Saturday, 22 June 2013

Chaos & Blitz; the Stath doesn't abide like he should

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd watched and failed to enjoy some of the Stath's more serious work, and it struck me that - since I'm not saving the world or rescuing puppies just at the moment - it might be worth my time to tease that out briefly.

What I did - and this is quite some time back, so details may be fuzzy - was treat myself to a double bill of Blitz and Chaos, which it occurs to me would be a really cool name for a computer game, particularly if it was a computer game about Cthulhu intervening in the invasion of France, 1940. Blitz also starred both Paddy Considine and Aidan Gillen, which was the genesis of my theory that it's a mistake to watch a Stath movie with any actual actors in it; Chaos starred Wesley Snipes, which just underlined the well known maxim that it's a mistake to watch a movie with any actual Wesley Snipes in it, full stop. 

Objectively, I have to say that Chaos  is a much worse movie. It's one of those things where there's a whole bunch of twists, which the writers seem to hope they'll get away with because they know in their heart of hearts that no-one in their right mind is actually going to watch the movie again to see if they were cheating outrageously. I wasn't even paying that much attention to the movie the first time, and I still thought the whole thing was one big dumb cheat. Also, it horribly misrepresents chaos theory, which is not in fact a theory that you can throw random crap at the screen for an hour and a half and then hand wave it by saying that all the randomness was actually an ingenious plot by a criminal mastermind. And, of course, Wesley Snipes. Anyhow, it's a bank heist movie in which all is not what it seems, and everyone gets murdered, and Ryan Philippe is a clueless well meaning copper who ends the movie - as he always seems to - despairingly realising that he's been played like a banjo. The big twist is that the puppet-master has been the Stath all along, which as shocking twists go is simultaneously meta and completely stupid. The Stath is many things; violent, crafty, smarter than he looks. What the Stath is not is some kind of Moriarty. Any kind of Moriarty. Making him one is unexpected, certainly, but Chaos isn't remotely clever enough to make it work. 

Blitz ought to be a much better movie, except that it's terrible. It's adapted from a Ken Bruen novel, which ought to make for a nice downbeat Lahndahn policier, and Aidan Gillen and Paddy Considine are both good actors. And the notion of making the Stath a loose cannon London Irish cop with a hurley and a bad attitude doesn't have "doomed to failure" rising off it at all. The Stath beats people up; a hurley's a pretty good beating people up implement. I don't know that I agree with the Stath's description of hurling as "a cross between hockey and murder", [1] but a burley's got the reach and heft of a baseball bat combined with a smooth complex shape that lets the user choose just what kind of hurting he wants to hand out; anything you like from a heck of a smack to a depressed skull fracture, depending on whether you use the flat or the edges. An elegant weapon for a more civilised age, if you like.  That clip with the hurley featured in the trailer, and cheered me up no end. That looked like a fun movie.

Against all my expectations, Aidan Gillen ruined it. Gillen is almost the Irish Walton Goggins, made by the good Lord to play shifty, suited, scumbags with panache. Sadly, in Blitz, he has to play a character who doesn't make any sense, a swaggering imbecile who likes killing coppers and daring the police and media to stop him. Somehow Gillen doesn't sell the character at all, probably because the character is a swivel-eyed loon and Gillen's genius lies in creations like Tommy Carcetti and the criminally under praised Petyr Baelish; both characters defined by the sense of a smart underdog who's always got one more angle in a game he knows he was never supposed to be in, let alone win. Between that and Paddy Considine's sad sack copper, the screen's full of performances which completely undercut the gleeful meatheadedness which Stath movies normally trade in. Blitz is, in many ways, almost a localised remake of Dirty Harry, what with the lunatic killer and the violent cop, but watching it made me appreciate for the first time how hard it is to make a credible lunatic on the screen. I could never quite buy Gillen's villain, and so I found the rest of the movie hard to stick with. Watching a good actor not quite nail it can become really distracting over the length of a movie, and thus my sudden realisation that it's bad news if the Stath is sharing the screen with real actors.


[1] The real skill of hurling can be judged from the fact that players were confident enough about missing each other's heads on the field that they only started wearing helmets when it was forced on them by outsiders.

No comments: