Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Missing

(2003) **1/2
I pulled a Burt. That's what we called it in our house growing up when you rented a movie you'd forgotten you already had seen. Our dad/step-dad did that ALL the time, and the video store was literally in another state. He'd come home with a stack of those old generic plastic huge VHS cases, and realize 5 minutes into half of the movies that he rented this one before.

So I remember seeing a preview for this Western thriller at some point in 2002 (I guess), thinking that it looked really good and spooky. But then I missed seeing it for years, so it's always been one I've been meaning to go back and check out, which I finally did last night. Well, about a half hour in, I realized that I'd seen it before. I think I must have stumbled across it on late night cable sometime, and just caught it from midway or something.

Oh well, it's a Ron Howard movie, which should tell you that it's aggressively competent. The plot is essentially a ripoff of the Searchers: a group of Indians kidnap a white girl, and Tommy Lee Jones heads off to rescue her.

The good: The Indian villain is a very un-PC nasty savage son of a bitch, which lends the film a thriller feel that is genuinely creepy at times. He's not only kidnapping white girls to sell into Mexico, but he's some sort of voodoo witch doctor who rips out hearts and mixes the blood with snake poison and shit. The cinematography also sets up kind of a ghost story/horror vibe, especially true in the beginning when Howard is setting up the kidnapping.
The bad: By the time the chase begins, however, it becomes a fairly drawn out and tame exercise in Western predictablity. Jones and Blanchett are both good in their roles, but you can almost feel Jones holding back from going "full retard" like Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall. His character as written certainly has all the stuff of a clownish mystic old grandpa (he'd gone native years before, so he wears Indian garb and throws sand in the air when he prays and shit like that). And of course you can't help but roll your eyes when grandpa and his plucky frontier daughter take on a whole group of better armed Apaches. Yeah right.

Anyway, so it's sorta two movies: one good half blending Western and thriller motifs; one mediocre half offering up an homage to a (way better) Western classic.


Octopunk said...

This is now my favorite review of the month just because it bumped the vomit picture off the top. Kudos!

I remember this flick; like you, I think I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

It's got Elizabeth Moss!

Great pic of Tommy Lee Jones's "going native" look. And nice work on the Burt.

DCD said...

That Burt thing totally made me laugh. It was that damn woman at The Video Connection plying him with all that crap.

I love the phrase "aggressively competent". Bummer about the mediocre half.

Catfreeek said...

At least with Netflix you can look up your past history but if you saw it on late night cable your screwed. Loving your reviews and movie choices btw.

@Octo, I selected that picture because it was tame, there were much, much worse.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

"He's not only kidnapping white girls to sell into Mexico, but he's some sort of voodoo witch doctor who rips out hearts and mixes the blood with snake poison and shit."

Wait, is "shit" meant to be taken literally here?

50PageMcGee said...

at least it wasn't a shitty movie you'd seen twice.

JPX said...

Great and hilarious review! I vividly recall your old video store. Typically they only had one copy of each movie so it was unlikely that you would ever get what you set out to rent. Ultimately you would have to be satisfied with something you had already seen multiple times. How many times did you guys watch Sixteen Candles or The Breakfadt Club?

AC said...

ditto on "aggressively competent," best phrase of the thon so far.