Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunday Night at the Movies

ISF: The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk (2011) Dir: Julie Dressner and Edwin Martinez Date Released: July 6, 2012 Date Seen: July 8, 2012 Rating: 3/5

216) The Pact (2012) Dir: Nicholas McCarthy Date Released: July 6, 2012 Date Seen: July 8, 2012 Rating: 2.25/5

217) Iron Monkey (1993) Dir: Wo-Ping Yuen Date Released: October 12, 2001 Date Seen: July 8, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

A nice double feature, though I must say I thought the short film that proceeded The Pact was only passable as far as such succinct, no-shit-sherlock op-ed docs go. 

Unfortunately, The Pact didn't do much for me. In spite of some good jump scares, the story is way too unfocussed and the characters are, more often than not, very poorly defined. My teeth were set on edge when McCarthy, who initially makes a big show of championing a female protagonist as such, undermined his goal by giving us a gratuitous booty shot of our heroine, lying on her side in panties that didn't even cover the entirety of her butt. We do need strong female protagonists in horror films and that should go without saying. This butt, I mean girl is not one of them.

And yet, while I get the sense that McCarthy might have been trying to initially define his heroine in opposition to a certain type of stereotypical battered-woman-gets-empowered narrative, he doesn't strays too far beyond those standards. A prime stereotype in The Pact is the dunder-headed male cop that offers to help our heroine by simultaneously lending credence to her story of a domestic haunting and play white knight for her, too. She rebuffs him, effectively telling him that she doesn't need such a well-meaning but clueless meathead in her life. But then he does help her. And while he doesn't help in the end, he is there for her.

That's just a minor illustrative example though. Generally speaking, I feel like this movie is plenty atmospheric but has an unhealthy amount of ridiculous plot points, like the Google Maps Ghost or the make-shift Ouija board. I groaned throughout at the film's general ludicrous-ness. Which is a shame because I really wanted to like this film.

Thankfully, Iron Monkey was just about gleefully bonkers as I wanted it to be. A heavily jet-lagged Donnie Yen introduced the screening (he even, without exaggeration, accidentally called "Jet Li," "Jet Lag!") and talked very briefly about working with the Yuen clan before (he even worked as a stuntman in Miracle Fighters II!). And boy, is this ever a Yuen clan film. 

I think of the Yuen brothers as the guys that directed Taoism Drunkard, that wonderfully unhinged kung fu comedy about cherry boys, rat-mobiles and banana monsters. This film doesn't have those unquestionably awesome things but it has the same demented spirit of anything goes that I love about slapstick-heavy Hong Kong comedies. People don't walk through doors in Iron Monkey, they rocket through walls. Their feet don't touch the ground, see. The action choreography is wonderful, really just exceptionally well-timed and delightfully playful. In short: I think I'm in love.

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