Dispatches From Direct To DVD Purgatory: Brendan Fraser Gone Crazy Edition
Whenever he damn well feels like it Nathan Rabin emerges from his crypt of doom, drinks the blood of virgins to regain his waning potency and writes about two or three DVD premieres for Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory.Journey To The End Of Night Most actors claim they appear in big-budget, special effects blockbusters solely as a way to pay the bills so they can appear for next to nothing in the films they really care about, gritty low-budget dramas where they play ex-con narcoleptics who live with their mother and enjoy an unlikely friendship with a blind Holocaust survivor. In his interview with the A.V Club a while back, Brendan Fraser confessed that he appeared in moody independent films as a way of passing the time between the films he really cares about: big-budget special effects blockbusters where he battles mummies and journeys to the center of the earth and pals around with the Tasmanian Devil, the big homey Monkeybone and Bill Ayers. At this point isn't Bill Ayers, like Joe The Plumber, everyone's friend? Isn't he ultimately humanity's friend?
I found Fraser's attitude refreshing. He seems like an exuberant overgrown kid who still can't believe he gets to play dress up and make-pretend in front of green screens for a living. Readers were less approving. From the vitriol he inspired in the comments section you'd think he'd raped their dog, not appeared in some films they didn't care for.
While other, more pretentious thespians rail against the cruelty of typecasting, Fraser seems comfortable with being cast in film after film as a boyishly handsome goof who has fantastical adventures. And for good reason: his dramatic films tend to suck. Oh sure, he was good in Gods and Monsters and touching in The Scout. And I suppose that horrible Crash movie did O.K.
I can't say enough Fraser's revelatory performance as a Henry Kissinger-like statesman in President Baseball. Fraser was spellbinding, and not just because he was unrecognizable after taking an aging drug specifically for the role. The scene where he negotiated an oil treaty with the King of Salty Arabia was spellbinding. Frightmaster Trent L. Strauss really outdid himself with that one.
Fraser tends to fare worse in non-imaginary movies. There's a reason I've covered three of Fraser's recent non-Mummy movies for this feature (The Last Time, The Air I Breathe and now Journey To The End Of Night. To paraphrase the great Jay Sherman, they stink! The differences between Journey To The End Of Night and this summer's Journey to The Center of the Earth are instructive. For Earth, Fraser was paid millions of dollars, was pampered like a King and got to stay in a ginormous trailer, starred in an international blockbuster that grossed over one hundred million dollars in the U.S alone and made a movie he could proudly show his kids. In Night, however, Fraser was undoubtedly paid in craft-service sandwiches, probably slept in the back seat of the director's car and made a movie that went direct to DVD that he could never show his children unless he wants them to ask questions like, "Why is daddy beating up that hooker and stealing her packet of white powder?"
Yes, Journey To The End Of The Night is the kind of movie where Brendan Fraser beats up a hooker and steals her drugs. That's not even the worst of it. For those keeping score at home, Fraser here plays an angry, alcoholic pimp who snorts blow, plots to rip off dad Scott Glen, furtively fucks his dad's wife and orders people killed. Oh, and then there's a scene where he gets so angry at a blind fortune-teller's reluctance to talk that he orders one of his henchman to kill the soothsayer's dog. At this point, I started to turn against Fraser's character. Before that, I was with him. Afterwards, not so much.
Yet no matter how deplorably his character behaves, an air of goofball innocence clings to Fraser, so his dark deeds come off as unintentionally hilarious. Night deserves a place of pride in the Miscasting Hall of Fame, alongside John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror and Denise Richards as a rocket scientist in The World Is Not Enough. Fraser isn't just playing a bad guy or a villain here: he's playing the worst person in the world, evil incarnate, old Beezlebub minus the horns, cloven hooves and pitchfork.
Ah, but I'm seven thousand words into this review and I haven't even touched upon the plot. Here, Fraser and Glenn play father and son pimps who hire Nigerian dishwasher Mos Def to act as a mule in a massive cocaine sale. Fraser plans to rip off the money before it can get to Glenn so that he can pay off his gambling debts. Or not. Did I mention that Fraser is also a degenerate gambler? Cause he totally is. Otherwise his character would come off as overly sympathetic. Glenn's plans backfire however, when Def is beaten up and robbed by muggers who conveniently neglect to steal his backpack full of money. Violent, profane pulp motherfuckery ensues until a glorious climactic monologue where Fraser explains that he's such a bile-filled fuck-up because when his dear old mom was dying of Cancer Glenn was off giving her nurse a gynecological exam–with his tongue! The last time I saw a scene so hysterically melodramatic Calculon was starring in it.Just How Bad Is It? For lovers of bad movies and hilarious miscasting, it's awesomely bad. For others, it's just plain bad. Expired Jason Patric plays a formidable contender for Fraser's worst person in the world title in Expired. Only this time it's perfect casting. Throughout the eighties and nineties Patric was pegged as a superstar in the making after attention-grabbing performances in Lost Boys,After Dark, My Sweet and Rush. But Patric, the grandson of Jackie Gleason and son of Exorcist star Jason Miller, was too creepy and intense to play conventional romantic leading man parts. It didn't help that his big sell-out roles were in infamous debacles like Speed 2: Cruise Control and The Alamo.
Patric's brooding intensity is put to good use in Expired. In a bravura lead performance, Patric plays a parking enforcement officer who's a simmering powder keg of rage. And that's one of his more endearing character traits. Patric's prickly jackass begins to thaw ever so slightly, however, when he meets mousy meter maid Samantha Morton. Suddenly Patric begins to envision a life that doesn't revolve around masturbating feverishly to Internet porn, barely legal prostitutes, ignoring his rock-star son and spewing venom at everyone he meets. Patric and Morton engage in a strange, awkward sort-of-courtship featuring some of the most excruciating onscreen sex this side of Your Friends And Neighbors. Patric proves his own worst enemy; he can't do something nice for Morton without immediately undermining himself with three or four acts of mindless, arbitrary cruelty.Expired is brutal and uncompromising but weirdly empathetic. In its unflinching look at the ugliness of life on the fringes it sometimes suggests Todd Solondz or Neil Labute but writer-director Cecilia Miniucchi genuinely seems to like her characters, especially Morton, who is heartbreaking in her squirmy vulnerability. She's more than matched by Patric, whose performance is a masterpiece of barely controlled rage: you don't know whether he'll get the girl or beat her to death with his fists. Just How Bad Is It? It's actually quite good The Third Wheel: In 1993 an aspiring filmmaker named Jay Lacopo co-wrote and starred in a short film called I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her On A Meat Hook, and Now I Have A Three-Picture Deal at Disney for hungry young actor-writer-director Ben Affleck. Yes, it looked like Lacopo was going to enjoy a turbo-fueled rocket ride to the top alongside his good buddy Affleck. Alas, Affleck found someone new and Locopo was abruptly kicked to the curb. Even Casey Affleck wouldn't return his calls.
Nine years later Affleck took pity on Lacopo and Executive Produced and co-starred in what critics and audiences alike consider the greatest Jay Lacopo vehicle ever made, The Third Wheel. It's a featherweight romantic comedy, part Envy, part What About Bob?, about an amiable dope (professional amiable dope Luke Wilson) who scores a dream date with sexy co-worker Denise Richards. While Wilson's co-workers–including an amusingly caffeinated Affleck–takes bets on whether Wilson will get to explore Richards' honey pot, and also have sex with her after said honey-pot-exploration is finished, Wilson is forced to deal with a daffy homeless man (Lacopo) with a genius for upstaging him. The result is slight, moderately engaging but utterly forgettable. Heck, I saw this fucker two days ago and can barely remember anything about it beyond an awkward cameo from Matt Damon as Richards' glowering ex and an end credits sequence where Lapoco leads the cast through an elaborate production number set to Young MC's "Bust A Move". Oh well. I'm sure the next Lapoco vehicle will be a little more memorable.Just How Bad Is It? It's less bad than affably mediocre. Up Next on the blog front from me Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club: You'll Never Suck Cock In This Town Again: a bunch of dirty whores Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club: You'll Never Suck Cock In This Town Again Too: The Cock Re-Suckening: a different, even skankier bunch of dirty whores Juiced (O.J Simpson prank DVD) for Ephemereview and Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory: Manic Pixie Dream Girl Edition (Watching The Detectives, My Sassy Girl)