Renegade (2004) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 4

directing 4

effects 5

editing 4

writing 3

SW SCORE: 20

2 out of 5 🐙

++

(Blueberry is the original title for this film)

(So they went from a terrible but at least unique title to a completely generic one)

(Right, let me get to the review)

The opening credits are pretty. I didn’t expect a western to start underwater. So we’re off to a decent start. But then we quickly dive into cliche. Mike Blueberry, a moody American Marshall with a French accent, loses his virginity to a prostitute. The movie implies he grew up in the United States, but he still managed to get this strange accent. But that’s not where the scene’s failure finishes. The deflowering is romanticized. I have nothing against sex workers. But I am fairly certain that losing one’s virginity to a sex worker is probably not typically an occasion commemorated by many Hallmark cards. And to be fair, few people could assign positive adjectives to this moment in their lives. Could it be romantic? Sure, I suppose. Anything is possible. But here it just feels like the director is trying to add an ironic emotional layer to the scene that just doesn’t seem credible. But the worst thing about this scene is the terrible dialogue. It makes the crap spewed by Butch’s girlfriend in Pulp Fiction look like Chayefsky. 

In the first 30 minutes of the movie, Mike Blueberry has had his accent switch from French to American Southern to Irish. I’m not kidding. People give Nic Cage crap for his incomparable accent in Con Air, but at least it was only one. 

The movie is a confusing mix of poorly transitioned subplots. Besides Cassel, who’s a decent actor normally, the cast has some heavy hitters: Juliette Lewis, Michael Madsen, Djimon Hounsou. The only bright spot of this movie is Juliette Lewis’ turn as singer Maria Sullivan. She has pipes (or she is great at lip-synching) and still has unteachable charisma. Her singing is the only music you want to hear in the movie. You are forced to hear the score because it is distractingly cheesy. There are enough problematic elements in this film to be distracted by. We don’t need the score to fall down. 

Mike Blueberry escapes the horribly written virginity scene and gets taken in by Native Americans. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a marginalized group of people take in a person from the oppressor class and bless him with atypical skills and respectability aura. Michael Madsen plays an outlaw who wants to steal the magic of the native Americans and use them for evil. Blueberry is adopted by the tribe and passes their adult rite of passage ritual, and we know he’s going to use his sacred knowledge for good (another common trope).

You can see where this is going, right? Madsen and Cassel are on an inevitable collision course. I wish I could tell you how we got there. The 2nd act feels like a slog through a swamp. There is an unrelenting wall of brooding and psychological angst, and all of it is mind numbing. Mind numbing is not the best result if you’re aiming to use the mental plane to create drama.

I will say this about the virginity scene; at least it was memorable. The journey to the clash between the good guy and bad guy is a forgettable slog of exposition, bad acting, subpar effects, and no humor. When they finally do clash, it is in the form of a battle on some sort of metaphysical plane. It takes entirely in their minds. So not only does nothing happen (forgive me, psychological thriller fans) but when it does happen it is artlessly rendered by cheap CGI. But at least the climax battle is short, right? Wrong. They manage to stretch out this anticlimactic climax for about five times as long as they needed to. It takes a rare creative team to make the final battle boring. 

Well, at least they kept the quality consistent to the end. 

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(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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