Monday, June 17, 2013

REVIEW: Red Dragon (2002)

So here goes my review for Red Dragon, the remake of the classic Hannibal Lecter thriller Manhunter. This is a silly, often soft-headed flick that likes to think it’s “upgrading” the classic film by making everything less subtle and having a bad guy that likes to flex his pecs naked like a drunk Dragonball Z character. Sound terrible yet? It is. Let’s give it a look.

Director: Brett Rattner
Starring: Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins

…hmmm…well, this is an awkward predicament. Red Dragon…wasn’t too bad. In fact it was actually pretty frigging good. Just like the original Manhunter. It wasn’t, yknow, anything amazing, and it had a few problems, but for a detective thriller, it’s one of the better ones you’re liable to get out of the mainstream examples of the genre. So overall I don’t have any major problems with it.

Well, this is turning into a boring review. What am I supposed to do now? Just talk about how good everything is, and make a few “ehhhh” comments about the plot holes and silly moments here and there? There aren’t even that many problems! It’s gonna be one of my shortest and least impressive reviews if I keep on like this! Isn’t there some other film I could review that has some slight similarity to Red Dragon, so as to keep a little bit of continuity?

Well…Ray Fiennes in Red Dragon had a weird tattoo on his back.

That must mean it’s time to take a look at The Tattooist!

Director: Peter Burger
Starring: Matthew Grainger, Jonathan King

A supernatural horror movie about Samoan tattooing culture could potentially be interesting. I think the makers of this movie took that as a challenge to make the most boring thing possible.

So we start off with some kid who carved a pentagram into his arm getting the tattoo cut off by his super-religious Jesus freak father. It’s pretty cliché and boring and actually has about zero actual relevance to the film. Why did I even mention it? Because the film will, twice, so I figure I might as well not skimp on representing the film in the most realistic way possible.

Then we get the title of the movie over the main character’s ass: truly the greatest way to represent your movie.

Apparently this is Jake, a tattoo artist who says he knows ancient voodoo powers that can help heal the sick, or some shit like that. He gets hired by this rich guy who lives in the mansion from Eyes Wide Shut, and even advises the guy to take his sick son to a doctor. But the rich guy says nope! His son needs a tattoo and that will heal his ailing health! So Jake the greatest person who ever lived chooses to NOT call a doctor and leave immediately, and instead just go along with crazy rich guy’s crazy schemes.

Damn modern hippie medicine techniques...

Then later on we see that same rich guy angry that his son died after the tattoo – shock and awe – didn’t end up working. Gee, when even the GUY GIVING YOUR SON THE TATTOO recommended a doctor over the tattoo, you would think that would be enough proof to go to a goddamn doctor!

"I'm mad at you for my own deficient parenting!"

Just add this guy to the Poltergeist/Ring club of horrible horror movie parents, I guess…

Anyway, so Jake gets pushed down by crazy rich guy and cuts his hand on this tattoo instrument thing. Apparently, if you don’t mind me spoiling anything, this means that his tattoos can now kill people. How? This fantastical leap in logic is just so brilliant and well thought out…that it completely escapes me. The mark of any good horror movie, truly.

So he decides he wants to return that tattoo object to the person he stole it from, who lives in New Zealand. I’ve heard of worse excuses to start a horror movie…oh wait no I haven’t. So he goes to New Zealand and I’ll admit I don’t know much about that country. But I really have to say, any country that has a sign like this welcoming people in is cool in my books:

After that, I guess Jake goes and sees an old friend who greets him by insulting him and saying he’s wronged him. They have a weird friendship. Jake does some tattoos for people in New Zealand and gets invited to a party. Then he goes and talks to a rejected member of Bebe’s Kids about how there’s some kind of shadowy figure following him that he can’t see, but is nevertheless there. Amazing. Then we get some other stuff about how Jake isn’t welcome there because he doesn’t understand Samoan culture.

…which is, to be fair, totally understandable. Jake is an asshole! He steals from other tattoo artists and pretends that his tattoos can do things they can’t. He’s a scam artist. In the real world, this guy would be shunned even by the tattoo community in his own country, let alone the sacral practices of an ancient culture!

I just love how no attention is given to the Samoan culture in this movie aside from the tattoo stuff, and even then only to push its BS ghost story. It would be a more interesting movie if we actually had some good characters and writing that accentuated what was so interesting about the culture. But no, we just get a shitty ghost movie with a very light veneer of "culture" spread over it. What a load.

So yeah this is all really dull so far, if you couldn’t guess…why else would I be analyzing the politics of tattoo culture? He goes and meets his friend Sina, who is as generic a horror leading lady as you can get. She’s kind, patient and understanding and will have sex with Jake in about fifteen to twenty minutes. Oops, did I spoil that too? Damn.

They go see some guy who doesn’t like Jake for no reason. Jake decides to give the best first impression ever by poking around the guy’s house uninvited and disturbing his wife in her bedroom. Isn’t he just a class act? The final straw is when he knocks over a bunch of stuff and the guy kicks him out. Sina rewards this stupidity and incompetence by inviting him to come to her uncle’s party, because yeah that would sure really happen…ugh.

There we get some more nonsense about how everyone hates Jake. Yes, we the audience share your sentiments entirely.

Later on there’s a pool party, where some kid gets shoved into a pool and then it kills him for no reason, filling up the pool with bloody ink!

What happens when newspaper comic strip characters piss in the pool...

I just love how the reaction to all this is so normal. Nobody even really freaks out over it. They’re sad that he’s dead I guess, but at no point do we ever get any shock and awe at the bizarreness of people turning into ink. Isn’t that something? I guess these New Zealand tattoo cult people are just desensitized.

Then Jake meets up with Sina at her place where she examines all his tattoos. We find out that Jake was actually the kid in the opening sequence, whose father cut off his pentagram tattoo. So that traumatic experience actually made him want to go into tattoo stuff more? Uh, okay movie, whatever you say. It’s your stupid, illogical world after all.

After that, we finally get something happening as the two of them have sex. I'd post a picture of it if anyone cared, but hey, at least it's still better than endless monologues about how the Samoan culture doesn't like outsiders, which is all that's been happening so far otherwise.

While that’s going on, we see another woman waking up and finding out that her husband has turned into ink splotches and stuff – AND MESSED UP THE CARPET! DAMN HIM!

The next morning Jake returns home to find the angry sister of the kid who died in the pool. She’s mad because the tattoo killed her brother. Again I say – why is she not more surprised by all this? Are their superstitions really that deeply ingrained? I get that she’s distressed and angry. But why is she so nonchalant about the fact that her brother turned into a splatter of ink in the pool? Shouldn’t that be a concern?

Oh well, the movie has no time for that! It only has time for scenes like THIS!

…I don’t think I’m drunk enough for this movie.

Jake goes back to his place and finds angry sister girl in the shower and melting into ink, too. I think the makers of this movie got high while watching the ending of Wizard of Oz too many times. We then get the worst episode of ER ever:

That light is going to blind me if I stare at it too long.

Of course she dies and then Jake has to go save Sina, because he gave her a tattoo as well. She freaks out upon hearing the news and goes back to her father, whose advice is for her to go to church. The funniest thing about this is, it works. As soon as Jake takes her out of the church, she starts getting way worse and vomiting up blood and all kinds of shit, like instantaneously – it starts happening right after she leaves the building. So really, what this movie is saying is that God exists and can protect people from tattoo demons, as well as every other voodoo-level superstition out there, if they go to church. And hey, in fact all superstitions are actually real. Really!

There’s some kind of bullcrap story about some kid who didn’t get his tattoo finished and ran away, and apparently that makes him a ghost who can kill people now because some idiot cut his hand on a tool. How does this make any sense? Jake goes to see that little Bebe’s Kid reject from before and the kid can apparently – get this – channel the spirit of the dead guy, but only when loud rap music is playing and the car is driving over the speed limit.

This is where I draw the line, movie! This is where I stop believing anything you throw at me!

…or some shit, I don’t know, and I don’t care either. They figure out that it was Sina’s dear old dad who committed the crimes and killed the kid who is now a ghost and haunting everyone. So after the most racist thing I’ve ever seen in a horror movie…

…the dead kid’s dad comes back and makes Sina’s father cut his own tattoo off to shame him or something. I guess having him arrested for murder is a stupid idea. Sina and Jake are okay, and because of all this she decides to go back to America with him and everything. There’s an annoying taxi driver bugging them to stop talking about stuff and get in the car because he has many more customers waiting. And I’m not even kidding: this is how the movie ends. With an annoying taxi driver bothering the main characters to get in the car and leave. How is that even a real ending?

You can practically smell the stench of no inspiration seeping out of every pore of this movie’s infected tattoo areas. It’s a bad modern flick with all the clichés the genre is known and loathed for. It’s not as bad as The Grudge or anything, but it’s sure trying. Pointless, slow and boring, with more time spent on the Samoan tribal culture than on an interesting story or scares. The whole Samoan tattoo thing could be interesting, but instead it’s never used to any kind of quality end. So what is there to be gained here? Tattoos are evil, but only if you cut your hand on an ancient tool for making them. Then the only way to find out how to stop the evil is by playing loud rap music and going to church.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

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