Black Mass: follows the criminal activities of the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger and his closest conspirators. First off; why the fuck would anyone want to make such a pointless film? One that tells the story of an evil murderer, pointing out that he’s an evil murderer by showing him commit and sanction said evil murders. We get it; but y tho? There’s no arc, no development, no story… it’s just a series of decreasingly effective cold-blooded killings. The pacing is dead slow, full of unlikable characters and shows zero motivation for anyone’s actions; especially the vampiric and despicable lead. If anything, it felt farcical that a FBI would allow such openly compromised detective to continue working on cases they were obviously invested in! Being set in Boston we’re treated to everyone trying (but failing) to nail BAWSTAN accent: Cumberbatch lands poll position with a change in both pitch and hammy accent, that feels like a straight-up comedy voice. The ensemble cast are phenomenal, but nobody is given a credible character to work with, and although he’s as good as he’s been in the last 10 years or so Johnny Depp continues his obsession with distracting dressing up / make up to get in to character. Black mass is well shot, boasts a couple of good scenes, and a decent central performance but it is the opposite of an enjoyable or interesting film. It’s the film that nobody was crying out for; and a great companion piece for Killing Them Softly.
The Hateful Eight: a bounty hunter and his prisoner get snowed-in at a cabin stop with six strangers, but “one of them fellas is not what he says he is”. Most of the actors get to do what they do best: grouchy Kurt grumbles magnificently; magnetic Goggins spits out redneck ramblings; Sam J does his shouty-preaching; Roth ponses around; in fact, Madsen is the only actor that doesn’t really get any good screentime. Despite the huge names, Señor Bob (Demián Bichir) steals the show for me with a ridiculously terrific comedy performance and accent. There’s some absolutely stunning exploitation gore, blood sprays, head explosions, etc, etc – all electrifying for even the most hardened splatter aficionados. As you’ll have read everywhere; the main issue with H.E. is that it’s simply far, far, far too long. It takes over 45 minutes to get to the cabin setting; an hour ‘til we get to the crux of the movie; and even with 2hr40min of dialogue heavy scenes, a narrator (voiced by QT, obvz) is still required to throw in more details – how sloppy and empty can the writing get? In fact, most people’s issues with Django seem to be applicable here too: it’s almost as if Tarantino is intentionally trolling his own audience (too many n-bombs, too long, no censorship…). Finally, a massive deal was made about resurrecting the ultra-Panavision 70mm format: but exterior shots are pretty much whiteouts, and the last two hours are confined to a cabin interior – which leaves you yearning for epic vistas. With his last few films, Tarantino is starting to come across as a ‘brat’ director (surrounded by ‘yes men’); refusing to cut out flabby parts, censor himself, or make any changes to his precious baby. Boiled down: The Hateful Eight is simply a decadent, elaborate, and extremely self-indulgent Reservoir Dogs remake: and a very testing setup for what’s essentially a room full of people shooting each other… again.
Strike Back: Vengeance (Season 3) – when a billionaire acquires four nuclear triggers in order to re-shape Africa, only section 20 can stop him. Continuing with the UK/US collaboration, this takes everything that worked about ‘Project Dawn’ and made it all bigger/louder/better. Every episode is wall to wall action; with dozens of set pieces, hundreds of deaths, and a load of whiz-bang sex scenes. The entire season is 100mph, and it’s simply great fun. The characters feel more rounded, the leads’ chemistry is fantastic, and it’s very professionally made – but things like ‘character development’, ‘plot’, and ‘direction‘ are background noise to the explosions, gunfights, stunt driving, and spec ops that march the show forward. It’s hard to believe that such a ridiculously intense level of action (huge set pieces every 10 mins or so) can be done on a TV budget – the 10 episodes are paired off into FIVE 90-minute long mini missions that run together. In a world of toned down and heavily edited 12-rated action films, the swearing, sex, and sensational action makes this feel like something from ‘the good old days’. Completely knowing, and aimed directly at young male action fans, Strike Back Vengeance is a show that only really does one thing (infinite ammo, high-octane action turned up to 11), but does it brilliantly – making it a truly unmissable show for action fans
Seven Psychopaths: whilst working on his screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths” a struggling writer gets caught up in his best friend’s dog-snatching scheme. This film takes crime-thriller genre head on, and turns all of the well-worn tropes on their heads for fun, and to make a stale genre more entertaining. More than anything else, the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – to the point where, if you like the absurd, risqué and offensive humour, you will have a sore face by the end: the epic imagined gunfight/showdown in the graveyard had almost everyone in the cinema crying with laughter. There’s lots of top acting from the leading men (Rockwell storms the film, although he does have the best character and funniest lines) but the ladies on the other hand – other than Walken‘s wife – don’t get much of a look-in. So there’s an entertaining story, good characters, lots of jokes – but there’s a catch: the film is let down by trying to be far too self-aware and ‘filmy’ to the point of being a quite ‘wanky’. There’s a scene in the middle film where the characters have just had a load of action and are driving to the desert, while talking about the middle of the ‘seven psychopaths’ script, where the characters are driving to the desert after an action-packed first half… I was almost chewing my fingers off with cringery. Seven Psychopaths ends up being a violent, sweary, funny and entertaining black comedy caper, with a promising ‘real’ plot is hampered by the quirky/indie emphasis of the ‘film-within-a-film’ sub-plot.
1. She thinks she’s hot Shih Tzu
2. The non-violent one
3. The seemingly normal one
4. He won’t take any Shih Tzu
5. The Passive-aggressive girlfriend
6. The one with the bunny
7. The one with issues
Killer Elite: when his mentor is captured, a contract killer must avenge an Arab sheikh’s dead sons by killing several high profile ex SAS soldiers. The plot was actually decent enough to make the film a Syriana / Body of Lies affair, but with Statham at the helms it ends up being a bog-standard action vehicle – and a poor one at that. There’s absolutely nothing memorable about the film; from the humdrum action, to the bleak washed-out colours – honestly, one week later I can recall about two minutes of the movie. Despite being two hours long, it feels like a 4 hour megafilm that keeps teasing you, but never actually ends. De Niro continues to disappoint, carrying on his ‘cash for billing’ scam, giving the most bog standard of his recent 20-minute performances. The action editing’s not very good either – particularly with his hospital/Owen fight, which was so incoherent that it hurt my head. Even the travelogue aspect feels gratuitous and disappointing. Nothing much to see here other than a nuts and bolts Statham flick.