Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Heaven's Burning (1997) - By Mark Oswald

Russell Crowe is back in the Soda on the Roof blog with another obscure mid-90’s flick that’s got less action than No Way Back, but more production value and talent involved. So I guess that may even the two movies out. Personally I’d trade Crowe’s dumb Elvis-inspired hair-do for some more action and a little less pretentiousness, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Heaven’s Burning is an Australian production, but seems highly influenced by the films of Mr. Quentin Tarantino. It presents you with a series of bizarre but memorable characters in a serious situation, but filled with enough dark humor and sudden swells of violence to keep you on your toes. The story follows a young Japanese bride who ditches her husband on their honeymoon (it was an arranged marriage and the guy was sort of a douche, so it’s OK). Shortly after making her break, however, she winds up taken hostage in a failed bank robbery, where Crowe is the getaway driver. Things soon turn even more to shit when his crew wants to kill the girl, so Crowe makes a heroic stand and takes off with her in tow. The former bride is instantly taken with him and even though he initially tries to get of her, she wins him over and a connection forms between them. While on the run, Crowe and Co. are being hunted down by the gang he betrayed, the husband she left, and the police, who are looking for them both.

In case you were wondering, no, it’s not a coincidence that I’ve reviewed two obscure Russell Crowe movies within a month’s time. I got the sudden urge to catch up on some of his films that I’ve either never seen, saw a while ago and forgot about, or those that I am just hearing of now. I doubt I’ll be reviewing too many more of them on here, but you may get lucky, or unlucky, depending on your feelings towards the Aussie actor.

While we’re on the subject of all things RC, I feel the need to post a short exchange I had with a woman in the lobby of my office building several months back. Coming out of the adjacent Starbucks, I hear:

Woman: “You look just like Russell!”

Me: “Umm, Russell who?

Woman: “Crowe!”

Me: “Oh, uhh thank you, I think.”

Sorry, I just had to perpetuate my rugged manliness and its effect on others. End of story, consider yourselves titillated.

Compared to No Way Back, Heaven’s Burning is practically Oscar-bait, but otherwise, it’s nothing too earth-shattering. There are several good lines of dialogue and the acting is solid all around (Crowe gets to use his native accent for once). I sometimes had trouble buying into the love story portion of the film, though. It seemed like the Japanese ex-bride was really enamored with Crowe’s character, but I never really felt him giving off the same vibe. Maybe he was just playing it cool, you know? I guess he’s got to keep up his macho image to prove those muscles aren’t just for show. I also thought the ending was a tad over-dramatic. I mean looking at it in general terms, it’s pretty traumatic, but the way it’s carried out seemed a little much. All in all, it was an entertaining ride, though. I wouldn’t consider it required viewing or anything, but if you’re a big fan of the Russell, then I’d say give it a shot. After a while, you might not even notice his ridiculous side-burns anymore. Or maybe they’ll get you all hot and bothered. Probably not, though…

Body Count – 14

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