The appropriately titled V for Vendetta is a revenge movie. I’m a big fan of revenge?#34;in life and in movies. The Punisher, Pay Back and Braveheart are revenge movies. There is a great early scene in Braveheart when, after the Brits cut Mel’s wife’s throat, Mel comes slowly riding into the occupied village and then swings into action and slaughters the Brits. Awesome.
V for Vendetta is no Braveheart, but it has its moments. Set in the not-too-distant future, England is an Orwellian state, where the lunatic, Hitler-like Sutler, played by John Hurt, keeps society in a fearful uproar in order to control it. V, played by Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith from the Matrix trilogy), wears a Guy Fawkes mask, and is a one-man revolutionary movement. (A history note: Guy Fawkes was a loon who in the 1600s tried to blow up Parliament. He failed and was drawn and quartered for his troubles.) One night V saves Evey (Natalie Portman, who is now a Harvard undergraduate) from rape at the hands of some government goons. Evey does the Patty Hearst thing and eventually becomes the second member of V’s revolutionary army.
There are connected back stories about how V and Evey came to their respective places in this cruel world, which I cannot reveal, lest I diminish your enjoyment of the movie. V and Evey hang out at V’s place, which looks pretty much like the Phantom of the Opera’s place (in the movie of the same name) and has profound discussions about various topics. If I were V, I would have tried the Adam and Evey topic, but I guess V has more important things on his mind.
The movie is brought to us by the Wachowski brothers, who made the Matrix trilogy, and like those movies, the best parts are the slow motion action scenes with suspended bullets and daggers and the explosions. And like The Matrix, the worst parts are when V blathers on about his theory of government, life and society. He’s such a nut, it’s hard to take him very seriously.
This movie is a bit controversial because some say it glorifies terror and anarchy?#34;sensitive subjects in these troubled times. Some have suggested that Sutler is a stand-in for President Bush. I think not. V for Vendetta is about one good?#34;albeit crazy?#34;citizen bringing down a corrupt, evil dictatorship. We need to remember that this is a movie. Lassie didn’t really die.
I tell you what?#34;go see V, and you can decide for yourself. Now that’s democracy.
The Libertine, which left the Lake as quickly as it came, was supposed to come out in 2004, but for reasons unknown, it didn’t find its way into the Lake Theatre until a few weeks ago. Too bad. Miramax should have waited until 2008.
After the puritanical excesses of Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate, the 1670s in England found Charles II as king in the period known as the Restoration. One extreme begets another, so his reign is characterized by license, scandal, and excess?#34;the perfect setting for John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, to pursue the lewd and lascivious lifestyle of the libertine. The movie portrays his rise and fall, redeemed at the very end of his life by a speech to the House of Lords that results in Charles II’s progeny to continue as the monarch. Chicago’s own John Malkovich and the always entertaining, risk-taking Johnny Depp play king and his troublesome but beloved subject respectively.
This movie should be better than it is. There are a number of problems. First, it is always dark?#34;night scenes, smoky pub scenes, dimly light castle scenes. It reminded me of Hercules and The Mole People. Second, the Earl is so egocentric and self-centered that we never really care about him. We could tolerate him if, despite his obvious flaws, he was actually creative, artistic or even witty, but alas the Earl is like lots of the fraternity guys I knew at Vanderbilt?#34;lots of drunken talking, not much doing.
The dramatic tension in the movie derives from the Earl’s attempt to transform the actress Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton) from a mediocre stage presence to the finest actress in London. But to this admittedly untutored eye, she was the same both before and after her tutelage. I think the Earl loves her, but she doesn’t love him. Or maybe he loves her acting. Or maybe he loves the idea of her. Who cares?
If you have a powerful urge to watch a movie about the Restoration, I would recommend the aptly named Restoration, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as a young physician who falls in and out of favor with our King Charles II. There are spectacular scenes depicting the Black Plague, the Great Fire and Meg Ryan as a crazy woman. In this movie you actually care about what happens to the good doctor.