Monday, March 01, 2010

The Boys Are Back: Grade D

The Boys are Back (2009)
Clive Owen, Nicholas McAnulty, Laura Fraser, Emma Booth; Director Scott Hicks.

Owen is a single father in Australia with an 8 year old boy and a teenage boy by a former marriage. As a newspaper reporter he struggles to take care of the kids and hold down the job, a familiar theme for the single mom scenario, the single dad theme being not quite as common. The main part of the story is the father trying to connect with the kids for the first time in his life. The story line is essentially non-existent beyond that, just a collection of sentimental family scenes that add up to nothing.

The casting of tough-guy Owen in a sensitive role seems a blatantly cynical attempt to change his career direction. He’s not getting any younger and perhaps he wants to avoid the pathos of the aging action hero (Segal, Van Damme, Willis, etc.). He has always been a competent actor, and he actually cries in this movie. That’s what we’re supposed to notice. But what I noticed was that he was miscast and misdirected. He was given no room to exercise his signature trait of grim resolve or his excellent comic timing, so if you didn’t know who Clive Owen was, you would just say the lead character is really flat in this movie. We’re left with a couple of hours of syrupy, maudlin, domestic claptrap and some lovely photography of south Australia.

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