MAY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 5


American Psycho
28 Days

Frequency: plot-driven "summer" movie a welcome retreat from the pathetic norm.

Gladiator: Ridley Scott's perfect balance of horrific violence and Machiavellian intrigue.

The Virgin Suicides: An unconventional trip from suburban mystique to teenage suicide.

Oscars provide a revealing look into Hollywood's complex personality.

Waking the Dead: Even after death, the grip of love remains strong (and confusing).


Short Takes
Grading from A-F

American Psycho AMERICAN PSYCHO (R):
I have to give credit where credit's due: Mary Harron tried to be unique with her artsy psychotic dissection. In a horror genre dominated by cookie-cutter "Scream" clones, variety is wonerful. Rare, but refreshing. In this case, different is just, well, different. The plot of the movie is open to varied, scattered interpretations: whether the killer is actually a killer or just such a faceless dork that no one believes his crimes. It's usually the mark of a good movie if you're thinking on the way out of the theater, unfortunately for Harron much of this thinking is the bastard child of bewilderment and confusion. Artsy, over-examinations can only go so far before becoming comical. "American Psycho" crosses the line into the realm of the absurd.

28 DAYS (PG-13):
Without getting too seeped in an over-depressive portrait of an alcohol and drug rehab clinic, "28 Days" sheds light on the broken lives in an almost light-hearted, sweeping tour. Sandra Bullock lights up her scenes as usual, even though she plays a recovering addict. Her typical quirkiness is matched by the odd, disjointed cast of fellow patients who besides chanting and singing help her find her way. While the seemingly unrealistic cheerfulness of Betty Thomas' film sometimes works against the serious topic, it's nice to go to a movie occasionally without being bludgeoned with self-importance.

- Kevin Ridolfi

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Send Us Feedback: Quality action overshadows inadequate plot in submarine thriller

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U-571 Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel

Rating: B+

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Thomas Kretchmann, Jon Bon Jovi. David Keith, Jack Noseworthy. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Written by Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery, David Ayer.

Rated PG-13 for war violence. Running time: 105m.

Submarine action films:

The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Winner: 1991 Oscar for Best Effects. Nominated: 1991 Oscar for Best Sound.
Buy It today

Das Boot (1981)
Nominated: 1983 Oscar for Best Cinematography, Best Director (Wolfgang Petersen), Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Buy It today

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
A U.S. sub commander, obsessed with sinking a certain Japanese ship, butts heads with his first officer and crew.
Buy It today


U-571 is a riveting action thriller that is long on explosions and close calls but short on plot logic. This is the kind of movie where a couple of moments after something happens or a pivotal decision is made, you say to yourself: "Hey, wait a minute!" or "Why didn't they do this instead?" On the other hand, if I have to choose between great action set pieces or a perfectly constructed story that fills in all the plot points, I'll take the former every time. And in the action department U-571 delivers in spades.

The plot casts executive officer Lt. Andy Tyler (Matthew McConaughey), in the thick of WWII, as a disgruntled man passed over by promotion because Capt. Dahlgren (Bill Paxton) believes he is too close to his men to make tough decisions. The rest of the film essentially puts McConaughey (A Time to Kill, Dazed and Confused) to the test as he is forced to make those hard decisions as their attempt to capture the "Enigma" code machine from a German U-boat goes awry.

The submarine action film is a subgenre (Run Silent, Run Deep and Das Boot to name a couple) and these films have many common elements: cramped, claustrophobic quarters with harsh lighting and grimy, drab conditions, nail biting depth charge scenes, and one requisite scene where the ship descends below recommended depth, as everyone watches the depth gage slip into the red zone and rivets pop off with the velocity of rifle shots. U-571 delivers admirably in these departments.

I would not be surprised if this film receives Oscar nominations in the set design and sound categories. Most particularly, the way the sound is used in this film is highly effective. The growing volume of explosions as the depth charges come closer, the groan of metal as the u-boat dives, and the labored breathing of the men as they hold in panic add effectively to the mood and tension. Unfortunately, the music at times overwhelms the mood.

Jonathan Mostow also wrote and directed Breakdown a couple years back and these two films have a number of similarities. Both are effective suspense action showcases that suffer from a lack of story logic. Nevertheless, the action carries you along past the plot lapses which in itself demonstrates how effectively Mostow executes his action scenes. Also, a little more levity to punctuate the desperate circumstances would have helped. This, combined with the old fashioned sensibility of a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, patriotism, and writing letters home to loved ones makes the characters come across as two-dimensional.

But why carp? Damn the illogical plot points! Full speed ahead!

TIM CLIFTON is Renaissance Online Magazine's staff movie reviewer.

PICTURES "U-571" copyright © 2000 Universal Studios.

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