CRY MACHO: 2 ½ STARS
Clint Eastwood is legendary in Hollywood for his pragmatic approach to cinema. It’s not Stanley Kubrick who would do 200 takes in one head, or Christopher Nolan whose camera technique is sharp. His straightforward approach to storytelling often gives his films a unique energy, a style born of confidence and almost 70 years spent in front of or behind a camera.
Depending on your level of cynicism, “Cry Macho”, his new road trip film now hitting theaters, is either the work of a filmmaker so confident in his craft that he is confident audiences will follow him. wherever it goes, no matter how winding it up, or a thin, sloppy exercise in myth-building.
Set in 1979, the story begins when the wealthy boss of a Texas ranch (Dwight Yoakam) asks former employee Mike Milo (Eastwood) for a favor. He wants the former rodeo star and ranchman to travel to Mexico, find his thirteen-year-old son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) and bring him back to the United States. The boy’s mother (Fernanda Urrejola) is an aristocratic woman with an angry character who seems to mock her son.
“Take him if you can find him,” she hisses. “It’s a monster.”
Mike stalks Rafo in a cockfight, where he’s about to put Macho, his award-winning cock, in the ring.
“He’s not a chicken,” Rafo says, “he’s a macho.”
The boy agrees to travel to the United States with Mike, excited to become a real cowboy on his father’s ranch.
Along the way, the father-and-surrogate duo hide from the Federales, meet a caring-hearted canteen owner (Natalia Traven), and learn the true meaning of what it means to be macho.
Based on a neo-western book by N. Richard Nash that Eastwood has been revolving around for decades, “Cry Macho” isn’t so much story-driven as it clings to the road trip genre framework for momentum. . It’s a low-energy film that’s more of a character study of a man forced to re-evaluate the way he lived his life.
“This macho thing is overrated,” he says.
The film’s meta aspect is its strongest feature. Eastwood has spent his career as the personification of machismo, and now, at 91, he’s commenting not only on his character Mike, but every character he’s played before.
It’s hard to watch “Cry Macho” without imagining “The Outlaw Josey Wales” or “The Unforgiven,” and these memories color every frame of the new film.
Unfortunately, these callbacks can also make you nostalgic for the days of “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “The Unforgiven”. “Cry Macho” has compelling ideas at its core, but is marred by the emotional performance of Minett, a management that seems directionless and the most ridiculously inept henchman in movie history. Eastwood is majestic, a lion in winter, but the film seems unambitious, lacking the drama that would have made its messages about masculinity more powerful.
COPSHOP: 3 ½ STARS
Director Joe Carnahan’s films are generally high octane ultraviolet affairs that don’t spare blood or bullets. His latest, “Copshop”, now playing in theaters, follows a similar path but does not forget to bring the pleasure of travel.
Located in Nevada, much of the action takes place in the sleepy Gun Creek Police Department. Earlier in the evening, con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) was arrested after punching Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) outside a casino. He’s a villain who should avoid the police, but circumstances forced his hand because an even worse guy, hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler), had tracked him down.
The quick-thinking con artist believes Viddick won’t come near him if he’s in jail.
He was wrong.
Reversing the situation on Murretto, Viddick manages to get himself charged with a false drunk driving charge. The hunted and the hunter are only one cell apart. Young knows something wrong is going on and is determined to get to the bottom of it, even though Murretto warns him to keep his nose on his stuff.
“It’s way beyond anything you want to get involved with at lady,” he said. “You do not understand.”
“No,” she replies, “you don’t understand how bored I am.”
“Copshop” has echoes of “Assault on Precinct 13”. Like the 1976 drama, most of the action takes place inside the station and the cops and bad guys have to work together to find safety. The rudimentary storytelling creates a silent tension before Toby Huss introduces himself as the sadistic killer Anthony Lamb. He’s quick with a ball and a one-liner. Looking at Teddy’s tight bun, he jokes, “You look like Tom Cruise in that samurai movie that no one has watched.”
Huss chews the landscape, breathing life into a man who brings death. He’s a joke, both threatening and a little ridiculous.
Grillo and Butler are perfectly suited opponents. They are at the origin of the plot of the cat and the mouse; character actors laying the foundations for the events that drive the film. Just as impressive is Louder as the pragmatic Young. She’s at the center of the film, the one character everyone will root for.
“Copshop” is a simple b action movie that feels like a holdover from the 1970s. There are generic elements, like supporting characters that seem straight out of Central Casting, but Carnahan makes up for that with energy, suspense and a dark sense of humor.
BAYOU BLUE: 3 STARS
“Blue Bayou,” a new immigration drama starring Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander, tells a fictional, but all too true, story that is heartfelt yet brutal.
Written, directed and performed by Chon, the story takes place in the bayou of Louisiana. Chon plays Antonio LeBlanc, of Korean descent, adopted by an American family at the age of three. Now married to Kathy (Vikander), he is raising his stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) with another child on the way.
A heartbreaking Cajun twang disguises the anxiety he feels over the arrival of a new baby, but not enough money. His two crimes make it difficult to find additional work, and his tattoo work does not cover the bills. Still, the family is happy, even though Jessie fears the self-proclaimed “fun” parent Antonio, will not be spending time with her when the new baby arrives.
A small argument between Kathy and Antonio in a grocery store escalates when Ace, a cop and her ex-husband, and his abusive partner (Emory Cohen) get involved. Antoine is arrested. When Kathy tries to pay her bond, she is told, in a neutral tone, “He’s not here anymore.” ICE took him.
It seems his adoptive parents didn’t go through the proper procedures to make him a citizen, and now, after thirty years in America, he may have to return to a country he doesn’t remember.
“I understand your frustration,” says the lawyer (Vondie Curtis-Hall) the couple hire, but can’t afford.
“Go voluntarily,” he continues, “and have a chance to come back. You can fight, but if you lose you can never come back. “
“I’m not leaving my family,” Antonio replies.
“Blue Bayou” has a lot to offer. Chon has a poetic eye for visuals and frames the searing story well. There are enough family details for us to care about and Antonio’s story adds a bit of mystery to the proceedings. The chemistry between the core group – Antonio, Kathy and Jessie – seems genuine – Kowalske is a real find – and, as the immigration situation gets out of hand, we’re in. But as the story gets heavier, so does the storytelling. Like lead.
The characters in Chon are so compelling, and much of the story is so heartfelt, it’s a bummer when the movie turns into melodrama in its final third. Nuance comes out the window and the quiet naturalism of the first half disappears. Add to that a villain in the form of Cohen’s bad cop character who appears to have come out of a British pantomime and you end up with a case of disappointment.
“Blue Bayou” details a very important story, and for many people, very personal, but falls victim to awkward storytelling.
LE BAL DES FEMMES FOLLES: 3 STARS
“Le bal de la femme folle”, a new gothic thriller in French currently airing on Amazon Prime, is a human look at the dehumanizing oppression imposed on the patients of the infamous Pitié-Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital in Paris in the 19th century.
The father of the young socialite Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laage) is not happy. His rebellious behavior, like sneaking around to read poetry and smoke in cafes, offends his deeply conformist worldview. Worse still is his new belief in spiritualism. Eugenie believes she can communicate with the dead. These encounters left her in a state of anguish and dear old papa Cléry did not suffer from it. Embarrassed, he hired her by force at Pitié-Salpêtrière, a hospital for women specializing in experimental treatments devised by Professor Jean-Martin Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet).
Diagnosed as “hysterical”, she finds comfort in the company of Geneviève (Laurent), a sympathetic nurse who believes that Eugenie has no place in the establishment. Together, they plan the escape of the young woman the night of the degrading “Bal des Folles” of the hospital where the Parisian elite rub shoulders with the patients of the clinic.
Adapted from Victoria Mas’ 2019 book, “The Mad Woman’s Ball” is a melodramatic survival story set against the backdrop of the barbaric beginnings of psychiatric medicine.
Director Laurent paints an evocative picture of life inside the 19th century hospital. Laughs and screams fill the air as Laurent’s camera details the gothic details of the installation. Inside, bullying and oppression looms large, but the storytelling is compassionate. Eugenie and Geneviève are soldiers in the fight against the fight against misogyny, personified by men like the arrogant professor Charcot and the father of Eugenie, who oppress them and finally, ignore them.
It’s a powerful storytelling, backed up by wonderful performances, marred only by the sometimes overworked artifice.
“Le Bal de la Folle” is best in its quiet moments between Eugenie and Geneviève where the strength of their solidarity is heightened.