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.

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King's Ransom

By BrianOrndorf

April 22nd, 2005

Anthony Anderson headlining his own comedy? "King's Ransom" never stood a chance of being good.


Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson) is a filthy rich, conceited CEO on the eve of a divorce from his wife (Kellita Smith, “The Bernie Mac Show”) that will cost him millions. Looking to prevent any loss of his beloved wealth, he enlists his dimwitted mistress Peaches (Regina Hall, “Scary Movie”) into arranging a mock kidnapping to force his wife into hasty legal decisions. Unfortunately for Malcolm, many associates in his life have the same plans, with the arrogant businessman inadvertently ending up in the home of Corey (Jay Mohr), a loser in way over his head.

Rotund, all-mouth comedian Anthony Anderson has stumbled upon a small morsel of fame recently playing sidekicks in such films as “Kangaroo Jack” and “Barbershop.” How this happened, I could never explain. Anderson’s aggressive comedic skills leave a lot to be desired, amplified horrifically when the actor decides he’ll improv his way through a scene. Watching Anderson try to be funny is like getting a tooth pulled, or sitting through a Tim Burton DVD audio commentary. So what to make of “King’s Ransom,” a film where Anderson is the star of the production? You don’t have to shake a magic 8-ball to see where this is headed.

Straight-to-video maestro Jeff Byrd makes his big screen directorial debut with “Ransom,” and I’ll give the filmmaker this, his picture isn’t boring. Byrd keeps the pace snappy as he plows through his checklist of thug life urban clichés (gold teeth, car fetishes, deeply sexualized women), flatulence jokes, and Anderson’s train whistle delivery. Byrd keeps his film on target, though what he’s battling to maintain really isn’t something to be proud of. There’s nothing in “Ransom” that hasn’t already been covered in countless other urban films, including the slapstick humiliation of Caucasians and the monotone thumpity-thump-thump-thump hip-hop soundtrack. “Ransom” doesn’t want to challenge the genre in the least, instead it imagines itself a comedic farce, which it could’ve become if not for Anderson’s shrill, lazy performance.

The only comic inspiration that seems to work in “Ransom” comes from Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) and Charlie Murphy as two fringe players in the outrageous Malcolm King kidnap game. While playing his umpteenth convict character, it’s hard to deny Murphy’s hilarious newfound sense of comic timing due to his stellar work on “Chappelle’s Show.” Matching him well is Faison, who delights in playing up the fear (both sexual and physical) his character has of Murphy. They make an amusing team, and “Ransom” rockets up in interest when these two are onscreen. Sadly, Byrd doesn’t seem to feel the same way, and only sporadically cuts back to their subplot.

“King’s Ransom” might fly by in a blur, but it still reeks of low quality. While I’m sure there will come a day when Anthony Anderson is ready to carry his own film, after sitting through this one, I hope it doesn’t come anytime soon.

My rating: D