The Macnhurian Candidate


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"Director Demme?  Director Jonathan Demme?  Jonathan Demme?  Make a sucky film.."










The Manchurian Candidate
The Masked Reviewer

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's personal.

Okay, maybe it isn't personal.  Maybe it isn't even any good.  But that's why you're find out.  Right?

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 the cast.

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 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 contacts. 

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 MicrosoftApocalypse Wal-Mart?  The Magnificent Seven-Eleven? 

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 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'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.


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 washing.

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.

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