As we near the end of 2019 — to which I offer a hale and hearty, “good riddance,” — I found myself looking back on my media experiences of the past year and realized I didn’t see many new films (or at least released-to-theaters flicks). To try and remedy that, I requested a movies from the library and had what turned out to be a strange and wildly imbalanced double feature of Ma and The Banana Splits Movie! Imma get into the former right now, but come on back soon for my take on the latter, as well as a review of Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2!
I don’t remember hearing many good things about The Raven. I also don’t remember hearing any particularly negative things, but that’s not really a great sign either, is it? But, being a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s in high school and loving John Cusack from movies like High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank so when I saw The Raven pop up on Netflix Instant, I figured I’d give it a watch anyway. And, you know what? I liked it!
Now, it’s important to frame this movie in a particular way to really enjoy it. First, this is not a biopic. The less you know about Poe the better. I knew very little, so that worked out for me. I also liked thinking of Cuasack as doing a bit of a Nic Cage impression while doing his scenes because he’s got an over-the-top quality that might encapsulate Poe pretty well, I’m not really sure.
So, here’s the plot. Edgar Allen Poe is asked by the Baltimore police to help them solve a rash of murders that take some of their cues from Poe’s stories. He’s towards the end of his career and having some real writers block, so he’s kind of a washed up has-been at this point, but after convincing the cops he’s not the killer himself, he gets involved in trying to not only find the killer but also his girlfriend played by Alice Eve who the killer kidnapped.
I’ve got to say, I was a little surprised at how gruesome some of the kills were, especially the one based around The Pit And The Pendulum. I guess I don’t expect that much from big-ish budget Hollywood movies like that, but it was kind of cool to see. The movie isn’t exactly soaked in blood, but it’s there. More so, it depends on the psychological thrills and craziness, especially in the films final moments which were pretty intense.
At it’s heart, The Raven is a fairly simple whodunit mixed with cat-and-mouse but framed in a fairly interesting locale and wrapped in the familiar tropes of Poe. I think if you’re a fan of those kinds of films and you go into this movie with a fairly open mind — or at least few preconceptions — you’ll have a good time with this one.
I believe my Jason Statham fandom is well documented. I first saw him in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, though I don’t specifically remember him from them. I think the first movie I really noticed him in was the first Transporter flick, which is awesome. Frankly, all three of those movies are huge jolts of awesomeness, worth every moment of viewing. After being primed for a dose of Statham after watching Ghosts Of Mars, I was excited to see Transporter 2 on FX yesterday, so excited that I decided to have myself a little Stahamathon that also included The One and Blitz, which I had never seen before.
In grand Transporter fashion, Frank (Statham) gets wrapped up in someone else’s drama, this time while driving a diplomat’s kid to school. The bad guys’ plot is actually pretty brilliant. They kidnapped the kid and injected him with a virus that needs time to incubate, but once it does can be transmitted through the air. They return the kid to his parents who breathes on his dad who is scheduled to appear at the UN or some such, meaning they’re trying to kill all those people. Or at least get them sick and then charge for the antidote.
Anyway, Statham kicks ass in all kinds of fantastic scenes, my personal favorite is the one with the guy in the boat garage. I think I like Crank and Crank 2 better because they’re just so gonzo, but the Transporter flicks showcase what’s great about Statham: his badass attitude and his no hold’s barred fighting style. Great, fun stuff. Neither of the other movies I watched yesterday topped it, but it was a good way to spend a day.
I figured The One wouldn’t be too heavy on Statham, but the fact that it pre-dated his Expendables team-up with Jet Li by a decade or so, I was definitely curious to see how they interacted. Also, I could have sworn I’d seen this movie, but there’s no way, I must have been thinking of something else. Jet Li plays a guy hopping from alternate reality to alternate reality in an attempt to kill all of his variant selves. With each death, he becomes more and more powerful and his intent is to kill them all so he can become a god. In our world, Li is actually a good guy, so, of course the two fight a lot. Statham winds up teaming up with the good Jet Li which means they only got to fight a tiny bit. But, like I said, this is Li’s movie.
I’m waffling back and forth as to whether or not to call this one silly. I mean, it’s an interesting concept, but it’s not really handled in the most serious or awesome way possible. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Time Cop, but this one has a lot more superpower-based fights which actually look surprisingly cool for a movie that’s 10 years old. Give it a whirl if you haven’t seen it and want something to just have fun with.
Oh, on one last Statham note, I think he was trying to do an American accent. He sounded like himself, but then a little different, dropping a bit of his Britishness, which is weird because he’s playing an interdimensional cop. Are we not supposed to be able to handle the fact that he might be British? Oh, 2001, you so crazy.
Ending the Stathamathon with Blitz was kind of a downer. It’s not an action movie at all, but more of a gritty crime drama in the vein of something like Mel Gibson’s Payback (such a rad movie, by the way). Statham’s the start and gets to do a little more legit acting this time around as a cop coming unhinged as a serial killer calling himself Blitz (as in Blitzkrieg) goes around murdering cops.
It’s actually a really solid movie, comparable to my memories of Guy Ritchie’s early movies (it’s been a long time since I even tried to watch Lock, Stock and Snatch again). It’s very set in the real world with Statham not playing a kind of superman who can take all kinds of punishment and come out on top. A few parts of it felt like they were thrown in there just to be shocking or dramatic, but overall, I enjoyed watching it, even if it was kind of depressing.
The worst thing about the flick–aside from no one getting a flying kick to the face–was the guy who played Blitz. I mean, he played it great, but he was such an asshole, you really wanted Statham to bust out some of those well-known moves and kick this kids face in. What winds up happening to him is pretty cathartic, but sometimes watching Statham’s more dramatic roles is like watching a re-programed Nuke at a museum. You know how dangerous it was (and still can be), so you’re kind of always waiting for it to go off. I’m also not sure how realistic some of the shit Blitz got away with was, but I can suspend my disbelief.
If I had done a little more research of actually planned this out in any way, I probably would have watched Blitz first, then The One and ended with Transporter 2. I was actually hoping that FX would play another Statham movie themselves, but instead they went into back-to-back John Cena movies and no one needs to sit through that. Still, I like knowing that the guy who can so thoroughly kick ass with his feet can also kick ass with his acting. Statham’s the real deal, you guys.