Archive for July 1988

Akira

July 16, 1988

A beautiful, energetic mess, burdened by a plot that can be fairly called both simple and convoluted. Set in Tokyo in 2019 (the same year as Blade Runner), the movie follows a motorcycle gang as they war with a rival gang and run into a shriveled, telepathic child. One of the gang members, Tetsuo, assumes dangerous powers and must be stopped by the gang leader Kaneda. Simple. But the damned thing goes on so long and introduces so many murkily-connected characters that we eventually give up on any hope of narrative clarity and let ourselves be pummeled by the animation. Based on a popular manga by director Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira distinguished itself at the time of its release (it’s been far surpassed since) with some of the most painstaking, kinetic, and detailed animation in the history of the medium. The Japanese are famous for the care they take with their anime; this project made just about any American attempt look like Scooby Doo. But the Japanese are also noted for their high tolerance for violence, and after a while we start wondering not whether there’ll be blood in the next scene but whether it’ll hit the camera lens. Great to look at, but more exhausting than entertaining.

The Dead Pool

July 2, 1988

The fifth, last, and possibly most perfunctory and boring Dirty Harry movie, except for a hilarious chase scene involving an explosive toy car. Harry (Clint Eastwood) is up against a serial killer who’s picking off San Francisco celebrities whose names appear on a film crew’s joke list, “the dead pool.” The prime suspect is horror-flick director Liam Neeson. As usual, smart young women who should know better (in this case, Patricia Clarkson as a ruthless TV reporter) keep moistening their pudenda over the decrepit, barbaric Harry.

The movie fires some half-hearted shots at the violence-glorifying media, as if The Dead Pool itself weren’t part of a film series that is perhaps more closely associated with mindless violence than any other American franchise (aside from maybe Rambo or Friday the 13th). There’s slight fun in watching the now-prestigious Neeson eye-rolling his way through this cheap trash, and Jim Carrey (when he was still “James”), as a heroin-addicted rock star, brings a jolt of intensity to his few minutes onscreen before he’s killed off. Personally, I say watch the original Dirty Harry and skip the rest.


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