What I'm Watching: Modus Operandi
While we're all waiting for the next big review, I thought I'd share some thoughts on another movie I recently watched, Modus Operandi.
Yeah, you probably haven't heard of it.
In short, it is yet another grindhouse style film about a secret agent who has fallen into a drunken stupor following the death of his wife at the hands of his rivals. But as circumstance and narrative design would have it, he gets pulled back into the spy game to track down a pair of briefcases containing sensitive informaton about a Presidential hopeful.
This movie NAILS the grindhouse style. It was shot on Super 8, it has the requisite bad acting, and a few bits of good acting that aren't SO good that they stand out, but they are clearly having fun with this format. Naturally, Danny Trejo as Cashay's boss is brilliant. Everything you would expect from an over the top grindhouse exploitation film is in here. In fact, it's almost not fair to call this a grindhouse homage. It may as well have fallen straight out of the 70s. This IS a grindhouse movie, made in the 21st century.
Which kinda lets you know it's not very *good* doesn't it?
The movie is slow, it's padded, and it has some random arty BS that really threw me out of the movie. If they left the arthouse rotting fruit shots and such out, it would be okay, but they really feel like they are there to scream, "Look! We're clever!" But they are few and far between enough that they don't hurt the movie THAT much. But they are there.
The story itself sounds okay, but it's presented very straightforward, in a convoluted way. They just kinda do their thing, do what needs to be done, and its done. But there are so many bits and pieces along the quest to get the briefcases back, that it somehow manages to be simple and complex all at once.
Now, the last ten minutes is really good, great over the top craziness, and more amazing Trejo. But by this point, Cashay's quest for revenge has been completed, and it really feels like a tagged on scene for more gore and violence (Which isn't necessarily BAD, mind you...) and to give Trejo and others more to do, since they have some level of star power. It just feels odd as an additional scene, especially since Cashay's role in it is over, and this is partly his story.
I will say, I have reached my limit on movies being called grindhouse homages and such, and we let that be an excuse for a film to be terrible. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. Drive Angry got the fun, the tone, and the over the top craziness of grindhouse right, without being badly made. This movie has all the style, all the badness, and only half the charm of something like Drive Angry.
But it's fun, I liked some big parts of it, REALLY liked the music, and the directing wasn't half bad either. But the deliberate choice to make it awful, and make it awful in such an exacting way, I think detracts from the movie. Still, it's only about an hour and change long, and that is just about the right length, even with some of the padding. Any longer would have been too much, and any shorter would have been a mess of storytelling. In fact, even at this length, this movie almost goes that route
Still, I'd say it is at least worth a rental or streaming on Netflix or whatever. If you like it, I say definitely grab the DVD then, since it has a good bunch of interviews and commentary. I definitely want to rewatch it, since I think this movie will grow on me as I understand it more.
Modus Operandi, the best grindhouse movie of 2011. The ONLY real grindhouse movie of 2011.
And hey. It's still better than fucking Clown Hunt.