Archives for posts with tag: Bruce Dern

There’s nothing wrong with epics, per se, but every movie about the slave experience doesn’t have to be a 145-minute Oscar hunter. There’s plenty of other stories, and storytelling conventions, and it’s nice to see Hollywood starting to diversify artistically in its effort to be culturally diverse. “Emperor” (2020) is an action movie set in the pre-Civil War South about a slave, Shields Green, fleeing a murder rap. Dayo Okeniyi plays Green. From the beginning scenes on the plantation to the climax at Harper’s Ferry, the story is tight and compelling. Who cares whether it’s “based on a true story?”

I don’t know how much producer Robert Redford influenced “The Mustang” (2019) but it has a quiet poetry to it that I’ve felt in some of his other late-career works. The analogy at the root of the story is blatantly obvious. Convicts training mustangs. Wild horses, wild men. Both must be tamed, for their own good. Get it? Yet what could have been a cookie-cutter film is filled with nuance, much of it ugly, as one might expect in the real world of a state prison. But it’s the nuance, including the mournfully symphonic soundtrack, that will draw you in.

Matthew Modine wrote a screenplay for a movie. That he directed. And starred in. What could go wrong? The road to straight-to-DVD hell is paved with films like “If… Dog… Rabbit” (2002). I’m sure the intentions were good. Just like Modine’s character, the cliché son from a white-trash family who is back from prison, vowing to stay clean. And just like the carefully planned caper that Modine gets sucked into because, well, because that’s how these movies go. It would be a harmless B-movie, except it (meaning Modine) doesn’t realize it isn’t any better than that. Just like Modine’s character.