Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jason Patric prefers indie films

This Jason Patric piece appeared in The Kansas City Kansan, Nov. 21, 2003. Since that time Patric has appeared in 20 movies, including his role as Jim Bowie in 2004’s "The Alamo," and Lt. Kirklander in "In the Valley of Elah" (2007). It is no surprise that most of the 20 are indies.
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By Steve Crum
Jason Patric is prepped to talk. It is Thursday, Nov. 14—the Kansas City map dot on a multi-dot promotional tour for this star’s movie, Narc, which opens in several weeks, Jan. 10.
The star whose career really began 15 years ago as the endangered teen amongst vampire buddies in The Lost Boys sits in a private dining area in the Plaza’s Fairmont Hotel. At 36, Patric barely resembles his role as Narc’s haggard and beleaguered undercover cop, Nick Tellis. His beard is shadow faint now, fashionable. 
An actor who prefers roles in small budget, independently produced films, he was drawn to Narc.
An “indie” from the get-go, it became big time after  industry buzz and Tom Cruise’s championing attracted Paramount/Lions Gate to distribute.
These 30 minutes with Patric are mainly about the business of Narc. Unmentionable is any reference to his late grandfather, TV’s “Great One,” Jackie Gleason. He has said his grandfather was never a part of this growing up. And stay away from the time he ran off with Julia Roberts on the eve of her marriage to his pal Kiefer Sutherland. Verboten. Patric is now attached to super model Christy Turlington. 
Although his late dad, actor-playwright Jason Miller, star of The Exorcist, was a writer most his life, the son has no such aspirations.
Patric does talk about his sporadic film career peppered with little known independent titles (3 Days of Rain, Denial), a TV movie (Geronimo: An American Legend), and Hollywood product (Your Friends & Neighbors, Rush, Sleepers). Little is said of his star spot in the poorly received Speed 2: Cruise Control
“1997 was a bad year,” he recalls. “There were Sleepers, Incognito, and Speed 2.” He then chose to produce and star in 1998’s Your Friends & Neighbors. “I enjoyed the production end, but it takes a lot of time.” A half smile. “But it’s worth it.”
In the beginning, circa 1987, he was cast with fellow teens Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, and Corey Feldman in a tale of urban vampirism, The Lost Boys.
“I never made the Brat Pack movies after that,” he says, even though he had every opportunity to follow his colleagues. Movies like License to Drive and Young Guns were typical for them. Instead he chose movie roles like the Afghan tank driver in The Beast, the kind of film that artistically satisfies Patric. 
Along came Narc with an economical location shoot in Ontario, substituting for Detroit. “It was shot in 28 days,” Patric says. “The budget allowed the launching of some careers.” One hopeful is rapper Busta Rhymes, who plays a drug dealer.
After the low budget Narc wrapped, Patric and co-star Ray Liotta knew they were part of a superior crime drama, and got caught up in the word-of-mouth publicity snowball that led to major studio backing. 
As for his Nick Tellis, the gritty undercover cop/harried family man: “My character is haunted by something he cannot get away from” Actors often draw characterization from experience. “I know a cop in New York,” Patric says, “and I know about the men who are thrust in this situation.” In the film, Patric’s Tellis teams with Liotta’s Henry Oak to solve the murder of a fellow narcotics policeman. 

The future looks like more indie movies for Jason Patric. “Larger movies have a mainstream audience to be fed,” he says. He prefers the opposite. “In independents, (as an actor) you project yourself upon them, so you are or you know one of those characters.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

‘True Story’ needs more action, pacing—truly

By Steve Crum

True enough that there is plentiful cat-and-mouse interplay between the two leads, that the movie is based a truth-inspired memoir, and that a compelling plot line hooks the viewer pretty much throughout. But the truth of True Story’s failing lies is in its pacing and character development. Casting a limited actor like Jonah Hill in one of the two leading roles does not help elevate the film above C level. 

As refreshing as it is not to see a comic book, slam-banger movie this close to summer releases, the talky True Story could use some movement. Adapting it as a stage play seems more plausible. 
That said, True Story’s director, Rupert Goold, teamed with David Kajganich to adapt Michael Finkel’s best selling book into an intriguing screenplay. This is Goold’s first feature film after helming a smattering of PBS-TV Masterpiece Theatres. 

At the story’s outset, Finkel (Hill) is covering a human interest story in Africa about the slave trade. The story is lauded and featured on his paper’s front page, the tenth time his stories have achieved New York Times cover status over the last three years. Finkel and his wife, Jill (Felicity Jones), enjoy a comfortable life outside the city. 

Then complications ensue as hell breaks loose. Christian Longo, creepily and believably portrayed by James Franco, is arrested in Mexico. Longo has been on the lam since his wife and three small children were found brutally murdered. The twist is he has been hiding out by using the name Michael Finkel. 
Concurrently, the real Finkel is fired from his job for falsifying his African story. Soon after, Finkel learns of his namesake’s activities. It does not take long for him to visit Longo at prison with the hope of writing a book recounting the heinous murders. It echoes Truman Capote, but with a same-name angle. 

However, Longo has other ideas which jeopardize the credibility of the already disgraced Finkel. James Franco really carries the film as the questionable suspect, while Hill’s Finkel comes across as naive and witless—so out of character for a guy who was once a major journalist with the country’s top newspaper. 

Mentioning Felicity Jones as Mrs. Finkel is hardly worth a sentence since her role is pretty much nondescript, except for pouting her lips.  
Jonah Hill deserves a plus for stretching his screen persona from daffy teen airhead (21 Jump Street; Superbad) to two Oscar nominations (Moneyball; The Wolf of Wall Street). True Story is a very serious film, and Hill gives it his best. But maybe it is a loft out of his reach since this time he is one of the two stars, not a supporting actor. Throughout he seems to carry the same impassive look.

Releasing True Story now is timely in lieu of reporting scandals over the past months by Rolling Stone magazine as well as NBC’s Brian Williams.
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GRADE on A to F Scale: C