July 8, 2012

Filthy Review - Men in Black

Men in Black (1997)

Review by Jude Felton

Director Barry Sonnenfeld had scored moderate to high box office success with his films The Addams Family (1991), the follow-up Addams Family Values (1993) and the terrific Get Shorty (1995), but it wasn’t until Men in Black was released in 1997 that one of his films hit the big, big bucks. The three previously mentioned films combined a gross in the region of $230 million, which isn’t small change, Men in Black however grossed in excess of $320 million worldwide, which puts the movie squarely in the blockbuster category. Now, just because a film makes a ton of money does not necessarily equate to a quality movie. In the case of Men in Black though it does; this is a fun flick.

Men in Black stars the then TV star/rapper Will Smith, who had previously seen big screen success in Bad Boys (1995) and Independence Day (1996), and the wonderfully grizzly Tommy Lee Jones, who made his big screen debut back in 1970, when Will Smith was still in diapers, as two agents whose mission it is to monitor the aliens on planet Earth.

The film starts off with Jay (Will Smith) as a streetwise NYPD police officer who has an encounter with a perp that doesn’t seem quite human. His superior and colleagues think he’s a joke and don’t take him seriously. Enter Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), all decked out in black, who does believe him, and knows for a fact that what Jay saw was indeed an alien.

So begins Jay’s induction into the secretive Men in Black agency, whose job it is to keep their eyes on the alien population on Earth. It’s usually a fairly straightforward and routine job, with most aliens being of the peaceful variety. Obviously the quiet life isn’t going to continue throughout the movie though, and when a violent alien lands on Earth, played for the most part by Vincent D’Onofrio, with plans for war and the destruction of the planet, the Men in Black kick into high gear.

Men in Black may well be 15 years old now, but it is still a joy to watch. Sure, some of the effects show a little age, although for the most part they still hold up pretty well, yet it is the humor of the movie, and the interaction between Smith and Jones that makes the movie work so well. Smith is all wisecracks and never takes things too seriously, whereas Jones is perfectly deadpan in his delivery, although still just as funny as his younger counterpart.

Vincent D’Onofrio is terrific as Edgar, or the bug alien, and is miles away from either his iconic role in Full Metal Jacket or his more refined performances in Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Putting in solid supporting roles are Rip Torn, who is always great to watch, as Jay and Kay’s superior, and Linda Fiorentino, who works in the city morgue, and apparently made about four movies before disappearing off the face of the Earth.

Men in Black is all about Smith and Jones and a ton of alien action though, and it is all great fun to watch. On this new Blu-ray release it all looks so much better as well, and Sony seem to have put a lot of effort into releasing a really solid disc. Of course, this all coincides with the upcoming Men in Black 3, which hits theaters in May, but they could have quite easily have just put out a barebones release. This isn’t the case though, as aside from looking and sounding terrific, there are also a ton of extras, which include commentaries, including an alien subtitle track, a game, and extended/deleted scenes, and a considerable amount more. Suffice to say that there is plenty here to keep you occupied.

It is easy to see why Men in Black made so much money back when it was originally released because it is just as enjoyable now as it was then. Great fun for all the family!

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