Over the past couple of years, actor Thomas Jane has given audiences at Comic-Con International San Diego a taste of projects he’s hard at work on; last year, he showed a rough cut of The Martian Chronicles to fans later in the evening on Saturday night. This year was no different, offering fans (and Newsarama) a showing of Give ‘Em Hell Malone, directed by Russell Mulcahy with the debut work of screenwriter Mark Hosack; Jane was also on hand alongside Raw Studios cohort, Tim Bradstreet.
Most folk don’t know this about Jane, he’s a huge comic book geek and he likes to attend SDCC for more than just pimping movies. The panel/ screening started off jovially with Jane mixing it up with the audience of around 150 attendees. He explained to the audience that they would be watching a “rough cut” of Give ‘Em Hell Malone. The movie features Jane as the character ‘Malone’, an eccentric gun-toting bad ass with a penchant for mid-20th Century wardrobe and speaking patterns: a true to form hard-boiled gumshoe with not very much going for him. The movie also features acting talent like Ving Rhames, French Stewart, Doug Hutchison, and Elsa Pataky.
The screening lasted nearly two hours with Jane, Hosack, Mulcahy, Chris Yen (the villainous vamp, Mauler, in the film) and several producers from the picture addressing the audience members’ thoughts on the film.
So what did I think of the movie, you ask?
Tim Bradstreet PosterWell, I liked it—a lot; but I’m not sure if I liked it for the right reasons. Much like the protagonist’s exotic yet out of place existence in this modern day film, I was awash in a bevy of layered concepts—some good, some really good, and some painfully bad-turned-shockingly humorous like an ironic lead pipe to the head. There are a number of incongruent elements that, when braided together like they are in Give ‘Em Hell Malone, worked well together on this hard-boiled, heaping plate of a film.
There’s a little noir homage, there’s a little action-adventure parody, and there’s even a little Tarantino with a few really hard to watch scenes of violence, as well as a key Enter the Dragon reference. I felt like Hosack’s script was a huge pot of soup made from the leftover memories of some of his favorite films. In a way, that’s a good thing; I definitely felt like there was a sustained love of cinema that acted as an undercurrent in the film. I felt like I had to get permission to chuckle and enjoy what would seemed like absolute dross and cliché’ elements in a film you might see go direct to DVD—there just seemed to be this master plan for parody embedded in this flick. I laughed a lot as did the audience.
On the other hand, some of the quips and one liners and overwrought dialog seemed to jar me out of really well intentioned scenes with ham-fisted clumsiness. The characterization would be a steady string of competently witty moments but I thought these same moments would sustain themselves for too long—like Hosack’s script was trying too hard to show me how clever it was. Or as if he would tell me a joke, I’d laugh and then he’d explain it to me again and poke me in my ribs with his elbow after the fact.
Jane and cast are dizzyingly frenetic; each character seemed to have an agenda that comes standard with its own era of existence. Malone is straight out of a Chandler novel; Boulder (Rhames) seems almost like his post-modern mirror opposite. Boulder seems to be magnetically following Malone in a way that two opposite poles of a magnet might be attracted to one another. Pataky’s role as the object of desire was sketchy but dense; she was a big diamond ring with a huge occlusion that Malone doesn’t notice until it’s too late.
Side note: At the end of the panel, an audience member brought up a very small plot hole involving Evelyn that about 3% of the audience noticed which seemed to feed into a swerve that played out in the apex of the film amidst all the cacophony of stories and elements that whirled around in the picture.
Continuing on, Hutchison’s role as the pyromaniac, Matchstick, was creepy and extra crispy…after he stopped carrying himself around like Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight by the climax of the movie. Yen’s role as Mauler seemed custom tailored for a role in Kill Bill; she was a cool villain with some scene-stealing moments…but we’ve seen this character before. My favorite supporting cast member, however, was French Stewart as Frankie the Crooner; Stewart plays the role of the worst lounge singer on the planet; who happens to be involved in the set-up/ revenge scam unfolding throughout the film.
Technically speaking, I loved the opening sequence that featured Malone blasting his way through an assortment of thugs with his Mateba Autorevolver to get to a briefcase and its mysterious contents. It had stylistic teeth that sort of set a pace that was never re-established in the film due to the overly chatty scenes. The movie seemed almost like two separate animals: the opening sequence and the rest of the film. I’m also a stickler for this sort of thing but there were two really noticeable continuity errors in two back-to-back scenes involving the Mauler character which may have been overlooked because of the rough cut nature of the movie. One of the most brilliant technical aspects of this film revolved around the color pallet and saturation was used to translate hyper-real colors mixed in with this dirty, faded cityscape.
The movie was entertaining and fun; as a fan of Thomas Jane, I want to see him explore his dramatic boundaries more like he did in The Last Time I Committed Suicide or 61* in future films. This knuckle dragging role as Malone and his role on the new HBO hit HUNG are similar in their masculine identities. I’d like to see Jane’s brooding range explored in a more thoughtful manner. The film, with some more editing, still might estrange a general public audience with all of its referential meta-goodness but for film buffs this gem in the rough could become an instant cult-classic.