THE MOVIES

These are 'user reviews' of some of Jason Isaacs' movies.  Obviously, they focus on Mr. Isaacs' performances, but they also try to take into account the entertainment value of each movie as a whole.  The reviewers are identified by initials/usernames.

 


 

 

 (2006–2008)

      Brotherhood ran for three seasons on the premium cable channel Showtime.  Like other series, it had multiple writers, and this, together with the fact that its renewal from season to season was never a given, probably contributed to a certain disconnected quality in the writing.  It was, however, one of the few series I've seen that dealt in an grown-up manner with issues like economic uncertainty, industrial outsourcing, and parental aging.  Set and filmed in Providence, Rhode Island, the show examined the relationship between two sons of an Irish immigrant mother and their struggle for supremacy, both within the family and their changing neighborhood.  Mr. Isaacs portrayed the elder, Michael Caffee, to Jason Clarke's Tommy, a state legislator.  I felt the writers did an admirable job of illustrating the slippery slope of tit-for-tat political back scratching seemingly unavoidable at any level of politics, which for Tommy eventually devolves to outright corruption.  Somewhat less successful was their handling of the mysterious criminal life of Mike, a man forced to abandon home and family for seven years, whose return sets off a chain of events involving escalating violence as he tries to reclaim the influence and control he'd enjoyed before fleeing.  (The premise of the program was inspired by the story of the Bulger brothers of Boston.)

      Again, the writers introduced a number of complex topics, from urban gentrification to the parenting of precocious preteens, and this being Showtime, the whole was delivered with liberal helpings of nudity, gunfire, and profanity.  Given Mike's profession, this was not all gratuitous, but it sometimes seemed excessive, and the writers' intentions weren't always clear.  Mr. Isaacs, on the other hand, never seemed anything less than committed to this challenging role, and watching his portrayal of Mike's growing paranoia, his joyless consorting with neighbourhood whores, or his spontaneous clowning with his nieces was a brilliant way to spend a Sunday evening.  We were sorry to see Mike go.

Rated a very strong R for language, graphic violence, and fairly explicit sexual content

 


 

 

 (2004)  

     For those of you who are fanatically monolingual, this translates to "New France", and the movie concerns the loss of France's northern colonies in the New World to the British (when it doesn't focus on the trials of a comely young demi-savage "natural healer" and her relationship with some hard-bodied French dude).  Mr. Isaacs portrays Gen. Wolfe in an appalling wig; he has a very brief scene, with the estimable Tim Roth.  I've yet to see it, but likely will, if for no other reason than that it was filmed at least in part at Fortresse Louisbourg, where I wish to be buried.

    If I don't get to live there first.

    Update:  I am sorry to report that this movie is every bit as bad as I had anticipated.  It's full of foolish moments like the lascivious character played by Irene Jacob presenting Noémie Godin-Vigneau's with an opulent gown (worth about four years of GV's annual rent), which miraculously fits her perfectly!  Without stays!  Anachronisms abound, and there's really no establishment of location or time, leaving viewers to scratch their heads and hang on for the ride.  Not only is General Wolfe's wig real bad, but his entire uniform looks like it was dragged out of the bottom of Benjamin Martin's trunk and tossed on, sans pressing.  In the dark.  Curiously, though the casting director has wilfully ignored Wolfe's actual age and body type, somebody—perhaps Jason Isaacs himself—has elected to retain Wolfe's affliction with consumption, which at least gives Isaacs something else to do with his brief part:  he gets to do some coughing.  Much of the scenery is very pleasant.

http://www.filmnouvellefrance.com/ —the Official Website)


 

 

(2003) —Helen8

“All children grow up . . . except one.”

 

     This version of the J. M. Barrie classic is noteworthy, aside from starring Jason Isaacs as Capt. James Hook as well as Mr. Darling, for casting for the first time a real, live boy (the suitably impish Jeremy Sumpter) to play the title character. This casting shows in a new light the awakening feelings between Wendy (the well-cast Rachel Hurd-Wood) and Peter (although he can’t form a lasting relationship). I’ll leave that analysis to psych. majors.

 

     The script is a faithful retelling of the story, with the exception of the invented Aunt Millicent. The production values are top rate, providing eye candy with the fun and whimsy of this film. The special effects scenes—most notably Peter, Wendy, and her brothers flying over the streets of Victorian London and then up through the atmosphere into space; upon arriving in Neverland, Peter et al. watching Hook and his crew from clouds that look like Creamsicle puffs; and luminous fairies lifting the Jolly Roger (Hook’s ship) airborne, sailing over London—are spectacular. The music is suitably whimsical, with the Fairy Wedding scene waltz being this reviewer’s favorite selection.

 

     As the story is well known to all of us, I’ll skip to the reason for this review. First, this site gets its name from the Los Angeles premiere of Peter Pan in 2003, where 15 of us “loony” fans assembled in anticipation. However, Jason was unable to attend, so we dubbed ourselves “The Lost Girls.”

 

     There is a fabulous assortment of Hook costumes (the Blue number and the Red number being the best), as well as a red-velvet-lined box filled with hooks for every occasion.

 

     There’s plenty here for a fan of Jason to love: A concealed, and very sad, Captain Hook watches Peter and Wendy dance together at the Fairy Wedding and laments, “And Hook is all alone.” Hook carries a vial of his tears, composed of “malice, jealousy, and disappointment,” which he uses in an attempt to kill Peter.

 

     When Hook discovers how to fly and takes to the air, he exclaims, “Hook! He flies! And he likes it!” When he’s about to fall into the croc’s opened mouth, to keep himself aloft, Hook spews his happy thoughts: “ripping, killing, choking, lawyers, dentists, pus, children’s blood, puppies’ blood, kittens dashed on spikes, white death, black death, any death!” When those don’t work, he’s resigned himself: “Old! Alone! Done for.”

 

     Jason plays Hook as haughty and deadly, with humor, but also with sadness and bitterness because he and his men are, alas, Lost Boys, too.

 

     Now that I’ve waxed drool-oquent over the Captain, I turn to Mr. Darling—his polar opposite. Jason plays both roles, though many (reviewers and fans alike) were not aware of this—testament to Jason’s ability to disappear into a character. This stiff-collared, bespectacled (okay, some woman find men in glasses sexy, I’m told), tongue-tied, Victorian clerk is pitiable in the scenes with his boss, frustrating in the Nana-is-not-a-Nanny scene, but redeemable in his devotion to his children—all of his children at the end of the movie. And, yes, he looks smashing in a tux, even a Victorian tux.

(Rated PG for "adventure action sequences and peril."  I guess a big sharp pointy hook would qualify.)


 

 

(2002) —HR
                                                                                                            

   
Oh dear.  In a word—unwatchable.

     A dreadfully puerile effort with absolutely dismal production values.  Apparently there had been a great deal more Jason Isaacs shot for this movie, but only a small quantity made it into the finished article.

      Not even double portions of Jason could redeem this project, though, and don't hold out hope for any improvement in the DVD version either, as it essentially skipped any theatrical-release-and-audience-response-based-tweaking period.  Don't ask me what it's about, as I couldn't make myself look at it  for more than twenty minutes.

(Official website:  not found.)  Rated R, for pervasive drug references, duh


 

(2002) —HR (edited slightly from a posting on Amazon.com)

     I am not generally a fan of romantic comedies; I drove 400 miles to New Bedford, MA, to watch this one purely to see Jason Isaacs, and I was not disappointed! The movie went through a change of cast (Isaacs replaced David O’Hara at the very last possible minute), it went through at least one change of ending, and I suspect the script was still being tinkered with the night before I saw it, all of which goes some way to explaining its somewhat uneven pacing and lurching storyline. The script was reportedly written on spec, at least in part to promote the town of New Bedford—last the location for a movie when Gregory Peck appeared in Moby Dick—and the screenwriters have made the town virtually a lead character in its own right.
     The basic storyline as it finally comes down to us has the *gorgeous* Sofia Milos, absolutely radiant here, playing Celia Amonte, the subdued widow of a drowned Portuguese fisherman, giving vent to her passion and grief at night singing fado in undeserving clubs. There she is encountered by inexplicably British card-counting unsuccessful professional gambler (*phew*) Charlie Beck, the aforementioned Jason Isaacs. Charlie is immediately, understandably, smitten with Celia and sets about trying to weasel his way into her life.
     Isaacs has a wonderful ability to imbue the most two-dimensional character with significant backstory, and his Charlie, recently released from a prison sentence served in part to protect wealthy pal Daniel Vargas (the always delightful Seymour Cassel), has drifted rootlessly, never accepting what he was dealt, always on the lookout for the scam. Clad in a lurid array of Hawaiian shirts, he is, in a sense, always on vacation from real life. After another series of unlikely coincidences, he enlists the aid of Celia's teenage daughter (the winsome Emmy Rossum) to pull the wool over Celia's eyes with the help of some of Daniel's handy expensive props, and cons Celia into believing that not only is he a legitimate businessman, but his intentions also involve a boffo plan to reinvigorate New Bedford's ailing fishing industry (sadly unlikely, unless he can figure out a way to restore global fishery stock).
     Anyway, the course of true love never did run smooth, at least in Hollywood movies, and there are numerous twists and turns for Charlie and Celia to contend with. Many of these feel false and imposed, but Isaacs and Milos have incredible chemistry together, and despite yourself you find you really care about seeing these two united. Their delicate love scenes (the most memorable involves Celia producing what looks like a banquet for 30 rather than refreshment for an intimate tête-à-tête, including about $150 worth of seafood, gorgeously displayed in long lingering shots worthy of Gourmet magazine) positively smoulder, though they are devoid of any graphic content.
     Director Dan Ireland worked hard at wresting a coherent story out of this, and too much of his labour shows on screen; but the movie itself is beautiful: a paean to the community of New Bedford and to its two stars, a refreshing change from the usual bland 20-somethings. I found it, despite its flaws, thoroughly enjoyable.

     The DVD also includes a charming and disarmingly frank commentary track with Jason Isaacs and Sofia Milos.

(Rated PG-13 for "some sensuality"—I'll say!! and also a negligible mention of drugs.)





  (2001) —HR

Boy, this one’s hard for me.

Black Hawk Down was adapted from the 1999 book of the same name by Mark Bowden, which grew from a series of articles published in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1997.  It deals principally with a single episode: the abortive 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia that resulted in the titular disaster and ultimately culminated in the deaths of eighteen U.S. troops (another soldier was killed at their base shortly thereafter), and perhaps as many as five hundred Somalis.

            The U.S. forces had been sent in to respond to a civil war in which the principals were manipulating the populace by controlling the distribution of food, with widespread famine, misery, and death resulting.  The raid was intended to capture lieutenants of one recalcitrant leader; it was expected to last about 60 minutes, a quick, well-rehearsed in-and-out.  Instead the participants found themselves immersed in hell for some eighteen hours.

                 Bowden’s book is a wonder—he interviewed scores of soldiers, both officers and enlisted, as well as several Somalis, and the book is full of his respect for the soldiers; boyish awe of the equipment, especially the helicopters; and an intelligent rueful analysis only possible with the distance of several years.  He provides maps, an index, and comprehensive notes for every chapter, and the intensity of the combat reporting is occasionally interrupted by a backstory explaining some soldier or previous incident.

            Tough act to follow.

            I thought Ridley Scott, the film's director, really did an admirable job adapting all this material; naturally, some of the nuance is lost, and adhering to a linear chronology meant that much of the background has to be set out in the beginning or left to the viewer to infer.  In the main, Scott is very true to the spirit of the book, snipping, conflating, and adjusting with skill and care.  A reader who finds himself overwhelmed with the sheer unending misery depicted in the book can, of course, put it down for a while; Scott obviously worked to hard to vary the pacing of the film, to leaven the anguish with the odd bit of (authentic, mostly) comic relief.

            My only significant complaint about that is the character of Grimes, the Rangers’ company clerk, played by Ewan Mcgregor. Scott was quoted as experiencing a moment of panic on viewing his cast all assembled in makeup and uniform—he was afraid moviegoers wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, and it is true that some identifying qualities are exaggerated in other characters, but Scott has burdened Grimes with an old war-movie cliché—he’s a coffee jockey. Grimes delivers an earnest treatise on how to make great coffee—“it’s all in the grind”, he avers, demonstrating with a manual mill.

           Riiiiiiiight.  I, unlike Ridley Scott, apparently, have actually served as a unit clerk, and can testify to the natural connection; however, it’s my experience that while unit clerks do indeed make coffee, they make coffee for anybody who can get near the orderly room, and they make it all day long. They make lots of coffee, lots of coffee at a time, from the cheapest supplies available, and lots of people wander in and chuck it down their necks.  It’s strictly a caffeine-delivery vehicle.  Grimes as combat barista??  No.  Laughable, and not in a good way.

           Most of the rest of the movie looks spot-on to me, though; one of the extra features included on the 3-disk DVD set is a brief documentary about the ‘mini boot camp’ the actors attended at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The company got lots of cooperation and help from the U.S. Army, and it shows.  (Early on, there was uncertainty about this—initial fears about a lack of availability of the eponymous aircraft led some wags to suggest alternate names for the movie like Dude, Where’s My Black Hawk?)

            I felt the movie was a remarkably deep evocation of both the environment and the battle—it was relentlessly dry, gritty, grimy, and bereft of plant life, and I thought Scott conveyed the claustrophobia of close urban combat well. The Somalis got a lengthier representation than I was expecting, and I didn't think they all came across as faceless victims/hoodlums either.  (There were accusations that both Bowden’s work and the movie were racist in their exclusive depictions of the U.S. forces’ viewpoint, but Bowden has said that the Somalis’ story is not his to tell.  He focused, defensibly, on one facet of the conflict.)

I thought the story flowed wonderfully—I had a strong impression of the passage of time, and admired the way the night scenes were shot. There was a definite change in mood, but things were still discernible onscreen. The movie is gory, and graphically so, but it’s depicting gruesome carnage, and I felt that the portrayal of the blood and injuries was appropriate.

Which brings me at last to Jason Isaacs’s performance.  I have to say that while I think this may be the best, the most professional movie Jason Isaacs has yet appeared in, I also felt it was one of his weakest performances.  I’m not quite sure why this is . . . maybe he felt constrained by playing a real individual, one whom he frequently reported finding intimidating.  We are always reading about Jason Isaacs’ contributions to his characters—costuming suggestions for Lucius Malfoy, ad-libbed dialogue for others—but I am afraid he may have felt somewhat paralyzed by the absolute mythos of the character of Ranger commander CPT Mike Steele.  Steele himself was not involved in the making of the movie, but a number of other raid participants were, and they apparently shared outrageous stories about Steele and their interactions with him.  Jason Isaacs was mesmerizing as “Chris” in Scars, but I think he was able to draw on his experiences being tormented by people like Chris!  Mike Steele, on the other hand, with his overt religiosity and his devotion to American college football, is probably, at some level, just an alien concept for Mr. Isaacs.  When left to his own devices, Jason Isaacs seems able to completely inhabit a fully realized being of his own creation, but his Steele seemed an ill-fitting suit in which Mr. Isaacs never seemed completely comfortable.  I feel bad saying that.  In interviews and online chats, Mr. Isaacs reflected earnestly on the courage and outright heroism demonstrated by the soldiers, and this was a project that he’d obviously devoted a lot of thought and effort to.  Mr. Isaacs' bearing, his ease handling the equipment, his mastery of the particular accent and his perfect American salute all showed the work he’d done, but the character just never really gelled for me—I never lost Jason in it.  It’s still good work, and again, I think the movie offers lessons about the limitations of technology and the dangers of cultural ignorance and underestimation that are heartbreakingly applicable today.

Rated R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language.


 

(2001) —HR
     For a review of Hotel, I think I can't do much better than this frenzied rave-up, repeated virtually verbatim from its original appearance on another website.  I suppose I could write a new one, but that would require devoting more thought to this movie.  And I'd rather not.                                                       


NOTE: LIKE THE FILM, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MATERIAL OF A SEXUAL NATURE.  SHOULD BE AVOIDED BY THE YOUNG, IMPRESSIONABLE, OR EASILY NAUSEATED.

     Normally I would probably refrain from reviewing a movie after a single watching, but in this instance I am prepared to make an exception. I received a copy of this film through channels which may not be completely legally sanctioned, so will refrain from identifying my source. (You know who you are--consider yourself acknowledged, if not necessarily thanked...)

     For once, Jason Isaacs' Film Instincts seem to have served him remarkably well: he came, he saw, he got the @#$ out. Total screen time in this ugly mutt: about 70 seconds. There is a lovely close-up of his smiling mouth, and an inexplicable Aussie accent, but these hardly constitute adequate compensation for the rest of this "movie".

     Okay, call me a tiny-minded Philistine, but I totally don't get the point of this "Dogme" thing to begin with, so keep that in mind. I happen to think if you're going to go to the trouble of hiring actors, shooting a movie, promoting it and internationally releasing it, it ought to be because you have some story you want to tell. Apparently this is not a universally held belief. (The "Dogme" tenets are helpfully explained partway through this movie by Salma Hayek, playing a documentary producer, which job apparently consists of getting drunk a lot and mugging wildly for any camera within reach. But hey, why should she be any different!) The "premise" (I use the term loosely) of this "movie" is that a group of "actors" have gathered in Venice (it really was Venice) to shoot a "Dogme" version of the 17th C. play The Duchess of Malfi. (Why? Honey, don't start asking that, certainly not this early in things.) They are dogged by the aforementioned Salma Hayek and a number of logistical challenges, to include the shooting (literal) of the "director" and Mysterious Goings-On in the Hotel.

     Much has been made of the Technical Innovations introduced by Dogme ideals (sorry, I'm as tired of those quotation marks as you are); these include the incorporation of naturally occurring ambient effects and refraining from the use of artificial light.
     Huh. How 'bout that.
     Director Mike Figgis also reprises an effect he reportedly introduced in an earlier film I can't be bothered to check the name of, seemingly arbitrarily displaying action in a number of frames at a time. Whoopee! Instead of scratching your head at on one ill-lit, unintelligible non-sequitur of a scene, you get four to choose from! Or maybe three! And say, did you know you can now get night-vision cameras?? Mike Figgis does, which seems to have been the sole
impetus for the inclusion of the "vampyre/cannibal" sequences (why they say vampire, I don't know; I didn't spot any blood-sucking, but shit, I coulda been asleep by then. I can attest to the cannibalism—to make sure we catch it, Figgis helpfully shows human extremities dangling from pegs on the kitchen wall. Which is normally how you prepare carcasses for consumption, right? Festoon the room with them?). Also inexplicaby—have I used that word yet? Don't worry, I'm sure I will again—the opening credits include a ridiculous scene in which John Malkovich checks into the hotel, and is then seen in the basement, enjoying a meal of "meat" (nudge nudge wink wink) with other hotel denizens, except he's behind bars. Which nobody seems moved to comment on. I will—if you're going to establish a colony of cannibals in an expensive hotel, would you eat your own guests??? What the hell does this do to your overhead? Is there no police presence in Venice? Would nobody notice these people checking in, but not checking out??? No, I will not include any plot spoilers, principally because there didn't seem to be any plot. I can tell you what I understood of the Duchess of Malfi: the Duchess is a beautiful young widow with two brothers, one a cardinal, the other . . . not. They seem to be somewhat unnaturally preoccupied with discouraging her from re-marrying. She does anyway. After sodomizing her new husband mid-soliloquy, she collapses and gives birth to two plastic baby dolls. Her brothers hunt everybody down and kill them. The end, I think.

     Other sites have remarked on the incongruity of the Duchess sequences being filmed on the modern streets of Venice, with the actors in their 'period costumes'. These are period costumes of the ilk one might expect if Madonna's music video had been titled "Like a Virgin Queen". This didn't bug me nearly as much as the young female production assistant who popped out from under the "cardinal's" garment while they're on the pavement. What was the point of that??? Damn, why am I asking? In between, lessee, there are dozens of producers, including Burt freakin' Reynolds, wandering in and out, as well as a Mysterious Assassin who puts the "director" of "Duchess" in a coma, diagnosed by a "doctor" using what looks like a Home Depot tool designed to detect electrical conductivity.

      Whatever.

     Julian Sands (playing a thinner version of me, I think) wanders around bitching about everything. Lucy Liu shows up to comment on Salma's breasts.

     Somebody else performs a series of topless push-ups which plop her breasts into a pair of milk-filled champagne glasses. They're the old-fashioned kind, the kind we used to use before we were told that to conserve the little bubbles, we should use long skinny flutes. Which is a good thing, 'cause otherwise she might have gotten stuck! Oh, sorry, am I off on a tangent?? Are you kidding, this is Hotel, 155 minutes of tangent. David Schwimmer, in a startlingly attractive goatee, demonstrates his dramatic range by engaging in a barking sequence with Rhys Ifans which is nakedly embarrassing.

     There are lesbians.

     There is more meat.

     There are pigeons, in which everybody seems abruptly to lose interest a third of the way through the movie.

     There is a flamenco sequence. (It's sort of faintly diverting . . . I guess . . . )

     And then . . .  it stops.

     God be praised.

     Even Venice comes off looking like shit in this movie—dark, bleak and with nary a speck of vegetation. I want my 2½ hours back.

    Don't say I didn't warn you.

(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0278487/combined --the IMDb "Hotel" page)  Rated R, for...everyfuckingthing


 

(2001)—Hobbityla (with apologies for the long delay) 

    From the description of The Last Minute, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it. I mean, it had all the danger words attached to it: "artsy", "edgy", "struggling young artist", "drug -induced dream sequence", "surreal"—Yawnsville, right? I couldn't have been more wrong. In fact, for a movie that was so clearly not my cup of tea, The Last Minute has stuck in my mind more than any other film I've seen recently.
The main story follows the rise and fall of Billy Byrne (played by an engaging Max Beesley). Billy is the struggling young artist who appears to be on the verge of his big break, but just as quickly as fame and commercial success appear, the bubble bursts and Billy finds himself not only financially, but artistically and professionally broke. Billy's depression leads to heroin addiction which eventually costs him his friends, his girlfriend, and almost his life. In spite of the dark overtones, the ending of the film is uplifting and hopeful.
    Jason Isaacs and Tom Bell have great character roles here—the former as Dave 'Percy' Sledge, a singing, dancing, psychopathic drug dealer and the latter as Grimshanks, a Fagin-like ringleader of a juvenile gang of thieves. JI does not do his own song and dance routine—the singing is dubbed and so is the tap dancing, although the rest of the dance moves are his. His nickname, 'Percy', refers to the singer Percy Sledge, whose biggest hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman", JI performs in the latter part of the film.
    Stephen Norrington, the writer/director of The Last Minute, shows a touch of genius in making Percy a Frank Sinatra/Ratpack-esque lounge singer. The lounge-singer-of-the-'60s look implies a certain kind of retro hipness and coolness, but it also implies decadence and ties to organized crime. In fact, Norrington implies throughout the film that fame is in its way a kind of drug and that those who seek after it are addicts. He also touches on both the present day and historical links between the arts, drugs, and crime, from today's gangster rappers to the opium-eating Romantic poets of the 18th century, to whom Tom Bell alludes in his opium speech. The poetry that Bell quotes was actually made up by Norrington.
    Although Norrington says in his voice-over commentary that the songs are just stuck in because he thought they were cool, both are commentaries on the action of the film. The first number, "I've Got You Under My Skin", is an amusing reference to the medical fetishist atmosphere of Club Prosthesis, but it's also a cautionary note for Billy which foreshadows the downward spiral his life is about to take. In the song, the singer laments that even though he knows his love is too good to be true, he can't stop himself even though it will lead to disaster. Like the singer, Billy is enamored of the fame and ego-stroking that has come his way and is ignoring that "warning sound that repeats, repeats in my ear". While the second number, "When a Man Loves a Woman", appears to refer to Billy's attraction to Anna (played by Emily Corrie), it also applies to his heroin addiction.
    JI plays Percy with a barely concealed rage that makes any appearance of the character utterly terrifying. When we first meet Percy, for example, he headbutts a DJ who's mouthed off to him and then proceeds to alternatively entertain and slap around the audience at Club Prosthesis. While he's smiling and being charming, his cold eyes suggest that he would really like to strangle the entire group. It's the scariest bit of lounge singing that I've ever witnessed. The rest of his bad-to-the-bone side is showcased in the second half of the movie when he and his gang appears to make an example out of Shanks and his street kids. The sledgehammer he packs is another play on his last name. Be sure to watch the credits all the way to the end or you will miss his final scene, which is a coda to the whole movie.
    I highly recommend Alys' Magnificent Percy website for finding things on the DVD. She gives directions for finding the goodies and has a multimedia section with the interesting JI bytes on it.

    Rated R for strong sexual content, violence, drug use and language.  

The Magnificent Percy site


(2000) HR


     This movie first came to my attention when I bumped into a reenacting acquaintance who was sporting a shirt emblazoned “The Patriot”.  That struck me as not a little presumptuous, but the wearer explained that it was a “gimme” from the shooting, in which he had participated as an extra, a member of the 1st Virginia Reg’t.  He told us a little about the experience, closing with the admonition, “But don’t go see the movie, ‘cause it’s gonna suck!”

     On the basis of that opinion, as well as numerous less-than-satisfactory cinematic encounters with the treatment of historical material, I studiously ignored The Patriot when it appeared at my neighbourhood multiplex.  It finally filtered down to the local $2 theatre, and I figured, well, it can’t be not worth $2—at worst, it could be good for a giggle.

       At the time of its release, I was still nursing the vestiges of a Bounty-era crush on Mel Gibson, which he well and truly obliterated by the time we’d reached Act Two of The Patriot, what with his incessant mugging and the worshipful close-ups.  The silliness of the opening scenes had me tossing as much of my popcorn as I was swallowing (Mr. Martin, they’re called CABINETMAKERS.  You can find them in London, Philadelphia or Charles Town.  Check ‘em out.)  Between the overworked plot clichés, the prodigious plagiarism of the John Williams score, and the distinctly dodgy costumes (what’s with the ‘X marks the spot’ wrapped leather garters, Mel??), I was afraid I would develop facial cramp from all my sneering and eye rolling

     and then
     the Villain appeared.

      How bad a Bad Guy is Col. William Tavington??  He is so bad, there aren’t even any segues in the score when he appears—the soundtrack changes instantly to his Sinister Chords.  He’s so bad, he travels primarily in slow motion.  Boys and girls, he is a Very Bad Guy.  The director and writer have ladled on his malice and evil with a vengeance. 

     But yowza, is it pretty.

     The action, the writing, of this movie is so over-the-top it appears that Jason Isaacs recognized the only way to play it was with sheer glee.  His deliciously malevolent performance recalls Alan Rickman’s hysterical turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and is just as wonderfully entertaining.  Next to Mel’s overwrought sniveling or the earnest protestations of Martin’s African-American Independent Agricultural Contractors, Jason Isaacs just looks like he’s having  so  much  fun.

     Not to mention my congenital weakness for hunt-style boots.

     Man, by the time the infamous Creek Scene appeared on the screen, I was hooked.  Those glacial eyes, the imperious sneer, the unbound locks swirling in the menacing slo-mo—I came home and performed my first Google search, and I never looked back.

     Again, the rest of this movie is profoundly flawed: Roland Emmerich and Robert Rodat have borrowed heavily from a slew of superior movies, ranging from the exquisitely choreographed combat scenes of Last of the Mohicans through Gibson’s earlier, more successful films (the Talismanic Textile, the graphically depicted and gore-fixated violence).  Apparently, even the Burning of the Innocents in the (gasp!) Church was a riff Rodat resuscitated from Saving Private Ryan—it was certainly nothing that appeared in any academic recounting of the American Revolution.  Which, their much-vaunted consultation with the Smithsonian Institution notwithstanding, seems not to trouble them at all.

     Anachronisms/historical liberties (no pun intended) aside, the movie still isn’t especially well executed.  Part of the problem is that it can’t seem to settle on which story it wants to tell—is it one man’s struggle to surmount his past as a bloodthirsty war criminal?  A lonely father’s efforts to rear his pitiful motherless children?  The growth of one teen to manhood against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War?  The contrast between Martin, sentimental man of conscience, and Tavington, sadistic genocidal amateur botanist?  The love story between Eldest Son and young proto-feminist?  The story of forbidden love between Martin and his erstwhile sister-in-law?  It’s all of these—and more!!!  Perhaps in part because it darts back and forth from vignette to vignette, character to character, I had no sense of narrative arc, no sense of chronology or logical change of location.  I felt completely immersed in the story of Last of the Mohicans, utterly absorbed, but each scene of The Patriot seems so disconnected from the others, I just felt like it was randomly lurching around.

     One advantage of the lack of cohesion, though, is that if you see it on DVD, you can rearrange the scenes, reinserting Tavington’s deleted appearances in a somewhat more agreeable order, and voilà!  A whole different tale, and every bit as convincing as the original.

     I still treasure this movie as my introduction to Jason Isaacs, and again, his performance as Tavington is nothing short of inspired.  Just be sure to view it on DVD with the remote close to hand and tongue firmly in cheek (and don’t, whatever you do, bother with the bleedin’ director’s commentary—Roland Emmerich apparently learned all his English from Moon Unit Zappa.  No clue where he got his history.)

(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/combined )--the IMDb The Patriot page  Rated R for sundry grisly bits



 

(1997)a guest review from Gen. Strop

While the concept promises to be fairly interesting, Paul Anderson fails to capture our image of Hell frighteningly enough to scare us. The story starts with a Search and Rescue team looking for the Event Horizon, a technologically advanced ship which disappeared for seven years and now has reappeared with no explanation. Onboard the Rescue ship resides the maker of the Event Horizon’s main feature, Dr. Weir. (Add a D on the end of his name and you also get his main characteristic.)  Dr. Weir had created a device to fold space, allowing the vessel to travel anywhere in very short periods of time. The device consists of three magnetic rings, which, when aligned, created an artificial black hole, enabling the ship to be transported to the area directed. Unfortunately, the ship traveled to a Hellish dimension, killed its crew, and then returned, perhaps to pick up another crew to man her back to Hell. This is where the Rescue team comes in. While exploring the dead ship, one of the team, Justin, comes to the device and gets sucked in for no apparent reason. When he is pulled out, the energy released causes an explosion, damaging the Rescue ship. The crew takes refuge in the Event Horizon and starts to realize the Hellishness of the ship. They experience hallucinations, connected to them in some way; one technician hallucinates her son, the captain sees a dead crewmate, so on and so forth.  Eventually the hallucinations kill the crew. Dr. Weir experiences images of his dead girlfriend/ wife. He soon realizes that the ship won’t let anyone leave, especially him, her creator. He then gets seriously freaky, his hallucination gouges out his eyes and he becomes possessed, whether by the ship herself or by his inner demon is not apparent. He blows up the Rescue ship, driving the remaining crew back to the Event Horizon. They manage to blow the ship in half, leaving the black hole device on the other half while the three surviving crewmembers put themselves into stasis on one half. Unfortunately, the remaining crew does not include Jason Isaacs’ character, D.J. D.J. provides trauma assistance, and a little comic relief. Sadly, D.J. meets an untimely end at the hands of the ship and disappears from the plot.

      Altogether, it was an entertaining film, though ridiculous. Jason Isaacs was brilliant in his few scenes, and that was worth watching the whole damned movie. (No pun intended).


 Rated R for intestine fu, eyeball fu, personal implosion fu, poorly conjugated Latin


 

(1995) Helen8


Prologue

Dangerous Lady is about the coming of age of the youngest member of an Irish Catholic family in the Notting Hill Gate section of London. However, as this Web site is dedicated to Jason Isaacs, this review will reflect his performance. Actually, he is onscreen more than she is . . . or maybe it appears that way because of fast-forwarding through her scenes to get to his. Besides, yours truly could not get past the title actress’s permanent sneer. However, in her defense, it will be pointed out that JI, in interviews, praised her abilities.

Michael Ryan is the eldest of seven sons who, because of his family’s lack of money due to his usually inebriated father, succumbs at a young age to a life of crime. In desperation to care for his family, he turns himself over—mind and body—to a local, corrupt club owner, for whom he commits extortion, arson, and robbery and submits to his boss’s salacious needs.

When the crime boss announces after a few decades that he will retire to the south of Spain, selling the business to a rival faction, Michael feels betrayed, having expected to “inherit” all. (“I earned it. I paid for it with my body.”) In retaliation, Michael has him run over by a car. At the hospital, he informs the dying man that he was responsible for the “accident” and then literally kisses him to death.

Soon, after a series of bombings, assassinations, and intimidations, Michael establishes himself as the new crime boss of “half of London.” Corruption is rampant in the area. He has a dirty cop on his payroll. Even the parish priest is on the take for the IRA with monthly payments from Michael. The limited budget, four-episode made-for-TV movie continues with Michael Ryan’s rise and inevitable, self-loathing fall.

Jason Isaacs plays Michael Ryan with the arm-swinging swagger of a leader, which attempts to mask the fear and loneliness that he feels. Forced at an early age to support and protect his family, he can only imagine how his life might have unfolded under different circumstances. There is always pain reflected in his eyes alongside the sheer evil, whether he’s extorting money at knifepoint, decimating the face of another crime boss with the wristband of the watch used as proof of the abduction of Michael’s half-witted younger brother, or strangling his young lover who he believes had a hand in the abduction.

Scenes of Note
When Michael’s mother turns him out of the house for striking his sister because she is “screwin' a copper,” the pain and shock on his face are heartbreaking.

At a posh restaurant, Michael interrupts a meeting between his duplicitous brother Jeffrey, his sister, and her new business partner. By now Michael is snorting cocaine and drinking heavily, having lost his edge. He is rude and obnoxious and mimics the partner’s upper-class accent. What starts out as a funny scene is almost too painful to watch as Michael hurls toward self-destruction. (Poor choice of words as, at the end of the scene, he is draped over the toilet.)

At the police station, Michael is being questioned about the death of his former lover. The detective, frustrated at Michael’s lack of corroboration of the facts as he sees them, tells him, “I’ll have ya, Queer Boy.” To which Michael responds with a smirk, “You’re a bit old for me, darrlin’.”

Epilogue
Dangerous Lady is still this reviewer’s favorite JI performance because of the range of emotions that he portrays, from tenderness towards his sister, to disguised disgust for his boss, to sheer evil when dealing with his rivals. We also get the four-fingered whistle here as well as full backal nudity on satin sheets. And there's a nice mental picture on which to end this review!

Unrated, but would probably merit a PG-13 for implied sexual activity, violence




(1995) —Helen8


This was the first movie of Jason’s that I saw, long before I finally took notice of him as Lucius Malfoy. Though I remember remarking to myself when Lord Felton first appears about his acting ability, playing Felton as funny and evil (and of course his eyes). The beard looks good, too.

The Review
Dennis Quaid plays Bowen, a dragon-slaying knight of the Old Order, which refers to King Arthur’s Round Table. He is employed by the current king to teach the young Prince Einon (David Thewlis) the ways of the Old Order. During a raid on a rebel village, Einon is pierced through the heart. Near death, Einon is brought by his mother the queen (Julie Christie) to a powerful dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) who she believes can restore her son’s life. The dragon, in a noble attempt to bond man and dragon, shares his heart with the prince. Thus, what one feels, they both feel.

After leaving the king’s employ, Bowen supports himself by killing dragons. His dragon-slaying bounty is “one dragon put down, one bag of gold.” Bowen has done a better job than he knows. He meets his match with the dragon that he later calls Draco. After a battle of wits, wills, and endurance, Draco tells Bowen that if he slays him, there will be no more dragons to kill, thus he’ll be out of work. So, the two form an unlikely alliance: They travel the countryside, fooling the unsuspecting villagers into believing that Bowen actually kills the attacking dragon for them. This ploy even takes them to Felton’s lands, where Bowen demands two bags of gold from him since Felton stiffed him previously. This scene includes the trouser-dropping-to-reveal-the-loincloth take. [Boys and girls, can we say “freeze frame”?]

Einon has become an evil king. Bowen, dismayed that Einon has rejected his teachings, fortifies the rebel village and teaches its inhabitants to fight and defy King Einon.

Jason primarily plays Felton for laughs. He is one of Einon’s henchmen, but he too is at the mercy of the king. Felton has five major scenes: when he and Bowen first meet; when he suggests a road tax to Einon (“A road tax, King Einon. I mean, they ARE your roads, after all!”); the fake dragon-slaying on his lands; where he and Falcon Man argue over more money to quash the rebellion; when he tries to convince the king to stay in the castle where it’s safe from the rebellion; and his inevitable death scene.

In his final scene, Felton holds the rebel heroine at knifepoint demanding to know how she got in so that he can get out of the besieged castle. He is run through from behind by a villager. He staggers against the wall and, in comic form, slides down the wall dead, falling out of camera shot.

This was not his best performance . . . or horseback riding for that matter. However, he and the movie are very watchable, with good sets and costuming (except for his myriad bad hats) and very good special effects with the dragon.

Rated PG-13 "for action/violence" 



(1994)
--This review of Jason Isaacs' big-screen debut was generously shared by Narayana

Once, in the late seventies, when I was a student, I was minding my own business in my East London flat (apartment) when a local girl approximately eleven years old knocked on the door. She was with a friend of ten or so. She said, "Do you mind if I break into your flatmate's (roommate's) car? My friend wants to learn how to do it." I later found out that her friend was a late starter. Most of them locally started TDA ('taking and driving away'—stealing cars) at nine, with wooden blocks on their shoes so they could reach the pedals.

 

I was reminded of her when I watched Shopping last night.  She must have grown up—or at least got bigger—and made this movie. That would explain everything about it.  It would, for instance, explain why it's set in an (unnamed) town that is about 0.000000001% worse than the real-life London, and therefore is set in an unlivable sink of depravity without a single redeeming reason shown why anyone without brain damage would want to live within fifty miles of its borders. The tale about the wooden blocks on the car-thieves' shoes is told verbatim in the film.

 

I actually liked the movie a lot. I'm really not sure why it seems to get such negative reviews from people. It's the classic love story, two doomed lovers who find that the forces arrayed against them are overwhelming, but they love and lose anyway, two moths beating their charred wings together in the candle flame.

 

The movie starts with Jude Law's character, who is called Tommy or Vinnie or Tony or Billy or something like that, in gaol on his release day. Jude Law is very young in this and is impossibly, luminously beautiful. His girlfriend meets him outside in her old car. (She appears to be the Swearing Taxi Driver from "Divorcing Jack", or at least a very good facsimile.) First business—to "trade in" the car for a new one, by ramming a BMW at a light and stealing it when the driver gets out to take the insurance details. From there on, our loving couple go to a back-street drag race, indulge in the titular 'shopping' by ram-raiding (driving a car through the window of a store), lure policemen into traps, live in a caravan (trailer) filled with knick-knacks and various prominently displayed badges of poverty, and meet their friends at Raves and penny arcades by the always-ebbing, never-flowing muddy river.

 

Something is bound to go wrong with this life of innocence, of course, and it does in the form of Sean Pertwee, as Billy or Tommy or Vinnie or Jimmy or something. Mascara'd and luminously beautiful in his own more twitchy and twisted way, Sean's character does all the same things, but he does them for grown-up reasons—he wants to make enough money to live on. The two adolescent, pre-capitalist lovers and the grown-up capitalist are competing for the same resources (shop windows), and a showdown is inevitable. On the journey we meet Sean Bean as Stevie or Billy or Vinnie or Tommy or something, "Mr. Big" of this particular unlivable town, and even Sean is almost-tending-towards-luminous-and-beautiful, what with a well-groomed, high-class shining, er, mullet, and perfectly composed Mr. Biggelicious features. (Including pointy elf ears, but I think these are his own. Perhaps he was miscast in LOTR.) The policemen are not going to give up the chase either. Our hero and his girlfriend agree to one last job before moving on to a new life, and you know how that is going to play out in a romantic crime movie. . .

 

There is quite a bit of humor, but you have to be fast on your feet to catch it, and for those who like such a thing, a very fetching piece of erotic knife-play with Sean "Johnny Depp's twitching got nothing on mine, baby" Pertwee wielding a straight razor.

 

Although the movie's closest cousin is probably The Last Minute—a British movie about life in the interstices between the places normal people live—the movie's overall feel reminds me of a grittier Absolute Beginners, a saturated-color documentary of a fantasy London. Some of the shots are breathtaking. The exteriors of the club called the Plaza, and one of the stores, the Alaska, are literally shining examples of the finest British indie fantasy movie genre. The establishing shots of the train graveyard show a wonderland, and one shot where Jude Law is watching a police car burn from inside his own vehicle and he powers the window down, lowering a panel of reflected flames to reveal his face, are astonishing.

 

Some of the feel of the movie is deliriously *off*, as though the director had never met a working-class person and was going by a description in a badly translated travel book, say one by a provincial Dutchman.  One of the young hoods shouts, "Booyakasha!" (to be fair, this was filmed ten years before Ali G appeared on the scene), and another on his way out "shopping" shouts, "Let's do crime!" Billy and Tommy share accents that are partly public school and partly Cockney.  The nightclub scenes look a little bit like they were recreated from a memory of a movie like Blade or Batman rather than by someone who has actually been to a Rave. Tommy or Billy, whichever is the grown-up one, roughs people up in a genteel, hesitant manner that suggests he's worried about his hands, and one thug appears to have based his look on Vyvyan in The Young Ones.  This gives some of the action the feel of a school play, which, given the overall level of violence and unremitting lack of moral focus, is actually quite a useful balancing tool.

 

What else? Marianne Faithfull, '60s beauty and early heroin casualty, makes a very brief appearance as . . . someone who looks like a beauty who almost died of heroin addiction. Oh, and Jason Isaacs is in it for about ninety seconds. It is without doubt the worst piece of acting I have ever seen Isaacs commit. It's an embarrassment and I'm sure the director would have left it on the cutting room floor if there had been any other coverage at all for the plot point that Jason's character was there to present. Isaacs wears a baseball cap, evil rug-fluff stubble, and chews gum so artificially enthusiastically that you want to pinch his cheeks hard to make him drop it like you would a dog that was chewing a wasp. His lines are delivered in a dreadful fake-Cockney and his body-language would disgrace the aforementioned school play. All in all, nothing worth seeing for an Isaacs fan in this one at all.

 

Hmm, let's see. Brit picking . . . the candies with the icky slogans on them at the beginning of the movie are "Love Hearts", and I have fond memories of them. The white police cars with the orange stripes across the middle were called "jam sandwiches" because they looked like marmalade jam between two slices of white bread, but you will often hear them called "jam jars". This term is no relation to jam sandwiches. It's Cockney rhyming slang. "Jam jar" rhymes with "police car".  And it's highly unlikely that a 22-year-old Irishwoman, on being given a Budweiser by her boyfriend, would say, "Prince of Piss? Guinness, now there's a drink." I mean, he didn't already know about Guinness? Where's he been? It's not like it's only available in County Cork or something.

 

Overall, I give it four out of five stars and I am even thinking of buying it.

 

(Editor's note:  I thought the whole movie was crap, frankly.  For a movie jam-packed [no pun intended] with car crashes, explosions, and assorted illicit behaviour, it wasn't half dull.  I didn't care much about any of the characters, and even less about their cars.  Though I did have a giggle at Jude's tea kettle--the entire rest of his filthy caravan is a disgusting tip, but he's hoisted—er, shopped—this great Michael Graves-looking kettle...
Conversely, Jason Isaacs' performance didn't bug me atall--but then, there's precious little of it to object to . . . )

Rated R for language, violence, criminal driving and coiffeurage