All That Glitters...
by Ed Owens
the Oscars are officially over. While the question of whether or not
the winners were truly deserving will be debated for weeks, the bigger
question will remain largely unaddressed - should the Academy reserve
the right to retract the little gold statues they hand out every year?
This weekend hammered that point home with unusual clarity. As Cuba
Gooding, Jr. posed for the seemingly interminable and wholly gratuitous
Oscar Family Album, his latest film, Boat Trip, opened to some
of the worst reviews in recent memory. Granted I haven't seen the film,
but the trailers have hardly inspired in me any desire to see it, even
out of morbid curiosity. It certainly doesn't help that his last film
was the alarmingly inept Snow Dogs (which I actually did see,
though the reasons for doing so have long since left me). Absent from
the Oscar's sycophantic photo op was previous award-winner Gwyneth Paltrow,
perhaps because she was too busy plugging her latest film, View
From The Top.
The Academy must be
It doesn’t help that studios frequently use the
accolades to promote films, especially ones as bad as The
Hunted. Anyone who's seen the trailer for this cinematic
stepchild of First Blood and The Fugitive is already
well aware of its pedigree, proudly displayed in metallic blue 78pt
Times New Roman letters: Academy Award Winner - three times, no less
(various cast and crew members actually have at least fourteen nominations
between them). The film, whose plot manages the astonishing feat of
being both overly simplistic and alarmingly muddled at the same time,
takes the best parts of over a decade of chase films and promptly disposes
of them, leaving behind a hollowed out carcass with less subtlety than
hardest part of reviewing a film like The Hunted is deciding
where to start. Tommy Lee Jones, who won the Oscar for playing a determined
government agent tracking a wanted man across a variety of locales,
plays a determined ex-government agent tracking a wanted man across
a variety of locales. Judging from Jones' performance, being an ex-agent
means that you lose all energy and walk around looking semi-conscious.
Then again, it could just be that Jones has played this part so many
times of late that he can - and apparently does - do it in his sleep.
The subject of his manhunt is none other than Benicio Del Toro, Oscar
winner for his role as a cop in the grey zone of Mexico's drug battle
in Traffic. Del Toro, who can bring great energy and charm
to his roles, appears to have caught Jones' lethargy, spending any moment
that he's not engaged in hand-to-hand combat looking like he's on the
verge of passing out. In fact, the two have so little energy between
them that even their most active moments filled me with the kind of
ennui normally inspired only by marathon awards shows.
Directed with a supremely heavy hand by Oscar winner William
Friedkin (whose recent efforts include Jade and the horrifically
moronic Rules of Engagement), and edited apparently by chance
rather than by any sort of real design, the film lopes ploddingly along
one droll chase scene to another until, finally, the two men, having
developed very little since their initial intro, stand on a cliff overlooking
a waterfall (déjà vu) and hack away at our suspension
of disbelief nearly as much as each other. The identity of the victor
doesn't matter, as Friedkin and Co. have given us little reason to root
for either man, much less to actually care about the outcome. Given
the gold going in, it's amazing how little comes out.
Let's hope this year's winners fare better.
©2003 Ed Owens