Archives for posts with tag: Christopher McDonald

Flippantly violent after the Tarantinoid tradition and frenetically ADHD-afflicted and visually gimmicky in the Guy Ritchie mold – with whooshing split screens, speed-up/slow-down action, and more than one trip to the old follow-the-bullet-in-slow-motion trough – Cat Run is a high-energy Euro-flavored action comedy graced with fine performances and a few good laughs but ultimately let down by its director, John Stockwell (Top Gun‘s Cougar, not the CIA whistleblower), its beat machine editing, and its pervading air of triviality and gratuitous vulgarity.

When upscale prostitute Cat (Paz Vega) witnesses U.S. Senator Bill Krebb (Christopher McDonald, whose face has always connoted an intelligent sleaze) murdering one of her coworkers at a decadent party thrown by arms dealer Branko Jakovic (Branko Djuric), she flees with the security footage and soon has corrupt police and ex-MI6 assassin Helen Bingham (Janet McTeer) on her trail.  Meanwhile, two dweeby American expatriates, wiz kid and bad cook Anthony (Scott Mechlowicz) and sex-obsessed Julian (Alphonso McAuley) have opened an amateur detective agency and hope to establish their credibility by locating Cat before anyone else can beat them to her.

Janet McTeer, whose Helen is a darker version of Helen Mirren’s character in Red, is, along with lovable comedic talent McAuley, one of the two biggest incentives to watch Cat Run.  Every laugh in the film belongs to McAuley, who has something of the energy of a young Michael Winslow or Richard Pryor; and McTeer is charming whenever the gruesome script and costuming allow it (with her cleavage utilized to commendable effect in the film’s climactic action sequence).  Another noteworthy component of the cast is Europe itself, with several beautiful locations lending the story a touch of class.

Ultimately neither horrible nor noteworthily good, the film earns itself a modest 3 out of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cat Run is deeply conflicted and:

12. Egalitarian.  Bleeding-hearted Anthony sympathizes when Cat steals his car, saying in earnest, “She must really need it.”

11. Anti-drug.  Amputee secretary Dexter lost his first arm after using a dirty needle.

10. Racist!  Enter into evidence the segue from Julian to a chimpanzee.

9. Anti-Christian.  “I thank God every day for what happened,” Dexter says after explaining his disabilities and recounting how his wife was eaten by a shark.  His faith fails to save him, however, when Helen lops off the arm with which he brandishes his Bible.  Schubert’s “Ave Maria” grotesquely accompanies this scene.

8. Antiwar.  Neoconservative fearmongering with respect to Iran is a scam driven by defense contractors and greedy politicians.

7. Selectively xenophobic, with Slavs depicted as seedy and untrustworthy.

6. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation.  White Anthony and black Julian are best friends, and Julian has “saved him from many brutal beatdowns.”  Julian charms European women and at one point lifts his kilt to reveal his cartoonishly gigantic penis.  All of his ex-girlfriends appear to be white.  Polyglot black amputee and communications specialist Dexter has a Purple Heart and valuable services to offer despite his disability.

5. Anti-police.  The Montenegran police are all in the employ of Branko Jakovic.  One policeman fails to report an abandoned car, hoping he can sell it instead.

4. Anti-family/anti-marriage.  Anthony has moved to Europe to avoid his meddlesome family.  “My father used to beat me with a belt and make me sleep in the barn with pigs,” Cat recalls.  Evil arms dealer Jakovic is married with children.  Julian recalls a college dean whose wife shot him in the face.

3. Feminist/pro-castration.  Cat Run appears to fancy itself highly original in repeatedly depicting a woman getting the best of the various men who confront her: kicking their testicles, shooting them, punching them, stabbing them, blowing them up, making snooty quips at their expense, amputating limbs, and even removing a penis with a cigar cutter.  Helen also effortlessly relieves an overburdened porter of one of the suitcases he is able to carry only with difficulty.  Wimpy heroes Anthony and Julian are favored over macho men, who meet with bloody and painful demise.  A pornographer is an “exploiter” of women and dies the most horrible death.

2. Pro-slut/pro-bastard.  Cat Run presents a sympathetic portrayal of whore and single mother Catalina.  “A blowjob provider?  That would be like calling Caravaggio a housepainter.”

1. State-ambivalent.  Senator Krebb is a murderous lecher, alcoholic, and warmonger.  Intelligence agents delight in torture and mayhem (“We’ll always have Angola”) – which, however, seems to be intended as entertaining, giving rise to an ambiguity in the film’s attitude toward state crimes against humanity.  Cat Run is bizarrely indulgent toward ex-MI6 psycho Helen, who wears a ghoulish pendant made from the teeth of an Arab she interrogated, but is celebrated as a sexy and empowered heroine whose sadistic mutilation and killing of innocents (and implied willingness to murder even babies) are apparently forgivable and negligible in the grand scheme of things because she is “killer cool”.

If The Collection is indicative of the progress made by torture porn in its several years’ existence as a popular horror genre, the evidence suggests that very little has changed, except that the films are now apparently wearing their neurotic religious convictions on their sleeve.

Natalie Portman lookalike Emma Fitzpatrick stars as Elena, a rich, nondescript teen or twentysomething who, along with a couple of other nondescript teens or twentysomethings, decides to go to a “party” at a mysteriously hidden dance club tucked away in a seedy slum that even “rats won’t shit on.”  Unfortunately, after a little carefree techno booty-shaking, Elena sees her boyfriend with another woman and punches him – and then, alas, more unfortunate still, her friends and most of the other sluts are cut down on the dancefloor by a lowering matrix of blades that mows them into splattering mincemeat.  Elena evades this fate, but after releasing a captive thief (Josh Stewart) from a trunk, is herself captured by the leather S&M-masked man who runs the show.

Who is this man?  The Collector – first glimpsed during the opening credits, watching atrociously pixelated news broadcasts about himself that seem to suggest the trivializing dehumanization of mass media unreality – is a living illustration of Voltaire’s observation, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  Finding himself alone in a godless, loveless, chaotic, and poorly behaved world, the Collector, a genius inventor of Rube Goldberg mechanisms and a moralist of unstinting conviction, has set up shop in an abandoned hotel with a boobytrapped slut roach motel of sorts.  Here he plays both God and Devil (if such a distinction can actually exist), presiding over a labyrinthine, grimy, custom-built Hell and dealing death and cleverly contrived torments to anyone dumb enough to accept an invitation.

Fortunately for Elena, her father (Playroom‘s Christopher McDonald, wasted in a throwaway part) hires a group of mercenaries to go in and retrieve her with the help of Arkin, the thief she saved earlier in the film and whose occupation evokes the crucifixion of Christ.  Arkin, who agrees to help only reluctantly, proceeds to redeem himself over the course of the film; and one suspects that Josh Stewart may have been cast in the important role of Arkin not only because of the quiet, Christlike suffering conveyed in his face, but with a view to appropriating the actor’s real tattoos – a crucifix on one of his biceps and the Stewart clan’s Latin motto, “Virescit vulnere virtus” (“Courage strengthens at a wound”), on the other – as an integral component of the prevalent motif of Christian symbols utilized throughout The Collection.  Hellfire, purifying water and blood, temptation, betrayal, self-immolation, and limbs agonizingly transfixed by spikes and nails appear in profusion.

Unpleasant as all of this theological butcher shop imagery is, however, what ultimately prevents The Collection from being a good horror film is its mirthlessness, dearth of engaging characters, and emotionally sterile celebration of gross sadism in its depiction of the punishments meted out to the various sinners.  Few Christian films – and The Collection, make no mistake, is, even more than The Human Centipede, an unabashedly (albeit eccentric) WWJD t-shirt-wearing movie – have dared to present so bleakly psychotic a vision of God and Creation as the Collector presents to His audience.

Redemption from death is still possible through Christ (i.e., Arkin), but suffering is for everyone.  Obedience to the Collector’s whims earns misery for his slavish victims, but disobedience or failure earns misery and death.  One pretty young devotee of the Collector positively ejaculates her blood in an almost explicitly erotic epiphany when she stumbles into an iron maiden style contraption.  In one of the film’s few rewarding moments, Arkin, trapped in a cage again, appears to channel an oddly modern and vengeful Christ as he taunts His Father for cruelly forsaking Him, denouncing the Collector for being a “pussy”.  The Collector, of course, is eventually vanquished; but can one believe that His work is ever really done and that another will not emerge to take up His mantle, i.e., His S&M suit?

This is torture porn’s idea of religion: tattooed, vulgar, cold, sadistic, armed for twenty-first century spiritual warfare, and abandoning Sunday School in favor of educational evisceration.  Unfortunately, as a film, The Collection is, as its psychopathology might suggest, about as entertaining as some frowning sermon; effective ammunition for anarchist Mikhail Bakunin’s return of fire: “If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Collection is:

5. Anti-drug.  The Collector, like all effective religionists, dopes his victims so he can operate on them.

4. Pro-gun.  Guns do the Lord’s work of obliterating sinners.  Also, Arkin strategically fires a gun to attract the authorities to their location.

3. Feminist, but within bounds.  Elena, who sports a mannish haircut, acquits herself well throughout her ordeal and seizes a phallic implement at the climax to bash some of the Collector’s sculptural handiwork.  Sluts, however, have to go.

2. Anti-slut.  See Romans 6:23.

1. Christian, sort of.


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