Sunday, July 8, 2007

Jason watches "Black Sheep" and "You Kill Me"

Yesterday was the day for dark comedy, starting with "Black Sheep". I'd actually seen this previously as a midnight movie at the SF International Film Festival. At the time I said:
Gore, comedy, and sheep from the first country I think of for all three--New Zealand. Director Jonathan King owes a debt to Peter Jackson--not just for paving the way with "Bad Taste" and "Braindead", but for creating WETA Workshop which did the monster sheep effects. A story of monster zombie sheep, created by...ahem.. "unconventional" breeding methods. The half-sheep, half-human hybrids run amok, and wacky hijinx ensue. There's also some good fun poked at stupid organic farming hippies. Awesome!
Well, this time I saw it sober (midnight movies as SFIFF come with free all-you-can-drink Stella Artois). I'll still stand by that review, but I'll add a few things. First, there is a plot that holds up pretty well--mostly a brother vs. brother story, with one of the brothers deathly afraid of sheep due to trauma in his childhood brought on by the evil brother. Second, the "unconventional" methods are as much about genetic manipulation as they are about sheep-shagging. And Third, there's also joke about ovine flatulence. It's still awesome!

Then I saw "You Kill Me", the dark and very deadpan crime thriller/comedy by John Dahl ("Red Rock West", "The Last Seduction"). Ben Kingsley plays an alcoholic hitman working for the Polish mob in Buffalo. When he gets drunk and passes out while on stakeout to kill the head of the Irish competition (Dennis Farina), the Polish boss (Philip Baker Hall) sends him away to get cleaned up. Specifically he sends him to San Francisco under the watchful eye of a mob friend and local real estate agent (Bill Pullman, who's gained quite a bit of weight recently. I didn't recognize him at first). Once there, he joins AA, is sponsored by Luke Wilson, and starts dating Téa Leoni (who's always good at staring in disbelief). The comedy comes from the fact that Ben Kingsley has no qualms about being a hitman, he's just worried that drinking has got in the way of doing his job. And he's very upfront, in some wonderful deadpan confessions first to Luke Wilson and then to all of AA. The scene where he's going through the list of people he's wronged--not people he's killed, but people he's killed badly and hence made suffer more than necessary--is worth the price of admission alone. The crime drama/thriller aspect comes from Dennis Farina moving in first on Philip Baker Hall's turf, then on his life. And so Ben Kingsley has to come back to Buffalo to do his job, take revenge, and save what remains of the Polish mob. It's an odd mix, and won't appeal to everyone. But if you're looking for something different that works on nearly level, has an amazing cast, and comes from an always-interesting director (Dahl's rumored to have signed on for "Punisher 2", which could make that watchable), this is a fine movie.


Erk Schmerk said...

Hrm. So you'd call "You Kill Me" a watchable film, then? I mean, knowing that some of us watch, what, 4 movies a year, would this rate enough to be one of 'em?

I read about the premise before & like much of ben's work (well, his potential, really), so I was actually thinking about this one.


puppymeat said...

It depends, do you only watch 4 movies a year because you're tired of Hollywood predictability and want something different, or do you just not have time/inclination to watch more?

I'd be more comfortable recommending "You Kill Me" to real cinephiles. If you see it, bear in mind that it's very deliberately paced (i.e. slow). The action is in small bursts, and the comedy is very dry and deadpan (you might not necessarily even call it a comedy, but IMDb does). It's very much character driven, and Ben Kingsley is fantastic. Also, he's supposed to be sporting a Buffalo/Polish accent and I don't know what that's supposed to sound like, so to me it just sounded weird.

I don't want to scare you away from seeing it, but I also don't want you to see this and think it sucks, especially if it's one of just a few movies you see this year.

Erk Schmerk said...

I guess I mostly am limited due to time & inclination. Mostly time.

Eh, I'll skip, I guess. Unless it's on a flight or something...

Dadmaniac said...

...On a flight to Hawaii, maybe???