Monthly Archives: September 2009

Longford (2006)



Starring: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: Peter Morgan

Francis Aungier Pakenham, count of Longford, was certainly one of Great Britain’s controversial figures. Member of the labour party, president of the House of Lords, important figure in the government for some years, and a devout catholic, Lord Longford has made himself known to the public through his excentric character and numerous social projects, especially his work with prisoner rehabilitation and his attempts to ban pornography.

“Longford”, an original HBO production, follows the man’s activity (played by Jim Broadbent) since 1985, particularly his efforts to obtain a pardon for Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), sentenced to life in prison for the murder of several children alongside her boyfriend, Ian Brady (Andy Serkis), also serving a life sentence in the same prison. Though permanently discouraged by his wife, Elizabeth (Lindsay Duncan), his family, colegues and the press, Longford never gave up on Myra, his valiant efforts ultimately resulting in his exclusion from the House of Lords.

It can safely be said that Lord Longford was indeed an excentric person, but also a fascinating individual.  The friendship he offered Myra was something quite scandalous at the time, but it also brings up issues of forgiveness even when faced with unspeakable atrocities, his own system of beliefs being built around the idea that no person is beyond forgiveness. The endeavour of saving someone like Myra seems like madness, but for him, it is his duty, as is any good catholic’s duty, to do all in his power to save lost souls.

However, at some point, Myra betrais this friendship by officially admiting her direct involvement in the murders, thus destroying Longfords reputation, and bringing him face to face with a crysis of faith. Forced to withdraw from the public eye, he finds strength in his beliefs once more and continues to work with prisoners until his death in 2001 at the age of 95.

The film is just as good as many other HBO productions, with an impressive array of awards and nominations including Golden Globes, Emmies, and BAFTA TV. The acting is fantastic, Broadbent evokes not just the physical appearance and gesturing of the real Longford, but also the profound feelings, innocence and complexity of a man who does not believe in absolute evil. Samantha Morton plays Myra with a subtle, icy strength, a strange duality, split between apparent innocence, mistery and dignity, embracing her guilt and punishment while defying any kind of help. Andy Serkis, as Myra’s murderous boyfriend, delivers a commanding performance, sinister and menacing without overacting and in very short appearances. Overall, it’s a wonderfull cast that make the film worth seeing all by themselves. The interactions between the characters are the salt and pepper of the film, a duel of hearts and human spirit

A lengthier film might have been been a plus, because it feels as if there might have been material here for more that just 90 minutes, but I have to take into account that it is a TV production, so compactness is a virtue I guess. It might have made a handsome mini-series, but there’s still enough depth and complexity to make it a unique experience.


The Last House on the Left (2009)



Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Garret Dillahunt, Martha MacIsaac, Riki Lindhome
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Screenwriter: Carl Ellsworth

Because “The Beautiful Life: TBL” had its premiere last week, I wanted to see what the lead actress, Sara Paxton – a name that I’ve seldom heard, but never seen on an actual credit ,  was capable of, so I watched “The Last House on the Left”, a remake of the Wes Craven 1972 movie with the same name.  And as I usually avoid gory flicks (I admit I am very sensitive: I only saw the first “Saw” and the first “Hostel” through my fingers and only because I was curious, a curiosity for which I’ve paid dearly), I was surprised to see that what was presented as a low budget horror movie was actually a very brutal thriller.

The movie starts with a random escape from police custody. The perpetrators are taking their time and start torturing the policemen, which shows that they either don’t care about their odds of freedom or they are just sadistic psychopaths. Spoiler: it’s the latter. On their path to freedom they come across two teenagers who they kidnap, torture and kill and rape, respectively. It’s unjust, cruel and vicious and it is presented in all its glory. And you want to see all of them suffer. Their luck changes when they are forced to seek shelter from a storm at a vacation house by the lake. The owners of the house happen to be the parents of the girl they raped and left for death. When the parents realize who they were helping, a no mercy survival and revenge war with no prisoners ensue. It is a very educational one too: ten ways of killing/torturing someone using only our household appliances are presented (I will never look at a microwave oven the same way again).

Although almost a freshman in the movie industry, Dennis Iliadis does a pretty good job, even if the camera movement is sometimes clunky and (intentionally?) oscillating between sudden and lingering. If there was ever a movie that required no script, this was it: what they say is not important, but what they do and how they do it say everything. I do not remember one line (and the villain has a scene where he tells the father how he raped his daughter, a scene from which I only remember faces and expressions), but I recall visual scenes, woods, lakes, pictures on a fridge, rain and BLOOD. The choice to not   have everything happen in one night is a smart one, as it leaves room for one of the most effective scenes in the movie: the one where the teenagers are stabbed/raped/shot in the woods, a scene that is made even more horrifying by the fact that it all happens in broad daylight, close to a construction site, and the knowledge that they were so close to salvation makes it unbearable. That is the scene that prepares the viewer for what follows, and it seems hard to believe that the murderers could ever be rightfully punished. Well, prepare to be surprised.

Sara Paxton, the reason for my venture in the bloody depths of new age thrillers, is very good at conveying innocence and vulnerability, and that is her character’s main task: to make us hate the fugitives with the fire of a thousand suns for what they did to her. The parents, Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn, are also good, their fear and rage is visible and understandable. The four criminals are convincing and menacing, they are each the embodiment of at least one different mental disorder: paranoia, schizophrenia, perversion and depression. Together they are a dangerous, destructive and self-destructive mix. The question being asked by the creators of the original and for which the creators of the copy are not to be given credit for is: what is the line between victim and criminal, justice and revenge, cruel and necessary? What would you have done? I, for one, would’ve fainted.

The movie brings nothing new to the growing industry of borderline snuff flicks, and it may seem long and tedious at times, especially for the ones that are attracted by its advertised violence. It may also fall into the avoidable category of films that are too violent for the sensible people (like me) and are not violent enough for the genre fans (like Skellington). It has some serious plot holes that stretch plausibility that I won’t discuss here. Over all, a decent attempt of reviving a seventies nihilist classic.

Punisher War Zone (2008)



Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchinson, Julie Benz
Director: Lexi Alexander
Screenwriter: Nick Santora, Art Marcum
Rating : R for pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use.

Why ? Why was there need for another Punisher reboot ? WHY ?! The ’89 Dolph Lundgren version was a flop, upsetting even the fans of the comics. The 2004, Thomas Jane-John Travolta venture was fairly good but it certainly didn’t beg for a sequel. And still, Marvel insists on greenlighting not just a sequel, but a third attempt at starting up a franchise, perhaps hoping for a trilogy or a quadrilogy. The result however is a miserable failure.

Frank Castle, aka the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) is a former member of US special forces, whose family was killed by mobsters while enjoying a picnic in Central Park. After the incident, Castle becomes a ruthless vigilante whose objective is to annihilate organized crime, one head at a time. “War Zone” starts off with the Punisher’s assault on the mansion of Gaitano Cesare, a mob head freshly released from the grasp of justice. During the assault, he desfigures mobster Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and accidentaly kills an undercover FBI agent. This turns Castle away from the thug-hunting game for a while. Russoti then becomes the comic book villain Jigsaw, cooks up a revenge plan, springs his psychotic brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson) from the assylum, gathers every thug he can from the streets of New York, waging war against a now remorse ridden Punisher, forcing him to return to his violent ways.

I can’t say that I’m a stranger to the Punisher universe, but I’m also not the type that holds the source material as reference for any film (which is probably why I liked the 2004 adaptation). I’ve always liked the idea of the character, as much as I enjoy all anti-heroes and revenge stories. Basically, Frank Castle is a psychopath. He kills bad guys not for revenge, he’s gone way past emotions, but from a distorted sense of justice without limits. His judgement doesn’t tolerate any grey areas. It’s all black or white, guilty or not guilty. This film does not dig deeper into the character’s psychological depths, the moral purgatory, the trauma of violently losing his family which triggered his transformation into the blood-thirsty vigilante. What the film does is to keep itself busy with an overblown affection for over-the-top violence and comic-bookish caricatures. New York is actually shot in Canada, wasting much of the bleak urban feeling with anonymous neon-lit back alleys and rooftops. The bad guys are such grotesque, badly acted jokers that I wasn’t sure sure whether or not they were supposed to be there for comic relief rather than antagonists for the Punisher. Ray Stevenson, familiar to most from the HBO TV series “Rome”, is reduced here to an inexpresive hulk, fitting in terms of physical stature, but otherwise wasted in a part that doesn’t even seem to have any script behind it. There are few moments where he is allowed to show emotion, but it’s usually just him versus hordes of thugs. Here’s a grand example of “witty” dialogue : when confronted by a pries with the line : “Go with God”, Castle responds : “Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God” … I rest my case. Oh, and there’s also a plot element regarding the wife and child of the FBI agent Castle killed, played by Julie Benz, but it’s just there to send Castle back into the wasting-bad-guys business while assuring us he’s still a human being.

Though grossly suffering from a lack of originality, the film shows competence in its action scenes, but the effort seems pointless because it is very difficult to take the whole thing seriously. In fact, any attempt to take this film seriosuly will probably result in brain injury. The best remedy is to just laugh it away, whenever you’re not turned off by the gore.

It’s clearly an attempt at pleasing the fans just enough to warrant a franchise. I mean, it’s the kind of film that feels offending intellectually for some while scaring others away with its ugly kind violence. So in the end, the only people left who might enjoy it are the members of its already established comic book fanbase. But judging from the pathetic box-office performance, even they’ve been insulted.

The Ugly Truth (2009)



Starring: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, Bonnie Somerville, Bree Turner, Vicki Lewis
Director: Robert Luketic
Screenwriter: Nicole Eastman
Rated: R for sexual content and language.

When you read a summary of the plot of “The Ugly Truth” as presented by trailers and adverts, you may be tempted to think: “It cannot be as bad as it sounds! It has Katherine Heigl and the same type of clichés that made “Knocked Up” a sensation (man – funny, laid back and afraid of being trapped, woman – responsible, stressed and afraid of being single). You may be tempted to try to look at the bright side: “At least it is not about aliens” or “At least it is rated R so that means (technically) that I won’t get full frontal nudity gags” or “At least Seth Rogen stayed out of this one”. They are all deceiving! I watched the trailer as I was reviewing and I felt the urge to give it a higher grade because it seemed so much more fun. But the trailer has literally EVERY mediocre joke in the script and the only ones remotely amusing.

My expectations were low when I heard that Katherine Heigl is playing another one of her dreaded roles that she seems to feel are beneath her but somehow she always chooses (either she doesn’t read the scripts or she just accepts the best paid jobs – neither of these situations gives her the right to complain later) . Well, I’ve seen “27 Dresses”. I’ve also seen “Knocked Up”. And about 4 seasons of the pretentious awfulness that is “Grey’s Anatomy”. My conclusion was that she is a very good actress, even when given lines three feet long and one inch deep, and she has a rare ability to be likeable no matter how embarrassing the situation her character has to go through. Unfortunately, this has to be the lowest point of her career (I refuse to acknowledge a lower one). Yes, I included “Grey’s”, although, to be fair, I never quite got to the whole “Izzie has Denny wet dreams” part. Her character, Abby Richter, is the embodiment of a less haute couture dressed “Sex and the City -The Movie” lady. Only she does not have any friends (or relatives for that matter) to talk to about the one subject this whole world revolves around: men – their needs, their expectations when it comes to women and  everything that is vital to obtaining that glorious relationship that leads to marriage, that all women want and that is every man’s worst nightmare because Lord knows there haven’t been enough movies focusing on phony battle of the sexes and this one is SO original –  and she is thus obligated to listen to a total stranger that is some kind of a Jerry Springer love guru that hosts a five minutes show about… monkeys, sex and monkey sex. Heigl’s already severely bruised charm is gradually destroyed by clunky dialogue and unfunny banter that is supposed to be cute but has you reaching for a bag to vomit in. I will not talk about Gerard Butler because I pity him like Mr. T pities the fools. There were no other characters. I seem to remember a Ken doll looking individual that takes his shirt of at some point but I could not care less about his character who was so clearly set out to be a plot device that his role can be summarized as: “prop no. 2 that stands in the way of the main couple”. A box with that label would have done his job for free.

I do not want you to think I hated the movie because it was misogynistic, because it was not. The women were stupid shrews who never found anyone willing to have sex with them so their need got so severe that one of them goes out at a business meeting wearing FUCKING VIBRATING UNDERWEAR. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ha. Are you done laughing? That was the greatest gag that all the trailers, no matter how short, had to incorporate. Because it was something that nobody, ever, in the history of movie making, thought about. Except maybe Nora Ephron, the writer of “When Harry Met Sally”. And Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writers of “Crank”. And just about any sitcom and B list movies junior screenwriter of the last 20 years.  I was actually glad I was a woman in that cinema theatre. I bet Gerard Butler would have given his testicles to be playing any other role but his own. The only ones that got more humiliated were the jelly wrestling twins (yes, there were jelly covered bikini clad models, but don’t pay the whole ticket for that, just search it on youtube), but they were girls who had one shot at stardom and if their looks helped, why not? When you are already a star, WHY GOD WHY? His character is not even abrasive like the ones that Rogen usually plays. Not even remotely redeemable. Not even evil. Not even entertaining. He was an absurd caricature of how geeky pussy whipped writers see THE MAN:  he started like a closeted serial rapist that was about to snap and ended like a teenager in love with his 60 year old teacher.

If you are not easily offended (not by language or nudity, but by nonsense stupidity) then don’t go. A test for knowing whether you will be tempted to strangle the cashier of the cinema to get your money back is this: Could you watch “Dude, Where’s My Car?” without changing the channel? Have you laughed more than twice watching it? Was the laughter actually caused by a line in the script rather than ironical? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you are more patient than I could ever be and I bow.

Saw V (2008)



Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Julie Benz
Director: David Hackl
Screenwriter: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Rating : R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.

“Saw” has become some kind of institution. Every year, on Halloween, everyone knows a new entry in the franchise is released, and there are certainly plenty of fans of cinematic carnage who provide a hefty financial boost for Lionsgate Studios and the two creators of this horror franchise, James Wan and Leigh Wannel, who never forget to place their names in the credits as executive producers.

There’s a certain point the franchise has reached, where I feel like the script writing process is more similar to the writing process of TV series’ scripts. How do we move the story along ? Who stays for the next episode ? Who dies ? What cliffhanger ending sould we have for this episode ? For those who are familiar with the “Saw” universe, it is a well known fact that the story is very complicated with a twisty plot that spans five films so far and will probably go on for a few more. It’s so thick now in fact, that every new film in the series will probably require a “Previously on Saw” intro. Otherwise, it’s risky to start watching it, as the story goes back and forth inside its Jigsaw chronology quite a lot. In fact, they’ve gone so far in extending Jigsaw’s world and the franchises’s existence, that they’ve lost whatever good ideas they had going in, managed to remove the villain with a flimsy excuse for one, and occupy too much time with tying loose ends in previous “episodes”.The Jigsaw traps, a trademark of the series, once symbolic and meant to reflect the darkness of human nature and test the limits of survival have become increasingly elaborate pieces of art direction, built by a whole team of people, rather than just the two-three the writers want us, the naive audience, to believe.

It would be pointless to start giving a synopsis since it’s what basically holds the franchise together : not knowing what the next film is about. The marketing machine knows it and plays it so. I can say that this is the first entry after the last 3 that is not directed by the infamous Darren Lynn Bousman, but the new addition to the team, David Hackl, brings just as much to the franchise as Bousman did : absolutely nothing. The directorial vision is most likely being dictated by David A. Armstrong’s bleak and sleazy cinematography and Kevin Greutert’s schyzophrenic editing. Also, someone had the hilarious idea of casting Costas Mandylor as a villain. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. I mean, the man simply can’t act to save his life, and all of a sudden he becomes the evil center of a horror franchise. It’s an idea more sinister, actually, than the concept of Jigsaw himself. Tobin Bell had a good grip on his creepy character and the man can actually act, despite being cast through time in good films but mostly as an unimportant evil henchman or menacing guy at the street corner. His deep, grouchy voice has become a staple of the series. The man was legend. And now he turns it over to Costas Mandylor ?! Oh, the horror !

Good news however for the gore hounds : there’s plenty of it, though less shocking, slightly less explicit and very, very gratuitous. Gratuitous, because there’s no connection between the audience and what’s going on onscreen. It’s no longer about Jigsaw dealing a sort of twisted justice and people surviving his traps. The violence is a trademark here, but it’s nothing more than that anymore. It’s all heavily edited with a loud industrial soundtrack and plenty of screams added for fun, but it’s hollow and pointless. Jigsaw’s been reduced to basic serial killer fare, which it already was, really, but never so obvious.

All in all, “Saw 5” is an ugly, violent, overblown, stupid, badly acted, boring and pointless film. I suppose the sixth will be more of the same and something extra on top of it. I just hope that the makers of this behemoth of crap realise they need to stop, at least out of compassion for a brutalised audience.

The Breakfast Club (1985)



Starring: Paul Gleason, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, John Kapelos, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Ron Dean

Screenwriter and Director: John Hughes

John Hughes passed away this August, but his legacy remains, as he produced, written or directed some of  the most successful movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s: “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, ”Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”,  “Weird Science”, “ The Breakfast Club”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Sixteen Candles”,  “Pretty in Pink”, “Planes”, “Trains and Automobiles”, “Uncle Buck”, “Home Alone” and its sequel “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”. His ability to talk to teenagers without being condescending, without minimizing their already small and passionate universe and without making one of the worst mistakes a teen targeted flick writer could do: talk about the former generation instead of the current one – these were some of the reasons his movies were very well received. Some of them even set the tone for countless series and movies to come, as every teen drama has at least one mention of the iconic “The Breakfast Club” and at least one attempt of imitating one of its scenes.

It’s amazing what can be done with very little setting and a fairly simple idea: five very different teenagers belonging to opposed high school cliques end up spending the Saturday in the school library, each having broken a conduct rule. The school is the stage, and seven people are the actors. Andrew (Emilio Estevez) is a jock with a wrestling ambition, but it becomes very clear that that ambition belongs to Clark Senior rather than Junior. The constant pressure has him wishing for a permanent injury and drives him to bully others, making him ashamed of his behavior, and the shame adds even more pressure… a full inescapable circle. Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) is the prom queen, the prize over which the two halves of a bitter marriage fight.  Rewarded and pampered, she is not actually missed or loved. John Bender (Judd Nelson) is “the criminal” and the only one from a working class background. The constant abuse has him lashing out against everyone, making him to always go out of his way trying to be obnoxious. He is the one that rattles everybody’s cages so that the premise can be outlined. Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) the brain of the group, the geek that cannot conceive a low grade. When he receives an F at shop class, he acts out in an unusual way and gets detention. And finally, the basket case: Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), a compulsive liar and a sometimes kleptomaniac who is severely deprived of human contact and attention and whose internal void and loneliness has her attaching herself to this unlikely group in the hope of any kind of bonding. They all talk like ’80s teens do, and it still rings true (either that or I’m old). They try to stand out; they all have short attention spans, a predilection for experiencing new forbidden grounds and a desperate need to be unique. On top of that lays a desire common to us all: to be loved for what they are underneath their façades.

This is the movie that set the mark for stereotyping high school life into groups. We all know that cheerleaders are beautiful and popular, geeks are harassed daily and weirdoes are singled out. I frankly do not remember my cretaceous high school era as being so overwhelming. Yes, there is that obvious fight to not be at the bottom of the social pyramid, but other than that, it is fun. Or it should be. The script does not surprise very much because it does not need to: the point of the story is that the typical masks uncover ordinary family tales. Nothing is extreme; nothing makes you gasp in astonishment. Because these cheap tricks would alienate the target audience, the ones that should be able to point at one of the five characters and say: “That is sooooooo me in 10th grade!”. It is authentic and real instead of over the top. That is one of the characteristics of John Hughes’ work.

It also seems to be one of the major strengths of the cast. They blend tighter together as they separate their stories and they all seem to reverting back to their teen years without any visible effort. One of the main reasons I support the “Beverly Hills 90210” type of casting (remember the balding 16 years old Dylan McKay? Or Andrea, the menopausal school paper editor?) is this kind of acting work, acting that does not make your brain melt (have you ever seen Shanae Grimes “act”? Her full-on seizure face contrasts with her deadpan delivery making it impossibly embarrassing to watch).

John Hughes has one of the characters say that “when you grow up your heart dies”. The good thing is that these teens will never grow up because all we will ever see of them are these 90 minutes of anguish.  Nobody will ever know what happened to them after they left the library, and maybe it’s for the best. One of the most referenced movies in history, “The Breakfast Club” is a ‘80s classic.

Defiance (2008)



Starring: Daniel Craig, Liv Schreiber, Jamie Bell
Director: Edward Zwick
Screenwriter: Clayton Frohman si Edward Zwick
Rating : R for violence and language

Edward Zwick’s specialty as a Hollywood director are epic films. Indeed he has a keen eye when it comes to that particular brand of cinema. His might not be the most original films ever ( like his “Last Samurai” being like “Dancing with Wolves” but with samurai instead of indians ), but they deliver. It’s basic, slightly exploitive, professional cinema, preying on emotion and relying on cliches.

One such film is “Defiance”, based on a true untold story from the Second World War, involving a group of approximatively 1000 eastern-european jews that escaped the nazi extermination machine by forming a small community in the woods, where they fought to survive against both the harshness of nature and the cruelty of man. The underground movement was led by the Bielski brothers : Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liv Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell), who had lost their own families so they decide to make a stand. At first they dish out some old fashioned revenge, but as the group grew in numbers, among them women and children, they form their own settlement deep in the woods, to keep them safe from the war. Tuvia and Zus have separate views on the management of the small community, and so Zus runs off and joins the local partisan movement, while Tuvia stays on as leader of the camp. The film’s timeline covers a period of time from the autumn of 1941 to spring, 1942. The plot contains crucial points like the settlers being forced to relocate after being discovered, characters obtaining food any way they can, chilling blue hued winter scenes, mutiny, sibling rivalry, romance in the face of despair, and it all concludes in good ol’ Hollywood fashion with a run-for-your-lives finale which puts the survivors face to face with the nazi army.

The film deserves recognition for telling a story I don’t recall ever hearing about. It deserves, however, a good bashing for being a less than involving film than the story deserves. Originality might not be Zwick’s forte, but there’s no excuse for all the cliches in there, with characters and routines that are way too familiar from other standard Hollywood epics. If it wouldn’t have been such an interesting story to tell, there would have been little worth watching here except for Liv Schreiber’s excellent supporting part, and the beautiful score by James Newton Howard (nominated for an Oscar this year). It’s catastrophic for the dramatic impact of a film when its most intense moments are contained in mindless action scenes, especially if it yearns for more. But really, that’s where the film picks up the pace, during its final confrontation. The rest is just lifeless storytelling, carried along by good actors, who don’t even get decent dialogue. A lot of intriguing ideas, like the limits a human being crosses while trying to survive, and the weird relationships that arise from such a departure from civilization are touched upon, briefly but very family-friendly despite the R rating for language and violence. It tries to steer clear of possible controversial issues, because the subject is too sensitive, being about an unseen side of the Holocaust. Spielberg went all the way with “Munich”, but Zwick plays it safe. It never really explores too deep into the dark nature of man, choosing to rely on heavy-handed melodrama for effect. Zwick usually goes for the Oscar-bait and he often brings home a little something. It was a big surprise, for example, when “Blood Diamond” (with a similar mix of serious politics and shallow action) brought home 5 nominations, including two for leading and supporting actor. This one however is not even close to generating the same buzz no matter how the marketing machine pitches it, because Zwick simply can’t give the story the epic strength it deserves.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m a Zwick hater. Not at all. I love most of his films, even “Legends of the Fall”. But “Defiance” simply doesn’t cut it. It lacks that certain quality that would make it a must-see. It could be interesting to see once, for the unique history lesson, but in terms of cinematic achievement it’s a wasted opportunity.