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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is a film critic for The New York Post and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review. Find an alphabetical listing of The New York Post's recent film reviews here.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • « Review: “Blades of Glory” | Home | Review: “The Longest Yard” (2005 remake) »

    Review: “Batman Begins”

    By Kyle | March 10, 2007

    Winged victory
    Kyle Smith review of “Batman Begins” reprinted from The New York Post, June 14 2005

    4stars1.gif
    Running time: 137 minutes/Rated PG-13 (intense action, violence, profanity, horrifying imagery).

    I fell asleep in “X-Men.” I fell asleep in “Spider-Man.” “Batman Begins” blew me away, and it’s a wake-up call to the people who keep giving us cute capers about men in tights. It wipes the smirk off the face of the superhero movie.

    Writer-directorChristopher Nolan’s prequel is not only the most muscular, most electric, scariest comic book movie since (at least) 1989’s “Batman,” it’s also a great movie, period.

    It’s great because it’s so real. As Batman starts stripping away each layer of Gotham crime only to discover a sicker and more monstrous evil beneath, his rancid city simultaneously invokes early ’90s New York, when criminals frolicked to the tune of five murders a day; the “Serpico” era, when cops were for sale; and today, when psychos seek to kill us all at once rather than one by one.

    Batman is the superhero who isn’t; he’s not an apple-cheeked god like Superman or a sticky-fingered Tinkerbell like Spider-Man, just an irate citizen–Rudy Giuliani with a gym membership. Christian Bale, by far the best actor ever to put on pointy ears (sorry, Adam West), plays him like a soldier, a defensive tackle or a wrestler: men who take a beating every day and come back for more.

    Director Nolan takes us back to Bruce Wayne’s childhood, when his parents are shot by a cheap thug in an alley. Wandering off to Asia to become a petty crook, Wayne is noticed by an enigmatic figure called Ducard (Liam Neeson, finally getting the hang of these aging mentor roles), who teaches him to fight like a ninja and recruits him to join a powerful alliance called the League of Shadows.

    That encounter ends in fire, but the movie is just beginning to heat up as it rolls back to Gotham. Wayne watches his parents’ killer stroll out of jail on early release thanks to a bargain struck by his childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), now the only honest district attorney left in Gotham. But the real villain is a mobster (Tom Wilkinson, surprisingly convincing even though Brits should never play wiseguys). Or maybe it’s a shrink (a chilling Cillian Murphy) who keeps helping criminals walk with insanity pleas.

    As a kid, Wayne once fell down a well where he was attacked by bats. But Ducard’s training taught him to master his fears and love bats. With help from family retainer Alfred (a sly and funny Michael Caine) and the chief of the family company’s science division (Morgan Freeman), he starts putting together an idea for a hobby.

    Nolan has great fun meticulously documenting each military-style Batgadget. (Testdriving a khaki-colored urban tank, Wayne asks, “Does it come in black?”) Meanwhile, Gotham’s routine state of crisis (Rachel’s graffiti bombed train looks like the one John Travolta rode in “Saturday Night Fever”) grows into a nightmare.

    Gotham’s horrors are more terrifying because they’re not supernatural; it isn’t hard to imagine an actual New York freak doing the things that a hooded figure called the Scarecrow does. Nolan serves up the Scarecrow’s mania with the same slashing intensity and desperate confusion he brought to “Memento,” one of the best films of the decade.

    Bale deploys both the menace and the wit he showed in his brilliant turn in “American Psycho.” He will be a worldwide superstar. His Batman, a wrecking ball screaming with rage, is someone you wouldn;’t want to meet in a dark alley, but since he’s just a man of flesh with a will of steel, he’s also a thrilling tribute to the power of the individual to reroute history. (And history really is at stake: what he’s up against is as tangled as “The Da Vinci Code.”) Like the Incredibles, he’s got a beef with bureaucrats; there’s probably a well-thumbed Ayn Rand paperback in the glove compartment of the Batmobile. And naturally, the newspaper that breaks Batman’s story is “The Gotham Post.”

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    Topics: Movies |

    2 Responses to “Review: “Batman Begins””

    1. The Dark Knight Swoops Into Gotham | KyleSmithOnline.com Says:
      November 27th, 2007 at 1:54 pm

      [...] and “Batman Begins” should have gotten a Best Picture nomination. (My review of it is here, by the [...]

    2. Review: “Iron Man” | KyleSmithOnline.com Says:
      April 28th, 2008 at 11:28 pm

      [...] Like superheroes themselves, “Iron Man” has trouble reconciling a split personality. Despite a brilliant first hour–for a good long while, we’re almost in “Batman Begins” territory–”Iron Man” becomes like some bizarre legend of a Norse god who descended into the flaming pits of the earth’s core, swung his mighty hammer upon a great anvil and forged….a Crosby, Stills and Nash album. [See my review of “Batman Begins,” the finest superhero movie yet.] [...]

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