The Life of Pi

Title: The Life of Pi

Year: 2012

Inspiration: The Life of Pi (book) by Yann Martel


The Life of Pi Synopsis

Piscine Patel is the son of a zookeeper who makes sure that his son knows the dangers of wild animals. When Pi, as he is called, tries to make friends with the Bengal tiger Richard Parker (believing that all animals have souls), his father feeds a live goat to the tiger and makes him watch.

The zoo fails, and the family gets on the Japanese boat Tsimtsum to Canada to sell the animals. A storm during the night sinks the boat, and Pi is pushed onto a life boat without even the benefit of the usually-required life jacket, and joined by a hyena, an orangutan, a lame zebra, and Richard Parker. The hyena brutally kills the zebra first, and then the orangutan, for food.

Pi Patel stays away, cowering from the animal until Richard Parker comes out to kill and feed on the hyena. Pi eventually makes his peace with the Bengal tiger, enough for them to coexist on the boat. After living through and leaving a carnivorous island, Pi and Richard Parker finally wash up across the Pacific on the Mexican shore, where the Bengal tiger leaves Pi.

When they arrive, the insurance men and one novelist ask him to tell his story, which he does. [SPOILER] When both sets of listeners express incredulity, Pi responds by replacing the animals with a sailor as the lame zebra, his mother as the orangutan, and the ship’s cook as the hyena. He, or rather his survival self, is Richard Parker the tiger. Both sets of listeners then choose to present the first version of the story instead.

The Life of Pi Book-to-Movie Adaptation

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is generally considered a classic, and would probably thrill anyone who got to the end. The problem is getting to the end. I do not consider myself a reader who can easily be bored, and I do not mind long-winded stories if the telling is enjoyable. I found myself bored nearly to tears by The Life of Pi. (The only book I have found more boring than that is Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), but it was written in the 19th century and is therefore more forgivable).

That Pi Patel was so un-interestingly perfect, even in his pursuit of three religions so he could “love God.” I see what it contributed to the story, but the scene and many others for that entire first part of the book failed to leave me with a good impression of who Pi Patel was and what he was like. It just told me he had a complaining and confused mind.

On the whole, I believe that The Life of Pi was superbly adapted to the movie screen much better than it was a book. Pi Patel is Hindi (Indian), and when they are in Pondicherry, the depictions of life are full and vibrant with color.

The movie, with stunning cinematography and design, brings this cultural beauty out much better than the book does. It fills the space around Pi with design and color, an explosive contrast to the gray of the later storm and the wide blue of the sea which is in most of the movie.

The makers of the “Life of Pi” movie spent a considerable amount of time and money on its animation. Not only the brilliant animation of the animals (by the breakthrough but now bankrupt studio which made the animals for “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”), but on other parts which, they realized, needed it more for the story-telling.

One of these was when Pi Patel was remembering the story his mother told him about the interdependence of all nature as reflected in Hinduism. The interconnectedness of nature inherent in the Hindu religion explodes in the night sky over Pi and in the blue sea beneath him as his memory replays and recounts the story.

The other brilliant use of animation was when Pi and Richard Parker were on the carnivorous island. When reading that section in the book, it did not make an impression on me. That the island was in the shape of a woman was an interesting detail, but it did not immediately remind me of the Hindi dancer whom he left behind in Pondicherry. In the movie, it is only when Pi Patel gets away from the island that the animation transforms the island into the shape of a woman.

If a story-teller is to tell a story well, his or her readers and listeners should carry away with them impressions of characters and events. An award-winning writing teacher of the Storywriting School describes it like looking out the window. If he tells us to look out the window and tell us what we see, we should describe what is on its other side without prompting.

If we notice the presence of the window at all, then the window is not doing its job. A dirty window defeats its own purpose. In story-telling, if the media itself (the writing, the film, the stageplay) distracts the audience from the story, then the window is very dirty.

It is all very well to describe The Life of Pi as a classic must-read that reflects the dual sides of human nature. However, if its readers cannot get through the story because of the unengaging writing, then the book defeats its own purpose: to be read. Because of this, the movie adaptation is one of the best I have seen in book-to-film history. It fixed the story-telling and narrative flow, and did succeed in leaving an impression of those dual sides of human nature.

[Personal Reaction] Beethoven (1992)

Beethoven Synopsis

A St. Bernard puppy escapes from a group of puppies stolen from a pet shop by two thieves, and finds his way to the room of the Newton family’s youngest child, Emily. Predictably, she and her older sister and brother Ryce and Ted want to keep it, and their mother Alice backs them up. Their dad, George Newton, does not want to keep the dog but is pressured to do so.


Most of the movie is about Beethoven’s growing relationship with his new family, and the growing dislike the father has of him. The movie takes a turn when they bring him to Dr Herman Varnick, a veterinarian, for a medical checkup and vaccinations.

Dr. Varnick uses dogs for various experiments, so he attempts to get George Newton to give Beethoven up to him on the suggestion that St. Bernards often have sudden mental problems. That failing, he pays a house call and incites Beethoven to jump at him. He pretends to be bitten, and orders Beethoven’s euthanization at once.

Personal Reaction

Our parents brought this movie home because like many other kids, we weren’t allowed to have a dog and simply loved stories with dogs in them. A dog that looked big enough to ride on was a great fit. We watched it more times than I can remember.

Watching it again, I sincerely wonder how on earth Beethoven could just run around to all places with practically no accidents. It’s like the statistics on dog safety didn’t exist, whether on road accidents or vaccinations. Why on earth did Beethoven get his vaccinations so late? Which all, of course is somewhat beside the point because my younger self never thought about it.

At the same time, watching it again, I was sad to find myself disappointed. Being older, I enjoy watching classic children’s movies to get what I missed the first time around. Disney movies are particularly enjoyable in that regard; it seems the older you get, the more there is to laugh at any one movie.

However, in Beethoven, I did feel like I accidentally corrupted a piece of my childhood file in re-watching it. I enjoyed it all again, of course. But I found the story wildly underdeveloped, and there were too many antagonists with no real claim to prominence. The first were two of George Newton’s investors, who were actually trying to swindle them. And then there was Dr. Henry Varnick, who was involved in the puppy-stealing in the very first part of the movie, but only comes into the very last.

The storyline I unconsciously looked for was one in which Dr. Varnick would be constantly attempting to get or kidnap Beethoven, and failing through no real fault of his own. It would be one of those story lines where we see the antagonist just about to loop a leash over Beethoven’s head, when a ball thrown by Ted hits him on the head and he faints. The last part would have then been better, since the audience would freak out when Beethoven is brought into the veterinarian’s office.

I do not think the storyline in my head is too complex for a children’s movie, and it might have tied it better together. My verdict on the movie: a fun children’s movie, but a hit-and-miss as a cinematic production.

Ghajini (2008) And Human Trafficking


Ghajini (2008) is a film made in India, under the famed Bollywood banner. It was written and directed by A.R. Murugadoss. Inspired by the famous Christopher Nolan film Memento (2000), the story follows Sanjay Singhania (played by Aamir Khan, Dil Chahta Hai, Taare Zameen Par), the millionaire chairman of Air Voice mobile phone company, as he takes revenge on a gang leader, Ghajini, and his group. He is seeking revenge for the death of his girlfriend Kalpana (Asin; Ghajini is her Bollywood debut), as extensive flashbacks reveal.

Ghajini (2008)

The second story revealed by those flashbacks focus around Kalpana. From a lowly extra in product commercials, she becomes the main character when her agency assumes, through a misinterpreted situation, that she is being pursued by Sanjay Singhania. When Sanjay goes to the agency to clear things up, he becomes intrigued by her, and begins to court her. Through more flashbacks, it reveals that [SPOILER] Kalpana was killed when after exposing a train car of young girls being trafficked for their organs.

So What?

Aamir Khan is a filmmaker, director, actor, and producer who is a known advocate of women’s and children’s rights, in such things as education and human trafficking. His film Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth), about a dyslexic, genius-artist child who was misunderstood as lazy and stupid, illustrates the first. His participation in Ghajini illustrates the second.

In Ghajini, as in Memento, the main character wakes up every day with a need to relive the horror that took away his memory in the first place, so that he can continue his mission. As with Memento, Sanjay Singhania tattoos important details on various places on his skin, and refers to them when necessary. The details grow the more he learns the whereabouts of the gang leader, and he simply follows each lead as he finds it.

Elements of Memento were not copy-pasted into the movie lightly; the message was designed for an international audience, and was actually shown in cinemas in the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and more. Of course, the media was Bollywood style; song-and-dance portions illuminated the story, setting it apart from Memento and giving it a cultural tang that is strongly attractive.

The most fascinating part about the story design is that human trafficking does not even make it as a sub-theme. For most of the film, movie-goers are focused on the budding love story between Sanjay Singhania and Kalpana, since he does not tell her who he is, while she is still keeping up the pretense of being his lover. The story is sweet, filled with the hilarious pitfalls that can only come from such misunderstandings.The only thing the movie-goer has to warn him or her that there is something more, is that they know that Kalpana is dead, and that Sanjay is seeking revenge for it.

The section on human trafficking is brief—Kalpana is on her way to a modelling shoot when she passes through a train car filled with preteen girls. Suspecting something is wrong, she manages to bring the car to the attention of the authorities, and gets the girls released. They go on the news and expose stitches where their organs were harvested, and the gangs lose money through the broken ring.

The gang leader Ghajini, in anger, goes after Kalpana, and Sanjay tries to save her. However, as the viewers know, she dies, and he suffers a blow to the head that ruins his memory. While advocates against human trafficking may complain that it was touched upon too little, what movie-goers remember is the meaningless death of a woman who saved those girls from organ harvesting.

Without turning it preachy, Ghajini pulls outrage and attention from viewers to the fact and existence of the trafficking. By using the internationally-known story design of Memento in the film, the movie gained an international audience, and did not exploit their attention. It gave them a good, enjoyable storyline, a strong story with well-rounded characters, and used them to deliver the punch of the meaninglessness of human trafficking.

Crows Zero I (2007) And Leadership

[The article follows the Japanese system of Lastname Firstname. So Oguri Shun [First Last] becomes Shun Oguri [Last First]].


Crows Zero was, luckily, made before new laws restricted the yakuza (Japanese organized crime groups) from being portrayed in movies, to prevent their romanticization. It is based on a manga (Japanese comic book) of the same name and follows its storyline, directed by MIIKE Takashi.

Crows Zero

The main character is Takiya Genji (Shun Oguri), only son of a yakuza boss. The story begins when he transfers to all-boys school Suzuran High, his goal being to take over it. He hopes to become heir to his father’s group if he wins. However, to do that, he needs to defeat the current majority gang in the school led by Serizawa Tamao (Takayuki Yamada), by uniting the smaller gangs in Suzuran. The film ends [SPOILER] with a battle between Genji and Tamao, and Genji wins.

So What?

True to Japanese form, the simple storyline has strong themes that were clearly thought about, not simply kicked in as a philosophic afterthought. (After all, one of the “shallowest” manga-anime-live action series, Ouran High School Host Club, turned out to be a hard-hitter—and no one quite knows how the writers managed that). In Crows Zero, the film and story design frames the theme of leadership–so skilfully that it does not become inescapably preachy.

As any new student knows, penetrating and infiltrating set social standards is the most difficult thing on earth. It’s hard to make new friends—they already have their own friend groups. It’s weird to crush on anyone, because someone with tenure already has a crush on him or her, and the new student has no right. That is exactly Genji’s problem when he enters the school: he comes in with an unknown name and no gang at all.

That being the case, he begins his fight to the top the yakuza way, by beating up entire gangs (the smaller ones), and getting them to follow him. His difficulties begin when he targets two of the medium-sized gangs, by getting at their leaders. He tries to win one, Makise Takashi by getting him a girl and another, Izaki Shun, by fighting him.

The first ends in fantastic failure, but after the laugh they have over it, Makise follows him. The second is also a failure; Genji fights the Izaki’s followers until he is knocked out by their sheer force of numbers. The leader watches him collapse, and decides to follow him as well.

After their new coalition’s inauguration, Izaki is caught alone by the right hand of Serizawa Tamao, and beaten up. Suddenly, Genji becomes withdrawn and harsh—he terrorizes other groups into following him, and loses Makise’s support. It is never said, but it is clearly shown that Genji wanted the leadership, and had no idea how badly any harm to his followers would affect him.

Genji considers abandoning the coalition, and actually disappears for a few days to clear his head. Although he comes back and they return to him, there is distrust—he left them once, they don’t know how far he will go for them. But during a fight with an outside gang, Makise is asked to cut off an ear as pay, since the outsiders were wrongfully accused.

Genji offers both of his own, and actually puts his knife to his ear before the opposition gang leader grabs his hand. The gesture—sacrifice—wins back his coalition, and eventually wins them the war—the outside gang joins them in the final battle, tipping the stakes in their favor.

Through the unpretentious and grittily violent gang film, the challenges of any leader are presented: 1) how to win followers, 2) how to let them take the consequences of their own actions, 3) how to sacrifice for them, 4) how to risk losing with them behind you. This is what makes the movie a classic, instead of just one more gangster film.

The Raid Redemption (2011) And Family

The Raid Redemption Synopsis

The Raid Redemption (2011) is an Indonesian film, directed by Gareth Evans, a Welsh filmmaker. The film’s world premiere was in the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was distributed worldwide by Sony Picture Classics. It is a martial arts film showcasing Pencak Silat, the traditional Indonesian martial art.

The story is simple enough: it is an off-the-record mission where 20 elite police officers are sent into an apartment building to arrest crime boss Tama Riyadi on the top floor. However, the crime boss owns the building, and the tenants are all criminals under his protection. The police officers’ goal was to arrest Tama without alerting the building.


The story follows main character Rama (Iko Uwais). The police make it to the sixth floor of the apartment building undetected, before a lookout shouts the warning. Tama Riyadi tells his tenants that whoever kills the police officers can live in his apartments for free, which results in an all-out gunfight.

[SPOILER] By the end of the first shootout, 15 officers are dead and Rama is left protecting a wounded comrade and trying to reach the top at the same time. The other group makes it there, and Tama Riyadi is killed eventually. Only 3 of the 5 remaining officers survive, including Rama.

So What?

This multi-internationally award-winning film has all the pleasurable action of a first-person fighting video game. The contained environment (a single apartment building), the presence of different levels (the apartment floors), and even boss fights (both with Mad Dog, a strong hand-to-hand combat fighter), all lend to the experience. The lighting is constantly dim, and the stark unpainted concrete of the apartment building only lends to the dystopic feel that games such as Left 4 Dead and The Last Of Us give.

In a movie with so much action it leaves little space for anything else, family is a clear sub-theme. The movie opens with Rama alternately praying (early morning prayers for Islam), and practicing silat. Asleep in the bed beside his prayer mat is his sleeping, pregnant wife. Before Rama leaves, he also takes leave of his father.

Later on in the apartment building, when the fighting begins, the camera focuses on one of Tama Riyadi’s men, who notices Rama among the police officers. The gang member, Andi, goes down with other gangsters from the top floor who are sent to the fight. Andi finds Rama alone and exhausted from fighting, and takes care of him–Andi is Rama’s brother, and the real reason that Rama volunteered for the mission.

Tama Riyadi and Mad Dog discover Andi’s relationship to Rama, and use Andi as a hostage to draw Rama out. [SPOILER] Rama and Andi fight Mad Dog together, and win, killing Mad Dog. After Tama Riyadi is killed, Andi lets Rama and the 2 other surviving police officers out, but refuses to go with him. He says that Andi’s presence in the crime underworld keeps Rama safe, but Rama can’t keep Andi safe in the face of the law.

Besides all that drama, what makes the family sub-theme interesting in this movie is that it is so understated, while being the main drive of the main character. The movie does not use the obvious “live-for-your-pregnant-wife” inspiration, there are no flashbacks that give Rama strength. And yet, the construction of the movie, the darkness and the hopelessness of it, beautifully frame Rama’s real mission: to bring his brother back from the crime underworld.

[Personal Reaction] Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Or, What On Earth Happened To The Winter Soldier?

Besides, of course, that cameo of Bucky at the end of the movie. [Warning: this review is a personal reaction]. Oh, right.

Avengers Age of Ultron


In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers (Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Ironman, Thor) take on Ultron, a super-robot designed to keep “peace in our time.” He interprets “peace” as the complete lack of human beings on earth, and uses his intelligence to prepare a massive robot army for that purpose. Joining him are Pietro (Quicksilver, speed) and Wanda (Scarlet Witch, telekinesis etc.) Maximoff, since a Stark weapon killed their parents.

Ultron plans to raise the (fictional) Eastern European nation of Sokovia to a height large enough to destroy Earth when dropped upon it. [SPOILER] The Avengers fight back with the aid of Vision, who is composed of one synthetic body, J.A.R.V.I.S., an infinity stone, and a Thor lightning bolt. After burning Ultron out of the internet, they kill every one of his bodies before blowing up the raised landmass before it can hit earth.

Personal Reaction

I watched this movie twice (first with my best friend, next with my family), and enjoyed it both times. Most of the fun comes from the humor: Ironman saying “I’m sorry” in a tiny voice after knocking out one of Hulk’s teeth got better the second time around. Quicksilver teasing Hawkeye is also too much fun to watch. However, I did have some major, personal complaints.

My first and foremost complaint is about the action scenes. The split-second montage of half-scenes make for a fast-paced action scene, but it feels like lazy choreography. In the first battle in the snow, for example, the Black Widow engages in hand-to-hand combat. I sat quiet through most of the cut scenes until she turned for a shoulder throw, and the frame cut.

The next scene showed her opponent on the ground, and the Black Widow moving on. My brain couldn’t believe what my eyes had not seen. Did they just cut a shoulder-throw, one of the easiest kinds to film? I am aware that certain kinds of action films depend on the fast pace to move them along, but that cut section was obvious to the point of sloppiness.

Next. What on earth happened to Captain America? My favorite Avenger film happens to be The Winter Soldier, because of the level of thought and time they put into Steve Rogers/Captain America. First, they established that Captain America was not just some chemically-enhanced human with rock-hard punches.

The first full-length fight scene on the ship in The Winter Soldier is a well-choreographed showcase of what happens when judo meets the savate (French martial art, designed for sailors). Captain America goes from 1-D to a gorgeously rendered 3-D, just by refining his fighting style.

Last, I really missed the well-developed moral dilemma of The Winter Soldier. Not that, you know, the interpretation of “peace in our time” was not a deep moral dilemma. However, the concept was too obviously broad and the measures unnecessarily general. Obviously, the entire human race cannot be wiped out to make way for “peace on earth.”

On the other hand, the dilemma of The Winter Soldier presented a more realistic crisis to watchers. If there was a program that could identify the future threats of humanity, and destroy them, should they be allowed to? This is the same moral dilemma that makes Minority Report a watchable movie, until now.

The question of “saving the future” by eliminating its threats is rational enough to place the bad guys on the side of questionable good. Captain America becomes their perfect enemy because he fights for the democratic ideal that people should be allowed to make–and possible change–their own choices. With the presidential elections in 2016, the question of choice and preemptive action has become more relevant than ever. As a politics major, I think Age of Ultron should have seen and capitalized on that fact, for more impact.

[Personal Analysis] Psychometry (2013)

[The article follows the Korean system of Lastname Firstname. So Choon-Dong Yang [First Last] becomes Yang Choon-Dong [Last First]].

Psychometry Synopsis

Unlike Hot Fuzz (2007), the “only” cop movie of the UK, Psychometry (2013) is one of a number of cop movies and series in South Korea. (The English title is The Gifted Hands, but the romanized Korean title is Saikometeuri). Psychometry follows Yang Choon-Dong (Kim Kang-Woo), a police detective who wants to investigate a missing-child case even though most missing children turn up in 24 hours. The missing girl is found dead in a playground a month later.

Psychometry (2013)

Yang Choon-Dong recalls that he tried to catch a graffiti artist much earlier in the month, who had spray-painted the body in the playground on a wall. Thinking he had something to do with the murder, he tracks him down. He discovers that the kid, Kim Joon (Kim Beom) has the psychic gift of “psychometry”–he receives memories and sensations when he touches anyone. With his help, Detective Yang tracks down a serial killer, who has been kidnapping and murdering young girl-children.

Personal Analysis

This is the first Korean movie I watched, certainly the first cop movie, and the first thing that threw me off was the lack of uniforms. Coming from a nation where police officers are dressed to the gills as police officers, it took me some time to realize that the Korean detectives were not a special force of some kind. With additional movies and dramas under my belt, I soon discovered that all Korean detectives are, in fact, plainclothes. Talk about stressful.

Like in traditional cop movies and dramas, there are many dark-night streets here. Anyone used to thinking of South Korea as metropolitan would be amazed at the number of weird, twisty-turny back-alleys that turn up in the movie. However, I have watched enough k-movies and k-dramas (I think) to say that this is definitely one of the darker ones.

Naturally, the presence of a serial killer makes the entire story dark. However, one can watch a lone woman making her way home down a dark alley in the dead of night, and trust her to run at the first sign of danger. In this movie, the serial killer would actually wait in his car (in a dark alley, in the dead of night), and then call to girl-children outside at that hour, asking if they would like to see his dog. Being children, most of them went to look.

Analytically, the sections of the film showing how the killer lured his victims are perfect for giving the story a sense of urgency. At the same time, it might almost be argued that “too much” time is spent on the children standing in the dark alley. Flashbacks of Detective Yang also show that his younger brother went missing when he left him alone, pulling the story back to that same problem.

South Korea has one of the lowest crime statistics in the world. Their crime levels are 90th in a survey of 93 countries. At the same time, they rank 2nd out of 93 when asked if they feel safe walking at night (the higher, the more said “yes”). At the same time, serial kills are on the rise, supposedly because of the more “individualized” lives South Koreans are living at the moment.

The movie reflects both of these elements: the possible over-perception of personal safety in South Korea, and the dangers on the rise especially for the most vulnerable, young children. When I showed it again to my family, we agreed; a clear sub-theme in the movie was a warning to South Korean families to start extending more protection to their children.

Warrior (2011) And Complex Characters

Warrior Synopsis

Warrior (2011) is a mixed martial arts (MMA) movie, directed by Gavin O’Connor. It focuses on two brothers, Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton). Tommy is a U.S. Marine, while Brendan is a physics teacher. Both have a background of mixed martial arts, trained under their alcoholic father Paddy Conlon.

In the story, both Tommy Riordan and Brendan Conlon need the $5,000,000 prize offered in Sparta, an MMA tournament. Tommy needs the prize money to fulfill a promise to the widow and child of a fallen Marine; Brendan needs to save the roof over his and his family’s heads. Both brothers train, Tommy under their father, but not under friendly agreement; Brendan trains with a friend and MMA coach, Frank Campana.


[SPOILER ALERT] Both brothers make it to Sparta, and fight their way through the opponents until they face one another in the final round. Their opposite fighting styles evenly match them, until Brendan dislocates Tommy’s shoulder in Round 3. In Round 4, Brendan puts Tommy into a rear naked choke until Tommy taps out.

So What?

The themes of family, unconditional love, and warrior spirits would not be so clearly displayed without the complexities of the main characters. At first glance, and second and third, Tommy Riordan is the “bad boy” son. He is rude (deliberately goes to sleep while his father is apologizing), takes unspecified pills (his father divests him of all three containers), and stays aloof of everyone.

On the other hand, Brendan Conlon is too obviously the “good boy” son. He has a wife and two daughters, a house, and a respectable job as a high school physics teacher. On the side, he fights in low-level MMA fights for extra cash.


Tommy jumps into heroism when a Marine in Iraq recognizes a 30-second video of him in the ring. The Marine sends a video to the  media, describing how Tommy Riordan pulled the door off a tank to save the Marine and his comrades.

Before movie viewers have a chance to really cheer, we find out that Tommy is hiding out at home because he deserted. Caught between the two acts, viewers simply watch on until they find out that Tommy’s squad was killed by friendly fire, and that Tommy promised to provide for a comrade’s family–which is why he joins Sparta.

On Brendan Conlon’s side, his life looks straight enough–with the occasional underground MMA fight. Viewers immediately sympathize when he protests that his daughter’s open-heart surgery drained their mortgage fund. A few days later, Paddy Conlon tries to visit his son to celebrate his 1000th day of alcoholic abstinence.

Brendan refuses to let him into the house or speak with his family, because of the memories of drunken abuse. Later in the story, Brendan and Tommy meet for the first and only time before the Sparta competition. There we discover that Brendan was supposed to leave with Tommy and their mother, but stayed with their father because he believed that his favoritism of Tommy (a fighter prodigy) would shift to himself. Brendan, the “good boy,” has as little forgiveness in his heart as Tommy does.

The different sides of the characters leave viewers locked into the story. It is a brilliant exposure of the complex forces that push both the main characters into the Sparta competition. Through the characters, the story becomes less about who wins the fight than about the broken relationships of the Conlon men.

The story is made even better by the skillful fight choreography, which looks beautifully unstaged. Martial arts enthusiasts can actually see how the different fighting styles lend to defeat or victory in each match. The music is used sparingly, most sections are without it, but it lends to the story in sections with strong emotions. The flow of the story moves relentlessly to a satisfying climax.

[Personal Response] Hot Fuzz (2007)


Hot Fuzz (2007) is a British satirical comedy film, a cop movie that pays homage to the long tradition of cop films everywhere but the UK, according to director Edgar Wright. The story follows Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a record-breaking member of the Metropolitan (London) Police Service. Angel is promoted to Sergeant and sent off to Sandford, Gloucestershire, when his skills make the whole Service look bad by comparison.

Hot Fuzz

In Sandford, the underage drinkers, vandals, and kids sitting around in hoodies provide the only disturbances to the peace. However, an odd series of seemingly accidental murders (a stove exploding when the owner falls asleep, a person tripping and falling on her own garden shears) calls Angel’s attention.


Angel believes them serial murders, but is at a loss until one of the grocery employees tries to murder him. Nicholas Angel discovers that the murders are committed by the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, composed of all the leading citizens, to remove any pesky elements before the Village of the Year Award.

Angel’s partner and friend, Danny Butterman, fake-stabs Angel and gets him out of town. However, Angel returns armed with more guns than he should have been able to hold, and he and Danny Butterman follow every classic cop film move until the classic cop film ending. [SPOILER] (They win).

Personal Response

A close friend showed me this movie during a sleepover at her house (which, as all sleepovers go, involved very little sleeping). We abandoned our Sims for a movie, and she decided unilaterally that we should watch Hot Fuzz, second movie of the Cornetto Trilogy. Okay, I said.

The first part of the film lists all of Nicholas Angel’s accomplishments, from “born and schooled in London” to “received 9 commendations in 12 months.” As we were watching, my friend solemnly intoned, after every sentence, That’s you. That’s you. That is not me, I complained. And then, Angel’s ex-fiancée told him, “You just can’t switch off, Nicholas!” I turned to my friend. Oh look, I said. It’s me. Then I settled down to fully sympathize.

In my opinion, Hot Fuzz is definitely watchable but not re-watchable. The storyline (despite being a parody) is not too predictable, the characters are fun to watch, especially Danny Butterman doing his best to become a “real” cop like Nicholas Angel.

However, there were just too many characters and story relationships to keep up with. We end up caring for Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman, and then try to keep up with who is who is related to who doing what for the rest of the movie. There are too many names and too many faces involved (especially those of the Neighborhood Watch Alliance), without enough incentive to watch again to figure them out.

Another turn-off for me was the highly stylized gore. [SPOILER-slash-GORY DESCRIPTION] One character actually had his head completely smashed by a falling piece of masonry, in full-color detail. The idea was in line with the dry, blunt humor of the entire film, since the gore was supposedly stylized enough so that the audience would just laugh off the violence.

In a way, it was reminiscent of films like Japan’s Zatoichi, which have blood shooting out in weird ways, as part of the effect and to lessen the gravity of the kills. However, with an almost-perfect replay memory, I would have appreciated more suggestion than blunt force trauma to the memory.

In other words, I could watch the film once, but never again. Okay, maybe I could watch parts again. But it stops halfway short of being a classic, and is extremely forgettable at that. Everything but the gore.