30 August 2012

Film: Albino Alligator (1996)

Thoughts: Kevin Spacey directs this suspense filled ensemble flick that works well as a piece of fairly shallow character exploration on top of your straight-forward hostage ticker. What is most definitely the films draw card is its stellar cast roster, but solid direction and camerawork definitely add to the mix, creating a film that is quite interesting; both visually and mentally.

Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise and (my personal favourite) William Fichtner botch a heist, and decide to hide out in Dino's Last Chance; a basement speakeasy-turned-dive bar. Of course, within seconds of entering the establishment, the head of the outfit pulls a gun, and suddenly a short stay becomes a lengthy tete-a-tete with the increasingly-imposing police contingent waiting outside. Motives shift, allegiances are tested, and both lies and truth become intermingled in what will be the longest night of all these folks' lives.

You already have top talent with the three protagonists, but add in Faye Dunaway, Skeet Ulrich, M. Emmet Walsh, Joe Mantegna, John Spencer and Viggo Mortensen (woo!) and you have a lot of talent sharing screentime. Each brings their own personal level of experience to the mix, but my personal favourites are William Fichtner and Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen most will know as Aragorn from the Lord Of The Rings flicks, and he is definitely an actor's actor. William Fichtner you probably don't know by name, but I guarantee you'll recognize his face.

Yep, that's the man himself, and here he turns in a wild performance as an unhinged sociopath with a penchant for violence. Naturally, in these sorts of films! Not only does he do great work, but Gary Sinise and especially Matt Dillon pull some great work here. Dillon in particular creates this portrait of a man who is led by persuasion, and immediately comes across as one of those cats you meet who talks big and tries to act big, but you can just never seem to take seriously. You know the guys I'm talking about; the ones that eventually do something crazy to try and prove themselves, but just end up seeming more pathetic, even though you know they're a nice person that just can't seem to communicate well with society; always the awkward extra. It's an especially well-done performance.

Despite all the star presence, there's a pretty good story here. I ultimately think the whole thing could have been a bit more... I don't know, visceral, I think I'm going for? Despite the brutality on display the whole thing does seem a bit bloodless, and this carries through to the script as well; it seems to be lacking real teeth. I guess what I'm saying is, after 95mins with this group, nothing felt particularly memorable about the whole ordeal. It all just basically happened, and that's that.

The direction is sure, and there are a number of great camera moments, with the whole thing rather inventively shot; especially considering the majority of the film is in the one location. You're never distracted by the camera and what its doing, and the information is all presented in the best possible way. I would say that's due to an experienced actor being behind the camera; I bet Spacey knew how to get the best from his people, and also how to maximise the viewing experience with a minimalist touch.

Altogether, I can recommend this to thriller or crime fans. Or fans of great character work.


Albino Alligator  |  Kevin Spacey  |  Matt Dillon  |  Faye Dunaway   | Movie Trailer | Review

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