AT THE MOVIES: Very Dirty Dancing

Assassination Tango
Andrew Phillips
3.5 Hatchets

So OK, I’m that guy who kept stepping on the girl’s toes during the spring dance. Needless to say, the tango is well beyond my comprehension. Watching the screen, the dance seems a magical manifestation of beauty, desire and sex. It has an elusive nature and a definite mystique. To watch two people circle around together, legs moving in and out of each step, is too become entranced by the dance. This trance is the highlight of and only saving grace for the ill-fated Assassination Tango.

Robert Duvall stars in Assassination Tango, a piece, which he himself penned, directed and produced. His character, John J., is a compassionate hit man with a love for children and an obsession for dance. On a job in Buenos Aires, Argentina (the birthplace of the tango), he becomes enamoured by the artful performances. John passes the time, while he waits for an assassination plan to develop, with Manuela (Luciana Pedraza), a young Argentine who resolves to feed his lust for the Tango.

This is where my description and indeed the plot itself drops off. What ensues is a meandering journey of a man with no clear motivations. Duvall is convincing in his performance, but the plot simply will not allow his character any intelligible action.

Perdraza, while a stunning dancer, is weak in her performance. Duvall’s choice to have the Argentine speak in English, employing a painful accent, seems to detract from her character. This is a time when subtitles would be most welcome.

On the cinematic end, the film is at times both exhilarating and quite irritating. Long static shots characterize Duvall’s filming style. While these allow the viewer a long look at the beautiful districts of the city and the beautiful movements of dancing couples, it is often used for more arbitrary shots. As a result the scenes often drag.

So the plot has no real structure and moves with little intelligence. That being understood, the film does capture the beauty of Buenos Aires, picturing the city in all its glory. Similarly, the film employs a number of stunning dancers to perform the countless tango sequences. In this respect the film is a triumph.

The reality, when confronting Assassination Tango, is that the film is indeed tolerable, and indeed enjoyable, if only for the dance sequences. Fans of such steps may be pleased, but those seeking a plot of any intrigue should stay away from this one.

What a Girl Wants
Janice Cane
2 Hatchets

The best way to describe What a Girl Wants (directed by Dennie Gordon, Joe Dirt) is to relate it to the numerous movies of which it is a composite. Daphne (the cute but melodramatic Amanda Bynes) has lived a happy life with her free-spirited mom, Libby (Kelly Preston). But, as Daphne explains, “I feel like half of me is missing, and without the other half, how am I supposed to know who I am?” She is of course referring to her dad, royal politician Henry (the irresistibly awkward Colin Firth), who she has never met.

Enter remnants of The Parent Trap, minus a twin – girl goes to England to find long lost father, who, it turns out, never stopped loving girl’s mom, and vice versa. You know the rest (Don’t worry, I’m really not giving anything away – the whole movie is too predictable).

Next element: Cinderella. Yep, What a Girl Wants is complete with a wicked stepmother (Anna Chancellor) who lives up to her title, and a conniving, snobbish stepsister (Christina Cole).

Third step: grooming procedures reminiscent of various movies such as Anastasia and My Fair Lady. Throw in some accidental mischief, sweet teenage romance, father-daughter bonding, classic self-discovery, a beautiful manor and a catchy soundtrack and you have a fluffy, unoriginal film.

So if you are a sucker for these types of movies and you know that’s what you’ll be getting, head on out to see What a Girl Wants in the theater. Otherwise, save some cash – rent one of the above videos from Tower, curl up on the couch and enjoy.

A Man Apart
Lauren Spitzer
2 Hatchets

Unlike the video game that shares it’s name, you can’t push the reset button on A Man Apart. Without a power cord to pull you’re stuck waiting it out until the predictable ending arrives.

A Man Apart directed by esteemed music video director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) takes its recognized star to a different level. Sean Vetter (Vin Diesel) and his partner Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Tate) are DEA agents who have been looking for the Baja Cartel drug king Memo Lucero (Geno Silva) for seven years. When they finally catch him and put him in jail, they find themselves under attack by another powerful drug lord, Diablo (the Devil). Vetter is pushed to find and kill this one to avenge the murder of his beloved wife, Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors).

Playing another secret agent, A Man Apart allows a more sensitive side of Diesel to come out. Yet most often we are left with ‘woe-is-me’ acting along with one-liners that Diesel can’t seem to escape.

The simple plot-cop finds bad guy, other bad guy finds cop, cop finds other bad guy-is somewhat balanced out by perpetual gunfire and other long-winded, and confusing action sequences.

And just when you think the film may have found its finale, it decides to try on another ending.

One should perhaps follow the advice of Baja Cartel drug king Lucero and realize that “things are only gonna get worse for all of us.” The obviousness of both action and dialogue does not allow the characters to excite or truly entertain. Perhaps the only twist in the film is the teaming up of Vetter and Lucero in order to put and end to Diablo’s claim on the Cartel.

If you are out to catch a good Diesel movie, stick with the video store collections. All I was able to see is a man, and a film, fall apart.

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