Thursday, March 18, 2010

GIVE 'EM HELL MALONE

I'm a big fan of pulp crime and detective fiction, and as a writer, I've dabbled in the genre myself. So, whenever a movie comes along that looks like it does justice to that kind of story, I'm guaranteed to want to check it out. It took me a couple months, but I finally got my hands on Russell Mulcahy's (HIGHLANDER, THE SHADOW) 2009 stab at the genre, GIVE 'EM HELL MALONE, and watched it last night.

Fedora and trench coat-wearing Malone (Thomas Jane, THE MIST, THE PUNISHER) is an ex-private eye-turned-gun-for-hire, who is contracted to retrieve a mysterious briefcase. It's a set-up, of course, and although the super-humanly resilient Malone survives and gets away with the case, he immediately finds himself the target of a bunch of eccentric killers in the employ of a crimeboss named Whitmore (Gregory Harrison) and on the run with a beautiful femme fatale (Elsa Pataky, SNAKES ON A PLANE).

Let's get this out of the way - if you go into this expecting a serious film noir thriller, you'll likely be disappointed. MALONE is a comic book. Plot, characters, dialogue, action - they're all exaggerated and played out with tongue firmly buried in cheek. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a spoof, but it's certainly not intended to be realistic nor taken too seriously. With a rogues gallery of assassins with names like Boulder (Ving Ramses), Mauler (Chris Yen) and Matchstick (Doug Hutchinson), the witty script by Mark Hosak makes its intentions pretty clear. You also have guys in 50s-style fedoras, suits and trench-coats running around what is clearly modern L.A. without any explanation - presumably because it just looks cool.

As usual with Mulcahy, the film is stylishly directed. Action scenes are solid, and most of the performances are pretty good. Jane channels his inner Bogart quite effectively, Harrison makes a surprisingly formidable heavy, and Rames is perfect in his role. Hutchinson tries to emulate Heath Ledger's Joker with his psycho arsonist, while Yen gives her blade-loving, Asian schoolgirl a lot of crazy sexiness (or sexy craziness). The plot has several neat little surprises, and some of the dialogue is quite sharp and funny.

The DVD from National Entertainment Media is perfectly satisfactory, if a bit slim on supplements. You do get a very nice, sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with crystal clear Dolby 5.1 audio. For extras, there are short, on-screen interviews with Jane, Pataky and Hutchinson, and the theatrical trailer. There are also previews for a few other NEM titles.

Overall, it's a decent little slice of B-movie crime pulp and an enjoyable 96 minutes of entertainment. It's well-made, mostly well-acted, and trusts that its audience is in on the gag. If you go into it with the right expectations, I think you'll have fun with it. Recommended.

BUY: Give 'Em Hell Malone