TIFF 2011: Day 4
Day 4 of the Toronto International Film Festival I see Rampart which stars Woody Harrelson in a familiar role and the film I was most excited for at TIFF, the Mexican thriller Miss Bala. Here are my first impressions and mini reviews of the films.
Woody Harrelson gives one of his best performances of his career in this film, which sadly doesn’t deserve his performance. The movie is just so depressing and ugly despite being set in the beautiful and sunny Los Angeles. It follows Harrelson’s drunk, drug addicted cop (jeez where have I seen this before) as he barely makes it through his life. He works for L.A.’s Rampart Division, a special group set inside the LAPD. He lives in the garage of BOTH his ex wives, he is under an investigation for illegal conduct on the job and his ‘relationship’ with his daughters is even worse. I found it really hard to believe that a cop could be under investigation for beating an unarmed man and then be suspected of shooting ANOTHER unarmed man and STILL have a job. The director’s previous work was The Messenger which I absolutely loved. It’s a shame this movie doesn’t work. As I stated before, Harrelson is terrific and in a different year or part of his career could’ve seen an Oscar nomination. This was based on a true story, but I can see a few spots of this film being stretched from reality.
This was the movie I was looking forward to the most coming into TIFF.The original word out of Cannes were raves and the first trailer was ASTONISHINGLY well done. The final product is very VERY well done. Bala is about a young girl from Tijuana, Mexico who wants to enter in a beauty pageant titled Miss Baja California. On her way to one, her and her friend go to a night club to party with some friends. When Laura (the protagonist) shows up, her friend is dancing with some DEA agents. She retreats to the bathroom where some members of a deadly and ruthless drug cartel show up and kill everyone. They kidnap Laura and use her for days, whether it’s transporting money across the border or ammo back over the border. They use and abuse her. They promise her fame and money as they put her through excruciating circumstances. The film is uncompromising in it’s vision of the drug war being fought in Mexico. One that has claimed over 50,000 lives in the last 5 years and another 10,000 people missing. The movie took about 45 minutes to grow on me. But the director’s style and cinematography are brilliant. Reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat, the camera is almost never not fixed. Always steady and sure. I do not recall a use of shaky cam at all. This is one of the best thrillers of the year.