Originally posted 22 January 2001
Movies: The Pledge, Snatch, Traffic
I'm telling you, lately I cannot leave the house without seeing a movie that has Benicio Del Toro in it. This is not a bad thing: the man is so sexy, paint peels from the walls when he walks into a room. And unlike this season's other pervasive star, Helen Hunt, Del Toro has range and doesn't make you want to hang yourself from the balcony with Twizzlers every time he grimaces. Below is a rundown of the films in which I've been enjoying him.
A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor Rich and his ex-girlfriend Miranda and her friend Nicky and I went to see "Traffic" at the Sonyplex on Broadway and 68th. "Traffic" is the latest from multitalented director Steven Soderbergh ("Sex, Lies & Videotape," "Erin Brockovich"). It tells three overlapping stories about the drug trade between the US and Mexico, and it's absorbing.
I found some of the film to be bracingly realistic (the dialog among drug-addled prep school kids) and some of it a little hokey (the personal decisions of the US drug czar). But I loved the cinematography (Soderbergh shot it himself), and the acting is very, very strong. "Traffic" is Soderbergh's most powerful film since "Sex, Lies & Videotape," and the one most similar in texture to that vaunted debut.
Here's how "Traffic" scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Benicio Del Toro: 11. He plays a Mexican cop. After the film, Rich had to scrape me off the floor and help me out of the theater.
* Cell phones: 8/2. Mobile phones were used with moderation in the movie, but two rang in the theater during the show.
* Dogs: 4. De rigeur drug-sniffing shepherds.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman: 0. Benicio Del Toro may be hotter than a frying latke, but I must admit that I have a fairly serious crush on that other three-named actor (technically, I'm not sure if "Del Toro" is one word or two, but you get my point).
"Traffic" deals with some gruesome subject matter, but it keeps the on-screen gore to a minimum. That's good news for us weak-stomached movie watchers, although Benicio Del Toro will make you weak in the knees. If you haven't already caught "Traffic," go see it soon.
This past Friday night, my friend Keith and I saw "Snatch" at the United Artists theater on Union Square. Directed by Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels;" also, he's married to Madonna), "Snatch" is a jokey jewel heist movie filmed like a music video. It's stylish, lite fare. Warning: Brad Pitt speaks.
Here's how "Snatch" scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Benicio Del Toro: 9. I couldn't tell what kind of accent he was supposed to have. I didn't care.
* Cell phones: 5/10. Reasonable use in the picture; none rang in the audience.
* Dogs: 10. Several cuties, one of which rivals BDT for appeal.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman: 0. Not really his cup of tea.
"Snatch" is entertaining but wholly forgettable. I neither recommend you see it nor suggest you avoid it.
On Saturday night, my friend Amy O and I saw "The Pledge" at the Sonyplex. We were hoping for something suspenseful but not too scary, serious but not too gory. We scored. "The Pledge" is a subtle film with a deceptively simple plot: a retired detective (played with remarkable understatement by Jack Nicholson) becomes consumed with the investigation of a series of juvenile murders. The movie has the creepiness of "Silence of the Lambs" or "Dead Again," plus thought-provoking characters. Sean Penn directed the stellar cast (you cannot believe how many great actors are in this baby). I also liked the cinematography and the score.
Here's how "The Pledge" scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Benicio Del Toro: 8. He has a small role as an unappetizing character. He plays it perfectly.
* Cell phones: 0/10. Cops use walkie-talkies, not cell phones. Thankfully, the audience members used neither.
* Dogs: 0. A minor disappointment.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman: 0. I understand Hoffman lives in the West Village, and he seems like an approachable guy. If you know him, or if anyone you know is acquainted with him, and you can set me up with the man, I will buy you very nice drinks and take you to the movie of your choice anytime. That's a pledge.
Sean Penn has come a long way since "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Do yourself a favor and go see what he's up to now.
Here's what else I've seen since my last SMO:
"Before Night Falls," which I saw by myself at the Roachplex on Broadway and 63rd. I liked it a lot, but I didn't love it. A little too impressionistic for my taste, plus I was kind of confused about what was happening a lot of the time. Still, Sean Penn had a small cameo in it, and he directed Benicio Del Toro in "The Pledge," so it's all good.
"The Personals," which I saw with Erik and Stephanie last week at the Cinema Village. Taiwanese movie about a woman looking for love. Some funny moments, but without you-know-who (or you-know-who-too), the movie lacked oomph.
Well, that about wraps it up for current movie going. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 26 days--hopefully three more movies with Benicio Del Toro will hit (and melt) screens before then.