The film actually makes the fictional landscape of the gangster film more real, by taking its troublesome boys and distant, unknowable broads and making them children at an age when that’s just the way things are. The mysterious sexual tension is made strangely innocent, though the archetypes haven’t changed from when Bogart and Cagney inhabited them. Bugsy Malone is a gangster film that took a good look at itself and wondered if it could do better. It’s really close.
If this was the first time anyone had heard of Watchmen, they likely would be bedazzled by the techno-pornography but little else. As a companion to a book well-read, the Watchmen film is an accomplishment worthy of the director’s talents (and his faults – its airy manliness may be the only main attraction).
Without Joe’s perspective of the world he hates, there’s nothing – not even resentment – with which we can empathize. Joe is left merely with things we can’t condone. This doesn’t prevent it from stopping your blood with its performances. The depth of Cage’s eyes describes hurt in ways that words fail.
Martin Campbell, who mined James Bond for the repressed roar of all his debonair instincts in Casino Royale, seems to have no mission briefing on Quan. The Foreigner is so disinterested in its lead that it seems to be made by a computer, which would not be able to tell who is more interesting except by how handsome they are.
Batman is the man Bruce Wayne wishes he was, an empowerment trip mythologized into a performance. Batman is Bruce’s mania, his love, his coming-into-being. Batman Returns is as perfect at portraying him as live-action has been, though there were many angry mothers whose frightened children screamed to recall its atrocities.
From Willem Dafoe approximating a German to Penelope Cruz approximating a maid to Judy Dench stretching no imaginations as a frowsy curd whose gaze would cure mustard, the train certainly carries cargo with the promise of becoming precious. But the cogs it winds up never outgrow their clock: the plot remands wit to the backstage of Branagh’s eyes and the film lulls almost indefinitely as soon as the mystery begins.