*/**** Image C Sound B- Extras F
starring George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Marcel Iures
screenplay by Michael Schiffer
directed by Mimi Leder
by Walter Chaw With boring being the one thing from which an action movie can't recover, studio supergroup DreamWorks SKG marking their debut by giving professional director of boring action movies Mimi Leder the bank suggests they were asking to make a terrible first impression. I guess, in their defense, Leder showed promise after a storied career helming boring television episodes--"ER" the place where executive producer John Wells spied her "potential" to one day direct motherfucking Pay It Forward. Wells's own participation in The Peacemaker likewise explains the presence of George Clooney (still trying to pop the balloon of A-list opener) and, later, of Clooney's "ER" replacement Goran Visnjic in an eye-blink cameo. But of all the things the curiously-prescient The Peacemaker predicts*, the lasting one is Leder's incandescent career as a truly awful filmmaker and DreamWorks as a particularly well-funded curiosity that has only confirmed everyone's suspicions about the eponymous Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen. It takes the acceptance of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker over a decade later to restore the idea that an American woman is able to direct a smart, terse action film (which Bigelow had been doing since the mid-'80s)--to undo the damage of high-profile Leder-helmed disasterpieces like this and Deep Impact. No surprise that Leder soon retreated to the boob tube, where she, if not belongs, at least can do the same damage less spectacularly.
Clooney is smirky Lt. Cpl. Devoe, a specialist in smarm, poor impulse control, and making long speeches to people smarter than him. He's the prototypical military type in movies like this: the brawn to brainy beauty Dr. Kelly (Nicole Kidman), an anti-terrorism/nuke expert who, because she's from 1952, is careful to clarify that she'd like an underling who won't have a problem taking orders from a woman. Later, because he's from 1952, Devoe kills some evil Russians, upon which Dr. Kelly mournfully reflects that she's never seen someone die before, thereby defining them both as anachronisms written by old ladies in a film that would have a tough time causing a flutter in a cardiac ward. Ward and June are paired up when other evil Russians steal a few warheads from a convoy and sell them to an Albanian sad-guy (Marcel Iures, the poor man's Jeremy Irons) with designs on blowing up the UN. They're tasked with globetrotting, arguing, and eventually making a date, and all would still be forgiven (well, except that the movie's boring) if at any moment before the final, token bomb-defusing sequence (which ends with the film's second "get thrown by an explosion" moment), we got the impression that the Dr. Kelly character was thought of as an equal instead of as window dressing. Disagree? Then why don't we see Clooney in a bathing suit--twice? Oh, Mimi.
Even if one overlooks the world's worst, most clumsily conceived and edited car chase, helicopter pursuit, and Manhattan foot race, evidence of Leder's almost total tone-deafness as a director finds its ground zero in the introduction of the mournful Albanian as he gives a little moppet a piano lesson in an apartment decorated like the lobby of the Russian Tea Room. Deciding that the best way to shoot this is with a 360-degree pan and a series of dissolves/match-cuts as popularized by John Woo's operas about the cycles of manhood, Leder demonstrates self-consciousness without a sense of self. A stylist without style, she appropriates any number of gadgets and gimmicks, then slathers on a suffocating Hans Zimmer score that identifies all the Russian sequences as outtakes from Fiddler on the Roof. It's so bad, really, that The Peacemaker would be a candidate for camp classic were it not, again, so fucking boring.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Paramount drops The Peacemaker onto Blu-ray in an inconsistent, mediocre 2.40:1, 1080p presentation that betrays a good deal of obvious edge-enhancement as well as a black crush that causes dark colours to blot (Kidman's brown 'do often looks plugged-up) and virtually swallows shadow detail in dimly-lit sequences like the opening train hijack. The lack of real care shown the picture's conversion to HD is obvious; there's a passably filmic quality about a quarter of the time (the transfer excels at reproducing daylight exteriors), and a certain plastic quality the other 75%. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is loud albeit occasionally shrill. Chopper blades sound good, dialogue sounds good--no major complaints, if also no plaudits. As for extras, "Stunt Footage" (5 mins., SD) offers B-roll of the boring car chase, ending with the entire boring sequence in its entire boring entirety, while "From the Cutting Room Floor" (3 mins., SD) is a promo reel incorporating outtakes in which Clooney and Kidman blow their lines and perform unscheduled slapstick. Funny? Not in the slightest. But it is boring--God, is it boring. Originally published: November 10, 2010.
*It's worth noting that, despite its retrograde gender politics, this 1997 release seems to have some insight into not only the long ripples the fragmentation of the Russian republics sent through Yugoslavia--and eventually the Middle East--but also, by extension, the soon-to-explode Kosovo War. (Political aside, here: why is it that in neither side's rhetoric (the religious fundos on both sides of our current mess) is there mention of our entering the Kosovo conflict in the defense of Muslims?) And, of course, The Peacemaker depicts an attack on New York City by fanatical Muslims. return