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"V for Vendetta"

Directed by James McTeigue.
Written by Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski.  Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.
Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rey and John Hurt.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  3/19/06


My problems with the new thriller "V for Vendetta" start with the title to this fucking movie.  When you watch the thing, you learn how a man of the people that wears a cool-yet-strange mask, named V (Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith from "The Matrix" films), came up with his name...that his name actually comes from the Roman numeral V, which is actually Five, because that was the Roman numeral on the cell door where he was imprisoned many moons ago.

So, why does the man get so obsessed with spouting off words with the letter V?  Or, why is the film tied to "V for Vendetta"?  The V is for motherfucking FIVE, so V is NOT for Vendetta or Vengeance or Victory or any of that bullshit!  Maybe the producers thought that "V for Five" wouldn't sell as many tickets???

The movie attached to this nonsense is similarly confusing, but not because you get lost in the plot, you get lost in the not-so-strong moviemaking, which is probably why this film was finished last fall and set for release last December...because everyone involved realized that this business was not that good after all.  Based on a 17-year-old graphic novel, "V for Vendetta" follows V as he plots a course of vengeance on his own government in the year 2020, which in the Britain of the future is a totalitarian society ruled by High Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt, featuring the most menacing teeth in cinema history).  V picks November 5th as his day to strike--for reasons explained in the film--and we watch V plot for 12 months as he attempts to strike down the government leadership in order to help the people of this society nation-build from the ground up.  V gets help from a government TV channel gopher named Evey (Natalie Portman) in order to strike down the various government officials that took part in a nasty experiment before trying to take down the whole government in a coup.

Ross, The Professional and I took this in after watching hoops all day, so we were primed to check this thing out.  "V for Vendetta" disappoints early and often; I think it was because the story by The Wachowski Brothers attempts to feel very important while also trying to give us some action to pass the time...but, the action sequences are VERY few and far between (total action scenes:  one) and the evil government of this film doesn't really make you want to go out and question your own government, mostly because it spends inordinate amounts of time dealing with issues of gay relationships and censorship, which quite frankly aren't issues that I find myself worrying about when it comes to my current government.

Maybe it was shocking 17 years ago when this graphic novel was first published for gay couples to be "living in sin", but having just gone through our government shooting down gay marriages--officially recognizing gay marriages, a problem; being up-and-up about gay couples, not a problem--I don't think this is quite the issue now that it might be in the near future like the film presents; similarly, the idea that our leadership would shoot down any TV show that pokes fun at its highest position of power in this country is a joke, since that would mean that every single daytime and late night talk show would have no opening monologues whatsoever.  Now, in other countries, these two issues are much larger, I am sure, but as an American film production, "V for Vendetta" has an agenda which missed me completely.  What about poverty?  What about disease?  What about health care?  What about military strategy?  The film's script touches none of these things, and in the here and now, those issues would resonate more with people I interact with and the people as a whole.  Shit, we just had a movie about cowboys that like to fuck other cowboys almost win an Oscar, and we had another guy play a gay writer actually WIN the Oscar; this has nothing to do with how the majority of Americans think (I've always wondered how well "Brokeback" has played in Wyoming), but as one of the pillars of government terror behavior in this film, "V for Vendetta" seems to spend too much time using gay life as a basis for Britain's future injustice.

But, let's throw that out altogether.  In the movie, you need to get behind the V character in order to buy into the whole shebang, but in watching V plot his course for the 12 months between terrorist acts, we instead watch him tell us about his love of swordfighting and "The Count of Monte Cristo", and real butter (of course, real butter has been outlawed in this society of the future) and classical music.  Uh, do we HAVE to wait 12 months to watch this guy blow up the Parliament building???  Wow, "V for Vendetta" is strangely boring for about an hour, and Portman does her best to try and keep things afloat, mostly to no avail.  We also spend much, much time watching the government's top cop (Stephen Rea of "The Crying Game") investigate Evey and V.  Blah.  Did I mention that there is no action in this action film?  And that it is a 130-minute opus on personal freedoms, to include living with your same-sex partner, eating real butter and keeping a copy of the Koran bedside?

What did I like about this movie?  The mask.  And, the end action sequence.  And, what might be the loudest domino sequence of all time.  Seriously, the sound effects of "V for Vendetta" are so amped that watching the dominos fall was like standing beneath Niagara Falls.  So, you can imagine that knives flying through the air is about 10 times louder than that, which is insanely loud given that we're talking about knives flying through the air.  Some of V's lines are great, but they are rarely profound, but Weaving voices them as if they should be profound, so that makes them slightly silly and ineffective.  Weaving is a strange choice to play this character, since 1) he's basically Australian (not born there, but lived there pretty much his whole life), and 2) he has no face time.  Couldn't they find just about any English actor to play this part with similar results?  One would think Weaving didn't do any stuntwork for this movie, so why not just pull a Darth Vader and have one guy do all the physical work and another do all the voice work?

Hey, that's just me--trying to cut corners.  I know this much: when one really boils it down, the Wachowski Brothers have really made only one great film--"The Matrix."  The rest have really been a mixed bag or worse ("Bound", "Assassins", the three "Matrix" video games and the two "Matrix" sequels), and "V for Vendetta" does little to pull these two guys out of the shitter.

Rating:  Rental


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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, 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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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09