I’ve written before about bad entertainment from bad film sequels (click here to read it) to the horrid remake of the movie “Rollerball” (click here read that review) to even how the sensational TV comedy “The Big Bang Theory” has jumped the shark (click here to read why). Now, I’m writing about three films in an individual manner. All are just putrid, even though they’re from filmmakers and stars who are better than what’s reflected in this trio of stinkers. The films run the gamut from football to assassins to auto racing. So, don’t get the popcorn ready … just forget these three if any or all happen to pop up as you cruise the television grids.
‘Any Given Sunday’
(1999; 162 minutes; rated R; directed by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid and Cameron Diaz)
‘The Evil That Men Do’
(1984; 90 minutes; rated R; directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Charles Bronson, Theresa Saldana and Joseph Maher)
(2013; 123 minutes; rated R; directed by Ron Howard and starring Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde)
EACH OF THIS TRIO IS SO BAD … HOW BAD ARE THEY?
Sometimes when you watch a film you wonder, “How did they ever come up with this mess?” Well, there are a bunch of reasons, so I’ll address three films today with three different reasons for being bad: No. 1, an overrated director with a inflated ego and bloated running time; No. 2, one that is just a horrid representation of a disturbing novel; and No. 3, a wonderfully outstanding director who just fumbles one completely.
No entertainer gives a perfect, award-winning performance each time, but there are some times that it’s unfortunate that their effort lives on through the decades through the visual medium. So, I’m not casting career aspersions on anyone here, but “Any Given Sunday,” “The Evil That Men Do” and “Rush” are examples of films that should never have been made – or at least made in the final product you can still see today.
I can’t say which of the three films is the worst or which is the best of the worst, so I’ll just go in alphabetical order …
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Football has always been a tough subject in cinema. Outside of rah-rah efforts that aren’t worthy of consideration, you’ll find flawed but commendable work such as “North Dallas Forty” (click here for my review) or even a prison movie framed by football (the original “The Longest Yard”). However, director Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” is supposed to take on the football establishment and address issues of injury, manipulation of players and general deceit and hypocrisy by management and the purity of an old-school coach (Al Pacino).
Well, the film is bloated (it nears three hours in length) and even feeds Stone’s ego with him being in it (with even more screen time than he gave himself in “Wall Street”). It tries visual tricks to make it look hip (smash cuts; shadow figures) and is just noisy and irritating at times.
The telling of the story fails completely with an all-star cast wasted – although both Pacino and James Woods do wonderful work that nearly rescues this awful effort. The film could have been further bolstered by the great casting of an energized Jamie Foxx and nicely treacherous Cameron Diaz, but the storytelling (and incredibly weak screenplay by four people – including, of course, Stone) makes this one just a grind to watch.
THE EVIL THAT MEN DO
Here’s a film that proves even bankable stars such as Charles Bronson can make a stinker. What’s worse, it has an incredibly accomplished director who makes a total cowpie that flopped in theaters and couldn’t win over even die-hard Bronson fans.
The subject matter is disturbing – an assassin comes out of retirement to take revenge on a specialist in torture – and absolutely nothing is redeeming in this bomb. You can’t even cite wonderful cinematography or a worthwhile soundtrack. The supporting cast? Weak and they show it. Writing? It was adapted from a novel of the same name, but managed not only to completely fumble the intent of the story in the book but also managed to screw up telling even basic parts of the film.
However, the biggest disappointment is that “The Evil That Men Do” was directed by J. Lee Thompson. I mean, this is the director of “The Guns of Navarone” (he got an Oscar nomination for it) and that’s just about the best World War II film ever made (at least I put it at the top of my list – click here to read my review). So what happened here? It’s difficult to say. The opening torture sequence doesn’t work and just looks creepy – as does the ending of the death of the bad guy. If you watched each film and didn’t know the name of the director, you’d never believe in a million years that the same director was responsible for both.
“The Evil That Men Do” is a Bronson action film, but the action stinks and Bronson’s acting is even more wooden than was his reputation. He was exponentially better in the original “Death Wish” (click here for my review – and forget his work in the sequels) and I also liked him in the original “The Mechanic” (click here to read my review – and this is how to make a film about an assassin).
Of the three films I’m writing about today, “Rush” is just as bad as the other two, but I’m not going to criticize director Ron Howard too much. After all, this is a director’s director as he won Oscars for best picture and directing for “A Beautiful Mind” (too bad he had to win for this factually fractured story) and was nominated for both with “Frost/Nixon.” Of course he also did the magnificent “Apollo 13” and the merely outstanding “Parenthood” (click here for my review), plus don’t forget he did the fall-down funny “Splash” (click here for my review) with Tom Hanks and John Candy.
So, what went wrong with “Rush?” Well, it’s a difficult story to tell to an American audience that hasn’t always followed or appreciated the Formula 1 auto racing scene. “Rush” is the story of the rivalry of two polar-opposite drivers (the stoic, precise German Niki Lauda and the flamboyant, emotional Brit James Hunt) and should have been better. I’m a big fan of both F1 – especially at the time the film is set – and Lauda, so I looked forward to this one and that made the disappointment all the worse.
The film doesn’t manage to tell the men’s stories very well. It’s puzzling because Howard is such a superb story teller and the cinematography is solid. I can’t say it’s the acting is good or bad (Chris Hemsworth played Hunt and Daniel Bruhl played Lauda) since the film is so ineffective and tedious. Howard wasn’t able to bring the spirit of either man to the big screen and the film just doesn’t manage give any life to either one.
In any case, I’ll give Howard a pass on being really critical here since he’s done so much better work in so many other films. As I already noted, even the best can have an off-day. Or, in Howard’s case, an off-film called “Rush.”
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2016.
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