Self/Less: when a terminally ill millionaire has his mind copied into a young and healthy body he gets a second chance at life… but there’s always a catch. This one has a great, high-concept idea at the core, however it deliberataly shifts lanes into a generic Bourne-type action movie instead; shying away from the higher brow sci-fi elements. It’s not all bad though as the action is to a decent standard, the story is a bit different, and because it’s a Tarsem Singh film the look and design is fantastic (although it’s nowhere near as styalised or ‘Tarsemmy’ as his other movies). The emotional scenes are also stronger than you’d expect from a film like this. Reynolds is great at portraying a new man; and I love how he isn’t afraid to take on more risky and interesting pictures than his peers: stuff like Buried, RIPD, The Nines, Deadpool. While Self/Less won’t be going down as a Sci-Fi (or action) classic, it’s a both solid and interesting enough to keep you entertained – and maybe even think a little – for two hours.
There are very brief glimpses of Tarsem’s visual flare
The Double: a retired CIA operative is paired with a pen-pushing rookie – both specialists on a hitman called ‘Cassius‘ – who is believed to have re-surfaced, years after his apparent death. Cassius (ka-see-us) – for some unbelievably annoying reason pronounced “cashus” for the runtime – if I ever hear that name again it will be too soon – it would make a great drinking game. Gere is OK here, but it’s not outside his comfort zone. Topher Grace gets enough screentime to shine, but doesn’t shine because his acting is terrible. Everyone else it a footnote. The story could have been quite interesting – but doesn’t start twisting and turning until it’s far too late – and you’ve lost all interest. The action is sub-standard, and overall – there’s not a whole lot of anything likeable, or even admirable to be found in here. It’s a bad film, but mostly because it plays its hand after 30 minutes and spends the rest of the runtime carelessly smashing through every spy/thriller cliché imaginable. Not good. Not good at all.
Sabotage: a D.E.A. legend and his off-the-rails team of undercover NARCs are being hunted down by a cartel for skimming off $10M of the gang’s money in a recent raid. I know, I know, this one’s never going to win any awards – but in a world where studios are pussying out of 18-rated movies right, left, and center this is like a breath of fresh (or rotten) air. A dark, violent, dingy film that harks back to the 70s–90s cop films that had plenty of grit and edge. From the writer of Training Day, Street Kings and End of Watch you know you’re in good hands here. Machismo’d to the rafters, there’s a whole lot of big-dick swinging, heavy swearing, ‘cop banter’ – and the women in here are strippers, ‘sluts’ or a general nuisances to the lads. The story’s not as black-and-white as it first seems, and neither are the characters – as the film balances both intense action scenes with a well-crafted thriller storyline. You either love these sort of films, or you hate ‘em; and for me, Sabotage is a decent, violent cop film with a rock-solid ensemble cast and an interesting enough story to keep you tuned in.
- Why are we here again? - I need a new house...
The Cold Light of Day: when his family are kidnapped near Madrid an everyman has to find a briefcase and return it to the captors in time. This is a strange one: coming out of the cinema it felt like a serviceable ‘nuts and bolts’ action movie, however, two days later the only parts i can recall are the Nike, Blackberry, Coca Cola, Audi, Land Rover, Fabrik Nightclub co-promotion scenes. There’s a couple of night-time action scenes that were too shaky and poorly lit to be even remotely coherent – although there are a few interesting flares of camerawork, and it fades in and out of attempting to have the atmosphere and music of a classic Boir thriller – it’s just not consistent enough. The story is quite derivative, sloppy, and predictable genre writing – and everything down to the title feels focus-grouped to death. God bless Cavill for trying, but there’s next to nothing for anyone to work with – all characters are like concentrated stock. The Cold Light of Day is one of the laziest films I’ve seen in a long time; it just wants to coast on the back of the names involved – although the biggest (Sigourney and Bruce Willis) phone in two of the sleepiest and offendingly unremarkable paycheck performances of the year.
Safe House: a neglected CIA rookie sees a chance to prove himself when his safe house is attacked and he’s left to protect & contain a notorious rogue agent. Both Denzel and Reynolds are on good form, although neither’s particularly stretched given what they can do, it’s definitely easy money. In saying that, having these two does mean the characters are a bit deeper than standard action stars would be. The focus here is on straight-up, balls-to-the-wall action – about 1/2 the runtime is chase, shootout or fighting scenes, which makes for some great popcorn gawking. There are a couple of ultra-shaky cam moments where they’d have been better drawing black and white stick men hitting each other, but for the most part the action’s alright to follow. Unfortunately, this doesn’t put much thought on the plot, the story is the definition of unambitious and you can predict everything from the initial set up, right down to the final scene. Safe House may not be a particularly engaging or deep movie: “Post Bourne entry political thriller” just about sums this up, but with its eyes firmly fixed on the CrashBangWallop, it delivers ample in this department.
Vanishing Point: drug-fuelled car delivery across America in an ol’ Ford, but unless you love films where it’s just about cars and chases… you probably won’t take much from this. If you like funky soul music from the early 70’s it would make the film even better! Hasn’t really dated well (‘nam, hippies and homophobia) and the plot’s very thin, as are the characters and dialogue. Some OK car stunts redeem it, but it’ll always be just a ‘cult’ film.