Thursday, January 5, 2012

Raging Pheonix


  From the Netflix descriptor, the box art, to the actual first ten minutes, none of them seem like they belong to the same movie. Its wildly off putting. The box art boasts gritty stylized action, the descriptor promises a low rent revenge flick, the movie in its first act... is colorful and silly as hell.  However... is it possible that by the end credits, I've experienced all three?  Its a madcap, silly, gritty, action packed revenge adventure that is totally unexpected and one that I was totally unprepared for.

  Half an hour in, and I'm sitting through some intense overacting, thats coming across blatently silly, and the tone is wacky.  I'm incredibly close to turning it off and looking for something else.  Characters jump into the scene without being introduced, legions of bad guys appear from nowhere, and the movie takes its damn time to explain itself. We dont have answers to wild shit from the first act, until the third.  Its also so frequently silly and goofy that its, at those moments, impossible to take seriously.  Human trafficking, murder, revenge, rampant alcoholism.... and theres still room for slapstick humor? Getting your ass stuck in a bottomed out chair. Yeah. Sorry, what?

  Tonally, this movie is ALL over the place, and some stuff moves WAY too fast narrative-wise, its hard to keep up, but its even harder to actually buy whats happening.  The lead character goes from being an angst ridden, whiney, girl in a grunge band... to martial arts MASTER in days? Well, wait, the movie is never quite clear on that. Has it been weeks? Months? A year? Come on guys. A training montage doesn't really tell us how much time has passed.   The movie eventually explains everything it needs to, but by the time it does... we're in completely new territory, mentally unprepared for whats going on.

  That being said, the characters have nice dialog, great chemistry, and they all do their damned best to bring believeability to their roles. Its no easy task, but eventually you learn to just... go along with it.  Once you can just surrender and take whatever comes at you, you might find that this movie is a real gem.  For starters its visually impressive. Colorful and well defined, locations and settings are vibrant and alive. Its a gorgeous movie.  Secondly, the fights, when played seriously... are awesome.  They have impact and gravitas, and at just the right moments, they're slowed down so you can drink in that epic kick and watch it connect to that guy's face in slow motion.

When the fighting is on display, it makes the movie make sense. Not the narrative, not the plot, not the drastic sharp turn into "where the hell did THIS come from?" not any of that...
The fights inhabit their settings so damn well it gives the movie a reason to exist and it gives you a reason to watch it. Also the girl is really cute. Two reasons. There. Go watch it. Have fun.

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