It’s always a bad sign when you find yourself rewriting the movie you’re watching while you are watching that movie. The film wants to be so many things, it doesn’t know what it is. Is it a comedy? Is it a totally hardcore, brah, action movie? Is it a pop culture satire? Is it a bleak dystopian tale? Is it a Dennis Potter-esque musical? Is it a wacky buddy comedy between a convicted-but-secretly innocent criminal and his nerdy friend? Is it a “stickin’ it to the man” revolutionary tract, wherein Ludacris reveals that the key to overthrowing an oppressive regime does not, in fact, involving leaning back, getting out of the way, or rapping on Justin Bieber tunes? And who knew that Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson had a potty mouth on her? Ruby didn’t! (And, for the record, Grace Handarko > Brenda Leigh Johnson FTW.) There are elements to a much better movie hidden within these various plots, all of which get their due, and the actors here — Michael C. Hall, a decent Gerald Butler, even John “I can has Tony now plz?” Leguizamo — all do a pretty capble job with what they’re given. But in the end, GAMER, Jonah Hex, and that movie with Peter Petrelli from Heroes all offer concrete evidence that directors-writers Nevaldine/Taylor should just make increasingly ridiculous CRANK movies starring Jason Statham until the end of time.
A low-budget film from England, this is one of those sci-fi movies that boils down to people in a room, talking. It’s a Twilight Zone episode (eight different people from various walks of life and backgrounds given a task, secrets are revealed, people learn about themselves, rinse, repeat) stretched out to feature length, and the real-time conciet, when it starts, gives the film momentum and tension. The cast of mostly unknown actors all do a pretty fantastic job, especially when you consider that they’re being asked to play archetypes. I look forward to keeping an eye out for these actors, but if I have one complaint with EXAM, it’s that after the real-time portion expires, the film continues for another 10-15 unnecessary minutes. When you’re doing a Twilight Zone-esque movie like this, you want to either go for ambiguity, or directness without spelling everything out. It’s still worth your time, though.
THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
Originally, this third film from writer Peter Morgan about Tony Blair was supposed to focus on the former Prime Minister’s relationship with both Bush and Clinton. However, Morgan chose to just focus on the Clinton years. That was a mistake. While the film is quite good, especially in the performances from Dennis Quaid as Clinton, thematically, it doesn’t quite work. Much of the second half focuses on Blair’s attempts to get the U.S. involved in Kosovo, framing it as “a war between good and evil,” and as this is more unexplored territory than Clinton-Lewinsky, it’s fascinating stuff. That being said, I would have loved to see that whole idea of good vs. evil turned around on Blair by the Bush administration, and the film hints at this in the last major scene between Blair and Clinton. And Dennis Quaid is really, really good here; so much that he makes you ache for a longer movie just about Clinton. As this covers a period in American history that’s been fictionalized (in the continually underrated Primary Colors) that’s just being dramatized, I recommend the film, especially if you’re a fan of HBO movies in this genre.