Tag Archives: Kathleen Quinlan

Event Horizon (1997) Movie Retro Review By D.M. Anderson

Event Horizon Review

Revisited: A Tale of Two Bowlers

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Philip Eisner
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan

After my dad retired, he decided to dedicate much of his spare time to bowling, a game he’s always loved.

In his younger days, he was good enough to participate in regional tournaments throughout the northwest (in fact, I think that’s how he first met my mother). Like a lot of us, though, the game eventually had to take a back seat to bigger responsibilities. His beloved bag & ball sat in the back of his closet most of the time, taken out only on rare occasions when bowling was part of his kids’ birthday plans. But now, comfortably retired with both children out of the house, he’s re-embraced the game with state-of-the-art equipment (including a wrist-brace that looks like a sci-fi weapon) and a serious commitment to improving his skills. And, damn, he’s good. The guy can make the ball hang at the edge of the gutter forever before it hooks to blast through all ten pins like a weed whacker. More often than not, his scores are in the 200s. There was even one time not too long ago when he missed a perfect game by only one strike.

I enjoy bowling too. The difference is I suck. A good game for me means breaking 100 or at least avoiding a gutter ball. I’m clumsy, have no form, can’t put any spin on the ball and often fall on my ass during my release (much to the amusement of those I’m with). Still, there are rare occasions when I accidentally play well enough to convince myself I’m pretty good. There even was one family outing when I threw enough strikes and spares to actually beat my dad (which must have killed him, since everyone knows he’s the best bowler in the family). But honestly, I have no fucking idea what I did to rack up such a score. It was just luck, of course, because Dad got his groove back for the second game that night and slaughtered everyone by over a hundred pins.

I guess you could call my dad the Ridley Scott of the bowling world. Even though he’ll never be Dick Weber, Dad’s skills are obvious to anyone watching. Similarly, Scott’s a very good director, and even though he’s no Spielberg, he’s made enough great movies that when he makes bad ones (like A Good Year, G.I. Jane and Robin Hood) we don’t reassess his abilities. So, if my dad is bowling’s Ridley Scott, that must make me the sport’s Paul W.S. Anderson.

Paul W.S. Anderson is, for the most part, a shitty director who makes shitty movies, a lot of them based on video games. He’s never had an original idea of his own and most of the tricks in his bag he ripped off from better directors. He’s probably most-famous for the Resident Evil franchise, diluted zombie movies for undemanding mallrats. Those movies play like the video games they are based on. In fact, most of Anderson’s movies play like video games. Over the years, he’s shown no growth or improvement as a filmmaker (just like my bowling game). Each new film is no better or worse than his others…except one.

Anderson’s third film, Event Horizon, is his equivalent to my single awesome bowling round, and Citizen-fucking-Kane compared to all of the other movies on his resume. It’s also one of the few that isn’t a remake, video game adaptation or based on a comic book. That’s not saying it’s monumentally original. Event Horizon draws a ton of obvious inspiration from other films, Alien and The Shining in particular. But since when has originality really mattered? After all, nobody cared that Speed was simply Die Hard on a bus.

The year is 2047 and the crew of the rescue ship, Lewis & Clark, are assigned to venture out to Neptune to investigate the sudden reappearance of the Event Horizon, a ship built to create its own black holes in order to travel faster than light, but inexplicably disappeared seven years earlier. Accompanying the crew is the ship’s designer, Martin Weir (Sam Neill), who’s obsessed with finding out where it’s traveled. None of the other crew, especially Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) care about all that…they just want to rescue any survivors and get the hell back home. There are no survivors, however, and the ship itself, having returned from a dimension beyond anyone’s rational imagination (presumably Hell), now seems to be a living, evil entity that wants to take the Lewis & Clark crew back to where it returned from.

Storywise, Event Horizon is somewhat simplistic, disjointed and ambiguous, but what it sometimes lacks in narrative coherence it more than makes up for in style and tone. This is a deliberately paced, creepy-ass movie that establishes a feeling of dread in the very first scene and maintains it throughout. This is one of the few movies that make space look like a shitty place to be, especially since the crew of the Lewis & Clark have traveled way too far into the outer reaches of our solar system for their own good.

In addition, the movie simply looks scary. In terms of establishing a mood, it may be the best looking sci-fi/horror movie since Alien. The Event Horizon itself is an ominously creepy ship and becomes character in its own right, just like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Sure, there are plenty of the usual horror tricks (false scares, gratuitous gore, and a little too much exposition at the end), but you could place such accusations on most horror movies. My point is Event Horizon may not be a classic, but it is the one movie where Paul W.S. Anderson displayed skills as a true filmmaker to create something dark, moody and foreboding without dumbing things down for the video game crowd. He hasn’t done anything worth a shit since, meaning Event Horizon was either a happy accident or he just stopped giving a damn once the Resident Evil movies inflated his bank account. Personally, I’d like to think it’s the former, because even now, whenever I go bowling, I aspire to reach the same glory as that one time I beat my dad, the game’s Ridley Scott. Who knows…I might still have another great game in me, even if I have no idea how to achieve it.

Maybe Paul W.S. Anderson does too.

Breakdown (1997) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

BREAKDOWN

Director: Jonathan Mostow
Writers: Jonathan Mostow (story), Jonathan Mostow (screenplay)
Stars: Kurt Russell,  J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan

Well, I’m continuing on with the whole ‘retro’ review theme and I thought I’d share my views on what’s becoming a bit of a forgotten classic from 1997. (It’s not George of the Jungle or Batman and Robin) No, it’s Jonathon Mostow’s Breakdown, which honestly picked a terrible year to release, because it’s a brilliant film with a captivating story and great performances. With the competition that year however it was never going to get the love it deserved.

It follows Jeffrey (Kurt Russell) and Amy (Kathleen Quinlan), a husband and wife in the process of journeying through the barren desert environment of Utah on their way to San Diego. Their old life in Boston left them in financial hardship, you see and Jeffrey’s hoping his new job will be just the boost they need.

They first hit our screens in their flashy, red, pick-up truck narrowly avoiding a pair of rednecks that pull out right in front of them. Things don’t get any better upon meeting said rednecks further down the road at a gas station. The driver going by the name of Earl (M.C. Gainey), takes umbrage at the incident and begins throwing his weight around and when the car stalls shortly afterwards in the middle of nowhere, it becomes increasingly clear that this just ain’t going to be their day.

The redneck duo arrive on the scene once more, passing the pair initially before stalking them from a distance for a few nervous minutes. This brief tense moment (a sign of things to come) ends when a trucker appears on the scene apparently eager to assist. Christening himself as the Red Barr (J.T. Walsh), he takes a quick look at the truck and kindly offers to take them to Belle’s, a small diner down the road. Jeffrey, of course, isn’t keen on leaving the car on its lonesome and decides to stay, letting Amy ride on to call for a tow truck. Whilst his logic is understandable, you can’t help but feel that it’s his wife he should be more concerned about, which prophetically turns out to be the case.

This is a fantastically well made film from Mostow, absolutely bursting at the seams with tension, action and mystery. It of course shares a massive amount of similarities with the more recently released Nocturnal Animals, a film I also reviewed. I do recall mentioning at the time that my favourite part of that movie was the film within a film, action heavy, mystery component.

Breakdown has that on steroids and thankfully without the layer of pretentiousness that afflicted Mr. Ford’s creation. And whilst the villain within Nocturnal Animals fictitious setting lacked a rational reason for his actions (he was just a psycho that like killing people), the Red Barr has it in an abundance. Superficially, it plays on the ingrained, ideological hatred between southern republicans and northern democrats, but the reality is much simpler.

Sure, he’s surrounded by hillbilly, rednecks of dubious mental fortitude, but Barr is a man motivated by money, plain and simple. He targets affluent looking road-trippers for the sole reason of robbing them and there’s a very telling moment when Jeffrey stumbles upon several boxes full with personal belongings of previous victims, hinting at the cold, callousness of the man and his cronies. J.T. Walsh’s performance plays a massive part in making the character so believable too.

Right from the first moment you see him step out of his truck in a stereotypical trucker cap and double denim, there’s an immediate sense of uneasiness despite his forced, faux politeness. Walsh imbues the character with palpable personality, even if it does become increasingly dislikable once it begins to be fleshed out. I know it’s a spoiler, but his end is easily one of the most satisfying put to film.

I run out of superlatives to describe Kurt Russell. The man is a fantastic actor, one of my favourites and much like the majority of the cast within Breakdown, he’s perfectly cast in his role of Jeffrey. I particularly liked the way the character gradually ditched the slight middle-class arrogance for a more aggressive rambunctiousness as the growing realisation of what was happening began to dawn on him. His little angry outbursts, first directed at the Belle diner owner soon developed into the full on torturing of his nemesis Earl with tape and some hard braking.

Jeffrey is just an ordinary man and certainly not a willing action hero, doing everything to rescue his wife. It was a role that demanded lots of physicality, including wading through rapids to climbing up the side of houses and Russell eased his way through it in a manner that Tom Cruise would be proud of.

My preference is for mystery dramas like this to build into an exciting finale. Se7en did it breathtakingly well, Nocturnal Animals less so, and whilst not quite reaching the levels of the former, Breakdown certainly builds into a fitting climax. The confrontation at Barr’s ranch develops into a good ten or fifteen minutes of action fuelled craziness, involving his unsuspecting wife and son, not to mention a thrilling chase scene with a truck that ushered back uncomfortable memories of Terminator 2.

Its terrifically done and a fitting end to a highly enjoyable film. By all accounts it was a relative success on its release and did make a profit, but the sheer plethora of great films that year meant it probably didn’t get the level of recognition it deserves. I suspect a large majority of people will have seen it before, but if you haven’t then I absolutely recommend giving it a watch.