Tag Archives: Ray Stevenson

A Boy and His Hammer

These two really clicked. I was happy for them.

Three times this month I sat down to write a review, and three times I fell asleep in my chair before I typed my 100th word.  I’m not apologizing for this; I owe you people nothing and I’ve been very tired lately.  Just know that I have four reviews on the back-burner, and I’ve not forgotten them.  My intention is for June to be a busy month here at the SFC.  I know you’re all looking forward to that Priest review.  I say to you, you shall have it!

But not yet.  Not yet….

What can you say about a guy like Thor?  Not much, unfortunately.  And therein lies the problem.  It’s pretty hard to get behind a hero who has no personality to speak of.  Even the comic book version of Thor was never especially interesting to me.  He’s arrogant, he’s strong, and……thats it.  Oh, and his power comes from a hammer.  Not the most engaging of characters as far as I’m concerned. 

A couple of months ago I took stock of all the comic book movies coming out this summer and concluded that none of them were likely to be very good.  I’ve never been interested in Thor or Captain America and Ryan Reynolds as my boy Hal Jordan is a travesty.  This X-Men movie actually looks interesting (god help me), but is more likely to continue that franchise’s laughable descent.  I told myself I was only going to see two of these movies.  That seemed like a reasonable compromise.  Then the first (and possibly stupidest) one comes out and I wander into the nearest theater like a zombie.  I can make no headway against these bad movie yearnings.  None. 

There were a few things I liked about Thor.  A scant few.  They are as follows:

  1. Asgard- I’m a sucker for sweeping shots of mythical realms, even if they are CGI.
  2. Idris Elba– I like Idris Elba.  Seeing him in gold armor with a sword was muy bueno.
  3. Portman’s reaction when they hit Thor in their car was, I thought, perfect.  Kinda made me laugh, even.

That’s it.  Pretty much everything else was bad.  Or if not bad, mediocre.  Hopkins was fine I guess.  I’m certainly not going to accuse an accomplished pervert like that of mediocrity.  His acting is starting to feel like shtick though.  Doesn’t delight me as it once did. 

I’m also not going to hate on Chris Hemsworth’s performance as the title character, because I feel like he did what they asked him to.  Had blond hair, got really jacked.  Like, crazy jacked.  I always chuckle the first time a male lead takes his shirt off these days.  Every one of them is as chiselled as Arnold was in The Terminator.  Imagine if when you’d first seen that movie, someone would’ve told you in 20 years time all actors’ bodies would look like that.  It would’ve seemed inconceivable.  Yet here we are.  Progress!

When it comes down to it this movie just doesn’t do anything for you.  It has that strange combination of feeling long and yet uneventful that has somehow become common in super-hero movies.  You feel like you’ve been in the theater forever, and yet you can’t recall much happening.  Fantastic Four was the first movie I saw that really captured this empty feeling.  These movies are like cotton candy: they seem plenty big, but when consumed shrink to almost nothing and inevitably leave you unfulfilled.

I get really frustrated when a movie intentionally wastes time.  Filler should not exist in cinema.  If a movie needs filler, it shouldn’t have been made.  If a writer and director are worth a shit they should be cutting down to two hours, not trying to stretch an hour into two.  Thor devotes a full five minutes to the hero wolfing down plates of food in a diner while Portman and co. give each other looks like “Who is this guy?!?”

Equally frustrating are the smiley-scenes.  See, Thor and Portman are falling in love.  You know how it is when you’re falling in love with someone you’ve only known for a day: all smiles.  Just looking at each other and grinning.  Words not always necessary

Still, the most annoying aspect of this one for me was, by far, it girl wannabe Kat Dennings*, otherwise known as the not-very-likable daughter from 40-Year-Old Virgin.   I didn’t get the memo, but apparently Hollywood has decided she’s funny now.  Girlfriend was wisecrackin’ all over this one, lemme tell ya.  She was the principal comic relief.  A girl who has probably never said anything legitimately funny in her life is plugged in as the funnyman on a movie with an endless budget.  That’s where we’re at. 

*Guess what gang?  Someone hacked into her cell-phone and stole naked pictures of her!  And boy is she steamed!  Definitely NOT INTENTIONAL.  These pictures were for PERSONAL USE ONLY guys.  Seriously, whoever stole them from her is fucked up.  That is some fucked up shit.  But at the same time, the fact that she took these pictures, I don’t know, it adds a certain edge, right?  And if that edge should happen to be profitable for her, then so much the better.  But to suggest she did this intentionally?  Come on guys, grow up.  We’re talking about the funny girl from Thor here, she wouldn’t do something like that. 

Even the villain just wasn’t very cool.  Loki?  Really?  Reminded me of the dude who played Ozymandias in Watchmen.  Was it the same guy?  I’m purposefully not going to look that up.  Lets discuss it!

I can’t in good conscience recommend Thor even to my nerdiest of friends.  It is folly.  Makes me wonder about Portman a little, too.  The same actress from Black Swan wanted to be in this movie?  That just doesn’t make sense to me.  Surely these people have goals for their careers, right?  Directions they want to go?  Dreams they want to chase other than “be famous” and “make money?” 

Sorry Hollywood, that was out of line.  Please accept my apologies for offending you.  “And behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you” (Judges 19:24)

Oh and also, Ray Stevenson again.  I feel like he’s following me.

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The one where Ray Stevenson kills people

If I was just a little dumber, I’d probably really like Ray Stevenson.  I already almost do.   And In Kill the Irishman, he managed to toe the line between affable and murderer pretty well.  Not that thats especially hard to do.  It’s actually really easy, come to think of it.  The lovable scamp criminal is a fixture of modern cinema. 

I have two main problems with Stevenson.  One: he isn’t a good actor.  Two: he is an actor.

Allow me to explain.  Actors are not tough.  They’re the opposite of tough.  Not that I place a lot of stock in toughness (outside the cage).  But whenever an actor tries to make a name for himself specifically as a badass I just think it comes off unbelievably lame.   For me this all started with Sam Jackson constantly being referred to (and referring to himself) as a “bad motherfucker.”  Even then, over a decade ago, my reaction was “Yeah right dude, you’re not a badass.  You pretend to be fictional badasses.”  And thats pretty much how I feel about Ray Stevenson, too. 

Hey, maybe he actually does, I don’t know, fight people or whatever.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, but even if he did it wouldn’t change much for me.  It would just be a different can of worms.  An actor trying to typecast himself as a badass is lame even if he actually is one.  That’s my feeling on the matter. 

As to his acting abilities, they’re extremely limited.  I used to love him as Titus Pullo in Rome.  But both he and the guy who played Lucius Vorenus are really pretty bad actors.  The beauty of the set and the richness of the material cover for them at first, but when you start to watch these episodes for the second time it becomes obvious both of those guys, and Stevenson in particular, were far from impressive.  Some of their scenes together are borderline laughable.  And I love that show. 

Kill the Irishman was by no means his worst work.  In fact, I enjoyed it.  But I’ve had some people assume I’m a big Ray Stevenson fan, and I want to go on the record and say that is not the case. 

I’ll tell you who I am a fan of: Val Kilmer.  He’s in it.  As are Christopher Walken and Vincent D’Onofrio.  Pretty interesting cast, I thought*.  Kilmer is Kilmer.  Walken has some funny parts.  D’Onofrio brings his usual  brand of confused facial expressions.  Vinnie Jones was also in da how.  I’d really like to know which of these guys, if any, were hanging out together during filming.  A Kilmer/Walken hang in particular would be fascinating. 

*The exception to this being that douchebag Guido Steve Schirripa.  “Hey, check me out, I’m fat!  I’m Italian!”  Barf.  The guy “wrote” a “book” called The Goomba’s Guide to Life.  Shameless.  Fuck him. 

This movie tells the story of Danny Greene, an Irish gangster who went up against the mafia in Cleveland in the 70s.  Obviously a little before my time, but I gather this guy was somewhat of a household name back then.  36 car bombs went off in the Cleveland mob wars in 1976 alone.  Greene survived countless assassination attempts, and even killed several of the assassins the mob sent for him.  In 1977 he was finally killed, but the war he’d started crippled the mob in Cleveland, and they never really recovered.  It’s a pretty cool story.  Inspired a book entitled To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia.  If I ever stumble across it in my travels, it will be purchased and read.

My main problem with the movie was that it seemed all too willing to sacrifice historical accuracy in the name of an easy-to-digest narrative.  I guess you could probably say the same of every mob movie to an extent, but the good ones always seem very genuine and unique.  Kill the Irishman borrows from the genre a little too much.  As opposed to something like Goodfellas, which never really gives you what you want or expect.  That movie ends with Liotta’s character living a dull, normal life full of regret.  Nobody would’ve written that, but the fact that it’s actually what happened makes it much more interesting.  Kill the Irishman‘s ending can be predicted five minutes in.  Very obvious, very contrived. 

Ending aside, director Jonathan Hensleigh* deserves some dap for managing to avoid a few common mistakes.  First, he didn’t try to play up how much Greene and his wife loved each other.  Didn’t try to make a cookie-cutter romance where there wasn’t one.  I’m tired of every movie having to be about the greatest love ever known.  You shouldn’t be subjected to that onscreen unless it’s what you’re going to the movie for.  You go see fucking Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants (stupidest title ever?) and you’ve signed up for some love-at-first-sight-that-lasts-forever-and-burns-with-the-passion-of-a-thousand-suns boo-shit.  A mob movie shouldn’t feel obligated to cram that down our throats.  Thankfully, this one doesn’t.  Greene’s first wife and children play a very small role, as does his later romantic interest. 

*Hensleigh hasn’t done much directing, but check out these hilarious writing credits!  The Punisher (Tom Jane version), The Saint, Next, Armageddon, Jumanji, Die Hard: With a Vengeance.  That right there is a rap-sheet worthy of some discussion

The other mistake Hensligh avoided was the unknown side-character ridiculous death scene.  You know, the one that goes for the heartstrings but misses the mark so badly its laughable?  These are becoming increasingly common.  Almost every action movie comes equipped with one.  Sometimes its a character you don’t even recognize.  Kill the Irishman features numerous deaths, but other than Greene’s they’re all handled in more or less the right way.  The sad ones are actually characters you’ve grown to like, and the plot doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on the others. 

This movie doesn’t try too hard to pull on the heartstrings until the very end.  I appreciated that.  Everything in its measure.  A real historical character becomes much more tragic if his true story is told.  I can’t say for sure if that was done here, and frankly I suspect not.  You’re definitely fed cheese, but it hasn’t quite curdled.  These days I’m calling that $13 well spent.

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