Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Week In Film #202: Swiss roll

Safe
Sure it’s a Jason Statham film; sure it’s derivative (Gloria for one, Leon for two, Ghost Dog for three); but I enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ve seen anything by director Boaz Yakin since his 1994 debut feature, Fresh, but this film was very assured in its execution, with well-wrought fight scenes, car chases and all the other nuts and bolts of a modern action movie.

We have The Stath as a journeyman cage fighter (with a Shadowy Past) who falls foul of the The Mob, and somehow finds himself the protector of a young Chinese girl, Catherine Chan. Basically everyone else is a bastard. It fizzles out a bit towards the end.

From Paris With Love
Jonathan Reys-Meyer and John Travolta as chalk-and-cheese CIA goons let loose in Paris against evil Muslamic tourists straight out of, I don’t know, True Lies or something. Basically a bit rubbish, though they seem to be aiming for a globetrotting franchise.

Lockout
Fairly pointless mashup of Escape From New York and Fortress, with Guy Pearce in the Kurt Russell/Christopher Lambert role – a wisecracking, disgraced government agent sent to rescue the President’s daughter from an orbiting space prison in mutiny.

Perfunctory direction from James Mather and Stephen St Leger, some scenery-chewing from Joseph Gilgun as a notably psycho inmate, and a rather clearly semaphored twist.

Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie takes on Conan Doyle, and it works quite well. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law provide a decent central pair of Holmes and Watson, there’s nice steampunk touches, and a well-rendered Victorian London. I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy it.

Despicable Me
Yet another viewing, thanks to the demands of the Wee Man. Gru looks more Grimly Feendish-like than ever.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
A much less successful outing for Ritchie/Downey/Law – too much vodka advert visuals, not enough character and plot.

A Week In Film #201: On a roll

Tower Heist
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.

Unknown
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.

Haywire
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.

Killer Elite
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.

Safe House
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.

A Week In Film #200: Summer’s back

Antifa: Chasseurs De Skins
Interesting documentary on militant anti-fascists in Paris from the 1970s onwards. A little bit structurally confused, but packed with fascinating footage and interviews with those who took on the cash as young men – many of them who continue to do so in middle age.

Definitely could have done with the participation of women, though.

The Eagle Has Landed title screen

The Eagle Has Landed
Knockabout counterfactual war shenanigans, with ‘honourable soldier’ Michael Caine leading his men into action on a crazy mission to capture Churchill in sleepy East Anglia. Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter, Robert Duvall, Sven Bertil, Treat Williams, Larry Hagman – fun times.

Manhunter
And again with Will Graham chasing down the Tooth Fairy, helped/hindered in equal measure by Brian Cox’s peerless Hannibal Leckter.

The Dark Knight Rises title screen

The Dark Knight Rises
Not sure I really dug this. Staged big, but seemed to be small-minded. Will have another crack at it sometime.

Hanna
Loved it – especially off-the-grid hit man Eric Bana’s relationship with daughter Saoirse Ronan, and annoying teen Jessica Barden fencing with sickish right-on parents Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng. Tom Hollander and Cate Blanchett both very watchable too.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Fincher version – and it grabbed me much tighter than the original. Rooney Mara astonishing as tightly wound hacker Lisbeth Salander, Daniel Craig providing solid priggishness as the hack-in-peril who brings her in on a job he has no hope of completing. Genuine moments of tension.

Drive
Nicholas Winding Refn’s big Hollywood calling card – very 70s existential road movie-influenced, The Driver, Vanishing Point, Electra Glide In Blue and all that – and it really did seem worth the hype. Ryan Gosling very good. Explosions of violence. Proper SUDDEN happenings. Approve.

A Week In Film #199: Monsoon season


The Silence Of The Lambs
Ham vs ham. It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. That whole weird shit stopover in a cage in the middle of a courtroom in Tennessee with Chris Isaak as a SWAT dude. The more times I watch this film the less sure I am of whether I like it or not.

Goodfellas title screen
Goodfellas
Shonky, overcooked, flashy, but still fun.

Narc title screen
Narc
Joe Carnahan’s low budget cops-and-graft gritter, with strong commitment from Jason Patric and Ray Liotta in the lead roles. Not the most original of plots, but excellently executed, and moments of real polish – the opening foot chase for one, and each of the visits to suspects’ houses.