Tag Archives: Ernie Hudson

Congo (1995, Frank Marshall)

At the end of Congo, after the heroes have found the lost expedition, the lost city, and the laser-pure diamonds but also run afoul of said lost city’s super-ape protectors and happened to find this place during a volcanic eruption, some of the super-apes jump into the lava flow. It’s a somewhat lengthy sequence, which with a better film might suggest the director was inviting contemplation but Congo’s direction is so bewilderingly bad it’s obviously not; it’s hard not to see the apes, the whole point of Congo, the pay-off to almost ninety minutes of globe-trotting nonsense… it’s hard not them seeing want to vaporize themselves to escape. The film’s an embarrassment for them.

The movie starts with a diamond-seeking expedition to the Congo going wrong. Bruce Campbell and Taylor Nichols, who aren’t in the movie enough, call home to their company, which is a communications company not a diamond company, and where their remote project supervisor is Laura Linney and the big boss is Joe Don Baker, who’s also Campbell’s dad. Oh, and Campbell used to be engaged to Linney. But he wanted to impress his dad too much so Linney dumped him. There’s a good movie in Congo, if someone else had written the script. John Patrick Shanley’s script is really bad. And since Linney’s the lead, though sometimes ostensibly and sometimes de facto, she loses the most potential from the script. She’s got to go to Africa to save Campbell after an unknown something attacks the camp. Thankfully it’s the movies so she’s able to find an expedition already going to Congo, even though it was thrown together immediately following Linney’s dramatic prologue.

Because the script’s dumb. Like, some of Congo’s big problems are just… well, the script’s dumb. Tim Curry’s absurd diamond hunter? Curry reins it in. The movie could handle him camping it up a whole lot more and Curry resists. He’s not good, because it’s a dumb part, but he’s nowhere near as bad as he could be. He gets sympathy. Linney gets sympathy. Male lead Dylan Walsh however… he doesn’t get much sympathy. Because Walsh isn’t even trying. Or, if he’s trying, he’s not trying as hard as uncredited cameo players (Delroy Lindo as an African military commander), much less main supporting player Ernie Hudson, who’s committed to running with it no matter where it takes him. It’s a great showcase for Hudson’s potential in the right role; that potential qualifier is because this role sure ain’t it.

Walsh is a primatologist who’s taught a gorilla to sign and then gotten her a souped up power glove; the glove “speaks” her signs aloud. Shayna Fox does the computer’s voice, the Stan Winston studio does the facial expressions and costume, two different women are in the suit at different times (Lola Noh and Misty Rosas). Is the gorilla, named Amy, successful? I mean, she’s a better character than Walsh, which isn’t saying much, but… the gorilla could be a lot worse. The gorilla could be a whole lot better—the whole hook of Congo, lost super-apes in a lost city of diamonds or whatever, hinges on the gorillas being impressive.

The gorillas are not impressive. The film manages to gin up sympathy for Amy, enough to overlook the technical limitations, but when the super-apes don’t pay off? It’s all over.

Though, really, the writing’s been on the wall for a while. Bad composite shots, the lost city sets being rather small-scale and wanting, the movie itself not being good; Congo’s not got much potential, but it does sort of assure it’s going to pull off the killer gorillas. It does not. Would it have been able to pull them off—same effects crew—if Marshall’s direction weren’t so tepid? Maybe? Possibly. Marshall pushes for as much gore as the PG-13 will let him get away with, but he doesn’t push for any actual suspense, much less horror, much less terror.

Eh photography from Allen Daviau, always at least competent editing from Anne V. Coates, plus a mediocre Jerry Goldsmith score. If it weren’t so blandly bad, Congo might be able to get by on solid technicals… it’s just Marshall. He’s particularly bad at directing this particular film. He’s obviously lost and completely unwilling to stop and ask for directions.

Joe Don Baker’s bad, Grant Heslov’s pointless as Walsh’s sidekick, Mary Ellen Trainor and Stuart Pankin get close-ups during the first act and some lines for absolutely no reason, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s good. You’re never happy to see Tim Curry, but he could be worse. The uncredited Delroy Lindo cameo is excellent Delroy Lindo cameoing. Linney and Walsh are both wanting, in different ways, Walsh much more. Hudson’s at least having a great time and working his butt off. Nice someone could bother in Congo.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Frank Marshall; screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, based on the novel by Michael Crichton; director of photography, Allen Daviau; edited by Anne V. Coates; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, J. Michael Riva; costume designer, Marilyn Matthews; produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Laura Linney (Dr. Karen Ross), Dylan Walsh (Dr. Peter Elliot), Ernie Hudson (Captain Monroe Kelly), Tim Curry (Herkermer Homolka), Lola Noh & Misty Rosas & Shayna Fox (Amy the Gorilla), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Kahega), Joe Pantoliano (Eddie Ventro), Grant Heslov (Richard), Delroy Lindo (Captain Wanta), Joe Don Baker (R.B. Travis), Taylor Nichols (Jeffrey Weems), John Hawkes (Bob Driscoll), and Bruce Campbell (Charles Travis).


The Watcher (2000, Joe Charbanic)

I do not regret watching The Watcher, which features Keanu Reeves as a serial killer who sees the world like a shitty late nineties video camera. It might not even be a video camera. The shots might just be through a shitty video viewfinder. There’s a lot of… competency on display in the film, but it’s never from director Charbanic. Charbanic’s hilariously incompetent. Well, sort of hilariously. Sometimes the bad goes on too long and gets tiring. The therapy sessions haunted ex-FBI agent James Spader has with Marisa Tomei are always tedious; the writing (from David Elliot and Clay Ayers) is godawful, but Tomei also looks like someone’s pointing a pistol at her dog offscreen to keep her on set. Given how Charbanic doesn’t do establishing shots, there’s sometimes no evidence Spader and Tomei are on set together. Spader can handle it. Tomei cannot.

Because until the last act, when Reeves kidnaps Tomei and Spader, it’s Spader’s movie. It’s about this guy who has moved to Chicago from L.A., on full disability after he ran into a burning house to save his lover (Yvonne Niami). Only then we find out through flashbacks Spader left Miami tied up to go chase Reeves. His lasting damage from the rescue attempt doesn’t always allow him to remember the fire. Tragic.

For more reasons than one. Niami seems awkwardly filmed. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the producers’ wives. The shlock producer. The film has three. Two seem legit, the third—Nile Niami—did a bunch of low budget action crap. The Watcher feels like low budget action crap, but filmed on location. Because even though there’s the interesting behind the scenes story about how Reeves was buds with director Charbanic from when Reeves toured with his crappy band instead of doing Speed 2 and verbally agreed to do this shitty script and then some assistant forged Reeves’s name on an actual contract and Reeves was trapped—even though there’s that story, whatever the deal with the Chicago location shooting is far more compelling. Because they go all out shooting in Chicago. It looks terrible, because Charbanic sucks and Matthew Chapman’s cinematography looks like a syndicated TV cop show and Richard Nord’s editing is atrocious, but whoever coordinated and managed all that location stuff—great job. The CG explosions look like crap, but the real ones look awesome… well, look awesomely executed. They don’t look awesome because the direction’s bad. Though the big explosion shot is one of the better, more approaching competence moments.

They’ve got a gazillion cop cars, they’ve got helicopters flying into the city from over Lake Michigan–the movie goes all out as a Chicago travelogue. At first it seems like it’s some kind of promotional video to shoot in Chicago, then it seems like it’s some crappy action movie just shot in Chicago—like a Chicago investor or something—but apparently it’s something else entirely. Kind of interesting. Far more interesting than the movie. And the Reeves casting intrigue. Because Reeves is just bad. He’s really bad at playing the serial killer. The script’s dumb, Charbanic’s a suck director, but Reeves is still just bad.

Spader… works it. Sometimes you can just pass the time watching Spader figure out how he’s going to essay this crap role. It’s like watching the performance occur to him. It’s not a great performance by any means—the script’s crap, characterization’s crap, part’s crap—but it’s interesting to watch Spader. Less Tomei. Chris Ellis is really good as Spader’s Chicago PD sidekick. Ellis doesn’t have a single acceptably written line but somehow he makes it work. He’s very enthusiastic. Like somehow he’d convinced himself The Watcher was going to be the next Matrix. It has Keanu Reeves in a leather jacket all the time after all.

Marco Beltrami’s score isn’t good—Nord’s cutting for music, Beltrami or the light metal soundtrack selections is terrible—but Beltrami works it too. He’s got some good technique, but there’s no way the final product is going to come across.

The Watcher’s atrocious. You shouldn’t watch it.

Though, if you’re interested in the Chicago area and seeing an expansively but poorly shot film showcasing it… you probably can’t do better than The Watcher? But also don’t watch it. It’s terrible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Charbanic; screenplay by David Elliot and Clay Ayers, based on a story by Darcy Meyers and Elliot; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Richard Nord; music by Marco Beltrami; production designers, Maria Caso and Brian Eatwell; produced by Christopher Eberts, Elliott Lewitt, Nile Niami, and Jeff Rice; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring James Spader (Joel), Keanu Reeves (David), Marisa Tomei (Polly), Chris Ellis (Hollis), and Ernie Hudson (Mike).


The Crow (1994, Alex Proyas)

Has it been long enough since the firearms safety accident on The Crow set to point out Brandon Lee was a really bad actor and his performance in The Crow is laughably awful?

Actually, I don’t care; he’s lousy and the movie’s dumb.

There are good things about The Crow, which is a little surprising, considering the script is awful and Proyas’s seems more concerned with selling the soundtrack album than actually making a film. The good things are Michael Wincott, Ernie Hudson and Jon Polito. All three manage to get out their atrocious dialogue and make it sound good. Especially Wincott. He almost makes his character believable.

But the bad things… Where to even start? Rochelle Davis, the narrator of the film, gives an even worse performance than Lee. The dialogue in David J. Schow and John Shirley’s script is incredibly silly and it’s hard to believe it ever sounding reasonable. But Davis’s performance doesn’t do the (bad) script justice.

Laurence Mason’s bad too, so are Bai Ling and Anna Levine. Especially Ling. David Patrick Kelly and Michael Massee are both reasonably okay. Not good, but okay; okay goes far in The Crow. There’s not a lot okay about it.

On the technical side, Graeme Revell’s score is lousy. It’s probably Proyas’s fault. Revell’s score mostly just provides transitions between Proyas’s mini-music videos for the soundtrack songs. Dariusz Wolski’s photography seems inept, but it could just be the incompetent CG effects.

The Crow is a stupefyingly bad film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Alex Proyas; screenplay by David J. Schow and John Shirley, based on the comic book by James O’Barr; director of photography, Dariusz Wolski; edited by Dov Hoenig and M. Scott Smith; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Jeff Most and Edward R. Pressman; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Brandon Lee (Eric Draven), Rochelle Davis (Sarah), Ernie Hudson (Sergeant Albrecht), Michael Wincott (Top Dollar), Bai Ling (Myca), Sofia Shinas (Shelly Webster), Anna Levine (Darla), David Patrick Kelly (T-Bird), Angel David (Skank), Laurence Mason (Tin Tin), Michael Massee (Funboy), Tony Todd (Grange) and Jon Polito (Gideon).


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No Escape (1994, Martin Campbell)

No Escape opens with this lovely piece of music from composer Graeme Revell. It’s sort of the film’s theme music and it doesn’t fit at all with the action or sci-fi elements integral to the plot. The film’s this odd mix of genres and filmmaking approaches. At times it’s anti-climatic to such an incredible point, it’s almost like the point is to keep the viewer uneasy.

Some of the strange plotting might be because it’s from a novel and the screenwriters are keeping as much of that source novel as possible. Or not. I haven’t read the novel.

But it’s an odd type of action film.

Campbell casts No Escape quite well. He gets a great scene out of practically every actor. Lance Henriksen and Jack Shepard do some excellent work here, as do Ernie Hudson and Don Henderson. Stuart Wilson runs hot and cold as the villain. He’s never quite frightening and the more forced lunatic moments fail… but there are occasionally these quiet ones and they work.

Kevin Dillon’s okay; his part is the weakest written. Except Michael Lerner. Though Lerner’s just goofy overall.

As for lead Ray Liotta… Liotta spends most of the film being a disaffected action hero. But it all works out—even though it’s obvious, when he finally does get emotional, there’s a significant resonance.

Campbell’s direction is excellent. Phil Meheux’s photography and Terry Rawlings’s editing are essential.

No Escape sort of takes itself too seriously. And that sincerity makes it work.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by Michael Gaylin and Joel Gross, based on a novel by Richard Herley; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Savoy Pictures.

Starring Ray Liotta (Robbins), Lance Henriksen (The Father), Stuart Wilson (Marek), Kevin Dillon (Casey), Kevin J. O’Connor (Stephano), Don Henderson (Killian), Ian McNeice (King), Jack Shepherd (Dysart), Michael Lerner (The Warden) and Ernie Hudson (Hawkins).


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