SXSW2004–Luck/Stander/Ju-On: The Grudge
“A white man could do anything he wants today.”
LUCK Shane Bradley (Luke Kirby) is that saddest of creatures, a man in love. The object of his affection is Margaret (Sarah Polley), his best friend. She’s been seeing this guy for a while, but they just broke up. SCORE!
Well, hold on. She’s giving the guy one more chance and going to England with him for two weeks. What’s a poor Canadian boy to do while the love of his life is away with her ex-boyfriend but gamble all of his money away?
And that’s exactly what Shane does. In a matter of one night he goes from being broke, to having a couple of thousand dollars to being $9000 in the debt to the casino. How the fuck do you get out of that? You go to a loan shark. Now he owes the casino $4000 and a dangerous man $5000.
His buddies try to help him, but they don’t have any money, either. All they have are the brains to not get so in debt with their gambling. The hell of it is that they gamble all the time. Shane has never done it before.
With Goodfellas type narration we get the whole story of how Shane goes from bad to worse and how he can’t stop thinking about this woman who left him, possibly forever.
And, really, that’s what I liked so much about this film. Yes, it’s about gambling, but really it’s about the love that you just can’t quite have. His gambling represents the downward spiral that we all take when we fall in love with someone and can’t tell them.
The cast is very good and full of basically unknowns. All together they have a pretty impressive filmography, but you never will have heard of any of them but Sarah Polley. And she plays a character that’s slightly different from her norm. She’s more forceful and modern. The closest she’s ever come to this in her list of roles is Go. She’s very good. Hell, I fell in love with her.
Very good romance with some gambling thrown in to occupy your mind while you think of all of the women like Margaret in your life.
And, since it’s a Canadian film, it’s got hockey. It takes place during the Canadian/Russian hockey championship in 1972.
In the late 70s Andre Stander (Thomas Jane) was one of the top policemen in South Africa. Apartheid was in full force and it seemed like a white man could get away with anything while a black man would be shot in the streets for accidentally stealing an orange.
When Stander kills an unarmed man during a riot his life changes forever. He starts to realize the hypocrisy in the system and comes up with a way to buck it. He walks right into a bank, shows them his gun and robs them. The experiment works and he starts to live a much more fulfilling life chasing after himself. When he is finally caught by his best friend and fellow officer he is thrown in jail. That’s where his story really gets started.
A lot of bank robberies followed while he and his new gang were on the run from his old cop-mates. His wife (Deborah Kara Unger) and father (Marius Weyers) are completely at a loss as to why he’s doing these things.
This movie was a lot of fun and has a really cool true story about a guy who is just fed up with the system he’s worked for for so long. The acting was very good across the board, but Thomas Jane was the real standout. I’ve never been overly impressed with him, but he was awesome in this one. But why was he naked so much near the beginning? That was kind of weird. It was in very strange places like running around the beach with his bikini-clad wife.
It’s a beautiful film, too. The cross-processing was perfect for making it look like a 70s film. And the South African vistas were really cool even if they were mainly just deserts and shanty towns.
The only problem I had was the fact that the first 30-45 minutes were great. It was those last four hours that were kind of slow. I kept thinking, “Ok. This is it….no. This is it. Alright, this has to be it.” And it never was. It’s not even two hours long, but it felt like forever at times.
Other than that it’s definitely worth seeing when it comes out, which I’m sure it will within the next year.
JU-ON: THE GRUDGE
With the success of The Ring and the fact that The Eye did so well at the festival last year, the directors of SXSW were looking for another Asian horror film to fill a midnight slot.
When I heard that they had chosen The Grudge as this year’s pick I was excited. The movie is a sensation in Japan and has spawned not only a sequel, but the movie itself was started by a video series. And they were all directed by Takashi Shimizu. He is also doing the American re-make of his film starring Sarah Michele Gellar, Clea DuVall, Bull Pullman and Cousin o’ Cruise, William Mapother.
I was looking forward to seeing this movie for days. Too bad it wasn’t worth the wait.
The “story” centers around a curse in a house that gets passed from person to person like a virus. It’s told in segments that focus on each person. While each person has a connection to another victim, the stories just barely coincide. I couldn’t figure out the timeline of the movie at all.
There were plenty of creepy moments (the little boy was pretty creepy), but they didn’t add up to anything. I didn’t care about anyone because we didn’t spend enough time with anyone to learn anything about them.
I’ve heard that the sequel is better. Maybe I need to see it in order to make some sense out of this shit, but I’m not sure that I’m all that interested in seeing it. I hope they insert a story into the American version, but I can’t imagine that they will. Those are pretty secondary to American horror films, even if they are directed by someone who has filmed the same story 427 times before.
What a disappointment to a Japanese horror fan.