The J.O.T. Film Festival 2013, Day Two

Day One was easier because it was a terrible weather day. Day Two turned out glorious in the afternoon, which makes it difficult to stay indoors. I did get my watching in, and was also able to get outside a bit. Day Three promises to be equally challenging. . . .

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

This should/would have been the second part of my Coen Brothers night, if I’d actually done one. This is one of their movies I’d not seen before (I guess there are about 5 more I’ve yet to see as well). I enjoyed it, but it took some getting used to. It lacks most of the humor I usually associate with their films. It is more straight up drama, though in the end I’d say it is still better than average. It’s a gangster thing, set in the Prohibition days, where the main character is caught in the middle of a budding war between two crime bosses. His loyalties are divided, if only because he happens to be having an affair with a woman connected to the boss he’s most loyal (ahem) to, and the principal bone of contention (i.e. one boss wants a particular guy dead, the other boss claims the man as being under his protection, and blazing tommy guns ensue) is a slimy character who happens to be the woman’s brother. Make sense?

Gabriel Byrne delivers a standout performance in the lead role as an Irish gangster with a thing for booze, gambling, and beautiful women. The main story is how he uses his wits to keep himself alive, playing one side against the other, raising questions of loyalty within each side’s ranks, etc. While there is some violence, it’s more of a think piece than an action movie. There are quirky, humorous moments, but fewer than I’m used to with a Coen Brothers film. I suspect I’d enjoy it more with a second watching.

All in all, as a fan of these period gangster flicks, I’d definitely say it’s worth watching. I’d see it again.

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The Warrior’s Way (2010)

This isn’t a movie I had in my must see list for this year’s J.O.T. Fest, it just happened to be in my Netflix queue and had a relatively short running time, so I watched it. As low budget action movies I expect to be awful go, it was better than expected. Even borderline enjoyable at times.

The story is about a Japanese assassin who kills all of the members of his clan’s enemy, becoming the greatest swordsman of all time. Only one member of the opposing clan remains — a baby girl. Poised to kill her and wipe out her clan forever, the man hesitates and spares her life, taking her with him into exile. This of course makes him clan enemy #1 in the eyes of his former allies. He goes to the American West, where he has a friend he expects to meet up with, but, it turns out, has died. Instead he falls in with a town of quirky circus performers trying to make a go of it as an actual town. He takes over his former friend’s laundry business, falls in with a girl with a tragic past, one thing leads to another and of course he ends up facing off first with an entire gang of cowboy killers and then his ninja-like former clan mates.

If all this sounds laden with action movie seen-that-befores, it is. The final battle reminds me of my days playing the MMO video game City of Heroes, where my uber-powerful character would just mow down throngs and throngs of thugs. While that can be fun at 10 PM working the controls with one hand and shoveling takeout Chinese food into your mouth with the other, these overblown set pieces in action movies are getting more and more tiresome. The acting isn’t that great, and even the good characters are stereotypes, but I didn’t hate it. Some of the cinematography is pretty neat, and they made the most of their limited budget.

I liked it okay, and prodigious consumers of Netflix may like it well enough. For people like me, though, who really don’t watch that many movies, there are probably better options out there.

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Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

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