December 27, 2005


the evil of the thriller

I watched the original "Manchurian Candidate" flick a couple months back, and really enjoyed it. It was deeply and fundamentally stupid, of course, but more importantly, it was funny and clever in a way that modern films simply tend not to be.

More recently, I saw the remake which comparatively was--to get all high-falutin' film critic vocabulary about it--shit. It was just as deepy and fundamentally stupid, mind you--this is inherent in the "thriller" genre. It's as much an integral part of the laws of reality in thrillers as people behaving grotesquely stupidly is in run-of-the-mill horror, or fiery explosion shockwaves always traveling just slightly slower than protagonist-running speed is in action. Occasional entries in the genre may bend the rules, but they are exceptions, not the norm.

Mind you, I did have to pause the dvd to quietly scream during the portion when dude drops the implant he just dug out of his shoulder down the drain, thus losing the evidence FOREVER! (He later gets its twin back by chewing it out of the other fellow's back, and there's probably a paper there on a strained analogy on racial themes for some aspiring undergrad to write.) But that had less to do with the inherent stupidity of thrillers in general, and more with the fact that it's one of those minor movie moments that really brings home that your average Hollywood script writer has apparently never in his life actually looked underneath a sink. Those magical pipes under there, guys? They have that U bend specifically to catch things like rings and, oh, shoulder implants that get accidentally dropped down the drain. You morons. But I digress.

The aside about the drain thing is simply a sort of idiocy-spike (not quite ice-9 level, unfortunately), but not the problem. Yes, dumbness abounds--at the most abstract level of, if I'm running an evil corporation that intends to have a de facto coup, and I have a highly reliable mind-control technology, the plan as put forth in the film is perhaps among the ten worst I could conceive of. But again, that's not the problem. The problem was that the remake is painfully unfunny. It's all heavy on the angst of "but is my mind my own?" that the original treated much more playfully. And yes, actual mind control would be--will be--a goddamn horror, but merely having Denzel Washington look stricken isn't how to explore that. The thriller in general is not the place to explore that horror because when it actually happens? It won't be soaked in stupidity. Let me rephrase that: it won't be soaked in thriller stupidity. It'll have real life stupidity, thus the horror. The dialogue all has very modern bland stricken quality to it, which I of course immediately compared to the much snappier, frequently nigh-screwball conversations in the Red Scare Candidate version.

What I'm saying is, see the original. It has Frank Sinatra in one of the first kung-fu fights in American film history and the titular Candidate taking up his programmed sniper post through a door prominently labeled NO. And at one point, a drunken conversation that involves a literary reference to Orestes and Clytemnestra. It's a better flick for all of that.

I wish I'd watched them in the opposite order, actually.

posted by Gar @ 11:22 AM
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