Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #179: Body of Lies, Dies.

The Ridley Scott thriller Body of Lies, starring Russel Crowe & Leonardo DiCaprio has opened to a pretty weakened weekend, beaten by low budget shocker Quarantine, and family flick Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Now some folks will say that the film bombed because people are tired of the war in Iraq, and that the average American is just too dim to "get" such films which is why just about every other movie about the War on Terrorism bombed faster than a jihadi with an IED in their anus.

Well, they're wrong.

I think the movie bombed for other reasons.

1. THE MANDATORY MOMENTS: Perhaps I should explain this new piece of terminology. Mandatory Moments are those segments in a movie where something is tacked on because someone figured that it was supposed to be there, and not because it advances the story in anyway. In horror films it's that damn moment when the goddamn cat leaps out to make everyone jump, it doesn't serve the story, and it is really annoying, but has to be there to fill any time where there's more than 5 minutes without a murder. In romantic comedies it's the "meet cute" moment where everybody gets to show off how quirky and fun they are, etc., etc....

In the modern movie covering the War on Terror, it's that moment where
someone, usual foreign, lectures the naive American about the evils of Yankee imperialism, and the American makes no defence of the actions of their country. Or it's the bitter and cynical anti-hero expressing how bitter and cynical he is in serving his country because they are "just as bad" as the enemy they are fighting.

To the folks on the right, who are for the most part outside of Hollywood, it's anti-American whining. To the folks on the left, which make up about 90% of modern Hollywood, it's what they need to justify the film's existence, make it worthy of their praise, and hopefully land a few award nominations for the makers and stars.

However, to the audience who lives in Flyover Country, it's boring, annoying, insulting, they can smell it coming a mile away, and judging by the reviews from both Left & Right, this flick is full of these mandatory moments.

You see an essential ingredient in any film, especially an action-suspense film like
Body of Lies is an element of surprise, and when the audience thinks it can sum up a film just by looking at the poster, you have a problem. There is no surprise, no suspense, and no audience, because no one is going to pay to be bored.

It's also lazy writing, delivering not what's new and original, but what's familiar, and pleasing, not to the greater audience, but to the other inhabitants of the Axis of Ego. Seeing these sorts of scenes over and over again, starts to get on people's nerves, and they're not going to pay to be annoyed.

Also mainstream American audiences don't really care for having their country portrayed as the villain, no matter how they may feel about the President, or his policies. Hollywood in its isolation has forgotten that millions of Americans have either served in the military, or are related to, or know, someone in the military. To them these are not villains, people who are "just as bad" as Al Qaida, and they don't care for a bunch of private-jet millionaires telling them that everything their relatives, friends, and neighbours are struggling and suffering for are just a body of lies. They feel insulted, and they don't need to pay to be insulted, that's what family get-togethers are for.

2. MISCASTING: Casting Leonardo DiCaprio as the "tough guy" secret agent was a mistake. DiCaprio has some talent as an actor, and some charm, but you can't really buy him as the tough guy. They would have been better off with Russell Crowe as the older experienced field agent, and DiCaprio as a boy-wonder office-dwelling techophile back safe in Langley pestering him over the sattelite phone.

DiCaprio's beard seems glued on, he's too boyish for the part. Sometimes that works, such as in
The Departed, where he and the equally immaturesque Matt Damon played essentially overgrown boys, each seeking to please their surrogate fathers on both sides of their operations and the law. And even in The Aviator, where he essentially played Howard Hughes as Tom Swift with OCD.

However, casting DiCaprio as the lone wolf, hard-case, taking down enemies with his jaded eye, and deadly hands, seems sort of ridiculous. He fails to come across as the secret agent, but as a petulant kid playing spy with a glued on beard.

And as long as Hollywood fails to realize the importance of not insulting the audience's intelligence, or nation, and casting roles not on hype, but on quality, they're going to keep shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.

1 comment:

  1. This movie is definitely one the best of 2008