Say what you will about the not-late/far-from-great filmmaker Uwe Boll, but he never for one second in all his awful movies thought he was Martin Effing Scorsese.
Dito Montiel can’t say the same. A delusional hack who must have the silkiest pitch in all of film — How else do you explain how he keeps working, and how good actors keep signing up? — he treats every C-picture he pumps out as if it was “Goodfellas.”
And actors from Robert Downey Jr. and Rosario Dawson (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”) to Dwayne Johnson (“Empire State”) and Robin Williams (“Boulevard”) fall under his spell — or for his spiel.
“Man Down” is his latest lurid, manipulative hackwork “epic,” and Shia LaBeouf and Kate Mara are the latest suckers to hear his siren’s call.
Big moments drown in a soundmix of sappy muzak. Violence is graphic, characters are tested ritualistically, little lives are writ large. And good actors are wasted, left and right. Classic Montiel.
“Man Down” is about a Marine (LaBeouf) whom we meet in an urban wasteland, searching America on one last mission — to find his wife (Mara) and son (Charlie Shotwell). And from the first flashback — taking us back to Gabriel Drummer’s basic training — we know where this is headed.
Five minutes in. That’s got to be a new cinematic record. We don’t have to see “Gabe” sit down with a shrink (Gary Oldman), see other flashbacks to his home life or revisit “the incident” in Afghanistan that set him off.
We don’t have to waste one moment that we could spend staring at our phone or checking our watch pondering what role Gabe’s “battle brother” (Jai Courtney) plays in this melodrama.
It’s that obvious.
We get a dose of Gabe’s taste in TV Middle East propaganda (Fox’s Bill O’Reilly) and his politics from just a single line — about a Coca-Cola.
“That cane sugar. Mexicans do it right, don’t they?”
He loves his son so much that he gives them a code-phrase so that the boy’s classmates won’t tease him when he says “I love you” dropping him off at school.
The training sequences are generic, though Tory Kittles impresses as a drill instructor.
The Middle Eastern combat scenes are nothing we haven’t seen 124 times over the past dozen years.
And the scenes in the fictional “present,” with a wild-eyed Gabe hassling the homeless (Clifford Collins, Jr.) as he hunts for his kid? Nothing that throw us off the scent.
Which is more an odor, in this case. I’m not a LaBeouf hater. See “American Honey” if you need a reminder that he has the goods.
But Montiel? Believe it or not, this isn’t his worst movie. And most shocking of all, it’s not his last. He has some probable abortion titled “The Clapper” already in the can.
Uwe Boll, lest we forget, knew when to call it quits. But then, he never thought he was the New Scorsese.
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence, and language throughout
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Gary Oldman, Jai Courtney, Clifford Collins Jr.
Credits:Directed by Dito Montiel , script by Adam G. Simon and Dito Montiel. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 1:32