This week at the movies is a pretty damn rough one. With this year’s Oscar nominations officially out there, I think most studios are assuming anyone looking to see a good movie this weekend will track down one of those. So, as far as new releases go we’re stuck with the crap that Hollywood was too embarrassed to put out at any other time of the year.
Two strong contenders for the worst movie of 2012 plop into theaters this week in One for the Money and Man on a Ledge. The only reason to buy a ticket for either of those turds would be as a prank. Thankfully, one good flick did manage to sneak out as well, the Liam Neeson vs. Wolves survival adventure movie, The Grey. It’s honestly one of the best genre flicks to come along in quite a while.
So, if you want to attend a new release, at least you have one option. It’s a pretty grueling watch, but deliberately so, unlike the other two disasters.
The Good: The Grey
Somehow over the last few years the man who played Oskar Schindler has turned into an unlikely action star. Liam Neeson has taken over for Harrison Ford as Hollywood’s go-to reluctant old guy ass-kicker and he’s doing it pretty well. The Grey is the latest entry in this chapter of Neeson’s career and in many ways it’s the best.
He plays one member of a team of Alaskan oil drillers whose plane crashes in the middle of the Artic tundra. There are few survivors and those whose hearts are still beating now face the bummer task of walking through painfully freezing temperatures back to civilization. To make matters worse their plane crashed in the middle of a wolf den, so they’re also being hunted and bumped off one by one. Talk about a bad day.
They Grey is a grueling, unrelenting tale of survival where each passing scene seems fraught with danger. It’s also a damn entertaining movie from underrated director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smoking Aces). This is a B-movie with a brain that feels very reminiscent of director John Carpenter’s '80s output with its mountain of masculinity, strong performances, and nearly endless stream of impressive set pieces (even the CGI wolves work well). Carnahan may get a little uncharacteristically pretentious and existential towards the end, but it’s a fairly minor quibble in an otherwise damn effective genre flick.
The Grey is in no danger of gobbling up awards come this time next year, but it you’re in the mood for a harsh action flick, you’re not going to do any better than this. May Neeson never stop beating up guys on film. He’s gotten way too good at it.
The Bad: One for the Money
Honestly, how does Katherine Heigl keep starring in movies? She’s still only made one decent movie in Knocked Up and I think if you took a poll of random people off the street, at least 98% of people would claim to hate her. Yet, her movies keep getting made and they keep getting worse. It’s as if she instantly says “yes” to whatever screenplay both Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock turned down this week, regardless of the quality.
Her latest Razzie Awards contender is One for the Money, possibly the least funny comedy I’ve ever seen. There are moments that I can tell are supposed to be jokes based on cadence and timing, but it never even occurred to me to even smile. If the folks in Guantanamo Bay are looking for new forms of torture that won’t inflict bodily harm, then they should really get themselves a few dozen DVDs of One for the Money. Lock anyone in a room with this movie on repeat and they’ll admit to anything you want within 24 hours. That’s a guarantee.
Heigl plays an unemployed divorcee with plenty of sass and no one to share it with. Desperate for cash, she tries her hand at being a low-grade bounty hunter for her cousin’s bail bond business. In one of those ridiculous coincidences that only happens in shitty romantic comedies, her first assignment is a former boyfriend and falsely accused cop-on-the-run played by Jason O’Mara. Oh sure, they fight at first, but guess what, kids — I’ve got a feeling all this hunting and conflict could open the doors of love. Barf.
I’m certain after reading that plot description and knowing that Heigl stars in the mess, you’ll think it sounds terrible, but trust me, nothing compares to actually sitting through this swill. It’s completely anemic, none of the jokes deliver, and the few action scenes are about as exciting as watching a sloth fall asleep in slow motion. Heigl is as charming as a rapist with Asperger's syndrome and has the comedic timing of your grandfather on sedatives. The rest of the cast surrounding her aren’t quite the same vacuums of entertainment, but given the script and star they're stuck with, it doesn’t really matter what they do.
This is honestly one of the worst movies I’ve ever had to sit through. Sure, I’ve seen shoddier productions and even poorer amateur acting, but never anything so devoid of merit or entertainment value. If you have the misfortune of accidentally stumbling into a theater playing One for the Money this weekend be prepared for the longest 106 minutes of your life. Let’s just hope it’s a big enough bomb that Heigl will only be able to make one crappy movie per year rather than two. At least that would be a small step in the right direction.
The Ledge: Man on a Ledge
There’s one thing that can definitely be said about Man on a Ledge: it certainly lives up to the title. Within minutes of the film starting, Sam Worthington (who I guess we’re all supposed to accept as a movie star now) wanders out onto the ledge of a Manhattan rooftop with his eyes on suicide and stays there for the entire picture. That’s truth in advertising for ya and if you liked the image on the poster the good news is that you can look forward to plenty of nauseous vertigo before the credits roll.
Unfortunately that’s about all there is to look forward to in the movie, which lazily stumbles from one thriller cliché to the next and becomes increasingly difficult to take seriously. You see, Worthington doesn’t just wander out there to kill himself. No, he makes it seem that way to gather a group of onlookers, media, and police officers as a distraction for a heist.
You see, Worthington was a cop wrongfully imprisoned because a sleazy businessman (Ed Harris) made it seem like he stole a diamond. So, Sammy boy busts out of prison and stages this elaborate suicide stunt so that no one is paying attention while his brother (Jamie Bell) actually steals the diamond across the street to set everything straight. Confused? Don’t worry, it makes less sense when you actually see it.
This is one of those dumb high concept thrillers that used to be dumped on the direct-to-video market. I’m not sure how this thing actually got studio backing; probably just because name actors signed on and the budget kept growing. It’s a pretty ludicrous affair that even an undemanding teen audience member could see through.
Everyone is impossibly pretty (Elizabeth Banks has to be the first burned-out NY detective in history who looks like she could moonlight as a super model) and they all act in that completely unbelievable way that only exists in low-grade Hollywood thrillers. The sad thing is that the cast is populated almost exclusively with talented actors; they are just stuck going through the motions of a by-the-numbers screenplay that doesn’t really allow for characterization (with the exception of Ed Harris, who has one particularly awesome bad guy freak-out scene that almost makes the movie worth attending almost).
Man on a Ledge isn’t the worst movie ever made or even the worst movie released this week, but it is completely silly and forgettable. You won’t miss much by not attending.