After Alfred Hitchcock’s disappointing Trouble With Harry and Man Who Knew Too Much, the noirish, based-on-truth THE WRONG MAN (1956) is a welcome return to form. Henry Fonda plays a musician constantly slipping into debt to keep his family afloat. When he stops off at an insurance office to see if he can borrow against wife Vera Miles’ life insurance (she needs wisdom teeth extracted), one of the employees misidentifies him as the guy who held up the office a month earlier. They call the cops who then parade him into a couple of other stores the guy hit, and the staff confirm the identification. Before he knows it, Fonda is plunged into a legal world as alien to him as the bottom of the sea (his sense of being trapped in a world he never made is one of the film’s strengths). His wife, meanwhile, begins to crack under the strain, sliding into a nervous breakdown.
The film has more power because the cops clearly aren’t trying to railroad him, but they’re convinced he’s bad and interpret events accordingly; showing him to witnesses the way they do is almost guaranteed to produce a misidentification. Events that in movies such as The Phantom Lady are the work of the real villain — when Fonda tries to build an alibi the witnesses are either dead or he has no idea where to find them — are just the quirks of real life (today social media would make proving where he was a lot easier). A good film, though the events were way less an outlier than I imagine people thought at the time. “She’s living in another world from ours — a frightening landscape that might as well be the other side of the moon.”
With F9 (2021) I’m now caught up on the Fast and Furious franchise, though it feels like the series is running out of steam (switching to Hobbs and Shaw may be a smart move). John Cena plays Jacob, the brother we didn’t know Dominc Toretto (Vin Diesel) had; having broken bad after their father’s death Jacob now kills Mr. Nobody and captures Cipher (Charlize Theron reprising her role from Fate of the Furious) to help him find the McGuffin, a device that will let Jacob hack any and all computers everywhere. Can the team stop him, even with Han (Sung Kang) back from the dead (which is why I’m not betting Nobody is pushing up daisies either)?
This is almost meta at times in joking about its own absurdity (“You’re right — we are invicible.”) but the action sequences are routine and the goofy bits (flying a cool car into space to destroy Jacob’s satellite) didn’t work for me either. Neither did the usual We Are Family declarations — Jacob gets forgiven far too easily given his shift in allegiance is due to Cipher backstabbing him, not any reconsideration. Helen Mirren and Theron(“You remind me of Yoda — a puppet with someone’s hand up his ass.”) walk away with the acting honors. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but this entire operation is held together with duct tape.”
HELLBLAZERS (2022) is a movie I’d probably have watched to the end a decade or two ago, but my patience for sitting through mediocrity has apparently dwindled over the years. The story involves demon cultist Billy Zane unleashing a demon on a small town to the distress of Bruce Dern, Tony Todd and others, but after two or three scenes where the cast seemed to be struggling to remember their lines, I called it a day. “We didn’t open a hole into hell for nothing, you know.”
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