Tag: robert patrick

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Even before the first bullet is shot, we are already convinced that the antagonist, a T-1000 cyborg (Robert Patrick) made out of liquid metal with the terrifying—and convenient—ability to shape-shift, is more advanced than the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent to protect future Resistance leader John Connor (Edward Furlong): it is capable of passing as human even when it speaks. Observe closely when the T-1000 questions various individuals regarding the boy’s whereabouts. Because it is sleeker, more efficient, and more versatile, tension ramps up almost immediately; we are made to understand the stakes without relying on expository dialogue—one of the qualities that made “The Terminator” a successful sci-fi action picture.

Aside from a few throwback lines, the work is uninterested in repeating itself. Notice how quickly it introduces the two cyborgs from 2029 as they are teleported to 1995. Although cheeky humor remains, the pacing is faster and less effort is put into ensuring that the viewers notice the visual effects. Assumption is made that those watching have seen the previous film and so this time around various elements are turned inside-out: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is tougher, rougher, worn-out; the Terminator is now a good guy; action sequences are bigger, longer, and choreography behind them more complex. It is clear that the work has been given more budget. It shows both in what can be seen and felt on screen.

The writing is more ambitious. There is an implied sadness in the relationship between Sarah and John, how their fight against the realization of Skynet in the past has sacrificed so much of their current lives and possibly their future. For instance, when the mother sees her son for the first time in months, possibly years, her instinct is not to embrace him but to check whether he has been shot or is hurt in anyway. The screenplay by James Cameron and William Wisher, the former directing the film, does a neat trick: the more it avoids sentimentality, the more the viewers become desperate for that teary mother-son moment. And I’m not sure we are ever provided that moment. Maybe the Connors isn’t that type of family.

Another interesting relationship is between John and the T-800. It begins as a boy-and-his-dog story as John teaches the cyborg catchphrases, silly banters, and how to give a high five—for the boy’s own amusement as well as for the T-800 to be able to blend in a bit a more. But toward the end of the picture, it explores a sort of father-son dynamic. Most interesting, however, is it does not go all the way; it teases the audience and then leaves us wanting more. These calculated decisions in the screenplay exhibit intelligence, a freshness, and a willingness to take risks. It is not the kind of sequel that is low energy, redundant, simply cashing in on what came before. It is willing to explore new territories and ideas.

Like “The Terminator,” action scenes—as wonderful and eye-popping as they are—do not come into my mind first when considering “T2” as a whole. Every single one stands out, from an early chase between an 18-wheeler and a motorcycle on a spillway to the final jaw-dropping showdown at a steel plant. They are memorable because each encounter is different. The environment almost always impact how the characters must fight and attempt to outsmart the enemy.

It is without question that director James Cameron put a lot of thought in this next chapter. His love for his story, the characters, and creating explosive special and visual effects can be felt in every frame of this movie. Criticisms regarding the bloated middle portion are justified. But the film is so entertaining when firing on all cylinders, the slower sections actually give the viewers a chance to breathe and prepare for the next exhilarating showdown.

The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond

The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

A group of friends visit in an island in Maine for a weekend getaway in a mansion, cared for by a man named Pete (Robert Patrick), blissfully unaware that many people have died there ever since archeologists discovered some mysterious cave paintings almost a hundred years ago. One of them finds a board game. They decide to play. As the players get deeper in the game, it appears as though a mysterious force is gaining control of them, feeding on their hidden animosities and desires.

Written by Michael Berenson, Gabriel Bologna, and Sean Clark, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is an odd horror film because it is weak when it comes to delivering the fear and the jolts but quite strong with comedic punchlines. I enjoyed it for the most part not because it is a good horror movie per se but because it was able to make me laugh.

Once the characters have been introduced, the middle section shows promise. Instead of delivering the expected guts and gore, the material, surprisingly, takes its time to show the game being played. We are able to see details of the board game—the pieces, the cards, the hidden machinations when certain spots are activated—and the players having a good time even though they are thrusted into very awkward situations at times. (The cards contain somewhat risqué dares.) It looks like something I would want to play myself.

And then there is further delay in the violence. We learn a little bit about the characters: their stories, their personalities, the dynamics of the group. Though the story takes place in an island, there are enough details provided for us to get a good picture of what their lives might be like in the mainland. We learn nothing profound about the characters on screen but each is given time to shine. It does not feel like it is a movie with nothing on its mind other than showing people being sliced and diced.

When blood is finally shed, however, I found it to be painfully standard. Sure, there are two or three characters I rooted for to make it to the end, but the kills are not at all creative. Worse, the camera has the tendency to go for the close-up when someone has been struck by a weapon, magnifying the limitation of the budget. I was not convinced it was supposed to be campy because the violence is consistently delivered with a poker face.

Directed by Gabriel Bologna, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is further hindered by an ending that is a complete copout. I felt as though some of the joy I got from it was deliberately taken away. The final thirty minutes could have benefited from a complete rewrite.

Identity Thief

Identity Thief (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) receives a call from a woman (Melissa McCarthy) who claims to be from fraud detection. Offering free services to protect his identity, Sandy gives the caller his full name, date of birth, and social security number. Before the guy knows it, his credit card is maxed out and there is a warrant for his arrest. Meanwhile, Diana has a ball shopping for clothes, buying a car, and getting her hair done. The authorities are aware that Sandy’s identity has been stolen, but they are unable to arrest the perpetrator given that she lives across the country. Sandy has a plan: in a span of a week, somehow he will persuade Diana to come with him to Colorado and trick her into confessing her crimes while the cops eavesdrop.

It is a shame that “Identity Thief,” based on the screenplay by Craig Mazin and directed by Seth Gordon, is made all the more complicated by introducing gangsters (T.I., Genesis Rodriguez) and a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) into the mix when it should have been clean and to the point: two people who cannot stand each other driving across America and learning a little bit about each other. By introducing unnecessary action sequences, what is communicated is the writer’s lack of confidence to his material. Or perhaps it is the writer’s intention to make the script more appealing to the audience. Whichever the case, it holds back a movie that should have been better than the final product.

Prior to the introduction of the threat of violence, the comedy is consistently entertaining. I enjoyed watching Sandy being so blissfully oblivious of the fact that someone has been using his name and causing all sorts of trouble in Florida. Sandy going on shopping sprees, carrying least five bags in one hand, are equally funny. Bateman and McCarthy have something in common: they can stand in one spot doing nothing and I want to laugh.

Casting two leads who possess effortless charm is smart. One plays a pushover and the other plays a parasite. Their comedic styles are opposite. Bateman downplays the humor in his character: Sandy’s personality is sarcastic but he is almost shy about it, concerned about stepping on someone’s toes. McCarthy, on the other hand, makes a fiesta out of everything, from physical gags to obnoxious lines: Diana is big and colorful but, like so many people who are constantly in-your-face, maybe it is a way of hiding something that is painful. I had fun with their chemistry.

The people on the hunt for Diana and Sandy are played straight, almost boring. When the picture cuts to them, I wanted to get up and get a glass of water. They are written so flavorless, so devoid of humor that they could have been taken from any action picture. You know, the henchmen who would probably have been shot by the hero within the first five minutes. Wouldn’t it have been great, for instance, if the pair of gangsters were allowed to be as funny as the protagonists? That way, when the camera is on them, the story will not feel like it drags. T.I. and Rodriguez are not to blame. Rather, they are not given a script they can work with and creative direction to really make their characters pop.

And how about those car chases? They are poorly choreographed. I can watch children playing with their toy cars and observe more creativity. Are the car crashes supposed to be exciting? Funny? No, I think they are simply there to eat time.

I liked “Identity Thief,” but only the parts where Bateman and McCarthy are in it: their characters just talking, hitting each other with guitars, and pulling each other’s hair. What the screenplay fails to understand is that the best comedies, especially those that involve a road trip, are simple. Instead, we are presented a bloated, tired thing.