Judge Ben Saylor has never given anyone hell, but he has re-gifted purgatory.
"Talk. Or I'll make like you're my daughter and bend you over my
I love film noir and detective fiction, so when I read about Give 'em Hell Malone, I got pretty excited. However, instead of a well-plotted, absorbing homage, what I got was a low-rent knockoff of Sin City.
What do I mean? Well, Malone is an ultraviolent film set in a stylized, vaguely timeless universe (in Malone's case, rundown neighborhoods in Spokane). The titular hero (Thomas Jane, The Mist) is a gruff, fedora-wearing gumshoe who drives a 1950s car and speaks like a pulp novel from that era. Two of the film's villains are deranged, vicious killers with comic book names—Mauler (Chris Yen) is an Asian woman with a thing for razor blades and lollipops, and Matchstick (Doug Hutchison, The Green Mile) is a burn-scarred pyromaniac.
For those (like me) who don't need something to tide them over until a Sin City sequel, there's not much reason to check Malone out. Even if you can get past the ridiculous villains of the film (I couldn't), the plot doesn't provide much reason for you to stick around. The story opens with Malone shooting a bunch of hoods in a seedy motel. He's there to retrieve a briefcase, and once he does, the movie spirals downward into convoluted nonsense that culminates with a twist ending that's absurd even for a movie with characters named Mauler and Matchstick.
Even a script as uninspired as this one could have been saved by more creative direction, but unfortunately, Russell Mulcahy's (Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction) work here is wildly uneven. The film begins with an ugly, over-the-top shoot-out sequence in which one shot depicts a man's nose exploding. Thankfully, the dialogue scenes are less offensive visually, although the narrative is broken up too many times by brief flashback sequences that get tedious quickly.
The film's acting is similarly all over the place. Jane is agreeably crabby and sardonic as Malone, and the dialogue he's given is creaky but fun ("Put up the gun, doll. I'm in a mood"). Unfortunately, he's given little support. Hutchison is more mannered than menacing as Matchstick, and Ving Rhames is wasted as a heavy/ex-partner of Malone. In stark contrast to Matchstick and Mauler, the film's chief antagonist, Whitmore, is completely "normal" (relatively speaking) and boringly portrayed by Gregory Harrison, so with Malone, you get two extremes of poorly done villains. As the film's femme fatale, Elsa Pataky is given a poorly written character and does little to improve upon it with one flat line reading after another. Eileen Ryan is amusing as Malone's confused, booze-swilling mother, who patches up her son after his various scrapes. French Stewart (Surveillance) is also in the mix as a sleazy singer who works retirement homes.
NEM's DVD of Give 'em Hell Malone is satisfactory given its direct-to-DVD pedigree. For extras, the film's trailer is included along with interviews with Jane, Pataky and Hutchison that run about 20 minutes in all. Shot during the production of the film, the actors generally give uninteresting answers to dull questions (What do you think of Spokane? What is working with Thomas Jane like? etc.). Jane's interview contains long, awkward stretches in which the actor doesn't speak because somewhere off-camera, a car alarm keeps going off.
I'm glad that filmmakers are still interested enough in film noir to keep incorporate elements of the genre in their work. Unfortunately, in the case of Give 'em Hell Malone (great title, by the way), the movie's messy script and unattractive direction relegate this to a rental.
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