Day 3 – Wanking in L.A. 

“S.W.A.T.” by Clark Johnson is based on an old TV show that I don’t remember having ever seen, but it seems to be quite popular in Spain under the title “Los hombres de Harrelson.” I don’t know about the show, but the film is mostly about masturbation. It’s about men stroking and flaunting their weapons, comparing sizes and shooting their load off. When they are not man-handling their equipment, they are talking in cool cop codes, pumping iron or making jokes about vegetarians. The biggest balls of all belong to Michelle Rodriguez, of course. She is reprising her pissed-off, gun-toting, headset-wearing soldier girl role from “Resident Evil,” and the only bad thing about this is that she has very little screen time and no essential plot moment. It’s still fun watching Rodriguez do her thing. Unfortunately it’s no fun watching the rest of “S.W.A.T.” The message here is: It’s cool and extremely satisfying to wear a kinky uniform and shoot people, especially when set to chart-topping nu metal tunes.

There are two kinds of bad movies. There are those, like the remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “S.W.A.T.” that ignite you with a glorious holy rage against the state of films in general these days. And there are those gentler bad movies that simply seem to bore you to death, until they are over and you realize that life will go on. Films like “Fear X.” The first English-language film by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn stars John Turturro as a Wisconsin mall security guard trying to track the killer of his wife. Things fall into place without any great dramatic conflicts or confrontations, there is a hint of a just not very interesting conspiracy, and some artsy Lynch 101 dream sequences. In the end you can’t be sure what exactly happened, but you definitely know that you don’t care. Pedestrian direction, clueless performances by potentially good actors, and a shallow script, surprisingly co-written by the great Hubert Selby Jr. What happened? Whatever.

With Asian cinema being even more in focus in this year’s festival than usual, there are many retrospectives and homages dedicated to Japanese, Chinese and Korean film-genres and filmmakers. One is honoring Hong Kong director Chang Cheh, who passed away in 2002. His breakthrough film was the Shaw Brothers production “The One-Armed Swordsman” in 1966. I like the love story between the title character and the farm girl who nurses him back to health after losing his arm much better than the fight scenes, contrived plot and tacky production design. But of course those Shaw Brothers movies are beyond criticism in orthodox movie geek world. Maybe I’m a little miffed because the screening was such an unpleasant experience. As the film had no Spanish subtitles, half the audience was wearing headphones to listen to the Spanish translation. Apparently this translation was much funnier than the English subtitles. So during the entire film half of the crowd was laughing their asses off with the other half shushing them angrily (to no avail; they were wearing headphones after all). 
Festival coverage continues in part four of 10 DAYS IN SITGES>>>

Posted on January 7, 2004 in Festivals by

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