- Entertainment and Media
The Movie Scab Reviews: "The Grey."
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Monkey Boy rated The Grey zero Acks! out of five!
Before seeing The Grey, I went to a local pub for a pint of beer. My movie-sense was telling me that I was going to have to man-up and get blind drunk before seeing The Grey or how in the world would I get through the movie without gnawing off my leg like an injured wolf caught in a cruel steel-trap designed by cruel human beings?
To prove that my movie-sense was working perfectly, four tall, rugged and serious-looking Colorado cowboys with wide brimmed cowboy hats and dirty cowboy boots walked into the pub. They sat at the table next to mine. These were real working cowboys, men who know ranches and ranch-life, snow, cold, and how to survive in the wild, be it winter, spring, summer or fall, and not only that, but it was evident that they were adept hunters who knew the behavior of animal-life like bear, elk, deer and… wolves. They sat down, ordered four Buds all around and started talking--loudly--about just how horrible The Grey was--in fact, they were laughing at it.
"Wolves don't behave like those cartoon wolves did in the movie," one of the cowboys said. "Wolves only behave that way in Hollywood," another joked. "You could tell that movie was written by a city guy who knows nothin' about nature and wildlife," another added, "'cause I'm tellin' you, boys, that was the dumbest survival movie I've ever seen."
I knew it! Damn my reliable movie-sense! So I ordered another beer with a shot of Bacardi on the side, gulped them down, kicked myself hard in the balls and went to see The Grey, a movie that's so badly executed four real live cowboys thought it was the dumbest survival movie they'd ever seen.
And they were right. My movie-sense was right. The Grey turned out to be as cruel a trap as I'd imagined it would be.
But according to the always reliable Tomato Meter at Rotten Tomatoes, 78% of the movie critics in this country think The Grey is a smart, well executed, well acted, well written, entertaining movie (they use the word "gripping" a lot in their reviews), so lay your hard earned money down, boys and girls, and give it to Hollywood!
And once again the deranged mad movie critic Richard Corliss from Time Magazine, as well as Rolling Stone's own irrational movie critic, Peter Travers, recommend The Grey, what amounts to another golden calf to mediocrity--but I can't hold it against them anymore because they're Baby Boomers who have been reviewing Hollywood movies for more than 30 years and it's clear that the movies have given them a brain retarding disease. Sadly, they still think they're super smart and cool, and maybe even groovy (because they're Baby Boomers, but that's a brain disease of an entirely different kind), but the truth is at some point they're just going to have to accept it: Above and beyond the Hollywood induced retarding brain disease reviewing movies has given them, they're really just getting old, senile, and clearly dementia has set in. I wouldn't trust a word those two crazy critics said, and I certainly wouldn't go to a movie they've recommended. Ever.
The truth is, of course, if Hollywood keeps pumping out crap-heaps like The Grey (and Underworld 4, released last week) in 2012, our fates are sealed and doomsday is, indeed, at hand.
The Grey stars the remarkable, talented and tall Irish actor, Liam Neeson. He plays Ottway, a tall, unremarkable, depressed Irish sharpshooter in Alaska, hired to kill wolves from killing oil-rig workers. He's also suicidal enough to suck on the barrel of a rifle like a cherry, chewy centered Tootsie Pop.
Ottway is suicidal because his wife left him, or in other words, she died, but we're not supposed to figure that out until the end, but I figured it out as soon as Ottway said it because the director, Joe Carnahan, made it so freakin' obvious: Heavy-handed dramatic pauses and theatrical editing that tells you Richard Dreyfuss is going to make a mountain-mound out of the mashed potatoes and go, "This means something!"
Not my fault. That's Joe Carnahan's fault. He's the storyteller.
So for most of the movie we're supposed to think Ottway's wife was a cold-hearted bitch because she left poor, sad and now suicidal Ottway all alone in the cold-heart of Alaska. When Carnahan does the Big Reveal at the end--Ottway's wife "left him" in a hospital because that's where she….wait for it… wait for it… died!--we're supposed to be surprised. I wasn't, of course, because I'm convinced Carnahan made this movie for 12-year-olds who don't have a clue about life because they're not fully developed human beings yet. 12-year-olds have underdeveloped brains. But even if I had been surprised (like a 12-year-old with an underdeveloped brain would be), it would have been very hard for me to sympathize. Why? It's easy! For the entire movie Carnahan wanted me to believe Ottway's wife was a cold-hearted bitch. Now I've suddenly got to change gears and feel sorry for her? She isn't a cold-hearted bitch after all? She's just dead? Screw that. All Carnahan did was try (and fail) to trick me. He did that with The Fourth Kind and failed just as badly.
Anyway, wise and benevolent Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn , er, sorry, I mean Ottway (Liam Neeson), decides not to kill himself for some reason that's never made quite clear.
He boards a plane with some oil-rigger roughnecks who all, apparently, have the brains of 12-year-olds, the audience IQ this movie was made for, and like 12-year-olds who are not fully developed human beings yet because of their underdeveloped brains, the oil-rigger roughnecks drop F-bombs like napalm instead of actually speaking words and putting them together in coherent sentences that they, and the audience, can understand because, of course, they're not fully developed human beings and their brains are underdeveloped. But the director, Joe Carnahan, would like us to believe they talk the way they do because they're just plain speaking roughnecks with severely limited vocabularies. (Don't you know that all roughnecks are uneducated, F-bomb dropping macaroons like these guys?) But I know the truth: They're either adults with the underdeveloped brains of 12-year-olds or Carnahan is a lazy writer. (It's a whole lot easier to have your characters drop F-bombs all over the place instead of writing thoughtful dialogue that might sound like coherent sentences--ouch, that's just hard.)
Finally, the plane crashes (truly, the best part of the movie, well executed, exciting, believable), and oh boy, kids, it's survival time!
Even though Jedi Master Qui-Gon--er, uh, sorry, I mean Ottway, is suicidal, we learn that he is indeed wise and perhaps even benevolent, kind of like a boring, boozing Irish Jedi Master with a foul mouth who seems to have waaay too much preternatural knowledge on the subject of how and why the brutal world works. As an example of what I mean, when a victim of the plane crash is dying, wise and benevolent Jedi Master--er, sorry, I mean Ottway, tells him death is really like sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of naked women and drinking beer, so the guy dies happy and well. It was a good death.
After a while, a know-it-all like that just gets irritating, and the more Ottway champions his practical wisdom and humanist benevolence, the more irritating he becomes, and for some reason Ottway's wise and benevolent nature and understanding of the brutal nature of the world in which we live is also never made quite clear. (Was he trained by George Lucas? Is he a Buddhist? A Scientologist? Kurt Vonnegut?) It is made very clear, however, that he hates God because God isn't real, of course--duh. How could God be real when his cold-hearted bitch of a wife "left him" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), right? Right.
Now that the plane has crashed and some roughnecks have died good deaths (and that's the existential point, isn't it, that they died well?), it's time to try to survive the cold, snow, a pack of hungry (cartoon) wolves and the bitch otherwise known as Mother Nature. And that's were believability and the The Grey part company and in such a big way that four Colorado cowboys couldn't stop laughing about it.
Now. I know a little something about cold and snow myself. I was, after all, born and raised in a movie theatre in Canada, a country that's used to cold, snow, bear, moose, Moosehead, wolves and Sasquatch, a.k.a., Big Foot in the U.S. After watching The Grey, it was clear to me that Joe Carnahan knows very little about the cold, snow, bear, moose, Moosehead, wolves and Sasquatch, a.k.a., Big Foot. I can say this because: Exhausted, cold, bleeding, injured, starving men being hunted by a pack of (cartoon) wolves could not do the following (and this is but one example of the level of absurdity).
The roughnecks find themselves at the edge of a nasty cliff with an enormous drop and a raging river far, far below and decide to tie a rope made out of knotted-together clothing (or something--whatever it was and wherever they got it, the cloth was blue) and then have one of their own run toward the edge and hurl himself across the void and into the trees so that the other men could then use the blue colored rope to crawl across the gorge in order to escape the (cartoon) wolves that were nowhere to be seen and were certainly not--at that point in the story--forcing the men to make a survival choice this radical.
But Henrick (played by the talented and totally wasted Dallas Roberts) decides to pull a Rambo anyway, ropes himself up and… jettisons himself off the cliff like a guy propelled by a rocket pack. How he launched himself so far, I have no idea. Maybe he'd eaten a can of baked beans the night before and farted his way across the chasm. Whatever the case may be, he lands in the trees on the other side of the gorge and tells the men to climb on over! It's easy!
And let me point out here that at least when Rambo did it, the cliff edge was much higher than the tops of the trees so that when he jumped off the cliff he fell toward them and used their limbs to slow his descent. In The Grey, the trees are level with the cliff and there's a raging river in between! Even if Henrick was dumb enough to jump off that cliff, thinking he'd somehow run fast and hard enough to make it to the distant trees, he would have fallen to the river below like a big, dumb rock--that's the cruel, harsh reality of life. He never, ever, not in a million years, would have flown across the ravine like he did in the movie unless he A.) Had a rocket pack strapped to his back. B.) Farted his way across. Or C.) The script was written by Joe Carnahan.
For those of you who don't know, Carnahan also wrote the screenplay, so the only person to blame here is Carnahan, writer and director of movies like the disingenuous The Fourth Kind and the certainly entertaining The A-Team, an action movie that got knocked in the teeth by plenty of critics and I think undeservedly so. It's exactly what you expect it to be: A fun and entertaining ride.
The Grey is not a fun and entertaining ride. It's just dumber than a bag of ball-peen hammers and, like it's serious predecessor Black Swan, takes itself so seriously it's ridiculous: "We're making Art here, people, killing God, curing cancer and freeing the world of racism, fascism, and cannibalism!"
The men in The Grey are hunted down, one by one, until it's only Ottway and the wolves in the wolves' den--yep, even though the men have been making a concentrated effort to walk away from the wolves and their den, Ottway ends up smack-dab in the middle of their den. Ooo, the irony is killing me.
The end. Now give me another drink.
The Grey is being criticized by stupid but well-meaning people who feel that the movie misrepresents wolves. They're protesting because they say it makes wolves look bad. Even the four cowboys at the pub said the cartoon wolves didn't behave like real wolves do in the wild and how stupid was that? But I think the biggest insult to wolves in general isn't how the movie depicts their wolfish behavior. It's turning them into cartoons that's insulting. An amazing real life animal is reduced to the cartoon world and believability of CGI wolves.
So I've got to ask: Joe Carnahan couldn't find some real, well trained wolves that could pretend to be wild wolves chasing after Liam Neeson and his motley F-bombing crew? Are you serious? Check out another survival movie called The Edge and you'll discover that, silly as that movie is (it was written by another big city guy named David Mamet), at least they used a real grizzly instead of a cartoon CGI grizzly.
The CGI wolves in The Grey look about as real as the CGI birds that brought down the plane and made it crash in the movie The Edge.
As some of the more reasonable critics have said (Roger More, for example), the cartoon wolves look like the CGI wolves in the Twilight movies. In other words, we're back to Underworld 4 and the goofy use of CGI that made the big bad werewolf look like it was created on a 1977 Atari 2600 VCS home video game console.
Believability doesn't matter in Twilight or even in Underworld 4, for that matter, because it's very clear that it's a heightened reality. The worlds of Twilight and Underworld 4 are not real life. (But the giant werewolf effect in Underworld 4 fails so badly that you simply cannot ignore it.) That is not the case with The Grey, which wants to convince us that "this is real life, baby." But the cold, hard truth is, cartoon CGI wolves don't cut it in real life, baby.
Memo to Joe Carnahan: Next time, hire some real wolves. They need the work.
My rating: Drink a full bottle of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey and follow that with a bottle of Jameson and Powers Irish whiskey, finishing it off with a fine bottle of Red Breast Irish whiskey, then dress up like a real working cowboy and stagger over to a school bus loaded with 12-year-olds carrying underdeveloped brains in their mostly empty heads and tell them that they're going to love The Grey.