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Entries in Daybreakers (2)

Thursday
Aug292013

Getaway

Despite a filmography that consists of a few stinkers, Ethan Hawke is a daring actor, mainly because he isn’t afraid to plant himself in all kinds of different films. In the last three alone, he has starred in a home invasion thriller (“The Purge”) a wonderful romantic drama (“Before Midnight”) and an intensely frightening supernatural horror movie (“Sinister”). He’s drawn to ideas, even if the final product encompassing those ideas isn’t always successful, like the aforementioned “The Purge” or 2009’s alternate take on vampire mythology “Daybreakers.” This leads me to wonder why he would ever agree to star in something like this week’s “Getaway,” a derivative, brainless action film with zero ideas and only the thinnest of stories. After seeing “Before Midnight,” it was obvious he was going to appear on my obligatory best-of list at the end of the year. After watching “Getaway,” it’s now apparent he’ll also appear on my worst.

The film has a nifty stylized, black and white opening that begins in a wrecked apartment with blood and broken glass everywhere. Initially a first person view, it eventually transitions to a third person view where we first see our protagonist, an ex-racecar driver, Brent (Ethan Hawke). It’s his apartment that he shares with his wife, who has been abducted by a mysterious man for unknown reasons. Cut not too far in the future and he finds himself in a game where he has to use his driving talents to pull off certain jobs and if he calls the cops or is caught, his wife dies.

And thus begins a movie with no plot structure, no flow, wimpy dialogue and annoying characters so inconsequential and uninteresting that one of the two main ones isn’t even given a name, an 18 year old girl that IMDB so aptly classifies as “The Kid” (Selena Gomez). Yet the nameless character isn’t the biggest problem, but rather her and Brent’s utter lack of personality. It must be no more than a few minutes in before Brent is racing away from cop cars through a darkened Bulgaria, so no time is taken to truly characterize this man and make him someone we should care about. A mid-movie sob story about why he gave up racing is so forced in as to be almost comical. Similarly, the first time we meet his wife, she’s being dragged screaming down a dank, decrepit hallway by two goons who lock her up for safe keeping. It’s obviously not an ideal scenario for any person, but who exactly is she? If not for the mysterious voice on the other end that helpfully labels her as Brent’s wife, we would have never even known, given that they don’t share a single minute of screen time prior to the kidnapping.

To be fair to the film, it’s not like it has high aspirations. It knows it’s a big, stupid action picture and it plays it up for all it’s worth, creating high octane chases through narrow alleyways, cluttered highways and crowded parks at seemingly every turn. It never takes the time to make these scenes work in conjunction with what little story it has, though, instead opting to make The Kid a genius tech geek, able to hack into security networks with nary a plausible explanation, no doubt a quick and accessible way to bypass all that pesky talking. But none of these scenes work because it never truly feels like the characters are in any real danger, given the incompetent police force chasing them. At one point, after he slams into a cop car, The Kid remarks that he just committed assault with a deadly weapon, which gives the police the authority to shoot at them, yet they never do. Never does it come to mind that perhaps they could take out a tire or two, effectively ending his rampage. The only ones that are smart enough to pull out their guns are the mysterious voice’s hired hands, but even they only shoot at the body of the car, despite the knowledge that the car is armored. The worst driver in the world would be able to escape such idiotic opposition.

If there was some type of skill put behind the crafting of these action scenes, many of these problems could be ignored, but such a reality is quickly dashed. Directed by Courtney Solomon, whose only other directing credits include 2000’s abominable “Dungeons & Dragons” and 2005’s equally bad “An American Haunting,” has no idea how to stage an action scene to elicit excitement. Instead, it’s the editing that hopes to manufacture it in a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fact that what’s going on isn’t really all that interesting. The scenes are cut in rapid succession similar to the shootouts in 2009’s “Gamer,” to the point where you can barely even register certain shots before they disappear. If some of these shots were any shorter, they’d be subliminal.

Then the twist comes and the mystery man is revealed, not that we actually know who that man is as a character. The reveal is more one of the actor playing the mystery man, which means little to nothing in the big scheme of things. Strangely enough, questions are left unanswered, which is tough to do in a movie with such little plot to speak of, though you likely won’t care enough to have them answered anyway. When the movie ends, the title card flashes onscreen once more, almost as if it’s telling you to get away as fast as you can. You likely won’t need to be told twice.

Getaway receives 0.5/5

Monday
Jan112010

Daybreakers

There was a time when vampires used to be the epitome of cool. There was a time when Blade ruled the box office with its hard R rating, providing plenty of action and blood for fans. There was a time when vampires weren't reduced to frilly angst ridden teenagers entwined in a romantic love triangle with a self-pitying high school girl and shirtless werewolf. I remember those times. Oh, how I miss them. Vampires used to be scary, stalkers of the night out for the blood of unsuspecting humans. Now they sparkle when they walk in the sun. Thankfully, nay, blessedly, Daybreakers is here to set things straight. While it may be coming at an unfortunate time, in the wake of those silly Twilight movies, it's nevertheless a riotous good time.

The year is 2019. Due to a single bat with a strange virus, a plague of vampirism has spread across the world like a wildfire. Now, less than five percent of the population is human. Everybody else has turned into a demon of the night, but things still run as usual. They still go to work, drink coffee (with blood instead of cream) and drive and the television politics still rage on. The only difference is that they do it all at night and the political arguments are about the extermination of the human race. During the day, the world is one giant ghost town, which proves to be a perfect opportunity for the last remaining humans to venture outside in search of other humans. Edward (not to be confused with that pale skinned, love sick ninny), played by Ethan Hawke, a vampire himself, runs into a group of them one day on his way home from work. Although they threaten to kill him, he has no desire to feed on them and helps them instead. He's one of those human-hugging types. Hippie.

He does this despite a global shortage of blood. In fact, in another few weeks, the last remaining human harvests will dry up and the vampires will all go mad feeding on each other, which will increase the rate of their deterioration until they all finally die. However, those humans have found a cure for vampirism thanks to a former vampire called Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, and they enlist Edward in their attempt to save not only themselves, but the whole world.

Not since 2000's Shadow of the Vampire, which also starred Willem Dafoe, have I seen such a unique vampire movie. Finally a film comes along that dares to switch up the tried and true formula. It takes the basic concept of vampires feeding on humans and flips it around. What if there were no humans left to feed on? The premise is intriguing and an interesting commentary on our dwindling resources with our growing population. Who knew a bloody horror flick could be so smart?

But then again, it's not like I had my brain tuned to "think" when I sat down to watch Daybreakers. All I really wanted was a slickly done vampire movie with humor and gore and that's what I got. After watching Twilight and New Moon, where the only pain inflicted on anyone was purely on an emotional level, it was nice to see some pain transcend to the physical realm. This thing gets red with some excellent moments I didn't see coming, including a hilarious vampire combustion that had me cackling with glee.

What I came out of Daybreakers surprised about, however, was that the film was actually made well. A horror movie not screened for critics being released in the theatrical dump month of January? There's no way it could be good, right? Wrong. The Spierig brothers, the directors, whose only other feature length film was the 2003 straight-to-DVD horror/comedy Undead (which was pretty damn awesome if you ask me), showcase some skill here. Whereas Undead was fun, but amateur, Daybreakers promises better things to come in the duo's future. It's slyly directed and the little attention to details makes for a pleasurable experience.

Even more impressive is that they wrote the picture as well, toning down their jocular tone from Undead to make a more mature horror/drama. With the sole exception of Willem Dafoe's character, who spouts some really dumb one-liners that feel out of place in an otherwise rock solid picture, the writing is spectacular. It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. It's not about how it happens. It's merely about what happens and why. Though I fear putting these two films side by side may confuse the levels of their quality, this film is like The Road in that it's more of a warning than anything else. It intends not to show the causes of certain situations, but rather create an allegory revolving around them that can be related to real life.

Now, Daybreakers is no Oscar contender like The Road, but not every movie has to be some amazing display of filmmaking to be entertaining. Despite combining quality acting with a clever script and skillful direction, this is really nothing more than a fun romp at the movies. Given the quality of films usually released in this month, what more could you ask for?

Daybreakers receives 4/5