Daily Archives: November 15, 1994

The Professional

In his first American picture (1994), clearly a spin-off of La femme Nikita, nihilist French filmmaker Luc Besson raises the stakes of his popular girl-with-a-gun theme by making the heroine a 12-year-old (Natalie Portman) who learns from a hit man (French movie star Jean Reno) how to handle firearms in order to avenge the slaughter of her family (by a group of sleazy drug barons headed by Gary Oldman). One might assume such a notion to be commercially foolproof, but apparently something or someone intervenedwas it the ratings board or the NRA?and the movie winds up cheating its premise by leaving the girl’s trainer to carry out all the dirty work. For sweaty, suspenseful thriller mechanics the first reel or so is fairly adroit, and action buffs who like explosions probably won’t feel cheated. But the sheer oddness of the New York world constructed for this filmwhere cops and crooks are literally interchangeable, and Oldman and Danny Aiello are stranded in roles that pick over the leavings of earlier partsultimately seems at once too deranged and too mechanical. (JR)… Read more »

Junior

If Ivan Reitman made a family-values comedy about Julia Roberts sprouting a full-blown penis, chances are the results would be called cheap and tasteless; luckily for him, he lives in a culture where he can show Arnold Schwarzenegger pregnant instead and be credited for putting across a cute concept. Making it cute is the sight of Schwarzenegger displaying all sorts of wifely attributesfor me, the most offensive part of the movieas the hunk’s tummy gets bigger. (He and a fellow researcher played by Danny DeVito have been experimenting with a fertility drug.) Also important here is the popular idea in our culture (cf Tootsie, The Crying Game, et al) that guys make the best women anyway. To be fair to the filmmakers, Emma Thompson does a very funny job as the inadvertent egg supplier for Schwarzenegger’s infant, and the filmmakers (including screenwriters Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad) work overtime trying to keep the conceit ideologically inoffensive, even to the point of providing a female character (Pamela Reed) who’s pregnant in sync with Schwarzenegger and confusing us all about which part of Schwarzenegger’s body the baby finally emerges from. Truth to tell, this is a traditional (and traditionally bad) Hollywood movie in more ways than I care to name, but at least Reitman and company do their utmost to keep their tastelessness up to date (1994).… Read more »