.

Meanwhile, after literally ejecting the team of grunts Collette assigns to him on a giant military plane he’s been commissioned, Diesel instead recruits a terrible DJ, a bearded maniac who keeps track of how many crashes he’s survived (close to 200) and Ruby Rose, a self-appointed protector of wild animals.  Through an impromptu weapons deal, they’re allowed into an island party thrown by the other Triple-Xers (the ones who stole the Pandora’s Box prototype).

There’s a bizarre scene where Diesel sits down with two of them and live grenades are passed around in an unexciting game of chicken.  (How is it they don’t know they’re all in the same government program?) Quickly clicking a button prevents certain obliteration.  Not clicking would’ve been more interesting.

Then, a couple of helicopters arrive and shortly thereafter, the expected chaos ensues.

In what becomes an irritating recurring theme throughout the film, those who point their massive weaponry at Diesel don’t do the obvious thing by shooting him in the head.  Instead, they let him yak and yak and yak (or they blather on too long) until he determines how to get himself and his team out unscathed while they all lay dead on the ground.

The worst example of this is during a later scene on that commissioned war plane.  Toni Collette keeps talking and talking and while she does eventually shoot Diesel, does she aim for his rather large cranium?  Nope.  She pops him three times in the chest where it’s highly unlikely he’s not wearing impenetrable body armor.

Inevitably, the two sets of Triple-X teams align for the common cause of stopping the continuing threat of those falling satellite bombs.  A very annoying Nina Dobrev plays a government gadget guru and tech whiz who alternates between interfering with the Pandora’s Box’s targeting (basically delaying a strike from a specific satellite) and bizarrely lusting for Diesel.  (Every woman except for Collette has the same unconvincing reaction to him.)  She’s never been out in the field facing any kind of hostility before so of course she gets to kill baddies, intentionally and accidentally, as well.

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage is deeply in love with itself, especially when it thinks it’s being funny (it never is) and during its increasingly ludicrous action stunts, one of which was filmed in a downtown street in my hometown.  The heroes always know they’re never in any real, serious danger so they constantly snark and smirk while punching, kicking and shooting.  Put simply, there’s too much showing off and not a lot of intriguing storytelling.

Ice Cube makes a surprise cameo in the nick of time reprising his role from State Of The Union but all his appearance does is depressingly suggest a future pairing.  Because XXX 3 made money, this seems unpreventable.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 13, 2018
5:01 p.m.

Published in: on April 13, 2018 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

London Has Fallen

Early on in London Has Fallen, we learn about a notorious international arms dealer.  He’s from Yemen and he lives like a king.  In the middle of his daughter’s lavish outdoor wedding, a mysterious figure sends a text message indicating his presence.  Moments later, the party is attacked by an American drone.

But two years later, we discover he has survived.  And he is very, very angry about what has happened to his daughter.  (Curiously, no other victims are mentioned.)

Like its predecessor, Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen is deliberately myopic about the effects of America’s draconian foreign policies.  In the earlier film, North Koreans had a legitimate gripe about unmentioned US sanctions that were causing mass famine.  In the sequel, it’s Obama’s heartless drone wars killing Muslim civilians.  When these inconvenient truths are pointed out by the villains in both films, their anger is cruelly dismissed by US government officials whose xenophobic bloodlust trumps any and all humanitarian concerns.

It’s particularly galling to see Yemen exploited as a setting here for the purpose of selling US war propaganda when you consider how much it has been decimated by Saudi Arabia & its American ally these last three years.  It’s not the poorest Middle Eastern country by choice.

Once again, Gerard Butler, the torture-happy secret service agent who singlehandedly ended the North Korean siege of the White House in Olympus, is back by President Aaron Eckhart’s side.  He’s now an expectant father (Radha Mitchell returns to her thankless role as his partner) thinking of retiring for good.

But then the British Prime Minister suddenly dies.  This means there will be a state funeral filled with foreign leaders except the unnamed Russian President which is clearly a cheap dig at Putin.  Despite the tight security, it all goes horribly wrong when various law enforcement officers start opening fire on everybody and numerous bombs go off all across London.  Several world leaders are murdered but Butler is able to protect the President and his entourage.

As they make their frantic escape, they are trailed by determined gunmen on motorcycles.  Not all of the President’s team make it to their waiting helicopter.  Once onboard and in the air, not only are they attacked, so too are their two doomed flying escorts.

As RPGs fly through the air obliterating the American contingency, Eckhart and Butler’s copter crashes hard leaving them the sole survivors.  They have no other option but to run as endless guerrillas continue to hunt them down.

Despite its uncomfortably racist overtones, this whole sequence is, if you’ll forgive the bad pun, well executed if completely preposterous.  Like Olympus, London makes a mockery of national security procedures proving once again that there is no such thing as being and feeling completely safe.  Having said that, though, how could this scene possibly take place in the real world?  It would require an unfathomable amount of stupidity and laxity that defies common sense.

At any event, it soon becomes clear that all of this violence (and the ensuing blackout) is only happening because of that ill-advised drone strike.  When the international arms dealer also points out that the American government also sells weaponry to shady characters, just like he does, that goes over like a lead balloon.

Once again, Morgan Freeman becomes the acting President back home in Washington.  Promoted from Speaker Of The House to Vice President (because the last VP was executed), he and his team assist the Brits in their investigation of the arms dealer.  A mole is correctly suspected and unlike Dylan McDermott in Olympus, the former’s reasoning for turning heel are much clearer.

Butler and Eckhart make their way to an MI6 safe house where we meet the lovely Charlotte Riley in a very good performance as a cynical British spy.  Perhaps realizing that Olympus was too much of a Die Hard rip-off, Butler doesn’t get to pull off his one-man John McClane act this time around.  Riley’s efforts alone prove invaluable to ending the crisis, even if they’re not always ethical.

Back on the run, just when they think it can’t get any worse, Butler watches helplessly in his crashed, flipped, borrowed getaway vehicle as Eckhart gets kidnapped and later threatened with a decapitation to be broadcast live on the Internet for the whole world to see.  Good thing some British grunts are in the area.

Shortening the running time (99 minutes instead of two hours) and changing the locale does not make London Has Fallen a better movie than its predecessor, despite the improved action sequences.  No amount of superficial adjustments can overcome its disgusting white supremacy.  This becomes abundantly clear during the final speech where once again American arrogance is preferred over the wisdom of isolationism.  Being repeatedly warned about the chronic foolishness of interfering in geopolitical hot zones where consequential actions can haunt for decades is openly combatted with a stubborn determination to maintain the role of empire despite the growing mass resistance to this crumbling philosophy.

This crucial lesson will still not be learned in Angel Has Fallen.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
4:17 a.m.

Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Olympus Has Fallen

America’s history in the Korean Peninsula is an ugly one.  From 1950 to 1953, the military bombed the North so often and so brutally they had literally run out of targets to attack.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were obliterated thanks to the use of questionable weaponry and deliberate recklessness, the full extent of which is only now coming to light.  Although there’s been no violence since, the Korean War is still going on today.  Only a tenuous truce has prevented more bloodshed on a mass scale but for how much longer?

It’s no wonder this permanent stain on America’s political legacy is mostly ignored in Olympus Has Fallen, a sometimes silly but often troubling piece of blatant propaganda that dismisses legitimate North Korean anger towards historical war crimes and ongoing repression.

President Aaron Eckhart is preparing to meet with the leader of South Korea to work out a possible solution to the North’s growing military presence on their border.  Unfortunately, his security detail has been secretly infiltrated by Northern commandos.

Meanwhile, a couple of North Korean pilots have seized a US Air Force plane and arrive in DC with guns a-blazing.  The scene starts out so ridiculously and implausibly I laughed out loud.  But then the violent attack goes on and on until part of the Washington Monument gets destroyed.  That’s an effective moment that also serves as an unwelcome metaphor.  Because the monument is quite phallic, its partial decimation suggests deflated military strength caused by a sleeping national security state.  But we need less toxic masculinity, not more.

As the attack from the air is happening, secret service agent Cole Hauser (who’s quite good here) quickly ushers the President and the South Korean team to the legendary underground White House bunker.  This is a very stupid decision because once safely ensconced that’s when the North Koreans take control.  A former agent Dylan McDermott turns heel and hilariously notes to Eckhart that he’s not exactly a fan.  He also points out that the President is owned by the superrich.  It’s never clear, however, why McDermott betrays his country.  There’s no mention of a pay-off.

So, why is this happening?  The North Koreans are fed up with all their suffering and mass starvation caused by all those barbaric US/UN sanctions that are conveniently not mentioned, for if they were we’d be more sympathetic.  (Kang, their leader, is also pissed off about what happened to his parents.)

So, how are they going to punish the US?  By activating Cerberus, a secret nuclear program that normally would be used to prevent wrongly launched missiles from detonating, something that hasn’t been needed thus far.  The North Koreans want to use it to blow up the nukes on American soil.

But the program can’t be used without the implementation of three codes.  Thankfully, the individual possessors of those codes are in the bunker with them.  In the worst scene in the movie, Oscar winner Melissa Leo, the outmuscled Secretary of Defense, gets brutally beaten until the President orders her to give up her code.  It’s such an unconscionable sequence I cringed all the way through it.

What would likely take days to crack now will only take minutes since the third code, which the President possesses but the North Koreans never ask for, is the only code left to hack.  Why don’t they force Eckhart to give it up?  Probably because their original plan to kidnap his young son to force him to choose is foiled by another former secret service agent Gerard Butler (who also co-produced this nonsense).

Butler blames himself for the harsh death of the First Lady (Ashley Judd), a weird sequence that opens the film.  While en route to a fundraiser under less than ideal weather conditions, the President’s car spirals out of control and hangs perilously over the edge of a bridge.  Eckhart is able to escape but before Judd’s seatbelt can be completely cut off the vehicle plunges into the hard ice below.

Now working a desk job in the Treasury Department, Butler springs into action during the air attack and like John McClane in several Die Hard movies, he singlehandedly reduces the odds of a nuclear holocaust.  (The North Koreans also want American troops and naval ships to be pulled out so they can invade the South and forcefully unite the two countries.)

Because the President and the Vice President are cooped up in the bunker, hawkish Speaker Of The House Morgan Freeman is the acting President.  Butler communicates with him, secret service director Angela Bassett, general Robert Forrester and a whole slew of Pentagon no-nothings through the President’s satellite phone.  (Gotta love the shocked deputy NSA director whose mouth is frequently open.)

There’s a very dumb sequence where Freeman and Forrester order six military helicopters to attack Korean snipers on the White House roof even though they’ve been warned about launching any kind of countermeasures against them.  (Kang isn’t opposed to executing hostages on the spot.)  When Butler warns them that the Koreans have acquired the top secret Hydra weapon and they should cancel this doomed offensive, he’s overruled but proven correct.  It’s only after most of the copters go down that Freeman finally calls it off.

The Koreans also request a fully fuelled chopper to make their eventual escape.  When it blows up suddenly, only a fool would think the threat is over.

Olympus Has Fallen was directed by Antoine Fuqua who directed Denzel Washington to his second Oscar in the sharp, cutting Training Day, a far more cynical film about American institutions.  Here, he prefers the offensive, simplistic story of Koreans bad, Americans good.  Any critiques about US government malfeasance are kept to a minimum and not dwelled on.  There is neither guilt nor outspoken regret for racist policies.  Just righteous anger against these evil infiltrators.  How dare they attack us when all we’ve done is help starve their people?

Imagine if the roles were reversed and it was America invading North Korea.

That said, the film suggests the national security state is run by incompetent idiots who can be easily outsmarted by more sophisticated foreigners they foolishly underestimate.  That is painfully on the mark even though the way it’s shown here is preposterous.  America is run by notorious paranoids and there’s no way this could ever be pulled off in the real world.

Setting aside its questionable politics, the film follows the Die Hard playbook way too closely.  Butler secretly takes out Korean goons whenever he can just like John McClane did to those thieving Germans.  Kang taunts him just like Hans Gruber.  Butler taunts him right back.  Butler frequently communicates with the Pentagon over a secure line undetected by the stereotypical baddies.  (Remember John McClane’s private walkie talkie convos with Sgt. Al, his contact on the outside?)  The botched US military response.  (Remember the FBI idiots in Die Hard?)  And of course, the obligatory code cracking scene.

The numerous fight scenes have their moments (is Butler an Alberto Del Rio mark?) but this is hardly a fun movie.  A whole lot of innocent people get brutally killed purely to put heat on villains that are walking stereotypes.  When you don’t care about the plot, you’re less invested in the gun play and fisticuffs.  Put simply, this is one of the more violent action films I’ve seen in recent years.

As always with movies like this, there is a countdown clock.  Once Cerberus is activated, a thoroughly fatigued Butler (does he ever stop to pee?) needs the override code to stop the coming of Armageddon within five minutes.  Why is it set for five instead of one or two?  Maybe to give the villains enough time to safely leave American airspace which, of course, doesn’t happen.  Or maybe to give that NSA guy with the shocked, open mouth plenty of time to recite a password even a toddler on their worst day could guess.  I’m not sure it was intended to be funny but by God it is.  Hashtag?  Backslash?  Are you fucking kidding me?

When the crisis finally ends, there is the obligatory speech where the fallen and the survivors are honoured and remembered for their sacrifices.  But then, there’s the usual sanctimonious bullshit about how America was attacked for its values and for its freedoms but not for its cruel bombing campaigns and economic sanctions against foreign countries it continually invades.  There’s more crap about how the US finds its united strength when it’s under assault (What is this?  Independence Day?) but no second guessing of its increasingly aggressive and inevitably failed empirical ambitions.

History is for suckers, apparently.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
4:04 a.m.

Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 4:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Shutter (2008)

At the beginning of Shutter, professional photographer Joshua Jackson marries a beautiful grade school teacher Rachael Taylor.  All seems perfect until they go on their Japanese honeymoon.

While driving to their cabin, Taylor plows into a mysterious woman who appears out of nowhere.  The car crashes into a nearby tree knocking out the occupants.  When the couple awakens, the woman has disappeared and there’s no blood on the road.  Taylor is frantic and guilt-ridden.  Bizarrely, neither think it’s a good idea to go to the hospital.

They eventually make it to their destination where Jackson reassures Taylor about the woman’s well-being and they cheerfully snap some outdoor photos together.  The honeymoon is short-lived, though, because the photog has been assigned to do some fashion shoots for his old colleagues in Tokyo.

While Jackson’s off directing Asian models for undetermined campaigns, a bored Taylor roams the city encountering nothing but hostility and indifference.  She also spots the mystery woman she hit with her car which causes her to freak out.

Jackson’s been spotting the woman, too, but for a while, he suspiciously keeps this information to himself.  Long before it’s properly exposed, we generally know why.

Taylor and Jackson both notice on their own a weird presence in their photos, a bright light that appears to be human.  His outdoor shoot is completely ruined because of this unwanted photobombing.

Apparently, this phenomenon is called spiritual photography.  Jackson’s assistant takes a curious Taylor to meet her ex-boyfriend, the publisher of a magazine completely devoted to the subject.  Although the photos in every issue are fraudulent (Taylor spots an employee photoshopping a fake ghost-like image in one such snap), the publisher shows her his growing collection of real ones.  (With so many authentic photos at his disposal, why does he keep them secret?  How come they’re not in the magazine?)  He also tells her about a recent profile they did on some renowned spiritualist who might shed some light, so to speak, on her problem.

By this point, Jackson has conceded to his newlywed bride that she’s not crazy nor is she delusional.  So, off they go to meet this eventually agitated spiritualist who points out what the audience has already figured out.

After doing some exploring and investigating on her own, Taylor confronts her husband about a photo she found.  Cornered, Jackson cops to having a past relationship with the mysterious presence in that photo, a cute Japanese translator he met during a shoot long before he met his new wife.  After her disapproving father died of an undisclosed illness, he claims she became more needy and clingy and he broke things off.  But she wouldn’t leave him alone.  She also started hurting herself to get his attention.

Back in the present, a couple of Jackson’s sleazy work colleagues become haunted by her presence as well. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they’ve been targeted.

Completely spooked, the couple eventually decide to leave Japan and return to New York.  In a scene that defies logic, Taylor makes a shocking, predictable discovery.  Let’s just say what’s revealed is in extremely bad taste despite some thankful restraint.  Once our suspicions about Jackson are confirmed, we are baffled by his rationalization for his actions (watching is still participating, dude) and why he kept incriminating evidence lying around.  Taylor finds out the hard way she married a stupid asshole.

Shutter is one of a growing number of bad American remakes of Asian thrillers.  It’s not as awful as The Grudge but it’s certainly worse than The Ring and The Uninvited.

The film takes way too long to get going.  There’s neither an unsettling atmosphere nor genuine tension.  And because the plot is completely unsurprising, there’s no suspense, either.  Rachael Taylor has an appealing presence (she looks great in close-ups, Gene Siskel’s definition of a movie star) but her character takes forever to figure out what the audience already knows.

Jackson isn’t charming enough to land a babe like Taylor and he isn’t believable enough as the creep he turns out to be once all is revealed.  And because the mystery woman is portrayed as a psychotic heel for much of the movie, by the time it’s confirmed that she’s been seriously wronged, we question why she spares the one person who could’ve saved her.

In the end, it’s not clear to me who suffers the worst fate.  The man who can’t electrocute himself to death, the spirit with low self-esteem who still wants to be with him or the viewer.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
3:52 a.m.

Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 3:53 am  Leave a Comment