By G. Michael Dobbs
In this week’s DVD column, I’ll look at an inventive thriller and a some times funny, some times tedious comedy.
I never saw “The Pianist,” mainly because I no longer watch films by director Roman Polanski as I have a moral dilemma about supporting the work of a pedophile. So, I missed the performance that earned Adrien Brody an Oscar for best male performance.
Since then, I have watched a number of his films, and aside from the remake of “King Kong” in which he was terribly miscast, he has impressed me.
What is also significant is his willingness to do work such as the vastly entertaining “Predators” and the envelope pushing “Splice” that other Academy Award winners would avoid.
Certainly, this new film on DVD falls into that category. It’s a low budget thriller that is essentially a one-man show for Brody.
Brody plays an unnamed man who wakes up finding himself in the front seat of a car that has crashed into a deep-forested ravine. He is injured. He has a gun. There is another passenger in the car who is dead.
He has no memory of what has happened.
Brody’s character must first extricate himself from the wreck and he discovers he has a severely injured leg. He also discovers a backpack filled with money in the car’s trunk.
He still doesn’t know what happened, but there is enough charge left in the car’s battery to hear a radio broadcast and a news report about a bank robbery. A name he eventually recognizes as his own is mentioned.
This film teases the audience in the best way. We don’t know the story and since the character has suffered from a concussion, we don’t know what is real and what is imagined.
This film is a first feature-length effort for director Michael Greenspan and he does well setting up the confusion and terror felt by the man. Christopher Dodd’s screenplay kept me involved and guessing.
And Brody turns in a great performance as a person trying to survive and to recall what event put him in this situation.
For a solid and different thriller, try “Wrecked.”
I love British comedy and what little I’ve seen of Brit comic superstar Steve Coogan he is capable of being pretty funny.
This film has a premise that undermines the limited laughs it presents and will be a challenge for American audiences. Context in humor is everything.
Coogan plays a version of himself an aging comic superstar beset with numerous insecurities who is asked by a British magazine to tour the north of England and eat in upscale restaurants for an article.
Coogan wants to take his American girlfriend on the trip, but she is back in the United States. Instead he chooses friend and fellow comedian Rob Brydon. Brydon is happily married and is satisfied with his career.
Coogan can’t stand that Brydon is happy and views Brydon as a sidekick rather than star a view Brydon doesn’t share. The two men alternate between arguing with one another, competing with impersonations and improvising bits as they drive from one eatery to another. Some of these scenes are funny and some fell flat because they referenced British entertainment figures I didn’t know.
The film plays with the professional and personal reputations of both performers. Brydon’s version of himself is quite likable, while Coogan is the epitome of a vain superstar. The fact they are playing versions of themselves is a bit precious.
I had to research Coogan on the Internet to understand the parody of himself he was presenting.
Director Michael Winter-bottom presented the film as a fictional narrative despite the fact the subject is supposed to be more of a semi-fake documentary. The playing with formats added greater confusion for me.
The few laughs the film generated my wife noted I laughed five times didn’t justify the time it took to watch it.
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