New Releases for Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Directed by: Gille Klabin
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: The Wave arrives at the perfect time in genre history, during a period of amazing debuts by first-time filmmakers hellbent on rewriting the rules for edgy, unapologetic, in-your-face creative visions.
It also marks the first time in a long, long, long time (we’re talking the late 2000s) that Justin Long and his Justin Long schtick actually worked for me.
And The Wave also makes for a perfect bookend to a blood-soaked, drug-fueled double feature when paired with Joe Begos’ equally trippy, yet decidedly more horror-centric Bliss.
The Wave is the story of Frank (Long), a married lawyer who’s also, surprise, a huge dick of a human who finds a loophole in case law that’s poised to make millions for his firm.
But, first, his forever single best pal Jeff (Donald Faison, never better) wants to take him out to party like they’re still in college, despite the fact that Frank has to give the presentation of his life come morning.
Jeff takes Frank to Madrid, a skeevy dive bar and immediately connects with two local girls, one of whom, Theresa (Sheila Vand), holds very strong opinions about attorneys and blisters Frank with her observations.
Then they go to a house party, girls in tow, where Frank finds himself cajoled into doing rails of blow with a drug dealer who eventually pulls out the truly hard stuff, a high-powered hallucinogenic that he tells Frank will hit him like a wave.
And then things get really fucked up.
The Wave, like many a mind-fuck head-trip movie, is at its best when director Gille Klabin and writer Carl W. Lucas let their freak flags fly freely, and Frank is overwhelmed with the kind of searing, nightmarish visions that only the highest-grade drugs produce.
Frank finds himself flowing freely through time, moving from one situation to the next with a blink, careening from a fight with his wife to the boardroom for his presentation, all the while as faces morph and melt and twist into demonic visages.
There’s a through line that tethers The Wave, and it’s a doozy too, a cinematic cousin to Jacob’s Ladder, if you will, that catches you by surprise once it becomes clear that there’s a significant piece of Frank’s bender that’s missing from his memory banks.
The Wave is a tightrope trip without a net, a slice of carnal excess with a soft, secret moral at its center.
It’s thrilling to watch, and it should vault up your list of Must-See titles now that you’re aware it exists.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No. Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – Gratuitous.
Bad Guys/Killers – I guess you could say hallucinogens, but are they really that bad?
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Gemini Man (Paramount, 117 minutes, PG-13, 4K Ultra HD): Ang Lee’s return to action with the Will Smith-starring Gemini Man received a hell of a lot of flak upon its release last October.
I, of course, thought, no way can it be that bad.
Well, kids, I guess it’s fair to say I wasn’t entirely wrong, but truth be told, Gemini Man isn’t bad, just boring.
More to the point, this science-fiction action tale of an aging government assassin who finds himself facing off with his 20-something-years-younger clone should have been, could have been a great popcorn pleaser if it hadn’t forgotten to inject a lot more of Smith’s wit and sass into the proceedings.
As it is, Smith plays his character, Henry Brogan, decidedly straight, which undermines any fun and strips the film of any discernible personality.
Beverly Hills Cop Trilogy Remastered – 35th Anniversary Three-Film Collection (Paramount, 311 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Here’s the thing about trilogies, the second film basically repeats everything that worked from the first film, and the third outing is rarely very good.
Yes, I know, there are exceptions, notably John Wick, [rec], The Lord of the Rings and even Bad Boys, but Beverly Hills Cop never, ever, should have become a franchise. Unless, that is, someone actually took the time to come up with a solid story for each new outing of Axel Foley.
I say this knowing full well that my criticism may be misconstrued, so let me make this clear: 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop remains one of the freshest, funniest films of its kind ever made.
However, as a critic, my job is to consider the totality of any new release, which is why I skipped the first film entirely and went straight to Beverly Hills Cop II, which I honestly only remembered due to Brigitte Nielsen’s long legs and close-cropped blonde ‘do.
As soon as it started, I realized why it had failed to fix more permanently to my memory panels. Beverly Hills Cop II is more, too much more. More Eddie riffs. More silly faces. More blatant soundtrack plugs.
So, I did what any self-professed masochist would do. I hit eject and put on Beverly Hills Cop III, which I sincerely did not recall in the slightest.
If there’s any doubt why, the overlong opening sequence gives away the store. The speed with which the film pivots from cop comedy to brutal action film to awkward drama doesn’t work. It exposes all of the actual flaws with Foley as a character, namely that he’s a shitty cop who doesn’t pay attention to the particulars, which gets his boss killed in the first 15 minutes.
Even worse, Murphy looks like he’s trying. And not as in, striving to do his best. As in, trying not to look bored.
When his captain is gunned down, it’s almost painful to watch Murphy try to act, or react, to what should have been a huge moment in a trilogy, especially when a known character is killed unexpectedly.
In no short time, Murphy is chasing down the killers, on his own, in a stolen car, firing a handgun with limitless rounds and somehow not being blown to itsy bitsy bits by the machine guns that the bad guys are firing.
Seriously, it’s like watching an old Saturday Night Live skit from back in the early 1980’s when Murphy was doing his best schtick. He would have savaged his older self for not coming up with something, anything, more original.
Beverly Hills Cop III is so bad that the movie just doesn’t even try to be good, for long, long stretches. It also makes zero sense, both as a structured narrative and also as a rule-abiding police procedural.
When Murphy/Foley gets to Wonder World, the Disney-lite theme park dressed up as a crazy inventive setting for a buddy-cop adventure, he just breaks in, right off the bat, even though he’s been told to wait. And then he gets in a gunfight. And then he leaves his police revolver behind when he runs away so he won’t get caught. What fucking cop leaves his weapon behind?
But the big, fat, sour cherry on top of this particular shit sundae is when Murphy/Foley gets trapped on a malfunctioning ride and decides to play the hero to save a cable car full of kids.
First, it’s a ridiculously trite trope. Second, even more ridiculous is Foley literally leaping car to car to try to save the kids. Third, no one on the ground – fucking no one – not a single gawking soul, does anything to assist. The camera keeps cutting to the crowd who are all staring with bland expressions up into the sky. While Foley makes a rope to slide down to the kids.
Maybe someday soon I will go back and watch the original, just to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth, but for all its amazing packaging and special features, the first Beverly Hills Cop is really the only reason to buy this collectible three-film set.
Brewster’s Millions: Collector’s Edition
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
The Golden Glove
Now on Video-on-Demand:
A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life (Arrow Films, 81 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Writer-director Staten Cousins Roe’s decidedly acerbic serial killer thriller has a great premise and two completely engaged lead actors, but it…just…moves…so…slowly that it’s honestly difficult to remain engaged.
Movies like this need to pop and wow consistently to distinguish themselves from a slew of direct-to-DVD competition, and The Serial Killer’s Guide to Life doesn’t really leap off the screen with urgency, which is a shame.