24 Lies A Second

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Matt And Dog

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column that would do
anything for love (but it wouldn't do that). This week, two additions to the 'second time
around' file - well, sort of...

Bourne Again

Now, readers with long trousers and short shrift may recall that I was not particularly
impressed with Doug Liman's 2002 thriller The Bourne Identity. It had some things going
for it but I felt that on the whole it was bit bland, and badly lacking in the lead performance
department. As usual, everyone else in the world disagreed and the startling box office Bourne
Identity racked up made a sequel virtually inevitable. And here it is: The Bourne
, directed by Paul Greengrass.

At the start of the movie, we find our favourite amnesiac hitman/youth hosteller Jason Bourne
(Matt Damon) in Goa with his main squeeze Marie (the bodacious Franka Potente), doing his best to
remember who he is, all the while avoiding his former CIA employers and anyone else who might have
a gripe about his former lifestyle.

Sadly all this comes to an end when Bad Guys frame Bourne for the murder of two men in Berlin,
and send another, equally grumpy hitman (Karl Urban from Lord of the Rings - if I had a
fiver for every time I've typed those last five words this summer...) to settle his hash. I hope I'm
not spoiling this film for anyone when I reveal that Bourne does not get topped fifteen minutes in,
but instead sets out to discover who it is that's got it in for him, and exact a suitable vengeance
upon them...

Everyone is likening the burgeoning Bourne franchise to the Bond phenomenon, which I suppose is
understandable given that the Bond films have come to epitomise mainstream action movie-making,
and both series are about spies. But the two really have very little in common, and I suppose the
success of Bourne is because it does do something different with the genre. The Bourne
is in no way a conventional studio thriller: it's dour, and naturalistic, and the plot is
ferociously convoluted - I can speak only for myself, but I had to pay attention in order to keep
track of who was double-crossing who and why. Bourne (played impressively well by Damon) is a
sombre, grim figure, who barely speaks for most of the movie, let alone quips his way through action
set-pieces. You feel a certain amount of sympathy for him, but you certainly wouldn't want to be

This realism colours the entire movie: having seen it I'm pretty sure I could now track someone
across Europe, avoiding police all the while, find out which hotel they were staying in, and sneak into
their room and liquidate them with a rolled-up magazine and a toaster. Director Greengrass coats
the whole thing in a patina of authenticity that's very beguiling. That element of the movie which
isn't concerned with Bourne's latest jaunt is mostly to do with internal CIA politics, as Bourne is
hunted by Joan Allen's senior agent, variously helped and hindered by Brian Cox and Julia Stiles
(Cox and Stiles were apparently in the first one, not that I remember them at all). The
performances here are equally solid and the storytelling assured: this is where most of the plot
takes place, so that's just as well.

But it's not all wordiness, tradecraft and depression: one element of the original movie that
really did impress me was its action sequences, and Supremacy surpasses it here too. Damon
is extremely convincing in his fight sequences and Greengrass puts together an astonishingly good
car chase for a man who started his career on the TV news show World in Action. There
aren't many sequences like this, but there are just enough to keep the movie going and they're all
executed pretty much flawlessly.

There's barely a single joke in The Bourne Supremacy, it's not an especially sunny or
cheerful film, and the ending leaves all sorts of questions hanging in the breeze. And, to be honest,
I'm really not sure if this kind of tone and style can be sustained over more than a couple of movies
without it all getting terribly repetitive. But this is great stuff, one of the best movies of the
summer: intelligent, focussed, and engrossing. Recommended.

Pussies Galore

And so the fight-back starts here. With movies based on Marvel Comics' stable of characters
having grossed over two billion dollars over the last five years, their old rivals at DC have decided
to launch their retaliation with Jean-Christophe 'Pitof' Comar's Catwoman, in which Halle
Berry spends a lot of time bending over. That she does this in a movie supposedly about feminine
empowerment gives you some idea of the magnitude of the intellects we're dealing with.

Berry plays Patience Philips, a dowdy commercial artist employed by nasty cosmetics tycoon
George Hedare (Lambert Wilson doing his snotty Frenchman schtick again). When she discovers that
her boss' new line of face cream is toxic, Hedare's wife (Sharon Stone, battling heroically with a
chronically one-dimensional part) has her flushed into the harbour.

However, luckily for Patience she is given mouth-to-mouth by a passing magic Egyptian cat, and
she is resurrected with various feline powers (for some reason these include telescopic vision and
the ability to stick to walls) with which to... well, do whatever she feels like. You go girl! None of
that 'with power comes responsibility' stuff here! Having been apprised of her situation by daffy
lunatic Ophelia (daffy lunatic specialist Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under, slumming it),
Patience sets out to bring the Hedares to justice as Catwoman, a figure both mysterious and
intimidating. Well, about as mysterious and intimidating as one can be whilst wearing a leather bra
and trousers through which one's bum-cheeks are plainly visible...

Now, the better-read amongst you will already have twigged that Berry is not playing the
Catwoman, an iconic figure created by Bob Kane in 1940 as a sparring partner for Batman, but
rather a catwoman. You will also have noticed that this movie steals Catwoman's origin as
re-imagined in Tim Burton's 1992 movie Batman Returns: a movie noted mainly for its
grandiose and overwrought incoherence, but also for its grotesque new spin on several classic
characters. With this new interpretation at least twice removed from the source material, it would
be nice to be able to treat the film as a completely new only-the-name's-the-same version, but
scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris's ham-fisted attempts to pay homage to the original
character (there's no reason why Berry's character should start cracking a whip and stealing
jewellery, other than because it's what the classic Selina Kyle Catwoman does) and forge links
between the two (Berry gets shown pictures of catwomen from earlier ages, one of which is a
publicity shot of Michelle Pfeiffer from the Burton movie), make unfavourable comparisons

I hate to say it, but it seems Halle Berry just can't do superheroes. She's extremely average as
Storm in the X-Men franchise and she's a crap Catwoman too. I've always thought Julie
Newmar was the definitive screen Catwoman but even Pfeiffer did a better job than Berry does
here. Supposedly an empowered, ambiguous, edgy figure, Berry comes across as about as dangerous
and alluring as an Avon lady moonlighting as a low-rent dominatrix. The script's idea of ambiguity is
for Catwoman to steal a load of jewellery, and then have pangs of guilt and take it all back the next

Apart from this, Catwoman is a very much by-the-numbers superhero film in the modern
style, somewhere between Steel and Daredevil in terms of quality. Pitof's direction
is strong on pretty pictures and bright colours, but rotten when it comes to characters and
dialogue. Most of the plot gets squeezed into a very busy last half-hour. It isn't even camp enough
to be enjoyable as a piece of kitsch. Stone is quite good, as I mentioned up the page, and Benjy
Bratt does a very reasonable job as Berry's love-interest, but the rest of the performances are
very forgettable (if you're lucky).

And, yes, there's that feminine empowerment thing... Quite apart from her (woeful) costume,
there's the very nature of the criminal scheme Catwoman gets mixed up in. You may recall that in
their last screen outings, the X-Men saved the world from psionic genocide, and Spider-Man saved
New York City from a nuclear apocalypse. Catwoman, in comparison, has to stop some dodgy
make-up from going on sale. Not quite in the same league, is it, really, but it gives a good idea of
what the film-makers think women are a) interested in and b) capable of dealing with.

This is clearly just meant to be a piece of fluffy Saturday evening fun, but even so, for a movie
about Catwoman to be so vapid and sexist and patronising is just deeply offensive and depressing
(and I'm not even that big a fan of the character - don't get me started on the planned Jack Black
Green Lantern movie!). It's mildly enjoyable as a piece of junk, but by the standards of
today's superhero flicks, it really belongs in the kitty litter: Catwoman, the movie, is a

The Awix


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