Notes from the Back Row 

Violence, nudity and coarse language

"At least it's R-Rated."

I say that a lot. Sadly, my expectations for Hollywood films are so low these days that simply knowing a movie has nudity, heavy profanity, ultra-violence (or ideally all the above) elevates it above 80 per cent of films released.

This week the Village 8 is off-setting the kiddie-fare of Harry Potter and Burlesque with a couple of R-Rated flicks that bring the heavy petting and the head butting.

First up, the sex. Love and other Drugs stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince of Persia, Donnie Darko) as an underachiever salesman for Pfizer, just before they release Viagra. He traipses the country bedding hot chicks and pushing pharmaceuticals until one day he meets his match in Anne Hathaway ( Devil Wears Prada, Rachael Getting Married), a hip, confident artist who likes to screw first and ask questions later.

In a twist on the classic romance story (the sex comes first), Pfizer-man and the girl-with-a-dude's-morality bang themselves into a confusing situation where love reigns its ugly head and morals need to be found.

It borders on cheese-dick melodrama at the end but Love and Other Drugs earns its R rating by going for gold with nudity and loud sex scenes. Unfortunately, director Ed Zwick ( Blood Diamond, Legends of the Fall) loses track of what film he's making exactly and delivers a date movie/corporation critique/medical satire/soft-core/melodrama/romantic comedy that never picks a theme and nails it as hard as Jake nails Anne. Expect jerk-off jokes alongside tear-jerking terminally ill people, with some big-pharma scolding tossed in for good measure. Of course, who can blame Zwick for being distracted, the guy's job is to watch and listen to a naked Anne Hathaway fake-orgasm take after take, day after day.

Faster is more an orgasm of violence but it's also a pretty decent minimalist revenge story about a guy, a cop, another guy and some fast cars and faster bullets. I'm not even kidding, the three main characters are named Driver, Killer, and Cop.

The good news is "Driver" is played by Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock), who has thankfully taken a break from wearing tutus ( Tooth Fairy) , re-grown some nuts and is back laying the smackdown. The even better news is that the role of "Cop" is played by Billy Bob Thorton, who is kind of an asshole in real life but that only helps him flesh out the clich├ęd role of semi-crooked junkie cop. And to top it off is Carla Gugino ( Son in Law, Sin City) playing the rookie-cop-sidekick. She's smoking.

The bad news is the strippers keep their bikinis on, but what director George Tillman Jr. misses in nudity he makes up for in no-frills badassery.

Faster isn't one of those action flicks with the dumb/funny one-liners for all the kids to repeat at school the next day, it's more concerned with shooting people in the face and moving on. Tillman Jr. has sucked ass in the past ( Notorious) but he channels a bit of Sergio Leone with this one and delivers a moody, slick revenge story that knows what it is supposed to be, and be's it.

Sticking with the Action genre, the DVD of the week is The Expendables , but only rent it if you have some expendable income because it isn't really all that shit-hot. But it is (almost) all the big action stars of the '80s in one movie. Stallone, Lundgren, Rourke, Willis, plus Steve Austin and Jason Statham. The story isn't much, the acting....meh, and it really needed Schwarzenegger but there are senior citizens kicking ass and sometimes that is good enough. Hey, at least it's R Rated.

 

 

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