Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Davison’

When “off the beaten path” is your norm, then what are you supposed to do when you want to go “off the beaten path” yourself? You watch something normal, I guess.

I admit that espionage “thrillers” are not high on my own personal “to-watch” list very often, but the other night, browsing through the films available on our local cable system’s streaming service, I decided to give director Billy Ray’s well-reviewed 2007 offering Breach a shot, simply because I was in the mood for something it would never occur to me to even watch, much less write about. I duly watched it — and now I’m writing about it.

Based on the investigation into, and subsequent arrest of, notorious FBI “mole” Robert Hanssen, a guy who was selling us out to the Russians long before the current president made such things fashionable, Breach is no doubt somewhat over-dramatized, but it appears not by much : Ray’s production is a classy one, with the more salacious aspects of Hanssen’s bizarre personal life dialed down, his nauseating religiosity (he;s some kind of hard-core traditionalist Catholic) dialed up, and plenty of less-than-glamorous “nuts and bolts” investigative work at the fore of the story. Mainly, though, what we’ve got here is a veritable acting clinic put on by some of the best in the business, many of whom never get nearly enough credit for consistently delivering the goods.

Chris Cooper stars as Hanssen, and he’s downright spectacular, literally inhabiting his petty, jealous, sanctimonious, thoroughly duplicitous character with gusto, verve, and disturbing veracity, and how he didn’t walk away with an Oscar for this one is a straight-up mystery to me. Maybe because wasn’t counted on to carry the whole thing himself, but was rather part of a talented ensemble? I dunno, but I do know that everyone else more than pulls their weight : Ryan Phillippe is controlled and conflicted in equal measure as newbie agent Eric O’Neill, the guy who lands the unenviable task of having to bring down Hanssen from the inside, Laura Linney is the epitome of someone who’s devoted her whole life to duty as agent Kate Burrows, O’Neill’s “handler,” and Caroline Dhavernas and Kathleen Quinlan both stand out as O’Neill and Hansen’s wives, respectively, both of whom do a bang-up job of communicating the unique stresses inherent in their unbearably tense (albeit for entirely different reasons) home lives.

It’s not just the principal stars who being home the bacon here, though, as veteran character actors like Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, and Bruce Davison all make the most of limited screen time and breathe extra life into thinly-written roles. High-wire tension is largely the order of the day in this one, as you’d expect (or at least hope, and in this case that hope isn’t in vain), but the extra depth these supporting players bring to the table goes a long way toward fleshing out what is, frankly, a fairly “A-to-B” story that we all know the ending of before the film even starts.

And, ya know, that bears thinking about for a minute : there’s never any doubt about how the events in Breach (which is also, I would assume, available on DVD and Blu-ray if such is your preference) are going to play out, but damn if Ray and his superb cast don’t manage to keep you on the edge of your seat every step of the way.  That might be the highest thing a flick this “boxed in” by its own necessary parameters can aspire to, and to say “mission accomplished” in this case is to sell too short the level of flat-out cinematic excellence achieved here. I was absolutely floored by how enthralling this film was, and I’m more than willing to bet that if you give it a shot, you will be, as well.

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I admit, when I first saw 2016’s The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty in the Netflix horror streaming queue (it’s not yet available on Blu-ray or DVD but did, at least according to the poster, receive a theatrical release — somewhere), I assumed it was a product of The Asylum, given that they have a penchant for cranking out low-budget Brothers Grimm-based crap. They’re not the only ones doing so these days, however, and it turns out they’re innocent of the charge of having anything to do with this one, as well — which is, believe it or not, kind of a pity, since then it would have had a chance to be of the “so bad it’s good” variety. Instead, this filmed-on-the-cheap-in-the-Philippines snoozer from director/co-writer (along with Josh Nadler) Pearry Reginald Teo doesn’t manage to pass “go” and collect its $200 and remains firmly in the “so bad it’s still just bad” camp.

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Based on a comic by I’ve never even heard of, much less read, of the same name by Everette Hartsoe, The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty tells the story of a bland,personality-free zone named Thomas Kaiser (played by Ethan Peck), a painter who has been haunted by dreams of an ethereally beautiful woman (India Eisley) who he can’t seem to shake from her slumber no matter how hard he tries. Then one day, in the “real” world, his uncle kills himself and he inherits his run-down mansion that’s been in the family for generations. Upon making a cursory examination of the property, he learns of an ancient curse placed upon it, and finds himself thrust, unwillingly at first, into the role of a dual protector : he must assume his familial responsibility of keeping the demons trapped within the estate at bay and find a way to wake the eternally narcoleptic princess (whose name, we learn, is Briar Rose — go ahead, I cringed, too) at the same time. He’s got help in the form of friendly realtor Linda (Natalie Hall) and paranormal investigator Richard (Bruce Davison — a guy who’s made a career out of “you just never know where he’s gonna turn up next” roles), but he’s got his magical work cut out for him, that’s for sure.

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Teo’s visual ambition far exceeds his grasp here as he tries to construct one memorably dream-like image after another but lacks the budget to realize any of them. To the director’s credit this doesn’t result in anything downright embarrassing, but it does get frustrating, as well as repetitious, to see him try and do things that he just plain can’t. The first half of the film is an especially rough slog, particularly since Peck is relied on so heavily to carry things and is in no way up to the task, but once events start moving at a more bearable clip, it’s the biggest case of “too little, too late” you can possibly imagine — Briar Rose may have a stupid name, but she’s got the right idea : sleeping through this movie is your best option.

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Still, all that bullshit is worth it if we get a decent resolution, right? Sorry to say, but don’t hold your breath on that score, either. The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty delivers audiences one final insult by setting things up for a sequel that I can’t imagine anyone actually wants. Hint to Teo and company : if your goal is to get us to come back for a second flick, you’d better make damn sure we care about what happens in the first one. This is just basic “Storytelling 101” stuff, but this film fails at that as surely — and as completely — as it does at everything else.