Commentary

June 28, 2013

Fly Over: ‘The Divide’, and ‘The Heat’

On DVD:

The-Divide-movie-poster

‘The Divide’

I was visiting with Michael Biehn last year at the 2012 Phoenix Film Festival, and he told me about a movie he had recently filmed called “The Divide.” He was really proud of the project and said it was the best ensemble cast he had ever been a part of – high praise from the man who played Johnny Ringo in “Tombstone” alongside Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Jason Priestley and Thomas Haden Church.
So I had high hopes when “The Divide” arrived in the red Netflix envelope last week. Michael Biehn (pronounced “Bean”) was good, but much to my disappointment the movie was not. The film, from 2011, is a science fiction/horror genre piece directed by the Frenchman Xavier Gens, whose short list of other credits I wasn’t familiar with.
The premise of the movie is that eight survivors of a nuclear apocalypse hole up in a bunker in the basement of their apartment building with the superintendent, Mickey (Biehn). Mickey is a cranky misanthrope who isn’t happy about having the company. But who could blame him, given the unfortunate personalities of his guests?
The survivors include a young couple, Eva and Sam (Lauren German and Ivan Gonzalez), a woman, Marilyn, and her daughter, Wendi (Rosanna Arquette and Abbey Thickson), three young men, Bobby, Josh and his brother Adrien (Michael Eklund, Milo Ventimiglia and Ashton Holmes), and one middle-aged man, Delvin (Courtney B. Vance).
After a few days holed up in the shelter, several invaders dressed like storm troopers from “Star Wars” break into their bunker and abduct the little girl. The survivors manage to kill two of the men, though, and now have their protective suits and guns. Josh volunteers to don one of the suits and ventures outside to investigate. After following a long tunnel, he discovers a grisly research center where children, including Wendi, are hooked up to machines with their eyes bandaged, appearing to be dead.
As Josh looks around in horror, one of the storm troopers realizes he’s an imposter and attacks him, pulling out his breathing tube and exposing him to radiation before he is able to flee back to the bunker.
Several days pass as lack of food and water, accusations of hoarding, sexual tensions and the effects of low-level radiation cause tempers to flare, and we see what kind of sadists, sociopaths and degenerates most of these people are.
Michael Biehn has so much natural charisma that he’s still somewhat likable even as a nasty character. The rest of the cast, however – with the exception of Eva … not so much. The result is that we don’t really care when they start going crazy and doing awful things to each other.
Besides Michael Biehn, the only redeeming quality of this film is the beautiful score, composed by Jean-Pierre Taieb. The soaring soundtrack would have been better suited to “2001: A Space Odyssey” than this B horror movie.
If Biehn really thinks this film is better than “Tombstone,” perhaps he spent a little too much time in that bunker.
“The Divide” is rated R for graphic violence, sexuality and pervasive language.

In theaters:

The-Heat

‘The Heat’

Buddy cop films are terribly flawed in that they’re clichéd and redundant. “The Heat,” director Paul Feig’s follow up to his smash hit “Bridesmaids” has one exception – the bromance is replaced by female leads.
I could describe the movie’s routine plot in a sentence or two, but by now you’ve probably got a pretty firm idea of the film’s storyline – two law enforcement officials juxtaposed in mannerisms and policing technique are forced to work together to bring down a drug kingpin.
Sandra Bullock plays FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn, an uber professional with no personal life and a penchant for rubbing her colleagues the wrong way. After solving a fictitious serial murder case, she’s up for a promotion with the stipulation that she’s able to uncover a violent Boston drug ring. Here we meet Boston detective Shannon Mullins (Mellissa McCarthy), haranguing a small-time drug dealer and pimp in a funny albeit slow-footed chase.
It’s abundantly clear she isn’t a typical peace officer in appearance or character. Enough awfulness has been said by some in the media about her physique, but having witnessed some of Phoenix PD’s finest, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that a person could adequately patrol the streets despite being portly. However, her personality is over the top and in stark contrast to Bullock’s character. She’s a stereotypical Bostonian who for some reason is dressed like a homeless person, drives a beater and harasses perps and coworkers alike with expletive-laden tirades – it’s funny, sometimes.
Their paths cross at the Boston Police Department as Ashburn interrogates a drug dealer who Mullins brought in earlier in the day. Mullins isn’t too happy and has no qualms about letting Ashburn, the drug dealer and everyone in her station know – not a great start to their relationship. However, they’re forced to work together – Ashburn’s boss wants to see if she’s able to cooperate with local law enforcement.
Really from here the viewer can fill in the blanks. Ashburn and Mullins develop a close, sisterly bond and work together through adversity to accomplish their goal. They escape dire situations and discover the identity of the drug lord they’re after, which I believe is supposed to be a twist but actually just follows the typical story line.
I initially had high hopes for “The Heat” — Melissa McCarthy is hilarious, “Bridesmaids” is comedic gold and Bullock is an Academy Award winner who is nice to look at. But, I felt like I had to put a lot of effort into laughing. I tried mightily to enjoy myself. Many around me seemed to do so, to include my diminutively reserved plus one and Mr. Hyena laugh sitting two seats down from us. Some of the jokes were funny and there was good chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy. The jokes were more often misses than hits and prolonged. It was like the guy who insists on retelling a joke despite not eliciting laughter the first time. We get it; it’s just not funny but rather awkward and uncomfortable.
Perhaps “Bridesmaids” raised the bar too high or I was in a grumpy mood, but though ultimately serviceable, “The Heat” was disappointing. If you’re yearning for a comedy there are far better options still in theaters such as “This is the End,” or “The Internship.”
This film is rated R for persuasive language, strong crude content and violence.




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