Monday, July 25, 2016

Tenuous Ties: Ryan Reynold's Brain

Welcome to "Tenuous Ties", where we take two completely disparate movies, and write about them together because of some small thread connecting the two.  We're just trying to stay awake here.

Yay! Graig made a new blog post theme!

And my first entry to it may be an even more tenuous connection but this place is all about pushing boundaries, right?

Self/less, 2015, Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror) -- Netflix
Criminal, 2016, Ariel Vromen (Rx) -- download

Back in 2014 I saw a movie called The Anomaly, which is about a dying man seeking control of another person's body to prolong his life. The story switches control of the body back and forth between the original owner and black-outs where the new owner asserts control. When I saw the trailers for this Ryan Reynolds / Ben Kingsley I assumed pretty much the same would happen. I was rather pleasantly surprised that it's more about Reynolds channeling Kingsley, to mostly successful results.

Kingsley is Damian, a real estate mogul of great skill & wealth and few moral compunctions. He's not an evil man but he does what he has to, to gain power -- screw the little people. When he discovers he's dying, he enlists a scientist to grow him a new, younger body into which he will transfer his core being. Damian never questions where the body comes from, assuming it to be a willing host. That body is Ryan Reynolds's younger body. Damian is thrilled, and while his "own" body has died and had a funeral, Damian has set himself up for life. A new life. A life of parties and sex with younger women, well at least to start.

But then pesky memories start appearing, memories of another life, one with a wife and daughter. If Damian just kept on taking the red pills, the memories would fade. But he doesn't and he proves himself troubled by his own history of unscrupulous behaviour. He decides to investigate where the body actually came from. Of course, it was acquired by the unscrupulous scientist who came up with the mind transfer process. The whole growing bodies to order was not working out. Damian is not happy with this revelation.

Reynolds is quickly becoming one of my favourite straight-man actors, despite his comedic origins. He has had a lot of time playing smaller roles. What was his break-out role? The disaster that was Green Lantern? Or was it Deadpool? I think we will see his rise to the ranks of Tom Cruise, or Kevin Costner in his day, before long. This is not a big movie, but he really does sell his character, absorbing some mannerisms of Kingsley in order to play the part.

Unfortunately this movie is a rather generic thriller than scifi actioner but you can see the little bits of light shine from Tarsem's skill. He knows how to layout a scene that makes me smile and obviously, he and Reynolds worked well together. Good enough, is the mantra of Hollywood, as I imagine its a calculation of investment vs return.

Speaking of smaller roles, Reynolds comes along with an uncredited, but more than a cameo role, in another scifi thriller starring Costner himself. Costner's star is waning, but he still seems to want some action leading roles. Where Liam Neeson's finding a second life with his action pieces, I think Costner should let his old-man status take over. He should exude wisdom, not brute strength.

In Criminal Costner plays Jericho, a man with frontal lobe damage and an extreme sociopath personality. He is not without emotion, just without compassion or empathy, and an inability to understand basic social behaviour. He does want he wants, screw the consequences. It has left him in prison most of his life. But it also leaves him a prime candidate for brain infusion.

You see, in that cameo, Reynolds is a CIA agent in London who dies before he can find the location of a terrorist that has captured control of the US nuclear arsenal. Well, technically, the terrorist's hacker has control and the CIA needs to find said hacker before the terrorist locates him. The hacker wasn't pleased with what the terrorist wants to do, i.e. blow the world up. The only known clues are in Reynold's head. So they implant them into Jericho's head.

Honestly, while the movie really was just a low rent Bourne Identity, in look at feel, I really enjoyed the way Costner allowed the parts of Reynolds brain integrate into Jericho's personality. He went from a being a bit of a raving loon with low vocabulary to a man obviously struggling with the new emotions bouncing around inside his skull. He spoke better, he paused to consider actions and in the end did the right thing. And saved the world.

The tie is pretty obvious -- Ryan Reynolds is a dead man, whose memories and his wife (Natalie Martinez is one wife, Gal Gadot is the other) & daughter influence a bad man to do right. But the real tenuous tie is the loving wife bit part. Both Natalie and Gal play wives who have lost their husbands, both recognize bits in the leading man -- Natalie literally, Gal recognizing mannerisms and little secrets they kept. What bugs me is that both wives need their husband back so much they accept the man that is not theirs. For Gal, it's even more jarring as she accepts an obviously violent man that doesn't look at all like her Ryan Reynolds late husband.

I wonder, would Hollywood ever allow a man to get wrapped up in that desperation? Probably just have him jump into bed with the body of his late wife. These wife roles always serve a purpose in the plot, but always at the sacrifice of a good actress having a good role.

Footnote. I rather like that poster for Criminal. It is a good example of that latest to-be-emulated-to-death design style of double-exposure / superimposed photography. But a bit of Googling shows they created ALL the common thriller design choices for this movie. Even more amusing, the South Korea version moves Reynolds to the Big Head place on the poster, despite only having an uncredited role. He Who Sells, I guess.