FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Sergio Leone |||
Sergio Leone

Leone’s career is remarkable in its unrelenting attention to both American culture and the American genre film, exploring the mythic America he created with each successive film examining the established characters in greater depth.

Only his second feature (a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo), Leone's landmark "spaghetti western" caused a revolution and features Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role as "The Man With No Name". This classic brutal drama of feuding families wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, but it was far and away the most successful up to that time.

Plot is of minimal interest, but character is everything to Leone, who places immense meaning in the slightest flick of an eyelid, extensively using the extreme close-up on the eyes to reveal any feeling, as demonstrated by Clint, who squints his way through this slam-bang sequel to A Fistful of Dollars as a wandering gunslinger that must combine forces with his nemesis to track down a wanted killer.

The final chapter in the groundbreaking trilogy follows Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as they form an uneasy alliance to find a stash of hidden gold. Leone focuses on his central theme as they find themselves facing greed, treachery, and murder, showing that the desire for wealth and power turns men into ruthless creatures who violate land and family and believe that a man’s death is less important than how he faces it.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Suspect Zero

By BrianOrndorf

August 27th, 2004

“Suspect Zero” is a first class ticket to dullsville. A bone-dry thriller without any thrills, the plot, which pits a serial killer against other serial killers, is almost too ludicrous for words, and features a director who could care less about it.


After botching a routine murder case in Texas, federal agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart, “The Core”) is sent to New Mexico as punishment. Upon arrival, he starts to receive faxes from a mysterious stranger named O’Ryan (Ben Kingsley) who is slowly roaming around America, murdering the serial killers that law enforcement has failed to catch. With a clairvoyant ability to see his victims, O’Ryan believes that Mackelway is a crucial participant in his destiny, and travels to New Mexico to confront him. Teaming up with a fellow agent, Fran (Carrie-Anne Moss, “The Matrix”), Thomas attempts to piece the clues together to figure out O’Ryan’s ultimate goal.

A serial killer who hunts serial killers. Either the genre has sunk to an all-time low, or this is a decent twist on bone-dry material. “Suspect Zero” is a little of both. A shockingly tedious “thriller” with almost no excitement, regardless of the plot, “Zero” was given the potential for victory with a sharp script by Zak Penn, who appears interested in challenging the formula. However, realized by director E. Elias Merhige, “Zero” is nothing but an absolute drag.

Merhige is a filmmaker from the “pretty pictures first, story second” club, as seen in his big screen debut, the 2000 horror comedy “Shadow of the Vampire.” “Vampire” was a gorgeous looking film, painstakingly detailed. The same can be said of “Zero,” which is careful in depicting the angles of the serial killer existence and the desolate New Mexico locales. Compelling only on an aesthetic level, “Zero” is never visually dry, overreaching often to arrange sequences that won’t meet audience expectations in a clichéd way. It’s a respectable effort from Merhige, and undoubtedly the man understands how to arrange a shot. However, it becomes clear right away, in a carefully framed sequence where O’Ryan confronts his first victim at a truck stop, that visuals are all Merhige is bringing to the table.

Dramatically, “Zero” is a fiasco, recklessly bouncing around logic and coherence like a pinball. Starting with the cold shoulder that greets an important relationship subplot between Thomas and Fran, Merhige is ceaseless in the apathy that he shows the rest of the film. For a picture about impending murder, there is little urgency to “Zero,” leaving the capable cast out in the blazing New Mexico sun to throw hissy fits just to liven up the proceedings (I’m looking your way Kingsley). Merhige doesn’t have the notion that the characters need to be the ones driving the plot, not the cinematographer. I would gladly trade in all the trick shots for genuine pace and some actual thrills.

The serial killer genre has been kind to Paramount Pictures in the past, but this year has clearly identified that the moment is gone (seen also in their stale spring production, “Twisted”). “Suspect Zero” is an obvious indication that the studio is now simply beating a dead horse.

My rating: D