Volume 80, Number 22 | October 28 — November 3, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Hereafter” (+)
A neighbor recently asked me if I had seen this film, which she described as “interesting.” By that word, I assumed she really didn’t like it — but when she said she did, I decided to see it. In addition to being interesting, “Hereafter” is a delightful, sensitive and poignant movie.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the picture contains three independent stories involving a number of unconnected people whose lives ultimately intersect. It reminded me of a Robert Altman “Nashville,” although his pictures usually include strong narrative subplots. Eastwood deliberately avoided intense dialogues in this movie, focusing instead on mood, understated emotion and brilliant imagery.

George (Matt Damon), who lives in San Francisco, travels to London to get away from his brother Billy (Jay Mohr). George is a bona fide psychic who receives messages from the dead. He has come to view that ability as a curse rather than a gift, and he no longer wants to engage in “readings.” Billy wants him to continue in the business, which has been profitable for the two of them.

Marcus (Frankie McLaren), who appears to be about 12 years old, lives in London. His twin brother, Jason, has died and Marcus is removed from the custody of his drug and alcohol addicted mother. In London, Marcus recognizes George as a psychic he has seen on a website. He wants to meet with him, hoping that he can help him connect with his deceased brother. George refuses, but that does not deter Marcus — who waits all night in the cold hoping that George will relent. He does.

Marie (Cecile de France), a truly gorgeous woman, is a famous television commentator in Paris. She and her boyfriend are on holiday in an unnamed East Asian country where a tsunami takes place. Marie almost drowns, indeed probably does, but is resuscitated by CPR. From that point on she is obsessed with the hereafter and wants to write about it.

None of the stories are complete, but they contain many charming vignettes, e.g., George taking an Italian cooking class where he begins a romance with his cooking partner, Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). Every member of the cast performs their role sensationally, particularly Frankie McLaren as young Marcus.

This movie, without the action, violence and profanity of today’s films, is a surprising winner. I saw it at the AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 (570 Second Ave., at 31st St.).

Henry Stern said: “This is an old-fashioned movie which I found interesting, despite the essential morbidity of the subject. Once you suspend disbelief and accept the premise that Matt Damon has conversations with the dead, you can enjoy the interaction of the characters and sympathize with the protagonist — whose social life is precluded when girls learn of his strange powers. Poor Matt. All the actors are engaging, and for a couple of hours you believe that all this is really happening. How much more can one ask of a movie?”

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes.

“RED” (-)
A near-slapstick production with an alleged plot, this film is a farce — which is difficult to do well. I did not enjoy this picture, but fairness dictates that I tell you I had a bandage over one eye as a result of skin surgery the day before. I was in no pain, but I was irritable, so it may have affected my opinion of the movie.

Now to the mangy plot. Frank (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent living in Cleveland, Ohio, is in love with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) — whom he has never met.  Sarah works in a Kansas City office that distributes his pension checks.  Frank regularly destroys the checks he receives in the mail so that he will have a reason to call her and request replacement checks. 

 Frank is targeted for death.  Why, he doesn’t know, and that becomes his quest. We are told that he is a CIA retiree and RED, which means “Retired and Extremely Dangerous.” Frank is the subject of an attack and on the run.  He seeks out Sarah to protect her and is joined by his old friends who are also RED. They include Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). William (Karl Urban) is the enemy, and Ivan (Brian Cox) is Victoria’s ex-lover and a former KGB operative. 

 The running joke is that the young agents pursuing the REDs are inferior. A tremendous number of bullets are fired from lethal-looking machine guns, yet there was nothing exciting or frightening about the action. But remember, it is a farce. 

 I have seen all of the stars in this film in truly excellent movies, which I fondly recall years later. I forgot this movie as soon as I left the theater.  I saw it at the AMC Loews 19th Street East 6 (890 Broadway, at 19th St.).

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes.

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