Thursday, 3 June 2010

REVIEW: Death At A Funeral

Martin Lawrence's face defines who he is.

There's plenty of filmmakers who slowly deteriorate over time, there's those who have a single decade of awesomeness in them, wherever that might be in their career, and then there's the worst kind. Those who announce their talent with a spellbinding film, and spend the rest of their careers a bitch to the law of diminishing returns. Most would say M. Night Shyamalan is the epitome of this, and it very much looks like that's going to be the way of Fernando Meirelles and Richard Kelly too. But my point is that people care about these declines, and talk about them with much venom and regret. No-one it seems, cares about the decline of Neil LaBute, who went from being one of the most unique and ferocious voices in independent cinema to directing camp classics like The Wicker Man and whatever the hell this is. A mediocre remake of a mediocre film maybe? Who cares.

Maybe there were too many shouts of misogyny leveled at him, which led to him into adopting the ' Gonna get paid' philosophy of film-making, which certainly this is. Its hard to argue with that, because in good or bad LaBute films, women are either soulless evil or 2D archetypes that the film will have no interest in. But maybe its because of this that he made what maybe the truest, most horrifyingly powerful film about misogyny that exists, the flat-out masterpiece In The Company Of Men. Lending depth to the mindset only made it more horrifying, these were real people doing these things, and if I were to single out the single most soul-crushing film (in a good way) I'd ever seen it would be that. Given what we know about LaBute, it may well have been a piece of self-deprecation rather then a full on attack, but that makes it all the more poignant. The Shape Of Things is also pretty fucking good, but apart from that the guy was on an unstoppable descent of misfires and mistakes that lead us up to now and Death At A Funeral. A broad, gormless farce where people get shat on and Martin Lawrence has a leading role.

This is the kind of film that you might laugh once or twice, but generally you'll be repulsed or bemused. By his own admission, Chris Rock's acting skills are fairly basic, however hilarious a stand-up he is. It doesn't quite translate. Martin 'Big Momma's House 2' Lawrence can fuck off. Danny Glover and James Marsden, each playing an extended one note joke, are probably the best value, with Glover taking glee in swearing at Tracy Morgan and Marsden bringing an innocent pleasantness to his square stoned off his ass character. This is the second time in two weeks I'm going to call Zoe Saldana extraneous to the movie she's in, which annoys me because I don't even dislike her as much as one would think. Still, not as useless as Luke Wilson. I did enjoy Peter Dinklage again, reprising his role from the first film, and his dignified delivery juxtaposes nicely with the character he's playing.

But otherwise it goes as it goes, and given that the sitcom has kind of claimed the farce at this point, it just seems kind of weak. But when there isn't even a single line to make you laugh, something's up in denver. It wouldn't annoy me so much if I didn't know how talented the guy behind it is. So when you complain over whatever underwhelming enterprise Richard Kelly releases, be thankful that at least he gives a shit about it. LaBute has quite simply, had it with this shit.

Rating: 4/10

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