The Untalented

The title clearly refers to Scorsese’s talent, which vanished in a squirt of stage blood about 15 years back. He wasn’t talented, he was brilliant — but that was then. Today he should be making intelligent independent movies, elder statesmanly flourishes of wit and humanity, inspiring a younger generation. Instead, he’s humiliating himself with overblown junk. His love affair with hoodlums is tiresome, his critique of Catholicism is ignorant and stupid — I mean, I dislike Catholicism as an institution, and God knows it doesn’t need me to defend it — but any sociological or spiritual phenomenon with the history and complexity of Catholicism deserves better treatment than the head-kickings Scorsese metes out. And ironically, Scorsese has made his own Faustian pact with the Devil — he had his years in the Hollywood wilderness and feels he won’t get anything thoughtful financed — so it’s better to team up with a bankable but untalented actor and produce these lumbering, brainless sub-epics.

Many people in their comments here have struggled to express quite how deeply bad this film is. I too am at a loss. It’s intriguing for a while, then downhill races into one of the worst supposedly classy films EVER MADE. Jack does his Jack Show, because he is vain and because no one has the guts to tell him that it was already self-parody 20 years ago. Supposed hard man Leonardo looks as enraged as a poodle when the canine beautician has gone a bit to close to his ear with the electric clippers. Matt is actually OK in the light comedy bits, which makes one wonder why he has become Hollywood’s current Brooding One. Wahlburg — rubbish. Sheen looks like he’s focusing all his energies on trying to deliver his lines without spitting out his dentures. By the way, I reckon the script originally developed the sexual thing a bit more — as it implies that Damon is not as groovy between the sheets as Leo, and his homophobia and other things seem to hint at his being a gay in denial — but they decided that audiences wouldn’t buy a gay hero, or it scared Damon, or God knows what — just another loose end in this spaghetti-plate of a movie.

Overall, hardly anyone in this movie (Winstone is an exception) act-ually ACTS. They are all oh so boringly themselves. Consider Olivier in Marathon Man, how his characterisation of an ageing Nazi suggested all sorts of undercurrents of twisted psychotic nastiness — and then look at Nicholson’s leering, over-the-top gurning. Chortling as you pull the trigger on someone is not really quite enough to convince us we are witnessing evil, Jackie baby.

By the way, the film shows cutting-edge developments in cinematic blood-squirting technology. Instead of the wounds exploding using charges that produce a small cloud of smoke, they sort of vaporize — it looks like it’s done with compressed air. A great advance Scorsese can be proud of.

This film has been larded with praise — by gaga members of the Hollywood money machine. Every year people say Scorsese deserves an Oscar, and it’s usually because we remember his early films. Well, they have Lifetime Achievement Oscars if we want to reward a body of work. Now he has to go to his grave knowing he got the Oscar for a Turkey. Only he probably doesn’t know. And do any of the egos involved in this mess care? Hollywood cynicism, parodied in Scorsese’s last film, The Aviator! What a joke.

Right — my last word, if you’re still reading. We are currently being told by our masters to hate Iran. It has one of the few cinemas in the world that sometimes try to show something true about the human condition. Whereas our civilization produces, as one of the top-billing cultural manifestations of the year, expensive to make, heaped with praise and awards, exported around the world and seen by multiple millions–something about as edifying as watching lions tortured or Christians having limbs lopped off at the Roman Colisseum two millennia ago. What does this say about us?

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