Mel Gibson’s retro chase thriller set in Mayan times and exclusively in the Yucatec Mayan language used all actors of Mayan or Native American descent and not one is a well-known name or face. It tells the tale of Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) who is captured by a rival tribe. Before capture he lowers his very pregnant wife and young son into a cave and promises to come back for them. Along with his fellow tribe members he is force-marched to a step pyramid at a big Maya city to be offered as sacrifice to the sun god. The Mayan civilization appears to be in ruins with pestilence, disease and failing crops. A timely solar eclipse saves his life but his captors are still out for blood and in a thrilling chase through the jungles that includes serpents, vertiginous waterfalls, fierce black jaguars, toad poisoned thorn darts, and the landing of Christopher Columbus, the opposition falls one by one and Jaguar Paw proves that in his jungle he is the ruler. The film creates a believable urban Mayan civilization that is cruel and decadent and in a surprisingly contemporary and somewhat judgmental twist makes a hero out of a man of the jungle, one who in the end turns his back to the impending wave of Spanish civilization and goes into the jungle with his family to make a new beginning. This is Mel sticking up for the poor native Americans and the indigenous people where ever they may be! But why was there pox and pestilence if Columbus had not even landed yet? Again, it is Hollywood’s liberal bias teling us that decadent civilizations MUST die! The chase is thrilling, fast paced and the film thoroughly engaging at all levels, even in some incredibly brutal moments. The camera following the dizzy speed of the racing tapir in the opening sequence, never really lets up or disappoints. I would talk of the acting of individual actors, but I know not one by name; so I will simply say that the entire cast does an excellent job of getting into the skin of their characters.
This one is not for the faint-hearted, but it is well worth your time if you can stomach blood and gore. A surprisingly sophisticated effort from Mel Gibson.
Red Rock West is just the ticket to alleviate boredom! It has the usual double-cross, topped by a triple-cross, a heist, chase, shootouts, a femme fatale, a good criminal, a bad criminal and enough twists to keep the tale fast paced and interesting. Nicholas Cage is Michael Williams, an ex-marine, who is mistaken by JT Walsh (playing the bar woner Wayne Brown), to be the killer Lyle “from Dallas” whom he has hired to off his wife. Cage takes the money and then double that from the wife to off the husband, and then calmly proceeds to leave Red Rock. Except that Rd Rock will not let him leave! The real Lyle (Dennis Hopper) walks into town, turns out to be another ex-Marine and a kook at that. And before he knows it Cage, accompanied by the class-act wife (Lara Flynn Boyle), is on the run from various members of the Red Rock citizenry, their hired killers, and sundry cops. There is a lot of money that keeps changing hands and a wife who keeps changing loyalties. I have never been a fan of Cage, but as a dead-pan and emotionally dead man he does a good job in a tailor made role. Laura Flynn-Boyle makes a great femme-fatale with just the right mixture of class and crass. But the show is undoubtedly stolen by Dennis Hopper – hopped up on booze and just bad attitude, he is one badass criminal who is not to be messed with. This film engages without pretending to be anything more that that. A must watch for pure entertainment.
Not wanting to entertain at all but being ever so serious is Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood has aged like a fine wine – except that those mellow with age, while his face has taken on a craggy and worn look that allows him to easily play any man with rough edges and a “past”. In Gran Torino, Clint is Walt Kowalski, the Baghban father, ignored by his son and son’s family except when they want something. A Korean War vet with much on his mind, he lives in a neighborhood that is being invaded by Hmong families. There are gangs, both Hmong and Black, and the neighbor’s kid Thao is caught between both, and challenged to steal Clint’s prize possession, a mint condition 1972 Garn Torino. The conflicts bubble and seethe until one day Clint pulls out a shogun against the Hmong gang. Next thing we know he is the friend of the Hmong and takes Thao under his wing, and befriends the peppy daughter Sue. Drawn into these conflicts through Taho and Sue, Walt realizes that there will be no peace for his neighbors unless he takes matters into his own hands. He then takes on his sacrificing lone ranger persona to deal with the problem. A crowd pleaser, the film is well made, engaging, but almost saccharine in intent. It was a little hard for me to stomach the “White man must save Gunga Din” type superior attitude that permeated the film. Mr. Eastwood is a fine director but he needs to stop taking himself so seriously! The acting was sound all round – Clint, as I mentioned earlier, can just let the cracks and crevasses in his cheeks to the acting now, the girl Sue played by Abney Her was spectacular. This was one character that was real and made me want to keep watching the film. As the quiet and introverted Thao, Bee Vang did a great job too. Overall a decent effort, but I cannot see what the fuss was all about!
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