Mob Psychiatry, Snuff Films and Cop Corruption
A Critical Roundup of Recent Movies
By JASON LLOREN
Blast Film Critic
LA MAFIA COMEDIA
Robert De Niro is the godfather of acting, and not just for tough-guy
roles. Be it "The Godfather, Part II," "GoodFellas," "The Untouchables," "Heat," "Raging Bull," "Casino," or "Cape Fear," De Niro proves he can be street-smart, cool and silky smooth, or just plain animalistic - or a complex mixture of these qualities.
Now he turns up a mob soldier (again!) in the comedy "Analyze This" and
flair for tickling the funny bone somehow becomes a revelation. It
De Niro's always been good at playing comedy on several levels. In
Run," he plays straight-man bounty hunter to the neurotic and annoying
Grodin, a buddy-film pairing that proved funny and even somewhat touching.
the Dog," which featured De Niro as a behind-the-scenes White House spin
doctor, demonstrated his knack for dead-on political satire. De Niro's take
incompetent stand-up Rupert Pupkin in the under appreciated black comedy
of Comedy" quietly brought out the character's underlying pathological
In "Analyze This," DeNiro plays Paul Viti, a career Mafioso who one day
chokes when he tries to whack some punk in the head with a pipe. Later he
panic attack. One thing leads to another, yada yada yada, and Viti finds
himself on the couch of Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal). Viti realizes he
have these anxiety attacks, especially with a major mob meeting coming up,
he wants treatment, fast. Sobol offers to help, partly because he sees Viti
really needs it - but mostly out of fear that his legs might be cracked
The film, directed by Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day"), is essentially a
two-bit joke stretched over two hours. All the mob movie motifs are thrown
not like cheap hand-me-down cliches, but with an aura of authenticity.
actors who have popped up in "GoodFellas" and other Mafia flicks have a
"Analyze This." The mannerisms, the threads, the joints, they all feel
But combine that Crystal's sensitive Manhattan head shrink. With any
actors or talent, the film would be an overlong "Saturday Night Live" skit.
here, De Niro and Crystal (the script's brisk pace) maintain a level of
that keeps the film entertaining. Even when you can see some plot points
in advance - a mob hit gone bad, a therapy exercise gone out of control -
actors always give a line or two that punctuates the jokes. In one quick
Viti warns the doctor after their first awkward touchy-feely session: "You
me a fag and you're dead!"
"Analyze This" is not perfect and some jokes fall on their face. There
gaps in the film when not much happens. But if you're looking for something
light, check this out.
DARK UNDERWORLD CAPTURED ON 35MM
Nicolas Cage really hasn't turned in a good performance since his
turn in "Leaving Las Vegas." And, let's face it, director Joel Schumacher's
dreadfully flamboyant "Batman and Robin" made you wish the Dark Knight
in the funny pages where is belongs.
Now they have teamed up to gives us "8MM," a tale about a private
detective's descent into the dark underworld of hardcore S&M porn.
they turn in a collective effort that brings the viewer through a seedy
where perversions are a facet of life. It is disturbing and it creeps under
Although there's not a lot of actual footage in the film showing explicit
and violence, the mood and look of "8MM" is enough to make one's stomach
There are hints of snuff cinema, rape fantasies, the like. If you can't
it, don't see it.
Cage plays detective Tom Wells. He's hired by the widow of an industrial
magnate after she finds a disturbing movie reel in her husband's safe. It
appears to show a young woman violently slashed to death. Wells job is find
if it's a real snuff film or a fake. The widow wants her ease her conscious
with the truth about her husband's private peccadilloes.
The film, written by "Seven" scripter Andrew Kevin Walker, captures the
of some sinister underworld, with a lot of scenes filmed in black and gray.
as Wells digs deeper into the mysterious origins of the film, he uncovers
increasingly disturbing facts. He learns that the girl in the film ran away
from home, went to Hollywood to break into films, took an unfortunate turn
porn and then disappeared.
As Wells enters this world where nasty porn sells like cheap fares at a
hellish flea market, this sub culture slowly consumes him. His phone calls
to his wife and baby become less frequent. He befriends a porn store clerk
guides him through the darkness. Without giving too much away, let's just
he's drawn to the edge of sanity as he sort of becomes that which he
The film succeeds in drawing us into this character arc, of a happy
man who descends into a nightmare of a murderous underworld and himself
part of the madness. Cage is effective at bringing a tenderness early on in
film and at expressing a pained soul at the movie's zenith. Some of the
overacting of such films as "Face/Off" and "Snake Eyes" are turned down a
But the movie is about a sleazy place in society, and people will
think that makes the film sleazy itself. I give the film a marginal
recommendation at its mere ability to paint Cage's path in the film, but
hesitate to proclaim you'll have a fine time at the theater after seeing
You won't. In fact, if you're like me, you'll feel like you need a bath.
GOOD COP, BAD COP
Chow Yun-Fat can take just about any film and make it better. In his
Kong films, Chow played a number of different character types with a range
emotion: In "The Killer," he plays a hit man who falls in love with a woman
trapped in a world he's trying to escape. His wounded gangster in "A Better
Tomorrow" displays a cool vengeance. Chow has an ability to take a simple
character and make it complex.
In "The Corruptor," Chow is New York police detective Nick Chen, a media
hero who helps keep law and order in Chinatown. He is given a young, white
rookie named Dennis Wallace (played by "Boogie Nights'" Mark Wahlberg) to
with, as the cops try to crack down on an Asian gang called the Fukianese,
Fooks for short.
But there's more to Chen: He's not completely clean. He knows some shady
characters in Chinatown, old-school benevolent types who control these
hoods. Part of the reason Chen carries such power in Chinatown is because
has the right connections there.
Wallace comes in to do a job - enforce the law and clean up Chinatown.
first an uneasy trust builds between Wallace and Chen. As the film
we see how certain corrupting influences affect how they do their job in
Chinatown. Wallace, meanwhile, uncovers an immigrant porn operation and
The bad-guy roles in this film are weak and if you're expecting your
cops-vs.-crooks formula, don't look here. No, the focus here is clearly the
relationship between the veteran cop who has gone somewhat astray in his
fight crime, and the green rookie whose own professional mission is on a
course with Chen.
This leads to some dynamic chemistry on film. But mostly the film
some too-easy bad-cop cliches - dirty money, crooked friends, shady
There are four or five well-executed action sequences, deftly edited and
just right. In a car chase that could give "Ronin" a run for its money,
and Wahlberg go after Chinese gangsters through the streets of New York;
pedestrians and street commuters become innocent victims of the
melee. That scene ends with some intense suspense, as Chen sits pinned in
car (You'll have to see how it all ends up).
The film is standard cop actioner stuff but the one ingredient that
the film compelling is Chow. Sure, he's not a straight arrow. He does
his own way and he's not squeaky clean. The FBI has its eyes on him and the
bosses have their hand in Chen's pocket. But he's not evil. There's a
side to his character, evidence by a friendship he strikes with a local
prostitute. This veteran cop seems to have realized where it all went wrong
him and tries to make some redemption, much like Kevin Spacey's cop
in "L.A. Confidential."
Wallace, for his part, is also more complex than appears at first.
revelation for his character late in the film that changes the dynamic of
movie, for the better of the narrative. Now the story has acquired some
momentum. For some viewers this relief may come too late. But for me, it
added to the compelling narrative.
There is a final showdown at the end, where Chen and Wallace take on the
guys. It has an ending that completes their characters, giving Chen his
redemption; Wallace's path comes full circle.
The movie is not perfect and a lot of the film echoes some of the gritty
urban cop flicks of the past. Director James Foley ("Glengarry Glenross")
an adequate job piecing together what could've been simply standard film
Chow, however, gives the film life. He has more dialogue here than he did
his American film debut "The Replacement Killers," more personality, and he
hasn't lost any of his cool. That's good enough reason for any Chow fan to
check this out.