Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 30 December 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
The title refers to a cop resurrected from death but summoned back to it again and again, in the form of a watery nymph beckoning him into oblivion? His tie is a bright red animated thing perpetually wind-blown over his shoulder, amidst a no-nonsense black suit and fedora hat. Oh, and the type of eye-mask you’d equate with The Lone Ranger or Zorro. You can’t be a superhero without one.
Murdered policeman Denny Colt has somehow morphed into the now-immortal being known as The Spirit (Gabriel Macht). Still crime fighting, but now compelled to narrate his actions unmercifully, he carries out his dark crusades in Central City, a place he romantically declares to be his girl. Police Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria) and his daughter Ellen (Sarah Paulson) a skilled surgeon who frequently patches The Spirit up and is in love with him, are his allies, working in tandem with his clandestine endeavors. Female cop Morgenstern (Stana Katic) also pines for the vigilante. Seems no female can resist the dark hero.
His latest exploit pits him against arch-enemy The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) and his provocative sidekick, scientist Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), evil doers that need to be stopped before they get their hands on a vial containing the blood of half-mortal/half god Heracles (Hercules, if you’re in Roman mode). The blood has magical powers that confer strength and immortality.
Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) is another femme fatal, and The Spirit’s childhood friend, frequently at odds with his crusade but there is an attraction that both of them acknowledge, which makes for a confusing sideline. She’s a dubious creature with a penchant for the good life, who has checked her morals at the door somewhere in youth and neglected to pick them up again. Confrontations with The Spirit are loaded with double entendres and sexual tension.
The Octopus is a criminal mastermind and master of disguise although here the only octopus thing about him are four tentacle-like lines drawn under each eye, and manipulating an eight-gun gizmo. Otherwise, he struts around in Nazi regalia, falling in and out of random speech patterns while raving, plotting and sermonizing around his lab. His goon squad are all clones of each other, making for an inbred team of morons whose names all end in –os, like Pathos and Matzos (Louis Lombardi). Silken Floss is a nuclear physicist, sexy despite thick black specs, who delivers her lines painfully, both by inflection and by what she is required to say. Belly dancing, knife wielding Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega) is a writhing assassin from Octopus’ arsenal; all females must have cleavage in this universe.
Then there is Lorelei (Jaime King) who represents the finality of death. Her embrace can welcome The Spirit into lasting peace, but dammit, there’s always that last assignment, that piece of unfinished business keeping him alive to crusade another day. Lorelei is also seductive, too, and you’d be hard pressed to find a female here who isn’t.
Sounds like a great time, and it is, visually. The acting and dialogue is another story altogether. Over the top campiness makes a parody of comics and film noir stereotypes instead of embracing the genre. You’ll have to endure a Jack Webb-like gravitas from every male character and even a few female ones. Staccato sentences, like verbal machine-gun fire, get annoyingly predictable after awhile. It’s like sitting through more than 100 minutes of monotone line delivery against a sometimes startling monochromatic backdrop. You want to look, but you also want to yawn.
Writer-Director Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) provides stylish cinematography, but without any in-depth character development or engagement, making The Spirit more of a collection of great-looking stills than a compelling story. There’s an empty feel to the proceedings which never satisfies. Based on writer-artist Will Eisner’s 1940 comic newspaper inserts (later a comic book series), it’s a film that looks much better than it works.
Stylized violence can’t make up for continual tedium. We never care about the characters, never really root for The Spirit, and glaze over as the dialogue, never clever, falls flat.
Gabriel Macht is adequate as the mysterious avenger, but not really memorable. Samuel L. Jackson tries to make up for script deficiencies with sheer bravado, making his performance uneven. Eva Mendes’ character plays no real role in the undertakings except for dangerous sex appeal, another requirement of comics country. Scarlett Johannsson is so mechanical, you’d expect a plot contrivance to discover that she is one of The Octopus’ creations. Dan Lauria is perfect as the hard-boiled Police Commissioner. Sarah Paulson has a tiny role, as does Paz Vega; neither can save the story, even with opposing performances.
Ironically, the title names the very thing this production lacks. To paraphrase some appropriate cliches, “looks aren’t everything” and sometimes, “the eyes don’t have it.”