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Andy Lau (#110 of 4)

15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

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15 Famous Bad Movie Cops
15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

Oren Moverman’s Rampart arrives in select theaters this weekend, adding Woody Harrelson to the pantheon of actors who’ve taken on crooked cop roles, playing officers who uphold the law about as well as a cheerleader holds her liquor. For decades, films have been infiltrated by serve-and-protect types who play both sides, abuse their powers, and leave behind paths of destruction. “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen,” reads the tagline on Rampart’s poster. These 15 badge-defilers would beg to differ.

The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai

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The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai
The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai

Jason Bellamy: “When did everything start to have an expiration date?” That’s a question posed by a lovelorn cop in Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film Chungking Express, and in a sense that line is a snapshot of what Wong’s films are all about. In the 20 years and change that Wong has been directing, he’s developed several signature flourishes that make his films instantly recognizable—from his striking use of deep, rich colors, to his affinity for repetitive musical sequences, to his judicious use of slow motion for emotional effect, and many more—but at the core of Wong’s filmography is an acute awareness of passing time and a palpable yearning for things just out of reach. In the line above, the cop in Chungking Express is ostensibly referring to the expiration dates on cans of pineapple, which he’s using to mark the days since his girlfriend dumped him, but in actuality he’s referring to that failed relationship, to his (somewhat) fleeting youth (he’s approaching his 25th birthday) and to the deadline he has created for his girlfriend to reconsider and take him back. In the cop’s mind, at least, whether they will be together has as much to do with when as with why. Or put more simply: if timing isn’t everything, it’s a lot of it.

That theme pops up again and again in Wong’s films. Roger Ebert zeroed in on it in his 2001 review of Wong’s In the Mood for Love when he observed of the two lead characters, “They are in the mood for love, but not in the time or place for it.” While that’s particularly true of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, it could readily be applied to almost all of Wong’s lead characters. In this conversation we’re going to discuss Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love (2000), 2046 (2004) and My Blueberry Nights (2007), and over and over again we’ll see characters united by emotion but kept apart by timing. So I’d like to open by asking you the following: Do the recurring themes of Wong’s body of work strengthen the potency and poetry of the individual films or water them down? Put another way, are Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express enhanced by In the Mood for Love and 2046 or obliterated by them, or are they not significantly affected one way or the other?

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: 127 Hours, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, Tabloid, & Guest

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Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>127 Hours</em>, <em>Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame</em>, <em>Tabloid</em>, & <em>Guest</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>127 Hours</em>, <em>Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame</em>, <em>Tabloid</em>, & <em>Guest</em>

127 Hours: Danny Boyle’s dramatization of the real-life ordeal of outdoorsman Aron Ralston boasts the kind of conceptual riskiness that a director has the cachet to tackle only after, say, delivering a crowd-pleasing Best Picture Oscar-winner. Unfortunately, it also has Slumdog Millionaire’s brand of exploitative uplift, in which cinematic jazziness is mercilessly employed to sugarcoat portraits of human misery. In the beginning, as he settles in for a weekend of thrills in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, Ralston (James Franco) is a roguish whirligig, light as air, high on his own breezy confidence. When he falls into a rocky crevice and gets his arm pinned under a boulder, there’s the feeling that he’s experiencing stillness and, subsequently, helplessness for the first time. The five days he spends there, alone but for dwindling supplies, a small digital camera, and a blunt knife, are envisioned by Boyle as a visceral smear of panic, excretions, mirages, and epiphanies. Far more than the filmmaker’s hectic, ultimately tension-dispersing visual and aural gimmickry, the picture’s best special effect remains Franco’s performance, which catches the horror and sublimity of a jock humbled while trapped at the bottom of the earth, becoming spiritually whole even as he literally loses parts of himself.