The Collector (2009), Chaos (2005), and The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)…a trio of (somewhat belated) reviews

Another post from the past, this one originally appearing on March 16, 2011.  It has been mildly edited for clarity…

Don’t exactly know how, but I managed to claw enough free time to see a trio of few films over the weekend.  Was the time well spent or a complete waste of time?

First up was the 2009 horror film The Collector.  When I first heard of this film, I was intrigued.  It seems there are precious few “new” ideas when it comes to modern horror films featuring your standard Bogeyman-type villain.  Pretty much everything was locked into place regarding this movie-screen killer in John Carpenter’s original Halloween and since then we’ve seen mild variations of this theme.  Sure, some movies have featured better effects, more elaborate “kills” (to the point of being ridiculous) while others have added humor into the otherwise bloody proceedings.  But the general blueprint remains roughly the same:  A group of people (often movie versions of teens) are targeted by the insane killer and are offed one at a time before the killer is apparently taken out by the hero/heroine.  But just before the credits roll, the audience wonders…is the fiend actually dead…or will we see him/her return in a sequel?

I’ve seen this story so many times, over and over again, that despite being a fan of horror films, I’m not really interested in re-visiting this particular sub-genre.  However, when I heard about the plot of The Collector;, I took notice because it presented, finally, a pretty interesting new wrinkle to the familiar bogeyman routine.

Yes, in this movie, our killer is a sadistic and almost supernatural being.  His “work” involves locking people in their homes and making their familiar surroundings a death trap while he goes after them one at a time.  Boring stuff, really.

But then comes that wrinkle: A theif by the name of Arkin (played by the very taciturn Josh Stewart), is a decent enough man who is forced to steal to pay off a debt for his wife/girlfriend before some loan sharks do her harm.  He targets a house in which he believes the residing family are gone for the weekend.  Instead, he quickly finds that not only are they around, but they are currently being victimized by a demented fiend who has made the house an elaborate death trap.  The wrinkle is that the thief’s presence is known neither to the family OR the killer and in short time, the thief/protagonist is forced to play a game of cat and mouse with the killer while trying to save the family from their doom.

As I put the film on, I truly wanted it to succeed.  And for a good while, it does, even if almost from the very beginning the film veers into the truly ridiculous.  You see, the number of traps our “Collector” has arranged in the victim family’s house are simply waaaay too much.  If our killer had a few months to set up all those elaborate traps, it would make sense, but our protagonist is seen casing the house in the morning and breaking into it that same evening.  There is simply no way killer manages to get all that work done in one day (How I wish real life contractors were that efficient!!)

Worse, the family members our protagonist eventually tries to save -at least two of them- die in virtually the same manner, running off screaming and getting the killer’s attention when by that point they should know much better.

But the film’s biggest failing is its downbeat (yet cliched) ending, wherein our bogey man does what all these other bogey men do:  Rise from the grave (so to speak) and “triumph”.  By that point, though, the film’s clever new wrinkle was long past being interesting, and the film lost me completely.

Having said that, I know that a sequel to this film is in the works, called The Collection.  Despite the fact that I feel The Collector was ultimately a let down, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued with the idea of a sequel.  Hope (or maybe stupidity on my part) springs eternal…

Next up is the 2005 straight to video release of the Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe, and Wesley Snipes film Chaos.   When I first heard of this film and the fact that it was not released theatrically, I figured at best it was mediocre and at worse pretty terrible.  Particularly considering the three leads it had.  In the end, Chaos falls more into the “best case” scenario for a direct to video release, maintaining a good level of interest until it fizzled out at the end.

Mr. Statham is Quentin Connors a suspended cop.  After a bank robbery in the city goes bad and the people in the bank demand to speak to Connors, he is brought back in for the job.  From there, a cat and mouse game between Connors, his new partner (and newbie) Shane Dekker (Ryan Phillippe) ensues.  The bulk of the film is an attempt by Connors and Dekker to discover what exactly the thieves were after, and how their actions and interests tie in to Connors’ past.

There are some very clever twists and turns in the film, but ultimately, unfortunately, this is a movie that demanded at least one more turn at the very end…a turn that doesn’t come (without giving away too terribly much, I believe one of the characters should have gotten the upper hand in the end…and not the one that did).  Despite that reservation I think this is a film worthy of your time if you have nothing better to do one lazy Saturday afternoon.

The trailer can be found here:

Finally, we have the 2011 Matthew McConaughey film The Lincoln Lawyer.  Now, I’ve stated before my love of author Michael Connelly’s novels (excluding his biggest misfire, IMHO, 9 Dragons).  While The Lincoln Lawyer was one of his most successful novels in terms of sales, I have to admit that, while it certainly wasn’t as outright terrible 9 Dragons, it nonetheless wasn’t, in my opinion, one of Mr. Connelly’s stronger novels (An aside:  One of my all time favorites books he wrote, Blood Work, was also made into a film and starred Clint Eastwood.  Unfortunately, the film would up being quite mediocre, mostly because of several unwarranted deviations in the film’s climax).

Because the novel was a success, Hollywood came calling and the movie was made.  Would it be on the level of the film version of Blood Work?  Thankfully, no.

Matthew McConaughey plays attorney Mick Haller, a rather slick, unscrupulous defense lawyer who, from all appearances, has been placed on this earth for the sole purpose of making as much personal gain as he can via his profession.  He is provided a “hot tip” on a very wealthy young man who may have assaulted a prostitute and, seeing the possibility of making some big cash, visits the client in jail.  The potential client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe, again!), swears his innocence, but Haller doesn’t seem to care.  The temptation of a very big payoff is too great to ignore.

He takes on the case and his investigation of the circumstances of this assault begin.  Very quickly, things turn out to not be quite what they seem.  Usually, a novel trumps a movie, but here I think the movie trumps the book.  Yes, the film follows all the main elements of the book while ditching a couple of aspects (Detective Harry Bosch, Mr. Connelly’s biggest literary creation, for example, is no where to be found in the movie, though he made an extended cameo appearance in the book).  Apart from that, the elements that were trimmed from the book actually, I felt, strengthened the movie.  And while Mr. McConaughey doesn’t seem to fit the description of the book’s version of Haller, who was described as somewhat overweight and not all that attractive, it proves irrelevant.  Mr. McConaughey’s work here is damn good, which proves very helpful considering he is present in virtually every scene in the film.  Thanks to his charisma and solid acting we are eventually able to root for a guy that, at first, we should be repulsed by.

Nonetheless, the film is not without some flaws.  Marisa Tomei is given far too little to do in the film as Haller’s ex-wife (in the book, he has two ex-wives, but the second one isn’t identified as such in the film).  Also, the pressure the police put on Haller when he comes under suspicion for some nefarious doings never becomes as pressing as it could have been.

Having said that, I would still recommend The Lincoln Lawyer to anyone looking for a decent -and twisty- diversion.