Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Tripper / Fracture / Perfect Stranger

I did three movies at Savoy 16 this afternoon. I haven't sat through three movies in a movie theater in ages...if ever...I can't recall for sure, but I must have sometime. What I saw didn't give me much reason to return anytime soon, since I certainly have a lot of better movies here at home than what is currently playing at multiplexes. Though I would have seen HOT FUZZ if I didn't live in a cultural wasteland where it isn't playing.

THE TRIPPER is one of the strangest films I've seen in awhile, and though it isn't very good, it's definitely more original and creative than the other two (mainstream Hollywood) films I saw today. It's a slasher movie that looks and acts as though it were made in 1983. Unlike horror moviemakers like George Romero (DAWN OF THE DEAD) and Wes Craven (THE HILLS HAVE EYES), who couch their social commentary in subtextural terms, TRIPPER writer/director/actor David Arquette (Deputy Dewey from the SCREAM trilogy) lays his politics right out there.

A bunch of deck-stackingly cliched hippies drive their van (of course) to a weekend musical festival taking place in a forest, where a psycho dressed in a blue suit and a Ronald Reagan mask is wandering with an axe. You probably haven't seen anything weirder recently than Ronald Reagan roaming around, saying things like "Just say no" and ranting to a female victim whom he mistakes for his daughter Patti. THE TRIPPER basically plays like a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, establishing its main teen characters as a bunch of worthless stoners who don't give a damn about anything except getting high (the amount of drugs these characters take is insane) and getting laid. It's pretty obvious Arquette doesn't think much of hippies, but he hates Republicans more. The movie is filled with allusions to Iraq, and one character has a pet pig named "George W" that feeds on human flesh. An ignorant redneck calls Dubya the "greatest President ever."

THE TRIPPER is also a throwback in the amount of gore and nudity (male and female) it showcases. Chainsaws and axes do most of the killing, and both men and women show some full frontal action. Somehow, Arquette managed to get some names to appear. I can't believe Thomas Jane (THE PUNISHER) had nothing better to do than take on the leading role of the local lawman tasked with stopping the murders; he takes an executive producer credit, so it's safe to assume Jane had some passion for the project. Paul Reubens is hilarious as the greedy festival organizer. Jaime King is a somewhat whiny Final Girl, and Lukas Haas, Marsha Thomason (LAS VEGAS) and Jason Mewes (!) play fellow stoners. Arquette has a brief role, and his wife and producer Courteney Cox has a cameo.

The hippies are too broadly drawn to take seriously, which damages THE TRIPPER, even though I'll probably always remember the wild sight of Reagan chopping away at bodies. I'm sure it's no accident, by the way, that Coquette Productions (this may be Arquette/Cox's company) opened THE TRIPPER on "4/20"/07.

The dully titled FRACTURE is director Gregory Hoblit's (PRIMAL FEAR) first film in five years, yet barely worth the effort. I've liked Hoblit's past work, which also includes FALLEN and FREQUENCY, but FRACTURE is basically a COLUMBO episode with a boring hero. Anthony Hopkins, who would have been perfect, though overqualified, as a COLUMBO villain, plays a clever rich old dude who shoots his wife (Embeth Davidtz) in the head, putting her into a coma. He's arrested and chooses to represent himself at trial, in which he is opposed by Ryan Gosling (an Oscar nominee for HALF NELSON) as a cocky young lame-duck prosecutor preparing to jump for the bucks of a wealthy law firm. Hopkins, using tricks barely sneaky enough to break a PRACTICE teleplay, manages to convince the judge to drop the attempted murder charge against him, forcing Gosling to find his conscience and risk his career to put Hopkins away.

Obviously, FRACTURE needed a heavyweight who could go toe-to-toe with Hopkins, and Gosling ain't it. His overacting demonstrates how hard he tries, gesturing like a madman and occasionally changing his voice inflection. It's impossible to believe that he could ever outsmart Hopkins, however. Writer Daniel Pyne's final clue (a COLUMBO hallmark) might have been a clever one if it had been properly set up; instead, Gosling sorta pulls it out of nowhere in a manner that doesn't play fair with its mystery-loving audience.

PERFECT STRANGER is another Hollywood thriller with a strong director, James Foley (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS), that also misses the target. Halle Berry is an investigative newspaper reporter who looks into the murder of a childhood friend (Nicki Aycox, recently on SUPERNATURAL). Likely suspect Bruce Willis is a high-powered, womanizing advertising executive who may have killed Aycox to prevent his wife from learning about his mistress' unplanned pregnancy.

Berry is no actress, but I do love looking at her on the big screen. Very little of PERFECT STRANGER makes sense, even after the silly twist ending, which appears to invalidate much of what we've seen. Even before then, Berry's friendship with her weirdo researcher Giovanni Ribisi is an unlikely one, and several red herrings go nowhere (so whose side is Esmeralda on anyway?). Willis, whose character is basically rendered superfluous, does a nice job with an impossible role.

I can't really recommend any of these movies, though horror fans might get a kick out of THE TRIPPER. It certainly doesn't look or feel like anything else being made right now, and its gimmick of Reagan-as-Jason-Voorhees is worth a look.

1 comment:

katie said...

i guess i'll wait for fracture to come out on tv. i want to see invisible. i liked sixth sense. what do you think? you didn't blog about your birthday celebration LAME