Mixed Plate
Movie Review -- In Godís Hands -- 4/25/98

In God's Hands pictureOne of the most anticipated movies in surfing history, "In Godís Hands", opened this weekend to mixed reviews. I got a chance to see it at Waikiki #3 with my wife, and here's my take.

Thumb direction: I gave it a personal thumbs up. As far as if others might enjoy it, I have my doubts.

Directing: Zalman King ("9 1/2 Weeks", "Wild Orchid" 1 and 2, and "Red Shoe Diaries") has a very unique cinematic style. If youíre expecting Taylor Steele or Runman, donít even think about going. King deftly brought surreal light and images together with thunderous melodies (not really songs) into a kaleidoscope of sound and color. The Mardi Gras atmosphere, complete with skeleton wetsuits, were typical of his style.

Acting: It was pretty good, considering most of them didnít have any background whatsoever. They really acted as their own personalities, maybe amplified somewhat. Shane Dorian did well as the quiet, brooding, "unofficial best surfer in the world." Matt George was the eccentric, slightly burnt-out pro turned soul surfer, speaking with cliches galore. Matty Liu, unfortunately, acted like a total spazz as the young, up-and-coming kid. Shaun Tomson was very good as a narrator/photojournalist (like David Duchovney's character in the "Red Shoe Diaries" series)--his role should have been exploited further.

The other featured surfers, Rush Randle, Pete Cabrina, Darrick Doerner, Brian Keaulana, Mike Stewart, pretty much acted like themselves. It was obvious that they explained the tow-in teaching session to make the audience understand the difficulties and danger of it all. The Pidgin English got thick at times, but hey, itís authentic.

The sad part was that of the female love interest, played by Maylin Pultar. Sheís a bona fide actress, but had the dubious task of being just an accessory; someone to caress and to be caressed by. She had maybe a half-dozen lines in the whole movie. (BTW, unlike other Zalman King movies, there were no steamy sex scenes.)

The cameos were funny. I saw Mel Puíu, Vince Klyn, Titus and Alekai Kinimaka, among others. But Buffalo is da KING!

Story: Really bent. All I hope is that people donít believe that ALL surfers live that lifestyle or think that way. Matt George co-wrote the story with King, and put in all the latest in exotic surfing lore: carrying boulders underwater, being imprisoned in Madagascar, hitching on freighters, doing rock-n-roll parties, catching malaria, tow-surfing, chasing giant swells across oceans. Maybe they should have attacked more real surfing issues like: surfers vs. bodyboarders vs. longboarders, localism, the leash controversy and excess baggage charges (just kidding).

The story was quite fragmented and loose. The basic premise was that when you surf giant waves, you put yourself in Godís hands. But in one climactic scene, it seems Matt George's character already has a death wish before getting killed. Right there, the whole thrust of the movie went off the mark for me.

Another issue was the tow-surfing controversy and how some say it's not real surfing. But with the incredible Jaws footage and the radical launches by Rush and Pete, I think it worked the other way, promoting straps as a viable alternative.

Surfing: One word: INCREDIBLE! King did nice slow-moís, showing most rides in its entirety. Shane surfed great, but the strapped boys stole the show. Rush and Pete threw some incredible flips and Brian snagged an insane tube ride at Jaws. Mike "the Wizard" Stewart made the crowd oooh and ahhh with some sketchy bodyboard rides at Jaws, skipping down some huge faces and throwing a psycho three-sixty.

Seeing it on the big screen (especially the Jaws footage), with the pulse-pounding Dolby sound made the surfing images that much more intense. I can't wait till IMAX shows Ken Bradshaw's Outside Logs 35 footer.

Audience: How did the audience react? At Waikiki 3, Honoluluís best theater, the predominant surfer crowd was very reserved. It was pure angst between the displays of surfing, as the audience seemingly waited for something good to happen; waited for the action to really kick in. Like I said, King's style is different, and may not have been a perfect blend to showcase the surfing subculture.

Wifey: When asked how she liked it, she said, "Well... it was alright." She thought it was kinda weird. But now she doesn't want me to go surfing anymore--she's afraid I might drown!

Cool movie websites:
Official "In God's Hands" website by Sony
LA Times Review of "In God's Hands"
Internet Movie Database Info on "In God's Hands"