Four Thrillers from MGM
Antitrust (April 4/15)
Antitrust casts Ryan Phillippe as Milo Hoffman, a brilliant programmer who's convinced to take a job with a high-profile technology firm by no less than the boss himself (Tim Robbins' Gary Winston) - with complications ensuing as Milo becomes increasingly convinced that Robbins' seemingly friendly character is using shady tactics to get ahead. Scripter Howard Franklin has employed a far-from-subtle sensibility that never becomes the problem one might've anticipated, as Antitrust benefits substantially from Peter Howitt's stylish (and brisk) direction and a series of engaging, affable performances - with Phillippe's charismatic turn as the central character matched by a supporting cast that includes Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Richard Roundtree. (Robbins' typically stellar work here stands as an obvious highlight, of course.) And while the film remains perfectly watchable from start to finish, Antitrust doesn't wholeheartedly take off until it morphs into a flat-out, fast-paced thriller - with the inclusion of several unexpected plot twists only heightening the movie's atmosphere of impressive tension. There's ultimately little within Antitrust that flat-out doesn't work, and it's clear that the film remains a cut above its geared-towards-teens thriller brethren - with the absence of such movies within contemporary multiplexes certainly quite a shame.
Based, of course, on Stephen King's novel, Carrie follows the meek title character (Angela Bettis) as she enters puberty and subsequently discovers an ability to move things with her mind. It's immediately clear that Carrie marks a steep downgrade from Brian De Palma's superb 1976 original film, as the movie, produced for network television, suffers from an almost excessively low-rent feel that's perpetuated by David Carson's less-than-cinematic directorial choices. (It's surprising, certainly, given that Carson is the man behind the lush, visually sumptuous Star Trek: Generations.) Far more problematic, however, is the growing realization that scripter Bryan Fuller is unable (or unwilling) to bring anything new to the table, with the movie, for the most part, playing out as a pale imitator of its vastly superior predecessor - which is a shame, really, given that Fuller's screenplay represents an accurate picture of the source material's complete storyline. One would expect, however, that the movie's climax would compensate for its flaws and ultimately represent its high point, though, as becomes clear, Carson simply isn't able to inject this stretch with anything even resembling excitement or tension - with the filmmaker's efforts compounded by Laura Karpman's distracting and flat-out awful score. The end result is an interminable made-for-television trainwreck that boasts shockingly few positive attributes, with Bettis' admittedly strong turn as the title character standing as one of the movie's few non-disastrous elements.
Miracle Mile (April 6/15)
Written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt, Miracle Mile follows Anthony Edwards' Harry Washello as he receives warning of an impending nuclear attack and subsequently endeavors to make his way to safety with Mare Winningham's Julie Peters. There's little doubt that Miracle Mile improves considerably as it progresses, as filmmaker De Jarnatt kicks the proceedings off with a watchable yet underwhelming stretch detailing Harry and Julie's initial encounter and ensuing courtship. De Jarnatt's distinctly off-kilter approach, coupled with Tangerine Dream's oddball score, ensures that the movie's early scenes suffer from an almost distractingly quirky feel, with the less-than-spectacular atmosphere persisting right up until Harry receives the aforementioned warning. It's a sequence that provides Miracle Mile with a much-needed jolt of energy and paves the way for a relatively consistent (and often very tense) narrative, with the presence of a few lulls in the movie's midsection ultimately rendered moot by an almost exceptionally engrossing final stretch. De Jarnatt does a superb job of cultivating a vibe of bleak, apocalyptic hopelessness, and it's clear, too, that Edwards' incredibly affable performance plays a considerable role in the movie's ultimate success. It's a shame that Miracle Mile has all but been forgotten in the years since its 1988 release, as the film, notwithstanding its dated opening half hour, remains as haunting and indelible an experience as it must have been more than 25 years ago.
Walking Tall (June 30/12)
Based on the eponymous 1973 film, Walking Tall follows The Rock's Chris Vaughn as he arrives home after an eight-year military stint and quickly discovers that his community has changed dramatically since he's been gone - with the presence of a sleek new casino bringing with it drugs, corruption, and a general atmosphere of lawlessness. It's a familiar yet promising setup that is, for the most part, employed to perfectly watchable effect by director Kevin Bray, with The Rock's charismatic turn certainly going a long way towards immediately luring the viewer into the proceedings. The pronounced lack of subtlety within the narrative - eg the villains are almost comically evil - is admittedly not as problematic as one might've assumed, as it does become more and more difficult not to root for the central character's righteous cause. It's also worth noting that Bray, for the most part, does a nice job with the movie's action sequences (eg Chris attacks a variety of thugs with a big hunk of wood), with the effectiveness of such moments heightened by the presence of naturally sinister performers as Neal McDonough, Kevin Durand, and Michael Bowen. (Having said that, the film's PG-13 rating ensures that there's an absence of violence here that often borders on the ridiculous - with the bloodless vibe obscuring the death of at least one major character.) And although it runs a slim 85 minutes (73 without credits!), Walking Tall suffers from a few demonstrable lulls that are compounded by a decidedly underwhelming climax (ie Bray overuses handheld cinematography to a rather disheartening extent) - which ultimately cements the movie's place as a passable yet forgettable action extravaganza.