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"The Missing"

Directed by Ron Howard.
Written by Ken Kaufman.  Based on the novel by Thomas Eidson. 
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett and Evan Rachel Wood.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  12/2/03 

Folks--

So, it's kind of like this--you're sitting there, taking in the scenery of the Southwest that makes up "The Missing", looking at the pretty snow, enjoying the view from mountain vistas.  You get some characters that are somewhat interesting, and then there is a kidnapping, and then there is some soul-searching, and then there are a couple of shootouts, and then, it's over.

150 minutes later.

And, even though "Open Range" was another quiet western drama that was also that long, I thought "Open Range" was quite interesting in its introspectiveness (if that's even a word) and the tension that built to its climactic shootout between cattlemen in a small town.  "The Missing", which follows a mother (Cate Blanchett), her distant Apache father (Tommy Lee Jones), and the mother's kidnapped teenager Lily ("Thirteen" star Evan Rachel Wood), is a movie that just seems to kind of ride along.  You know that the teenager will be rescued from her evil Apache kidnappers, but how?  About halfway through the film, do you really care?

I didn't, but I will admit that the scenery is so beautiful that your attention will be held throughout the picture.  And, who doesn't love Tommy Lee Jones chewing up the scenery?  Jones looks so old in this film that you don't think he could possibly be any older, but I say that every time I see him in a movie.  I also like shootouts, and even though the ones in this film are not very good, just seeing men fire rifles at other men gives me a rise.  (I like Ron Howard, and he has made many great films, but action scenes are clearly not his forte.)

What doesn't work here is predictability.  It works against the film's plotting on countless occasions:

-->If they had called this film "Young White Girls Will Fuck Up Your Plan", it would have been incredibly accurate; there are at least four scenes in "The Missing" where the mother's youngest daughter Dot (Jenna Boyd) screws up and almost gets all of the good guys killed.  (This, of course, is preceded by the Jones character telling the mother “Are you SURE we should bring her along?”)  Then, you even get a couple of scenes where Lily gets a couple of people killed!  By the time that Dot accidentally signals the bad guy Apaches with her binoculars, at least a dozen people in my audience were groaning "Of COURSE!"

-->It's a western, and there are Indians, so you can imagine there will be scenes where someone blows some kind of fairy dust on another character that will alternately heal or kill them.  And, there will be curses put on other characters by witches.  You have to expect this; in "The Missing", I just thought these scenes were hokey.

-->From all the reading I have done about the inaccuracy of rifles from the late 1800s, I am stunned that so many directors try to make us believe that they are accurate from half a mile away.  And there you have it, another sequence where good guys are picking off bad guys from this distance, while bad guys predictably spray shots all over the place while never hitting their target.

Despite all of this, I think that there are enough cinematic aspects of "The Missing" to warrant seeing it in a theater at a discounted price.  And, we even get Val Kilmer in a cameo.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09