A Movie A Day #298: Watch It (1993, directed by Tom Flynn)


In Chicago, three men all live in the same house and try to avoid growing up.  Rick (John C. McGinley) and Mike (Jon C. Tenney) are old friends while Danny (Tom Sizemore) works on stolen cars.  When Mike’s estranged cousin, John (Peter Gallagher), moves in with them, John is drawn into a steadily escalating game of pranks.  The game is called “Watch It” and the rules are simple.  No one can take anything personally and each prank must be followed by another, bigger prank.  While the four men takes turns trying to one up each other, they also deal with women who wish that they would all just grow up.  When John starts to date Mike’s ex-girlfriend, Anne (Suzy Amis), the men are forced to come to terms with their extended adolescence.

Watch It is an awkward combination of two stories.  One half of the film deals with the pranks, which get so outlandish that it is impossible to believe that a group of blue collar roommates in Chicago could pull them off.  One of John’s pranks involves imitating a police detective on a local news broadcast and saying that Danny has had a warrant issues for his arrest.  Even if John could pull that off, it seems like he would get in so much trouble that it would not be worth the effort.  (Never mind that the city of Chicago now thinks that Danny is wanted by the police.)  At the same time, Watch It also wants to be a fairly realistic relationship dramedy, with Suzy Amis and Cynthia Stevenson trying to get Gallgher and McGinley to grow up.  Despite some very good performances, Watch It is too uneven to work.  The best thing about Watch It is that it offers a chance to see actors like McGinley, Tenney, Sizemore, and Gallagher all playing quasi-normal, relatable people for once.

Film Review: Blood Ties (dir by Guillame Canet)


So, there’s this fucking movie called Blood Ties and it’s about a lot of fucking guys who live in fucking New York City in the fucking 70s and they’re all kind of a bunch of fuck-ups but they all know how to fucking use the word fuck as both an adjective and an adverb.  That’s the main impression that I took away from Blood Ties, a film that feels a lot like a mash-up of Place Beyond The Pines and every Martin Scorsese film ever made.

The year is 1974.  After serving several years on a murder conviction, 50 year-old Chris (Clive Owen) has been released from prison.  Chris’s transition back into society is a bumpy one.  For one thing, his ex-girlfriend (Marion Cotillard) is now a prostitute and refuses to let Chris see his children.  Though he gets a new girlfriend (Mila Kunis), he still finds himself struggling to hold down a job and he soon finds himself tempted to once again pursue a life of crime.

What might make that difficult for him is the fact that his younger brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), is now a cop with an old school porn star mustache.  Frank makes little secret of how much he resents his older brother and it isn’t long before the two of them are constantly fighting.  However, Frank has problems beyond Chris.  For one thing, he’s romantically pursuing Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), despite the fact that he earlier put her husband, Anthony (Matthias Schoenaerts), in prison.

In order to keep their dying father (James Caan) happy, Chris and Frank try to put aside their differences.  However, when Frank sees Chris fleeing from the scene of a robbery, it becomes harder and harder for him to ignore his brother’s activities.  Meanwhile, Chris has to decide whether or not to potentially sacrifice his freedom to keep his brother safe from a vengeful Anthony…

When Blood Ties was originally released at the beginning of the year, I considered seeing it but — for some reason — I ended up seeing The Legend of Hercules instead.  (Don’t you hate it when that happens!)  And I have to admit that I had forgotten about Blood Ties until I discovered that we were getting EPIX for free this holiday weekend.  Blood Ties is one of the films that’s currently showing on EPIX and, when I saw it was available, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to see A Most Violent Year but until that opens up down here in Dallas, why not watch another violent New York period piece?”

And so I watched Blood Ties and … well, bleh.  Actually, bleh may be too harsh of a judgment.  The film is full of fun period details and Billy Crudup gives a really good performance as Frank.  There are some well done action scenes and I appreciated the fact that, for the most part, the film did not try to make violence look glamorous or fun.  The film has a great soundtrack though, for the most part, most of the songs here can also be heard in a countless number of superior Scorsese films.

But, ultimately, Blood Ties is never as good as you want it to be.  The film’s plot is about as predictable as can be and, far too often, scenes that start out interesting quickly degenerate to various characters standing around and yelling at each other.  And while that may often be what happens in real life, it still doesn’t make it particularly interesting to watch.  And then you’ve got poor Clive Owen, a good actor who is seriously miscast here.  Casting Clive Owen as a streetwise New York gangster is a bit like casting Ray Liotta as a member of the Queen’s Guard.  It just doesn’t work.

For those of us hoping for a great New York City crime epic — well, we’re just going to have to keep hoping that A Most Violent Year turns out to be just as good as everyone says it is…

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