Game Boy: Paul W.S. Anderson

The bigger and better mousetraps of the writer/director/producer responsible for 'Resident Evil: Retribution'

One suspects Anderson would like to tell a story solely through images, and he almost did in Soldier, the nearest thing to an undiscovered masterpiece in his oeuvre. The nearly silent opening introduces Kurt Russell as a futuristic Spartan, a trained-from-the-cradle killing machine who, upon being rendered obsolete, is scrapped on a garbage planet where he becomes protector of its castaway residents. The script, which can't be more than a dozen pages long, is from Blade Runner and Unforgiven screenwriter David Peoples—the first title is relevant in the sci-fi setting; the second in the subject of a violent man learning to redirect his ingrained violence to a worthy cause.

In the past decade, Anderson has continued to refine a rare attention to Aristotle's classical unities with the lubricious tempo shifts of an ace DJ, riding his soundtracks while slipping in and out of slo-mo breaks. Matching a maximum genius in crisply delineated action to a maximum monosyllabic inanity in dialogue, he has adapted such vaunted sources as PlayStation, Roger Corman and Alexandre Dumas, père, the last named with The Three Musketeers.

No less a personage than Quentin Tarantino included Musketeers in his Top 11 movies of 2011, for which he was promptly attacked by the legions of online 16th-wits who knee jerk condemn as "trollish" any opinion that doesn't capitulate to consensus. In fact, Musketeers is ingenious in choreographing its vaulting, airborne action specifically to stereoscopic 3-D and the breadth of wide-screen—the aspect ratio that Anderson has exclusively favored since Alien vs. Predator. Although not an "actor's director" in the generally understood sense, Anderson does excel in building set pieces for axiomatic, physical screen presences such as his wife, the lithe Milla Jovovich, in Musketeers and the Resident Evils, Russell in Soldier, and Jason Statham, the Rod Taylor of our day, in Death Race. That film's speedway splatter ends with the piece's villain killed by her own bomb—a trick Anderson enjoyed enough to repeat in Resident Evil: Apocalypse—as Ian McShane addresses a smirky "I love this game!" to the camera. It's a deeply silly aside, but the sentiment shows Anderson's approach to filmmaking, and it takes a cripplingly cool complex to not find his enthusiasm infectious.

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