Non-taxing, no surprises, by-the-numbers mainstream Hollywood comedy, with Ben Stiller leading a small crew of employees fired from an upscale Manhattan apartment complex who decide to take revenge on the thieving banker who got them the sack and embezzled their pension fund.
Alan Alda is suitably slimy as the Bernie Madoff analogue, Eddie Murphy harks back to his 80s heyday as a neighbourhood hustler brought on board to help our amateur burglars, Téa Leoni is the FBI agent investigating the banker. Throw in Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe and Stephen Henderson and you have a solid enough ensemble to help you forget this nonsense is helmed by Brett Ratner.
It feels mean to point it out, but Liam Neeson has had a lot of work since, well, you-know-what. I’m not complaining – I rather like his big sad eyes. Here he’s a scientist on his way to present a keynote speech at a conference in Germany, accompanied by his wife January Jones. But lo! On the way there he first loses his bag and then is involved in an accident that sees him lose his memory! CRUMBS!
Cue lots of scrapes – and before you know it, we’re in bloodbath territory. The twist is not particularly adventurous, and the card is played too early, but nevertheless, plenty to get your teeth into. Diane Kruger as a paperless cabbie is a high point. Decent direction from Jaume Collet-Saura.
I liked the look of this since seeing the trailers, and it didn’t let me down. Reviews I’ve seen suggest not everyone felt the same. Gina Carano is an Marine-turned-security contractor stitched up by her ex-boss/lover, Ewan McGregor; she doesn’t take kindly to this.
Great opening sequence that sets the tone, some nicely muted action scenes, and real blasts of excitement from standing starts. Top quality cast, including Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum (no, seriously), Michael Douglas (!!!) and Bill Paxton, and Michael Angarano is convincingly scared/confused as a bystander caught up in it all. Steven Soderbergh handles direction very well, as you would expect.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans
For my sins, I’ve never seen Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. I guess I should now, for comparison’s sake if nothing else.
Here we have Werner Herzog directing Nicolas Cage as a dirty cop in Louisiana – not a million miles away from his turn as a dirty cop in Atlantic City for Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes. This shady dick has a drug problem and a hooker for a girlfriend. He gets into scrapes, and starts having trouble distinguishing reality from narcotic-induced hallucination. I found it diverting, but nothing amazing. Oh well.
The Raid: Redemption
Welsh pencak silat enthusiast Gareth Evans hit pay dirt with this, structurally simple but magnificently-staged actioner about a team of elite Indonesian cops on a mission to capture a crime lord from within his tower block stronghold. It certainly beat the similarly-themed Dredd 3D off the blocks.
Triggering favourable comparison with the likes of Die Hard, Nid De Guêpes and the opening scene of Banlieue 13, and liberally borrowing from video game tropes, the fight scenes are ambitious and unrelenting, with some seriously impressive stunts along the way. Iko Uwais, Evans’ leading man of choice, really seems to embody the moral, young cop both battling to survive and to apprehend the villain.
Oh, and the US release’s score by Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese definitely helps add some tension.
No, it’s not Robert Aldrich’s rubbish 70s hitmen-for-hire flick, it’s the more recent rubbish adaptation of Ranulph Fiennes’ silly ‘true story’ novel The Feather Men – and yes, I admit it, I got the book when it came out (as an underage member of the Military & Aviation Book Society).
Story-wise, it’s about a bunch of mercenaries knocking off some ex-SAS soldiers who killed a Sultan’s sons whilst fighting in the Dhofar Rebellion in the 70s, which in turn attracts the attentions of a secretive organisation of ex-SAS men who zzz…
Yes, it has The Stath; yes, it has Clive Owen; yes, it has Bob De Niro (eh?!); yes, it’s a pile of crap. Couple of nice action sequences and that’s your lot. Directed by first-time Gary McKendry.
Shades of Three Days Of The Condor, as junior CIA officer Ryan Reynolds tries to do the right thing when Agency traitor Denzel Washington ends up in his custody in South Africa, only for a merciless squad of killers to turn up and blow everyone else away.
Neither subtle nor particularly loveable, there are some big action set pieces, and some moderately engaging character stuff between the two principals – ultimately a let-down though. Swedish director Daniel Espinosa was a new one on me.