When Casting Is A Spoiler
So the other night I was watching the DVD of a movie called "Cleaner", directed by Renny Harlin and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Ed Harris and Luis Guzman. It was a random arrival for my online-DVD-reviews-in-exchange-for-free-DVDs gig.
It's not a bad movie, and it does some things well. But it went straight to DVD basically because it doesn't do enough of them well enough for it to really have deserved a theatrical release, though I'm sure Jackson didn't know that was going to happen when he signed on.
And Jackson almost makes the movie work; he's very watchable, as always.
*** SPOILER ALERT -- IF YOU REALLY CARE ***
The problem is that though this is essentially a mystery, in which Jackson is trying to figure out who tricked him into cleaning up a crime scene, it is really painfully obvious for most of the film who the bad guy is going to be.
It's going to be Ed Harris' character, ex-cop Jackson's buddy and former cop partner. How do we know this?
Because it's such a nothing part that there's no reason why Ed Harris would do the movie unless he was going to turn out to be the killer.
For the first 80% of the film, Harris just occasionally wanders in, and really has nothing to do. The writer doesn't even attempt to really give him a storyline to make this seem like an Ed Harris-worthy part; he's just a minor character.
So it's distracting, because when we're supposed to be being misled into thinking that maybe Luis Guzman is the bad eye, our eye is firmly on Ed Harris throughout, waiting for him to come out of the shadows for the requisite showdown ending.
This happens on LAW AND ORDER a lot too. Some B or C-list actress will pop up in a guest starring role, and initially it'll seem like they are just a family member. But of course they are always more important than we should initially think -- except we know that they are going to be the key character, so it doesn't really work.
Just once I'd like to see a really clever bait-and-switch, where we see a guy in the they-are-only-in-the-movie-because-they-are-the-bad-guy part, and it turns out that they aren't the bad guy, and in fact it is a nothing role. Just to shake up people's expectations a bit.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK made an estimated $54.5 million this past weekend, so I was friggin' close.
THE HAPPENING made an estimated $30.5 million, a lot more than I thought. So M. Night is going to get to keep making movies. Here's hoping he knocks one out of the park soon, though I think he could really use some screenwriting help, either by co-writing or simply by getting someone else to pen one of his scripts.