Thursday, March 20, 2008

The End of Violence (1997)

I'm trying to think of blogworthy things to say today but all I can really think of right now is a film we watched in class today, so why not review it?

The End of Violence (1997) is a tale about a Hollywood film producer who abandons his soul-eating job and lifestyle creating violent films after he becomes involved in a double homicide. He joins a family of Latino gardeners to live a simple, peaceful life. His wife who had previously contemplated leaving him is suddenly saddled with his empire and affairs, and becomes just as sleezy as he had previously been. Meanwhile a secret government conspiracy is brewing, cameras are being set up in public places to catch crime and the creator of the system is beginning to have doubts about ethics. The police officer who is investigating it all is trying to get the attention of a 2nd rate actress.

Does that sound convoluted enough for you?

I found myself grimacing through much of this film. It was a really good example of how the best acting in the world can not breathe life into a crappy script. It was trying to be deep and contemplative, but instead it was overly wordy and the dialogue was horribly unnatural. It relied heavily on monologues and narration to get its point across, reminding me with irritation of what they say in every creative writing class: "show, don't tell!" The fact that they had to resort to speech to tell the audience what the film was about is both poor writing and patronizing.

The lack of character development was frustrating. I didn't know them, I didn't care about them and I didn't believe them at all.

In spite of my criticism, the movie did have a few decent moments. I thought the scene where the fugitive producer was able to walk out of a store under the noses of the police was particularly well done, showing that their biases made them blind to what was actually there. I give it kudos for its reasonably accurate portrayal of surveillance technology as limited and somewhat flawed in its abilities, unlike practically every other film with surveillance in it. I also think that it was attempting to bring up some interesting and very relevant questions about the pervasiveness of violence in our society, and whether violence can be conquered through violent or coercive means.

I did find means to amuse myself. The giant laptops and cell phones brought back memories for me. The explicit use of Netscape Navigator made me giggle. I loved hating Andie MacDowell's hideously dated wardrobe.

And yet, in the end the narrator begins to speak about how he's not afraid of nuclear subs or the Chinese anymore and there's a final, uninspring shot of a pier by the ocean that leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of meh.