Saturday, August 18, 2012

John Stockwell's CAT RUN: Was Janet McTeer nominated for the WRONG movie?

Yes, yes: Of course, Albert Nobbs was wonderful, and Janet McTeer was expectedly brilliant in her Oscar-nominated role. However, for unexpected brilliance -- I'll bet most of you didn't even know that our Janet graced the likes of this ultra-violent, nasty, gory but oh-my-god, it's so funny, clever, surprising and special movie -- CAT RUN is the film to see. Out now on DVD and Blu-ray -- and with its gorgeous Montenegro/Bosnia/Herzegovina coastal settings, Blu-ray is the one to choose -- the movie is solid enough to bypass any waft of guilty pleasure (thanks to Ms McTeer, there's oodles more pleasure here than guilt).

Directed by John Stockwell, more or less in the fast, smart style of his under-rated Turistas (rather than the sleep-inducing manner of his later Dark Tide), the movie initially has a little trouble joining together its two elements: goofy comedy, essayed by two best friends played by Scott Mechlowicz (above, left) and Alphonso McAuley (above, right), and dark thriller, in which would-be star Paz Vega (below) and real star McTeer do the heavy lifting. (The writers here are  Nick Ball and John Niven.)

Mechlowitz always has an air of sweetness about him that often saves the day, and so it is here. McAuley, initially off-putting, slowly works his way into our good graces. Vega is gorgeous, as ever, but has little to do in the acting department. Also on hand are Christopher McDonald and Karel Roden as the villains -- both are enjoyably reprehensible -- and D.L. Hughleyshown at bottom, as a triple amputee (two legs and one arm) office manager (don't ask -- but he's terrific).

It is Ms McTeer however (above and below), who provides the film's fuel. As as assassin named Helen Bingham who looks like a modern-day Mary Poppins, appears to know every trick in the book, and will stop at nothing to get her job done, she is one ghastly delight: equal parts frightening and funny. She knows her way around, not just one-liners (though she is quite good at these) but around dialog in general, and as much of it as you'd care to throw her way. Her line readings, every last one of them, are impeccable. They keep goosing the movie into some kind of lame-brained art.

McTeer is scary as hell for about half the movie, and then something even more wonderful happens: We begin to learn a little more about her, and then occurs what may be a "first" for films in this thriller/chase genre known for sporting outsize villains like this one. The last half of the film is simply top-notch, and even those two disparate elements mentioned earlier, the humor and the thrills, start working together beautifully -- once again, thanks to this phenomenal actress, who along with everything else she does so well, gets to do a nifty martial arts fight scene and show us some quite appealing cleavage, too. Janet, dear: Is there nothing you can't do?

McTeer is better than any Bond villain so far -- perhaps any villain the movies have yet given us. Which is why members of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences, should they ever deign to view a movie not earmarked as Oscar-bait, might discover and then honor a role and a performance for the ages. I doubt we shall see its like again, this combination of unique character, amazing actress and all-stops-out performance.

So you, dear reader, better get hold of Cat Run before it becomes a collector's item. It's available now for purchase or instant video rental from Amazon, rental from Netflix or Blockbuster, and probably a lot of other smaller venues, too.

No comments: