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'V' for Vendetta
By Mark Moorehead

March 18, 2006

It’s been seven years since the original Matrix was released,  and as long since the Wachowski brothers had a hit. The drought is finally over. ‘V’ for Vendetta will be a hit with mature audiences everywhere, particularly those that enjoy an articulate anarchist wearing a permanent smile.

Hugo Weaving, agent Smith in the Matrix trilogy, plays ‘V,’ a mysterious man clad in a long black cape, Zorro-style black hat and a smiling mask resembling the infamous Guy Fawkes.

In 1605 England Guy Fawkes, a Catholic vigilante bent on ousting the repressive Protestant King James I from power, was caught in a tunnel beneath Parliament about to light the fuse to 36 barrels of gun powder. It was called the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes was later hanged, drawn and quartered, the standard form of punishment for high crimes against the state at the time. Parliament and Big Ben were safe for another 400 years.

It’s no coincidence that ‘V’ wears a mask. He considers himself a modern day Guy Fawkes determined to arouse the anger of the obedient masses against their tyrannical government and blow up Parliament on March 5, 2020.

Yet, it’s slightly more complicated. ‘V’s motive also has its roots in personal vengeance and bitterness. ‘V’ was a victim of the government’s crackdown on undesirable persons a decade earlier when society was in the depth of terror from within and without (terrorist attacks, viral pandemic and economic collapse). Personal freedoms were exchanged for stability. Democracy was replaced with tyranny in the form of a police state run by Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt), who reminds you of evil Chancellor Darth Sith from Star Wars.

This xenophobic dictator is a fear-mongering, gay-bashing, Islam-hating religious zealot and polished “spin doctor.” One of his methods of maintaining order is subjecting the populace to government thugs who roam the streets after curfew applying whatever law and order they see fit.

Evey (Natalie Portman), a working class girl, has the misfortune of being caught after curfew by a motley crew of after-hours government enforcers. Fortunately, ‘V’, the masked crusader, arrives at precisely the right moment, saving Evey from an unpleasant night on the town. ‘V’ displays formidable skills with use of daggers and martial arts but not to the degree of disbelief as you might see in many films where the hero defies the physical  laws of nature. And, this phantom of the revolution quotes Shakespeare and various philosophers after each brief bout of violence. Because of this habit he kind of grows on you after a while.

After saving Evey ‘V’ invites her to the rooftop of a tall building to see fireworks, listen to some good music and witness the blowing up of the Old Bailey (the central criminal courthouse in London) With first dates like this you know she’ll be back for more.

‘V’has an agenda and darts about all over London taking out the bad guys on his hit list with style and grace not even Batman could equal. Naturally, all this whacking draws the attention of not only the really bad guys but also good-guy police detective (Stephen Rea).

Rea plays the role of detective in earnest fashion. His character is the antithesis of the flamboyant wise cracking stereotypical cop often seen in film. In his trademark solemn manner he pursues the bomber with diligence and in the process learns about the masked man’s past, which pulls him into a different direction where he discovers a dark secret he wished he never found.

Portman is superb as Evey. Her character is eventually tied to the bomber and again is rescued by ‘V’ and taken to his underground lair. While there she becomes a convert of ‘V’s and learns political philosophy. Later she is jailed, tortured and has her head shaved in an attempt by her capturers to get her to betray ‘V.’

Portman’s moving portrayal of a young woman enduring prolonged confinement, humiliation and torture is gripping and powerful. Her only minor misstep is a British accent that starts out fine then fades in and out halfway thru the film. Overall, she’s so good we’ll forgive her.

‘V’ for Vendetta is a mesmerizing action film that inspires moments of deep thought now and again. That doesn’t happen very often in a movie theater. It’s also fun and entertaining, ending on a high note with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a song by the Rolling Stones.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Guy Fawkes’  masks begin appearing at stores everywhere this Halloween. Let’s just hope those wearing the masks leave the gunpowder at home.


Mark's Movie Meter

General Audiences: B+

Refreshing, action-packed political drama set in the near future and brought to you by the makers of Matrix  (The Wachowski brothers). Violence and some language. No sex or nudity. A few slow- motion blood gushing scenes not for the queasy.

Family Audiences:

Rated R for strong violence and some language. Too political, violent and dark for children.




























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