Death Race 38, Sarah 18; 1 of 24 categories completed
I may be remembering this incorrectly, but I believe I saw the trailer for Unstoppable while watching The Town with the Couch Baron. Everyone else in the theater is like, "…Really, Denzel?" but I thought it looked fun. Not good, but fun. I made the mistake of saying so out loud, at which time the Couch Baron made a big show of moving over a seat.
Sarah: "What? I like trains!"
Couch Baron: [moves over two more seats]
(You know CB has a blog, right? Recaps the late lamented Terriers; has an awesome feature, the Oscars Death Race's brother from another mother, called "John vs. the Netflix Queue"? Go on and bookmark it; I'll wait.)
Anyway, Unstoppable: it is the bad. I could forgive the unnecessarily heavy and poorly thought out subplot with Chris Pine's wife and the restraining order she's taken out against him; I could even overlook the fact that not one but both of Denzel's daughters work at the same Hooters franchise — as product placements go, it's so flagrantly icky, I almost admire it. But in order for me to let those things slide, the action has to pop, and Unstoppable's doesn't. Much of it takes place in extremely wide shots, which look pretty but lower the stakes significantly vis-Ã -vis the audience believing the situation is dangerous. Denzel, remember, is in his mid-fifties now, and looks it, here, for once, and yet he's running down the length of a half-mile-long freight train that's going 70 MPH and activating each car's brakes manually — and we should worry that he's doing that. I don't know if it's the fact that we "see" most of the action via the highly unrealistic news reports edited in to the sequence, or if the editing is just flabby overall, but we don't worry about him at all.
Something about the movie's timing is very strange. Tony Scott seems to have recycled footage of news choppers swinging in over the runaway train in at least three spots; the final press conference feels slapped together and, again, low-stakes, more like a school field day than a disaster-averted announcement. It's a good-natured picture (I enjoyed the snarky chyrons at the end), the acting is professional-grade, and I learned a little something about train transport, I guess…it's perfectly amiable and I didn't hate it. It just doesn't have the tension or drive you'd expect from the genre (or the director).
But hey, it's short, so y'all Death Race completists can knock this off in 90 minutes and get on with your days.
Tags: Chris Pine Couch Baron Denzel Washington movies Oscars 2011 Death Race sites The Town Tony Scott Unstoppable