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Posts Tagged ‘Russell Crowe’


Since I’ve been on vacation, I’m a little late to the party, so to speak, when it comes to Man of Steel. If I could use one phrase to sum up the movie, it would be “over the top.”

It bears the marks of both Zach Synder (300) and Christopher Nolan. There is plenty of action, loud action. The rather simple plot line seems to be convoluted, or confusing, at times. The story line takes you places you aren’t sure you need to go. And the story line doesn’t necessarily go in a straight line. That might be what happens when you try to put two movies into one.

I am getting ahead of myself.

This reboot is large parts of Superman (origins) and Superman 2 (the conflict and enemy). After Kal-El leaves Krypton, the rest of the origin story is played out in flashbacks largely woven into some original material. As his father Jal-El, Russell Crowe (who played Robin Hood) has infinitely more to do than Marlon Brando ever did. Much of it was quite physical, unlike Brando’s role. He got to revive some skills he needed to play Maximus. The story begins with a planet that has run out of energy and is ready to implode because they have tapped into the core to get power. You can’t help but wonder if this is some political statement. But the Jal-El, the scientist, and General Zod both accuse the government officials of endlessly debating things while everything fell apart (another political statement). But they have different opinions about what should be done. Essentially the point is no one listens to the scientists.

It is quite interesting because they used an unusual form of population control: no natural births. They were able to create children genetically suited for the roles they will perform in society. Jal-El and his wife rebel against the government policy, seeking the hope of Krypton. With the destruction of Krypton immanent, they send their newly born son, Kal-El, to a new planet where he will be “like a god.” There are a number of allusions to Christ throughout the movie in addition to his name (similar to voice of God), including a scene in a church as he wrestles with his place in the world, Jesus in the garden is seen in the stained glass over his shoulder. But Superman saves the world through his strength, Jesus through His sacrifice.

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The question of responding to injustice is a difficult one.  Injustice should anger us, and drive us to correct it if possible.  We are made in the image of a just God after all.  But sometimes Lady Justice is not only blind, but also deaf to our pleas.

On the Run

This is the set up for The Next Three Days (a remake of a French film) starring Russell Crowe.  In the interviews for the release of the movie, Crowe says he viewed this as more of a love story than an action film.  He plays John Brennan, an English professor.  The movie opens with him driving a car down the street with blood splattered on his face.  You can hear a man dying in the background.  You are confused.  “The Past Three Years” comes up on the screen, you are now going to find out how he found himself in this situation and how unlikely it was in the first place.

The first 15 minutes or so are confusing.  He and his wife have dinner with his brother and his wife.  It doesn’t go well.  Something is bothering Lara Brennan.  She apparently had an argument with her boss, and is now arguing about it with her sister-in-law.  The next morning the family is in their little ritual when she realizes there is blood on her coat.  As she’s trying to wash it off, the police show up to arrest her for the murder of her boss.  We don’t see the trial, only his visit to her in jail after another failed appeal.  Lots of things have been cut out.

After she attempts suicide, he realizes he must get her out of there.  Since he can’t do it legally, he will resort to doing it illegally.  This is what happens when we don’t believe in a just God or the Savior who suffered unjustly.  We are unable to suffer injustice as He did.  We deceive ourselves into thinking that the second wrong will make the first right.  But it really just complicates things, as John Brennan is about to learn.

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I expected more from American Gangster.  It stars two first-rate actors, and personal favorites, in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.  It is directed by Ridley Scott.  The acting and direction were very good.  The story was interesting too.  So, I’m not quite sure why I’m not content, or as content, with this movie.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps it was that the story takes place over such a long period of time, but offers no time line to better understand its development.  And I thought it would have more action.

It is the story of 2 men whose lives intersect, and are very similar.  Denzel plays Frank Lucas, a body guard for a Harlem mob boss.  He watches his boss, and after his death decides to step into his shoes as the neighborhood’s beneficent dictator.  He must remove some competition, and convince the Italians that he is their equal.  His is a story of dogged determination and perseverence.  He had a good head for business, but decided to use his abilities for evil instead of good.  But he justifies it based on the good he does for his family (whom he’s brought up from NC to work for him) and the community.

Russell Crowe is Ritchie Roberts, a clean cop who also displays dogged determination and perseverence.  As head of a drug task force, he hunts Lucas for years.  In the meantime, he passes his bar exam.  He cares about his son, but has trouble relationally.  He’s a womanizer, so his wife left him.  One of the subplots is the fight for custody of his son.  Since he refuses to take any bribe money or steal evidence, he drives a beat up junker through most of the movie.  It is his conflict with his wife that opens up one of the most amazing lines of dialogue.

“Don’t punish me for being honest.  Don’t take my boy.”

“You don’t take money for one reason: to buy being dishonest about everything else. … You think you’re going to heaven because you’re honest, but you’re not.  You’re going to the same hell as the crooked cops you can’t stand!”

Wow!  What an apt description of how self-righteousness functions in our lives.  We narrow God’s law down to a few things- in this case being a clean cop.  As long as we do that- we are righteous in our own eyes.  We neglect the rest of God’s commands which would condemn us, and use the ones we keep to condemn others.  He blinds himself to just how messed up he really is, and feels a martyr for suffering for his one area of obedience.  This is a great window into our souls!

Those crooked cops stand between the men for years.  Lucas hates the fact that he has to pay them off.  In another great line of thought I couldn’t find again to copy- he compares their love of money to an addict.  The crooked cops (and the hangers on in his life) can’t get enough- they are just as addicted.  Another great window to our souls!  They also hinder Roberts’ efforts to bring Lucas down.  When Roberts get the goods on Lucas, he uses him to bring them down.

The movie ends with Lucas getting out of prison to be met by Roberts who is now his lawyer.  Oh, the irony of it all.  Roberts is essentially on the take as a defense attorney, but probably sees himself as defending men from the crooked cops.  He, too, is now addicted to money.

American Gangster is what you’d expect of a gangster movie- plenty of bad language, shocking violence and a bit of nudity.  But as a morality play, it does offer us some insight into human behavior.  As a morality play, it doesn’t offer us insight into how to change and be free of our self-centeredness and addictions.

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