Monday, February 8, 2010

Mel, Buttman, and Vinnie Barbarino

I've always been a Gibson fan. He's a true Hollywood Man of Violence in the tradition of greats like Lee Marvin and Robert Mitchum. I'm quite keen on his directorial efforts, too.

Although I was not terribly impressed by The Passion of the Christ when it first parted the cultural heavens, I've since come to admire it. Essentially, it's one of the greatest bible-sploitation films ever made. Mel took an untouchable biblical "event" and turned it into a a rousing blood and guts show. And he did it with style and verve. On top of that, he managed to get the church to run his publicity machine, the result being a monstrous box office windfall. When was the last time the church got behind a film so riddled with torture and dismemberment?

He stepped up next with Apocalypto, a rousing, bloody, action-adventure with a potent historical context and a dazzling storytelling style. And it was in a nearly dead language for Chrissakes! I respect that.

Gibson, a cop, investigates the death of his daughter in Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness, a simplified feature version of a taut British miniseries (also helmed by Campbell).

Not as fascinating as the miniseries because there just isn't time to expand on the juicydetails, but it works fairly well as a slow burning, stripped-back revenge thriller. Mel is less hysterical than you might think from the trailers, and the action is not non-stop; there's quite a bit of chat, and there is a great turn from Ray Winstone playing a Mr. Fix-It type.

Since my favorite film starring Gibson of recent memory is Payback (the Point Blank remake), I couldn't help but compare the experience of watching both. Payback was much more fun and far more lurid, but Edge is still a worthy entry in the Gibson canon. He's still got presence and a trembling sense of unpredictability to burn.

Speaking of burning, John Stagliano ('Buttman') can singe the screen with his fine pornographic choices. His movies are hot because he loves what he's doing. With Stagliano, you get the impression that he'd be doing it whether he was making a buck or not.

His latest directing effort, Buttman's Beautiful Brazilian Ass, showcases the anal assets of a bevy of hot, fun-loving, Brazilian women. As is the Buttman style, the roaming camera leers, pokes, prods, and explores these women as Stagliano himself is heard moaning and editorializing.

He's the bone at home in every sense of the word.

Brazil is a favorite playground of Stagliano and his Evil Angel empire, and it's easy to see why he prefers it to Los Angeles. The attitude to sex is much more open down there, and the women he chooses (and that's the trick!) have an unbridled passion for shameless debauchery.

Best carnal turn here comes from the volcanic Monica Santhiago, an insatiable sex goddess whose fairytale curves will drop your jaw.

Aspects of this entry may disturb some viewers, however. Although Stagliano is not traditionally associated with the rougher side of porn, his foray into harder hardcore here is a paint-stripping effort. Actress Bella, who can certainly hold her own, engages in a brutal sequence where she is slapped, choked, pinched, punched and pounded while being drilled. It feels odd to see this in a Stagliano film, and I'm not sure it's what his disciples crave, but it's Stag's flick, and Stag can do what Stag wants with Stag's flick (he is, as a devotee of Ayn Rand, the Howard Roark of Pornography afterall).

Personally, although I find the rough stuff interesting from a psychological viewpoint, I don't enjoy seeing beautiful, sexy, voracious women at the receiving end of, admittedly, consensual abuse. The 'Buttman' I know worships women like this, and is usually reduced to a whimpering wreck in their presence.

Still, Buttman's Beautiful Brazilan Ass is a walk on the wild side with a master.

I enjoyed director Pierre Morel's Taken very much. It was paced to perfection, staged with skill, and exceptionally well acted by Liam Neeson.

From Paris With Love, Morel's latest, isn't near as much fun. Ironically, it's played for fun.

Maybe that why it's so not so enjoyable.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is teemed up with Vinnie Barbarino (Travolta) to stop some bad guys from killing diplomats and disrupting an international summit. Meyers is a greenhorn and Travolta is an effective loose cannon who does stuff like smuggling his favorite gun through the airport's security devices.

It looks like Vinnie and Meyers had a great time making this movie, but I didn't have such a good time watching it. The action sequences are curiously ho-hum in execution, and the non-stop banter between Vinnie and Meyers gets a bit irritating. Did the "fun" approach relax everybody too much? The whole kit and caboodle just feels slack.

I should have relaxed and enjoyed the nonsense for what it was, right? Hey, I was relaxed, and I tried to enjoy it, I really did -- but. I wasn't exactly bored, but I wasn't nailed to the seat, either.

As Morel's follow-up to Taken, From Paris With Love shot me with a silencer.


  1. I enjoyed EDGE OF DARKNESS a good deal, too. I appreciated how incredibly dark and bleak it was a mass-released studio film. Campbell created and sustained this somber, funereal mood that was almost overpowering at times.

    And without getting into spoilers, Ray Winstone's final scene in the film was one of the most enjoyable surprises I've had at the multiplex in a while.

  2. Schlockm -- not quite as dark as PAYBACK, my favorite, but pleasantly grisly and maudlin.

    Winstone, as always, was great.