Posts Tagged ‘Heath Ledger’

The Dark Knight

July 29, 2008

Very mild spoilers

Let’s dispense with the plot first, shall we?

Billionaire in Kevlar body armour fights maniac with excellent make-up skills in Chicago, mainly at night. Meanwhile, a half-dead looking policeman with a moustache pretends to be completely dead to aid in the capture of aforementioned maniac and a chiselled Fifties film star has half his face burned off, then blames the wrong people for his disfigurement and the death of his cow-faced girlfriend. Maniac kills lots of people, man with half a face kills on the whims of a coin toss, billionaire fights them both and wins, then inexplicably shoulders the blame for the disfigured man’s crimes. The end.

Right, now that’s over and done with, a word of warning.

What The Dark Knight posters and trailers fail to mention is that Eric Roberts is in this movie. That’s right – Eric fucking Roberts. For anyone unfamiliar with the career of Eric Roberts (brother of Julia, and proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice), he’s a fourth – no, fifth – rate action ‘star’ who’s carved a career in woeful kung-fu and mercenary movies that go straight to DVD. Eric Roberts is the Happy Shopper Tom Berenger – cursed to play the villain in a string of films with titles such as Death Force Zero and The Eliminatrix III when the real Tom Berenger is unavailable. Think Chuck Norris without the personality. A poor man’s Ernie Hudson. In short, he’s shit.

Now, until I stumped up £13.50 for two tickets to The Dark Knight, I had never paid more than £2.50 to watch Eric Roberts in anything. The last time I handed over real cash-money to watch Mr. Roberts fail to convince was an ill-advised Blockbuster rental of Best Of The Best II – an ass-kicking kung-fu collective movie starring Roberts, Phillip Rhee (the Black Belt Jones of the modern era) and the late, lamented Chris Penn.

It was shit, but then it was supposed to be shit … because it had Eric Roberts in it. I was happy to fork out £2.50 to watch the monumentally ugly and unconvincing Roberts shove his combat boots up the ass of his enemies because, well, it was only £2.50. But thanks to the producers of The Dark Knight, I now have to confess I’ve spent over a tenner on an Eric Roberts movie. This pisses me off.

OK, so I had to suffer the grotesque Mr. Roberts, but what about Mr. Bale? Did he cancel the toweringly shit performance of Roberts out? Did he make me forget that I’d spent money on an Eric Roberts movie? Well… no.

Annoying as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne (mainly because he hands in the same performance he did for American Psycho – making you think Bruce is butchering prostitutes when he’s not out fighting loonies), he’s awful – truly fucking awful – as Batman. Cursed with a stupid costume that makes his head look like a pool ball with ears, Bale adds to the misery with a dreadful deep rasp of a voice that gets up your nose. Every time Batman speaks, a viewer who isn’t so enamoured of the character that he’ll forgive him anything sits bewildered as they’re faced with one of the stupidest voices ever to grace the screen. I spent the entire two and a half hour running time thinking, “What the fuck is wrong with Batman’s voice?” I don’t think this is what the director wanted me to think.

Gary Oldman looks like he’s got cancer. Aaron Eckhart gives an Aaron Eckhart performance (the same one he gave for Thank You For Smoking, but with half his face missing). Maggie Gyllanhall is wasted, then blown up. That’s all I can think to say about that trio.

So we’ll move on to The Dark Knight’s money shot: Heath Ledger as The Joker. Anyone who wasn’t wetting their trousers at the prospect of a Joker for the 21st Century could have guessed what performance they’d get from Ledger in this role, and they would have guessed correctly. Shoulder hunched up, daft walk, tongue whipping out every ten minutes (because tongue work’s an essential part of any mentally ill person’s madness arsenal, as are trousers that never reach the shoes), wild, darting eyes, occasional high-pitched changes of vocal intonation, etc. Those boxes checked, Ledger plays The Joker in just the same way any actor of any merit would play The Joker. The performance is phoned in – Actor’s Guide to Playing the Insane 101. Stacey’s mum with stupid hair and idiot make-up.

The press has made a lot of this, his final completed performance – yet I would argue it’s nothing special. We can laud praises on the actor all we want, but this is not De Niro in Godfather II. This is an as-you’d-expect performance of a silly character in a silly comic book movie. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s good, but he’s not that good. And – going against the grain here – he’s nowhere near as good as Nicholson, in my opinion. Nicholson at least made the character fun.

Did I say ‘fun’? Well if you’re looking for that, I’d hang on for next month’s Tropic Thunder (which at least promises fun from the trailer). The Dark Knight is anything but fun. It’s ridiculously long for a comic book movie, takes itself so seriously it’s insulting and has a plot that plods along at a snail’s pace.

It’s wordy, morbid and borderline stupid in too many places. Off the top of my head, these are just a few things that pissed me off about The Dark Knight’s plot:

  • Why does a moral crusader agree to illegally extract a wanted criminal from China and bring him back to the United States? Doesn’t that make him the same as the criminals he’s taken it upon himself to fight?
  • The Joker must spend hours getting his make-up to look like that – strange for a man we’re constantly reminded doesn’t give a fuck about anything (with the notable exception of male grooming … weird male grooming, but male grooming nonetheless).
  • Alright, Two Face’s missus is blown up by The Joker, but why does this tip him over the edge and make him an ally of The Joker? His subsequent crusade to get justice for his dead partner (that leaves out kicking The Joker’s ass) makes no sense at all.
  • Is it just me, or was there an actual point to Gary Oldman faking his own death?
  • Who the fuck agrees to work for The Joker? People with a death wish? Suicides who haven’t got round to it yet? He kills everyone who works for him … surely word would have got around about this?
  • A knife slash to the side of your mouth doesn’t kill you.

There were plenty of other things that mystified me about this awful film, but I’ve had enough of thinking about them. If you want to waste your money on an up-its-own arse, overlong action movie that contains hardly any action but does contain Eric Roberts, then by all means waste it on The Dark Knight. If, however, you want to spend your moollah on a comic book movie that won’t bore you, insult you, and annoy you, I’d recommend you wait for Iron Man to come out on DVD. At least that film was stupid but fun. The Dark Knight is just stupid.

And it’s got Eric Roberts in it.

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Baftas – British Academy Awards, 2008

February 14, 2008

Bafta 

Let’s face it – the Oscars are rubbish. They’re a highly-predictable, self-congratulatory backslap, filled with wailing starlets dedicating their success to God and egotistical directors believing themselves to be untouchable. Every time you have to sit through more and more tedious dance interpretations, undeserving wins and Celine Dion performances, just to find out who was the lucky recipient of the tactical voting this year. And they go on for hours… hours and hours and hours…

But they may not happen this year because of the writers strike… well, they will happen this year… but that doesn’t matter, because there’s a chance they won’t… either way, the possibility of no Hollywood red carpet this year was enough to send the American royalty scuttling over the pond for their one definite chance to wear a tux this season – the British Academy Film Awards – and thusly lent the event more kudos and importance.

And it worked too… free of the faux-worship and celebrity-deification that scuppers the Oscars each year, the BAFTAs was a relatively classy and refined affair that seemed to actually celebrate the movies and not the paychecks that come with them. And they brought it in at just over two hours, including a half hour break for the news!

The broadcast ceremony began in the best possible way by fucking up the audio link and rendering the first 10 minutes inaudible. This meant that only were we mercifully saved from Jonathon Ross’s no doubt hilarious opening monologue, but that all accompanying clips and soundbites were smeared with an ominous echoing and deep rumble – fantastic! Avant garde cinema at it’s best.

Then they fixed it and just in time to for Rambo to give the award for best British Film to This is England. Brilliant! A totally deserving win, followed by a funny and humble acceptance speech. No ego, no harrumphing, no glorious self worship – just a good film getting an award that it should have. Bring it on!

The rest of the night pretty much followed suit – big names came out and gave prizes to films that really wouldn’t get a look in at the Oscars and there was no one big winner, no one film that swept the board. It kept the event interesting and reflected the highly unusual levels of worth within this years’ nominees.

There were a few predictable wins – Daniel Day Lewis for best actor, Javier Barden for supporting actor – but the majority were unexpected, or at least wide open in a well deserved field. Marion Cotillard winning best actress for the fantastic La Vie En Rose was a terrific moment, as was the Diving Bell and the Butterfly picking up best adapted screenplay.

Atonement, the 14 category nominated super horse, only won two awards and while it was fun to see Keira’s face dropping at each loss for a while, you were really rooting for it by the end. And it won best film… which I don’t mind too much, they obviously put a lot of hard work into making a well-received film and after every other good movie had picked up and award or two it seemed only fair that Atonement should get the big one. The only sour note, really, was the producer of said film assessing their win on stage;

“well, we only won 2 and we were nominated for so many, but we got the big one and I suppose that’s the important thing”

…before going on to say how nice it was that the other films got a look in.

I never thought I’d write this post, I never thought I could write a good review of yet another fucking awards ceremony – but this year they appear to have got it right. The awards were largely just, the speeches free from excess and Jonathon Ross did himself proud – although you could tell from his face that he was itching to crack a Heath Ledger joke after the in-memoriam section.

American writers should strike more often.