Sunday, 31 January 2010

No.2 : The Shadow

In 1930’s New York the bad guys better watch themselves or they may just get laughed at by our titular hero - and he’s the one running about in a cape and a floppy hat.

The film opens with Alec Baldwin in a bad wig being all diabolical in China. Somehow he’s an opium lord with a gaggle of henchmen and a pretty strict employee welfare policy. After ignoring a threat he’s bundled off by some monks who train him up to be a good guy. Their theory is that as a bad guy he knows how bad guys think and therefore will be more effective - would of served them right if he’d ran off with their cash box.

After a time and money saving story scroll we land in New York seven years later in the midst of a gang land rub out. The bad guys are slow about their business and this give The Shadow plenty of time to fanny about and laugh a lot. The victim is saved and very grateful, but not one to do a favour for nothing The Shadow demands that he now does his bidding as one of his network of agents - it didn’t say what would happen if he told The Shadow to bugger off - it’s not like he asked to be saved or anything. He also gives all of his helpers a red ring - the dirty bastard.

Back in his playboy millionaire guise of Lamont Cranston The Shadow shows off his two great talents - telling people to forget things and pulling the ladies - surprised he bothers to do any Shadow stuff at all.

Meanwhile back at the museum a mysterious package has arrived from the east and as everyone who works in a museum knows, that’s got to be bad news. Of course it turns out to be a recently revitalised Genghis Khan who also has the power to tell people to do stuff. The strings are being pulled from behind the scenes, or more correctly from behind a big bill board, and soon the city is being held to ransom with only the Shadow and his pals able to save the day. Will funny haired Ian McKellen’s bomb blow up everything? Probably not as you might have guessed.

This is a right old mess of a film with few things to recommend it. For a start it doesn’t seem to know if it’s a comedy or a thriller with seemingly straight scenes being unintentionally funny and the lighter moments being dull and overly earnest.

The cast is pretty good but Tim Curry and Ian McKellen are criminally underused. Baldwin is mostly dreadful but to be fair he does get some awful dialogue and has to play twin roles both of which are rotten. As the playboy he’s a below par Bruce Wayne who every so often speaks in a stern voice with dramatic music cues when he wants things done or forgotten. As The Shadow he does deep bellowing voice that‘s meant to sound threatening and mysterious but comes across as a bit camp.

The Shadow himself is a poor hero with his powers of moving quickly and laughing a lot never going to set the screen alight. His motivations are never really explained and it seems it’s all down to ‘a monk told me to’. It looked a lot more fun being a drug lord.

The proto-cgi is bad with the teleporting monk and flying dagger especially ropey. The city looks quite good in places but in many scene the use of sets and matte paintings is painfully obvious. The plot is all over the place and I kept losing track of who was good, who was bad, who was being controlled and who was miscast.

The dramatic finale with Ian McKellen’s dotty scientist trying to diffuse a bomb on a countdown as The Shadow fights his nemesis was strangely played for laughs with an never worse McKellen failing to raise a smile as the colour blind boffin looking for a green wire to snip.

The film was directed by ‘Highlander’ helmer Russell Mulcahy who seems to have done little since on the big screen and we all must be thankful for that. Ultimately I think the film failed as the hero was poorly defined and set against a baddie with the same powers as him - where’s the fun in that? If you must have a THE superhero The Rocketer, The Spirit and The Phantom must be better bets …stay tuned!

THE Tag Line : The Shadow Blows! 45%

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