I recently rented Undisputed, a movie about a prison boxing match. Terrible. In brief, the heavyweight champion (Ving Rhames) ends up in jail, convicted of rape. A typical alpha male, he fights anyone who gets in his way. He learns that another inmate (Wesley Snipes) is a good boxer and vows to fight him. Several training scenes and conversations with bookies later, the two get it on in the right. No surprise, Snipes wins the fight. Hurrah for the underdog, I guess? Uninspired plot, poor acting, and very little action. Not your typical Wesley.
Thinking this was just a fluke, I decided to get another Wesley film: Liberty Stands Still. Even worse. In this film, Wesley plays a psychopath who decides to shoot a lot of people because his daughter was killed at school by some kid with a gun. Equipped with his own sniper rifle, he holds a woman and her lover hostage with a couple of bombs, and shoots at anyone he feels like. The camera occasionally drops into slow-motion shots of Wesley staring blankly at a barrette clipped to his gun. He’s angry. We get it. But are we supposed to believe that he’s righteous for killing the gun company’s executives and random other people? Director Kari Skogland doesn’t give us any reason to care about any of the characters.
What happened to the Wesley that we all know and love? What happened to the man who gave us such classics as New Jack City (the film that invented the concept of the bling bling gangster) and Passenger 57 (about a badass airline security wonk who happens to be on the wrong plane at the right time)?
Where is the actor who gave us mindless but entertaining action hits like Demolition Man (find an excuse to demolish anything you can find), Drop Zone (find an excuse to parachute out of a lot of planes and land on anything you can find) or Blade (find an excuse to kill a lot of vampires and any other beasties you can find)?
I miss you, Wesley. I’m going to cross my fingers when I rent Blade II. I hope I re-discover the real you.