The November Man: a lethal ex-CIA agent is brought back in for a simple extraction that tangles him up with a Russian politician, the CIA, and his former protegé. It’s one of those films set in the Soviet Bloc in which ‘everebadee talkz Eengleesh‘. It also boasts two former James Bond stars reprising the best bits of their roles – and for what it’s worth, it’s great to see Broz’s charisma again as he pouts and shouts his way from scene to scene in a antiheroic fashion. For a political/thriller there’s more than enough solid action scenes: car chases, foot chases, gunfights (complete with some John Woo style jumping / slow mo). There’s a shape-shifting plot that’s fun to follow, especially because the entire film is back to back plot-action-plot-action, that only briefly dips in the middle. It’s not all roses however; some of the sub-plots (like the mentor / master angle) feel very clunky, there’s a couple of weird directorial choices (like mad Dutch angles everywhere), and the woeful title isn’t explained until last 10 minutes – and it barely makes sense. Most importantly, there’s very little to distinguish this from a thousand other similar sub-Bourne movies based on shady CIA operations. The November Man is a solid – but unremarkable – Spy Thriller that sits just above the middle ground with entertaining performances and action.
2 Guns: two undercover agents go in for a big drug bust, but neither knows the other is also wearing a badge! With Wahlberg playing a flirty street-smart, wisecracker and Denzel going for the moderately stoic sensible man-with-a-plan it’s safe to say neither is out of first gear, but if it were two unknowns, you wouldn’t have even heard of this – so they’ve already earned their pay cheque. In other departments, the quirky bromance is quite fun to watch, the plot is standard, but entertaining enough to keep you interested, and the action is serviceable for a movie like this. The biggest problem with 2 Guns is that it’s just so forgettable, and about as edgy as an 8-ball: you’ve seen everything in here elsewhere, and better. It feels like the kind of film that was made to fill in a space in the schedules, or because there was some spare cash that absolutely had to be used. While it’s not as good as it should be with two massive stars splitting the bill, it’s another just-above-average entry into the surprisingly difficult to nail “Action Comedy” genre.
Chopping Mall (aka Killbots): it’s the near-future, where mall cops have been replaced by security robots, and “absolutely nothing can go wrong,” but a couple of lightning strikes later… yuuup, things are going wrong for a bunch of “teenagers” stuck in the mall overnight. If one thing defines this film, it’s the knuckle-chewing levels of cheese present in every scene. All characters are hyper-generic (nerd, wallflower, hunk, party boy) and the dialogue / delivery is terrible across the board – even the cool and quotable lines like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambo gram!!” The film plods through as a by-the-numbers pedigree b-movie, that’s not quite bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good – but everyone seems to know how bad it is, and rolls with it anyway. Shopping centre boffins will note that this looks very similar to the one from Commando!! Chopping Mall just isn’t as shocking, gory or violent as the ‘slasher’ title would suggest; it just ends up feeling like a 1950s sci-fi film with a 1980s face-lift.
It’s like Krieger’s robot and Cheryl/Carol from Archer!
“Where the shopping can cost you an arm and a leg”
Law Abiding Citizen (mild spoilers): when his wife and kid are murdered and the legal system fails him, a disgruntled everyman with nothing to lose spends years engineering his quasi-legal revenge. Gerrard Butler (Shut up, Butt wad), WTF are you doing man? You’re all over the place and why the fuck did your character get nude when you were arrested? The Fantastic Mr Foxx is OK, doing what he does (normal guy in a moral quandary) but his character’s role is unbelievably wonky: supposed to be a prosecutor, but does loads of detective work. The film starts off interesting – and the opening in particular is powerfully violent – the set-up is theatrically gruesome, but once Butler is in prison it turns absolutely ridiculous – and when you hear about his previous employment it’s like being slapped in the face with a big silly stick. However, it’s quite funny and enjoyable despite being so bizarrely cheesy and shockingly stupid. Deliberately 18-rated, over-the-top B-movie with an A-list cast.
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.
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.
Taken 2: Bryan Mills and his ‘very particular set of skills’ are hunted down by the relatives of the bad guys from Paris (Taken). If Mr Megaton had stuck to the surefire winning formula of the first film, he’d have been OK, however, he strays way off topic. Action, drama and no-brain story: 66% – this is far to silly to have any sense of drama or threat. Hard-hitting fight-scenes: 33% – my beloved, worn-down, Taken DVD is 18-rated, this was a 12A, with all of the bloody bone-crunching edges are taken off. Liam Neeson acting well: – 15% – he totally looks like he can not be arsed here, as do most of the cast. A brief list of the memorable moments tell you more about the tone of the film that any sensible review could:
- Maggie Grace gratuitously running around in a Bikini
- Maggie Grace – having not passed her driving test – executing perfect evasive/offensive driving
- Maggie Grace throwing grenades on Istanbul roofs so Neeson can locate her.
- Neeson being left in a room, alone, for a long time
- Neeson having a mini-phone in his pocket
- Neeson walking through Istanbul navigating using only his ears.
Overall, it feels like far more like a “Shit, we accidentally got a worldwide hit from a B-movie – may as well cash-in with a rushed sequel” affair, over a well-thought out, original, nasty, well done action flick. All that being said, Taken 2 is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made it out to be, there’s more than enough mindless action scenes to keep audiences entertained.