Social Class and the Bennet Family in “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”

SOCIAL CLASS AND THE BENNET FAMILY IN “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”

Considering how long I have been a fan of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” and its numerous television and movie adaptations, I am surprised that I have never considered something about its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, and her family. Ever since I have been reading numerous articles about the novel and its adaptations, I have noticed that many have labeled the Bennet family as members of the middle-class or the upper middle-class in Regency England. And it finally occurred to me that many of these fans were in error. 

I can see the doubt rising in the eyes of those reading this article. The Bennets were not middle-class or upper middle-class? How can that be? After all, Austen’s novel made it clear that Fitzwilliam Darcy had married beneath him when Elizabeth Bennet became his wife. But if one knew the truth about social classes in Great Britain around that time, one would understand that Mr. Darcy actually married a woman from his own class. Elizabeth, her father and her sisters were members of the landed gentry. Members of Regency England’s upper class.

It is quite apparent that Mr. Darcy was a member of the upper class. He was the owner of a vast estate in Derbyshire called Pemberly. His estate earned him £10,000 pounds per year. The Darcy family had been members of the landed gentry for generations. And his mother, Lady Anne Darcy (formerly Anne Fitzwilliam) came from an aristocratic family. In other words, his maternal grandfather was a peer. But what many fans of Austen’s novel failed to realize that aside from her mother’s family connections, Elizabeth also came from the landed gentry.

Landed gentry is a traditional British social class consisting of “gentlemen” in the original sense. In other words, those who owned land in the form of country estates to such an extent that they were not required to work except in an administrative capacity on their own lands. The estates were often, but not always, made up of tenanted farms, in which the gentleman could live entirely off rent income. The landed gentry were among the untitled members of the upper class, not the middle class.

Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth’s father, was an English gentleman who owned the estate, Longbourn. His estate earned him at least £2,000 pounds per year. Many of the novel’s fans tend to assume that because his estate earned this small amount, he was a landowner that happened to be a part of the middle class. What fans have failed to remember is that ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” was written and set either during the late 18th century or the early 19th century. Social status was determined by family connections and on a smaller scale, how one earned money. If Mr. Bennet was really a member of the middle class in Regency England, he would be a tenant farmer (one who rented land from landowners) or a yeoman farmer (one who owns land, but has to work the fields himself). Since Mr. Bennet was neither, he was a member of the upper class.

However, Mr. Bennet did marry beneath him. He married a young woman, whose father was an attorney in Meryton. Her brother, Mr. Gardiner was a businessman (or in trade); and her sister, Mrs. Phillips, was married to another attorney. In other words, Mrs. Bennet and her siblings originally came from the middle class. Mr. Darcy and the Bingleys (sans Charles) had been expressing contempt at Mrs. Bennet’s social origins, not Mr. Bennet’s. But Elizabeth and her sisters were not African-American slaves from the Old South. Meaning, they did not inherit their social status from their mother. They inherited their status from their landowning father, also making them members of the landed gentry . . . and the upper class. And as it turned out, Mr. Bennet was not the only member of his immediate family who married someone from what was considered a socially inferior class.

Austen hinted in ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” that the Bingley family’s wealth originated in trade. She also hinted that Charles Bingley’s father had intended to purchase an estate for the family before he died, but failed to do so. Which led to Bingley leasing the Hertfordshire estate, Netherfield, around the beginning of the novel. In other words, Bingley was NOTa landowner. Bingley earned at least £4,000 or £5,000 pounds per year from his businesses. But since he did not own an estate and his wealth came from “trade”, he and his sisters were not members of the upper class. Like Mrs. Bennet and her siblings, they were members of the middle class. No amount of money or education would change their status, unless Bingley joined the landed gentry by purchasing an estate . . . and severing all financial ties with the business that had made his family wealthy, in order to cleanse the “taint of trade”. It is ironic that Bingley’s sisters spent most of the novel making snide remarks about Mrs. Bennet’s middle class connections, when their own family came from the same class via trade. Even more ironic is the fact that Jane Bennet followed her father’s example by marrying a man who was socially beneath her.

Looking back on Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal, I can see why Elizabeth would feel insulted by his words and attitude. Not only did he personally insult her, but made certain comments about her family connections being inferior to hers that now strike me as ironic. Darcy considered Elizabeth inferior to himself, due to her mother’s middle class origins. Yet, he failed to consider that Elizabeth was the daughter of a gentleman and the landed gentry. More importantly, he failed to consider that his closest friend came from “trade”, making their origins the same as Mrs. Bennet. Not only do I find this ironic, but also hypocritical. And what I find even more interesting is that because of the attitudes of Darcy and Bingley’s sisters, many fans of ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” seemed to believe that the Bennets were members of Regency England’s middle class, instead of the upper class.

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“KICK ASS” (2010) Review

Below is my review of the recent Matthew Vaughn spoof on costumed heroes movies called “KICK ASS”

“KICK ASS” (2010) Review

When I first saw the 2004 crime thriller, ”LAYER CAKE”, I thought that Matthew Vaughn would be spending the rest of his directing career in helming movies with a similar genre . . . and become a rival for his colleague, Guy Ritchie. Vaughn proved me wrong. Three years after ”LAYER CAKE”, he directed a fantasy comedy called ”STARDUST”. Then in 2010, his latest directorial effort hit the theaters – a spoof of the superhero genre called ”KICK ASS”.

Based upon the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., ”KICK ASS” told the story of an ordinary New York teenager named Dave Lizewski, who sets out to become a real-life superhero by calling himself “Kick-Ass”. However, Dave gets caught up in a bigger fight when he meets Big Daddy aka Damon Macready, a former cop, who in his quest to bring down the evil drug lord Frank D’Amico, has trained his 10-year-old daughter Mindy to be the ruthless vigilante, Hit-Girl. Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s murderous actions against D’Amico’s operations led the gangster to believe that Kick Ass was endangering his operation. His son, Chris, volunteers to become another costumed vigilante named Red Mist and lure Kick Ass to his doom.

I had considered seeing ”KICK ASS”, when it was first released in the theaters last spring. However, the movie slipped my mind and I never got around to viewing it, until it was released on DVD. After seeing the movie, I must admit feeling a bit of regret that I never saw it in the theaters. I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I would go as far to say that it has become one of my favorite movies in the superhero genre. Adapted for the screen by writer Jane Goldman and Vaughn, ”KICK ASS”provided plenty of laughs, action and pathos. Watching an unskilled high school teenager try to fight hardened criminals through the guise of a costumed vigilante struck me as one of the funniest and absurd things I have ever seen on film. Another bizarre scene that remained stamped in my mind focused on Macready/Big Daddy training his daughter to withstand a bullet to the chest, while wearing a ballistic vest. One would think it would be difficult to laugh at a movie filled with so much graphic violence – even violence directed at adolescents and a 10 year-old. And yet, Vaughn and Goldman, along with the cast, managed to strike the right balance between the laughter, the drama and the violence.

Speaking of the violence, I must admit there were times when I found it slightly hard to bear. One of the scenes I especially had difficulty dealing with centered around Kick Ass’s first attempt as a vigilante – an attempt that led to him being stabbed and severely beaten. It just seemed a bit too much. I could also say the same for the torture that both Kick Ass and Big Daddy endured at the hands of D’Amico’s men and the latter’s death. And I also must admit that at times I found Hit Girl’s murderous rampage against D’Amico’s men rather graphic. The idea of a ten year-old girl killing so many men . . . just seemed a bit too much. But the hardest scene to watch turned out to be Hit Girl’s confrontation with D’Amico. I suppose one could laugh at the idea of a ten year-old girl in a brutal fight against a grown man. But watching it on the screen made it difficult for me to laugh.

As much as I enjoyed ”KICK ASS”, the idea of an ordinary teenager believing he could face hardened criminals on the street without any self-defense training strikes me as being too absurd. Frankly, if I had known someone like Dave Lizewski in real life, I would begin to wonder about his mental capacity. If you really think about it, Dave truly had to be either be a mental gourd or simply a nut case – like the idiot who jumped off that skyscraper at the beginning of the film. A person could argue that Dave was nothing more than a fictional character like Peter Parker aka Spider-man. But would Peter Parker really be stupid enough to face hardened criminals on his own without any super abilities or self-defense training? Even Macready made sure that young Mindy would be trained as a skillful fighter before setting her loose against D’Amico’s men.

If there is one thing that Vaughn could be proud of was the exceptional cast that helped drive ”KICK ASS”. No one felt more surprised than me to learn that Aaron Johnson, who portrayed Dave Lizewski aka “Kick Ass”, was British born and raised. I felt surprised because his portrayal of an American teenager was spot on. Johnson captured all of the emotions, desires and angst of his character with sheer perfection. Another performance that blew my mind came from Nicholas Cage, the soft-spoken former cop and vigilante Big Daddy, who also happened to be an angry and murderous man determined to seek vengeance against mobster Frank D’Amico for ruining his life and career. I believe his role as Damon Macready might prove to be one of the best in his career. I do not know if mobster Frank D’Amico will prove to be one of Mark Strong’s best performances, but I must admit that he did a superb job. He kept the D’Amico character from being a one-dimensional villain and did a great job with the character’s New York accent. If she plays her cards right, Chloë Grace Moretz might become more than just the talented child actress that she is at the moment. Her portrayal of the tough, 11 year-old vigilante, Mindy Macready aka “Hit Girl” was not only entertaining, but almost as frightening as Strong’s villainous turn. The funniest performance, in my opinion, came from Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who portrayed D’Amico’s son, Chris and fake vigilante Red Mist. He provided plenty of laughs as the mobster’s slightly sarcastic son torn between a penchant for costumed heroes and a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps into a life of crime And his fight scene with Johnson nearly had me in stitches. And both Michael Rispoli and Lyndsy Fonseca gave strong support as D’Amico’s cool and clever lieutenant Big Joe and the feisty object of Dave’s desire, Katie Deauxma.

Aside from Vaughn and Goldman’s first-rate script, ”KICK ASS” benefitted from Ben Davis’ colorful and original photography. The film was not only rich in color, it provided some interesting shots that subtly reminded moviegoers that the movie was based upon a comic book series. At least three shots struck me as reminiscent of comic books and one reminded me of another comic book hero movie from the 1990s. One scene featured Macready’s former partner examining drawings that revealed the Macreadys’ tragic acquaintance with D’Amico and how they became a pair of murderous vigilantes. Another featured a close up of Big Daddy on the verge of death, after being tortured by D’Amico’s men. And the last and most obvious featured D’Amico’s death at the hands of Kick Ass. And in a very funny scene that featured Kick Ass and Red Mist’s escape from one of D’Amico’s burning warehouse brought back memories of the very last shot from the 1995 movie, “BATMAN BEGINS”.

Despite my initial reluctance toward ”KICK ASS” and some of its violence, I found myself enjoying the movie. In fact, I will go one step forward in stating that I found it to be one of the better movies this year . . . and one of my favorites in the superhero genre. For the third time since becoming a director, Matthew Vaughn ended up impressing me very much. I cannot wait to see if he can top himself after ”KICK ASS”.

“THE AMERICAN” (2010) Review

“THE AMERICAN” (2010) Review

With the disappointing summer movie season of 2010 finally over, moviegoers received one of its first releases for the fall season. The movie in question happened to be a tight little thriller about an American assassin working on a job in Italy called”THE AMERICAN”.

Directed by Anton Corbijn and starring George Clooney, ”THE AMERICAN” is a film adaptation of ”A Very Private Gentleman”, Martin Booth’s 1990 novel about an assassin named Jack, who is hired to construct a rifle for another assassin in a small town in Italy called Castel del Monte. During his stay there, Jack befriends a friendly, yet observant priest named Father Benedetto; and falls for a young prostitute named Clara. He also tries to prevent himself from becoming the target of another assassin.

I had mixed feelings about going to see this movie. After watching it, my feelings about it remained mixed. One, I managed to predict the end of this movie before I even saw it. And I have never read Booth’s novel. The ending seemed even more apparent, considering the movie’s style and story. Two, the pacing struck me as being unnecessarily slow in some scenes. Now, I am not demanding that Corbijn should have paced ”THE AMERICAN” with the same timing as any of the recent Jason Bourne movies. After all, it is basically a character study of an assassin who has come to realize that he has been in the killing game too long. But there were moments when the camera lingered too lovingly upon some of Jack’s more mundane tasks that I would not have minded avoiding. One last complaint I have about ”THE AMERICAN” is that Rowan Joffe’s screenplay never made it clear who was behind the attempts to kill Jack in Sweden and the assassin who stalked him in Castel del Monte. Mind you, I had a pretty good idea on the person’s identity. Unfortunately, the script never really made it clear.

But there were aspects of ”THE AMERICAN” that I enjoyed. I found George Clooney’s portrayal of the world weary assassin well done. In fact, I could honestly say that he did an excellent job in portraying Jack’s mixture of professional wariness, emotional bankruptcy and hopes of a romantic future with the prostitute, Clara. The role of Jack might prove to be one of his better ones. Both Paolo Bonacelli and Violante Placido, who portrayed Father Benedetto and Clara respectively, gave Clooney excellent support. So did actress Thekla Reuten, who portrayed Mathilde, the assassin that commissioned Jack to construct a rifle for her. However, there were times when she conveyed the femme fatale persona just a bit too thick.

Joffe’s screenplay almost seemed to strike a balance between an in-depth character study and a small, taunt thriller. I say almost, due to the movie’s occasional slow pacing and a vague subplot regarding a threat to Jack’s life. But director Corbijn did effectively utilize some tense scenes included in Joffe’s script. The two best scenes featured Jack’s final encounter with the assassin hired to stalk him around Castel del Monte and the explosive finale that featured a slight, yet surprising twist.

”THE AMERICAN has its share of faults. Nor would I consider to be one of the year’s best movies. But I must admit that George Clooney’s performance as the world-weary assassin, Jack, might be one of his better roles. And director Anton Corbijn managed to strike a nice balance between an in-depth character study and a tense-filled action thriller. I could honestly say that ”THE AMERICAN” might be one of 2010’s more “interesting” films.

“Once More From Lieutenant Fusco” [PG-13] – 2/2

“ONCE MORE FROM LIEUTENANT FUSCO”

RATING: PG-13
E-MAIL: deerush76@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Sequel to “Anthony’s Doubts”. Anthony Fusco expresses further feelings on the Danny/Evelyn relationship and Rafe.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.

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A hell of a lot has happened in the past two months since Danny and Evelyn began dating. A lot. And it happened – well, not exactly as I had imagined. But it all came to shit, anyway.

What am I talking about? Lieutenant Danny Walker of the U.S. Army Air Corps and Lieutenant Junior Grade Evelyn Johnson of the U.S. Navy, of course. You see, about two months ago, my friend and fellow pilot, Danny, began dating this nurse. I’m talking about Evelyn. Who happened to be (or should I say, used to be) the girlfriend of another pilot named Rafe McCawley. Who is now dead. Or was dead.

Okay, let me start from the beginning. Nearly a year ago, Rafe had received permission from the Army to volunteer for the Eagle Squadron in England. The Eagle Squadron was a group of American pilots who had volunteered to help the Royal Air Force fight the German air force. Last July, we received word that the Krauts had shot down Rafe over the English Channel. As far as the RAF and the U.S. Army were concerned, Lieutenant McCawley was dead.

Both Danny and Evelyn had taken the news pretty hard. I know that Danny did. He mainly kept to himself, during off duty hours. Then three months later, he and Evelyn ran into each other at a movie theater at the Kai Kai Korner in downtown Honolulu. I wasn’t there at the time, but Billy, Barbara, Red and Betty saw them at the Black Cat Café. Three or four days later, Danny and Evelyn had become an item.

No one really saw anything wrong with a guy dating his dead buddy’s girl. Well, no one but me. Hey, what can I say? It’s wrong! Okay, maybe it was okay for Danny to date Evelyn, but couldn’t he have waited until poor Rafe had been dead for at least a year? Red said that at least Danny was around to take care of Evelyn. Hey, I see nothing wrong with that. But jeez, he doesn’t have to romance the woman! Wouldn’t a simple friendship suffice? You know, it seemed to me that both Danny and Evelyn thought they had fallen in love. Or called themselves moving on, after Rafe’s death. Yeah right! That’s what they and everyone else wanted to think. But I knew better.

Danny seemed convinced that he was in love with Evelyn. I don’t know. Maybe he was. I remembered that he seemed to be walking on air, following his little plane ride with Evelyn. But I also remembered that scene I had witnessed, the following day. It happened at a park near Wakikki Beach. There I was sitting on this bench, while trying to think of ways to convince Sandra O’Connell to date me. Jeez, I must be pathetic! It had been nine months since I had first asked her for a date and she still wouldn’t give me the time of day. Maybe I should just give up. Hey, there are plenty of women who would love to get their hands on an Army flyboy. Why, I know this waitress at . . .

Okay, I’m veering off course, here. Anyway, there I was, sitting on a park bench and wallowing in misery, when I heard two familiar voices from behind a hibiscus bush. Danny and Evelyn. When I heard the words, “I had a wonderful time last night,” and “too fast,” I forgot about Sandra O’Connell and everything else. Being nosy and proud of it, I began to wonder what happened after their little plane ride over Wakikki. Danny wouldn’t let her finish. Instead, he went on about how he watched the sunrise this morning and that he didn’t care what others thought, and about liking her. Jeez, what the hell happened between those two? And the poor schmuck looked so desperately happy, it was pathetic.

Evelyn caved in, of course. Who wouldn’t after that performance? And so, their little romance began. The rest of us didn’t see much of them during off duty hours. After striking out with Sandra O’Connell so many times – God, I hate admitting that – I met this waitress from the Black Cat Café named Marie Blake. She more than made up for my failure with “youknowwho”. Marie and once came across Danny and Evelyn, on this half-deserted beach, one Saturday afternoon in early November. One look from them and Marie and I got the hint. Danny and Evelyn wanted to be alone. Danny wanted his ladylove to himself that afternoon. And Evelyn – well, she seemed embarrassed to see us. See me. Gee, I wonder why. She had no reason to feel embarrassed. Did she? Realizing that we weren’t wanted, Marie and I left and found our own private spot.

Danny and I never spoke about what happened that day. I guess we both felt too embarrassed. Especially since I never bothered to hide how I felt about him dating Evelyn. Besides, other events began to occupy our thoughts. For one, the peace talks between our government and the Japanese hit a snag. The Army and Navy bigwig placed all military personnel on alert, in case of an attack by Jap fifth columnist saboteurs. Naturally, nothing happened and the talks continued. And Washington cancelled the alert. Then one week later, the shit really hit the fan. And I don’t mean from the Japanese.

Trouble arrived in the form of one Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, back from the dead. Jesus, it was a shock seeing him in our barracks, dressed in his uniform. We were all so happy to see him that we didn’t notice the sour mood on his face. Well, Red and Billy didn’t. But I did. I wondered what brought on his bad mood, until Danny arrived a few minutes later. The look that Rafe gave Danny could have left that poor bastard’s body decomposing six feet under ground.

Somehow, Rafe must have found about Danny and Evelyn. Danny tried to talk with Rafe, but no dice. Rafe kept ignoring him.

Since Rafe appeared out of nowhere, he had no quarters assigned to him. Billy and I led him to a little motor court not far from the base. Rafe didn’t talk much. Very unusual for a guy with a motor mouth like his. We also invited him for a little celebration at Hula-La bar. He wasn’t in the mood and asked if we could postpone at least until tomorrow night. Billy and I agreed and left. On our way back to the barracks, Billy wondered out loud if the war had done something to Rafe. I told him, yeah. Because of the war, he had lost his girl to Danny. Being one of the idiots who pushed Danny into going after Evelyn, Billy didn’t take my remark very well.

I had planned to spend the following day with a ride around Oahu with Marie. Remembering that Rafe was alone in his hotel room, I asked her if it would be okay to invite him. She didn’t mind and Rafe seemed glad to join us. It was a different man who rode with Marie and me that day. I swear, Rafe couldn’t stop talking. And he talked about everything – well, almost. He talked about his home and parents in Tennessee, his childhood, England and even the girls he had dated. But not once did the subject of Danny or Evelyn ever cross his lips.

Marie had to work that evening. Which meant I was able to join the others to celebrate Rafe’s return at the Hula-La bar. The place was really jumping that night. No big surprise, considering it was Saturday night. The entire squad was there – including Danny.

Red got really excited . . . and drunk. Like the rest of us, he wanted to know what it was like fighting the Krauts in Europe. So Rafe told us about the R.A.F. and the German air force. He also told us how he got shot down and how members of the French Underground found him and nursed him back to health before sending him back to England. Thank God that Rafe seemed occupied, because for a while, it seemed that he had forgotten Danny. That is until Walker arrived. The moment he entered the bar, I could feel the hostility pouring out of Rafe.

So naturally, our luck didn’t hold forever. Soon, Rafe began talking about tactics that include shooting from behind. Yeah, he was also talking about Danny. Things were starting to get really uncomfortable, but Gooz saved the day – somewhat – by offering Rafe his shirt. But it didn’t last, because Danny had to talk to Rafe. The damn idiot could not see that his timing – as usual – was off. Danny practically begged Rafe to understand what happened between him and Evelyn. Yeah, right. Like that was gonna happen. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before a fight broke out between the two. Which led to a major brawl in the bar.

The MPs and the Navy’s shore patrol soon arrived to break up the fight. I don’t know what happened to Danny and Rafe. But Red, Billy, Joe, Gooz and me hightailed it out of the bar before we could get arrested. We all headed for the beach and scattered. After the military police left, we returned to the Hula-La. The place was a wreck and there seemed to be no use in hanging around.

Red wanted to know what happened to Rafe and Danny. Gooz speculated that the MPs caught them. But Joe told us that he saw them take off in Danny’s Oldsmobile. “Probably to talk about that nurse,” he added. That was when I told them that the whole mess was their fault. For encouraging Danny to run after Evelyn. Except for Gooz, everyone protested, claiming they had no idea that Rafe would return from the dead. “Even if he had remained dead,” I continued, “it would have been a mistake. You don’t go after your dead buddy’s girl. Especially if your buddy had only been dead for three months! What the hell were you all thinking, giving him stupid advice like that?”

The boys all grumbled, claiming they had thought the idea of Danny and Evelyn was not so bad. But I could tell they were beginning to think otherwise. Gooz, however, suggested that Evelyn might have fallen in love with Danny. I shot down that idea the moment it came out of his mouth. I remembered that moment in the park. In love, my foot! Even a blind man could see that although she obviously had a lot of affection for Danny, love wasn’t it. In love with Danny. Yeah right!

By the time we returned to the barracks, I was dead on my feet. It didn’t take me long to fall asleep. It’s funny. One day we were all recovering from Rafe’s sudden reappearance, and the next day we were at war. Hell, I was barely awake when I heard planes flying over the barracks. My first thought – those damn Navy flyboys were buzzing us again. Goddamn Navy jocks! I tried to return to sleep, but I couldn’t. Not with Red sounding like a stalled engine. Dammit, couldn’t he just shut the hell up and let a man sleep?

Then two words finally tore out of Red’s mouth and woke me up. “The Japs!” That and the bullets that were whizzing over us. After that, I was wide awake and ducking under my bunk. What had happened? Well, it seemed the peace talks between the Japanese government and ours had fallen apart. Which led the Japanese Navy to attack our military bases, here in Hawaii. We were at war. Rafe and Danny soon arrived in the latter’s Oldsmobile. Poor Billy got blown to bits because he wouldn’t get away from that delayed bomb. And when Danny drove us and some photographer all the way to Wheeler Field, Jap planes followed us all the way. Shooting bullets at us, of course.

There were planes, and our mechanic, Earl, waiting for us at the airfield. But we couldn’t get near a plane thanks to the Japs. And although Danny was our squad leader, we ended up following Rafe’s lead. Hell, he was the only one with combat experience. In the end, only Rafe and Danny managed to get in the air. Poor Joe was killed before he could take off. Rafe and Danny ended up shooting down seven Jap planes, while Earl managed to shoot down one from the tower.

All in all, it was quite a shitty day. The Japanese Navy came close to destroying the Navy’s entire Pacific Fleet. Came close. If they had made a third strike and destroyed the aircraft carriers, they would have succeeded. Many of our own planes had been destroyed. And I heard that the Japs also struck the Philippines and Guam. The next day, Congress declared war on Japan.

Both Billy and Joe were dead. And Red’s fiancé, Betty, had been killed when the Japs struck the Navy hospital at Pearl. Poor Red. I don’t think he has been the same, since. As for Rafe, Danny and Evelyn, they all survived. Which meant they would have to settle the mess between them, sooner or later. They certainly hadn’t, two days later, when we all went to say good-bye to Billy, Joe and Betty. Both men kept their distance from Evelyn.

Not long after the memorial service, the remaining pilots in our squad received new orders. We were to report to our old commanding officer from Mitchell Field, Colonel Doolittle. He was now in California with a new mission for us. It seemed someone back in Washington had thought up a way to strike back at the Japs. It was a plan that Army pilots would participate in. We didn’t know the particulars, but considering that that the Japanese were in the process of taking over the Pacific area, I had the awful feeling we were about to take part in a suicide mission. Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to get back at them for Pearl Harbor. But I had a bad feeling about all this. A very bad feeling. I told Marie that I was leaving. She didn’t exactly feel easy about the whole matter, herself.

Several days later, an Army transport plane awaited at Wheeler Field, to take us to California. On that day, I finally learned what happened between Rafe, Danny and Evelyn. She was there, dressed in black for Betty. Gooz, Red and the rest of us boarded the plane. Only Rafe and Danny remained outside. Rafe barely acknowledged Evelyn’s presence. She did the same. Instead, it was Danny that she talked to, while Rafe headed for the plane.

Then she kissed Danny good-bye. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Had I been wrong all this time? Had the others been right? That Evelyn had fallen in love with Danny? I almost believed it myself, until I saw something very curious. While she was saying good-bye to Danny, Evelyn shot a quick glance at Rafe. It was so quick. One would barely notice it. But I did. I also noticed that look expressed her true feelings. She was still in love with Rafe.

I didn’t get it. If she was stil in love with Rafe, what was with the big production number with Danny? What’s with the public kiss? And why didn’t Rafe put up a fight? I thought long and hard about this, while the plane headed down the airstrip. Danny and Evelyn had dated for about two months. I recall the ecstatic look on Danny’s face after his little plane ride with Evelyn. I remembered Evelyn’s comments in that Honolulu park about moving too fast. I was still stunned on how Rafe gave her up so fast. And that look she gave him, while saying good-bye to Danny.

Then it hit me. It finally hit me as the plane lifted into the sky. Evelyn was pregnant with Danny’s baby. How else could one explain why she would choose Danny and not Rafe? Sometime between that plane ride and a month before Rafe’s return, Walker had knocked her up. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What a goddamn mess! That is, if my suspicions were true. And I usually have pretty good instincts.

As our plane flew east over the Hawaiian Islands, I glanced over at both Rafe and Danny. They sat next to each other. Interesting. Danny looked happy, but anxious. And Rafe? Hell, he mainly kept his eyes glued to the window. I got the feeling that he didn’t want to talk to or acknowledge anyone. Especially Danny.

So there we were, a handful of Army pilots flying toward California to train for some dangerous mission against the Japs. If Danny survived, he would return to Evelyn and probably marry her. But I couldn’t help but feel if that happened, both of them would be making an even bigger mistake than the one they did back in October. I could be wrong. I hope I was wrong. But I rarely am. I guess I would have to wait and see after we return from this mission. That is, if we return.

THE END

POSTCRIPT: Lieutenant Anthony Fusco and Captain Daniel Walker were killed in action on April 18, 1942; following a bombing mission over the Empire of Japan.

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (2010) Review

Below is my review of the recent 2010 adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels – “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS”:

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (2010) Review

After being on the air for nearly two decades, ”Agatha Christie’s POIROT” decided to air its own version of the mystery writer’s 1934 novel, ”Murder on the Orient Express”. Although there have been two other well known adaptations of the novel – the famous 1974 movie that starred Albert Finney and the 2001 teleplay that starred Alfred Molina. But this latest version starred David Suchet (considered by many to be the ultimate Hercule Poirot) in the starring role.

Directed by Philip Martin and written by Stewart Harcourt, ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” opened with Hercule berating a British Army officer, who has been revealed to be a liar in regard to a case. Upon completion of said case, Poirto travels over to Istanbul, the first step of his journey back to England. There, Poirot witnesses the stoning of a Turkish woman for adultery with a Colonel Arbuthnot and a Miss Mary Debenham. Thanks to an old acquaintance named Monsieur Bouc, a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (which owned the Orient Express lines), the detective manages to book passage aboard the famed continental train, the Orient Express. Among the passengers are Colonel Arbuthnot, Miss Debenham and a sinister American businessman named Samuel Rachett. The latter tries to hire Poirot’s services to protect him from unseen enemies; but the detective refuses due to a dislike toward the American. After the Orient Express becomes caught in a snowdrift in the middle of Yugoslavia, Rachett is found murdered in his compartment – stabbed to death twelve times. As it turned out, Poirot discovered that Rachett was a criminal named Casetti, who was guilty of kidnapping and murdering one Daisy Armstrong, the five year-old daughter of a wealthy Anglo-American couple. To protect the passengers from the Yugoslavia police, Monsieur Bouc hires Poirot to investigate the American’s murder.

Considering this film turned out to be the third, well-known adaptation of Christie’s novel, there were bound to be comparisons with the previous films – especially the famous 1974 version. All three movies featured changes from the novel. In this adaptation, screenwriter Stewart Harcourt decided to allow Poirot to witness the stoning of an adulterous Turkish woman. The characters of Doctor Constantine (a Greek doctor who volunteered to assist Poirot) and an American private detective named Cyrus Hardman were combined into a new character – an American obstetrician named . . . what else, Doctor Constantine. Rachett aka Casetti became a man who desired forgiveness for his kidnapping and murder of young Daisy. The brains behind Rachett’s murder turned out to be a different character. The Greta Ohlsson character was younger in this film. The movie featured a threat against Poirot’s life, after his resolution to the case. And the Orient Express remained snowbound a lot longer than in the novel and previous movies.

But the biggest change in ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” featured the addition of religion as a theme. In fact, the subject permeated throughout the entire movie. Television viewers saw scenes of both Poirot and surprisingly, Rachett, in the act of prayer. The movie also featured a discussion between Poirot and Miss Ohlsson on the differences between their dominations – Catholic and Protestant – and how they dealt with vengeance, justice, and forgiveness. Like many other Christie fans, I suspect that this addition of a religious theme was an attempt by Harcourt to allow Poirot to struggle with his conscience over his willingness to support Monsieur Bouc’s decision regarding the case’s solution.

There were some aspects of ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” that I found appealing. Due to the production’s budget, this adaptation spared the audience some of the over-the-top costume designs from the 1974 movie. The movie also featured first-rate performances from Denis Menochet (the best performance in the movie), who portrayed the car attendant, Pierre Michel; Brian J. Smith as Rachett’s private secretary, Hector McQueen; Barbara Hershey as the verbose tourist Mrs. Caroline Hubbard; Hugh Granville as Rachett’s valet, Edward Masterman; and Eileen Atkins as the imperious Princess Dragonmiroff. Despite portraying the only character not featured in the story, Samuel West gave an impressive, yet subtle performance as Dr. Constantine, whose occasional outrageous suggestions on the murderer’s identity seemed annoying to Poirot. I also have to give kudos to Harcourt for making an attempt to allow Poirot experience some kind of emotional conflict over the fate of Rachett’s killer(s). The novel never broached this topic. And in the 1974 film, Poirot twice expressed brief doubt and regret over the matter.

Despite some of the movie’s virtues, I found ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” to be rather disappointing. One of the biggest disappointments proved to be David Suchet’s performance. I have admired his portrayal of the Belgian detective for over a decade. But this movie did not feature one of Suchet’s better performances. In this movie, his Poirot struck me as harsh, judgmental and one-dimensional in his thinking. The movie also featured Poirot in full rant – against a British Army office at the beginning of the story, and against the suspects, following the revelation scene. In fact, this last scene struck me as an exercise in hammy acting that made Albert Finney’s slightly mannered 1974 performance looked absolutely restrained.

Unfortunately, most of the cast did not fare any better. Joseph Mawle, who portrayed the Italian-American car salesman, Antonio Foscarelli, gave a poor attempt at an American accent. His British accent kept getting into the way. As for David Morrissey’s portrayal of Colonel Abuthnot, I could only shake my head in disbelief at such over-the-top acting – especially in the scene following Poirot’s revelation of the case. And I never understood the necessity of making the Mary Debenham character so anxious. Jessica Chastain’s performance did not exactly impress me and I found myself longing for the cool and sardonic woman from the novel and the 1974 version. I really did not care for Serge Hazanavicius’ portrayal of Monsieur Bouc, the train’s official. I found his performance to be ridiculously over-the-top and annoying. One could say the same about Toby Jones’ portrayal of Samuel Rachett aka Casetti. Poor Mr. Jones. I have been a big fan of his for the past five years or so, but he was the wrong man for this particular role. What made this movie truly unbearable was the last fifteen to twenty minutes, which became an exercise in overwrought acting by most of the cast. Including Suchet.

There were other aspects of this production that bothered me. I never understood the necessity to change the instigator of the murder plot against Rachett. It made more sense to me to adhere to Christie’s original plot in that regard. And I found the use of religion not only unnecessary, but also detrimental to the story. I have nothing against characters with religious beliefs. But I found the scenes featuring both Poirot and Rachett praying in their compartments excessive. The religious topic transformed Poirot into a grim and humorless man.  Even worse, I found myself wondering if Suchet’s Poirot was suffering from some form of Post Traumatic Shock during the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the film. He seemed to moving in a state of silent shock, while others – especially Monsieur Bouc – talked around him.  As for Rachett . . . I can only assume that the sight of him praying inside his compartment was supposed to be an indicator of his remorse over his crimes against Daisy Armstrong. Or did fear, instigated by a series of threatening letters, drove him to prayer? If so, the scene clumsily contradicted his other actions aboard the train – snarling at his employees and Pierre Michel, and propositioning Mary Debenham. The topic of religion also produced a tiresome scene filled with overwrought acting by Marie-Josée Croze, in which her character – Greta Ohlsson – lectured Poirot about the differences between Catholics and Protestants in regard to justice, revenge, forgiveness and remorse.

I found the stoning scene in Istanbul completely unnecessary and rather distasteful. I found it distasteful, because the scene changed Poirot’s character and allowed him to harbor a laissez faire attitude over the incident. Poirot also used the stoning scene to indulge in an excessive lecture to Mary Debenham about justice. He was right about the stoning being a part of a custom that no foreign visitor had a right to interfere. But his entire attitude about the matter did not seem like the Hercule Poirot I had become familiar with from Christie’s books, the movies and the ”POIROT”series. Worse, the incident provided a contradicting viewpoint on vigilantism and justice. Think about it. Poirot said nothing against the stoning, which was an act of vigilantism, because not only did he view it as a foreign custom, but also as an act of justice against someone who had sinned. Yet, at the same time, he expressed outrage and disgust over Rachett’s murder – also an act of vigilantism. The entire topic reeked of hypocrisy and bad writing.

”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” possessed some virtues that its filmmakers could boast about. Performances from Samuel West, Brian J. Smith, Eileen Atkins, Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Hershey and especially Denis Menochet were first-rate. There were no over-the-top costumes that left me shaking my head. And thankfully, the Hector McQueen character strongly resembled the literary version. On the other hand, the movie seemed riddled with unnecessary changes that either lacked common sense or damaged the story. Its additions of the religion topic and stoning incident simply made matters worse in regard to story and characterization. And a good deal of hammy acting abounded in the movie and made me wince with discomfort, especially from David Suchet. In conclusion, this”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” turned out to be a disappointing affair for me.

“THE WINDS OF WAR” (1983) Review

“THE WINDS OF WAR” (1983) Review

Forty years ago, author Herman Wouk wrote “The Winds of War”, a bestselling novel about the experiences of a middle-aged U.S. Navy officer and his family during the early years of World War II. A decade later, ABC Television and producer David Wolper brought his story to the television screen with a seven-part, fourteen-and-a-half hour miniseries that became a ratings hit and a major Emmy and Golden Globe nominee. 

Produced by Dan Curtis and Barbara Steele, and directed by Curtis; “THE WINDS OF WAR” was a sprawling saga that told the story of Naval officer, Victor “Pug” Henry (Robert Mitchum), his wife Rhoda (Polly Bergen), and his three children – Naval aviator Warren (Ben Murphy), Byron (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Madeline (Lisa Eilbacher), who ended up as an assistant to a radio personality – and their experiences during the six months before Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the first two years of the war, right up to the attack upon Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Most of the miniseries focused upon Henry’s experiences as a Naval attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, his role as a confident to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his position at the War Department in Washington D.C. During this time, he experiences Germany’s reaction to the Poland invasion, the Battle of Britain and the early months of the Blitz, the Lend-Lease Program, and the Soviet defense against the German invasion of their country.

However, a good deal of the miniseries also focused upon Byron’s romance with one Natalie Jastrow (Ali McGraw), the niece of a Jewish author and scholar named Dr. Aaron Jastrow (John Houseman) in Italy. Byron and Natalie also experience the German invasion of Poland, after attending a wedding held by her Jastrow cousins in Medzice. Their romance is later hampered by Natalie’s relationship with her former fiancé, a State Department diplomat named Leslie Slote (David Dukes) and her decision to remain in Europe in order to ensure that a very reluctant Aaron will safely get out of Europe.

Two other plotlines featured forbidden romances for both Pug and Rhoda. Pug becomes romantically involved with Pamela Tudsbury (Victoria Tennant), the daughter of a British journalist and radio personality. However, their romance remains platonic. That did not seemed to be the case for Rhoda’s affair with a widowed government engineer named Palmer Kirby (Peter Graves), who will become involved in the first phase of the Manhattan project. By the end of the miniseries, Rhoda will ask Pug for a divorce.

One has to possess a great deal of patience and love of early-to-mid 20th century history to really enjoy ”THE WINDS OF WAR”. This is not my way of saying that it is a terrible production. But it is rather long at fourteen-and-a-half hours. At least four of the episodes are two-and-a-half hours long. And if I must be frank, there are sequences in the miniseries that I found rather ponderous. Sequences that usually featured Pug Henry’s meetings with famous world leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin turned out to be exercises in sheer patience for me. And the sequences featuring the Lend-Lease Program, in which the U.S. government lent warships and planes to Great Britain also struck me as ponderous. I found some of the dialogue wince-inducing, silly, pretentious and long winded, thanks to Herman Wouk’s screenplay. Lesson – never allow an author to write the screen adaptation of his own work.

Many of the characters featured in the miniseries are portrayed by actors that struck me as too old for their roles. I can even say the same about the three leads – Mitchum, McGraw and Vincent. Well . . . almost. Somehow, these three managed to get away with it. The scenes that I found most unbearable featured Hitler’s conferences with his generals. Many of these scenes featured actor Günter Meisner as Hitler, engaging in a good deal of histrionic acting – at least in the miniseries’ first three episodes. Fortunately, he seemed to have found his stride by the fourth episode and portrayed the German chancellor without the usual clichés. Like I said, one needs a great deal of patience to face something like ”WINDS OF WAR”.

But in the end, the miniseries proved to be worth viewing. Despite its flaws, I believe it is one of the better miniseries that have appeared on television during the past forty odd years. The historic scope of the production is wide and magnificent. Director/producer Dan Curtis did a superb job in transporting viewers back to those early years of World War II – between 1939 and 1941, especially with a crew that included cinematographers Charles Correll and Stevan Larner, costume designer Heidi Wujek, matte cameraman Bruce A. Block, and production designer Jackson De Govia. I do have a quibble about Ali McGraw’s wardrobe and hairstyle. It almost seemed as if the actress seemed reluctant to utilize late 30s/early 40s costumes and hairstyles. And this made her look a little too modern for a series set during the early years of World War II.

Curtis and his crew did an excellent job in scouting locations for the miniseries. Being an epic set in the United States and Europe, he had to find locations that stood in for Berlin, Washington D.C., London, Siena and Rome, Moscow, Honolulu, Manila, along with Warsaw and Medzice. I also have to commend Marijan Karoglan for his supervision of the special effects featured in the miniseries – especially in battle sequences that focused upon the invasion of Poland, Pug’s ride aboard a British bomber over Germany, the battle outside Stalingrad, and the attacks upon Pearl Harbor and the Cavite Naval Yard in the Philippines.

One of the best things about ”THE WINDS OF WAR” is that despite being somewhat ponderous and long, it did feature some well written and interesting sequences. The best – as far as I am concerned – centered on Byron Henry and Natalie Jastrow getting caught up in the Nazi invasion of Poland near the end of ”Episode 1 – The Winds Rise” and the first half of ”Episode 2 – The Storm Breaks”. What started out as a charming visit to Poland for a family wedding, ended up as a harrowing series of events in which the pair encountered hostile Polish soldiers, aerial bombings in Warsaw, a harrowing journey across the Polish-German battle line, and a tense encounter with a Gestapo officer demanding the names of all Jews in the American party. Another favorite sequence of mine featured Pug’s experiences in Britain, during the Battle of Britain and around the beginning of the Blitz. This segment featured the beginning of his platonic romance with Pamela Tudsbury and a scary ride aboard a British bomber on a mission over Germany. I also enjoyed the segment at the end of ”Episode 3 – Cataclysm” that featured the Henry family and Natalie Jastrow’s reunion for Warren Henry’s wedding to Janice Lacouture (Deborah Winters), the daughter of an isolationist senator in Pensacola. The sequences featuring Byron and Natalie’s wedding in Lisbon, near the end of ”Episode 5 – Of Love and War” and Pug’s reunion with Pamela in the Soviet Union in the last two episodes are also favorites.

Earlier I had commented that the miniseries’ three leads – Robert Mitchum, Ali McGraw and Jan-Michael Vincent – seemed rather old for their roles. Mitchum, who was 65 years old at the time, portrayed a Pug Henry in his late 40s. McGraw was 44 years old, when she portrayed the 27-29 years old Natalie Jastrow. And Vincent was a 38 year-old actor portraying the 24-26 years old Byron Henry. But they were not the only ones. Ben Murphy, who portrayed the 27-29 years old Warren Henry, was at least 40 at the time of the miniseries’ production. Ralph Bellamy was at least 78 years old when he portrayed President Roosevelt, who had aged from 57 to 59 years during the story’s setting. There seemed to be a score of many old Hollywood character actors who struck me as too old for their roles. Many of them did not get away with portraying characters a lot younger than themselves. But Mitchum, McGraw, Vincent, Murphy and Bellamy did get away with it; due to their strong screen presence, good solid acting and looks.

Being the experienced Hollywood veteran, Mitchum did an excellent job of holding the series together in the lead role. He also did a first rate job in portraying a very reserved man who usually kept his emotions to himself, without turning the role into an automaton. McGraw seemed to have some difficulty in dealing with an exaggerated and at times, irritating character like Natalie Jastrow. I suspect that most of the blame should go to Wouk for creating such an overblown character and the bad dialogue that McGraw was forced to speak. However, I have to commend the actress for ably conveying Natalie’s moments of being intimidated in the presence of Nazis or in situations in which she felt like a fish out of water. Her character tend to be exaggerated and rather irritating at times. I suspect that most of the blame should go to Wouk for his creation of the character and the numerous bad lines that McGraw was forced to spew. However, the actress did a good job in conveying Natalie’s moments of feeling intimidated in the presence of Nazis and in situations that left her feeling like a fish out of water (think of Warren and Janice’s wedding). Both Ben Murphy and Lisa Eilbacher gave solid performances at the charismatic, yet likeable Warren Henry and the All-American Madeline Henry, who seemed to have a slight undercurrent of darkness in her personality. Jeremy Kemp gave a memorable performance as Brigadier General Armin von Roon, the stoic and very professional German Army staff officer that Pug befriended. Ralph Bellamy, who had originally portrayed Franklin D. Roosevelt in both the stage and film versions of ”SUNRISE AT CAMPBOBELLO” was in his element as the four-term president. I also enjoyed Topol’s warm portrayal of the Jastrow cousin from the Polish branch of the family, Berel Jastrow. John Houseman did a solid job in portraying Natalie’s scholarly uncle, Dr. Aaron Jastrow. However, there were times when his dialogue delivery seemed slow and slightly long-winded. As for Peter Graves, he must have been the only actor I can recall who can make an extramarital affair seem almost dignified.

But there were performances that stood out for me. One of them came from Jan-Michael Vincent, who portrayed the Henry family’s dark horse, Byron. Vincent did an excellent job in portraying Byron’s complex and sometimes difficult nature. He proved that Pug’s middle child could be just as reserved and intimidating as his father, and also very intense. Yet, at the same time, Vincent’s Byron seemed very relaxed and almost lackadaisical. Another first-rate performance came from Polly Bergen, who portrayed Pug’s flamboyant wife, Rhoda. In many ways, Bergen’s Rhoda could be just as complex as Byron. At times, she seemed like a cheerful and extroverted personality. At other times, she came off as flaky and sometimes rather unpleasant. And Bergen managed to convey Rhoda’s contradicting traits seamlessly. I am not surprised that she ended up earning an Emmy nomination for her performance. I was also impressed by Victoria Tennant’s performance as the young Englishwoman that ended up falling in love with Pug, Pamela Tudsbury. Tennant skillfully conveyed Pamela’s passionate nature and sardonic sense of humor beneath an exterior of English reserve. I have always been a fan of the late actor David Dukes, ever since I saw him in a miniseries called ”79 PARK AVENUE”. But I do believe that the role of Leslie Slote, Natalie’s former fiancé was probably one of his best. Dukes had the difficult job of developing his character from a sarcastic and slightly pompous man, reluctant to marry a Jewish woman to a loyal friend that ended up regretting that his fiancée had fallen in love with another man before he could marry her.

”THE WINDS OF WAR” has its shares of flaws – a ponderous dramatic style, too many scenes featuring the top statesmen of World War II, stilted dialogue and a questionable wardrobe for actress Ali McGraw. But its virtues – its in-depth look into the early years of World War II, its epic scope, interesting subplots and characters – make it all worth while. More importantly, I still believe it is one of the better miniseries from the last 40 years. In the end, I believe that newcomers to the saga will not regret it.

“THE OTHER GUYS” (2010) Review

“THE OTHER GUYS” (2010) Review

One could not imagine two such diverse Hollywood talents such as Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg co-starring together in a summer action comedy. I certainly could not imagine such a scenario. And after watching the trailer for the new comedy, ”THE OTHER GUYS”, I had approached the film with a little bit of trepidation. 

Directed by Adam McKay, ”THE OTHER GUYS” told the story of two mismatched New York Police detectives – Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz – who become determined to rise from the police department’s running joke in order to become the city’s top police detective, following the deaths of the city’s top cops, Highsmith and Danson. Standing in their way are a few impediments – namely their previous inability to form a solid detective team, Hoitz’s bad temper, Gamble’s inexperience in the field and previous position as a forensic accountant, another pair of detectives named Martin and Fosse, and a massive lottery scam operated by a multi-billionaire named David Ershon, who owns money to an investor.

In the end, ”THE OTHER GUYS” proved to be a solid comedy written by Chris Henchy and Adam McKay, and directed by McKay. Narrated by Ice-T, the movie provided plenty of comedic moments that actually made me laugh and some surprisingly impressive action sequences. One of the best scenes featured a bombing of an accountant’s office that left both Gamble and Hoitz slightly wounded. It gave Farrell the opportunity to make sarcastic remarks about similar scenes in other Hollywood action films. Another funny scene featured the over-the-top action sequence featuring Highsmith and Danson, which opened the movie. However, my favorite scene featured Hoitz meeting Gamble’s beautiful wife, Dr. Sheila Ramos Gamble for the first time. Mark Wahlberg proved he could be extremely funny, while conveying Hoitz’s barely controlled infatuation with Sheila and disbelief that she would find someone like Gamble desirable. The movie also explored the personalities and background of both Gamble and Hoitz, allowing the audience to understand their personal demons and the situations that led to their partnership and inability to get along. During college, Gamble became a pimp for a group of female college students-turned-prostitutes. Which in turn allowed his personality to become increasingly aggressive, until he found himself arrested for violent behavior. And Hoitz found himself partnered with Gamble after he accidently shot New York Yankee Derek Jeter during the 2003 World Series. An incident that Hoitz has been trying to live down ever since.

Not everything about ”THE OTHER GUYS” ended up smelling roses. The movie was hampered by at least two sequences that threatened to stop the movie’s pacing in its tracks. One sequence featured multi-billionaire Ershon’s attempts to bribe Gamble and Hoitz with expensive tickets to shows and sporting events in order to stop them from investigating his lottery ticket scam. At first, I found the sequence rather funny. But it threatened to stretch for a longer period than necessary and I found myself longing for it to end. Another such sequence featured Gamble’s attempts to send slightly pornographic messages to his wife, Sheila, using her mother as a carrier. Both he and Hoitz found themselves hiding from their fellow cops and a group of mercenaries, while keeping Ershon in their custody in order to use him to prevent the scam from affecting the police retirement fund. At first I found the scene rather funny, with most of the comedy provided by Mama Ramos’ growing discomfort at the pornographic nature of Gamble and Sheila’s messages. But like the bribery sequence, it threatened to go a bridge too far and I found myself inwardly screaming for it to end. One last problem I had with the movie dealt with its last half hour. Quite frankly, I thought ”THE OTHER GUYS” dragged a bit during that half hour. McKay and Henchy could have wrapped up the story a little sooner. And I found the resolution to the case to be rather vague. Almost confusing.

Both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg proved to be a first-rate comedy team, much to my surprise. I had feared that Wahlberg would find himself overwhelmed by the comedic aggressions of Ferrell, but the actor proved that he could more than hold his own and be just as funny. And Ferrell proved that he did not always have to resort to his usual manic comedy style in order to be funny. Michael Keaton’s talent for comedy seemed to have resurface this year in both the Disney animation movie, “TOY STORY 3” and in his role as Gamble and Hoitz’s crusty supervisor, Captain Gene Mauch. In fact, I thought he was so funny that I found myself wondering where he had been for so long. Eva Mendes proved to be just as funny as Gamble’s beautiful, yet off-the-wall wife, Sheila. Steve Coogan, along with Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. provided comedic support in their roles as billionaire David Ershon and the two leads’ rivals, Martin and Fosse. And both Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson gave deliciously over-the-top performances as the city’s two original and not-so-bright top cops, Highsmith and Danson.

I had a few problems with Adam McKay and Chris Henchy’s script for ”THE OTHER GUYS” and all of them featured the pacing. Two of the comedy sequences stretched longer than necessary. And if I must be honest, I have to say the same about the movie’s last half hour. But the movie also featured some top-notch performances by a cast led by Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg. It also had a solid script ably directed by McKay. Overall, ”THE OTHER GUYS” proved to be a pretty damn good movie.