Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '96 - Hal Horn ""

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Underrated '96 - Hal Horn

Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old').
The Wachowskis’ debut film was well-received critically, but barely a blip at the box office, and virtually forgotten after their sophomore effort THE MATRIX became one of 1999’s biggest hits (and eventually, a billion dollar franchise). But for my money this neo-noir remains their best. Ex-con Gina Gershon lays low after finishing a jail sentence, working as a handy(wo)man in an apartment building. Her next door neighbors are mafia enforcer Joe Pantoliano and his trophy girlfriend Jennifer Tilly. Turns out Tilly is actually attracted to Gershon, and seeking a fresh start away from the mob and her current live-in. The ladies embark on a sexual relationship and concoct a plan to escape with money Pantoliano is laundering. Stylishly and skillfully filmed for only $6 million, with several twists and career best performances from Gershon and Pantoliano. My favorite film of a strong year. Also with Christopher Meloni and, in his final film, John P. Ryan.

Sixteen years after his New York ESCAPE, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is again called in by the United States government. This time, he must recover a doomsday device from the island of Los Angeles (where ‘undesirables’ are deported by the new fundamentalist President of the United States. Kurt Russell’s EXECUTIVE DECISION was a big hit in the Spring of 1996, but his return to arguably his most iconic role bombed in the summer. Possibly because it followed the original ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK template too closely. Or perhaps the unusually downbeat ending affected word of mouth. While ESCAPE FROM L.A. is flawed, it’s still very enjoyable for fans of the first movie, with a supporting cast that is impossible to dislike: Pam Grier, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, Michelle Forbes, Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda and Cliff Robertson (as the President). Russell co-wrote the screenplay, and John Carpenter returned to direct.

Ridley Scott’s WHITE SQUALL didn’t even crack the year’s top 100 at the box office but deserved a better fate. Based on the true story of the 1961 voyage of the Albatross, which sunk with a group of American teenagers on board. Tough skipper Jeff Bridges is at the helm, and his students include Ryan Phillippe, Jeremy Sisto, Eric Michael Cole and Scott Wolf. A bit overlong at 129 minutes, but not without its rewards.

Herb Gardner directs this version of his highly successful play starring Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis. A terrific showcase for both actors, with Matthau giving probably the best performance of his 1990’s career revival. With Amy Irving, Craig T. Nelson, Martha Plimpton. If you enjoyed GOING IN STYLE and THE SUNSHINE BOYS, by all means catch this one.

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