Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Wisdom of Crocodiles Review

Jude Law plays Steven Grlscz, an unusual bloke with an unpronounceable last name. He casually strolls away from a car-wreck scene - we learn later that was his fiancee. Maybe he's not taking it too well. He does, after all, write the word "despair" in his diary.

And then Steven stops a woman from killing herself in a Tube station. He gives her his card, and the two become involved. Then he kills the lady and drinks her blood. He dumps the body and writes the word "disappointment" in his diary. Yeah, Steven's an unusual bloke...

Yet our lead doesn't have long teeth, and can go out whenever he pleases. In fact, murders aside, Mr. Grlscz largely lives like a normal person. He works, tries to avoid fights with muggers, answers questions for the police, and soon gets into the orbit of lovely Anne. She's not just a looker - she's an engineer who just radiates personal strength and confidence.

What follows is Steven's attempt to make things work with what may be the right woman. Of course, given what we've seen, the real question is: right for what?

tWoC is impressive for a lot of reasons. Movies like this don't usually keep you so unsure about the nature of what you're watching. A viewer can't be sure whether Law is playing a human serial killer or some mythic creature. In fact, Steven's exact problem and the meaning behind what we've seen him do? Those are only clarified fairly late into the effort. The movie handles this so smoothly, it doesn't seem cheap.

Of course, as Steven's romance with Anne blossoms, the audience picks up things about this charming man, as well as the two deaths we've seen earlier.

Wisdom also does manage to create and use suspense neatly. Some scenes with the police interrogator (and his love interest) feel a bit like a Hitchcock movie. Law is excellent here - he really eats the material up, as does Elina Löwensohn (loved her in Amateur). The direction is also fine, neatly using the actors and interior/exterior locations. The pace is also good, if unexpected. This was the sort of picture where I looked at my watch near the end, and it was a compliment.

The film succeeds at being quirky in charming ways, and show little interest in many tired movie conventions. There's also a real effort made to bring a lot of maturity and, well, wisdom to the writing. It's very nice to see this in a picture with strong language, violence, sexuality and gore. The cinematic world needs more non-ironic ventures like this one.

So why can I give this movie a slightly above average recommendation? Some of the problems are hard to pin down. so I'll focus on what's easy to point out: for starters, I know it's not going to be for everyone. tWoC will probably not win people over to its genre; it'll either (mostly) work for you or it won't. And the low budget may stand out to some, if only for a few scenes.

A nicely-embroidered card - so that's how to pick up women!

Further, Steven's role is OTT in his abilities and ways. Anyone will believe that a medical researcher with an awesome London flat and Jude Law's looks can score women left and right. It's another to see him display nearly supernatural artistic gifts, then neatly tussle with a group of transit muggers ever who pop up out of nowhere. It's like the writer has a crush on the part.

So, long before the end of the film, Grlscz's feats can make him seem unstoppable. This could actually destroy tension, or make the flick feel cartoonish. Also, the plot with the police investigation may not be satisfying for some. I'd guess the complaints would be something like "they should've either done less or more with this." And there's one moment that lifts straight from Bladerunner and you might hate/mock that.

Of course, I like a lot about this foreign horror/drama ("drorror" or "harma"?). Elina, her lovely jade jewelry, the way Steven's killer is so fun to observe for the movie-watcher... I'd also guess that many viewers will feel slightly blown away by the premise, and (I think) with good reason. The Wisdom of Crocodiles has a lot to recommend it, if you'd even watch this sort of thing in the first place. I can't find a trailer to embed, so watch it at imdb.

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