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Movie Reviews: Bangkok Dangerous, Babylon A.D., Mister Foe 

Also, Ping Pong Playa, A Girl Cut in Two, and more

Wednesday, Sep 3 2008
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BABYLON A.D. Hardly the utter fiasco promised by its lengthy delay and no-press dumping on Labor Day weekend, Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. arrives shorn of 10 minutes of its European running time, and God knows what else cut before the film ever made it into any theater. In a vague post-apocalyptic future, mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel) hides out in Russia, until mobster Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu!) hires him to smuggle Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) into the U.S. Unsurprisingly, two factions led by cult actors — Lambert Wilson as Aurora’s father on one side, and the ever-freaky Charlotte Rampling as mom, a.k.a. High Priestess, the CEO of the Neolite sect, on the other — attempt to kill them along every step of their journey. What’s missing here are the seeds that would explain what Kassovitz increasingly seems to be angling for in the back half: a dystopian vision of a society in which organized religion is the exclusive pretext for global corporate dominance. Without whatever strident critique Kassovitz intends, it’s a typical B action movie — the inevitable pseudowarm bonding scenes deadly, the fights largely incoherent — with the occasional pleasing set piece. If nothing else, it’s nice to see an action movie that takes Europe, not America, as its grounding point. And depicting Russia as the world’s future dominant power suddenly seems oddly prescient. (Citywide) (Vadim Rizov)


BANGKOK DANGEROUS By way of introduction, globetrotting assassin Joe (Nicolas Cage) tells us the rules for survival as a hitman, the most important being: Don’t get emotionally attached to anyone. As soon as he breathes those words during his cold-as-ice voiceover, alert moviegoers will instantly peg Bangkok Dangerous as another of those dopey crime thrillers where the hardcore, bad-ass antihero inexplicably decides one day to lower his guard and open his heart, causing all kinds of hell to break loose. Adapting their 1999 Thai film, Hong Kong directors/brothers Oxide and Danny Pang (The Eye) start things off promisingly, draping the Bangkok locations in a sleek neon sleaze that suggests lowdown B-movie pleasure. But soon Joe, who’s in town to kill four targets, takes in troublemaker Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) as his apprentice and falls for the deaf-mute shopkeeper Fon (Charlie Yeung), and the sinking realization kicks in: These people are taking this nonsense seriously. What follows is a series of ponderous training montages — shoot those melons, Kong! — and painfully precious courtship scenes between Joe and Fon, stranding an audience that just came to see some cool shoot-’em-ups. They do happen eventually, but not before Joe reveals his soft side by bonding with an elephant. You heard me. (Citywide) (Tim Grierson)


COLLEGE Film critics never come home stinking of their honest labor, but the nearest equivalent is reviewing something like College, which leaves its stain on one’s very humanity. Three high school bros on a college visit — a dork, a gelatinous loudmouth and a faintly sympathetic straight man with anime-character hair — run afoul of a frat marshaled by a smug Van Wilder/that-Sugar-Ray-guy amalgam who subjects the boys to Sadean hazing. (He also has the one funny line: “What the fuck do you know about welfare reform?”) And so begins a morally numbing gauntlet run through mechanical decadence, surpassing even the straight-to-DVD, soul-gangbanging American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. “Queef,” “tossed salad,” Verne Troyer and the ol’ fist-pump, open-mouth, tongue-in-cheek blowjob pantomime are utilized just as though they were jokes (what, kids — no “donkey punch”?). The overall mood is limply obligatory, as if everyone involved had been court-ordered to make a raunch-fest party flick (director Deb Hagan only tunes in during her one tracking shot). One can’t imagine there’s an actual screenplay behind this — somebody seems to think Fatty is so good you can just let him riff. Nearly justifies traveling back in time to preemptively kill Edison, Muybridge and the Lumière brothers. (Citywide) (Nick Pinkerton)


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