Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2021 4:54 pm 
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Trouble up north

David Hackl's Dangerous itself might be dangerous if taken seriously. Dangerous has lively gun battles and running around in the dark on a mysterious island in the Pacific Northwest; but it all leaves one feeling empty at the end. There is something a little fishy about the central premise, which treats ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) as a kind of potential secret weapon highly useful not only to criminals but those who battle against them. Police departments, who carefully screen out any recruits who show evidence of ASPD, would strongly differ with this idea.

It's suggested that intelligence, physical adeptness and no feelings about people have made the protagonist a marvelous killing machine that can be turned against bad guys. Dylan Forrester, known as "D," is played by Scott Eastwood, Clint's son, who has been known to play both the good and the wicked. Here, he is ready to swing either way. The movie would suggest that ASPD makes "D" a kind of latent superhero who, with his shrink's permission, returns to his old ways when circumstances demand it. Maybe Scott Eastwood is well cast here, since he is handsome but somewhat wooden. Genes, perhaps.

"D's" background is vague, but it emerges that, having killed some people and done jail time, he has been on parole for a while and in therapy. The shrink, Dr. Alderwood (Mel Gibson), has been training him in behavior modification methods to curb his violent, murderous impulses and he takes his meds throughout the day when his timer chimes. Another sign of his reformed character is his friendly exchanges of letters with his respectable brother Sean (Matthew Chez), a professor in the Pacific Northwest. In the background is FBI Agent Shaughnessy (former Bond girl Famke Janssen), who originally put him away. Tyrese Gibson plays a cop who at first mistakes the bad buys for FBI.

The cops and Agent Shaughnessy move in when "D" leaves a man mauled and strung up in his kitchen. He had to do it; he was attacked. But the authorities suspect him of wrongdoing and absconding. Actually, his behavior this time is innocent. Now he has learned of his brother's sudden death on a place called Guardian Island, which his brother purchased, and has simply gone up there to pay his respects. But he has violated his parole regulations in so doing.

"D's" arrival for his brother's funeral isn't welcomed by his mother Linda (Brenda Bazinet), who tells him repeatedly to get lost. That is, until the arrival of Cole (Kevin Durand), a cocky bad guy accompanied by heavies sporting bad hair and unflattering southern accents (one played with relish by Brenden Fletcher), who begin snooping around the island and menacing Linda. It seems Cole also knows "D" and admired his former prowess. Cole expresses contempt for "D's" current submission to meds and the ministrations of a shrink as a relinquishment of manhood. Linda is sure Cole is showing up due to the presence of "D," but this is not the case. Eventually Linda admits "D" may indeed have changed as he keeps telling her, since now he is acting only to curb Cole and his bad guys and protect the family. It's not an easy task, and there are many gratuitous gunfights. We don't know what all this is about, but it's exciting in a mindless sort of way.

A key feature of Guardian Island is its fortress-like dwelling, whose windows and doors have lead coverings that all simultaneously slam shut with the single pull of a giant power switch, one of the film's niftiest effects. The battles rage around this fortress-house, which used to be headquarters for a naval base on the island. Cole assumes the treasure he is seeking is hidden there. "D" arouses further interest, or maybe just gratuitous excitement, by sometimes being in the fortress and sometimes outside. The naval base hides the film's later revelation, which comes after "D" has realized that his brother's fatal fall from the lighthouse wasn't an accident and that he has had another life he's been hiding from his family.

Mel Gibson's psychiatrist wears glasses in a grandfatherly pose down on his nose and is grey-bearded, be-cardiganed, and almost cuddly. On the phone when "D" calls him for help he continually urges that "D" do as they studied to curb the violent, asocial impulses and never forget to take his meds. But he's also himself apparently alcoholic and, well, Mel. The way he acquiesces to "D's" request for permission to unleash his violent personality once the crap hits the fan is unprofessional but also goofy and silly: Mel, like the most southern of Cole's heavies, contributes at times to the picture's light touch. There's a hint of comedy also in the alacrity with which "D's" little nephew Freddy (Atlee Smallman) takes to him right away, seeing his criminal background as exciting and fun, as boys do.

We might all have joined in the fun with a more clearly distinguishable light touch. We could have derived benefit from more wit, more clarity, and more detailed information about both brothers. There should be more understanding of human psychology before you make ASPD and psychiatric treatment part of your plot. The director is experienced in production design, where he cut his teeth on the "Saw" franchise, and once relished the task of assembling an entire Viking village. Maybe he'll do better as a director another time. And so may his writer, Christopher Borelli.

Many of the cast members are Canadian actors and a lot of this seems to have been shot in Canada.

Dangerous, 99 mins., in theaters and on demand from Lionsgate Fri., Nov. 5, 2021.

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