I knew it'd likely be bad. It stars Charlie Sheen, who once did a good performance in Oliver Stone's Platoon, but then, well ... money, drugs, women, Navy Seals and Kiefer Sutherland. Take your pick. It's not that he has a bad screen presence, it's just that when you look at his ratio of good films and bad films, he's more often than not, in shit. Still, every now and then he has a bit roll in something like Being John Malkovich and steals the show. However, I was not under the theory that The Arrival would be this kind of film.
So, why watch it? Well, it's directed by David Twohy, who made the fine science fiction thriller Pitch Black, and the excellent ghost-in-a-submarine film, Below. I'm a big fan of those two films... but of course, Twohy made the Chronicles of Riddick, which outside some nice moments, was really just incoherent and not thought out.
"Oh my god, the burning sun is coming up!"
"You mean that sun that will rip the flesh from out bones and turn us into ash if we're caught in it?"
"Yeah. Over there, look!"
"Fuck. Lets hide behind this rock!"
The Chronicles of Riddick: not as stupid as Ashlee Simpson's singing career, but kinda close.
But, you know, that's two out of three. Then I saw Timescape, Twohy's first film, made for TV in the States. That made it two for two. Then I found the Arrival, which is his second film, before Pitch Black. Well, I thought, why the fuck not? It's eleven bucks, lets take the risk.
But it's not just shit, it's so utterly insulting to Mexicans that it's unintentionally funny shit. How can you not laugh at a film that portrays the entire Mexican population as illegal immigrants who want to come into the States, steal the world, and make it a hot sweaty environment only they can love. "If you're not going to look after your world," they say, "then why should you have it."
The film's shitness doesn't come from Charlie Sheen. If anything, he's desperately trying to look like an actor, even as he starts to resemble more and more a conspiracy nut living in his Unibomber shack in the middle of America somewhere. (Actually, he doesn't live in a shack like that, but he should.) Instead, the film falls down because its plot is about astronomers hearing a signal in space and trying to track it, and no one tries to make that visually interesting. Indeed, the film is pretty bland on a visual scale all the way through, but it does pick up, when, naturally, Sheen finds some aliens that are living on Earth secretly.
Illegally, one might say, and hiding themselves by passing themselves off as Mexicans.
Dirty, scummy, unhappy, eying the Americans and everything they got across the border and wishing they could get their dirty little hands on all that green land and fine health benefits (even though they like the heat and nothing else) and if only they'd hidden some cousins in the trunk of the space shuttle, they could do it... Yes, indeed, the villains are Illegal Aliens that look like Mexicans. As you watch the film, you will note that none of the filthy Mexicans smiles. None of them help a decent, crazy white American. They ignore said American's wild accusations that there are aliens living right fucking here and ohmygod you've got to do something... and no officer, I didn't run over anyone in my jeep. No sir. I'm a good white American.
(I'm saying white American, by the by, because (and in a total spoiler) the alien turncoat who betrays Sheen's character is the only black character in the film. Clearly he wants to get rid of those white Americans who are screwing up the environment and has thus joined forces with the evil Mexicans.)
At any rate, as the film continues, you'll come to realise the the portrayal of Mexicans is so utterly insulting and negative that you'll think Spielberg's portrayals of Germans are even handed and rational. However, unlike a Spielberg film, which is often suggested to be art instead of right wing pro war propaganda, you'll laugh all the way through the Arrival because you just can't take one moment of it seriously. Sure, it's a bit slow to get going, but once those evil Mexicans get on board, you'll be thinking that it's time to tighten those border patrols and see if you can't rip the skin off your friends and find some brown skinned aliens hiding underneath.
So, yes, Twohy has made three shit films and two good ones, by my count, but one of those three is absolutely hilarious. But the biggest laugh of the film, however, is saved for the Mexican Charlie Sheen. That by itself is worth eleven bucks.