The Place Beyond the Pines: a trilogy of stories surrounding a cop, a robber, and their kids. Firstly, the casting director should be put down; nobody here is doing anything new. Gosling (complete with gratuitous torso shot) is a lovable-but-flawed boyfriend, Cooper is a smart and ambitious over-achever, DeHaan as a creepy weirdo kid and Liotta as a bent cop, Mendelsohn as a petty low-life criminal – fuck me sideways, it’s like a cast made of characters from other films. While the three plot threads are connected, they are more akin to three completely separate stories. It has a painfully Indie/Arthouse slant to it; this means it’s OK to have excruciatingly long cuts of people riding bikes and cars down roads, and to casually drop in to the lives of ‘everyday people’. And once the ’15 years later’ title appears you know exactly where this is heading, so to take another 40 minutes feels rather greedy. More generally, it’s also hard keeping up with where you are on a timeline – sure, it’s chronological but one scene will jump a day, others weeks, some months with no indication. Over the 17 or so years all we as the audience get is all of the melodrama – in a film that is nothing like the bank-job / heist / action film the trailer suggests. I genuinely don’t understand the hype surrounding director Derek Cianfrance, but he got one thing right – calling this ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ – which tells you everything you need to know about it – too long, very vague, and painstaikingly tedious. By the last act, it felt more like the NeverEnding Story.
2 Fast 2 Furious: the LAPD finally catches up with the rogue detective from Fast and the Furious – and immediately put him on an identical car-based infiltration mission. So to keep it true to the first film there’s loads of amazing cars being trashed all over the shop, lots of cool ‘threading through traffic’ race scenes, and lots of close-ups of drivers shouting “AH HAAAA!” having just rammed / overtaken / out-driven someone. Again, some parts feel like techno music videos, other like they’re about to become 2-hot for TV spring-break videos. The story however feels quite vapid and familiar when held up against the first movie: very light on plot and dangerously close to ‘remake’ territory. There’s some bad ‘scarface’/’miami’ accents, and a couple of comically bad Bond-esque henchmen. Whereas the first film was more of a heist-thriller, this feels more like the overly-familiar cop/buddy films. There’s definitely a magic ingredient missing from the first film, perhaps it’s that without Vin Diesel ( who was doing xXx), this film feels like it’s running on an unleaded engine.
The Other Guys: when New York’s most badass detectives come to an untimely end, two unlikely schmucks try to step up and fill the gap. Didn’t expect much from this one but was pleasantly surprised by how funny the film was, with Wahlberg and Ferrell both flexing their comedic muscles with ease. The script and scenarios do a great job of mocking every buddy-cop-film scenario you could think of; and there’s a few amazing running gags about Ferrell’s past and Keaton‘s chief detective unknowingly quoting TLC songs. Story-wise, it follows the classic up-down-up relationship you see in these movies, but it loses its way a little by the end when the jokes thin out and the story needs a-wrappin’ up. Didn’t really understand the random narration from Ice-T, and despite the film being entertaining enough the infographic credits were one of the most interesting parts of the film! The Other Guys isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch but it’s absolutely carried by all of the jokes – especially the delivery by Will and Marky – which make it funnier and more quotable than your average buddy cop comedy.
Live!: Filmed by a documentary crew that are given access to a major Network’s ratings-obsessed – and frequently braless – producer as she turns a sick idea into the most successful reality TV show of all-time. Budget is the obvious constraint here and you get the feeling that the entire process, from idea to release, was all railroaded through with very little thought and even less money. Every character is stock, flawed and/or unbelievable – nobody even has a surname. The acting screams of ‘minimal effort’ at the best of times; omnihotty Eva Mendes doesn’t go beyond 1st gear, but hey, neither does anyone else – even 50 Cent (although he only has 1 line) and Javier Bardem Jeffery Dean Morgan. Despite being marred by cheapness the final 1/3 of the movie – the actual show – is pretty tense, if a little corny. The underlying messages about the public’s consumption and lust for tragedy have been around for decades, and done much better. It’s an interesting premise, but Stick to Series 7 or the Running Man.
The Spirit: Comic adaptation about a masked crime-fighter who fights crime with a mask on. Visually, it’s quite the treat although being brought to us by Frank Miller, one look at any shot from the movie indicates that this ‘borrows’ plenty visuals from Sin City – nothing new there. The Spirit is also lays it on heavily with Noir style, although it constantly regresses from cool to plain corny. The story is so one-dimensional and unimaginative that you’ll probably find yourself slipping into a coma in parts. Pretty much everyone was un-acting for the duration, besides Macht, who at least attempts to do something decent with his fairly lame character; that spends just as much time chasing tail as he does fighting crime. There’s plenty eye candy, from curvy Eva Mendes to the stunning Paz Vega, however they all feel a bit gratuitous, with no real point. Milo and Edgar from 24 also put in some face time. It all just seems very flat, with no real story or focus; random Japanese and Nazi sections anyone? There are some memorable and striking imagery & shots but overall it just feels like a low-rent Sin City.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. Werner Herzog’s tale of a crooked cop in post-Katrina New Orleans. This is to all intents and purposes a Nic Cage film, and boy is he back on form; overacting an eccentric, pain-ridden dirty cop and tripping on-screen for the full 2 hours… this is the man we fell in love with. The drug use brings a few bizarre and surreal moments ranging from Croc and Iguana close-ups to a breakdancing soul and Cage just talking absolute rubbish. There’s a good amount of very dark humour despite the drugs, murders, prostitution, blackmails and general shenanigans of the worst cop ever. The ending – particularly the scene at the Lieutenant’s desk where everyone visits him – felt like a massive cop-out and could have been so much more. Eva Mendes is good (and hot!), Stiffler‘s mum looks a little worse for wear until the end, Val Kilmer‘s only in about 3 scenes and I can’t see Xzibit without thinking about Pimp My Ride / Yo Dawg Yo. It’s really well shot, doesn’t drag too much and you know it’s well told when no matter how low the Lieutenant stoops, you’re still rooting for him. The amoral protagonist and situations he instigates will probably be the biggest turn-off here, nevertheless it’s a solid detective / drama film.