TOH columnist Tim Appelo assesses the relative merits of opening weekenders Rob Pattinson and Won Bin:
Who’s gonna have a better weekend, Robert Twilight Pattinson or Won Bin? Yes, that Won Bin, star of the year’s best murder mystery, The Mother, by monster director Bong Joon-ho, who makes Quentin look sloppy as a surgeon wearing boxing gloves.
You thought I was going to ask: Will Johnny Depp beat Robert Pattinson? Too easy! Depp’s Alice will make 20 times more money than Pattinson’s cynically earnest, aimlessly leaden, yet somehow oddly watchable weepie Remember Me. Compared to towering Depp, pint-size Pattinson will look like he bit the wrong end of a mushroom.
No, Pattinson and Won Bin make a more illuminating smackdown. They both play gorgeous slackers with stormy coiffures and hair-trigger tempers who squander nights swilling rotgut with tramp-stamp floozies and sleaze-weasel best friends who get him flung in the hoosegow.
A few differences: Won Bin plays a mama’s-boy village idiot on whom some bad cops pin a girl’s murder. Pattinson plays Tyler, a Prince Hal plutocrat slumming in the East Village, working in a bookstore, inexplicably not strangling the irksome jerk roommate (torturingly talent-free Tate Ellington,) who bets him that Tyler can’t bed a cop’s daughter (Lost girl Emilie de Ravin – she’s a find), to get even with the cop (Chris Cooper) for smudging his windshield with Tyler’s bloody cheek.
I knew two best friends who bet $100 on who could bed a babe; the loser had to sleep in the cold hall listening to Wagnerian orgasms. Man, was she mad when she found out about the bet! That would’ve made a better movie than this one, a plot sausage crammed with contrived dramas: bed bets, sibling suicide, cold dad (Pierce Brosnan), mom murder, mean preteen girls, and a shockingly shameless milking of 9/11 for unearned gravitas.
As a dramatic actor, Pattinson is great within a narrow range. But he delivers the moist frisson his fans demand. Even pink instead of pale, he’s an orgasm magnet. It’s his sly, sweet smirk, sideburns outsprouting his lush-as-Colin-Farrell eyebrows, and that bent nose – not a career-smashing nose like ex-pretty boys Mark Hamill or Eric Roberts, but a manfully handsome broken nose like Liam Neeson or Brando. Like Owen Wilson’s, it makes girls yearn to reach out and heal him.
As perfectly as Zach Braff nailed postgrad ennui in Garden State, Patterson fulfills fans need for a snobbery-despising rich guy with high ideals and cheekbones who wants a poor girl, prone to erupt in violent passion but only in defense of females on whom his focus is total. He radiates power yet is helpless in her erotic spell. He looks great PG-naked tumbling in sheets, then gets you seats at a great restaurant.
And boy, can he slouch. But as an actor, he was way better off dead. If he wasn’t going to be undead again in the Twilight sequel soon, his career would be in trouble. Girls go to Titanic over and over to relive the romantic dream. Remember Me is strictly a one-night stand.
The guy you want to see again is Won Bin. Most critics swoon over Mother for the Hitchcock clockwork plot, uncannily precise poetic cinematography, and the skillfully volcanic performance of the mother (Kim Hye-ja) sleuthing for the killer to get her son off Death Row. But Won Bin is more subtly, subversively amazing as the accused. A shambling goofball with memory issues, slow on the uptake, quick to punch when called a retard, he’s also got more going on than people notice. He’s calculating in his way, hiding behind his dumbness, lurking in the fog of his mind. He’s sweet and creepy, horny and romantic, a good/bad boy – an infinitely more interestingly convincing twentysomething than Pattinson’s cardboard projection of female fantasy. But he’s the antidote to desire, so no EW covers coming up.
Star Vs. Star Smackdown Verdict: Pattinson’s Remember Me will make 20 times more than Mother, then be instantly forgotten. Won Bin’s ambiguous big dark eyes and mysterious heart will haunt you for weeks.