The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
The Numbers Station (2013)
John Cusack is one of my favorite actors. I mean, he has that iconic scene in Say Anything...; was great in one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, Bullets Over Broadway; and has tons of great roles beyond those, from Con Air to High Fidelity. Now we have an opportunity to get him on the DTVC with this film, one of two DTV flicks he's done in the past year or so. It's strange times in Hollywood.
The Numbers Game has Cusack as a CIA assassin who has a bad moment out in the field when he's forced to kill the young daughter of a mark. The CIA thinks he needs a break, so they have him work at an out-of-the-way station in the UK that transmits code via shortwave radio. His job is to protect Malin Akerman, who is the one charged with transmitting these codes to the operatives in the field. Something goes wrong though, and now Akerman and Cusack are trapped inside while someone else outside is trying to get in and get them.
This was pretty good. A large part of why it was pretty good had to do with Cusack. He sells everything as well as he did almost 30 years ago when he first started out. But it still moved at a decent pace, kept things tense and interesting in the non-action scenes, and was exciting when there was action. It wasn't perfect, but for a DTV suspense-actioner, you can't ask for much more. And, again, we had John Cusack, which made it even better. This is probably pretty nondescript without him, but with him, it's a pretty good time.
As we often do with these big Hollywood stars in DTV flicks, we look to see where the bottom fell out, or try to figure out why he or she is in a DTV flick. With Cusack, we can see that as recently as 2012 he was in the Hollywood flick The Raven, though it didn't make its budget back in US tickets, and Cusack was second choice for the main role after Ewan McGregor (as an aside, Ethan Hawke was originally cast for Cusack's role in this). He was also in The Paperboy, a major indie flick with some other big names in it that same year. I think we're seeing an age now where big names do DTV, indie, and big budget Hollywood work at the same time, that it's no longer just "oh my God, what happened to his career? He's doing DTV stuff now!" We'll see with Cusack which way it goes, but whatever he's in, I'll be curious to check it out.
This is our second Malin Akerman film, the other being Catch .44, which starred Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker. Unlike Cusack, who was almost as big as it gets in Hollywood-- and still is pretty big--, Akerman has always straddled that line between small parts in big Hollywood flicks and big parts on TV or DTV movies. I don't know where she puts this film with Couples Retreat, where she played Vince Vaughn's wife. Is DTV a step down for her, or is working with John Cusack a step up? This definitely felt like a step up from Catch .44, and I can't imagine a woman her age didn't dream of being carried by a hunk like Cusack in a movie, so that's something.
One trend we've noticed with big Hollywood names in DTV flicks, is that they're often used as a bait and switch. This was definitely not the case here. This movie is all Cusack all the time. In fact, I saw some reviews suggest that it's too Cusack centered, to the detriment of Akerman's character. I don't know, the movie is about Cusack's character. We see inside his head, and almost the entire thing is told from his perspective. Anyway, if I had to choose, I'd rather the film be too heavy on the star, than be a bait and switch.
The other big name in this is Liam Cunningham. He's not in it as much as Cusack or Akerman, but he's there, and worth mentioning, especially for all you Game of Thrones fans out there. I never remember to watch it, so unfortunately I'm not a fan. Cunningham too has a pretty prodigious imdb bio, though his small role in this is more like the big movie star bait-and-switch, and fortunately he's not splashed all over the cover, meaning the people distributing this didn't fall victim to the lure of pandering to Game of Thrones fans. Good for you guys.
And good for you for putting out a decent movie. Cusack carries it, but Akerman is good, and the story and action hold up well too. I think this is what we want out of a DTV flick starring John Cusack, and it's a sad commentary on the current state of this kind of movie that I'm breathing a sigh of relief that it turned out okay, because we've seen so many turn out poorly. Please DTV film makers, make more like The Numbers Station.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1659338/