Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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April 2001

Violent Night

Even the cartoon is not calm and bright


In Washington, D.C., Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) has been named the new “drug czar,” while his teenage daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) begins her own journey into drug use. In San Diego, the world of upper-class housewife Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is turned upside down when her husband (Steven Bauer) is accused of being a drug lord, while a pair of Federal agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) protect the prosecution’s key witness (Miguel Ferrer). And in Tijuana, Mexico, local police officer Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) gets involved in some corruption. Steven Soderbergh, director of the voluptuous Erin Brockovich, has outdone himself this time with the sober drug war epic Traffic, an astonishing and dynamic piece of filmmaking. Soderbergh has become a master of combining stylistic innovation with mainstream fare. Using different filters and techniques, as well as reportedly doing most of the filming by hand himself, he gives each locale in the film a different flavor, enabling viewers to recognize readily the location of and characters in any given scene. The plot of Traffic is complex, tightly woven and involving, with characters that are as well developed as the limited screen time allows. Being ignored at the Oscars was likely a blow to Douglas’ ego; it’s the De Niro-ishly intense Del Toro who really shines. Just say yes to Traffic, my pick for best film of the year.

15 Minutes**

Celebrated homicide detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) allows a talented, young arson investigator, Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns), to team up with him to track down two Eastern European killers (Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov) on a city-wide rampage. Unpredictable and clever, the two obsessively record their crime spree on videotape. Using media attention to attain fame, they capture the attention of a tabloid newsman (Kelsey Grammer) and wind up as the lurid top story. As the situation spins out of control, the killers plan to videotape their crimes as proof that they are insane and not responsible for what they are doing. But how many have to die to make that point? Director John Herzfeld presents a stew of gruesome homicides, tasteful sprinkles of humor and solid performances. De Niro is in top form, and is backed up by a great supporting cast. The film walks a fine line between being topical and hypocritical, slamming the media for sensationalizing the violence around which the story itself revolves.

Princess Mononoke****

In the English-dubbed version of Japan’s Princess Mononoke, young warrior Ashitaka (voiced by Billy Crudup) is forced to kill a fierce, demonic boar to protect his village. While dying, the evil creature places a mysterious curse on him. Defiant and determined to lift it, Ashitaka mounts his trusty red elk and travels to the boar’s homeland, where he becomes involved in a dispute between Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) and her feisty ironworkers and the forest creatures, led by Moro, the Wolf Spirit (Gillian Anderson), and her adopted human daughter, Mononoke (Claire Danes). Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the fluid and detailed animation is technically awesome, emotionally powerful and visually stunning. But don’t let the animation fool you. At well over two hours in length, and with numerous scenes of graphic violence and a complex storyline, it’s definitely not meant for young children. Nevertheless, Princess Mononoke is a wonderful movie, one of the best this year.

Double Take*

Daryl Chase (Orlando Jones) is a handsome and successful investment banker. He is well liked by most, from his doorman to his boss — but not by con man Freddy (Eddie Griffin). When he returns home, Daryl finds hired killers waiting for him, but the CIA intervenes to keep him alive. The next morning Daryl finds he is wanted for money laundering and murder. Now a fugitive, he heads for the train station, where he bumps into Freddy again, but this time the con artist saves his life by switching clothes with him. The two board a train for Mexico to avoid being put into prison. Once he makes the mistake of taking on Freddy’s identity, he finds himself in even bigger trouble than he was before. Double Take, with which screenwriter George Gallo makes his directing debut, is a flat and frantic exercise in futility. Billed as an action comedy, the film is hardly humorous. The gratuitous gunplay gives the impression that Gallo realized halfway through the production that the flick was failing, so tried to make up for it with chaos. The result leaves much to be desired.

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