When a cab driver asks a hell-bent Chev which way he wants to go, the passenger bellows “Go right!
”—a sly joke on side-scrolling directionality that rhymes with the 8-bit graphics that bookend the film. Neveldine/Taylor’s visual scheme is the luminous toxin in that mixed drink, favouring harsh, bleached-out colours, and nauseous camera movements achieved with lightweight, handheld cameras.
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The plot’s momentum demands montage, but is first and foremost a film of masterful frames, from close-up compositions that seem to burst at the seams to witty exercises in middle-distance spatial gamesmanship.
(There’s also a subtitle joke so subtle it made David Bordwell flip.) Unrepentant formalists, they stylize their actors into props, with Statham’s bullet-headed, barrel-chested body as their most hilariously malleable resource: Chev flies in and out of view, slams up against the camera lens, and looks about ready to burst out of his skin during rare and involuntary moments of stasis.
Nevertheless, doesn’t excuse the centrepiece scene where Chev, desperate for a jump-start, semi-forces Eve to have sex with him in the middle of Chinatown.
But the way that Neveldine/Taylor modulate the bit from uncomfortable semi-realism to equally uncomfortable full-frontal farce—heedless, mutually satisfying rutting in front of scores of cheering strangers—is instructive.
The most jokily baroque touches in like pumped-up bad guy Terry Crews’ falsetto rendition of “I Got No Strings” during a confrontation with Kable, aren’t necessarily its master strokes; hyperbole heaped on top of hyperbole has its limits.
An even more glaring case in point would be which literally begins where its predecessor ends (another great title card: “Seventeen seconds later”) but also does so figuratively.” This evocation of degraded chat-room vernacular is even more pronounced in ’s postmodern blur failed to recognize its urgent/indulgent cultural critique.(The exception: Steven Shaviro, whose epic, 10,000-word blog post/essay is the major rallying point for the film’s defenders and a far more cogent summation of its contents than I can offer here.) Set somewhere in the 21st century A. D., in a thriftily but persuasively realized global metropolis where skyscrapers have been appropriated as digital billboards and video games have become a vertically integrated source of entertainment, employment, and economy, the film rehearses a familiar dystopian scenario: death-row convicts become gladiators trying to win their release.There’s no comparable, complicated “fuck you” moment in a film that is neither to be loved nor hated, and certainly not both at once.Working for the first time under the auspices of a major studio, from a commissioned screenplay, and for the first time not serving as their own camera operators, Neveldine/Taylor—who eschew Christian names in their creative partnership—have delivered a predictably compromised piece of work.This self-reflexive conceit is the narratalogical equivalent of popping open the hood of the action movie to reveal the pistons pumping underneath.