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Hey, whore, how's the whoring? This week, the honor goes to:

Timothy Shriver, President of the Special Olympics says about i am sam:

"Once in a while an extraordinary movie comes along, defying everyone's expectations of what great drama is all about. i am sam is such a movie!"

First, did e.e. cummings write the fucking screenplay or did it cost extra for capital letters? Second, if you're the type of person who waits to see what the Special Olympics says before heading to the theater, well, you've found your movie.

James M. Cain -
Double Indemnity

Dr. No

Butterglory -
Are You Building a Temple in Heaven?

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Las Vegas

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©2001 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights fucking reserved.

This week:

The Count of Monte Cristo

Filthy says:
"Action-Adventure minus action and adventure!!"

I wish the kids who go to this movie could spend a Saturday night at the Arvada Tavern with me. I mean, I can think of nothing healthier for a pre-pubescent young man than to enter the slippery world of Olde Town's finest taphouse. It's sticky with generic-brand smoke, rank with sweat and fried beef, murky as an East Coast river and drowning in the clangor of classic rock and the Harelip's screeds that grate like a train derailing. It has more of what kids love than the latest botch-job The Count of Monte Cristo delivers. A night at the Tavern is all suspense, high-drama and coldblooded revenge. The movie is a thuddingly dull remake of the great Alexander Dumas' novel that focuses on all the wrong elements.

The Count of Monte Cristo takes place in the early 19th century but, as you'll see, the story of revenge is as timeless as a busted watch. Jim Caviezel plays Edmond Dantés, an honorable shipmate on a merchant vessel. Guy Pearce is Fernan Mondego, his so-called friend and generally poncy fop. Out of jealousy for Caviezel's wife (Dagmara Dominczyk) and life , Mondego has his pal arrested for helping Napoleon escape from Elba, where he is imprisoned in exile. Of course, Caviezel was not knowingly aiding the old emperor, but he is imprisoned in Chateau d'If, an inescapable prison for misfits and public embarrassments by a judge with his own hidden interests (James Frain). Trapped in the dank prison for 14 years, Caviezel takes on a very John Walker Lindh style to his personal hygiene and befriends an old priest (Richard Harris). Harris teaches him all sorts of book learning shit and how to swordfight while they tunnel to the outer wall of the prison.

At the Tavern, the slippery and prickly Worm and his mobile-home-mate, the quietly surly Spinner, showed up about midnight one Saturday. The Harelip was already there, mixing peppermint schnapps and rum. As he's accustomed to do, Worm immediately told her she's a slut while trying to shove his hand down her control-top pants. Unbeknownst to Worm or the rest of us, Spinner and the Harelip came to some sort of romantic agreement out by the grease bin on Tuesday and they still had the stains on their pants to prove it. The Harelip shoved Worm away and smothered her new beau's neck with kisses that left behind a snail's trail of lipstick, alcohol and spit. Needless to say, Worm was more than a little put out. Here was his special girl, the one he secretly loved, rejecting him for a guy who has a smaller room in their trailer. This was the girl he drunkenly and lovelessly fucked out in the alley so many times it had become a weekly ritual, and this was how she said thanks. Like a wounded dog, Worm skulked off to the corner to nurse his wound with a string of Bud taps. Still sulking, worm watched Spinner head for the john. Worm pounced. He barred the door with two pool cues and trapped Spinner in the dank, rank and mossy men's room. It wasn't for fourteen years, and unless Spinner has a deeper understanding of "Here I sit all brokenhearted" poetry on the stall wall, he didn't get any smarter.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Caviezel manages to escape, but not through the tunnel he was digging. Before he dies, Harris gives him a map to the biggest buried treasure imaginable. With the help of a pirate whose life he spares (Luis Guzman), Caviezel gets the loot and transforms himself into the fabulously wealthy Count of Monte Cristo so that he can exact a plan of revenge against the men who framed him for treason and the women whom he thinks betrayed him.

In the Tavern, Spinner didn't really escape his imprisonment. He just ran out of the men's room when Lloyd opened the door to take a piss. Like the Count when freed, Spinner had one thing on his mind: sweet revenge. Worm was nowhere to be seen, and neither was the Harelip. Spinner knew exactly where the two traitors were: Desperation Point, that dark crevace between the grease bin and the trash dumpster where a pile of soiled cardboard gives old lovers some needed padding to cushion the violent collision of their sagging skin and bony edges.

He ran out the back door with most of the rest of us close behind. Nobody was surprised to find Worm and the Harelip in flagrante delicto, although we were all surprised to use such a classy term to describe a grown man lying on his back with a woman hovered above him, farting while he grunted "Burgers, burgers, fucking burgers, baby!"

When Worm saw Spinner, he got to his knees and said, "She looks good up there!" he said to Spinner, "clean as a whistle." But Spinner wasn't buying it and now it was time for revenge. What would he do? Would it be the piss in the shampoo bottle, perhaps the dreaded upper-tanker, or maybe a long campaign of posting signs declaring Worm a homosexual like he did to his father. Spinner was way ahead of us. He said, simply, "You can't use my Selsun Blue anymore" and left. He went to his and Worm's mobile home, removed his porno magazines, beer-can pyramid and big screen TV before burning the fucker to the ground. And then Spinner disappeared.

That's fucking revenge, cold as a bear's winter shit. Revenge is something The Count of Monte Cristo is interested in name only. Really, for a tale about revenge, it has very little actual revenge and too much nattering exposition about it. While this should be a great tale full of action and adventure, it instead just wobbles along like a three-legged donkey. Where there should be action, we get talking heads in dull, claustrophobic shots. Paris is reduced to a single mansion, Marseilles is a short stretch of dock, and all of the action that should take place on large merchant ships is simply ignored because big boats are expensive. Fuck, Caviezel spends a year with pirates, and all we get is him hugging the pirate captain at the end of the voyage. Even the impossible-to-escape Chateau d'If--where way too much of the story takes place--becomes two cheap-looking Hollywood sets. For a sweeping epic, this is one cheap-looking piece of shit.

What little action there is gets shot with the indifference of an industrial video. The fights are flat and lifeless, but the biggest crime is how the fucking movie takes 90 minutes to get to its revenge plot. First, we spend what feels like forever in Chateau d'If. We get scene after scene of Harris and Caviezel digging and talking. Talking about what? Mostly they're just trying to chew through the expository lumps in the script. They ludicrously resolve plot points by pulling facts out of their asses. When we finally get to the revenge, it's not even inspired. We don't get to see the world's wealthiest man do anything clever. He simply lays out three easy traps and the villains fall into them like dogs going for peanut butter bones. No fight, no mystery, no Rube-Goldberg machinations, just a dreary anti-climax that's handled with lumbering ambivalence.

Why should we root for whiny do-gooder Caviezel? That's a good fucking question, and the wrong answer is because Pearce is so God damn annoying, although that's true. We basically follow Caviezel from being a good man to being a shallow, vengeful asshole with nothing better to do than piss and moan about getting screwed sixteen years ago. Even worse, the movie pusses out on the ending. It doesn't show us the hollow victory that revenge is because it has to tack on a bullshit Hollywood happy ending. Where this could and should show us how empty revenge is, this turd pulls a switcheroo and avoids making any statement. Caviezel gets his girl, his money and his happiness. Fucking Hollywood asholes. I'm sure that somewhere, Spinner is rebuilding his life with nothing but his dirty mags and TV, and not a day goes by he doesn't think that burning down his mobile home was a mistake. It was an expensive lesson, for sure, but not as pricey as the one my neighbor got when he tried to demonstrate the "foolproof" safety guard on his bandsaw.

The acting is dull with every character as broad and flat as Kansas. Caviezel and the script never make anything unique from a guy who is on screen in every fucking shot. Pearce is a big enough ham to win the 4H Club show. He plays what should be a masculine role as a sniveling poncy fop that would embarrass Oscar Wilde. Dominczyk is given nothing to do. Her comely lass sure doesn't seem worth fighting over. Not like the Harelip. And Frain must be under the impression that he's getting paid to drill holes with his eyes because he's stares like an enraged border collie. I blame director Kevin Reynolds, as dull an action director as Hollywood has produced (Robin Hood, Waterworld and Rapa Nui) for fucking up a golden opportunity.

Two Fingers for the botched Count of Monte Cristo, and Four Fingers for Worm, Spinner and Harelip.

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