Monday, August 2, 2010

A Decade of Dreck #24: Whiteout

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Hey, Charge Shooters!!! Decade of Dreck is back and now with 89% fewer contributors! Yes, the rest of the crew may have grown exhausted and suicidal from the onslaught of terrible movies but I yet live! With my trademark Midwestern stiff upper lip and lifetime of exposure to Z-grade cinema I will continue to wade through the rest of the hundred worst movies of the first decade of the new millennium. So it is written, so let it be done!

I've decided the best way to approach this monumental task, watching seventy-seven movies that most people wouldn't watch if you paid them, is to start at the best (or rather, least worst) and work my way down to the bottom of the list. Which puts us with Rotten Tomatoes' number one-hundred, the Kate Beckinsale thriller Whiteout.

has the distinction of being one of the most recent of the Worst of the Worst list, having been released on September 11th (fitting) 2009. And if my experience with this doozy of a film is any indication, the rest of this solo endeavor is going to be painful.

places the comely Beckinsale as a the lone US Marshal at an Antarctic research station and wouldn't ya know it, her routine of doing next to nothing is shattered by a murder, the continent's first. If things weren't bad enough, most of the crew is getting ready to head home to avoid the long, brutal winter and there's a nasty storm a-brewin'. Yes, it's just like Jurassic Park, but without dinosaurs or interesting characters.

The great crime of Whiteout isn't so much that it's bad (it is) but that it's boring. If one came into a producer's office and pitched a murder mystery in an Antarctic snowstorm, I can only imagine that the producer might be intrigued. It's a pretty novel high concept; the cold weather and the isolation make for all sorts of interesting setups, right? You wouldn't even have to explain that to me in an opening crawl, I'm already interested. Well, the brain trust behind Whiteout decided you might not be already sold on the idea that Antarctica is a cold, isolated place that might be cool for a murder mystery and decides to literally spell it out for you before anything even happens. Insulting my intelligence is a good way to prevent me from enjoying a movie, but then again I went to college. Expensive college.

The fact that the pre-credits sequence presumes the audience to have effectively zero knowledge concerning the basic properties of a gigantic continent that is know for nothing besides being cold, lonely, and full of penguins (sorry, none of those here) isn't even that terrible once the action starts. We're immediately introduced to our heroine, federal marshal Carrie Stetko by having her walk back to her room and sexily take off her parka and get in and take a hot shower after a long day at work. Mmmm...cheesecake.

Funnyman Brian Posehn once described a talk show appearance where he was made to share the stage with Kate Beckinsale and described her as a woman so beautiful that she just makes him angry. I share Posehn's feelings concerning Ms. Beckinsale, she is indeed a woman whose prettiness elicits impotent rage from my person. "Unngghh! I can never have you!" If you need further proof of this, just watch the Underworld movies and see her prance around in a leather corset killing werewolves or in Pearl Harbor (then again, don't) dressed like a younger version of your grandmother banging Josh Hartnett in a parachute.

I'm not sure what I wanted to say about Beckinsale's performance in particular, I just thought I could stand to mention how pretty I think she is. Oh yeah, she sucks in this. That's what I wanted to say. But then again, everybody sucks in this. Even Tom Skerritt, and he's in Alien AND Top Gun.

In particular Gabriel Macht (he was the title character in the Spirit, 2009 was not a good year for him) sucks harder than most. His character, a UN special agent (they have those?) dispatched to Antarctica when news of the murder reaches civilization, is introduced under sketchy circumstances in such a way as to make you suspect him of being the killer. He is eventually revealed to be innocent and exactly who he says he is but I could never shake the suspicion that he was behind it the whole time. Maybe this is just the filmmakers being talented and keeping me on the edge of my seat, always suspecting everyone, but I'm pretty sure it was just bad filmmaking. He also does such terrible line readings that I assumed that either English was his second language or he might just be an Australian struggling with the accent. Turns out he's from the Bronx. Yeesh.

Whiteout was apparently based on a graphic novel, and thus clearly bares the taint of being one of the hastily greenlit projects in the wake of the comic book movie boom of the mid-2000's. The original work's author, Greg Rucka claims to be satisfied and impressed with the final product of the film adaptation. The only possible explanation is that the graphic novel original must not be that good. That or the old "They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house! I'm not made of stone!"

At the end of the day, if you want your fix of murder mysteries set in Antarctica, you're probably better off renting the Thing.

Whiteout is ranked #100 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 7% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.