I'm Not Scared & Intermission

A pair of derivative films that deserve neither your time nor your attention.

 

 

God forbid a film critic be iconoclastic, but wouldn't it be nice to live in a world without both Miramax's vacuous middlebrow imports and the faux street smarts of pseudo-articulate Guy Ritchie acolytes? If the worst of today's so-called independent filmmaking could be sorted into two complementary rubbish bins, one would be labeled "foreign film lite" and the other "film school boy gets tattoo and thinks he's Henry Rollins." This week: a look inside each bin.

 

Directed by Gabriele Salvatores from a novel by Niccolo Ammaniti, I'm Not Scared is the tale of nine-year-old Michele, who discovers that his father has helped kidnap the son of a wealthy Venetian family and is holding him for ransom in a secret bunker near his house. The film's intellectual cachet supposedly derives from its Spirit of the Beehive-like plunge into the abyss that separates a child's image of the world from reality, but Salvatores' plodding literalism leaves one yearning for the magic and mysticism of a director like Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy).

 

Though separated from the average thriller only by its glacial pace and insistence on profundity, critics have nonetheless salivated over the film, particularly the way Salvatores photographs the fields of golden wheat surrounding Michele's town. The film is pretty, sure, but its investment of horror genre material with bucolic self-importance is all too reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan's work (Signs, The Village). By now, everyone knows that's a bad thing.

 

On to the second bin. Intermission is a hybrid of the Guy Ritchie garrulous gangster picture with the gimmicky butterfly-effect plot used in such films as, well, The Butterfly Effect, but also Run Lola Run and Ritchie's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The union of fractured narrative and existential connectedness could be mistaken for hipster metaphysics if it wasn't so patently contrived.

 

The hub of Intermission's revolving wheel is the breakup of John (Cillian Murphy) and Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald), a split that impacts a wide cast of characters, including crook Colin Farrell (slumming and clearly enjoying himself) and tough guy cop Colm Meaney.

 

Intermission is Irish director John Crowley's debut film, from a script by Mark O'Rowe, who has amply plundered Ritchie's loquacity (John interrupts an anti-Deirdre tirade to ask his pal Oscar if blackguard is the same as black-hearted). Yet Crowley clearly isn't right for this material. He may hide his sentimentality behind musical montages, but where Ritchie's Snatch was smugly brutal, Intermission is merely puckish, full of pissing and punching and drinking, much like a Colin Farrell magazine interview.

 

--Joshua Avram

Back to Film Reviews page