20 Aug 2014
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This Week at the Movies

'Cosmopolis' is a cerebral and chilly collaboration between David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo, while 'The Expendables 2' is about as ridiculous as you're likely expecting it to be.

This Week at the Movies

"Cosmopolis" follows a fateful day in the life of a man who is so wealthy and has more than he could possibly ever want that the only thing to excite him is the possibility of losing everything he has, including his life.

The film is by David Cronenberg, one of our greatest living directors, and is based on a novel by Don DeLillo, one of our most celebrated authors. While the film is certainly good and worth seeing, it does not represent either of its creators at the peak of their powers.

The picture, which is possibly the most cerebral you'll likely see this year, will undoubtedly divide audiences. Its pacing is purposely slow, its characters chilly and removed and its themes opaque. And yet I still found this often impenetrable film to be intriguing.

At the film's beginning, billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson, proving he has a future beyond the "Twilight" saga) hops in his stretch limo for an odyssey across the streets of New York in search of a haircut.

It is explained to him that he could get his hair snipped at any number of places near his office, but he decides he needs to travel to the barber who tended to his coif as a child. Packer likely views this haircut as something tangible as opposed to the world of cyber capital in which he makes his trade.

As his limo crawls towards its destination, he is visited by various advisers, including his chief of theory (a standout Samantha Morton), who explains how money has "lost its narrative," as well as an art dealer (Juliette Binoche) and his wife. In one particularly memorable sequence, he has a discussion with an adviser while undergoing a rectal examination.

Packer is told by his chief of security (Kevin Durand) that his life is in danger and that an armed man is stalking him through the city.

The picture becomes more surreal as it progresses, leading up to a strange - and not completely effective - sequence between Packer and Paul Giamatti, who plays a former employee.

"Cosmopolis" is filled with interesting ideas - such as the concept that Packer's limo is a hearse or grave, of sorts, that is delivering him to his final resting place -  and standout scenes, especially one during which Pattinson and Morton discuss the value of money while the world burns outside the limo.

Cronenberg has been on a winning streak for the past 10 to 15 years with films as diverse as his adaptation of J.G. Ballard's "Crash," "Spider," "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises" and last year's "."

While "Cosmopolis" is often a fascinating viewing experience, it does not rank with the director's best work of recent years. I'm not sure whether audiences will respond favorably to the film, but I doubt they'll soon forget it.

I wish the same could be said for "The Expendables 2," which brings back to the old gang - Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews and Jason Statham - and adds some new blood - Jean Claude Van Damme (as a villain named - I kid you not - Vilain), Nan Yu and Chuck Norris, who smirks his way through a five-minute cameo.

I could summarize the plot, but I won't bore you with the details. Van Damme and his gang steal some weaponry of value and Stallone's team must retrieve it.
Along the way, bodies are torn to pieces by knives, machine guns, rockets and a helicopter blade. During one sequence, one of the good guys, mind you, commends one of his pals for being creative by sawing off a villain's head and putting it in a bag.

In another scene, Willis's character gets tired of hearing Schwarzenegger repeat that he'll "be back," prompting Ah-nold to say, "Yippee, ki yay." Yuk, yuk.

"The Expendables 2" is pretty much as goofy as you're likely expecting it to be. If you go in with no expectations other than to see past-their-prime 80s action stars blow stuff up and splash blood all over the walls, you might not be disappointed. Others may need not apply.

"The Expendables 2" is playing at Douglaston's Movie World, while "Cosmopolis" is screening at Manhattan's Sunshine Cinema.

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