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Films I Neglected To Review: Blecch Irish
by Peter Sobczynski

If you are in the mood to read about unnecessary sequels--and I mean really unnecessary sequels--you are in luck with this round-up of capsule reviews for films I didn’t have time to analyze in depth. However, if you are looking for a quality film here, I fear you may be out of luck.

Although it barely made a cent during its extremely brief theatrical release in 1999, “The Boondock Saints,” writer-director Troy Duffy’s crypto-fascist craptacular about a couple of Irish Catholic brothers from Boston who go on a religiously inspired vigilante spree to clean up the city, allegedly went on to become some kind of a cult item on DVD over the ensuing decade and as a result, we now have Duffy’s “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” perhaps one of the more unlikely sequels to come along in recent memory and certainly one of the most unnecessary. As the film opens, our anti-heroes (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) are hiding out in Ireland with their father (Billy Connolly) when they get word that someone back home has murdered a beloved local priest in a manner designed to suggest that they were responsible. Naturally, they return to America to get to the bottom of things and, with the aid of a wacky Mexican sidekick (Clifton Collins Jr.) and a sexy FBI agent with a secret agenda (Julie Benz), they mow their way through the local underworld in order to get at the mob kingpin (Judd Nelson. . .yes, Judd Nelson) responsible. Duffy hasn’t made a film since the original “Saints” and it quickly becomes apparent that he didn’t spend any part of the fallow last decade at remedial film school because this movie is terrible--with its combination of broad overacting, gratuitous bloodshed and a screenplay that eschews any semblance of coherence, brevity or wit in order to jam in as many borderline racist/homophobic comments as possible, it often feels like the world’s longest and goriest light beer commercial. The only good thing to say about this brutal and brutally boring bit of blarney is that it is so relentlessly unpleasant and unappealing that we may never have to endure the likes of “The Boondock Saints III: Get Boondockier.".

Although a cursory check of my files reveals that I not only saw but actually favorably reviewed “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior,” the mad action extravaganza that introduced martial arts master Tony Jaa to the masses, when it was released Stateside in 2005, I must confess that in the subsequent four years, any recollections of the experience that I may have once held have since faded from memory. If there is one good thing about “Ong Bak 2,” the extremely tenuous follow-up that marks Jaa’s directorial debut (although it is rumored that he took a powder towards the end of shooting and stunt coordinator Panna Rittikrai is credited as co-director), it is that I have managed to pretty much forget the entire thing only a couple of days after watching it. Set in 1431, the film tells the familiar-yet-incoherent story of a young man (Jaa), the son of the commander of the royal army who is rescued from slave traders and a crocodile pit by a clan of bandits who teach him their ways so he can find the people who murdered his parents and avenge their deaths in a finale that involves maybe 40-odd minutes of relentless beating topped off by a blatant set-up for another sequel. This is pretty standard plotting for a film of this type but stretched to nearly two full hours and deploying a seemingly endless array of flashbacks sequences, it becomes almost impossible to follow for more than a few minutes at a time and Jaa’s utterly charm-free performance doesn’t make things any easier. Even the fight scenes leave a lot to be desired for the most part--most of them are presented in the most cinematically graceless manner imaginable and only a couple of sequences involving elephants--one in which Jaa rides and tames a stampeding herd by leaping from beast to beast and one in which a pachyderm is used as a location for a fight scene--have any real juice to them. However, it takes so much time to hit those brief peaks that even the most ardent fans of the genre will be better served by staying home and trying to find the clips on YouTube.

In the mid-1960’s, the British Broadcasting Company, which had a monopoly on broadcasting in England, would play less than 45 minutes of so-called “popular music” a day and in response, numerous pirate radio stations based out of boats floating in international waters that emerged to protest government control of the airwaves took advantage of the situation by blasting rock music to the delight of millions until they were finally legislated out of existence in August of 1967. There is a great movie to be made from this particular subject--something along the lines of such cult favorites as “American Hot Wax” and “24 Hour Party People”--but alas, “Pirate Radio” is not that movie. Instead, writer-director Richard Curtis (the man behind “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually”) has given us a film set on the boat Radio Rock (loosely inspired by the real-life Radio Caroline) consisting of a number of subplots--a coming-of-age tale of a young man (Tom Sturridge) looking for love and the identity of his long-lost father, the romantic misadventures of a deejay (Chris O‘Dowd) who impulsively marries an American fan (January Jones) and gets a big surprise on his wedding night, the conflict between a brash American-born deejay (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a returning popular favorite (Rhys Ifans) and the attempts by a government fuddy-duddy (Kenneth Branagh) to shut the operation down for good among them--that play more like a series of self-contained vignettes done with varying degrees of success than a coherent and informative story. Curtis knows how to give each of his performers a memorable bit or two--which would explain the presence of such a strong cast (Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson and Nick Frost also turn up as well)--but seems at a loss as to how to tie them together into a satisfying story. Some of it is fun and the soundtrack is crammed to the breaking point with choice cuts but considering how much it talks about the joys of freedom and liberation as represented by the music it celebrates, it is kind of a shame that “Pirate Radio” is ultimately as stodgy and dull as it ultimately is.

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originally posted: 11/13/09 20:57:46
last updated: 11/14/09 00:45:05
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