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2004 Roundup
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"Troy"

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
Written by David Benioff.  Based on "The Iliad", by Homer.
Starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom and Peter O'Toole.
Release Year:  2004 

Review Date:  5/16/04

Folks-- 

The previews looked solid.  We have a solid cast, swords, a $175 million budget and the director of "Das Boot."  Maybe the best part about this big film is that it is NOT called "Van Helsing."

We lined up a solid cast of men to head over to the multiplex to see the new Brad Pitt killathon "Troy":  Gordon "The Professional" Stokes, li'l bro Garrett, Yac and Keith "Dogshit" Karem, all fans of bloodshed, hot women and clichés.  Everything was in place.  After 19 minutes of commercials and previews (yes, we verified this since Keith was keeping track tonight), this damned thing finally started...

...and, it may be the summer's most bland blockbuster in 2004.  "Troy" uses the ideas of "The Iliad" to give us the power struggle between the power-hungry conqueror Agamemnon (Brian Cox) and Priam (Peter O'Toole), king of Troy and a man of peace...until his son Paris (Orlando Bloom) completely blows that whole peace thing by snatching the wife of Agamemnon's brother.  The wife, Helen (Diane Kruger), becomes the pawn in Agamemnon's quest to dominate the whole world...but, to become King of the World, he'll need the services of the world's greatest killer, a Greek named Achilles (Pitt), to lead his troops into battle.  Battle they do, as the Greeks try valiantly to take the city of Troy all movie long.

Long, as in 168 minutes long, and even though that sounds long, trust me, it feels even longer.  Director Wolfgang Petersen, who has never been known for brevity, bleeds this thing out for so long that the patches of film where there is no action can be quite painful physically.  It doesn't help that the script translation by David Benioff (he wrote the book used for "25th Hour") is only so-so, and because our romantic leads are Bloom and Kruger, we have to watch Bloom play a character that is achingly similar to his character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Legolas from the "LOTR" series.  Hammy turns by Cox (using a couple different accents and then turning on bad guy charm that he used in last year's "X2") and O'Toole (he comes out of semi-retirement for this?) make some of the non-battle scenes watchable, if not entirely unbelievable.  Gordon called it on the Saffron Burrows character; playing the wife of Troy prince Hector (Eric Bana), every one of her scenes is some varying state of tremble, and she quickly becomes tiresome as each shot of her is essentially "I can't believe you're going to fight!  Don't you know we have a baby?"

But, as fair-to-poor as some of those performances can be, Pitt's work here is fantastic.  Of course, I generally like Pitt in his movies; as the brooding killer here in "Troy", he is physically up to the task in the battle sequences, but his energy in his other scenes matches up just as well.  Bana is good here, but he just doesn't seem to have the same wattage that you would like to have in your lead co-star role; in the inevitable showdown between Hector and Achilles, you just feel like Pitt would whoop Bana's ass in real life anyway, and that makes a scene like this 90% cool, instead of 100% cool.

Throwing out the performances, though, I came into "Troy" knowing that it was R-rated and wanting R-rated entertainment.  What does this mean?

  1. I wanted bloodshed.  Violent, "Braveheart"-style killing and substance.  I mean, we're talking about swords, spears and shields, for chrissakes.

  2. I wanted sex scenes.  You've got good looking people all over the place, and I don't think I'm pushing the limits here by saying all of us like to see attractive people "hangin' out" in a blood-and-guts action film.  Give Daddy somethin' to love!

So, for point number 2, we come up completely empty.  We really don't even get any nudity, save for some shots of people lying naked on their sides while sleeping.  We do get a few shots of Pitt putting on armor.  Otherwise, no sex scenes.  Come on!   If this was never considered, then the studio heads at Warner Brothers ought to all be taken out back and beaten.

Point number 1 is the biggest problem that "Troy" has, relegating it to so-so movie, not "I've got to see that again" greatness.  Even though we do get a few spears to the head or medieval beatdowns courtesy of Ajax ("X-Men" star Tyler Mane), the action in "Troy" just doesn't feel tough enough, from the swordfights, to the now-obligatory sky-full of arrows sequences, to the shots of men running into each other with their shields.  The sad thing about this film is that all of the action doesn't feel as violent--as a whole--than the last hour of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers", a PG-13 film that Peter Jackson nuanced into a tough, non-bloody war played out to heroic effect.  "Troy" seems to have a lot of fighting, but none of it is as rousing as anything in "Gladiator", which you will find yourself constantly comparing this with as you sit and watch.  I found out tonight by reading on "The Internet" that Warner Brothers had tried to make this a PG-13 without making too many cuts, hence part of the reason why we are left with softer kills and generally lower body counts than other films of this ilk.

"Troy" is a tough one to gauge.  The two lead performances and the incredible look of this film are amazing.  Some of the action is great--and, that Achilles/Hector showdown is the best stuff in the movie--but most of it feels watered down, not nearly fierce enough for a men in kilts flick.  The script has some bad lines and awkward sequences, and then has some bad transitioning, too (the idea for the Trojan Horse is like a childish joke, it's so ridiculous; I don't remember this being the sequence of events in the Homer poem).  The soundtrack is pretty good...but, I'm convinced I have heard all of the sung hymns and orchestral pieces in other films, maybe even other Petersen films.  The running time is simply unnecessary; a more careful editor could have found at least 10 minutes of this film to shred and throw onto the DVD instead of making me sit through it here.  Very uneven, but still a decent pick for an afternoon showing.

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