A private detective duo searches for a missing child.
Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring Casey Affleck, Michele Monaghan, and Amy Ryan
Review by Jon Kissel
Martin Scorsese, patron saint of the grubby Mafia movie, turned his eye to Boston with The Departed, the film that moved him away from the Italian Americans of his heritage and won him his Oscar under the premise that Irish Americans can be crooked bastards, too. Scorsese’s pull in the industry gave him access to top talent, Boston roots or not. The following year, legendary Bostonian Ben Affleck chose a similar setting for his directorial debut, and based on the aesthetic disparity in casting, it feels like Affleck took The Departed as a challenge. Scorsese can play in Affleck’s backyard, but can he bring the authenticity of a person who was raised in Boston? Gone Baby Gone is a strong start for its director, in no small part because the casting of major roles and insubstantial background players is considered and real, providing the viewer with a transporting experience to a place they definitely don’t want to go. Affleck clearly loves his hometown city, but maybe not this particular neighborhood.
The best scene in Pig, one of 2021’s best films, finds a reclusive but still renowned chef played by Nicolas Cage sitting down in a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Cage’s character is not there to eat, but to find his titular pet, and he interrogates the restaurant’s chef about its whereabouts while also dissecting the chef’s career path. The chef used to dream of opening a cozy gastropub, but now he toils in a white-coat lab, serving foams and smokes to Portland’s status-obsessed and life-draining succubi. One year later, that character becomes the antagonist in The Menu, a film that was in production when audiences watched Pig. The Menu serves up a similar admiration for the service industry and a hatred towards those they serve, while adding on a hefty dose of black comedy and a continuous stream of reveals in one of 2022’s most delicious films.
Undaunted by the COVID pandemic, Stephen Soderbergh keeps up his prolific filmmaking rate with No Sudden Move, his 11th movie in the last decade, not counting his 20 episodes of The Knick. Returning to the kind of small-potatoes criminals and corporate crime that he’s made so many great films about, No Sudden Move ties the Detroit denizens of the mid-50’s into the collusion of the Big Four automakers, with most involved out of their depth when compared to the opportunity before them. What distinguishes No Sudden Move from earlier Soderbergh films, however, is the involvement of sole writer Ed Solomon. Where Soderbergh has previously worked with writers like Stephen Gaghan and Scott Z. Burns or adapted works by titan authors like Elmore Leonard, Solomon’s credits include Super Mario Brothers and the Now You See Me franchise. Soderbergh shoots and edits all his films, and this is no exception, but Solomon doesn’t provide his director with enough of the good stuff to make No Sudden Move truly stand out against Soderbergh’s considerable filmography.
My job in quality control exists because the government demands it. The huge outlays that pharmaceutical companies make for labor and equipment are only committed to because that’s the cost of doing business. The government and the company enter into an agreement that the products sold will meet certain conditions, and it’s my job to verify that they do. All kinds of audit trails and archiving exists to verify the verifiers, but there remains an interaction between the analyst and the product that, short of videotaping the analyst’s every move, relies on trust. A bad-faith actor can always find the holes in the system, especially if they work within it and especially if incentives perversely award shortcut exploitation. I Care a Lot starts with a system of good intentions and centers the person who sees the weaknesses, but we’re not talking about Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love with his pudding cups and airline miles. J Blakeson’s slick film rests on a bed of unconscionable cruelty that surpasses even the gangster-led works of someone like Martin Scorsese. The exploitation is so confrontational here that audience sympathy becomes impossible on any level, and a degree of difficulty is placed on the film that Blakeson has to work very hard to overcome.
The over-the-top nature of the films of Korean director Park Chan-wook meets his granular attention to detail in The Handmaiden. He merges the high of immaculately-dressed costume dramas with the low of a gritty heist film, a melding of genres that wildly succeeds. Park's filmography, with its oft-repeated themes of sexual taboos, vengeance, and pathetic yet deadly men, feels like its reaching a climax here, like this is the film he's always been supposed to make. The Handmaiden, drowning in sensuality and subterfuge, is at the level of the best this auteur has ever done, if not his best work to date.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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