Dinner & a Movie: Jude Law & Gameworks Fail to Overstimulate"/>
The Dinner: Spinach Artichoke Dip, then Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta with a couple big glasses of Shock Top at the World Sports Grille at Gameworks (1511 7th Avenue).
Not exactly Cagney and Lacey.
The Screenplate:If you seriously listened to the hype machines and e-prophets that seemed to be on every media outlet in the late '90s, you probably thought we'd have a Gameworks on every street corner by now. We'd all be taking our optimized carbohydrates through an eating tube while soaring through electronically fabricated fantasy worlds that blurred the unmistakable lines between cinema and video games.
But that didn't happen. It's 2010 and there are no flying cars or virtual reality machines that don't make you look like a walking vibrator.We were once told by social critics like Neil Postman that this would usher in a new era of "amusing ourselves to death," but in the early years of the 21st century, it looks like our amusement--especially in the form of Gameworks--took a far bigger hit than we did.
What was promised to be a future mecca of social gaming is now little more than a bloated arcade serving soggy slices of french bread. As I ate my lukewarm noodles at Gameworks' eerily quiet World Sports Grille, I had to wonder what the hell anyone was so worked up over. Even during the business's quite respectable happy hour, the two-story building of flashing-lights and toy guns seemed downright sedate. Maybe the cultural cataclysm that I'd been hearing so much about had come and gone, leaving me jaded to the terror of children calmly playing Street Fighter before getting bored and going outside for a walk to Meridian 16, where I took in a screening of Repo Men.
This post-modern disaster of a movie cribbed from so many different films that it made me realize the bulk of mainstream entertainment is just too boring to be dangerous. Just like my unevenly warmed, bland mess of Spinach Artichoke Dip at Gameworks, Repo Men started with a tired idea and then sought to execute it as sloppily as possible.
First of all, Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are about as convincing as badass war buddies as Arnold Schwarzenegger was playing an expectant mother in Junior. This can't really be held against the pair. Whitaker has played ruthless and amoral to a tee as Idi Amin without the aid of a single high-concept scalpel fight. And in Enemy at the Gates, Jude Law played a ruthless soldier who came off as far more indomitable without having to show his guts falling out of his body in every other scene.
The problem is, any chemistry these two characters could have is immediately crushed under the weight of a fantasy world that aspires to so many different social critiques that it's hard to actually care about any of the characters inside of it. By the end of the movie, I saw so many incomprehensible moral reversals and fake-out death scenes that I was more or less rooting for the demise of anyone who came onscreen.
The saddest part of Repo Men is that the film really does have a few glimpses of decadent brilliance. A Cronenberg-esque "scanning" scene featuring Law's lover thrusting a phallic-looking device in and out of Law's gaping chest wound as he moans submissively was exactly the sort of overstimulation that I was hoping for. The scene couldn't be called original, but it was at least a flicker of excitement amongst cliches that were way more exhausted.
In the burgeoning field of movies emulating video games, A.D.D.-manboy-geniuses like Neveldine/Taylor and Zack Snyder create epileptic tour-de-forces that never slow down enough to acknowledge any underlying nihilism. However, Repo Men feels more like watching the tired, confused and embittered father left behind at Gameworks' bar to drink watered-down margaritas by himself.