Political corruption? War?
Conspiracy? Is it today's headlines? No! It's a remake
of the 1962 Frank Sinatra film, The Manchurian Candidate.
And this time...it's personal.
Okay, maybe it isn't personal.
Maybe it isn't even any good. But that's why you're hear...to find
Let's start with the obvious: Frank Sinatra isn't in this version.
He's dead. Filling his shoes is Denzel Washington, who you may
remember from any number of films. Also starring is Liev
Schreiber, who played Cotton Weary in all three Scream films, as
well as John Clark in The Sum of All Fears (and, in case you're
wondering, the sum of all fears equals starring in a movie with Ben
Affleck). Meryl Streep, Jon Voigt, and Kimberly Elise round out
Now, it's hard to discuss the movie without giving anything away
(other than the fact that it sucks). If you're familiar with the
original Manchurian Candidate, then you won't be surprised to
learn that bares a resemblance to that film. If you know nothing
about it and want to be completely surprised by a taut political
thriller...you should find yourself something else to watch. Why?
This isn't taut or thrilling. It is political, though.
This won't give away too much: the original title (which refers both
to the John Frankenheimer (It's ALIVE!!!) 1962 version and the book (yes,
there's a book too, get out and read once in a while!)) have a
reason for using "Manchurian". See, in those days, the Chinese
people were seen as an evil communist threat. But, nowadays, the
only bad guys are big corporations, so rather than do an extensive
re-write, the bad guys are Manchurian Global -- a mega-corporation
filled with corrupt evil-doers and dripping with dirty political
It's kind of hard not to giggle every time they say "Manchurian Global".
C'mon. It's weak. They should've renamed it The
Manchurian Global Candidate. What's next, Bridge Over the
River Microsoft? Apocalypse Wal-Mart? The
So, this is supposed to be a film that's twisty and intriguing, with
conspiracy and paranoia and brainwashing, but almost everything falls
flat. The performers aren't the ones to blame, however.
Denzel Washington is okay -- not great -- in a role that he seems born
to play, especially since he basically had the same part in Ricochet
(you remember Ricochet, don't you? It had John Lithgow as a
crazy bad guy). Denzel Washington played the good guy who is made
to look insane and no one believes him. Well, there's some of that
going on here. Did the Masked Reivewer just give something away?
Well, you'll get over it. If not, then don't go see the movie.
You'll be glad you didn't.
Some of the characters who are supposedly brainwashed are a bit too
convincing at times, because they seem to be mindless zombies.
Again, it's probably not a reflection on the actors in question, but
still...how much character development can we see from a character that
doesn't appear to be in control of their own head?
Meryl Streep gets to be a bit crazy and over-the-top; and yet, it's
not enough to suck the viewer in. Same goes for Denzel Washington
and Jon Voigt and everyone else...it's just not working.
The Masked Reviewer blames the director, Jonathan Demme (who you may
remember as the director of Silence of the Lambs and
Philadelphia). He hasn't done much in recent years, and maybe
he was brainwashed into creating a sucky film. "Director Demme?
Director Jonathan Demme? Jonathan Demme? Make a sucky film."
The elements for a good movie were in place. Good actors.
A more or less good script (at least, it was based on a good book and a
good movie, so there's something there). But he never
manages to make it interesting. How is that possible? The
Masked Reviewer doesn't know, but he failed. It's not bad
so much as it's just plain dull. It's also very predictable.
Even if you've never seen the original film, you'd be hard pressed not
to figure out what will happen in this one.
And here's another thing: Denzel's character meets a woman on a
train. She asks him where he's going.
THEY'RE ON A TRAIN.
It's not like he's on a ship, letting the wind takes him where it
may, there are tracks, and they don't leave a lot of leeway. Sure,
there may be several stops, but it's still crazy.
The film seems to try to provide some social commentary, by making
Manchurian Global (hee hee) an allegory for Halliburton, and a
condemnation of the right. At least, maybe. It's hard to
tell. The message seems to be anti-right wing, but Meryl Streep's
character is VERY reminiscent of Hilary Clinton, and Liev Schreiber's
character seems to be a composite of John Kerry and John Edwards.
It's hard to say what's accidentally weak social commentary and what's
intentionally weak social commentary.
All in all, there are a number of better thrillers out there; if
you're a Denzel Washington fan, you'd be better off renting Out of
Time, which is much more interesting. Fans of Jonathan Demme
will be disappointed, and people who love The Manchurian Candidate
(the one where the Manchurians were actually Manchurians
from...Manchuria) will find this remake to be sadly disappointing.
It's a by-the-numbers movie that doesn't do anything right. The
pure dullness of it all is worse than if it were badly made: at least
that would be good for a laugh. As it is, the best part about it
is the chance to snicker at every reference to Manchurian Global.
Expectation from the Title: When Brad and Phyllis decide to
have Chinese food, they narrow their choices down to three dishes.
The Szechuan candidate is too spicy. The Mandarin candidate is
loaded with garlic, which gives Brad gas...that leaves only one
option....will they take it?
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Denzel Washington is so well-kept that he looks good even after a brain
The Pros: Manchurian Global. There are a couple of
scenes that got an audience reaction, but they don't go anywhere.
The Cons: It's dull. It's not thrilling. It's not
suspenseful. It's not good.