The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, Dean “Hank” Norris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!
Wrong Side of Town: an ex-marine has to get across town to save his kidnapped daughter – but he has a bounty on his huge head to gets his tiny-headed friend to help out. The opening scene and cool Bond-esque credits & song pricked my ears up straight away; unfortunately you soon realise that this can’t even be called legitimate acting – it’s a sad state of affairs when professional wrestler Batista pulls out the best performance in your film. On all other levels this really is “sub-movie” – story, script, direction, casting… you name it. A poor man’s JCVD – RVD – limps through the film, a fitting metaphor such a tragic film. If wrestlers running around looking badass with generic WWE metal intro music is your thing, then maybe this is worth a gamble. However, I usually take that stuff with a pinch of salt, but the only way I can sum this up honestly is by saying “Holy shit WWE! Must. Try. Harder.”
The Girl Who Played with Fire: Lisbeth heads back to Sweden after becoming the number one suspect in a treble murder – she tries to get to the bottom of the set-up while Mikael is out to prove her innocence. The writing is a lot sloppier than Dragon Tattoo with a few cheap characters written in for no reason other than making the story a bit more interesting – particularly the real-life boxer guy and two biker goons. In saying this, the story is still decent, even if it is all geared at backgrounding Lisbeth. Once again the two leads carry the story with enviable ease, Rapace in particular gets a lot of time to shine; the smaller presence of Nyqvist lets the film down a little. It also feels a lot more fictitious, with Mikael main guy out-foxing the police at every turn and Salander’s espionage / fighting super-skills. With a different director behind the camera the tone of the second film is worlds apart from the Dragon Tattoo; couple this with the weaker story and it’s nowhere near as gripping or memorable, as it unfolds somewhat predictably. As a stand alone film this would have been a good effort but after Dragon Tattoo this just seems so much more tamer and safer. Despite this review sounding hella negative Played with Fire is a good film, and does a solid job of keeping the trilogy going, while setting up the third installment.
War Inc.: spiritual sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank – same actors playing similar characters etc. This film managed to take some of the weaker aspects of GPB and beef them up; script, story, jokes & characters… in general terms I found to be War Inc. a lot funnier and more memorable. The political satire / wit is this film’s strong-point and although it’s not quite as polished as films like ‘Charlie Wilson’s War‘ it does share a lot of the sentiments, and has moments that match the edginess and drama. There are a few sections when the satire turns into ridiculous slapstick, which doesn’t match the tone of the film: songs & 3D theater for the press. Another aspect that jumped out was that Cusack is pretty good at action! Surprisingly smart political satire romp that has more to say than meets the eye.