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Review: Assault on Precinct 13

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Ethan Hawke wants it both ways. He wants serious artistic credibility and he
wants to be a Hollywood Action Hero. Assault on Precinct 13 wants the same
things and fails at both.
   

The film starts out promisingly as a gritty crime drama, with a close-up of
Hawke with a buzz-cut, looking strung out and intense. He’s trying to sell heroin to some Eastern
European gangsters. As Hawke delivers a drugged-out monologue shown in quick cuts
and stark, sickly grey-green light, the scene is reminiscent of 2002’s indie
cop drama Narc, and when the deal goes bad and guns are drawn, the violence
is just as brutal.
   

What a disappointment, then, when the movie goes Hollywood. The plot is
formulaic: Hawke’s defeated Sgt Roenick is working a desk job at Detroit’s
decrepit Precinct 13 on New Year’s Eve. A blizzard forces a police transport
bus carrying crime lord Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) off the road and
into the precinct, which soon comes under the assault of a horde of masked
gunmen. Roenick, precinct receptionist Iris (Drea de Matteo) and crusty vet
Jasper (Brian Dennehy) join forces with Bishop and a trio of scrappy,
colorful street hoods to make it through the night.
   

The actors do their best, but even a veteran like Dennehy can’t do much with
the two-dimensional character he’s been given. Ja Rule and John
Leguizamo use their stereotyped characters to good advantage: for comic
relief, and Drea de Matteo gives good sexpot, but the talented Maria Bello, who was so wonderful in The Cooler, is
wasted here as Roenick’s simpering therapist. If Hawke continues to dumb down, he may yet have a career as
an action hero, but Assault on Precinct 13 won’t be the film to make his
reputation. — Andy Horwitz

Review: Beautiful Boxer
 

The
hero of the Thai film Beautiful Boxer is Nong Toom, a
boy
longing to be a woman. He is tortured by this wish — it drives him
endlessly. He is defined by it. His singleness of purpose is
ridiculous, and ultimately, so is the film’s. See, what makes Nong
Toom special is that he’s not only a transvestite, he’s a professional
boxer. He even wears makeup in the ring. But not to worry, Hilary
Swank, this Million Dollar Baby ain’t got nothin’ on you.
    The film
begins with shots of Toom preparing for a match, interspersed with
footage of him putting on women’s clothing. It’s a sign of what lies
ahead. Over the next two hours, that trick of cutting back and forth
between Toom fighting and, say, dancing, or applying lipstick is
repeated every ten minutes or so. The movie never moves beyond it’s
fascination with that simple trany/boxer irony.
    As far as Toom’s
obsession goes, the filmmakers reveal only that it is difficult. A great movie
will take a basic premise like this and use it to go deeper, providing
a back drop in which to explore more pertinent questions. Beautiful
Boxer
had that opportunity, but instead chose to remain safely on the
surface — offering preachy monologues, but no real substance.
   

What does work about the film is the Thai boxing matches. These scenes are understated,
fast, exciting, and liberatingly less pretentious than the rest of
the film. Nong Toom kicking ass, all done up in drag, is pretty
damn hot, and there is a great satisfaction in seeing him beat up on
some of his more chauvinistic foes.

   

The result is wholly unusual; we
actually end up yearning for a more straightforward action movie that’s unafraid to embrace its own hokiness. Where’s The Karate Kid, or — dare I say it? — Rocky when
you need them? — Nic Sheff

Date DVD #16: Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Three
 

This
week, Jacques Brecker’s Touchez pas au grisbi gets a fancy
new release, but that stylish, grizzled-gangster classic might
not be the best idea for your date. First, using a black-and-white
movie as a seduction vehicle is a cliché. Second, you’re
bound to come up short compared to the film’s irresistible star
Jean Gabin. Playing the suave, over-the-hill gangster Max le
Menteur. He’s cool in ways
that have practically disappeared from cinema: sly and smooth
and devious and tough, and always immaculately tailored.

    Which is why you should stick with Curb Your Enthusiasm:
Season Three
. Compared to Gabin (who will likely leave you feeling gangly
and poorly dressed), Seinfeld co-creator Larry David (of the receding
hairline, horrible manners, and ill-fitting sweaters) is the perfect wingman.
Hilarious, utterly unthreatening, and, most importantly, an awful human being,
David hit his stride in season three by amplifying the bad behavior that has
become his trademark. In these ten episodes, he steals a child’s dog, then gets
the child drunk; ruins a Christmas nativity; spikes a brownie with drugs; insults
his best friend’s wife; and uses his mother’s death as an excuse to get out of
social commitments — before digging up her grave.

    The DVD is especially perfect for a date if you’re an asshole. It’s amazing how funny — and even attractive — David’s egomania becomes after a few episodes. If you happen to be an irritating, bad-tipping gadabout who always grins at his own jokes, there’s no better argument for why a date should put up with you than this. — Logan Hill



 
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