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Filmism.net Dispatch April 3, 2011

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Hollywood has a long history of chewing up and spitting out hot new auteurs. For every Tarantino (who's never lost his distinctive voice despite the bigger budgets he's been able to command), there's a Lee Tamahori, who gave us auspicious debuts like Once Were Warriors and ended up helming committee-led studio blockbusters like Die Another Day, more about moving product than artistic vigour.

Giving them an easy chair and too much money is usually the best way to bleed away all the scrappy can-do mojo we once loved. We even have our share of them in Australasia, where Philip Noyce ended up directing traffic for films like Patriot Games and Greg McLean lost the stark, nihilistic spirit that gave us Wolf Creek to do soulless CGI showreel Rogue.

Peter Jackson's directorial personality didn't exactly fade in the glow of the focus groups but after Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles – twine-and-duct-tape efforts that captured us with heart and determination – he wasn't exactly the 21st entry's Orson Welles after a blank cheque from Warner Brothers to make the Rings trilogy.

I'm not talking about directors who arrive big before falling victim to the law of diminishing returns. Like or hate M Night Shyamalan, you can't miss his style (or couldn't until The Last Airbender). But because of the number of directors with great promise who end up as megaphones for hire I was doubtful when I first saw the trailer for Source Code, the sci-fi thriller from Moon director Duncan Jones.

It looked like an easy payday after Jones' brilliant 2009 debut. The trailer makes it look like another Bradbury/Dick adaptation the studios routinely get wrong by insisting on a three act action-movie script with a romantic subplot. Even the title sounds like a studio marketing exec trying to sound zeitgeisty without really knowing what the term means. But so far Source Code has an enviable 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so I'm not uncrossing my fingers just yet.

If it does end up another overblown actioner trying to be hip and cool (like Eagle Eye), I can always revisit Love Exposure, the oddball Japanese love story that's as far from a standard Hollywood thriller as you'll ever see.

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