The problem with most action hero movies like the new release “Red Eye” is one of credibility, and ability.
Let’s start at the start: the greatest average-guy hero movie ever made, “Die Hard.” The reason “Die Hard” worked was that it had a hero you could believe might be able to hold his own — Bruce Willis’ John McClane, a New York City cop caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, said place being a high-rise L.A. office tower full of armed-to-the-teeth thieves, the leader of whom was the perfectly evil Alan Rickman.
The reason all the “Die Hard” clones that followed don’t work for me — all the way up to and including “Red Eye” — is that I can never quite sell myself on the idea that their hero figures, when involved in gunplay with trained killers, would do anything other than what your average person would — which is to quietly make themselves into a ball and cover their heads until the loud noises stop. It’s called “the preservation instinct,” folks. And for all you guys out there making your own fireworks in the basement and trying to jump your mother’s Fairlane over the barn like the Duke boys, I say: Learn it. Live it. Know it.
In “Red Eye,” our unlikely hero turns out to be Lisa Reisert (the lovely Rachel McAdams), a driven and detail-obsessed concierge for a fancy Miami hotel. On her way back from her grandmother’s funeral, Lisa is seated on the plane beside a chatty fellow named Jackson Rippner (the creepy Cillian Murphy, who recently took a turn as Batman’s nemesis in “Batman Begins”). Little does she know, her seating arrangement is no accident. Rippner soon lets her in on a secret: He is a hired assassin who has been following her for months. The even bigger secret: He’s the point man for a team intent on killing the deputy secretary of homeland security, who that very day will be visiting the hotel where Lisa works. They need Lisa to call her hotel via the plane’s airphone and pull strings to get the secretary’s suite changed to one where a sniper can take a shot. Either that, Rippner tells her, or a member of his team will kill her father, who has been under surveillance as well.
Over the next few reels, in true Average-Jane Hero style, Lisa — wearing business-casual attire, including a set of heels, no less — is able to easily outrun, outfight, outfox and outdrive a trained, battle-honed killer and his whole deadly team, all of whom apparently attended the assassin’s equivalent of McDonaldland University to learn their trade. Meanwhile — as in many Average Hero flicks — this seems to be the world without the cops. Lisa never simply finds herself a policeman or phones 911 to let somebody know an attempt is being made on the secretary’s life. Even at the airport — where security was about as thick as beef stew the last time I checked — Lisa is able to break free of her captor, jump off a moving plane and then sprint through a series of baggage checkpoints before baffling the security guards scouring the airport for her by — and I’m not making this up — taking off her sweater. Will I be spoiling anything by telling you she goes on to save the day, even though it means repeatedly risking both her life and the life of her father to protect a government policy wonk she’s only seen on CNN? Probably not.
I know, I know. Everyday heroes! America! United we stand! Don’t let the terrorists win! The problem is, nine times out of 10, I don’t buy it — and I never buy it from movies like this.
— By David Koon
It’s the people we know who shape the second most important part of our lives — that public life; the face you show to the world when you think someone who might judge you is watching. Given that, the kind of people we surround ourselves with can mean pretty much everything: what we wear, what we see, what we do, even — for some people — what we believe in our heart of hearts.
This odd game of soul billiards, with characters crashing off one another and spinning away to cause other collisions, is hard to capture on screen, simply because it involves so many damned people. The latest film to catch hold of at least the bare hem of this impossible topic, however, is a great one: “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” held over this week at Market Street Cinema. More of a collection of short films than an actual feature-length movie, “Me and You …” approaches human interactions with the delicacy of a butterfly hunter, refusing to kill its quarry through the ham-fisted theatrics that have doomed other films.
Writer/director Miranda July plays Christine Jesperson, a frustrated performance artist who drives a cab that caters to elderly nursing home residents. While taking a friend to the shoe store, she meets a recently divorced shoe salesman, Richard (John Hawkes). Though they seem to have instant chemistry, Richard is reluctant to commit, and the rest of the film is spent under the cloud of whether Richard and Christine will overcome their fears and finally get together.
Though this all sounds pretty pedestrian, it’s the other people who swirl through their lives that make this a gem, such as a girl who uses her allowance to buy household appliances for a dowry chest; a co-worker of Richard’s who makes sexually suggestive comments to young girls via notes taped to his picture window; a father who sets his hand ablaze to make sure his children remember the last day they were part of a complete family; two teen-aged girls who resolve to lose their virginity to the neighborhood pervert, and even the plight of a wayward goldfish, accidentally left on top of a car driving down the highway.
Apart, each sounds hokey and suburban-dull. But with Richard and Christine to bind them together, you get a kind of ambrosia — a sweet harmony that somehow makes you nostalgic, sad and giddy at once, like a favorite old photograph of a bright and shining moment.
— By David Koon
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