“The Flock” – 2007. Dir. Wai-keung Lau

With Richard Gere, Claire Danes, KaDee Strickland, Avril Lavigne and Ray Wise

 

“I think about a girl who didn’t come home… what I might’ve missed… and if I miss something again, who’s next.”

“The Flock”, to me, was a film that sounded very interesting; Richard Gere plays Erroll Babbage a retiring public service officer whose job is to check up on registered sex offenders. Claire Danes plays Allison Lowry, Erroll’s replacement who he is training during his remaining two weeks on the job. During these final days a girl goes missing, and Erroll believes that it’s one of his registers.

Erroll plays a burnt out public servant who is an alcoholic and has made his work his lives obsession. The film opens up with a creepyish title sequence of Erroll at home drinking, his apartment is littered with news paper clippings of missing girls and he has a state map on his wall with pins scattered all over the map representing the registered location of sex offenders.

This film is nothing more than a poor quality want-to-be “Seven”. While watching this film, you become so dis-attached from it, you find yourself not caring out the characters, not even caring out the victim of the film. Everything in the film feels forced, and everything happens all too easy. The film even ends with a “Seven” style ending.

This film tries to take you into the “underground” world of pornography and pedophilia, but it ends up looking like some low rent straight to DVD film – which this very well could have been. I don’t remember this being a theatrical release and I doubt very much this was played at festivals. What’s sad about this film is that it makes “8MM” look like “Citizen Kane”. Yeah.

I had much hope for this film, giving the brief plot synopsis I read, and the casting of Richard Gere and Ray Wise, who I have always considered one of the most underrated character actors working in film and TV. Watching Richard Gere play Erroll Babbage is like watching Jason Biggs play Richard Gere’s character in “Brooklyn’s Finest”.

I thought that Gere was incredible in “Brooklyn’s Finest”, but in this film he’s borderline mediocre, the exception is Gere’s performance in the horrible climax of the film – Gere is pretty damn good during that part. While watching this film, the events almost become comedic in the fact that the twist and turns are so outlandish and, forgive me for using this term – retarded.

The quality of this film is so poor that it seems like those slew of serial killer films such as “Ed Gein”, “Dahmer” and “Gacy”. This film is so poor and so low brow that I can’t even believe that anyone involved in this film would take it seriously. I can’t even begin to understand why Richard Gere would sign on to a film like this, and I can’t even believe that Wai-keung Lau (the director of the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy) would make a film this terrible. The only explanation I can think of is that the two of them wanted to work together.

I love Richard Gere, I mean, I think the guy is one incredible actor and ever since his turn in “Chicago”, he’s pumped out some outstanding performances. Watching Richard Gere in this film hurts my heart.

Rating: 2/10

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“Brooklyn’s Finest” – 2010. Dir. Antonie Fuqua


With Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Lili Taylor, Vincent D’Onofrio with Ellen Barkin, Will Patton and Wesley Snipes

“Sal, no matter what you have done, God is ready to forgive you.”

“I don’t need his forgiveness Father, I need his fucking help!”

“Brooklyn’s Finest” is the story of three police officers: Sal (Ethan Hawke) who is a narcotics officer who steals drug money from raids so he can put a down payment on a new house so he can give his three children and his wife (Lili Taylor) a better life. Sal’s wife is being affected by wood mold in his older home, she’s pregnant and they’re twins. Sal steals money from bad people to provide.

Tango (Don Cheadle) is a cop who is deep undercover. He spent time in jail, and while there befriended Caz (Wesley Snipes) who saved Tango from being shanked in prison. In return Tango turned Caz on to a different lawyer who got Caz out of jail on an appeal. Tango periodically meets with his supervisor Bill Hobarts (Will Patton), and Tango begs for him to get him out from undercover. Tango is losing himself inside the world of crime.

Eddie (Richard Gere) is a burnt out, apathetic patrolman who is seven days away from retiring. He’s empty and lonely. His wife has separated from him and he periodically pays a young hooker for sex. Eddie counts down the days and turns a blind eye to everything he sees so he can survive.

This is a fine film; director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”, “King Arthur”) has matured so much as a filmmaker. Not to say that “Training Day” is an immature film – but this film is a display of how Fuqua has become a truly engaging storyteller, and he shows a lot of homage to other filmmakers. While watching this film, at times it felt like a Paul Thomas Anderson film, than a Scorsese film, than a Tarantino film.

These characters are well written, and the dialogue is very well paced. This film could have been a bitterly abysmal cliché cop film coming from first time writer Michael C. Martin. The film has all the elements of a cop film: redemption, retribution, guilt, greed, loneliness – all these emotions are apparent and forthcoming – yet it’s the performances that truly make the film worth seeing.

I’ve never been a fan of Ethan Hawke, I always through he was a little overblown and haven’t really liked him in much of anything. As Sal – I found a place in my heart for him, the feebleness and weakness that he displays the mission to steal as much money as he can so he can buy a new house for his family. Yes, we know it’s wrong – but if you wife was being badly affected by wood mold in your house, and it was treating the life of the twins she was carrying – would you do the same thing?

The Cheadle/Snipes story arc left me a little flat, it’s interesting and fun to watch Snipes back on the big screen, but I found myself at times getting a little bored with this arc. Will Patton has long been one of my favorite character actors, and I wish Fuqua would have used him a little more – Patton is just kind of there. Ellen Barkin who hasn’t really aged very well, shows up as an FBI agent working Cheadle to turn Snipes in, to even plant evidence. Cheadle won’t do it and leads a pretty great scene between Barkin and Cheadle.

I first saw the unrated promo trailer for this film about a year ago, and the opening to the promo trailer was the introduction of Richard Gere. His character introduction is one of the best character introductions I’ve seen. Gere really brings his A game here, and it seemed to surprise people. Richard Gere is a tremendously talented actor see “Internal Affairs”, “I’m Not There”, “The Hoax”, “Chicago”, “Unfaithful”, Gere has made really, really good films and laid down some excellent performances. This almost, just almost triumphs Gere’s most engaging cameo in HBO’s film, “And the Band Played On” about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s.

As Eddie, Gere really takes a step outside his conventional and even nonconventional roles. As Eddie, we see a side of Gere that we haven’t really seen before, we see him do things in the film that surprised me. Richard Gere deserves his long awaited Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Eddie in “Brooklyn’s Finest”.

What makes this film really good, I mean really good is the fact that these three separate stories could all be their own film. The stories for each are all so interesting, and I think the issue with the Cheadle/Snipes arc was that it wasn’t developed enough. But Hawke and Gere’s stories are heart breaking and sad.

There is a wonderful shot towards the climax of the film where it is one long shot that shows each of these characters crossing paths to the climactic ending of their stories: revenge, retribution and absolution. Fuqua makes a tremendously effective film that if it were finer tuned and crafted, it could be a masterpiece.

Rating: 8/10

Top 25 1/2 Performances of the Decade

I intended on making a list of Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress (I did start with Supporting Actor). But I thought it would be better to lump them all into one solid and concrete list. I’m sure there is going to be much disagreement. So, let me know what you guys think.

25. – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”

I honestly think Gere gets a bad rap – he’s an extremely talented actor who began the second act of his career with “Chicago”. They found the most unbelievable actor to sing and dance – and he knocked it out of the park. Gere supports this film on his shoulders and completely holds it together. His performances in this film paved the way for his roles in “The Hoax”, “I’m Not There”, and “Brooklyn’s Finest”. And what’s with “rom-coms”? Can people stop fucking saying that? It’s so annoying.

24. – Anne Hathaway as Kym in “Rachel Getting Married”

I didn’t see this film until about a couple of months ago. I don’t know why I strayed away from it for so long. I’ve always had this love for Jonathan Demme (even though I think “Silence of the Lambs” is grossly overrated and “Manhunter” is a far superior film). The way Hathaway breaks out of her typecast and breaks our hearts is wonderfully painful to watch. A quick note: I love the movie a lot, but the part I find most distracting (no, it’s not the wedding montage, I liked that part) is the actor who plays the best man of the wedding is like this shitty hybrid of George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Weird.

23. – Ray Liotta as Henry Oak in “Narc”

Ray Liotta has made a whirlwind of shit. He’s always enjoyable for me, even if he is walking through his role in “Wild Hogs”. I can’t help but always be captivated by him, I think he’s an incredible actor and has this way of commanding your attention. His performance in “Narc” is just fantastic. He plays the clichéd rage induced cop who’s seeking the killer of his partner. Liotta gained about 40 pounds for his role – and what adds to the gaining of weight, is the realism of the flashback sequences where Liotta’s character appears fit and trim. If you haven’t seen this film, do so soon.

22. – Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery in “Zodiac”

This seems like an easy sell, Downey, Jr. playing an alcoholic, drug addicted and charming beat reporter. But this was really the first role that he got to sink his teeth into since he’s troubled past. With his past experience with drugs and alcohol I feel as if Downey, Jr. could really play this character that spirals out of control to full authenticity.

21. – Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram in “The Wrestler”

This is one of the best performances I have ever seen. What keeps this from getting higher on my list is the fact that I’m not sure how much actual “acting” Rourke does. I think he took elements of his personal life and mimicked them to Randy the Ram’s life. I know some people disagree, but I think that Penn’s winning his second Oscar for “Milk” was the correct performance to reward. Without “The Wrestler” Rourke would have fallen back to Eric Roberts land.

20. – Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb in “Requiem for a Dream”

The fact that Burstyn lost to Julia Roberts makes me sick. I like Julia Roberts, she’s cute, funny, and has an amazing sparkle in her eye. That being said: she’s not an Oscar winning actress (although more so than Bullock or Berry). Ellen Burstyn gives the performance of her career in this film. This film may be the roughy of all roughies – and due to her performance this film will stay in my mind forever.

19. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack Slavin in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”

Day-Lewis gives a remarkable performance in his most flawed film. He balances inner rage and compassionate love for his daughter Rose. You find yourself loathing his character due to his selfishness and incest riddled relationship with his daughter – yet you find it in your heart to forgive him, and to understand his true love for Rose.

18. – Paul Newman as Jack Rooney in “Road to Perdition”

Newman should have won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in this film. I felt that Cooper winning was his make-up Oscar for not even being nominated for “American Beauty”. I feel that Newman gives one of his most subtle performances in this film. He’s the loving father figure to Tom Hanks, but has to chose between his own son (Daniel Craig) and Tom Hanks. One of the most heartbreaking scenes ever filmed is when Tom Hanks finally catches up with Newman.

17. – Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Casino Royal”

This is how you reboot a franchise! I am a James Bond super freak and I own them all. I’ve had a liking for each individual Bond (even George Lazenby). I’ve felt that the producers have always gotten it right for 007. I remember being pissed when they signed Craig, I was a strong supporter of Clive Owen (who I still think would have been a great Bond – check out ANY BMW Films add on Youtube and you’ll see my point). Daniel Craig gives us the perfect James Bond. He’s a stone cold killer. The way James Bond should be.

16. – Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”

I want to be Patrick Bateman (well…not the homicidal serial killer part). But deep down inside, don’t we all have an element of ourselves that is Patrick Bateman? Don’t we all from time to time get filled with disgust and greed? Or is it just me?

15. – Cate Blanchett as Sheba Hart in “Notes of a Scandal”

Blanchett is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and she’s one of the greatest ACTORS ever. She’s just remarkable in everything she’s in (well…maybe not that last Indiana Jones movie). As Sheba Hart she engages into an inappropriate relationship with a 14 year old student of hers, which is both erotic and haunting. What she’s doing is wrong, but what gets done to her by Judi Dench is ten times worse.

14. – Alec Baldwin as Juan Tripp in “The Aviator”

Baldwin is remarkable in the way he’s rebuilt his career over the past decade. The guy went from being a tabloids wet dream. His personal life took a tremendous toll on his profession career, but with an Oscar nominated turn in “The Cooler” it spring boarded him into working with Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and his staple, “30 Rock”. As Juan Tripp he’s one of the most menacing corporate villains, standing second only to Gordon Gekko.

13. – Sean Penn as Paul Rivers in “21 Grams”

This is one of the most heartbreaking performances ever. How he won for “Mystic River” over “21 Grams” is bullshit. Probably because it was a Clint Eastwood film.

12. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in “Gangs of New York”.

Day-Lewis single handily saves this film from the utter nightmare it could have been. If he wasn’t in this film to counteract the terrible performance of Cameron Diaz and the miscasting of the decade of Leonardo DiCaprio – this film would have been a sheer train wreck of a great director’s most personal project. How he lost to Adrian Brody for “The Pianist”, I’ll never understand.

11. – Ted Levine as The Warden in “Shutter Island”

Levine was only in three scenes in this film. He had only one scene that last about ten minutes with dialogue. This is the perfect example of less is more; by showing us everything about this character without telling us one thing about him. Levine is absolutely jaw dropping in this role. He shows us what a great, great actor he really is. This film should pave the way for meatier roles on the horizon for Levine.

10. – David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, Good Luck”

I think there is always hesitation when an actor takes on the role of an icon like Murrow. David Strathairn has always been one of my favorite character actors – from his roles in “Eight Men Out”, “The River Wild” and “LA Confidential”. In “Good Night, Good Luck” he finally becomes the leading man that he deserves to be. He’s absolutely amazing as Murrow and gives the performance of his career.

9. – Heath Ledger as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” and Enis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain”

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about his performance as the Joker. I guess the SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar said all that there could be said. And for “Brokeback”, he was overshadowed by PSH for “Capote”. What a shame, a real shame. It’s hard for me to pick which performance of his is better? Sometimes I lean towards The Joker, and other times I lean towards Enis. Face it, they’re both perfect.

8 ½. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini in “Nine”

Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor I have ever seen. I will challenge anyone who claims that someone is better. Sure, you can throw around Bogart or Brando or DeNiro. But I will stack his performance in “My Left Foot” and “There Will Be Blood” against any Brando or DeNiro performance. In “Nine” Day-Lewis talks with a genuine Italian accent, and sings (though he’s no Dean Martin) in an Italian accent. He is brilliant in this film, just fucking brilliant.

8. – TIE: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in “Doubt”

This is truly a team effort. The entire film is a battle of showmanship between Streep and Hoffman. The way they fight each other is as epic as Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader. The display of their acting craft is monumental, and will bring anyone to their knees. Watch this if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s amazing to watch.

7. – George Clooney as Bob Barnes in “Syrianna”

Clooney completely broke his typecast in this role – more like fucking shattered it. He became an artist that year, actor, producer, director and writer. He’s a marvelous talent. This film is truly an ensemble piece that doesn’t have a lead actor – oil is the main focus and character of the film. But George Clooney brings the house down in his final scene. It floods me with overwhelming emotion every single time I see it.

6. – William Hurt as Richie Cussak in “A History of Violence”

This is the biggest example of less is more. The little screen time that Hurt is given, he uses it to the extreme. He’s absolutely unbelievable, and I think his character is much like that of Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”, he’s the final trial of the main character’s journey to return home to his family. His performance is burned into my brain. There are very few actors with raw talent like William Hurt.

5. – TIE: Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds” and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”

This is much like Ledger’s role in “The Dark Knight”. There’s nothing more I can say about their PERFECT performance. There is a reason both of them swept critics awards, won the SAG, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Oscar. This was their major introduction to American audiences. That’s one helluva break through! To be honest, I do have to give the edge to Waltz. He’s amazing.

4. – Julianne Moore as Charlie in “A Single Man” and for Cathy Whitaker in “Far From Heaven”

Academy, please give her an Oscar already! I don’t care if it’s for a lifetime achievement award! Just someone, do something! She’s absolutely brilliant. ‘Nough said!

3. – Colin Firth as George in “A Single Man”.

Colin Firth gave a performance like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ve never see a performance that is so…empty. He’s unbelievably touching and gives a beautiful performance that brings me to my knees each time I see it. We need to see more Colin Firth. Now.

2. – Jeff Bridges as Ted Cole in “The Door in the Floor”

This is hands down Jeff Bridges finest performance. If you ever want to see an excellent, perfect, mind boggling performance, try and seek out Tod Williams’ “The Door in the Floor”. Bridges is heartbreaking, just plain heartbreaking. Ted Cole will stay in your heart forever.

1. – Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood”

This is the biggest tour-de-force performance ever on screen.

Top Ten Suppoting Performances of the Decade (Male) – Richard Gere, “Chicago”.

Number 10 – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”.

The ruling on Gere’s performance in “Chicago” is that he was a lead.  I disagree, but the Screen Actor’s Guild didn’t when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role, nor did the Golden Globes when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.  But, the Teen Choice Awards did nominate him for best movie “villain”…even though he wasn’t…  In any event, I seem to be in the minority on this, so I digress.  In Rob Marshall’s “Chicago”, the role of Billy Flynn was the role that held the film together, in a predominantly female cast – Billy Flynn, the smooth talking, suave and charismatic lawyer was the role for a talented actor like John Travolta, or Kevin Spacey – an actor who could not only act, but sing and dance as well, and both Spacey and Travolta had that talent and I’m sure they would have made a fine Billy Flynn.  Rob Marshall decided to go with an actor who hadn’t been in previous films where he sings and dances (although in Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” Gere does show some musical savvy).  Gere, to this point hadn’t had a whole lot of hits, “Autumn in New York”, “Runaway Bride”, “The Jackel” and Robert Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women” were all films he had done prior to 2002.  They were mostly forgettable films, it appear as if he played out his card in just starring in “chick flicks”.  But that year Gere came out with two stellar films, with two great performances, one in “Unfaithful“, and the second of course being “Chicago”.

Richard Gere as "Billy Flynn" in Rob Marshall's "Chicago".

Richard Gere magically pulled off the dance and singing numbers that were required by this George Clooney esq character.  Gere was perfect on the outside he had all the makings of Billy Flynn, a dashingly good-looking man, that oozes with wit and charm.  But what Gere lacked was the vocal ability to sing the three numbers in the film that he is apart of.  I remember first seeing the film in theaters seeing Gere gliding around in his first musical number singing in a campy Chicago accent.  But Gere did pull it off.  Then he pulled it off again, then again, and again.  Gere proved something in this film that he hadn’t prior, and very well may not in the future either (although I’m calling a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest”).  He showed us he is an amazing talent, that he can act, sing and dance.

I tend to agree with Sean Penn that Golden Globes are meaningless, that they don’t hold much clout.  I agree to a certain point (although if I won one, I would thank my Mom, and cry for joy) but in certain cases, I do believe that they mean a lot, they sometimes get it right.  When Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges”, and the best picture going to “Babel” and when Richard Gere won his Globe for Best Actor (Musical/Drama) for “Chicago”.  I was just pleased that he was recognized, and I was pleased that the SAG recognized him that year too.  I am saying that Gere gave the best performance that year?  Absolutely not.  Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance that year in “Gangs of New York”, a close second would be a tie between Gere and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” but the Academy didn’t even nominate Richard Gere, and completely ignored him.  He must have had the Mickey Rourke syndrome of having burnt, no wait, blown up his bridges by being a tough star to deal with when he was younger.  But of course the Academy was being political and making a statement with Awarding it’s Best Actor, to Adrien Brody for Roman Polanski’s holocaust film, “The Pianist”.

Richard Gere with fellow winner Renee Zellwiger at the 2002 Golden Globes.

Gere’s outstanding performance in “Chicago” launched him back into the A list where he made “The Hoax” which in an incredibly underrated film where he gained weight and wore a prosthetic nose about a wannabe writer who sold his BS story to publishing companies about his character, Clifford Irving, was set to help Howard Hughes write his memoirs.  He also stared in “I’m Not There” playing the Billy the Kid persona of Bob Dylan.  I am very excited about Gere’s upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest” where in the restricted promo trailer shows Gere waking up to his alarm clock and sitting up in bed – quick cut to Gere at his kitchen table in front of a bowl of cereal where he sits, isolated, and reaches and puts the barrel of his service revolver into his mouth.  My only fear is Gere peaked with “Chicago”, but I am hoping that his best is still to come.