Raw Deal: after his dismissal for roughing up bad guys a disgraced but loyal ex-FBI agent is called back into action to infiltrate and prosecute a Chicago mob. This film is somewhat unique for its wildly uneven tone that jumps between bawdy and camp comedy (“You shouldn’t drink and bake at the same time, aye aye aye”) in one scene, and in the next he’s probably tossin’ grown men across rooms before shooting them in the face. There’s a good number of action scenes and they’re mostly centred around TOTAL HAVOC and MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION; Arnie blows up an entire chemical plant to fake his own death, drives a tow-truck through a building, has an epic nightclub shootout, demolishes a construction site… There’s even a five-minute scene of Arnie just cocking, locking, and loading a suitcase full of guns before his final rampage. The rest of the film is fairly by-the-numbers; old guys in suits being corrupt, comically inept Chicago mobsters who couldn’t whack a whack-a-mole, let alone a bozo wiseguy. The direction is good, but unremarkable, other than a Jaws dolly zoom shot. Sitting between Terminator/Red Sonia/Commando and Predator/Running Man – this ‘c-c-c-combo-breaker’ film has understandably become an overlooked entry in the Arnie Oeuvre – sure it’s a fun way of spending 110 mins with him, but lacks the elements of a ‘Classic’ Arnold outing – with the film’s pitiful ‘zinger’ (“Resign or be prosecuted“) being a prime example of this.
The Tournament: every 7 years in an unsuspecting town 30 of the world’s top special forces, serial killers, athletes and assassins fight to the death for a £10M cash prize. To get it out-of-the-way, yes, this film clearly borrows from the likes of Smokin Aces, Battle Royale, Series 7 etc etc. To ensure there’s some dialogue – in what would otherwise be a speechless film – the silly priest storyline is added, although it could have been just as easily done with two underdog killers teaming up. Given that there’s 30 contestants + others watching, characterisation is obviously very thin. Boring things aside, the action in this film is intense and very frequent – the highlight being a strip-club shootout/massacre with blood, guts and limbs flying everywhere. Nothing within the frame is safe, pedestrians, buildings, animals and vehicles (cars, jeeps and tankers all flipping and exploding at some point). Every five minutes there’s a big action scene, and most of it is of a very high standard. For a £4M movie to have such a decent cast, great action scenes and well-directed action (it’s his first film!!) – it’s nothing short of a miracle. Someone please throw more money at the director, Scott Mann to kick off his next project – it’s absolutely the best in class for mindless action; a bloody schlock romp for the guys, full of explosions, guns, blood and tits.
Rock ‘n’ Rolla [Blu Ray]: Guy Ritchie introduces another bunch of dodgy geezers that you would find in ‘everyday Britain’… honestly! There’s a huge section of Basil exposition at the start; although goes with the territory of having 20 storylines and around 400 characters. There’s more narration by a LANDAN GEEZA – and the script’s full of more cockney slang / gangster limericks; I wouldn’t blame non-Brits for requiring subtitles. (Ewe go’ mo’ feet on thu street van coppas on thu beat – etc). There’s more Tarantino-esqué styling with wipes, swipes, fast cut editing, dialogue in boxes. There’s more people acting trivially when surrounded by or cut between senseless violence – which is becoming old hat. There’s also more dark comedy elements, which are quite good: a homosexual sub-plot, S&M, botched robbery, comparing scars, indestructible Russians… Where this succeeds is the stunning Brit cast; Hardy, Strong, Elba, ‘Superhands’, Butler, Kebbell, and Newton. The Blu Ray’s worth the extra pennies, with a slick picture and some tasty HD-audio. If you can’t tell from the above, Rock ‘n’ Rolla is more of the same ol’ Guy Ritchie tricks, although it’s all totally passable, and in the end, quite entertaining & watchable. It was planned to be the first of three films and – surprisingly – I’d like to see the other two.
Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps: 20 or so years after the first Wall Street film Gordon Gekko is released from jail and tries to warn everyone about the upcoming 2008 crash, while making amends with his estranged daughter. First off, it’s painfully ironic how a movie explaining that consumerism and greed caused the recession could be used to advertise so many brands. Only an absolute tool could sit through this and not realise that they paid good money to watch a +2 hour advert; with the most shameless product placement since iRobot – Heineken, Ducatti, Lays, Y3, iPhone, Borders, Macs, 5-hour Energy are in-your-face for the duration, peaking with a 30-second montage of Bulgari jewelry – for real. Pretty much every character is an under-developed stereotype: greedy-corrupt-cigar-smoking-over-bonused-bankers, quirky-left-leaning-liberal, mad-scientist-with-a-vision… what’s worst is that nobody’s particularly likable – not even Gordon Gheko. Add to this the fact that nobody’s in any real danger, and that it’s impossible to relate to (let alone feel sorry for) a bunch city bankers and you end up with an unengaging movie. There’s more – it’s about 40 minutes too long and twice as wordy as it needed to be; crammed with semi confusing high-finance terminology – but even that couldn’t mask how shallow the film was. The rotten cherry on this shit-flavoured cake was the loud and bland indie soundtrack. I’ve never seen the first one, and unless anyone can convince me otherwise I never will after seeing this. Overall the film’s as empty as LaBeouf’s screen presence – money may not sleep, but I almost did; twice.
The A-Team: a crack commando unit gets sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit; these men promptly escape and try to clear their name, by any means possible! It was an honourable attempt at a decent story, which was good in parts but landed somewhere between you’re average Seagal and Bourne Flick. You get what you see with the simple characters, but it’s hardly a character piece. Hannibal/Neeson looked uncomfortable throughout, but Murdoch/Copley picks up all the slack, and ends up the film’s real star. Patrick Wilson‘s also decent. The action was great, and should leave you grinning ear to ear because it’s cool & gratifying escapism (flying tanks, mad stunts, explosions, dogfights…) right up until the last big play where it got so ridiculous that CGI had to take over. We got a solid 3 months of hype in the UK so I wasn’t expecting much, but The A-Team is simply an enjoyable, over-the-top action film. Probably 20 minutes longer than it should be, but much better than expected.