You can’t buy happiness so why not waste millions of dollars betting on illegal drag races between rare exotic cars. That’s just what L.A. pimp/record producer Infamous (Eddie Griffin) movie mogul Jerry (Tim Matheson) and a sociopath counterfeiter known to his family as Uncle Mike (Angus MacFadyen) like to do with their free time and seemingly endless piles of cash. These guys will gamble on just about anything: For example they bet $1 million Uncle Mike’s nephew can drive from L.A. to Las Vegas in under two hours. An impossible feat made more so by driving at night racing at speeds of over 200 mph through windy desert roads using special night goggles and zipping past CHiPs unnoticed like the Road Runner. But the annual multi-million dollar race is coming and Infamous needs a driver. Enter the movie’s hero and narrator Natasha (Nadia Bjorlin) who has retired from racing and is busy pimping rides and fronting a hair-metal band. After some teasers the mega-stakes illegal drag race kicks off deep in the Nevada desert where a fatal mistake costs one racer their life and another their freedom. The script gives little if any help to the actors in this scattered camp-fest meets a misogynistic hip-hop video—starting with funnyman Eddie Griffin basically doing standup and one-liners throughout. Angus MacFadyen (Saw III) brings some presence to the drowning film with his shell-shocked Martin Sheen/Apocalypse Now parody—strange drunken dances to boot. Veteran actor and man of a thousand bad parts Tim Matheson--who has managed to stay afloat with B movies since his glory days as Eric “Otter” Stratton in Animal House--actually seems to be having a little fun here. Sadly though the rest of the supporting cast is easily forgettable and at times comes off a little too much like the cast of a late night Cinemax skin-flick. Too bad Redline is PG-13. Redline is Andy Cheng’s (End Game) second time helming a feature film but he is no stranger to movie sets as his past credits include a myriad of stunt coordination work in films like Rush Hour and The Scorpion King. A lot of his early work was spent on Jackie Chan films which explains a lot about his directing style with Redline. Part of the charm of a Jackie Chan film is well Jackie Chan and all his amazing moves but take out Chan and leave the ridiculous cartoon characters and inane plots that surround his Hong Kong reels and you have Redline. Amidst the awkward one-liners and misplaced acrobatic fight scenes choreographed to unidentifiable hip-hop music some of the car races--as when a Porsche 911 takes on a $1.2 million Ferrari Enzo--are actually quite cool. This is where Cheng really shows his chops and he makes the most of his limited resources creating a really tacky however absolutely superbly bad-funny cult classic. Redline would have made an excellent double-feature back in 1975 alongside Death Race 2000 boasting: “See the world in the year 2007 where decadence rules and reckless millionaires live and die by fast cars and even faster women.”
September 16, 2004 12:22pm EST
In 1930s New York Chronicle investigative reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets a lead on a story she's been covering about prominent scientists from around the world who are mysteriously disappearing. When Manhattan is attacked by giant robots Polly reluctantly seeks the help of an old flame ace aviator Captain Joseph Sullivan aka Sky Captain (Jude Law) to get the scoop and find out who's behind these strange events and discovers an Oppenheimer-type science man named Dr. Totenkopf has abducted the scientists in a mad bid to build a doomsday device to annihilate what he believes to be an already damned human race. Assisted by Captain Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie) who runs a secret mobile airstrip thousands of feet in the air Sky Captain and Polly head out to stop Totenkopf and save mankind. How could such a visually dazzling film where the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of three dashing Hollywood stars be so ... unexciting? Much stronger storylines could have evolved from supporting players Dex Sky's right-hand man (Giovanni Ribisi) and especially daredevil Franky and her amphibious squadron all of which are used too sparingly throughout the film.
Paltrow in the lead role of Polly completely captures the witty rapid-fire dialogue of the era immortalized by Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. But while her performance is nearly flawless Polly's self-centeredness turns the would-be heroine into an antagonist; it's hard to like a character who can't put humanity's needs before her own career ambitions. Polly's rabble-rouser persona should bring some exciting tension between her character and Sky Captain's Boy Scout guise but it doesn't--in fact there's a complete lack of chemistry between the two leads. But Law's performance as Sky Captain brilliantly matches Paltrow's as the actor encompasses the new-yet-old type of movie hero one more suave than macho. Less platonic however is the on-screen relationship between Law's Sky and Jolie's Franky. The script's purposefully ambiguous take on the characters' history adds spice to the film's otherwise bland relationships. It's too bad Jolie's performance probably the highlight of the film isn't brought more to the forefront. Ribisi injects some light comedy to the heavy story and Omid Djalili impresses as Kaji a friend of Sky Captain's who helps them during a leg of their journey to find Totenkopf. To their tremendous credit all the cast members delivered seamless performances especially considering all their scenes were shot in one room using a blue screen.
The production behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is what this film is really all about. Based on a six-minute test reel created on his home Mac writer/director Kerry Conran was able to nab studio backing and secure major names--not shabby for one's feature debut. The final product delivers too--a retro sci-fi picture where nearly everything onscreen except for the actors was painstakingly computer generated in post-production. It's amazing how the actors blend flawlessly into the film's animatic backdrops. Every shot makes the most of its visual effects and the film has a dark and dramatic comic book feel a sort of Gotham meets War of the Worlds. Conrad pays homage to literary masters such as H.G. Wells New York's 1939 World's Fair and films including The Wizard of Oz: Sky Captain tracks down Totenkopf like Dorothy searched for her sorcerer and although they are not in Kansas and there is no yellow brick road there is a mysterious genius hiding behind the curtain. But unlike Wizard of Oz Sky Captain doesn't hold its momentum. There's a chase scene for example that goes on way longer than it should have and an overly weighted storyline about Polly and Sky Captain's defunct love affair. Did he cheat on her when they were together years ago? Did she sabotage his airplane? Who cares! Luckily the ending somewhat redeems the story thanks to a couple of surprising little twists.