The Red Right Hand

Once Upon A Time...

Terry Gilliam
Matt Damon
Heath Ledger
Peter Stormare
Monica Bellucci
Lena Headey

Gilliam was always my least favourite Python but I've found his cinematic offerings to be broad and sagacious. This is his first attempt at directing since the two pitfalls he found himself desperately trying to avoid - having completed Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas he attempted to make a film called Who Killed Don Quixote? but that fell on it's face so he tried to make the Rum Diaries but that fell through too. Then came rumours that he was in Prague filming The Brothers Grimm. Speculations arose long with talk of this being Gilliam's return to the levels of genius we have seen in Brazil.

Having seen this film, allow me to be the first to tell you that Mr. Gilliam has not returned to form, as I had hoped. The story opens 1796 in the house of Grimm, where the nameless Grimm sister lies dying. Jacob, the younger of the two boys has been sent to get medicine but instead returns with beans [Jack & The Beanstalk]. Then we cut to a nice little credit intro, followed by a pair of riders approaching a town, 15 years later. Needless to say, you've seen the credit sequence, the childhood and fifteen years have already passed and it's only seven minutes in. Unfortunately this pace continues throughout the film, as so much is packed into what little plot is presented. The gist and flow is that the two Grimm brothers, Jacob [Ledger] & Wilhelm [Damon] are nothing more than con men, scaring villagers and then reaping the benefits of their 'exorcisms' in the form of cash payments. It was about then that I started to generate problems with this movie. Everything up until then -bar the rushing- had been impressive; the music was dark and moody, the cinematography was astoundingly beautiful, depicting a grey Germany that would creep anyone out, but then we're treated to the Grimm's con job which irritated me - there's nothing more annoying than someone who's done a period piece then messed around and introduced modern portable elements (as if the henchman could set up all they did in that time, with those sort of prosthetics, pfer!). I had the same problem with Van Helsing, when Beckinsale turned up in lycra. LYCRA! I ask you!

The support cast are odd to say the least. Bellucci pops her head up to play an evil queen rotting in a tower, Jonathan Pryce plays French General, Delatombe, with the worst French accent in cinematic history. For some reason the script called for an eccentric Italian torturer, Cavaldi, so they called on Swedish actor, Peter Stormare - who I think is a king on-screen and seems to turn up in everything. He would have worked so well if he was a psychotic German or Russian.. or even a bloody Swede! but an Italian? It just sounded ridiculous, simply adding an 'a' sound on the end of every word, such a waste.

A large problem I had, was with the script. It seems as if Kruger has tried to compact every aspect of the Grimm fairy tales into a string of haphazard coincidences. Had they done it as a serialised element, where upon the brothers travel from town-to-town discovering new tales of evil I would have been more inclined to care but they don't. Wilhelm is just a greedy browbeater with a hint of back story issues and Jacob seems capricious to the point of being ever-so-slightly insane, trapped in his mad fantasies. For those of you who don't know, Kruger wrote the adaptation of the Ring series, wrote Scream 3 and is set to adapt Stephen King & Peter Straub's Talisman - we can but hope he'll do a better job with this next one.

It's not that this is a bad film, it's simply too boring to care about, there's no plot drive. For some reason they're hopping from one thing to another, like a series of loose events strung together in the hope that they'll gel - which essentially implies that they've snipped bits from the script and not realised and then cut further for time reasons. I really wanted to enjoy this film, I really did but I couldn't help but yawn off some of the crucial moments. On the other hand (and this is something I could praise for hours) it looks absolutely beautiful; every set, every item of costume, every prop looks authentically dark. Granted, everything may not be historically accurate but it's accurate to the effect created from the stories in the book and that's a vitally important issue that I was seriously worried about. Overall it's a beautifully shot film with some interesting and funny moments but it simply lacked energy and directional flow.

Release Date:
4 November 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
There's a meeting in the church, most of the elders of the village are there and as the brothers are trying to determine what has happened in this town one person speaks up and blames the French occupation of Germany. This starts a domino effect of spitting - nothing sets the scene for back-water types then spitting.

Notable Characters:
I want to say Peter Stormare but considering I awarded him this same spot in my Constantine review I feel it's only fair to let someone else have a go and on this occasion it goes to Heath Ledger. His presentation and mannerisms made for the perfect, almost childlike, representation of a man who truly loves, lives and believes in mystical fantasy worlds.

Highlighted Quote:
"You see that armour? I made it myself. It's not magic, it's just shiny!"

In A Few Words:
"Not the book, not even close, but as something else it's pretty good"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon