In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_y6dpvzigsnvvskcmoqjamctbogg

Planes: Fire & Rescue

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" won’t ever be mistaken for a classic, especially not with its happy ending that exists primarily for the benefit of future…

Thumb_5omusvdwvy5duis2jrck22aecnq

Mood Indigo

Even if you have a high tolerance for whimsy, "Mood Indigo" may still be too much.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Pirates

Pirates Movie Review
  |  

There hasn't been a pirate movie in a long time, and after Roman Polanski's "Pirates," there may not be another one for a very long time. This movie represents some kind of low point for the genre that gave us Captain Blood. It also gives us a new pirate image to ponder.

After Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, here is Walter Matthau as a pirate? Matthau is only partially visible behind his makeup and his costumes, but the part we can see appears to be totally at a loss to answer this question: What is Walter Matthau doing on the bounding main, wearing a peg leg? The movie stars Matthau as Capt. Red, a vile old swashbuckler who eats fishhooks for breakfast. Cast adrift in the open sea, he is picked up by a passing Spanish galleon and soon learns that the ship's cargo is a priceless golden throne. He sets about trying to steal the booty, but not before the movie bogs down in a hopeless quagmire of too much talk, too many characters and ineptly staged confrontations in which everyone stands around wondering what to do next.

"Pirates" proves, if nothing else, that Matthau is not an action star and that Polanski is not an action director. We kind of knew that already. Matthau is, however, a very capable comedy actor, and there are times when Polanski seems to be trying for comedy, although search me if you can find a laugh in this movie. One of Polanski's very worst films was "The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me but Your Teeth Are in My Neck / Dance of the Vampires," and again this time, he is totally adrift trying for laughs with an expensive takeoff of a B-movie genre.

The real star of the movie is the Neptune, the full-size, functional galleon that was constructed as a set for most of the scenes. It's one of the finest sailing ships I've ever seen in a movie, but I couldn't see much of it, because Polanski steadfastly refuses to give us blood-stirring shots of the Neptune plowing through the waves. He begins with a real ship, then treats it like a studio set.

The real tragedy of "Pirates" may be that the movie was more of a deal than an inspiration. Polanski wrote the script 12 years ago, shortly after finishing "Chinatown," and it languished on his agent's desk until Tarak Ben Ammar, a wealthy Tunisian, finally signed on as producer. Polanski had gone eight years without a movie (his last film was "Tess"), and no doubt he was happy to have the work. But "Pirates" should never have been made, at least not by a director with no instinctive sympathy for the material, and not by an actor whose chief inspiration seems to be the desire to be a good sport.

Popular Blog Posts

Reverse Trip: Charting the History of Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer"

A look at the cinematic and political history that resulted in Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer."

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

The Unloved, Part 2: John Carter

The Unloved, Scout Tafoya's video essay series about critically reviled films that deserve more respect, continues wi...

Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: July 17, 2014

The best new releases on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, VOD, and Blu-ray/DVD.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus