I noticed last night that Micheal Mann’s The Keep (1983) is currently available on Netflix UK. Despite being screened occasionally on Film4 this is welcome news for anyone still clinging onto their VHS or, like me, their poor laserdisc to DVD copy. Unlike the Amazon rental the Netflix version retains the widescreen format even if the picture quality isn’t brilliant (although it’s as good as I’ve seen it).
Of course, referring to the film as ‘Michael Mann’s The Keep’ is slightly misleading as he has all but disowned it and it lingers unloved with no notable DVD release let alone a Blu Ray. The film is also disowned by F. Paul Wilson who wrote the novel on which it is based and didn’t like the changes made by Mann. Fans of the book can get a better idea of what Wilson had in mind for the movie by reading the comic book adaptation, which is essentially his version of the film. A feature length documentary about the film was due for release in 2013 but is yet to appear with pre-orders currently suspended.
Despite all this, I still quite like the film. Even with it’s weaknesses it’s full of interesting ideas and images, a decent cast, and has a score by Tangerine Dream. Unloved and uneven I think The Keep is a great piece of cult cinema
So there’s no getting away from Blackhat being a disappointment, a reheated, autopilot bundle of director Michael Mann’s themes, images and obsessions. I know that you could level that charge against most of his movies but there’s something missing here; that existential samurai feel (a.k.a. men looking into the distance, thinking about the heavy burden of being brilliant etc). Without that essence the form overwhelms the content. And, with it’s recycled images and atrocious ADR the form is nothing to get excited about.
Or maybe we still haven’t found a way to make computer hacking remotely compelling.
One of the immutable laws of modern cinema is what I call ‘the Statham Grace’; it’s the rule that any film is improved, or made marginally less terrible by the presence of Jason Statham. Like most actors he’s been in his fair share of good movies and absolute dogs but he has a screen presence that is begging to be used properly. Films like The Mechanic, Hummingbird and (the much maligned) Revolver come close but ultimately fall short whilst the likes of The Expendables only showcase his mastery of a underwhelming sub-genre. Statham needs a Scorsese or Winding Refn or Michael Mann and one day I’m convinced he’ll be in a stone cold classic.