Blackway Retitled

DATELINE:  Lost Masterpiece

blackway

When you change the title after release, you lose a movie sometimes.

In this case, the loss for viewers is palpable. Now using its original novel name, Blackway, this low budget, big-star cast is an allegory about evil set in British Columbia, Canada.

Blackway is the bad guy, and he is the epitome of bad. What better name for this pervasive force in the wilderness.

The cast alone will make you curious:  Anthony Hopkins, Julia Stiles, Ray Liotta, and Hal Holbrook, makes for an aging, but brilliant tale of a quest against the ravages of ruthless evil.

You may wonder how such a trio as Stiles, Hopkins, and wonderful Alexander Ludwig, mismatched to fight bad guys, can stand up to Liotta’s ubiquitous town boss. He seems to be everywhere, having done dirt to many in the remote region.

He has power and ultimately engenders total fear among the residents.

No one will help the beleaguered Miss Stiles, except for Hopkins and his muscleman with slow wits. Each has a reason to go against Liotta’s reign of terror.

In one illuminating scene, Hopkins tells us that life forces us to face implacable enemies sometimes: whether it’s cancer, a car crash, or financial ruin. You must deal with it with bravery.

Director Daniel Alfredson has chosen his frightful woods in the world of nowhere quite well, and the adaptation of Castle Freeman’s book goes against the grain of the usual clichés.

So many viewers missed this film, when it deserves your full attention with performances, story, direction, and compelling message. How fortunate we were to stumble upon it by accident.

 

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The Iceman Goeth

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

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Michael Shannon and Ray Liotta as Mobsters Most Dangerous

Whenever we see a title containing the word ‘Iceman’, we think either of the frozen tundra where a 5000 year old man was discovered looking like a woolly mammoth flash frozen. Or, we presume that another version of Eugene O’Neill’s complex play has been produced.

In the case of The Iceman, we are wrong on both counts. This is the 21st century, and any icemen you encounter are likely mob hit men. They used to be called mechanics, but that technology is long gone. You’d think the denizens of the icebox set would be out of fashion too.

We noted that James Franco, now ubiquitous in good and bad movies, appears in this movie as a sniveling coward. How can we resist?

The Iceman is based on a true story, and that usually warns us off the script immediately. As human life’s value continues to sink to a nadir in the new century, movies depict killers, paramilitary special force soldiers, sociopaths, and professional murderers, in a more favorable storyline. The Iceman is in there somewhere.

No matter how good or bad the film is, we are left with a queasy feeling. We are not amused by dumb families and enablers, which abide aplenty in this movie.

We are loath to spend a couple of hours with unlikeable characters and unpleasant situations, but once in a while we do it for a review and to confirm our correct assumption. This is not an uplifting movie.

Michael Shannon is brilliant as the sociopathic mob killer that allegedly fixed over 100 people with cold precision. Only when his killings took on a personal vendetta that Richard Kuklinski was caught. A mob boss (Ray Liotta, who else?) saw him as an amateur and recognized the talent to turn him pro.

Winona Ryder gives another solid performance as the obtuse housewife of the killer. Do we recommend this film? Well, only because Michael Shannon has a quality that is frightening: he reminds of us of the early roles of Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Aldo Ray. He is tough and a dangerous bad guy.

In years to come, viewers and fans of Shannon may turn back to this movie as quintessential in his canon. If you like feeling uncomfortable, by all means, view this movie.

 

 If you want to read more Ossurworld movie reviews, you may consult two books:  MOVIE MASHUP and MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE. Both books are available in softcover and ebook at Amazon.com.