REVIEWS OF WATCHMEN AND 12


Watchmen. The director Zach Snyder gives it everything he’s got (no kitchen sink, in the tradition of the cliché, but plenty of toilets), but unfortunate to say, it’s not quite enough and in the end, the movie has little to offer except Snyder’s visual stylings. It actually becomes reminiscent of the movie Dune, in which David Lynch also gave it all he had, but also only ended up with something nice to look at. Part of this is a weak script (though I’m sure David Hayter and Alex Tse did their best considering the almost impossibility of the assignment) and part of this is Snyder’s lack of deftness when it comes to the acting. Outside of perhaps Jackie Earle Haley (who does his best with some florid and kitschy hard boiled film noir lines), actors who have been much better in other movies are here sadly bland and dull. The plot isn’t easy to follow (in spite of the fact that the action stops for at least three major expositional scenes to explain everything, I still wasn’t quite sure why The Comedian was murdered, though I’m willing to concede that that’s more my fault than the film’s; I did blink once or twice). Also not quite clear is why these crime fighters retired just because Nixon had some law passed; each one individually could take out a whole army, so why would they care what Tricky Dick did. In the end, what is perhaps most interesting here is that in spite of the women crime fighters being dressed in the traditional form revealing garb that horny teenagers like to masturbate to, the real emphasis is on male nudity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (au contraire, as far as I’m concerned), but it’s something of a novelty at the least when Billy Cruddop’s blue, uncircumcised dick gives one of the standout performances in the film.

12. A Russian version of the American semi-classic 12 Angry Men in which a jury saves the integrity of the American judicial system by doing what the system didn’t do, actually try to figure out whether the defendant is guilty or not. The story was always somewhat fallacious; the theme was how well our system works when in reality it actually dramatized how easily it was for an innocent man to be convicted (like the TV series Law & Order). Though it is interesting to see a traditional American form of jurisprudence being implemented in another country and though the writers Nikita Mikhalkov (who also directed) and Vladimir Moiseyenko devote quite a bit of time to showing the background of the defendant (thereby adding more urgency to the verdict than there was in the American version), the movie never catches fire. Most of this is due to a script in which every character is given a very long, showcase monologue to explain his reason for changing his verdict. But the monologues are so unfocused (a few times, after the actor was through, I still wasn’t always sure why he changed his mind) and are so structurally obvious and arbitrary, eventually I just tuned out what they said and just waited for the characters to change their verdict (but it did make ideal times for going to the bathroom). What’s also odd here is that the characters constantly complain about how long the proceedings are taking, until someone starts orating, whereupon everyone automatically politely waits until the person stops talking. The staging is also very stagey, as if performed for a live audience, yet one wonders whether it’s too self consciously theatrical even for legitimate theater. The authors try to add a twist to the ending, where the jury foreman wants them to vote guilty because the defendant would be better off in jail. It’s supposed to be profound, but it’s moral insanity as far as I’m concerned and Mikhalkov and Moiseyenko should be ashamed for even taking the idea seriously; sure, let’s not decide whether someone is really guilty or not, let’s just bypass all that and decide where he’d be better off (this is the sort of debate one had while drunk in a college dorm room at two in the morning; but it’s time to put away childish things). It also doesn’t help that there are several false endings; though it was amusing watching the various audience members stand up and sit down, stand up and sit down, as they were fooled over and over again.
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