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Iron Man

Robert Downey, Jr. saves the day
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 1, 2008


VIDEO: Peter Keough reviews Iron Man

Though a Marvel Comics fan, I never thought much of Iron Man. He was a Batman knockoff with a right-wing streak. And Jon Favreau directing a superhero movie doesn’t fill one with confidence, his only experience with a green screen being the clunkily funny Elf and Zathura. Robert Downey, Jr., though, is something else. He puts the much needed irony in Iron Man, starting with the first scene, where as billionaire playboy and arms developer Tony Stark (Ghostface fans, this one's for you!) he’s sipping a scotch on the rocks bullshitting with troops in a humvee escorting him across the Afghan desert. He’s just demonstrated one of the more lethal items in his catalogue and he’s laying back and you just know something is about to blow up. Sure enough, he’s nearly done in by a missile with his name on it. Literally: “Stark Enterprises.”  He wakes up in a cave with some pseudo-bin Laden demanding he build him a superweapon. Big mistake, as instead he devises the weapons-system suit that earns him the title name.

What follows is both predictible and confused. Stark discovers that his weapons are not always going to the good guys, though his associate, played by a bald, bearded, and clearly-not-what-he-seems-to-be Jeff Bridges, reassures him all is okay. So Stark renounces weapons making, except of course for the cool suit, the prototype of which he used to blast his way to freedom in Afghanistan. Now he returns there to annihilate the Taliban-like creeps turning his company’s guns against hapless civilians. But who are those bad guys? Why do some speak Hungarian? Is the film a diatribe against Islamo-fascism, the international arms industry, or supervillainy in general? Or is it just an excuse for extended f/x sequences of the Transformers variety? At its best, Iron Man serves as an unlikely vehicle for the irrepressible Downey, who redeems it from tedium with the apt one-liner and pratfall.

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