Cinema Review: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

jackass-presents-bad-grandpa

 

DIR: Jeff Tremaine  WRI: Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze PRO: Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, Derek Freda, Spike Jonze  DOP: Lance Bangs, Dimitry Elyashkevich  CAST: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll

A privilege granted to artists and writers in this country is an exemption from income tax based on the “cultural or artistic merit” of their work, with the sharper legal definition that “its contemplation enhances the quality of individual or social life by virtue of that work’s intellectual, spiritual or aesthetic form and content” or “enhances or intensifies the aesthetic apprehension of those who experience or contemplate it.” The absurdity of such a sanctifying definition becomes blindingly obvious when you see something like Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. My life is not by any meaningful measure enhanced as a result of watching Johnny Knoxville struggle to remove his twanging latex dick from a Coke machine as innocent bystanders wince, laugh or simply try to ignore him. But I did laugh. Big stupid laughs from my big stupid head. Equally, I’m certain that society has not been enhanced by the intellectual, spiritual or aesthetic qualities of seeing Knoxville’s latex-disguise Grandpa shart fake shit onto the wall of a restaurant. Reader, I laughed at that one too.

These scenes of disgusting spectacle are weakly stitched into a unity by a gossamer thin narrative in which Knoxville’s Grandpa character drives cross-country to reunite his young grandson (Jackson Nicoll) with his irresponsible father. The plot is just an egg carton for a series of set-ups in which unsuspecting members of the public have to make shocked faces in reaction to a series of provocative stunts, including Knoxville gatecrashing a Ladies’ Night stripshow with a display of distended geriatric genitalia, or allowing his “grandson” to drink beer in public.

It’s hard to criticise something that resolutely refuses to rise to the bait of even pretending to be art. What I can say, however, is that not all of the stunts have the same ability draw laughs. Knoxville chats up women on the street, but the horny irascible Grandfather is a cliché as old as Zeus himself. As this sort of thing goes, Knoxville has neither the acting talent nor the balls (distended or otherwise) of Sacha Baron Cohen, whose commitment to his larger-than-life characters is both fearless and persuasive. Knoxville’s performance of aging goes about as deep as the latex appliances on his face and hands. This is not a great film, not even a middling one, but, then again, it never tries to be.

When it works it succeeds as forcefully and as ineffably as any work of art could hope to, with no respectable, ennobling means of accounting for its effect. At one point, Grandpa mounts one of those shopping-arcade toy vehicles designed to attract kids and torture parents and is summarily hurled through (what seems to be) a plate-glass window. The audience could see this gag coming a mile away. Nothing or nobody (apart from Knoxville!) was elevated or enhanced. As I laughed idiotically, in the very same row, the reviewer from The Irish Times laughed like he’d just been exempted from income tax.

Tony McKiver

16 (See IFCO for details)

90 mins
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa  is released on 25th October 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Last Stand

DIR: Jee-woon Kim • WRI: Andrew Knauer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff • PRO: Lorenzo di Bonaventura • DOP: Ji-yong Kim • ED: Steven Kemper • DES: Franco-Giacomo Carbone • CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker

Arnie always promised he’d be back, and we always believed in him. But then he went into politics, passed the gauntlet on to the likes of Jason Statham and The Rock and vanished, only to reappear in snippets of Sly Stallone’s Expendables films.

Now, aged 65, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back once more, the lead in a boisterous action movie with a threadbare plot. The more things change… eh?

The Last Stand sees Arnie play Ray Owens, the inexplicably Austrian sheriff of the US/Mexico border town Sommerton. Ray is, of course, a former top narcotics agent who saw too much bloodshed in LA, and has opted for peaceful retirement. No such luck.

After a daring escape, cartel godfather Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) flees the FBI in Las Vegas, headed for the border in the world’s fastest car. His goons have already set up a temporary bridge across the gorge that separates Sommerton from Mexico, but the Feds aren’t expecting him to make the crossing there. So it’s up to the aging sheriff and his motley crew of hick cops and volunteers to protect the desert town from the mercenaries and impede Cortez’s getaway.

With a plot that simple, you’d hope The Last Stand could spice things up with plenty of action and comedy, but chances are you’ll be disappointed. The action comes in weak jolts until the eponymous last stand (more on that shortly), and almost all of the one-liners fall flat, revealing the half-heartedness of Andrew Knauer’s script. But if you can stick with it to the final act, action fans will be rewarded.

The English language debut of Kim Ji-woon, the Korean director of the demented comedy Western The Good, the Bad, the Weird and the excellent thriller I Saw the Devil, The Last Stand’s finale is a fine shoot ’em up setpiece. There are some excellent kills in the vein of Good, Bad, Weird, including the most gloriously brutal use of a flare gun since Dead Calm, and there’s enough humour playing on Arnie’s age to earn a few good giggles. The final showdown between Ray and Cortez is thrilling, as the two play a game of cat and mouse in a cornfield, before a punch-up that sees Arnie’s sluggish strength match the villain’s weaker but more sprightly frame.

Arnie, looking a little too much like a wax model of himself with terrible hair plugs,  has command of the unchallenging role, although the dreadful one-liners give him no chance to use the comedic muscles he used to flex so well. Noriega is your bog-standard ethnic villain, but Peter Stormare really cranks it up a notch as his malicious number 2.

Forest Whitaker slums it shamelessly as the FBI chief on Cortez’s trail, while Luis Guzmán gives it just the right amount of silly as Ray’s deputy. Harry Dean Stanton appears all too briefly in a typically fine cameo, while Génesis Rodríguez is in there, somewhere, you probably won’t notice. She’s awful. In the film’s biggest surprise, Johnny Knoxville is actually quite entertaining (or at least not annoying) as local gun-nut Lewis, who supplies the heroes with their heavy firepower in the tradition of the greatest of all desert town defence movies – and no, I don’t mean Rio Bravo, I mean Tremors!

Formulaic to the last, The Last Stand is passable action fluff, but certainly a disappointment when Ji-woon’s past career is taken into account. At the very least, it’s proof that Arnie’s still got it. Of course, at no point in The Last Stand does he utter the immortal line “I’ll be back”, so this time we can’t be sure he will be. With disappointing box office turnout around the world, hopefully this won’t come to be Arnie’s actual last stand. That would be the biggest disappointment of all.

David Neary

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

107 mins

The Last Stand  is released on 25th January 2013

The Last StandOfficial Website

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Jackass 3D

Jackass 3D

DIR: Jeff Tremaine • WRI: Preston Lacy • PRO: Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville. Jeff Tremaine • DOP: Lance Bangs, Dimitry Elyashkevich, Rick Kosick • ED: Seth Casriel, Matt Kosinski, Matt Probst • DES: James Peter Blackmon , Seth Meisterman • CAST: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn

The TV series Jackass was spoken about it hushed tones when I was in school. If you were lucky enough to get MTV, it was said, then you would have access to hours of grown men doing insanely stupid and dangerous things for no reason other than they were funny. For better or worse, it would be one of the generations’ defining (pre-YouTube) cultural moments. We may not have had punk, or the civil rights movement, but we did have a show in which a man repeatedly took a paintball to the crotch.

Amid the endless tabloid outrage and claims that the show further represented the decline of western civilization something was lost – Jackass was often incredibly funny, and not always necessarily in a stupid way. There was a subversive edge and creativity to many of the stunts, something that the many imitators and braindead, happy-slapping teens missed entirely. Jackass 3Dwhich also features Spike Jonze and cult singer-songwriter Will Oldham – is possibly the finest example of this strange, borderline Avante-Garde art form yet.

To say that Jackass 3D is little more than the show blown up to three dimensions would be a fair assessment. Shot in full 3D (which automatically makes it more worthy of the title than a lot of recent Hollywood product), the film also uses the same Phantom slow-motion camera that Lars Von Trier used for Antichrist (!), which allows for some truly stunning footage of the carnage in incredible detail at 1,000 frames per second. Although it was a decision almost certainly motivated by the fact that the film’s target audience would likely download it otherwise, the use of 3D technology is actually a smart artistic move as well. It adds variety to the film’s visuals, it’s used effectively and economically, and it happily revels in the gimmicky nature of the technology.

There is stuff here that would make even the most hardened viewer feel ill (man in overflowing portable toilet shot into the air on a bungee rope), and even the most uptight cynic guffaw loudly (unsuspecting man carrying soup hit by giant paper maché high five). Weirdly, though, there’s also strange underlying poignancy. It’s over ten years since Jackass was first shown, and the cast have had a mixture of success (Johnny Knoxville is a Hollywood star now) and failure (Steve-O is a recovering alcoholic; in one of the movies’ queasier moments, he drinks a cup of sweat, only for someone to remark that it’s the first cocktail he’s had in two years). Despite the fact that they are neither big nor clever, there is a sense that these men have genuine, borderline homoerotic love for each other, and a nostalgia that comes with watching them relive their youth. Overall then, Jackass 3D is weirdly moving, amusingly anti-establishment and technologically impressive – not bad for a film in which a man urinates into a jet engine.

Scott Townsend

Rated 18 (see IFCO website for details)
Jackass 3D
is released on 5th November 2010

Jackass 3D Official Website

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