Hardcore Henry (Хардкор): when he is resurrected with no memory and new robotic limbs, Henry must save his kidnapped wife from a telekinetic psychopath who has plans to weaponise a robo-army. From the opening credits (graphic, but blackly comic violence) you can tell this isn’t your usual action film – most of the movie is shot from a ‘First Person’ perspective, from the point-of-view of ‘Henry’ using an intricate head-cam rig. The film is basically 90 minutes straight of Henry running / jumping / shooting / punching through a long line of obstacles; with some awesome freerunning & parkour (seemingly no wires – or brains!), and high intensity and very high quality stuntwork: the elements combine to create a truly unique and awe-inspiring action spectacle. There’s also a great anarchic/punk sensibility to the movie; anything goes, and there’s a lot of crazy & zany elements… it even using things like subtitles to make a few jokes with. The biggest problem is that when everything is up at 150% the whole time, you end up becoming a bit numb to it towards the end. Another downside of the FPS style is that the camera is very shaky and has a warped fish-eye lens which distorts a lot of the outer frame. Hardcore Henry is a film that is truly cutting edge, in that it couldn’t have even been made a couple of years ago – the only remotely close comparison you could draw would be a less offensive, but higher-octane version of the Crank films. It’s fun, impressive, and completely mental, but overall struggles to engage after a while. Best viewed after consuming a twelve pack of Red Bull.
NOTE: The entire film was spawned from this music video – if you fancy 90 mins of this, look no farther than Hardcore Henry.
Red Heat: a Russian and American cop are forced together to capture a nasty drug dealer that’s killed their colleagues on both sides of the globe. With the opening sequence starting in a nearly-nude Soviet sauna/spa and culminating in a naked snow-fight you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally bought a gay porno; and when you’re finally settling back in to the movie… BOOM… another homoerotic shower scene with Arnie. The rest of the film is pinned on the culture clash of a stereotyped disciplined and ‘barbaric’ Soviet paired with a schlubby ‘wimpy’ American – aren’t culture clashes funny? LOL! We get everything from misunderstood slang (“You’re shitting me?” / “I’m not shitting on you”) through to plain old “I give up: this whole thing is very Russian!” <rolls eyes>. It sounds hammy, and some of it is, but it’s entertaining and carries the film: distracting you from the generic plot. It’s one of Arnie’s more challenging roles at that point, and he just about pulls it off as an Austrian speaking English with a Russian accent (MIND BLOWN!), which has led to the film becoming a cult movie in Russian speaking territories. It’s light on action, but when guns are blazing it’s satisfactory and brainless stuff like firing a six-shooter 18 times without reloading, and a Chicago bus carnage finale. Tonally, the film straddles a gulf between the wacky and light-hearted cop-pairing, and an ultra-evil bad guy / drugs / violence / nudity angle. Released in the mid-1980s – before the end of the Cold War – I suspect it had more going for it; however, looking back, it’s pretty unremarkable. Red Heat is a buddy-cop movie that ticks the boxes, but isn’t quite funny or action-packed to stand out.
“Moscow’s toughest detective. Chicago’s craziest cop. There’s only one thing more dangerous than making them mad: making them partners.”
Narcos (Season 1): two D.E.A. agents try to take down the world’s most notorious criminal – Pablo Escobar; a humble weed smuggler who became the wealthiest criminal in history. This feels like a mix between a high-production TV series, and a documentary – with dozens of long sections of expositional dialogue, archive footage, and additional information explaining (in great detail) external factors leading to some of the plot points. Even though this wasn’t particularly slavish to the historical facts; the continual reliance on archive footage makes it feel like it’s handicapping the story to non-fiction only. The ‘Original’ stuff is all brilliantly shot and written: and doesn’t shy away from the nasty side of the drug trade and organised crime; there’s plenty of blood, guts, sex, and violence in here for added authenticity. This is matched by a handful of fantastic lead performances from a cast of relatively unknown actors, who set the screen on fire. In fact, my only real gripe with watching Narcos is trying to figure out how long has passed between scenes – at one point a baby becomes a proper kid in the next scene, but Escobar is still running for election! Season 1 (10 Episodes) covers 43 out of 44 years of Escobar’s life in sufficient detail; leaving the worry that season 2 will be padded out or overly dramatised: 10-12 episodes could have made this a great one-off. Narcos is a gangster / crime epic that’s up there with the best of them: it’s is smart, thoroughly engaging, and truly addictive TV; adding another string to Netflix’s bow. Netflix and Chill? More like Narcos and Kill!!1!11!! AMIRITE?!?
Non-Stop: an alcoholic veteran air marshal must figure out which of his passengers are picking the others off one by one until their ransom is met. To be fair, the director did all he could with this, but it’s a difficult task making a SMS conversation seem dramatic – although that can and has been done better with an even smaller scope. Neeson is in full-on Bryan Mills mode; the gruffly mumbling back-against-the-wall everyman with mad fighting skills and a character-defining family backstory. After the first couple of completely preposterous twisty-turney moments you learn not to think too hard about the rest of the plot. The one thing this film does have going for it is a sincere moment about the ‘Illusion of security’, which totally stands out against the dumbness of everything else going on. Probably an idea that sounded fantastic in a pitch, but was ultimately too great a task for the writers and director: leaving the end product feeling a bit daft. Japes on a plane! Proof that turkeys can fly! Plane rubbish! Etc etc…
– Dafuq Jeff – Plz stop sendin me grindr dik pics u basic bitch
– LOL IDGAF, shut yo skanky ass ratchet mouth #YOLO ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: two brothers struggling with debt hatch a plan to knock-off their parent’s jewelry store, but it doesn’t go down as planned. This must have had origins in a play or theater; it doesn’t feel remotely cinematic. Technically, it has the look and feel of a film-school project or directorial debut – not from the person that has brought us 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network etc. It contains the worst use of zooming and jump-cutting in the history of cinema. Worst of all, the film thinks it’s smarter than it is, and spends the duration flopping all over the timeline – and assuming the audience is too dumb to follow, it brands the time on screen at the start of every scene. For such a respectable cast (Hoffman, Hawke, Finney, Shannon, and Marisa Tomei’s tits) they’re all hamming it up – but every character is completely one-dimensional. The gratuitous crass language annoyed me more than it should have – mostly because it felt sledge-hammered in to make the film marginally more outrageous. This hasn’t aged well at all: made in 2007, feels like a film from the 90s. Nihilistic, boring, pompously-theatrical claptrap.
Killers (キラーズ, Kirazu): a serial killer who uploads his work to a ‘DeathTube‘ site inspires an everyman to go vigilante. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen directors harness everything down to the distributors & funders logos to add to the film’s aesthetic; and with this level of detail from the get go, the film is technically admirable – sound, editing, camerawork etc. The opening 5 minutes really set the mood, with a shocking and ultra-graphic murder: the violence slowly escalates and darkens as the runtime progresses. Unlike The Raid‘s gritty-but-styalised – and even poetic – gore, this film is just plain gritty. One killer is a savvy psychopath fit for Dexter, the other is an everyman pushed over the edge, Falling Down style. Another unique aspect is that it’s a collaborative effort from two directors (The Mo Brothers – not real brothers), filmed in two locations – Japan and Indonesia – with English spoken parts when the two leads interact; it doesn’t hinder the film’s international appeal, although something feels lost in translation story-wise. At 140 minutes it does lose feel rather long-winded and intricate for what is essentially a serial killer movie with a disjointed story and not much in the way of themes or messages. If you like your gore gory, and your films stylish this ticks both boxes – although not a lot else. The main stars of Killers are the directors, who with more focus (shorter runtime and tighter story) could pose a serious threat to Gareth Evans as the king of contemporary Indonesian action.
Danger 5 (Season 2): the team of global super spies are re-united, this time in the 1980s, to stop another of Hitler’s quests for world domination. It’s soon apparent that this is – paradoxically – undeniably Danger 5, but also quite different to the previous season. The writers tampered with the cocktail recipe a little too much; Pierre has totally changed for no explained reason, another lead was swapped out for a ridiculous brat-character, most of the established running jokes dropped, and 80s throwback has been done to death lately – giving it a less cool / kitsch feel than the 1960s format. On the other hand the show manages to remain funny, wacky, surreal, psychedelic, and a celebration of satire (there’s an episode called “Back to the Führer” – come on!). I hate using the word ‘random’, but the ‘randomness’, madness and surrealism of the gags is the main thing that raises Danger 5 and sets it apart from the mediocrity that you expect of most modern comedies. All of the changes add up to fewer laughs per episode, but despite this Danger 5 Season 2 is still a great show, that is equally bonkers – but has a significantly different look and feel.