Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recent Viewing: The Insider (1999), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)

The Insider is a powerful drama about the lengths two men are willing to go to expose the sinister truths about the illegal marketing practices of a major tobacco company, ultimately risking their lives, their reputation and career and the future of the CBS network to air the story on Sixty Minutes. Recently fired as a scientific consultant for major tobacco company, Brown and Williamson, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), is referred to Sixty Minutes producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) and asked to interpret scientific documents about Phillip Morris, another tobacco company. But, aware of perjury by the seven CEO's of 'Big Tobacco' to the U.S Congress about their false testimony about the addictiveness of nicotine, Wigand decides to blow the whistle on his former company. Battling confidentiality agreements and potential prosecution for testifying, death threats, and billion dollar lawsuits, Wigand and Bergman risk all they have to run the story. It is a gripping and emotionally draining tale. Also featuring a fantastic score and beautifully haunting cinematography by Dante Spinotti, this is one of Michael Mann's best and most important films. Examining, in almost encroaching detail, the insider struggles of both Wigand's household and Bergman's beloved network, as they crumble beyond their control at the hands of a billion dollar corporation desperate to keep its name clear. Amongst an all-star cast, Russell Crowe and Al Pacino deliver outstanding performances.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)

Bad Lieutenant was not at all what I expected, but I was really not a fan of the most recent film by Werner Herzog, the crazy genius behind Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). Re-treading a very familiar formula, albeit with an odd maniacal twist from Herzog himself, this is an outrageously messy film that is barely accessible to even the most twisted of viewers. Nicholas Cage, as Terrence McDonagh, is completely out of his mind as a corrupt New Orleans detective investigating the brutal slaying of five Senegalese immigrants in a drug rivalry. To fuel his heavy drug and gambling addictions, McDonagh tiptoes around the law, using his badge-wielding power to score drugs and money off minor perpetrators. His methods are abhorrent and painfully gratuitous at times, but often oddly comic. Seemingly always intoxicated, his wide-eyed hyperactive investigating is often too confronting, leading him on a search for, and ultimate collaboration with the city's most notorious drug kingpins. Other shocking sequences include the antagonism of a sick elderly lady about the whereabouts of her carers' son, and the shocking robbery of two young clubbers of their drug stash and the subsequent forced sex with the woman in the parking lot. Idle chatter between him and his partner (Val Kilmer) is often bitingly hilarious, and his relationship with a prostitute, Frankie (Eva Mendes), has some heart. The complex interweaving of story arcs are really convoluted, and what is essentially a pretty simple plot, is unnecessarily mind-numbing. Brad Dourif has a great, but limited cameo, and there are iguanas. Cage really is quite brilliant, and this is more of an experiment from Herzog than a serious work of art, but I doubt I will watch it again.

My Rating: 3 Stars

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