THE CRAZIES: THE REVIEW
I enjoy the hell out of apocalyptic movies, especially if they are done well, and I’m happy to report The Crazies is well done surprisingly well done actually. I had very little hope for this movie to begin with because it was based on one of George A. Romero’s less then stellar outings and that’s saying something since most of his outings, not called Night of the Living Dead, suck.
The Crazies is directed by Breck Eisner who obviosly got this gig by nepotism and a quick perusal of his resume on IMDB shows a disturbing lack of quality. The two writers of the Crazies, Scott Kosar and Ray Wright have between them one good screen play and several crappy ones like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and Pulse both of which are terrible movies. Worse yet George Romero was involved in the process. All that adds up to, in my opinion, an accident waiting to happen yet against all odds they pulled it off.
I’m not going to rehash the plot here because it’s simple: virus, crazies, survival, escape, standard stuff. Instead I’m going to cover why I think the movie worked. First they cast good actors from top to bottom but I’m going to focus on the top three roles in this and it all starts with Timothy Olyphant and he delivered yet again. His turn as Sheriff David Dutton, part of the two man department for a small farming town in Iowa, worked very well. The movie lives and dies with how you think of Olyphant since he is on screen for about 98% of the movie. I’ve always liked him and to me he was true blue in the role. He looks like he could be from that area and he never felt all “hollywoody” in the role. Olyphant has that ability to be likeable and yet have an edge like he could do some serious damage at the drop of a hat. Olyphant handled the emotional and physical changes his character endured in the movie with skill.
Radha Mitchell played Judy Dutton the Sheriff’s wife and town doctor. Mitchell has never really worked for me in anything except Pitch Black but she does great work as Judy, she was equally as good as Olyphant. Their relationship is what drives the movie. You easily accept that the characters would make the choices they make and act the way they do because Olyphant and Mitchell are believable. They are two regular people that rely on the strength of their relationship to survive.
The last main character is Deputy Russel Clank played by Joe Anderson who I have never seen before and by looking at IMBD learned is English. I must commend him on his performance I never once thought he was English. The Australians and English are very good at doing non-regional American accents but suck the big one on trying to Southern or “rural” accents but not Anderson, he was pitch perfect in his supporting job. Anderson turned what could have be a throw away role into something special and he made you believe that Clank and Dutton are friends and that he would make the heroic choice he made.
Lastly what made the movie work is that they decided jettison most of Romero’s original movie and make their own. They followed along the same template as Zach Snyder’s vastly superior remake of Dawn of the Dead. Moving the story from Pennsylvania to Iowa also helped. Even though the flat landscape was wide open it still made you feel claustrophobic and vulnerable in the wide open shots. As a matter of fact the movie that the Crazies most reminded me of is Jaws, no I am not kidding, here’s why and I’m marking this as:
BELOW ARE SPOILERS YOU HAVE BEEN PROPERLY WARNED.
The flat open fields of Iowa reminded me of the ocean vista you saw from the Orca. There is also a scene involving the town Mayor that was probably lifted directly from Jaws. I always thought Jaws had a very claustrophobic feeling even though it was taking place on open water. The Crazies has that same feel.
The bad guys were well done, both the Crazies and the Military. They were smart in keeping the Military behind their MOPP gear because it gave them an otherworldly feel that kept the viewer off balance. Except for two scenes you never see the faces of any of the Soldiers, Scientist or Intelligence officers.
The Crazies were also handled well. Most of the main ones you get to see before they became infected this is because the writers and director chose to build the story slowly and that made the tension rise and the damage done by the crazies seem even worse .
Was everything hunky dory in the Crazies? No they could have cut maybe 5 or so minutes from the movie. It seemed like Eisner fell in love with long shots of characters walking in empty fields and with pensive shots of actors standing around or sitting. He also had one to many jump scares but overall they worked in the context of the story. I wasn’t sure which branch of the Military the soldiers were supposed to be because it seems like they melded the Army and Marine Corps together. How the virus got loose needed another rewrite or two but I can live with. Over all the complaints are fairly minor for this type of movie and usually zombie style movies are filled to the top with issues.
I have to say that between The Crazies and The Book of Eli studios are waking up to the fact that good genre movies released in the early part of a new year can make money. The Crazies according IMDB had a budget of 20 million but doesn’t look it and I bet it makes a profit back during the theatrical run. I went to a 4:25 PM showing and the theater was about 70 percent full.