Enemy

Enemy

In a dark underground club, a crowd of men watch women perform various sex acts on stage. A woman walks on stage, naked except for high-heeled platform shoes and carrying a covered silver platter. She puts the platter on the floor, and lifts the cover to reveal a tarantula, which she slowly starts to crush under her heel….

Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a reserved college professor living in Toronto. His life revolves around presenting the same lectures again and again, and his relationship with his girlfriend cycles back endlessly to the same unsatisfying sex. On a whim, Adam rents a movie recommended by a colleague, and discovers a bit-part actor who appears to be his exact double. Adam looks him up, and discovers that his name is Anthony Claire and that he also lives in Toronto. Although initially resistant, Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal) eventually agrees to meet with Adam in a hotel room. The two men discover that, though their lives and personalities are very different, they are exact physical copies of one another, including a scar each man has on his abdomen.

Meanwhile, an enormous spider with hideously elongated legs stalks above the Toronto skyline, seemingly invisible to the city’s occupants and women with spiders’ heads walk the underground passages beneath…

Enemy is probably the most consciously alienating movie I’ve watched this year. The whole colour palette is a drab urine-stained yellow that makes everything feel tired and wearing. Adam and Anthony are both difficult characters, awkward or vicious in their relationships with women (which is the primary way we get to see their emotions) and the film works hard to keep us out of their heads and guessing at what makes them tick. And yet, there’s clearly a meaning here (if not more than one) and it seems tantalizingly close to the surface at times.

The two great strengths of Enemy lie in Jake Gylenhaal’s excellent, weird, haunted performance in the two leading roles and in its steadfast resistance to easy unpacking. There are great symbolic depths here, but they defy straightforward explanation in a way which is both frustrating and compelling. That there are already dozens of analyses on the web, none of which precisely agree on what’s going on, speaks to the film’s power and resolute mystery.

Enemy is probably not a film for everyone – it’s certainly not an easy watch, but it’s probably one of the most powerful and enigmatic films I’ve watched this year. It’s certainly the one which has stuck in my head the most.

Enemy is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman.

Recommended.

Gantz: Perfect Answer

Gantz-Perfect-Answer

At the conclusion of Gantz (2010), college student Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) found himself at a crossroads. After being swept up in some kind of strange contest with other people recruited apparently at the point of death, Kurono fought in the service of a large black ball called Gantz, battling aliens for ‘points’. But the battle proved costly, with his childhood friend Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) being amongst the casualties.

But all is not lost. If Kurono can obtain 100 points, he has a choice of leaving the game…or resurrecting someone killed in action. He promptly takes over guardianship of Kato’s little brother and sets about going after bringing Kato back. Even as he focusses on his mission, other forces begin to move. A detective investigates the sightings of apparently missing people, a pop singer gains possession of a miniature version of the Gantz orb and a mysterious group of black-suited people begin their own hunt…

Gantz: Perfect Answer looks to up the ante on its predecessor. It takes the premise and expands it. The result is a sequel in the purest sense; you simply must have seen Gantz to make any sense of this. There is a token ‘previously’ intro, but a first-time viewer would surely be lost.

Dispensing with the backstory allows the story to immediately sweep in and introduce a wave of new characters and with them, a new set of rules. If the first movie was fairly faithful to the manga series that spawned it, the sequel sets about mining new ground from the outset. Among other things, we see the alien response from having all these black-clad humans hunting them.

Not only does the plot escalate, so does the action. It culminates in a terrific centrepiece mass battle through a subway train featuring martial arts, swords, guns and more. It is in this arena that Gantz: Perfect Answer finds its niche; as a glossy, sci-fi/superhero comic book movie as good as anything produced out of Hollywood.

Unfortunately, such highs are balanced with lows. Histrionic melodrama crops up repeatedly, as do some odd plot movements. For example, the hunt of Kurono’s girlfriend Tae Kojima from the manga is brought in, but not in a way that actually makes logical sense. It seems more like the filmmakers liked the opportunity for conflict within the Gantz team and did not care that it was a concept that did not fit the story.

The biggest sin, though, is sheer length. Almost every scene feels drawn out, every character moment and even fight extended until all enjoyment is almost wrung out of it. The story may come to a satisfactory end – no mean feat, given the source manga continues to wilder and wilder plotlines – but the telling of that story is undercut by its padding. One can only wonder how strong Gantz: Perfect Answer could have been with 45 minutes or more cut from it.

Overall, this is a stylish sequel that forms, with its predecessor, a unique tale. Visually expansive and wonderfully-shot, it is somewhat let down by its length and often illogical developments. If these can be forgiven, however, there is lots of enjoy here in a dazzling action/sci-fi adventure.

Extras:
  • Trailers
  • Making of Gantz: Perfect Answer
  • Fight Choreography

The main extra is a 32-minute ‘making of’ piece. This combines cast and crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage of filming several key sequences such as the subway battle and the climactic face-off. It is more magazine-stye than informative, but it is still fun seeing moments like the wrap shots for each of the major cast members. They all seem genuinely touched by the production, which actually consisted of both Gantz and Gantz: Perfect Answer shot over several months and the outpouring of emotion each time shows what it meant to all involved.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman.