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18 October 2010

The Hurt Locker - Movie Review

Director: Kathryn Bigelow.
Actors: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes.

There’s something that pisses me off of the internet, and that is retro reviews. There’s the usual public that likes them, reads them and shares them with their friends, only to show how much they like the old stuff because it tends to be familiar to us, no matter how bad. But it also attracts a bunch of people who claim the review to be pointless since it’s talking about something old, and nobody cares about it because its status has already been established. So does that mean retro reviews about old stuff are pointless? Nope. It means those guys have to shut the fuck up, because retro reviews are as valid as new ones.

I have mentioned “retro” so many times it makes me feel I am going to talk about an Atari game, but I am actually going to talk about a movie from 2009, “The Hurt Locker”, a low budget movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow about a group of bomb defusers in Iraq that have to face explosive artifacts in a daily basis. It’s the type of movie you expect Ridley Scott or Michael Bay to do, but apparently this one is different because it has characterization…Apparently. My main problem with this movie (and yes, this isn’t going to be a positive review, not in the slightest) is that it has been over-rated to the point of ridicule. Now you will say I say this because I love “AVATAR”. Well, yes, I do say it because I love “AVATAR” but that’s 1 of the 10 reasons why I hate this movie, being the other 9 the following:

One: The absolute lack of tension. This has a lot to do with the fact that the movie is predictable. People called “Night Elves VS Terrans” a movie made with little to no intelligence, making a straight lined plot that was a mixture of all the other movies made before it. “The Hurt Locker” fills that description as well. You know from the start that the only ones that are going to die in the action sequence are those guest stars that just got in touch with the good guys (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes). They seem to be there just so there’s a body count, just so something happens. There’s a scene early on when Jeremy Renner goes into a burned car to try defuse a bunch of bombs that are inside the trunk. The way is shot and planned is quite intelligent, but it’s completely ruined for the fact that it’s taking place right at the beginning of the movie, and you know Renner is not going to die. The scene is lacking of the human impact because he is acting on his own, not hearing the orders of his other team members, because he happens to be edgy and different. This disconnexion to the character ruins any likeability we might develop, and so it leaves us not giving a shit for whatever is going to happen to him, this being a problem of…

Two: …the absolute lack of characterization. (By the way, people have compared this movie and “AVATAR” so much I will just keep using it as an example). Say what you want about “AVATAR”, at least the characters were solid. Okay, they were incredibly clichéd, but they were consistent and firm, and they at least had two or three character traits. In this movie the best character trait that can be given to the characters is that they are all idiots. The way they act, the way they plan things, the way they interact with one another, it’s all a big jumbled mess. Jeremy Renner’s character again, he goes from ice cold impassive badass to confused lost grown up kid. You may say this is to show the humanity of the character but they shove it in our faces so much it’s actually laughable. And then there’s the typical up tight idiot who hates the new guy and in more than one occasion tries to kill him, just because he has more balls than him, and then at the end of the movie, out of nowhere, become insta-friends, making bro fists, and talking about their children. “When they became friends?” is something that’s never explained, mostly because the movie spends hours wandering about corridors of houses in the middle of the night, something that was already done to a better degree in “Black Hawk Down”, and speaking of which…

Three: The fact that this is “Black Hawk Down” without the action. “Black Hawk Down” was a very good film, though pretentious in some parts it was a wonderful hyper-realistic take on war that showed the American soldiers trying to over come an impossible situation while assaulted by thousands of armed civilians and militia. It was an engaging movie because you know people were going to be blown up, no matter how heavy their protagonism was. It was really long, but it felt really short, thanks to masterfully executed action sequences and a good editing job that travelled between three assault groups and the Command Center. “The Hurt Locker” aims for the same thing, being a hyper-realistic story about American soldiers trying to overcome impossible situations in an environment that hates them with relish, but it fails in there. The lack of action equals a lack of danger, so no tension. Okay, you don’t need shoot outs to make a movie tense, “Buried” has no shootings and it’s the most tense movie ever made in a long time, but in a movie like “The Hurt Locker”, listed under the category of “Action” instead of “War” then you at least expect some fiery shoot outs. There’s none, unless you count a very drowned on sequence where the good guys (yeah, they are the good guys, because they do the right thing because they are always right) try shooting down a sniper. It feels like 3 hours, but only lasts 10 minutes, not because of the tension but because of the boredom. Speaking of boring…

Four: Kathryn Bigelow makes her movies always about the same thing. Haven’t you noticed? Her movies are always about the exact same thing: Suicide (or least will to do so). She is like those directors obsessed with the same subject, like Alejandro Amenabar with death, or James Cameron himself with his mommy issues. It’s not a bad thing, but when people called this “original and outrageously groundbreaking” I just rolled my eyes and wished to shut up the artsy side of critic-ville with a shotgun and some salt rounds.

Five: The promotion of this movie was based on her academy award nomination. You know what I hate the most of this movie? It’s this. They promoted it not because of the action, not because of the story, not because of the thrills, but because the director had a vagina and she was nominated for a stinking Oscar. Oscars have been pointless since 1996, so trying to sell a movie based on that will have the opposite effect. Besides…

Six: Bigelow has done four movies before this one and they are better. If I was happy of something was that the first woman to win an Academy Award (yes, they are pointless, but it makes me happy, people get happy for pointless things) happens to be Bigelow. She is a great director, and we knew that from the moment we saw “Point Break”. After that she made “Strange Days”, “The weight of water” and “K-19: The Widow maker”, proving that, while she quite worked with very flimsy plots, she could give the movies a dose of protein with her powerful style of direction. She is a wonderful film maker, but “The Hurt Locker” is the flimsiest of her movies, making her the female equivalent to Martin Scorsese. She makes four great films and they give her the award for the fifth AKA weakest of them all, and it’s this weak because…

Seven: A screenplay constructed on clichés. It’s not the same as making the movie predictable. A movie can be very original and be totally predictable (look at “Hellboy 2). The problem with this screenplay is that it lacks in originality just like the screenplay of “AVATAR” itself. But while “AVATAR” had an amazing atmosphere and fantastic visuals, “The Hurt Locker” feels like watching a 2 hours news reel especial on the Iraq war, if you are not sick entire of those by now. An original screenplay is what Pixar does, something that is either a re-imagining of an already existing story of myth (toys come to life, “The 7 Samurai”, a super-hero family) or a totally new concept (a robot stranded on Earth, a rat chef, a house with balloons). That’s original. Call this screenplay original is like calling sandpaper moist.

Eight: It’s a blunt weapon to use against other movies. I don’t know how things go in other countries, but at least in Spain the critic collective has grasped this movie and it’s using it against other movies to proof that you don’t need an over-blown budget to make a movie good. They have used it against “Up”, “Watchmen” and there was even an idiot who used it against “District 9. Fun fact for those who like numbers: “District 9 had a 30$ million budget, and it made 4 times that amount, at least in the USA (all over the world is certainly around 10 times); “The Hurt Locker” had a budget of 11$ million and it managed to recover around 5 times that. This means that, if you are going to make a low budget gritty realistic movie, you better pack it with some social commentary, action scenes, or aliens (or all at the same time). You can’t use this movie to trash other movies, especially when the movie you are using is already trash. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad movie. It’s okay. The movie is okay, it just got totally destroyed by a simple fact, which is…

Nine: It’s over-rated to no end, and not in the same way other movies are over-rated. “Citizen Kane” is over-rated but at least that movie settled a lot of technical achievements. “AVATAR” is over-rated of course, but that’s because the hype was incredible, it was the first James Cameron movie in more than a decade, and brought a very smooth 3D to the cinemas. But “The Hurt Locker” is over-rated because shut up. Nobody that I know was able to give me a good, solid reason to explain why this movie is so over-rated, and I really can’t come up with any. It’s almost a twisted joke the existence of this movie.

I have to admit I might have been a bit unfair, but I am not alone. Everybody else has been unfair to this movie, in the opposite sense. Nobody rated and critiqued this movie on its merits, but on its merits compared to other movie. Maybe that’s because, if you rated it on its own merits, the movie is just okay. That’s not enough to win 6 Academy Awards lady, you at least need to be average. Or are you seriously saying that this movie is better than “Pan’s Labyrinth”? Fuck this movie, and fuck whatever awards it won. Seriously.

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