Sicario: a young SWAT member joins a ‘special activities’ task force that may or may not be as legitimate as they first appear. The acting, direction, and visuals are gorgeous and often spellbinding; the characters and plot however… not so much. Very little new ground is covered, particularly with the characters: a naïve by-the-book agent (Blunt), mysterious and dangerous man-with-no-name (del Toro), the charismatic but cynical and amoral team leader (Brolin), questionable American operations, yada yada yada. The central character – who is already an unnecessary audience surrogate – has an even more redundant BFF to more explicitly vocalise her thoughts and attempt to let the dummies at the back know what may be happening (not much is actually revealed until the last 20 minutes). There’s a few nerve-shreddingly intense scenes like the border crossing, tunnel raid, and the last supper; which are paired with bursts of ultra-bleak violence and very graphic gore, which make the movie more grisly – although these felt like they were chasing notoriety, and ‘sexing up’ the otherwise flat tone. The daytime scenes look fantastic, downside being that some of the low-light or night-vision scenes are harder to follow. While Sicario looks fantastic, has the big names, and some dark and memorable scenes it’s far less effective than a straight-up drama like Prisoners: it feels a bit like a Steven Seagal/SWAT plot viewed through another character, and with an arthouse guise – leaving me with the impression that it’s more a film for the critics than the public. Like the pacing, story, shots, and characters, Sicario is intentionally slow and steady.
Strike Back: Project Dawn (Season 2) (Mild Spoilers): following on from the action-heavy British mini-series. Sky TV teamed up with Cinemax (aka skinemax) for season two, and as if by magic there’s more tits and ass in the first 5 minutes than the entire first season (and sex / tits / nudity at every possible opportunity moving forward!) Replacing believable badass John Porter with two new faces was a risky move, and it takes a while to adjust to the change, but they really shine from the mid-way point of the series: the British agent (Stonebridge) is played a touch too straight, and American Delta Force (Scott) a tad on the caricature side, but their chemistry, and “yo mama” style banter is thoroughly entertaining – like the highlights of a drunken Lad/Pub chat. Whereas the first season played out as a tight, tightly focused, serious political drama, season two is basically an action romp around the world – where everything explodes, everyone gets shot, and the American guy bangs every hot local in sight. The generic plot-lines only serve to deliver piece after piece of over-the-top action – chases, shoot-outs, sieges, espionage… it’s all there, it’s all good, and there’s 4 more episodes than the first outing! There’s very little resemblance between Season one and this, but they’re both great fun and totally entertaining in their own ways.
Episode 1-2 “Die Hard in India”
Episode 3-4 “Blown Away in South Africa”
Episode 5-6 “Taken in Darfur”
Episode 7-8 “Rambo in Kosovo”
Episode 9-10 “Every episode of 24 in Budapest”
The Condemned: ten of the toughest death-row prisoners from around the world are dumped on a remote island for 30 hours – the last person standing wins their freedom. Sound familiar? The plot is essentially Battle Royale, right down to the explosive jewelry. Leading man “Stone Cold” Steve Austinis pretty stale, but as an ex-wrestler, expectations weren’t massive – I can’t believe there’s not a single stone cold stunner, fan-appeasement FAIL! Vinnie Jones (and most other people) are laughably typecast and/or wooden, 2D, flat characters. A few other things to mention: lots of bad RAWK / Nu Metal songs; a piss-weak attempt to add a morality angle to the story; and some forced lines about kewl stuff like the internetz, bloggerz, and gamerz!!! The only real positive is that because it’s a WWE and Lionsgate film, the bad taste / violence etc is more than you’d expect. As a brain off, mindless, plotless, characterless, action film, The Condemned is alright – but there’s absolutely nothing that stays with you after the fireworks.