A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the crime drama “White Boy Rick,” the Nicolas Cage rage-a-thon “Mandy” and the thriller “A Simple Favor.”
In real life Richard Wershe Jr. lived twenty lives all before the time he could legally have a drink. As a teenage FBI informant he lived the high life before it all came crashing down. A new film, “White Boy Rick,” details his rise and terrible tumble.
14-year-old Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) a.k.a. White Boy Rick, lives with his father Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey),and older sister Dawn (Bel Powley) across the street from his grandparents (Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie) in 1980s Detroit. Despite the newly launched “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign crack is everywhere, seducing many in his neighbourhood.
Sr. is a small time dealer in illegal guns with aspirations of one day opening up a legit business. Before he can do that, however, Jr. is convinced to become an undercover agent for the FBI. If he snitches on local drug dealers, they say, the feds will leave his father’s operation alone. The teenager takes the deal and soon is dealing cocaine and rolling in cash. His run comes to a sudden end when he becomes a victim of the war on drugs. Arrested for drug possession of an enormous amount of cocaine the feds drop him like a hot potato and he is sentenced to thirty years behind bars.
There’s a lot going on in “White Boy Rick.” The main thrust of the story, Jr.’s rise and fall, is muddied by the addition of side characters. They’re often entertaining—particularly in the case of the grandparents—or unexpectedly touching—Powley nicely portrays Dawn’s fragility and descent into addiction—but feel like after thoughts in an already busy movie.
Newcomer Merrit and McConaughey have great chemistry. Merrit, found at a Detroit casting call, isn’t quite up to the emotional heights necessary for us to care about him but fares better when he’s required to swagger around the screen.
While overstuffed, “White Boy Rick” does give McConaughey a chance to act as anchor, deftly portraying his desperation for the American Dream while keeping his family together in the only way he knows how.
“White Boy Rick” nicely captures the grit of 1980s Detroit and makes a powerful statement of the failure of the war on drugs but despite the multi-pronged story and dramatic turns in Jr.’s life it never completely grabs our attention.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the crime drama “White Boy Rick,” the Nicolas Cage rage-a-thon “Mandy” and why Lady Gaga kissed him at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Richard and CP24 anchorGeorge Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves” and Jessica Rothe in “Forever My Girl.”
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” and the Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves” and Jessica Rothe in “Forever My Girl.”
When you think of Christian Bale what picture do you conjure up in your mind’s eye? Is it as American Psycho’s square-jawed investment banker Patrick Bateman? Or is it as the gaunt whisper of a man from The Machinist? Perhaps it’s as 3:10 to Yuma’s scruffy cowboy Dan Evans or the cowled Caped Crusader of the Batman films.
The point is Bale recreates himself from film to film. “It’s helpful not to look like yourself,” he recently told The Guardian. “If I look in the mirror and go, ‘Ah, that doesn’t look like me,’ that’s helpful.”
He could make a fortune playing superheroes in action movies but instead chooses to shake things up. Since his breakthrough performance in 1987’s Empire of the Sun, he has been a chameleon, losing 60 pounds to play the skeletal lead in The Machinist and gaining a beer gut and a combover for his role in American Hustle.
Creating the “Olympian physique” of serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho took some discipline. “I’m English,” he said, “we don’t have many gyms around. We’d rather go to a pub instead.” A trainer and a protein diet took off the pounds.
As boxer and former drug addict Dicky Ecklund in The Fighter he dropped 30 pounds and used makeup and prosthetics to age himself. How did he lose the weight? “Usually I always say, ‘Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight.’ I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie, to say that.” In reality he trained with the real-life Ecklund and boxed the pounds off.
In Velvet Goldmine he plays a London journalist looking into the life and faked death of glam rock singer Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Once again he had to physically transform, but not in the traditional way.
When his mom saw that he was working out and running at 6 a.m. she said, “Christian, what are you doing? You’re doing a film about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Why don’t you do it the way they did it? They weren’t out running. They drank a helluva lot and lived unhealthily.” “I took that to heart,” he said.
This weekend he appears in Hostiles as the elaborately moustachioed Joseph J. Blocker, an 1892-era U.S. Army captain approaching retirement, grappling with the anguish and regret that has scarred his soul. The impressive ’stache may be his biggest physical transformation for this role — the AV Club joked “Christian Bale’s moustache is the best thing about Hostiles” — but he says the biggest change here was spiritual.
To create the character’s contemplative demeanour he spent a lot of time “sitting in a room quietly staring at a wall.” He says he likes to get as “distant as possible” from his own personality. Imagining Blocker’s life journey before filming allowed him to internalize the character and “feel like you’re trying very hard by the time you get to be working.”
Next up for Bale is the biopic Backseat. He shaved his head and packed on pounds — “I’ve just been eating a lot of pies,” he says — to play former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney. “I’ve got to stop doing it,” says the 43-year-old actor of the extreme weight gain. “I suspect it’s going to take longer to get this off.”
“Hostiles,” the new Christian Bale drama, is a period piece with a potent message for today. With a nod to the John Wayne classic “The Searchers,” it’s a sombre tale of a man who must confront his deeply held racism.
Set in 1892, Bale plays Joseph J. Blocker, a U.S. Army captain approaching retirement; soul darkened by a career spent warring with indigenous peoples. He’s lost many of his men at the hands of his enemy, seen his people butchered and scalped. In return he turned battlegrounds into killing fields soaked in blood.
Under orders he reluctantly does one last official job before riding off into the sunset. His commanding officer (Stephen Lang) gives him a choice, escort an old enemy, Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) now dying of cancer, from an remote Army gaol in New Mexico to the Chief’s home in the grasslands of Montana or face a court martial. Putting together a crew of his most trusted men, including his right hand man Sergeant Tommy Metz (Rory Cochrane), he begins the long, dangerous trek. A day or so in the come across Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), a widow whose family was slaughter right in front of her.
The physical journey is ripe with danger—they are ambushed by Comanche and must drop off a dangerous prisoner (Ben Foster) along the way—but the metaphysical journey is more interesting. As the days pass Blocker rediscovers his humanity; the man he was before he allowed hate to overwhelm.
Writer, director Scott Cooper’s film drips with gravitas. It is a serious minded look at the bigotry and brutality that fuelled the U.S. Army dealings with the frontier tribes while making room for Blocker’s redemptive arc. But for as beautiful as the movie is, it never feels authentic. Sure you can almost smell the campfires, blood and sweat. Cooper’s details are evocative of a time and place, it’s the relationships between the characters that don’t ring true. The anti-racism message is a powerful and important one but turned into a cliché in its execution. Underdeveloped indigenous characters, all stoicism and nobility, seem to exist only to aid Blocker’s attitude change, which makes the movie feel lopsided, tilted toward Blocker and his band of white saviours.
I think the movie mostly has its heart in the right place in terms of promoting tolerance but the reconciliation portrayed here feels off kilter. (SPOILER ALERT) By the time the end credits roll on this ponderous story, the white viewpoint of the storytelling is made all too clear in a conclusion that sees the two above the title stars come to the rescue of a young indigenous character.
“Hostiles” is a beautifully turned out film. Cooper fills each frame of this deliberately paced movie with a kind of bleak beauty. But with the elegance of the filmmaking comes frustration at the story’s missteps. Bale digs deep, grappling with the anguish and regret that has scarred Blocker’s soul but his transformation doesn’t seem real, or possible.