So if you’ve ever perused this blog, you’ll by now be made aware of the fact that I am a massive fan of foreign films, be they good or bad. I’m fascinated by the similarities and differences of American versus Foreign, and how the blending of the various cultures can often create an overall appealing movie. People are generally the same from continent to continent; the same gripes, hopes, dreams, and setbacks. But the subtle cultural differences seem to pop creatively on film. My latest pick is a bad boy out of South Korea titled “A Better Tomorrow”, which is a 2010 remake of the original 1986 Hong Kong classic that featured shoot ’em up action titan Yun-Fat Chow. In short, the film centers around two brothers, separated at a young age, that end up re-connecting years down the road. One brother chose the police force and the other followed a life of crime, so we can predict the inevitable clashes that arise with that; in addition, we have the usual double crossing bad guy that you end up hating by the end of the movie. While I’m generally opposed to remakes and ‘re-imaginings’, this is a solid version of a true gem.
Below, the horribly dubbed original:
In honor of its limited theatrical re-release, I am duty bound to share my appreciation of this cinematic gem. If you’re lucky enough to catch this one, please do. It’s a journey that you won’t regret. Thanks for reading…good day to all!
I’d fallen asleep on the sofa in front the TV one Friday night (years ago) and awoke on Saturday morning to this mysteriously surreal little Russian gem, a dreamy, thought provoking tale guaranteed to drum up a few intelligent discussions about man’s quest for knowledge and his insatiable hunger for the unknown. Directed by legendary filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and adapted from the novel Roadside Picnic, it deftly explores the depth of human want and need and desire, and trails the journey of a Stalker (a hired guide) and the two men who call upon his expertise to lead them into the gritty bowels of “The Zone”. It is there that they intend to enter the fabled room within the ruins of The Zone that enables any wish to come true. The journey is not without its trials though. To gain entry into The Zone (a deserted city that fell victim to a mysterious incident), they must first bypass a thickly guarded military checkpoint; but the true challenge is navigating the desolation of The Zone itself, an entirely barren, ever changing landscape full of unseen and unbeknownst dangers that have tested the will, searched the souls, and claimed the lives of countless Stalkers and wish seekers.
A beautifully minimalist film, shot in unfortunately toxic, abandoned Russian industrial locations, is said to have contributed to the early cancerous deaths of several cast and crew, including the director Tarkovsky. But the often several minutes long takes, the haunting landscapes, the telling score, and the philosophically rich dialogue combine for a journey that will not soon be forgotten.
Hollywood screwed up on this one (as it usually does); Tim Roth was the MAN in 1996. Rob Roy was his diamond encrusted role of a lifetime (unless you consider his role as Ted the Bellhop in the hilarious 1995 comedy ‘Four Rooms’), and the guy was literally on point from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, Liam Neeson did a stand up job as 18th century brigand Robert Roy MacGregor, but you literally end up hating Tim Roth by the end of the movie. I didn’t just hate Tim Roth’s villainously villainous villain Archibald Cunningham, I hated Tim Roth the actor. It was that effective. I hated him, and I hated his face. That’s how you know a guy has nailed the role to a wall. The calm, yet deceptively evil crooked grin, the ease at which he dispatched and outwitted his enemies, and the ruthlessness at which he exacted his hatred were incredibly and deliciously detestable. Which, in all honesty, makes you love the crap out of his performance. The awesomeness of his abilities didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be, as he was nominated for an Oscar in 1996, but somehow lost to Kevin Spacey (who surprisingly won for his role as Verbal Kint in ‘The Usual Suspects‘). But let me tell you, the dude was robbed. I could go on and on, but watch this action and judge the coldheartedness for yourself.
In the vein of magnificent but severely under-recognized pictures that emerge from the bowels of Hollywood, here’s another iconic performance that was more than worthy of the industry’s top honor. A Soldier’s Story was based on a pulitzer prize winning play by Charles Fuller, about the investigation into the death of a black sergeant in the WWII era south. The film’s antagonist was Sergeant Waters, splendidly played by the late Adolph Caesar; he was in fact nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for the role, but lost out to Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields). At any rate, his hauntingly conflicted role of the gruff, abrasive Sergeant Waters is indeed one for the record books, in one of cinema’s finest masterpieces.
Shooting the shit on this episode with Dustin and Jenius as we discuss some of the darker roles (and everything in between) of the great Denzel Washington’s legendary career. Thanks for taking the time to check it out; give it a listen, and enjoy!