Monday, April 30, 2012

You Only Live Twice

Ah, You Only Live Twice.  This is one of the more landmark titles in the James Bond catalog for a few reasons.  The novel (the twelfth book in the series) was the last published during Ian Fleming's lifetime.  The book took place immediately after On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which meant that YOLT essentially followed Bond as he hunted down Blofeld to avenge his dead wife.  In many ways, this was part of a decade-long evolution for the character.  The film, though, was only the fifth Bond made, and I think we can agree that character evolution is definitely not a high priority in the film franchise.  This one actually came out before OHMSS, too, so...if Bond hasn't been married yet in the film series, then what is he supposed to be doing in this movie?

After the underwater ridiculousness of Thunderball, it is not that surprising that You Only Live Twice opens with a sequence set in another unlikely location: space.  When the Americans send some astronauts into orbit in a pellet-sized spacecraft, everything goes off without a hitch.  Once it is in orbit, though, another significantly larger spacecraft sneaks up behind it and pulls a Pac-Man.
"It's like my worst nightmare for my penis.  What?!?" - Actual quote from me, 10 years ago
The Pac-Man ship then returns to Earth, but the Americans are unable to track or communicate with their shuttle, much less the enormous stealth ship.  Who could do such a thing and why?  While "space pirates" may be the logical conclusion to draw, the Americans conclude that it is the Russians that are up to no good.  The year was 1967, though, and "Russians up to no good" was the step before "mutually assured destruction" on the American government's foreign policy flow chart.  Luckily, the British also paid attention to the space launch, and they tracked the mystery craft's landing to the Sea of Japan.  But who will they send to investigate?
Ninjas, obviously.  It is Japan, you know.

Normally, you would assume the answer to be James Bond (Sean Connery).  Sadly, he was murdered about five minutes into the film and given a funeral at sea.  I guess that's what happens when entire international terrorist organizations know who you are; when the "secret" in "secret agent" goes away, you are basically a walking target.  Bond was such a terrible secret agent that his death was even front page news!  Thankfully, the audience is saved from a film where Q (Desmond Llewelyn) uses his gadgets to infiltrate/seduce his way through an island fortress.  James Bond isn't actually dead, silly!  It was all a ruse to convince SPECTRE, the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, of Bond's death.  With that one man, who they were presumably tracking constantly, out of the way, they can go about their evil plans with less secrecy and/or care.  That means they can launch Pac-Man spaceships from their secret volcano base whenever they want, especially if their next target is a Russian spacecraft; with the Americans and Russians missing ships it will be obvious that they are facing a common foe they will obviously declare war on each other!  But since Bond is really alive, he will be able to try and foil those dastardly plans.  Since he is so infamous among SPECTRE agents, though, Bond will obviously have to disguise himself as a Japanese man to make it all work.
"You have got to be bullshitting me"  Nope.

I've been thinking a bit about SPECTRE's acronym lately.  Sure, you've got to love any group of admitted terrorists and extortionists that also include revenge as a key value --- organizations that take personal interests in their henchmen are the most successful kind --- but I don't know how much I like the "SP."  Did they just come up with "SPECTRE" and then try to find words to fit the acronym, but they couldn't think of any nasty words that begin with "P"?  Or did they just add the "P" because they thought that "SECTRE" sounded too ridiculous?  Personally, I would have been happy with rearranging the acronym to spell "STREEC"; the monologues would have been great: "And we will STREEC our vengeance across the baseball field of capitalism, until security apprehends, wait..."
Although STREEC would imply why so many of their agents get naked

You Only Live Twice was Sean Connery's final Bond movie, until he made two more.  While he is certainly not as charming or bad-ass as he had been in the last few films, Connery still turned in an okay performance.  His toupee (he wore one in every Bond pic) was a bit more noticeable to me this time, though, and the script required him to look fairly incompetent as a secret agent --- him getting shown up by Aki so easily was painful to watch --- but Connery managed to not look embarrassed by the film's stupidity, at least.  The villain du jour was SPECTRE Number One, Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) himself.  This was the first time audiences got to see the villain's face, and he was suitably memorable.  While Blofeld isn't terribly impressive here --- he commits the sin of not killing Bond in a timely fashion --- he is suitably ruthless and ridiculous in equal parts.  Pleasence is fine, though his role requires him to keep a monotonous vocal cadence and an effeminate walk.
Blofeld chokes out an incompetent underling
The rest of the supporting cast is less stellar.  Tetsurô Tanba was mediocre as the Japanese equivalent of Felix Leiter; he would have been more likable if his plans weren't completely idiotic.  Speaking of idiotic characters, Karin Dor played the entendre-free Helga Brandt, who captured Bond, has sex with Bond, drugs Bond, then puts him in a small plane, which she pilots until he wakes up, at which point she parachutes to safety.  JUST SHOOT HIM, LADY!  Dor isn't that bad of an actress here, but it's impossible to make a character like that look good.  The other Bond girl in this picture is Mie Hama, who played the traditionally named (by Bond movie standards) Kissy Suzuki.  Hama was fairly worthless, essentially spending her time on camera just running from one place to another in a bikini.  That was far less irritating than Helga Brandt's stupidity, so Hama's lack of acting skills or quality dialogue is easily overlooked.  It is amusing to note that the Japanese Hama's dialogue was dubbed over by frequent Bond-girl-voiceover artist (and German national) Nikki Van der Zyl.
L-R: Hama acting, Connery bored
Aside from that, we have the usual suspects making brief appearances.  Desmond Llewelyn reprised his role as Q, although it is worth noting that Bond requested the more ridiculous gadgets this time around.  Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee also returned as Moneypenny and M, respectively; none of these three did anything special this time around, but in a cast of hundreds it can be nice to see some familiar faces.

You Only Live Twice was the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert.  The result was...okay, I guess.  This movie feels like a more ridiculous version of Dr. No in many ways (which mediocre screenwriter/excellent author Roald Dahl freely admitted), and the plot elements that differentiate it from other Bond movies --- Japan, basically --- aren't handled very well.  To be fair, it is easy to laugh at the low-rent ninjas in this movie, but this film was made before any awesome kung-fu movies had success in the West.  Gilbert inherited quite a mess when he signed up for this movie --- he had a first-time screenwriter, a star openly planning to leave the franchise, they had to recast Blofeld after filming started, the screenplay essentially omits the entire book, and the Japanese actresses had to switch roles because Mie Hama's English was so bad --- so I suppose it is a miracle that You Only Live Twice is as good as it is.  Still, the only truly iconic moment this entry in the series has is the appearance of Blofeld.  Aside from that, Gilbert oversaw a lot of ridiculousness.

What sets You Only Live Twice apart from the films that came before it is just how hilariously stupid entire chunks of the plot are.  Now, I own (and have read) the novel that the film takes its title from, and I can attest that the book --- which spends a lot of time just describing Japanese things --- would have made for a difficult direct adaptation.  Roald Dahl's screenplay (the first Bond screenplay to deviate significantly from the source material) is not much of an improvement. I liked that the filmmakers attempted to address Bond's failure as a secret agent, but everything past that was just goofy.  There are suspiciously placed trap doors, villains who allegedly recognize everything about Bond (including his gun!) but fail to recognize him in a face-to-face (and, in one case, junk-to-junk) interaction, and the action highlight is Bond in a weaponized mini-copter.
I think my favorite scene in the film has Bond being driven away from some SPECTRE thugs, who are pursuing in a car.  Bond's Japanese contact then radios for help, requesting "the usual reception."  A helicopter then arrives (that was fast) with a powerful magnet dangling underneath it; the chopper then drops the magnet on the villains' car and lifts the car off the road and drops it in a lake/ocean nearby. 
And that is the "usual" reception
That naturally leads viewers to a few conclusions.  First, Japanese bodies of water are filled with automobiles and dead terrorists.  Second, there is another, more outlandish way that Japanese secret agents get rid of unwanted followers; what the "unusual" reception would be staggers the imagination.  My best guess involves Godzilla.  Of course, the biggest bit of silliness in this movie is the part where James Bond is given a Japanese makeover to make him look like an average Japanese fisherman.  This involves a bad wig, learning a few things about Japanese culture, and (I swear) altering his eyes slightly. 
The result: a stereotypical Japanese man
Surprisingly, this movie isn't nearly as offensively racist as that might sound.  Still, it comes close more than a few times.  There's a lot more that is wrong with this movie (Why did Bond get married?  Unarmed astronauts > armed henchmen?), but I actually don't mind all the moronic moments.  It certainly isn't one of the best Bonds, but if you embrace the ridiculousness, this can be a lot of fun.  What You Only Live Twice lacks in style and utter awesomeness it more than makes up for with a brazen dedication to a truly silly plot.  When you add that to a still-young Connery in the lead role and a memorable villain, you have a solid (though definitely not great) entry in the Bond series.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I have seen every James Bond movie at least four times (except Quantum of Solace).  I mention that to point out just how much I enjoy spy movies.  I have also read most of the original James Bond books, as well as several spy novels by Robert Ludlum and John le Carré; I mention that to prove that I understand the difference between a James Bond movie and an actual spy film.  The reality (according to the fiction I have read) of espionage is that unremarkable people patiently do a lot of work as subtly as they can, with potentially Earth-shaking results.  When I saw the first trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy --- based on one of the best action-free spy stories ever --- and saw the excellent cast, I knew I would be in for a treat.  A subtle, quiet treat, but a treat nonetheless.
Above: an action sequence in the film, shown in real time

Control (John Hurt) is dead.  The former head of British Intelligence (AKA SIS, AKA MI6, AKA --- in le Carré's books, anyway --- The Circus) died in disgrace.  Convinced that there was a high-level mole feeding information to the Soviets, Control approved a mission to bring over a defector from the Eastern bloc that allegedly had hard proof as to the mole's identity.  The mission was a failure; the MI6 agent, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), was identified and shot (not dead, though), and an international incident was born.  Control and his right hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), were forced into retirement.  The rest of Control's elite inner circle of intelligence men simply moved up a few rungs and have been ruling ever since.
First new rule: reclining seats for the Q-Bert room
After Control's death, Smiley is approached by someone in the British government to investigate a claim made by a Circus operative, Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), that there was a mole in The Circus; the incident that made Tarr suspicious happened after Smiley was sacked, so it seems that A) Control was right all along and B) Smiley couldn't have been the leak, since he had no access to Tarr's situation.  Smiley is tasked with finding the double agent amongst the Circus elite, but doing so without The Circus' knowledge, and without direct access to The Circus himself.  That may sound difficult, but that's because it is.  And also because Control was certain that the mole had to be one of his inner circle.  He even assigned them each a code name; "Tinker" was Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), "Tailor"  was Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), "Soldier"  was Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), "Poorman"  was Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and "Beggarman" was Smiley.  Even the most trusted spies in The Circus were suspect.  But if we know who Tinker, Tailor, and Solider are, who is Spy?  That's what Smiley's trying to find out.
...and probably who's on the receiving end of this shot

The acting in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is very low-key, but also quite good.  I really liked Gary Oldman's portrayal of Smiley; it is difficult to make a deliberate, contemplative character come to life on film, but I thought Oldman's Smiley was brilliantly cold and calculating, but also jealous and lonely.  His performance was more inaction than action, but I think that's what draws you in.  The rest of the cast (which is pretty huge) is good, but the silence of Smiley is really what this film is about.  Tom Hardy was good as the spy equivalent of a blunt instrument with awful, awful hair. 
Shouldn't spy jackets conceal things better than this?
Rivaling that hair was Mark Strong's combover, although it was nice to see Strong playing a non-villain for a change.  It turns out that he's still fun to watch, even when he's not evil.  John Hurt was probably the most explosive character in the movie, which seems a little odd, given that he's in his seventies, but just imagine him being loud and cranky and you'll get the gist of his performance.
"Get off my lawn!"
The other fairly emotive character in the film was current holder of the coveted "Most British Name" award, Benedict Cumberbatch.  His character was understandably nervous, but I felt he was a little too high-strung at times.
I just like saying his name.  Try it: Cum-ber-batch!
The rest of the cast was made of fine, establish British actors.  Colin Firth is the most noteworthy, but I thought Toby Jones and Ciarán Hinds also gave solid performances.  I also found it interesting to see Konstantin Khabenskiy in a film released in the West that was not directed by Timur Bekmambetov; Khabenskiy basically played the stereotype of a hard-drinking Russian jerk, but he's pretty good at that.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the first major English-language film from director Tomas Alfredson, and I think he was a good stylistic match to the source material.  For some reason, most of the Swedish directors I have seen have excelled at slowly-paced, subtle films, and that's exactly what this story needed.  I liked how quiet and claustrophobic this movie felt at times, and I thought Alfredson did a great job with the actors.  My only problem was how dense the narrative was.  I like that Alfredson didn't dumb the story down or over-explain things, but this is a movie that demands your attention --- and if you're not sure that it makes sense, you're going to need a few viewings and a flow chart to make a definite conclusion. 
Because Smiley sure as hell won't tell you

As much as I enjoyed this subtle, complex film, I wasn't as blown away as I had hoped.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is definitely a solid movie, but it's not the sort of movie that I want to re-watch in the immediate future.  It's very, very slow --- and I think that pace fits the story well --- so I will need to be in just the right mood to watch this again.  There's isn't anything about the film that I downright disliked, but (aside from the overall consistent quality) there wasn't anything that I positively loved, either.  Oldman was great, but his role is almost an anti-presence in the film; who he isn't spending time with and what he's not saying aloud are kind of his defining traits.  While that was artfully done, it's not the sort of performance that amps me up.  Still, this is a very cerebral spy drama.  It might not exactly "thrill," but it is one of the best examples of what espionage is (probably) truly like.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One Way Passage

I've been on a bit of a William Powell kick lately.  I'm not sure why that is.  Sure, he can deliver witty lines with ease, but he plays more or less the same character in every film I've seen so far.  If I'm wrong, please suggest some Powell movies where he isn't suave, clever, charming and probably drunk, by all means.  What drew me to One Way Passage was a comment I found somewhere on the great wide interweb that pointed out that this was one of the great "talkies" of the pre-Hays Code era Hollywood.  What does that mean?  Well, a few things.  First, this picture was released in 1932, which is a long-ass time ago, especially in terms of media.  Second, not adhering to the Hays Code means that One Way Passage could do a lot of things (potentially) that are not recognized as cliche by the modern viewer.  That may or may not sound enticing to you, but I have to admit that I was curious by what might have been scandalous in this 1932 pic.
Answer: sandwiches!

The film opens with Dan (William Powell) having a special drink made for him at the bar.  The bartender keep harping on about how great the drink will be, while Dan is clearly desperate to ingest just about anything alcoholic at the time; when he finally gets this legendary drink, his glass is immediately broken by a strange woman, Joan (Kay Francis).
Intrigued or about to fight?  You decide.
A few moments of witty banter later, the pair have fallen in love/lust.  Rather than actually act upon their mutual attraction, they choose to leave the fate of their romance to serendipity, trusting that fate will once again bring them together.  If they had a little foresight, they might not have taken that patient approach.  You see, Dan is a convicted murderer, doing his damnedest to escape the hangman's noose back in California (oh, the movie begins in Hong Kong, by the way).  Joan happens to be suffering from an unnamed (but obviously not cosmetic) terminal illness that can allegedly be accelerated if she undergoes any sort of shock.  As "luck" would have it, Dan gets caught by a San Francisco cop, Steve (Warren Hymer), and their passage is booked on a month-long cruise back to California.  Furthermore, this is the same cruise ship that Joan is returning home on.  Being a sporting fellow --- at least, that's the best reasoning I can figure --- Steve lets Dan romance Joan, sans handcuffs, during the voyage because it's not like he can escape into the Pacific, right? 
"Every condemned crook deserves a little hanky panky"
Unfortunately neither Joan nor Dan reveal how close they both are to death, which complicates Dan's escape attempts.

I love me some William Powell, so it's not surprising that I found him the single most attractive part of One Way Passage.  Seeing him as a criminal was interesting, but he was a gentlemanly crook, so it wasn't like he was playing against type.  One thing that this film impressed upon me, once again, was just how well Powell plays a man who truly appreciates fine alcohol.  Most movie drunks appear to be happy with anything, but Powell gives the impression of a man with particular tastes (most of the time).
"Mmm...smells like morning regrets...!"
Kay Francis was okay as the leading lady, but she definitely fell into the trap of the damsel in distress.  I hate when otherwise capable female characters get sidelined because they are too fragile to know one thing or another; when she was able to show off her comic timing and witty banter, Francis was good, but I thought she was melodramatic when it came to flaunting her ambiguous illness.  Frank McHugh was surprisingly fun as a stereotypical early-Hollywood drunk.  McHugh's filmography implies that he was a career character actor, but I thought his lazy laugh (think Nelson from The Simpsons, drawn out for about five more seconds) was enough for a few chuckles. 
Direct quote: "Haw-haw!"
Warren Hymer was less entertaining, but I suppose someone has to play the straight man for the criminals, right?  Aline MacMahon was surprisingly good in a small role; she helped make Hymer more interesting and McHugh less irritating by just being fun to watch.  It's too bad she didn't receive much recognition for this feat; she plays a dangerous woman here, but her late career was filled with tame mothering characters.
Above: not motherly

One Way Passage was directed by Tay Garnett.  This was one of his earlier talkies and I suppose it was handled well for the time period.  I would love to blame him for the odd blend of slapstick comedy and romantic tragedy in this movie, but that seems to have been the style at the time.  Garnett did not do anything too spectacular in this film, but he told it well enough.

So what is the big deal about One Way Passage that makes it the stuff of legend among pre-Hays Code Hollywood films?  Good question.  In many ways, this film is pretty typical of its time period.  The basic plot of two lovers destined for death, unbeknownst to each other, is pretty hammy; if you throw in a long-lost twin, this could be a soap opera plot.  The comic relief stands in stark contrast to the main story and the romance is good, but not epic.  Here's what makes One Way Passage unique, though: you care more about the crooks than the lawman.  It would be decades before audiences would again sympathize this much for a killer. 
"Do you like them?  They don't reek of corpses, do they?"
Even better (in my opinion) is the film's ending.  With a lot of movies, you can predict the ending, not because it is the most realistic course of events, but because a lifetime of exposure to Hollywood teaches certain lessons (cranky people discover a heart of gold, good friends triumph over sexy jerks in both love and life, everything will turn out okay, etc.).  I was thrown off by the ending (which was surprisingly well-done) because I forgot that this film happened before...well, it happened before just about everything else I've seen.  A pretty great ending, combined with criminals that are not supposed to teach audiences a lesson in civil obedience and a short run-time (67 minutes!) make One Way Passage more than worth your time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Ides of March

When I first saw the poster for Ides of March, several things came to mind.  First of all, I thought that was a pretty cool poster; it can be disarming how much two handsome men can fit the same mold and yet look different. 
The second thing I noticed was the stellar cast; three Oscar winners, some great character actors, a rising star and...Evan Rachel Wood.  Finally, I noticed the release date and the filmmakers; Fall is typically when most Oscar bait comes out and George Clooney directed and co-wrote this picture with Grant Heslov, his co-writer on Good Night, and Good Luck.  This kind of looked like Clooney trying, once again, to make Important Movies with Capital Letters; while I like Good Night, And Good Luck and Syriana, neither one was much fun to watch.  Great dramas don't have to be fun, but if you're aiming for greatness, you've got to hit it out of the park, or else you underwhelm your audience.  Would Ides of March finally be Clooney's political movie masterpiece?
Flag pin: check!  Political importance: pending

Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States against Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell).  Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is the idealistic and instinctively brilliant junior campaign manager for Governor Morris; the senior campaign manager is Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has experience and political savvy.  Both candidates need to win the official support of crazy ass Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright), who controls enough delegates to sway and clinch the nomination for either candidate.  Pretty cut and dry so far, right?  Stephen is a rising star who both legitimately believes in his candidate and is getting to show off how awesome he is, every time Governor Morris says or does something clever in public.  As the campaign heats up, though, both Stephen's idealism and his fantastic career suffer enormous setbacks.  Can he fight back and save what is rightfully his, or will he have to sacrifice one for the other?
Production note: there are a lot of corded phones in this flick

If there is one thing that The Ides of March is not lacking in, it is acting talent.  I kind of have a thing for Ryan Gosling right now (ever since I saw Drive), and he has a good handle on the whole charming-but-occasionally-coldly-manipulative thing here.  George Clooney turns in a similarly effective performance; it was kind of cool seeing him turn on the "public face" charm and then, in private, have a different attitude.  Both men were good, but not great, in similar roles.  What impressed me most in this film were the dueling performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, who played Senator Pullman's senior campaign manager.  Both turned in terrific performances; I really liked Giamatti's resignation toward being a spider-like bastard and Hoffman's uncharacteristic explosion took me by surprise.  The rest of the cast was solid, but nothing extraordinary.  Jeffrey Wright gave another good small performance as a fairly unlikable character. 
Mostly for his attitude during the "Yo Mama" jokes part of political speeches
Marisa Tomei was effective as a tough reporter.  Evan Rachel Wood was pretty good as a Morris campaign intern.  You might recognize Max Minghella's eyebrows from The Social Network; he plays a similarly small role here.

While the acting is good, the best parts don't get nearly enough attention.  I seriously loved Giamatti and Hoffman as heartless dueling chessmasters, but this movie needed either Gosling or Wood to be the characters that impressed. 
...and it wasn't going to be her bipolar character
This is one of the problems I have with George Clooney as a writer/director.  While I appreciate his apparent modesty when in the directing chair (his only major role in a picture he directed was in the comedy Leatherheads), I think he tends to value the theme of his movies more than the performances.  The Ides of March looks pretty good and is told in a competent fashion, but it felt like Clooney was holding back for most of the film.  I was more than willing to wait for the hammer to drop, but when it did, I was left cold.  For reasons that elude me, it seems that George Clooney expects audiences to be shocked by political backstabbing and corruption.  Maybe someone should tell him that Watergate was almost forty years ago now; Americans haven't trusted their elected officials to be anything but bastards for decades.
Moments later, at least one man would have a knife in his back

That's not to say that The Ides of March is a waste of time; it's just not as excellent as it should be, given the talent involved.  Here's what I liked:
  • while Clooney is an outspoken Democrat, this film doesn't target (or even mention) Republicans, which makes this a lot less abrasive than it might have been
  • Ryan Gosling's crazy eyes when he finds out Governor Morris' secret are priceless
  • I loved Giamatti's character when he explained his motives
"Well, Stephen, I'm made entirely of bastard molecules"
Here's what I didn't like:
  • Really?  That is the scandal facing Governor Morris?  Couldn't they try something unique?
  • Evan Rachel Wood's character's motives confuse me.  SPOILER ALERT: Maybe I just don't understand pregnancy (which is very possible), but I have trouble imagining a seemingly carefree young woman essentially demanding sex from a handsome man when A) she knows she is pregnant B) is freaking the hell out about being pregnant and C) her new sexy time partner is not her baby daddy.
  • That title sucks so much.  Sure, they were clever enough to set Election Day on March 15, but did they have to use this title?  While slightly literary, the only people who want to watch this film will know exactly what the title refers to --- if they weren't going to be subtle, they might as well have titled the movie "Political Betrayal: The Movie"
And to be completely honest, I would not have minded any of those flaws too much if the film had only had a better message.  The Ides of March is not an expose, but it has the feel of one; if they had focused on the betrayal and built up Stephen's idealism more, this could have (maybe) been a great film. 
Stephen, in mourning for his innocence
Sadly, it's stuck in that limbo of "pretty good," where a lot of movies get forgotten.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Drew Peterson: Untouchable

I typically don't punish myself by watching made-for-TV movies, but every so often, one looks so remarkably bad that I have to give it a try.  I have lived in the greater Chicago area most of my life, so I was already familiar with the Drew Peterson case.  I wasn't planning on watching the Lifetime Original Movie, even if it had a decently respectable actor in the lead role.  No, it was the trailer that hooked me.  Specifically, one line in the trailer:

"I'm untouchable, bitch"?!?  After opening and closing a garage door as an intimidation tactic?  Most bad movies at least try to look cool in their trailers, but this one...this had to be a gem.

Drew Peterson: Untouchable opens with a scene you've probably seen dozens of times before.  Drew (Rob Lowe), fresh from sexing up his wife, Kathleen (Cara Buono), gets out of bed when one of his sons wants something; Drew doesn't see the need to be modest, though, and gives his young son quite the gander at his package.  When Kathleen protests, Drew's response is "He has a right to know why they call me Big Daddy."  Wait...what?  Who would...why should...ow, that hurt my brain.  Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
Yeah, that was my reaction, too.
Anyway, Drew and Kathleen don't get along so well these days.  Maybe it has something to do with Drew mentally scarring his sons, maybe it has to do with Drew being a sexist, jealous asshole.  Whatever the reasons, Drew's eye begins to wander.  That's when Stacy (Kaley Cuoco) enters the picture.  She's young and pretty, but has a weakness for middle-aged men who look like douchebags, so you can imagine how her heart went aflutter when she saw this:
"I'm untouchable, bitch"
Pretty soon, the pair are having an affair.  Kathleen learns about it and Drew and Stacy move in together, in a house a few blocks from the Peterson household.  Not surprisingly, the longtime wife and victim of adultery is set to have a very favorable divorce settlement.  And then, she dies from an apparent suicide.  Huh.  Well, I guess that means that Rob and Stacy get to live happily ever after.
"Ding dong, the witch is dead!  Which old witch?  The one I stabbed!"
No, not really.  Drew's nasty side comes out of hiding again and Stacy soon finds herself on the wrong side of a "disappeared/presumed dead" situation.  But can anyone bring this monster to justice?  He's a police officer in his town, which essentially makes him untouchable, right bitches?

Okay, wow.  Drew Peterson: Untouchable is shockingly bad.  I mean, when you sit down to watch this, you know it's not going to be good, but geez!  Surprisingly, the acting isn't too awful.  While I still can't get over the fact that they cast a famous actor known for being handsome as Peterson, I will admit that Rob Lowe was very committed in this performance. 
It's like the movie Twins!
It's not good, mind you, but Lowe never looked sheepish, even when he had to deliver some atrocious dialogue.  I really hated his Chicago accent, though.  It felt like Lowe got his accent from watching the Superfans SNL skits.  Kaley Cuoco was halfway decent.  Again, the dialogue was pretty awful; "I'm fine, Drew just threw me into the TV, but want to help me make some more margaritas?" is about par for the course.  Still, she played the victim and made her sympathetic.  Cara Buono was also fine as the deadest wife in the movie.  The only person I had a major problem with was Catherine Dent.  It's not because she was an obnoxious neighbor who managed the implausible feat of being friends with the first wife and also befriending the young homewrecker who usurped her.  It's because her expression rarely shifted from being open-mouthed dumbstruck.
This is also how she reacts to the Weather Channel
On the bright side, she was the woman on the receiving end of the "untouchable bitch" line, so I suppose she did contribute something to the movie.

Director Mikael Salomon obviously had a difficult task in making Drew Peterson: Untouchable.  Sure, it certainly seems like Drew murdered two consecutive wives and then bathed in the public attention he received in the media shitstorm that followed.  But Peterson still hasn't been convicted of those crimes (yet).  That means that the movie can't actually show Peterson killing anyone.  With that significant hurdle to overcome, I think Salomon did a moderately decent job.  The acting didn't exactly "wow," but the story was comprehensible.  I don't know why Salomon included the bookend "look at my penis" scenes (yes, the film abruptly closes with another one), but aside from that, this was done with mild competence. 
Surprisingly, no penis in this scene
And I place emphasis on the "mild."  Drew Peterson: Untouchable has its campy moments that you might enjoy, but the pace is glacial.  I get it, Drew is creepy.  Next point.
Point taken.
Without actually seeing Drew plan or commit murder, what are we left with?  Just Rob Lowe smirking when his wives die.  I understand the situation, but it is definitely not very satisfying to watch.

But Lifetime movies are not meant to actually be good, are they?  The big question is whether Drew Peterson: Untouchable is bad enough to be good.  Not without help, it isn't.  Even if you're in the mood to laugh and with a few smart-assed friends, this is not a picture you should experience sober.  Try making a drinking game out of it; my wife suggested drinking whenever you hear the words "wife," "Drew," or maybe any time Drew pulls a douche move. 
Get ready to drink...!
The funnybad scenes are pretty remarkable in this movie, but they are sadly too few and far in-between.  As a legitimate film (even one made for TV), Drew Peterson: Untouchable is pretty darn bad.
 As a social drinking game, though, it has some potential.  I give it a Lefty Gold rating of