Sunday, 1 February 2015



Phoenix Vice.

148 Minutes. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Michael K. Williams & Martin Short. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.

Vice City stories. Gordita Beach, Los Angeles 1970. It's all about Phoenix. Rising like that mythological bird from the ashes of beard in the sink clippings of when he told the world 'I'm Not There' (a smarter film than most give paid attention due credit to), to a purple haze of P.C.P. infused P.I, the man in black is back! The greatest portrayor of Johnny Cash to 'Walk The Line' all whilst holding his thumb down to the biggest and best 'Gladiators' this guy re-enters the arena as one of the Academy's best actors even without the nomination in this two time Oscar hopeful. This is his 'Fear and Loathing' in Los Angeles, even with one too many shots from 'The Rum Diary'. Following his performance alongside the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a movie that truly brought him back to our consciousness, Joaquin Phoenix teams up with 'Magnolia' and 'There Will Be Blood' director Paul Thomas Anderson to show he is really 'The Master' in 'Inherent Vice'. No not a film about rolled up sleeves, 80's music and Crockett and Tubbs, but a film about a lot of sex, even more drugs and maybe a hint of some rock and roll. Inherently good and playing this bum of a beach boy in denim, canvas, straw and flip flops the man that played Cash looks like he could bank on following Val Kilmer to be the next man to open the doors on a Jim Morrison biography as he relights his fire under the act of cigarettes and narcotics.

Phoenix is just this smoking right now as he gets his Magnum P.I. on, minus the moustache, but a lot of hash. Still there's more substance here than some doped out tale of overdosing it in the city of fallen angel's like former Hollywood stars. This almost three hour fare holds you in a haze of a subtle vice grip, more like stroke as you stay with it through all the seventies blur of confusion and mind-fudgery. Part of this may be because this thing looks perfectly the part. Filmed beautifully to make it look like it was made in the seventies it was set in, this looks as real as it gets, even if it is set in some fictitious sand. This thing is shot through something that it looks like you could probably snap up in a Venice Beach hut shop...and that's a good thing. Plus between all the thrift shop find fashions and time and tide, look, sounds and far out feels this whole film is just on another level entirely. This ones a trip...truly. Back in fond, nostalgia time if you ever lived through this era or to the vivid imaginations of your dreams if the closest you've ever got to something like this is wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, whilst looting through your parents old vinyl for that perfect iPod sound. There's some great story here too, adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel almost word for feeling as cult classic meets cult classic all the way down to the electric cover art and neon titles. Through all the crime fighting and solving between the law of the land and the disorder of drugs there's even some moments of classic comedy straight out of the sketchbook of when slapstick was the stuff of Pythons not snakes in the grass. Trust your rib -cage, nothing will tickle you as much as this right now. And people thought they'd laughed enough at this guy falling down. He brings it to a whole new Chaplin level art form.

Joaquin delivers it all perfectly, between permed hair and straw hats, offset by blind mans shades and dirty feet. He brings more than jokes and joy to this film he carries for 128 minutes however. He also brings a lot of heart and humility hidden behind a hurt disguised with a lassie-faire, beach beauty adjusted attitude approach. Even amongst some of his hallmark roles, this guy hasn't had a performance as finer. This thrifts guide to 'L.A. Confidential' as quirky cool and lavish looking as it is would be nothing without Phoenix. Even another former down and out actor with experience in these types of Los Angeles times and celebrity crimes, Downey Jnr (who was first considered) couldn't do it quite like this. Perhaps the Avenger is wasted on the Academy bait of 'The Judge' and the great, mainstream 'Iron Man' and 'Sherlock Holmes' franchise series' that should really explore more of Stark and Sherlock's substance addiction problems by the book. Even with all of Hollywood here, Phoenix rises above all the all-stars this February. This film has it all. A bevy of beautiful leading ladies, including Katherine Waterston, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom and a nice Cash reunion with 'Wild' talent Reese Witherspoon. Even down to 'The Wire' of Michael K. Williams and Martin Short this 3 hours is full of big names in the bright lights of the big city. Still there's a big three here for each hour here starting with Benicio Del Toro's legal aid. This man who even glammed it up grandly for 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' hasn't been better in a crime syndicate since he told some sucker to hand him their car keys. Get it?! "What the"?! Even Thanos of the moment Josh Brolin is here, copping another great role as a detective shouting "MORTO PANACAKO" and looking like he's more than good and ready to pop Phoenix's head off his shoulders in every scene and flatten him like a pancake. Add the ever lovable Owen Wilson and another signature drawl and definitive performance to this and what's not to like? Those three big stars and the rest of the mamas and papas of the Hollywood, California calling cast keep you on the surf, but Phoenix is the one who truly makes waves. River will be proud. There's no escaping this vice. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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