The Films of David Twohy
The Arrival (November 11/16)
The Arrival casts Charlie Sheen as Zane Zaminsky, a tenacious astronomer who discovers an unusual signal during an uneventful shift and sets out to confirm its extraterrestrial origins - with the character's efforts ultimately hindered by a variety of nefarious forces. There's little doubt that The Arrival works best in its relatively promising first half, as writer/director David Twohy does an effective job of establishing the central character and his progressively perilous efforts at proving his theory. (It's clear, too, that the movie benefits substantially from the efforts of its eclectic supporting cast, with, especially, Ron Silver's stellar turn as a slimy, smarmy executive standing as an obvious highlight.) The movie's increasingly erratic midsection, however, does prove more and more problematic as time progresses, with the emphasis on narrative left turns and digressions essentially wreaking havoc on the movie's less-than-consistent momentum (ie the film, generally speaking, feels like a rough-cut that could and should have been tightened considerably). It's clear, then, that The Arrival never quite becomes the creepy paranoia thriller that Twohy is obviously striving for, which is too bad, really, given that the movie boasts a number of admittedly tense (and engrossing) sequences - including a suspenseful interlude involving Zane's exploration of an alien factory. The action-packed finale ensures that The Arrival ends on a somewhat disappointing note, and it ultimately seems apparent that the movie would've been well-served had it topped out at 90 minutes (ie it's too long and feels it).
The Chronicles of Riddick (June 10/04)
Though The Chronicles of Riddick's predecessor, Pitch Black, in no way established the sort of complicated fantasy world that this film revels in, Twohy nonetheless has created a universe that's utterly original and different. But the filmmaker seems to have been so consumed with envisioning a unique alternate reality that he's forgotten important details such as a compelling storyline or fleshed-out supporting characters. While some of the more confusing elements are cleared up as the movie progresses, there are certain things that are never made clear. This is primarily true in the case of the Necromongers, a new-to-the-series race of warmongers bent on global (and universal) domination. There's no denying that they're an intriguing group - Twohy does a lot of set-up with these guys, including several references to their "faith" and a description of the painful process one must go through to become a Necromonger - but we're never given an explanation just what they are, exactly. At a certain point, to avoid frustration, audience members are left with little choice but to classify the Necromongers as "the bad guys"; Twohy's refusal to explain their origins or even what they are is bizarre, to say the least. It's a shame, too, given that the character of Riddick is fairly intriguing. Played by Vin Diesel, Riddick is a fierce criminal with only his well being in mind; though, as we learned in Pitch Black, he does have a hidden heart-of-gold and will occasionally offer assistance to those that need it. The Chronicles of Riddick boasts a fairly straight-forward premise that would have worked if Twohy had included some backstory on the Necromongers, or any of the assorted characters populating the screen. Aside from Riddick, we're not given anyone to either root for or against - though Colm Feore does show some promise as the film's central villain, Lord Marshal (the leader of the Necromongers). Twohy's impatience in moving the story forward results in a disjointed narrative that's virtually impossible to get into. Just when it seems as though the movie's going to be about one thing, Twohy changes gears and goes in an entirely different direction (eg a lengthy - and somewhat pointless - sequence at a prison midway through the film). As for the various characters inhabiting this world, Twohy effectively establishes several figures - including a MacBethian power couple, played by Karl Urban and Thandie Newton - but neglects to develop them as the film progresses, dulling the impact of their respective payoffs. As for Riddick, he's a fine anti-hero; given the right movie, he has the potential to be the next Snake Plissken (as creative as Twohy clearly is, he's no John Carpenter). The bottom line is that The Chronicles of Riddick is undeniably a wonder to look at, but it's all style and no substance. There's no flow to the movie; Twohy lurches from one set-piece to the next, which is particularly problematic given that none of the set-pieces are terribly compelling. The open-ended conclusion is intriguing, but the film is destined to join the ranks of Son of Blob if further installments aren't forthcoming.
A Perfect Getaway
Written and directed by David Twohy, A Perfect Getaway follows honeymooning couple Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) as they become increasingly convinced that their traveling companions (Timothy Olyphant's Nick and Kiele Sanchez's Gina) are responsible for the deaths of several tourists. It's an admittedly familiar premise that's generally employed to above-average effect by Twohy, as the film's picturesque first half effectively establishes the various characters and their progressively perilous situation. The exceedingly able work of the movie's stars certainly proves instrumental in initially capturing the viewer's interest, with Olyphant's thoroughly engaging performance an agreeable throwback to his off-kilter appearances in efforts such as Go and The Girl Next Door (ie it's almost enough to erase the memory of the actor's hopelessly bland work in Hitman and Live Free or Die Hard). Twohy effectively perpetuates the central mystery by offering up an impressive number of red herrings and possible suspects, yet there's little doubt that the movie temporarily stumbles once the villain(s) is/are revealed - as the filmmaker's failure to address several serious holes makes it virtually impossible to wholeheartedly accept the revelation and suspend one's disbelief. Such concerns become moot, however, once A Perfect Getaway charges into its unexpectedly electrifying third act, as the relatively down-to-earth opening hour gives way to a balls-to-the-wall, gleefully ludicrous finale that essentially justifies the film's entire existence (ie it's just that entertaining). It consequently goes without saying that the movie definitively carves out a spot for itself as one of the most entertainingly trashy thrillers to hit multiplexes in quite some time, although it's just as clear that certain viewers might have a hard time embracing the whole thing for precisely the same reasons.