Reviews: 'Playing for Keeps' and 'Deadfall'
Richard Crouse, Canada AM film critic
Published Friday, December 7, 2012 7:03AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 7, 2012 7:16AM EST
PLAYING FOR KEEPS: ½ STAR
I tried hard to pin point exactly the thing that bugged me about this new Gerard Butler romantic dramedy.
Thought long and hard and I've come to realize that we don't have enough space here for me to fully explain why this doesn't work but let's start with the idea that the women are simply treated as sexed-up plot points and move on from there.
Butler plays George Dwyer, former soccer superstar, now sidelined by injuries.
Broke and reduced to selling his own memorabilia to make ends meet, he moves to Virginia to be closer to his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and their son Lewis (Noah Lomax).
When the charming Scot begins coaches his son's soccer team all the soccer moms (Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman) throw themselves at him, but he has eyes for only one woman-his ex-wife.
The first half-hour is, maybe not promising, but on par for this kind of movie.
There's a glint in Butler's eye, a few giggles and Dennis Quaid, as the soccer team's pushy sponsor has the makings of a pretty good someone-you-love-to-hate character.
Then it takes a turn. George has unresolved feelings for his ex-wife and the movie has unresolved plot points falling from the sky like the tears of the Movie Godz who weep when movies this bad get released.
When there is a large sum of money meant to be used for soccer outfits and balls is given to a broke person in the first act, that money must become a plot point by act three, otherwise it becomes a loan and therefore dramatically uninteresting.
Loose ends dangle, flapping in the wind and worst of all the female characters are treated as lingerie wearing narrative devices and little else.
Seriously, someone please tell Uma Thurman to saddle up and work with Quentin Tarantino again because this rom com detour she's taken is leading her nowhere.
It's not he worst rom com ever-that's because Katherine Heigl doesn't make an appearance-but it is a sloppily made movie that relis too heavily on Butler's trademarked eye twinkle and rakish smile.
This time around, however, they're not enough to save "Playing for Keeps."
DEADFALL: 2 STARS
True to its name "Deadfall" tumbles downward after an exciting opening sequence.
Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are Addison and Liza, a brother-and-sister crime wave fresh off a successful casino heist.
In the opening minutes of the film their getaway car loses control, crashing on an icy roadway.
After Addison kills a state trooper who stops to help the pair decide to split up and meet later to escape over the Canadian border.
Liza connects with a parolee Jay (Charlie Hunnam) on his way home for Thanksgiving dinner with mother June (Sissy Spacek), and father Chet (Kris Kristofferson).
On the run, Addison hides out in a hunting cabin before the police catch up to him, forcing him to move along toward a protracted climax.
There are some nice moments of tension in "Deadfall." Bana's overly polite-"Serve the pie please June."-but psychotic take on Addison lends some menace to the story but his good work is undone by a predictable script that relies on convenient and unbelievable coincidences to tell the story.
Add to that a (possibly) incestuous relationship, daddy issues galore and an unconvincing love story and you'll wish the Coen Brothers had been free to edit this script before it went to camera.
Also, there will be no spoilers here, but let's just say if you are looking for the chance to see the entire cast in one place, brought together by coincidence, you'll get it.
The photography, however is as gorgeous as the story is lackluster.
You'll feel the chill in your bones watching the harsh winter landscape portrayed so beautifully.
"Deadfal" feels incomplete, like a missed opportunity.
Bana's a good bad guy but he deserves a better story than this.
360 DVD: 2 ½ STARS
Like the name suggest "360," the new film from "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" director Fernando Meirelles, is a well rounded look at its subject. The film tells a complicated story that mixes-and-matches the lives of globe-trotting characters from all over the world into one intertwined narrative.
Familiar faces like Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Ben Foster and Anthony Hopkins headline the cast, which also includes international stars Jamel Debbouze and Moritz Bleibtreu working from a script by "The Queen" scribe Peter Morgan. Based on themes of love, life, loss of life and infidelity, the story casts a wide net to include the story of a young Slovakian woman who looks to prostitution as a way of escaping poverty, an older man searching for his missing daughter and a Muslin man struggling with feelings of love for a married co-worker.
As well acted and compelling much of "360" is I couldn't help but feel a better movie could have been made if fewer stories were essayed.
Like so many of these attempts at multi-pronged storytelling what could have been a rich experience becomes muddled by the sheer volume of stories and characters.
Instead, how about choosing any one of the story threads and fully exploring the characters and situations, sewing up loose ends and not worrying too much about weaving together all the disparate story elements? "360" isn't a bad movie, far from it, Meirelles is too skilled a director for that, but he's also ambitious.
This time it feels as though his storytelling ambitions got the best of him as he tries to bring too many stories to the table.