Screen Jeers: ‘Day of Wrath’

Dan: Now that we’re fully recovered from the atrocity that is “Twilight,” it’s time to revisit one of our favorite bad movie stars: Christopher Lambert. We’ve looked at his performance as the lead role in the “Highlander” franchise and his part as sagely god of thunder Raiden in “Mortal Kombat.” Now, he’s off to the days of the Spanish Inquisition (sadly, not this Spanish Inquisition) in “Day of Wrath.”

Just one look at the DVD cover and it’s pretty obvious what we’re in for: a lot of random swordfights and silliness and not a lot of acting prowess. Lambert is Ruy de Mendoza, sheriff of a town in Spain that’s come down with a bad case of murder. His attempts to solve the mystery is thwarted at every turn, and it seems everyone in the town — especially the clergy — is in on it. All the while, he must deal with a former flame, Carmen, and the higher-ups in both government and the church. Eventually, it is discovered that he (and just about everyone else) has secret Jewish heritage, making them all targets of the Inquisition. In the end, a bunch of people die at the blade, and he gets married to Carmen, even though he had already been married throughout the movie.

It’s confusing and incoherent, but Caryn, am I crazy as to think this movie could have been salvaged?

Caryn: Yeah, even though this movie was a little strange, it wasn’t terrible. I’m not an expert on the Spanish Inquisition, but I’m guessing this movie has some facets of historical inaccuracy, which is why it was in the $3 bin at FYE.

It seemed like Lambert’s character was just a bumbling sheriff and the more interesting character was the guy who was actually getting paid to commit the murders. The murderer was dressed up like a combination of Batman and Zorro (“Borro,” if you will, which is how I felt about halfway through the movie,) and he carved letters on the chests of his victims, a detail that became completely irrelevant by the third act. In the end, he and Ruy teamed up and spent a day killing a bunch of people who were conspiring to kill people. You know, like a day of wrath or something.

I would have liked the movie to follow “Borro” and Ruy’s second-in-command because they were the ones orchestrating the killings. Ruy was kind of boring. A handful of scenes were spent watching Christopher Lambert pour over old family trees. Another handful of scenes were spent watching Christopher Lambert whisper suspensefully at people, which I’m guessing was supposed to heighten the tension. It didn’t work.

I don’t know how accurate the costumes were supposed to be either, but they were pretty cool, too.

Dan, what parts did you find salvageable or not?

Dan: In different hands, this could have been an interesting movie. The plot is actually fairly well put together, with just about every character either knowingly or unknowingly hiding something about themselves or their past. The action scenes, while often times nonsensical and unnecessary, were pretty exciting.

The big problem was the acting. The dialogue was 75 percent grainy whispers, and I picked up no less than five distinct accents in what was supposed to be 16th-century Spain. Not one actor gave a believable performance, as though each one hoped no one would remember this movie. While this did bring about some strangely entertaining situations (such as the ham-tastic governor and his odd jester-type guy), it mostly made watching the movie a drag. There were also, of course, gratuitous breast shots, the surefire sign of how the director thought this movie was going.

What kind of swashbuckling adventure would you recommend over this?

Caryn: Oddly, this movie reminded me of “Hot Fuzz,” which I would recommend watching instead of “Day of Wrath.” It’s a British spoof of a cop movie starring Simon Pegg as an uptight police officer trying to crack a small-town conspiracy. It doesn’t have any old-timey historical costumes or gratuitous breast shots, and the British actors talk in British accents because they’re British. If you think cop movies take themselves too seriously, and you enjoy dry, witty humor, I would definitely recommend “Hot Fuzz.”

What would you recommend?

Dan: I’m going with another goofy, historically inaccurate movie: “The Mask of Zorro.” It’s got all the same elements of “Day of Wrath” (swords, mystique, secrecy, and even a Spanish background), only because “Zorro” isn’t trying to be taken too seriously, it is far more enjoyable. Of course, Lambert would whoop Antonio Banderas in a swordfight, but I’d still rather watch his training montages and great chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones than watch Lambert stumble around in between gravelly speeches.

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