I vowed that I’d review every movie I saw in 2009 on this here Tumblr, but, alas, three fell through the cracks. Here are three short reviews — IN THE BIZ WE CALL ‘EM “CAPSULES!” — of some movies I never got around to.
Duplicity. You’ve got two of the most naturally charming movie stars on earth — you wouldn’t call either particularly “deep,” but there’s a wattage intelligence that’s tough to resist — and, if you’re Tony Gilroy, you put them in the midst of a plot that incomprehensible. That is not to say the movie doesn’t make sense: By the end, you realize it does, and it pays off with a rather killer punchline. I’m sure if I saw it a second time, I’d find the little hints he plants throughout particularly delicious. But why bother? It didn’t exactly grab me by the neck the first time. Grade: C+
Gomorrah. This might be one of those movies that are more fun to praise than they actually are to watch. It’s based on a true-life novel about the Italian Mafia, and it feels like it: It’s true to life, but, like life, has stretches where it’s awfully dull. At this point, is it all that revelatory to learn that mafia life isn’t nearly as glamorous as we think it is? Isn’t that pretty much the point of every drama about the mafia from the last 25 years? This is a clinical, tick-tock, procedural that has moments of insight but don’t add up to a particularly compelling film. I’m not sure I understand all the praise. Grade: B-
Tyson. At last, a story that cuts through tabloid clutter and shows the sad, epic tale of the most compelling boxer of the last 30 years. Right? Right? Well, maybe that was the idea — and James Toback, arbiter of male id, would seem the perfect guy to tell that story — but it turns out that Mike Tyson, lo and behold, isn’t that interesting after all. He’s an unreliable narrator, sure, but mostly he’s just a grotesque cartoon of every athlete who never had to answer for anything as long as they were making other people money. That might be a story worth telling too, but this film wants you to see Mike Tyson as a metaphor for modern man, confused, virile, powered by rage and insecurity and testosterone. And he isn’t. He’s just a dumb narcissist who, at last, gets to tell his tale, take off the mask and show us who he really was the whole time: Just another boring, simple-minded wad of conceit and deluded ego. Shame. Hard to blame Toback: I’d hoped he was more than that as well. Grade: C