What a feel good movie to start things off. Cocaine, suicide, losing children in divorce settlements, prison for pedophilia, and armed robbery gone terribly wrong. The only part of this movie I had seen before was the opening tracking shot, and since it's very oh-yeah-seventies-and-disco I just assumed the rest of the movie would be like that, only with more sex scenes.
And the first half is very much like that. Mark Wahlberg gets a blowjob from Heather Graham, has sex with her on the couch while Burt Reynolds watches, and things are rolling along. Even William H. Macy's character, whose wife has a thing for sleeping nonchalantly with other men, doesn't seem like he's in all that bad a spot. It's comical the way she deals with him, and how he is so non-confrontational.
Then that familiar story arc comes in, where the cast is so successful that there's nowhere to go but down. This was actually obnoxious to watch because it takes so long to happen. We know things are going south the moment Wahlberg snorts coke at the New Year's party, but for the next 45 minutes, we see each group of characters' luck change for the worse. It was nice that they were all edited together such that we only saw a few minutes of each story before jumping to another, but it seemed so Goodfellas or Casino (Scorsese in general, really) that I wish it would have happened faster.
I will say that I loved the tracking shots. There are shots like these in other movies where it feels like the director is just showing off (Children of Men, that's you), but they're so simple here. Burt Reynolds walking through a house is not a complicated sequence; an unedited shot following him isn't distracting - if anything, it brings us in more - but a ten minute action sequence of Clive Owen running through a rioting city, into a crowded apartment building that's under siege by soldiers and tanks, and making his way back out, is so much more to take in.
Everything wrapped up nicely at the end. Where I was expecting a Requiem for a Dream end, I got one that was actually pleasant to watch. Lots of redemption, less prostitution for heroin. The only issue I take with the movie is the middle, which is surrounded by lightheartedness. I guess I just didn't like seeing the characters that I had really come to like get into such terrible situations.