As this decade of enlightenment comes to an end, mankind has made one final mark to show that weâ€™ve come a long way from the starched, buttoned up white collar wastelands of a quarter-decade past. Nowadays, every straight dude is in a Bromance or holding hard to a Man Crush and completely fine with it.
For some itâ€™s a beloved sports figure â€“ with studs like Rocco Baldelli or Tom Brady currying favor with the dudes. Others look to the world of television and share a bizarre infatuation with Zach Braff, who is so femme that Iâ€™m not sure it rates as a Man Crush. (Iâ€™m not naming names here).
Me? I fixed eyes on the greatest action import of the last 10 years and fell head-over-heels. Read on to find out more.
1.Â Â W.
Iâ€™m not going to write too much about the plot other than it is a fairly restrained portrait of Dubya from a dude (Oliver Stone) who doesnâ€™t usually express such restraint. In that vein, itâ€™s a fair and balanced view of a fairly ordinary guy, dogged by some basic family and self-confidence issues, who chooses to exorcise those demons on a global scale at the worldâ€™s expense.
If anything, Stone and Josh Brolin do a decent job of humanizing Bush and now, more than ever, do I see him as a willing puppet to some Machiavellian forces â€“ most notably, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss). Bush seems like a likeable guy â€“ not nearly the dimwit we sometimes perceived him to be. So, whileâ€™s heâ€™s no dummy, heâ€™s not Presidential material. But, he did have a charisma, and a family name, that the Republicans could trade on and that proved irresistable.
Ultimately, W. is a dark comedy, a satire slightly watered down by the fact we were laughing at some of this madness years ago. To that end, this sometimes comes across as an old joke. Weâ€™ve heard this one before. But, that shouldnâ€™t take away from the masterful job that Brolin does in bring Dubya to life. His impression is uncanny and there are times when he completely disappears in the role but Brolin goes beyond simple parody. Like I said at the beginning, he humanizes Bush, which these days is no easy task.
2.Â Â Death Race
I seem to have a Man Crush on Jason Statham. Maybe itâ€™s the fact that heâ€™s the one action hero who I feel I could actually emulate. I may not have the martial arts moves but at least we share the same hairline.
In the last month, Iâ€™ve been working my way through a stable of Stathamâ€™s Greatest Hits. I already covered Crank and have The Transporters coming below. And of course, thereâ€™s this flick, last summerâ€™s remake of Death Race 2000.
This was a good competent action flick. Not a classic and not a tired retread. Just a cool little B-Movie with enough plot to get us from car chase to car chase. And itâ€™s not exactly a note-for-note remake of the original.
That original Roger Corman produced flick was a satire on Americaâ€™s lust for blood. Remarkably prescient, it predicted the reality TV craze by two decades with its taleÂ of Americaâ€™s Hottest TV show, Death Race, where viewers tuned in to watch a cross country race in which contestants raced each other while earning extra points by running down harmless pedestrians.
The new version sanitizes things â€“ dropping the social commentary and simply offering up a retelling of The Running Man â€“ with Statham placed in prison for a crime he didnâ€™t commit and forced to race other prisoners on Pay-Per-View. The races themselves call to mind the classic Playstation game, Twisted Metal, with the combatants poured into heavily armed and armored muscle cars and set against each other in a race to the death.
Anyway, this was just a fun little action flick â€“ the type of movie that will enjoy heavy rotation someday on SpikeTV.
3.Â Â The Transporter
This was the flick that kicked it all off â€“ the Statham obsession that is. I remembered a commercial years ago, during some random Pats game, where a doorbell rings and some villainâ€™s flunky rises from the poker table to peer through a peephole. And thereâ€™s this crazed, mad, bald Brit doing a flying dropkick through the air â€“Â dropping the door and the henchman in one fell swoop. That was a helluvaâ€™ introduction.
Anyway, this was always going to be one of my DVD flicks. I wouldnâ€™t pony up $12 to see it in the theater but at home on a lazy Sunday seemed a good price. And then the years ticked by.
When I finally dove back into Netflix and started building my queue one Statham flick led to another and finally to this one â€“ and that image jumped right back. It helped that over the years, a number of my guy friends have waxed poetic on the charms of Mr. Statham, so I knew The Transporter series would make itâ€™s way onto the queue of Movies for this Guy Who Loves Movies.
Now, I would never call The Transporter a great movie but it is a good action flick and it satisfies that niche left vacant by Schwarzenegger and Stallone. It helps that I can understand Statham a helluvaâ€™ lot better than those mush mouths too. Plus, Statham does his own stunts and displays some mean martial arts prowess.
The problem with The Tranporter flicks is they are the brain child of French action auteur Luc Besson. Besson dreams up some killer characters, pairs them off with the best-of-the-best action choreographers on loan from Hong Kong and then muddies the mix by trying to inject sappy sentimentalism. He just canâ€™t seem to help himself. So each one of his heroes has bizarre eccentricities. Stathamâ€™s Frank Martin isnâ€™t so bad but he is paired with a snooping French detective who stumbles around as comic relief but really drags things to a halt.
Still, itâ€™s not enough to ruin the action and this flick features some stunning sequences including one fight I have never seen before. Surrounded by men in a vacant bus depot, Frank knocks some conveniently places barrels of grease to the ground and proceeds to lather up. Strapping some bike pedals to his feet, he then proceeds to whale on 20 assailants who are slip, sliding away. That sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
4.Â Â The Transporter 2
As good as The Transporter was, the Transporter 2 offers up ample evidence against unnecessary sequels. EverythingÂ is supposed to be bigger and better in a sequel, but there isnâ€™t anything in this flick that trumps that grease fight from the first film. Add an unnecessary appearance by that Inspector Clouseau wannabe and this just feels like a cash grab.