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The Films of Russell Mulcahy

Derek and Clive Get the Horn

Razorback (May 5/18)

Rarely as fun or exciting as its premise might've indicated, Razorback follows Gregory Harrison's Carl Winters as he travels deep into the Australian outback to search from his missing (and presumed dead) wife (Judy Morris' Beth) - with Carl's search hindered by a couple of vicious locals and, eventually, leading him to the revelation that a wild boar might've been involved. The degree to which Razorback slowly-but-surely fizzles out is ultimately rather devastating, given that filmmaker Russell Mulcahy kicks the proceedings off with an extremely stylish and engrossing pre-credits sequence - with the first act's relatively promising atmosphere eventually giving way to a frustratingly meandering midsection riddled with overlong and padded-out interludes. (This portion of the spare narrative is, for example, rife with endless scenes of Carl wandering, and eventually hallucinating in, the desert in search of his vanished spouse.) The movie builds to an action-packed yet ineffective climax involving the aforementioned wild boar, with the viewer's lack of investment in the material draining any trace of tension or excitement from this stretch - which goes a long way towards finally confirming Razorback's place as a fairly one-note endeavor that squanders its seemingly can't-miss setup.

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Highlander II: The Quickening (July 31/04)

Set in the year 2025, Highlander II: The Quickening follows Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) as he battles a fellow Highlander (played with over-the-top glee by Michael Ironside) bent on world domination. Also along for the ride is returning character Ramirez (Sean Connery) and a beautiful eco-terrorist named Louise (Virginia Madsen). The heart of the story involves a shield that covers the entire planet, erected after the ozone layer proved ineffectual in protecting citizens from the sun's harsh rays. It's a storyline that's mostly confusing and convoluted, though as the film progresses, things do start to make sense (sort of). Presumably the "renegade" cut - on which this review is based - clears up a lot of the baffling elements in Peter Bellwood's screenplay, but on the flipside, the longer running time means there are several superfluous sequences that pave the way for a movie that's slightly more coherent yet also fairly dull in spots. Director Russell Mulcahy has infused the film with a palpable sense of style, though his lack of restraint eventually becomes somewhat overwhelming; along with cinematographer Phil Meheux, Mulcahy transforms even the simplest sequence into a laser light show of swooping camera moves and kinetic editing. While such antics keep things interesting, they also make the story that much more difficult to follow. Highlander II: The Quickening's representation of the future isn't all that convincing (why are trains rolling through crowded streets?), and marks yet another riff on the landscape created by Blade Runner (although the film must be commended for including widescreen televisions). Lambert gives a typically mediocre performance, while Connery seems to be enjoying himself in what essentially amounts to a cameo appearance. It's hard to imagine Highlander II: The Quickening appealing to non-fans of the franchise, as the film barely captures the sense of fun that was so prevalent in the original. With its complicated storyline and dreary visuals, the picture occasionally feels more perfunctory than anything else - though, to be fair, it's nowhere near as bad as it's been made out to be over the years.

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Blue Ice

The Real McCoy

The Shadow

Silent Trigger

Tale of the Mummy


On the Beach

The Lost Battalion

1st to Die

Swimming Upstream (May 30/05)

Swimming Upstream is admittedly a well-made and nicely acted film, yet the film is never quite able to shake off the feeling of utter mediocrity. The story, revolving around an athlete who triumphs despite a series of obstacles, just feels routine and banal; this is the kind of tale we've seen countless times before, something that's exacerbated by the fact that screenwriter Anthony Fingleton doesn't have anything new or innovative to offer. Based on Fingleton's own experiences as a world-class swimmer, the film follows Fingleton (played by Jesse Spencer) as he overcomes his father's (Geoffrey Rush) physical and mental abuse to become a champion. Swimming Upstream is peppered with overly melodramatic moments and exceedingly broad performances, and though director Russell Mulcahy offers up some intriguing visuals, the film never quite feels like anything more than a standard made-for-television production. Admittedly, the movie does improve as it progresses (once it focuses on Fingleton's successes, rather than his father's drunken mishaps), but it's just not enough to negate the ineffectiveness of everything that's come prior.

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3 (January 12/05)

3 tracks racecar driver Dale Earnhardt's (Barry Pepper) life from his rough childhood through to his successes as a Nascar driver. His father, Ralph (played by J.K. Simmons), an amateur driver, instills young Dale with a realistic perspective of how tough the sport can be. 3's been directed by Russell Mulcahy, a filmmaker known for imbuing his movies with wildly over-the-top instances of style - even if said movies don't necessary warrant such moments. Mulcahy keeps himself in check here, though, allowing things to play out in a relatively straight-forward manner (and, as a result, the film has the feel of a made-for-television production). Still, the racing sequences are admittedly very well done and seem to effectively capture the real danger that exists within the world of Nascar (a sport that allows drivers to actually crash into one another). There's an unmistakable current of melodrama running through the film, something that's particularly noticeable within the relationships involving Earnhardt and the various women in his life (including his mother). This sort of simplistic approach is established early on with Earnhardt's father, who always seems to have a Yoda-like nugget primed and ready to go. Not surprisingly, Simmons is actually quite good in the role, so it's disappointing to note that he's essentially trapped within the confines of a fairly one-dimensional character. Pepper, fortunately, doesn't suffer the same fate, delivering a performance that's expected complex and nuanced. In the end, it's racing fans that'll undoubtedly get the most out of 3 - though the movie does provide enough of a basic understanding of what Dale Earnhardt was all about to warrant a mild recommendation.

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Mysterious Island

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb

The Sitter

Resident Evil: Extinction

Crash and Burn

The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior

Prayers for Bobby

Give 'em Hell Malone

© David Nusair