Review: Good Kill

“Keep compartmentalizing” is a piece of advice from a commanding officer to his ace pilot. This is darkly humourous, intelligent screenwriting because these drone-piloting soldiers spend 12 hours a day literally inside a box, albeit an air-conditioned one filled to the brim with technology, with fresh coffee available if needs be.

A day of drone warfare fought, the service men and women leave the base and go home to BBQ with their family and drink beer in the nearby Las Vegas suburb, a pebble-lawned stretch of cookie cutter banality not far away from the dazzling gratuitousness of The Strip. Things go from grim but necessary to deeply disturbing slowly but inevitably, and often didactically, in Good Kill.

The film focuses on Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a former F-16 pilot and a veteran of many tours. He is now ‘grounded’ in the tiny box on wheels enacting a play-station war; one of low risk of physical harm (barring carpal tunnel syndrome) on which he compensates by making the damage 100% psychological. Egan’s icy disposition and years of experience make him one of the current top performers in piloting drones.

Hawke’s performance is miles apart from his life-long work with Richard Linklater, not to mention as different as possible from the testosterone meathead cinema-depictions of fighter pilots in thrill oriented blockbusters like Top Gun and its numerous copy cats. Egan ignores the gung-ho nature of the two tech support co-workers, the young guys that keep the communications to the remotely piloted aircraft humming along. Egan is quietly respectful of the competence of his equally young female co-pilot (Zoë Kravitz) while carrying out any order from his commanding officer (Bruce Greenwood, who gets all the good lines and let’s face it, is a national goddamn treasure).

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DVD Review: Sweetwater

Other than a musical performance of The Blue Danube by some townfolks at one point, there is little sugar in the western town they call Sweetwater. There is, however, unfettered corruption in all positions of authority. The bank, bears the ironic moniker of Hugh’s Integrity and Trust, but Hugh (the always excellent Stephen Root) takes great delight in the act of all but robbing his customers. The current sheriff is a lazy and incompetent blowhard and the local brothel madame (Amy Madigan)sold her own daughter into the prostitute trade without a second thought about it. The general store’s proprietor has a Porky’s style peephole for watching the few ladies in town strip down to their underwear when trying on the fancy dresses he retails. All are under the iron fist of Josiah, the preacher and literal shepherd who runs the biggest Ranch in the valley, called Holy Land (a western counterpart to Django Unchained’s Candi Land.) Josiah is tightly wound, spiritually crazy and exudes 24 karat hypocrisy through every pore of his alabaster skin. Jason Isaacs, here plays one of those great mustache twirling madmen who at one point crucifies someone on an upside down cross. Sweetwater is that kind of movie.

Saddling up a near A-list cast of character actors heaping on gobs of production-value, in the parlance of our times, Sweetwater is a western trashterpiece. The film might be an acquired taste, but for those who might detect its tannins and notes of ironic humour and wordplay in the story, there are many, many delights. In rapid succession we are introduced to a bearded Mormon-Prophet Josiah and his particular brand of apocalyptic preaching, the playfully competent prancing hired lawman, Jackson (Ed Harris – whose manner and wardrobe seem to be channeling Doctor Who), and the straight-backed frontierswoman, Sarah (January Jones) frolicking with her Mexican husband, Miguel (Eduardo Noriega) on their dusty ranch property in the dusky evening. We will watch all of these actors chew scenery in their own fashion over the course of the next 100 minutes. They will make elaborate speeches, offer flinty glares, and dwell a bit in their idiosyncrasies before the obligatory climax in which everyone will shoot at each other. But O Brother! What scenery will be chewed before we get there.

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Fantasia 2013 Review: Sweetwater

Other than a musical performance of The Blue Danube by some townfolks at one point, there is little sugar in the western town they call Sweetwater. There is, however, wall to wall corruption in all positions of authority. The bank, like the name bears the ironic moniker of Hugh’s Integrity and Trust, but Hugh (the always excellent Stephen Root) is anything but trustworthy, delighting in act of all but robbing his customers. The current sheriff is a lazy and incompetent blowhard. The local brothel madame (Amy Madigan) is the type who would sell her own daughter into the prostitute trade without a second thought about it. The general store’s proprietor has a Porky’s style peephole for watching the few ladies in town strip down to their underwear when trying on the fancy dresses he retails. All are under the iron fist of Josiah, the preacher and literal shepherd who runs the biggest Ranch in the valley, called Holy Land (a western counterpart to Django Unchained’s Candi Land.) Josiah is tightly wound, spiritually crazy and exudes 24 karat hypocrisy through every pores of his skin. A great mustache twirling madman who will at one point crucifies someone on an upside down cross. It is that kind of movie.

Saddling up a near A-list cast of character actors heaping on gobs of production-value, in the parlance of our times, Sweetwater is a western trashterpiece. The film might be an acquired taste, but for those who might detect its tannins and notes of ironic humour and wordplay in the story, there are many, many delights. In rapid succession we are introduced to a bearded Mormon-Prophet Josiah (Jason Isaacs) and his particular brand of apocalyptic preaching, the playfully competent prancing hired lawman, Jackson (Ed Harris) decked out in a sky-blue overcoat and plaid pants, and the straight-backed frontierswoman, Sarah (January Jones) frolicking with her mexican husband, Miguel (Eduardo Noriega) on their dusty ranch property in the dusky evening. We will watch all of these actors chew scenery in their own fashion over the course of the next 100 minutes. They will make elaborate speeches, offer flinty glares, and dwell a bit in their idiosyncrasies before the obligatory climax in which everyone will shoot at each other. But O Brother! What scenery will be chewed before we get there.

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Trailer: Sweetwater

Despite a fair number of film roles, it appears thus far, Mad Men‘s January Jones has not been able to break meaningfully into the cinema. Here, writer-director Logan Miller has gone and anchored a film around her as an avenging angel in a purple dress.

In the late 1800s, a fanatical religious leader, a renegade Sheriff, and a former prostitute collide in a blood triangle on the rugged plains of the New Mexico Territory. Those western archetypes are played with a little bot of that old time scenery chewing by Ed Harris, Jason Isaacs and of course, Ms. Jones. They may be hard to spot, but the talented Eduardo Noreiga and Stephen Root (also cameo-ing in the much larger scale The Lone Ranger) round out the supporting cast. While Sweetwater does not appear to be re-writing any of the rules in the genre, its nice to see that some folks are interested in keeping the good old fashioned exploitation western alive and kicking.

I plan on catching the film during its lone screening Fantasia on July 22nd. But for those in the UK, the film was released on DVD in June under the title Sweet Vengeance. No release in the USA outside of the festival circuit seems to be forthcoming, yet.

Guy Pearce is Simply One of a Few Citizens Seeking Justice.

I‘d immediately write this off as a piece of Direct-to-DVD trash (ala last years Tresspass), if it were not for Roger Donaldson at the helm. Like John Frankenheimer and Sidney Lumet before him, Donaldson (Thirteen Days, The Bank Job), tends to consistently make solid more-or-less-grounded genre efforts that stand above the usual array of hack-work polluting the action-thriller section. No he’s not quite as good as his similarly named (I often confuse the two!) contemporary Roger Mitchell (Changing Lanes, Enduring Love) but if you want yeoman’s work, Donaldson is your man.

Here a shaved headed Guy Pearce drops a Star-Chamber-esque service into the lap of every-man Nic Cage (as if!) following the maiming of his wife (January Jones) leaves her hospitalized (probably some irate X-men fan.) The faustian bargain: We’ll give you vigilante justice if you owe us an undisclosed favour down the road. Of course the favour down the road has Cage dodging the sliding rear wheels of a 6 tonne flatbed truck. Lots of intensely silly mayhem ensues. Seeking Justice looks to sit somewhere in the middle ground between modern vigilante fantasies; not as outright stupid as the similar Gerard Butler-vehicle, Law Abiding Citizen nor as talky or restrained as the Jodie Foster-vehicle The Brave One.

Of course, it will be worth watching this movie, when it drops into theatres March 16, just to get to this image:

Cinecast Episode 223 – Just the Alien from Cloverfield and Super 8?

 
 
A bit of a break in the usual routine as summer comes closer to a close – In this episode of the Cinecast director Jim Mickle (Stake Land and Mulberry St.) joins Kurt and Andrew for a chat on Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens and Errol Morris’s Tabloid. We mix up the typical show order and do DVD picks first (as Stake Land hits DVD shelves this week!), then our main reviews, with liberal sprinkling of Netflix instant watch suggestions throughout the show before finally ending on The Watch List. This allows for a lot of delightful tangents and director/screenwriter insights. Hope you enjoy this one, it’s a keeper.

As always, thanks for listening and please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below.


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_223.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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