Friday, July 17, 2015
Directed By: Ted Demme
Written By: David McKenna & Nick Cassavettes
Based on the book by: Bruce Porter
Cinematography By: Ellen Kuras
Editor: Kevin Tent
Music By: Graeme Revell
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ethan Suplee, Jordi Molla, Bobcat Goldithwait, Cliff Curtis, Paul Ruebens, Ray Liotta, Rachel Griffiths, Franka Potente, Kevin Gage, Max Perlich, Miguel Sandoval, Monet Mazur, Jennifer Gimenez, Jamie King, Lola Glaudini, Richard LaGrevense, Emma Roberts
A boy named George Jung grows up in a struggling family in the 1950's. His mother nags at her husband as he is trying to make a living for the family. It is finally revealed that George's father cannot make a living and the family goes bankrupt. George does not want the same thing to happen to him, and his friend Tuna, in the 1960's, suggests that he deal marijuana. He is a big hit in California in the 1960's, yet he goes to jail, where he finds out about the wonders of cocaine. As a result, when released, he gets rich by bringing cocaine to America. However, he soon pays the price.
This film on paper seemed to have everything going for it material wise and casting and crew it looked like it was going to be substantial as well as the coolest seeming film of the year. How did it all seem to go wrong or seemed to fall apart.
The film has a good story and good material that it is based on, unfortunately it looks and feels like it is impersonating the films it is supposed to be inspired by, this making it feel Like the film doesn't have it's own personality nor identity. For all of it’s great visuals and interesting layered story . It just feels empty
One of the few times Johnny Depp gives a no frills performance not giving his character any quirks or trying to come up with off the wall impersonations of playing the role. Which leaves his character Understandable but bland and uninteresting. Or maybe that is just the performance which would be fine of we weren't so used to seeing him the other way.
The film has a great all star cast, but the cast member who makes the most with their role and is the standout Is Ray Liotta we haven't seen him in this type of role before more matronly and caring. Warm not over the top yet still powerful. He gives a heartfelt performance for a film that doesn’t exactly deserve it. He seems to be the only thing and character not a caricature nor affected or over the top. Look at the differences between his and Rachel Griffiths a good actress here playing a caricature letting her accent and make up do the acting for her. Which seems over the top and forced That seems to lead her performance.
Don't get me wrong the film is a visual feast, but having read the book the material is there the film just like the Character seems more interested in the flash instead of what is important like having he heart of the story that seems built up to, but more like an afterthought. The soundtrack is great and in such with the scenes as it is more classic songs then score. They go with the stylized shots that make scenes seem more like great music videos then connected to the rest of the film.
I know there is a lot of story to cover, but some characters just seem to drop out of sight or the film and never mentioned again though they seem important to the story. It even touches on Pablo Escobar getting involved. Even Diego Delgado played by Jordi Molla in real life had a story that after we leave him is more epic and tawdry then is shown or hinted at in this film.
There's a pattern to the films plot. Everytime George says "everything is perfect", things will start to go wrong in his life.
Paul Ruebens is funny more comic relief in a role that is dramatic. In a role that Denis Leary was previously attached to.
Unfortunately this is director Ted Demme's last film. He was a director whose films I was especially a fan of they were studio films but not only were they good, but felt like they had an edge to them that steered away from the mainstream a bit and were subversive. life THE REF, While this to me is a failure it at least shows he was ready for bigger films and challenging himself. Which in my opinion he would have. He was capable of better. This seems to have been a growing pain. Like he wasn’t up to the level this film needed yet.
The film feels rushed and though it tries to be stylish. Some scenes come off haphazard and clunky and garishly designed. It’s a film that should feel epic and Bigger then the cramped feeling it gives off, that feels more like the material of re-enactments on crime TV-shows
Now while the film has an exciting premise and feels like it should be epic. The filmmakers try as best they can, but the film still feels limited and contained. It never feels as grand as it should. I can understand if the film wants to make it more intimate then most crime stories. Focusing on the success, business and the relationships more then the grand scale details and repercussions. Though it makes the film feel like it is missing out.
I don't know if the film choose to stick with more of the actual story then going off into flights of fantasy made up more for dramatic tension. The story feels very clean as their is little to no violence, just more threatening and the sense of violence going on around the characters. I wonder if as this film seems to be more sympathetic to George Jung. It is a kind of white was of his character. As it seems while the film does implicate him in crimes the film makes him seem so innocent more like he was pushed into these decisions by various people and only agreed to be successful other than being a mastermind smuggler. He seems the ultimate victim. I believe in The film it is not a fair assessment as the film makes it seem like he had little choice and in an effort for the audience to sympathize with him almost everyone else around him used him and pushed him and all u is guilty of is bad judgement and trusting the wrong people.
Another problem is that the film seems to want to emulate plenty of other better films as far as style and even mood and character, but never feels authentically it's own. It feels like it’s striving to be a better different film. So it never created it's own identity other then seeming like a cliff notes version of events with big name reenactments rather than drama. As some actors let their accents do all the character work for them rather than embody the character mindfully and physically.
Penelope Cruz is amazing as this is the most volatile, animated, energetic and sexy she has ever been. The only problem is while she has a great entrance and continues to be a harsh character after that opening she is barely used again to capacity and feels misused.
According to the Director's Commentary, the tape that George Jung leaves for his father near the end of the movie is a verbatim transcript of a tape that the real George Jung recorded under similar circumstances.
A lot of Johnny Depp 's dialogue was improvised, including the scene where they are trying to find a place to put all their money from selling coke and his line "We're gonna need a bigger boat" a quote from JAWS. Also The scene where Ray Liotta asks Johnny Depp where he got the money to pay for Franka Potente's wedding ring, Johnny Depp says, "Construction." This is a reference to GOODFELLAS where Lorraine Bracco asks Ray Liotta how he can afford to pay everyone with twenty-dollar bills and why he knows everyone so well, Ray Liotta then replies, "Construction." Which might explain how strong the script was or might have been as far as believable dialogue.
The film excellently weaves music soundtrack and visuals as scenes to serve like music video moments or like underlying or subliminal undercurrents for the scenes they are in.
This is a film that has great potential that feels like it went with a early draft. When it should have been worked on a bit more before going in front of cameras.