4 March 2012

Need For Speed!

Once upon a time, the Wachowskis told us to imagine that there is no spoon. Easy enough to do with a piece of cutlery I suppose but a lot harder to apply to the Matrix Sequels. I know that there are great scenes in Reloaded and Revolutions, but let's face it, they do slightly ruin the original a bit. In the first one, we hear all about the mysterious Zion. In the second, we're shown it to be a plastic looking disco cave complete with a bunch of semi naked gimps dancing like tits to bloody Barbie Girl or whatever.

The whole fucking rave is cheesier than a tramps foreskin and if that's what we're fighting for, then fuck it, plug me back in. I'd rather be a happy fucking battery than part of that jigging crowd of twonks. By expanding on the world of the original and making it look shit, you're basically giving wrong answers to questions that made the first film great. It's like getting to finger Angelina Jolie and finding a huge pair of hairy testicles down her knickers. On face value she still looks great but secretly you can't help but be thinking about what bollocks is under the surface.

Following The Matrix franchise however, the siblings have so far only done one other movie. Speed Racer is their 2008 follow up and tells the story of a young racing driver who must choose to either join a corrupt sponsorship or remain independent and come under attack from them. Filmed almost completely on green screen, the film looks like a living cartoon and uses more colours than actually exist in the world. After just a few minutes, you start to wonder if the bright red is the colour on screen or simply evidence that your eyes have started to bleed. I think that watching this whilst high could genuinely cause brain-bubbles followed by schizophrenia and a lifetime of gormless dribbling.

When it came out, for some reason the critics decided to give it a bit of a slating. Just because it's a little bit crap, two star reviews where being hurled at it like an angry retard throwing shit at a mirror. I mean- it's not the best film in the world, but it's not bad. Beyond the look of the film, the cast is also really likeable with Emile Hirsch whose head is two sizes too big for him, John Goodman looking like he's had a stroke, Christina Ricci sporting that season's anorexic look and Roger Allam doing an impression of Tim Curry inside Gilderoy Lockhart's skin.

The plot, for what it is, unfortunately suffers from Matrix Sequel Syndrome in that it's way too fucking complicated. We're watching what looks like a live action version of Mario Kart with a comedy chimp in a hat, but the story is a convoluted mess of sports corruption, the stock market and industrial takeovers. The look and humour of the film is clearly aiming for a young audience but the story is like watching a cross between Wall Street and Days of Thunder whilst on magic mushrooms.

Also, like The Matrix Sequels, it's way too fucking long. Again, if it's a kids film, it really shouldn't go on for much more than 90mins. This however drags itself out for around 2 hours and 15 minutes , the same time it takes a 2 legged dog to find a safe place to shit, without it getting matted into its fur. At that running time, most kids will have hit puberty and grown their first pube before the credits start rolling. Annoyingly, there are just a few too many long, misplaced scenes which play out a bit like watching a pantomime with a serious business meeting. Kind of like going to watch Jack and the Beanstalk and spending half an hour watching Jack haggle for the beans based on the current magical fruit exchange rate. You end up not giving a single shit.

Despite all that however, I do still really like it simply because I find it to be genuinely sweet and good hearted. Financial bullshit aside, it's about a family who love each other and are just doing their best to stick together. You could get rid of all the 'Gordon Gecko' greed-is-good shite, and in all honesty I'd probably like it even more. In fact the bits that get me the most are the stuff involving the death of 'Speeds' older brother 'Rex' and how the family deal with it. Contrary to its bubblegum exterior everyone in the “Racer” family play their parts completely straight with some fairly heavy things going on. Not only is 'Pop' mourning the loss of his son, he also has to deal with the fact that the last time they spoke he told him that if he leaves now then he can never come back. The only thing to slightly spoil this scene is that before 'Rex' steps through the door you half expect Goodman to shout, 'Over the line' and pull a gun on him.

The stuff between 'Speed' and his parents are, in my opinion, genuinely touching with John Goodman and Susan Sarandon doing more than just turning up for the money. If I've got any other niggle regarding these scenes it's simply that I find Sarandon to be a bit of a hypocrite whenever she's giving driving advice. I'm not being funny, but the last time I saw that ginger gilf in charge of a car, she drove it off a fucking cliff. I haven't actually seen Thelma and Louise but I'm assuming it's about the incompetence of woman drivers and so if I was 'Speed' I'd tell her to shut the fuck up and keep her shitty, suicidal advice to herself. Go find your headscarf and wear it in another room, bitch.

The other interesting character here is 'Racer X' who has, in my humble opinion, a genuinely touching backstory. He looks a bit like if X-men's 'Cyclops' decided he was into visiting dungeons and wearing bondage and is, I guess, this films equivalent of 'Morpheus'. He's dependable, honourable, cool, and in all honesty, the spine of the movie. If there is any reason to revisit this film, other than seeing Christina Ricci's general face and body, it's to watch him knowing exactly what you find out at the end. It's not exactly a 'we're the same person, he's a ghost and it was the cripple all along' kind of affair, but it certainly adds a bit of weight to the movie.

The Wachowskis are important film-makers and this forgettable CG acid trip is one example of why. It might be a bit crap, but at least it is original and not stuffed up its own arse with pretentiousness- like The Matrix Sequels were. The directors also deserve credit for making a film that couldn't be any more different to The Matrix if they had tried. It's so different in fact, that it's a bit like Spielberg following War Horse with a pornographic slasher film or if Michael Bay followed up Transformers 3 with- well, just any good film would do. It'll be nobody's favourite movie, but I recommend it simply because of how refreshingly un-cynical it is. Maybe Speed Racer's plot is a bit confusing, but seems as most people can't even work out what gender Larry/Lana Wachowski is, the fact that we understand as much as we do should be appreciated. Regardless of whether Lana's knob is between her legs or in a jam-jar on the mantle, I don't care. As long as they keep making films as individual as Speed Racer and The Matrix, then I'll be happy.

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