Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
At this point the superiority of original foreign films over their American remakes is basically tautological. Aside from possibly The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I can’t think of a single example of an Americanized version that is significantly better than its source material. (I haven’t seen the original versions of True Lies, Scent of a Woman, or Twelve Monkeys, so I’m obviously talking out my ass a bit here.) Still there are some foreign films like Citadel (Netflix, $3.99 Amazon) that come so very close to being sublime, I wonder if a second, bigger budget bite at the apple wouldn’t be just what the doctor ordered.
Citadel‘s effectiveness may be greater if you have kids (or agoraphobia, I guess) but I think I’d enjoy it just as much even if I hadn’t spawned. I’m definitely more able to relate to the central character’s sense of powerlessness to protect his child from the dangers of the world, but the paralyzing suspense of being stalked is plenty solid on its own. (Thankfully my shared experience ends with a general paranoia that makes me want to put my baby in an armored stroller. My family is not, to my knowledge, being hunted by a gang of murderous children in hoodies. Then again, that’s probably not the sort of thing you’d know about in advance. Now I’m starting to worry myself.)
Citadel is just about perfect for the first hour or so. It’s scary, rational, and filled with genuinely challenging problems, not the least of which is the helpless dad’s abject poverty, which exacerbates his predicament and makes it vastly more dramatic. And there was one moment so perfectly shocking I literally gasped and covered my mouth like a 19th century school marm. Sadly the train barrels off the rails toward the end, though it doesn’t render the movie as a whole unsalvageable. My main issue is that the nature of the man’s antagonizers is spelled out with far too much specificity, definitively yet unsatisfyingly answering most of the film’s really interesting questions. While some amount of explanation must be given, such an impossibly detailed one, filled with unnecessarily expositive history, totally obviates the need for audience imagination.
That’s why I say this movie wouldn’t be a bad candidate for a U.S. remake. It’s not so much to make it accessible to a bigger audience or amp up the special effects, but rather to rework the buildup to the grand finale. Ironically, the way Citadel ties everything together in a neat bundle is just the sort of thing a Hollywood studio might force into a screenplay to satisfy American audiences’ need for clarity. It’s like in the original Final Destination when, out of nowhere, janitor Candyman appears and gives the surviving characters a detailed blueprint of death’s plan to wipe them out. So yeah, actually, an American remake of Citadel is a shitty idea. I take it back.
Added Bonus: Hey, that’s Ser Jeor Mormont from GoT! He is one big dude. Didn’t he seem like he was about 100 when he did Braveheart in 1995? You wanna hear something crazy? He was 47 years old when he did that. 47! Am I losing my mind or does he now look significantly younger?