Tag Archives: Chris Klein

Interweb Must-Watch: Everything Chris Klein Says in “The Legend of Chun Li”

Chris Klein is an actor that I will probably always inexplicably defend. I don’t know what it is about the guy, but I find him to be a weirdly appealing on-screen presence.

I legitimately enjoyed his performances in Election and The United States of Leland (especially the latter, where he gave a surprisingly effective dramatic turn). Yes, his filmography has more than its fair share of stinkers, especially recently, but I’ve always kind of been pulling for him to make a comeback.

His recent DUI arrest and admission to rehab has obviously slowed him down, but things seemed to be looking up (in a bizarre way) with the viral leak of his supposedly legit Mama Mia! audition tape (which had the car-wreck watchability of a particularly uncomfortable American Idol audition). He followed this up nicely with self-parody video, Chris Klein: More Leaked Auditions.

Now, someone has geniusly compiled every cringe-inducing line of dialogue that Klein delivered in 2009’s infamously panned Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun
Li into one video. If you’ve been curious about the film but unwilling to sit through the whole thing (like me), this video allows you to experience every line of dialogue that Klein utters in under two minutes.

I think that this is one of the few performances that doesn’t need context to be appreciated.

I have to give Klein credit, though. He seems to be more than embracing the campiness of the script (or, at least, I’m assuming that he’s in on the joke. If this is an earnest performance, then that’s another story…)

You can watch the video here, and I recommend that you do. It’s glorious. My favourite moments are anything that involves him saying “Shadaloo”.

The Good Life (2007)

The Good Life is a film that I’d wanted to see for a while, since Patrick Fugit and Zooey Deschanel are two of my favourite young actors, and it was apparently nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I finally got around to watching it last night, and I have to say, it was one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in a while. The premise seemed interesting (if not a little played out), about a young man who loves old Hollywood movies and feels like an outsider in a small football-obsessed town. But despite the best efforts of the cast, this is just a relentlessly dreary, poorly written film.

Mark Webber plays Jason, a young man from a poor background. After his father’s death, even the money from his two dead-end jobs isn’t enough to pay the electric bill. He has dreams of moving out of his small Nebraska town, but between his dependent mother (Deborah Rush) and the declining elderly owner of the movie theatre where he works (Harry Dean Stanton), Jason feels like too many people rely on him. He meets Frances (Deschanel), a supposedly intriguing young woman who Jason can relate to. Of course, everything goes tragically awry, and a bunch of mopey, quasi-philosophical voice-over narration ensues.

One of the storylines that I did like was the one between Jason and Gus, the ailing owner of the movie theatre. I thought their bond was actually believable, and that relationship had drama and interest without the movie having to force it on with ridiculous situations. I would have liked to see more about Jason’s sister (Drea De Matteo) and her husband, because they seemed like interesting characters, but they were only in two or three scenes in the entire movie. A lot of other talented actors befell the same fate. Patrick Fugit shines in the small part he has, but his character never really goes anywhere. Chris Klein occasionally pops up to play an over-the-top ex-high school football player, but the whole storyline about him terrorizing Jason is just ridiculous. Bill Paxton (also an executive producer here) is in two scenes, and seems to be in the movie solely to blatantly explain the “twist” of the story to Jason. Every character seems to have some singular, tragic characteristic that defines them, but beyond that, their characters are never really developed. They’re all just conveniently placed to revolve around Jason’s story.

And though he didn’t have much to work with, I didn’t like Mark Webber as Jason. I understand that the character is supposed to be introverted and restrained, but Webber just didn’t have any presence on the screen. He seems like a potentially interesting actor, but here, he doesn’t show us much of anything, besides some forlorn stares. Deschanel at least brings some life to the screen, but her character is so absurd, and she doesn’t seem remotely close to an actual person. Everyone’s just a tidy little cardboard cut-out of a supposedly “quirky” character.

Let’s talk about the voice-over narration. A lot of people think it’s a cheap device, but I am a fan of voice-over narration, when it’s done well. But there is far too much of it here, and it often goes on for minutes at a time. The main character comes across so blandly that I think they were trying to make him a “deeper” character this way, but it just comes across like a poorly written high school drama class monologue. The dialogue between characters also seems forced at many points, like its only purpose is to get the minimal plot points across.

The camera work is certainly trying to be arty and “indie”, but only partially succeeds. If so much of this story revolves around Jason’s disconnect with his hometown, they should have given us a clearer picture of what this town looks like. I think that a desolate small town can be oddly beautiful, but the director partially misses the potential of building it into the story. The film did have a certain wintery atmosphere, which kind of worked, but it still didn’t feel fully developed. While a film like Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park was all about woozy atmosphere, it still managed to have interesting characters. Similarly, The United States of Leland was not a perfect film, but it had a few really fascinating characters, and still had a distinctive atmosphere. The Good Life seems like it was trying to have style and substance, but it didn’t succeed in either regard. And after building all that mood and beating its protagonist down so insistently, it throws it all away for a cheap cop-out of an ending. That was the last straw for me. Do yourself a favour and avoid this one.


The United States of Leland (2004)

In Matthew Ryan Hoge’s The United States of Leland, Ryan Gosling plays Leland P. Fitzgerald, a detached 16 year-old from a well off home, who is accused of murder. Within the first few minutes of the movie, Leland shows up at a juvenile detention centre, and we are introduced to his parents, and the family of the victim. As the movie progresses, we learn Leland’s back story. We meet his father (played by the always despicable Kevin Spacey), learn about his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Jena Malone), and delve into the lives of the two families shattered by Leland’s arrest. Yet we’re still uncertain whether or not Leland actually committed the horrific act for quite some time. He strikes up a relationship with Pearl Madison, a teacher at the detention centre (Don Cheadle), who is looking to use Leland’s story to further his writing career. Leland’s troubled life begins to reveal itself, as do those of the very flawed supporting characters. The movie builds to a shocking climax, and that final act, along with the rest of the movie, is likely to give you a lot to think about.

The conversations between Leland and Pearl at the detention center are really the crux of this movie. Leland offers insight into his worldview, and questions Pearl’s own with startling clarity. And in these scenes, Gosling definitely holds his own with Cheadle, which is no small feat. Gosling delivers his words in a disjointed, flat style, and it fits with Leland’s character perfectly; he’s totally believable as this troubled young man. This film was made a few years before The Notebook or Half Nelson, but Gosling’s skill was just as sharp then as it is now.

The rest of the stellar cast does a nice job playing their own integral little parts in the story. Some people would vehemently disagree, but I thought Chris Klein stood out amongst the younger members of the supporting cast. Klein gets a lot of hate online (especially now, with his poorly handled hair loss and apparently laughable work in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), but I think he deserves more credit. He played his role well in Election, and though his character here, Allen, initially seems like a similar all-American lovable goon, it’s actually a much more complex role. Some critics have said that the film could have delved into Allen’s story a little more, but I think that we got a good sense of who he was based on a few key details. One of my favourite parts of the film (and it’s an admittedly bizarre moment to latch onto) is near the end, when Allen is setting off to do something that will change the entire direction of the story. We don’t know what Allen’s planning to do, but he’s visibly nervous as he gets out of his car. At the last minute before leaving it, he remembers to scoot back and make sure that the car door is locked. When you find out what he’s planning to do next, checking the door handle seems like a ridiculous thing for Allen to be thinking about. But I think that one tiny action says so much about his character, and makes the next scene even more shocking in comparison to the person that we see him as. If I had to choose a weak link in the cast, I’d say it’s Jena Malone. I liked her in Donnie Darko and Saved!, but I’m not buying her in “badass” roles like this one, or 2007’s The Go-Getter. You would think that a teenage junkie character would at least be colourful, but she’s actually pretty dull.

The United States of Leland is not a perfect movie, by any means. Many have complained about the abundance of side-plots and minor characters. I didn’t mind movies with a lot of characters and storylines that all intertwine, but I did find that these multiple storylines did distract from The United States of Leland‘s focus at times. While the overall structure of the film was a bit dicey at times, I thought the movie brought up a lot of interesting questions about morality and life. If you like Holden Caulfield’s stream-of-consciousness observation in The Catcher in the Rye, you’ll probably like Leland’s bleak worldview. I did find myself relating to a lot of his observations, but the lengths that he took his ideas to be rather twisted at times. I liked this, because even if I didn’t agree with some of the really outrageous things he was saying, it still felt authentic as to how this guy would see the world, and there was enough truth in his ideas for most people to relate to on some level.

Despite its flaws, I still thought this was a really good movie. I thought a lot about this movie a lot in the days after I watched it, and I still think about some of the ideas and issues that it brings up months after watching it. Probably the only other movie I’ve watched recently that made me think this much was Requiem for a Dream. Not everyone is going to like this movie. It’s relatively dark (though it’s nothing compared to Requiem), but I think that it’s an interesting film, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I watched it mainly for Ryan Gosling’s performance, but I ended up getting a lot more out of it.