Did you hear about the young novice writer who originally sought to emulate both the writer of MAN IN THE HOLOCENE and the author of THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN? Facing an impossible task, he struck out on an independent course, and became neither Frisch nor Fowles.
Oliver Hirschbeigel is a very interesting German director, whose last two movies, Das Experiment, based on the Stanford Prison Experiments in 1971, and Downfall, the recent film about Hitler’s final days, are both flawed but very watchable films that received a good bit of attention in the US. I preferred the former, which starred Morris Bleibtreu, Franka Potente’s boyfriend in Run Lola Run. Das Experiment marries the post-facist German soul to reality televison and explores what happens when an investigative reporter infiltrates a research project that arbitrarily assigns its subjects the roles of either prisoner or guard in a mock-up of jail life. Naturally the experiment goes too far…
As often happens to European directors who make a couple of hits, Hirschbiegel was courted by Hollywood and signed on to direct The Invasion, yet another remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and featuring a host of good character actors, including one of my favorites, raspy-voiced Jeff Wincott, the villain in The Crow, the ship’s captain in Alien 4, etc. Excited by this combination of actors and director, I put in my dibs to review it. The picture was shot, finished, and—surprise, surprise—Warner Brothers and producer Joel “Mr. Quality” Silver were unhappy. They brought in the Wachowski Brothers to shoot a new ending—the original ending was too much of a downer. Warner and Silver were still unhappy. About three-quarters of the script was rewritten and James McTeague, the director of V For Vendetta, was brought in to reshoot the picture. Apparently Hirschbiegel is moving to have his name taken off the picture. So what we’re gonna get is, very likely, a mess.
I was curious to learn what so appalled Warner Brothers, so I begged and wheedled and managed to get a DVD of the rough cut of Hirschbiegel’s film. I don’t know what has done to the film, and I don’t know how Hirschbiegel would have trimmed the rough cut, but I’m sure of one thing--we lost a pretty damn good genre film, a darkly frantic story with a hell of a payoff. And I’ll wager that the mongrel we’ll end up seeing isn’t a fraction as good. I’m so tired of Hollywood taking decent films and pre-masticating them so the audience doesn’t have to do any work; all they have to do is lie there and let the liquefied mess drool into their maws. The first film I saw that this happened to was John Woo’s first American movie, Hard Target. As shown in theaters, it was a lame Jean Claude Van Damme film; but the film Woo turned in was 24 minutes longer, was much more violent and twisty, and had a homosexual relationship between villains Lance Hendricksen and Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) that deepened the picture immeasurably. It was a good action movie, the best Van Damme movie ever.