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My Netflix queue has taken a decidedly manly turn lately, with gangster movies, kung-fu gangster movies, monster movies, and more gangster movies. In this post I will be reviewing the Quentin Tarantino "classic", Reservoir Dogs, and the definitely non-classic The Protector, starring phenomenal stuntman Tony Jaa.
Reservoir Dogs - 4 stars
The most important thing I can tell you about this movie is that it is not about a reservoir, and it is not about dogs. There Is A dog in it, but no reservoir, as far as I can tell.
I don't think that is a good name for the movie. A Better title would have been A bunch of guys who are not dogs who screw up a jewelry store heist and then get really paranoid because they were set up by somebody but they don't know who and then everybody starts sticking guns in everybody else's face and all of this happens nowhere near a reservoir: Part One
Nah, forget the "Part One" bit; that makes it too wordy. Audiences wouldn't go for that.
Anyway, I disagree with Quentin Tarantino's general taste in film, or perhaps "tastelessness" in film, But this one really was pretty good. Really good actually. I love a movie with a lot of plot, with twists and turns, and this one serves them up one after another. The characters are developed cryptically and selectively, and, of course, there are a lot of great quotable lines, which seems to be one of Tarantino's strong points.
The thing that keeps this movie out of 5-star territory is the ending. Or rather the lack of one. Serious Film-Student types can rail at me about subtext and allegory, and my inability to appreciate the subtle nuance and blah, blah, blah, yadda-yadda, but to me, the movie's ending is jarring, and not in a good way. A good artistic film can have an ending that raises more questions than it answers, but this movie did something else. I'm still not quite sure what it did, but I didn't like it.
The thing that made it so frustrating is that the movie was so darn good, right up to the ending, and then it felt like they just ran out of film. or time.
The Protector - 2 stars
There are two things that keep this movie out of the trash heap of a 1-star rating. The Star, and the Stunts. OK, really, just the stunts, most of which are done by the star. The reason I ever picked this movie up to begin with was the amazing scene I saw on YouTube of the longest uncut fight scene in the world.
This scene is a fairly ho-hum action movie scene, until you realize that every one of the fifty million or so extras in this scene, spanning five floors of a building, had to have every prop, every position, every step right all the way through the nearly 5-minute scene. One missed mark and they would have to go all the way down the stairs, set up all the furniture, screens, railings and windows, put all the extras and stunt performers BACK in their places and start all over again.
There are several other scenes from the movie available on YouTube, and that, my friends, is the best place to watch them, because the movie that they are part of is one of the worst ever. This movie is a collection of action scenes with a thin layer of plot applied. The Stunts are dazzling, and all the more so if you know that they are done without the assistance of any wires, slings or any other augmentation. When Tony Jaa does a backflip, kicking out the streetlight 6 feet above his head from a standing start, he really just did that. Much of what Spider-Man can do in make-believe, Tony Jaa can do for real. It is easy to watch the various scenes on YouTube and appreciate that fact. It is hard to appreciate those stunts in the context of the incredibly terrible, contrived, confusing, and unintentionally funny movie, though.
Seriously, I was surprised, after watching this movie, to find that my face actually hurt from laughter. It is not supposed to be a comedy at all.
One of these days, Tony Jaa will work with an American director, and make a movie that is at least up to bad American Action Movie Standards. The Protector fell short of even that.