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original or remake?
original 100%
remake 0%

Votes: 1

 Can I use your bathroom?

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Oct 19, 2001
K5 (and its diary section) appear to be out of order.

More diaries by spacejack
Another 'I just don't get it' post
But I suppose one site's diary section is as good as another for a quick pull.

Hmm, what was I going to write about. Well, I finally saw A Knight's Tale. It wasn't all that bad, but it sort of straddled the fence, not quite sure whether to go all the way with the anachronisms, or to stick to the traditional Hollywood norm of cheap sentimentality. They really should've gone all the way with the anachronisms, and forgotten about trying to manipulate us with sugary romance story. Upside is, that "Boys are Back in Town" tune has never been used quite so appropriately as it was in this film. And the babes are pretty hot. (Did jousting back in those days actually involve taking a lance hit right in the chest and staying on the horse?)

The reason I was somewhat hyped to see it though was because of Brian Helgeland's previous film, Payback with Mel Gibson. Now that, in my opinion, was probably one of the best films of 1999. Not only was the film treated with that wonderful silver-blue tinting that made the the photo on the cover of Cassius's 1999 CD look so stunningly cool, the film itself is one of those rare treats that's both economical, devilishly clever, and wonderfully creative. So I'll blather on a bit more about Payback instead.

The story's pretty simple. Even if you didn't see it, you might remember from the promos that it uses the familiar premise of a small-time hood named Porter, getting screwed over by the mob and then going back to get paid, one way or another. What's cool about it is how it is constructed; an almost perfect little gem where each scene could almost stand on its own. The casting is also flawless: Gregg Henry's portrayal of a 70's-style sleazy mobster is a riot, particularly the scenes with his girlfriend, played by Lucy Liu. They make the perfect sado-masochistic pair, trying to maintain their status in the "Syndicate". William Devane is also a joy to watch, portraying a soft-spoken, corporate-style gangster, taking care to articulate each word with understated grace. There are double-entendres and subtle jokes in just about every one of each character's lines. Repeated watchings only reveal more of these as you catch the nuances, like James Coburn's Fairfax character complaining, when he is called back into town, that he was "swimming with the dolphins this morning" and then blasts his bodyguard for mishandling his "genuine alligator luggage".

It's a story where every action has a consequence (you'll notice how Porter's troubles really start with himself; the reason he originally gets screwed over can be attributed to the fact that he once cheated on his heroin-addicted wife). He makes one more subtle mistake a bit later by insulting Lucy Liu's character, Perl, with an offhand comment. This also comes back to cause him problems him later in the film. Likewise, every plot device and twist has a rock-solid sense of internal logic. It may not be a realistic story in the "real world", but within the world of the film itself, it is completely convincing. (Hey, I believed it).

One of the most interesting things about the film is the fuzzy time period. Obviously it's set in a world much like the present day, but something seems a bit off. Eventually it hits you: there are no celphones or computers in this film! Not a one! They all use old-school rotary devices, pens and paper. Everything is paid for in cash. And of course the clothing styles and musical score are clearly derived from (but not quite locked into) the 1970's (the greatest decade ever for both). Classics like "It's a Man's World" and "The Thrill is Gone" are woven through the audio at precise times that reflect the visuals in an aesthetically brilliant yet subtle way. It reaffirms my belief that the urban setting of the North American East coast is one of today's most artistically inspiring environments.

So, to sum up: four stars out of four. There is one mistake, and one mistake only: when the Asian gangsters run down Porter in the street, the continuity stumbles; Porter gets flipped into the windshield, completely smashing it in, yet in the next scene the windshield is magically fixed. Ah well, I suppose no film has zero mistakes whatsoever. This one comes damn close though.

By the way, I also picked up Point Blank, the 1967 film on which Payback was obviously based to compare the two. Film "conniseurs" will try to tell you that the original was a better film, but I found it a bit too nihilistic. Though Lee Marvin is arguably a cooler hood than Mel Gibson, it just didn't seem contain the same amount of finesse, economy of style or humour that Payback did. Here's hoping that Helgeland's upcoming Daredevil will be every bit as good.


oops (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by spacejack on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 03:52:37 PM PST
K5 is back up.

When push comes to shovin,
I'd rather make some lovin.

Thank God (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 05:05:31 PM PST
no offense, of course...

None taken! (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by spacejack on Fri Oct 19th, 2001 at 05:29:46 PM PST

When push comes to shovin,
I'd rather make some lovin.


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