Mechanic Resurrection: a retired hitman gets pulled back into action when his new girlfriend is captured and he’s forced to whack three seemingly unconnected criminals. Being the sequel to a somewhat derivative remake expectations going in aren’t exactly high; but the film just about meets them. Everything that isn’t an action/fighting scene is there to set up the next action/fighting scene; including a nonsensical plot and some ultra-dubious character motivation: within 10 mins a pragmatic contract killer has fallen and is risking it all for a random babe?!? It’s also ‘subconsciously Bond,’ with multiple exotic locations, submarine pen shootout, Rio cable cars, exploding boats etc. Not content leaning on one franchise, the story’s also centered around three “Impossible missions”: a prison kill, swimming pool kill, and boat-chaos… all fun, but none are particularly tense as Arthur Bishop never loses the upper hand. We get a rent-a-baddie (Hazeldine) with no charisma, personality, or memorable traits; and a rent-a-babe (Alba) with a suspiciously small wardrobe and whose cleavage is deeper than her character. On the upside, Jason Statham is back in his bone-breaking action lane; Tommy Lee Jones is chewing it up (but is literally in two scenes) and the film has an aesthetically pleasing, vibrant, Lucy-esque visual style (although some of the CGI is very ropy). Mechanic Resurrection is an uninspired action film with only one reason to watch it; Statham returning to his action roots… if you like mile-high body counts, entertaining dispatches, and Jason Statham punching & shooting his way through obstacles look no further than this.
Homefront: when an undercover narc is re-located his past eventually comes back to bite him, and his daughter. I was really looking forward to this: Statham playing Statham in an action film, James Franco as the baddie, and Wynona Rider… things were looking up; then I saw this phrase in the credits “written and produced by Stallone” and my heart just sank. We know Statham’s a badass (he’s Jason Statham), we know Franco is the baddie, we know the cop is bent, we know the revenge story… don’t spend over an hour backgrounding these basic characters, and genre plot. And don’t sell it as a non-stop action-fest when it’s only really the finale that’s action-heavy. And don’t cast a young girl with an old-lady’s face! (She was like ‘Chloe from Vine’). And don’t be so loose with your accent, Statham. While this isn’t a completely terrible film it just feels like nobody’s really trying: not the writers, not the director, not even the actors… everyone involved is better than this. Distressingly average.
The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only
real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.
Safe: a former cage fighter has to save a gifted child from falling in to the hands of the Triads, Russian mobsters or bent cops. So here we are, another Statham action vehicle where he can kick ass, forget about the names and we all walk out of the cinema satisfied. Action-wise, there’s a few really good, bone-crunching – grab your arm / leg / nuts and shout ‘fuuuuu’ – fight scenes, however the biggest set-pieces are big, loud, well-handled, gunfights. Gruff Statham is as gruff as he can be, although his character is all over the shop: ex binman, ex cage-fighter, ex cop, potentially more dangerous… make up your mind! Other characters are all very dated action film stereotypes: Asians being either angry triads or good at maths; tattoo’d Russian gangsters called Petri and Sergi, and ruthless bent cops who will do anything for some cash-money. The story is just as ridiculous, but who really cares – it’s an action film, with plenty of action and a stunningly high body count. Other notes would be a groovy / old-fashioned soundtrack popping up in places, an Audi with Infinite boot space, New York looking shittier than ever, and the Americanized delivery of the line “I don’t collect garbage, I dispose of it”. Although I walk in to every Statham flick hoping he’ll pull a JCVD on us, Safe ends up being a pretty safe action film about a robbing a safe and keeping a girl (and the audience) safe. Sure it packs a punch and delivers some thrills, but it’s not even remotely interested in doing anything new or original, and neither is Statham at the moment.
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.
Blitz: a crazed killer is knocking cops over like skittles in London, but focusing only on one police station… Story-wise, this follows the tried and tested formula featuring an alcoholic on-edge loner cop, a really bad man and some cat-and-mouse games. It looks quite good, but because of the story and realistic feel you’d associate it more with TV shows like The Bill or Luther. Action scenes are the only parts that remind you it’s a movie, although there’s a cracking chase sequence and several brutal / graphic incidents executed really well. Considine is great (as always) in an understated hero cop role, Gillen does a solid bad guy and Statham nails another Statham-type role, although he’s a bit grittier than usual. There’s absolutely no new ground covered, but for a solid cops vs cop killer story this is a cracker.
The Mechanic: after wiping out his boss and mentor a Mechanic (Hitman) takes it upon himself to train the boss’s wayward son – but will the son find out his dirty secret… What can you really say about this one? Jason Statham playing another Jason Statham character in a Jason Statham film for the umpteenth time – if you don’t know the drill by now, please exit the cinema quietly. The story’s 100% predictable, right down to the very last Statham scene – absolutely no surprises. On the other hand the acting’s generally pretty damn fine and although there’s not as much Statham action as you’d expect, it’s all done really well and there’s some really memorable Statham deaths. Knowing what kind of Statham film this is – and needs to be – everything is geared at the lads; there’s the gratuitous nudity & Statham sex scene, antique cars, and laughable close up shots of manly men (i.e. Statham) firing big guns with huge bullet casings flying out the side. The fantastic Statham script pleases the crowd, with all the cheeky Statham hard-man line’s you’d expect; someone even tells Statham: “I’ll put a bounty on your head so big you own reflection will want to shoot you in the face” a quality Statham film line by any previous film standards. Disappointingly, there are two major distractions from this Statham fest in Ben Foster‘s scrawny little tramp beard and ridiculously shitty French muse hat – no points to the costume designer! If you like Statham doing his Statham thing in a Statham film this will certainly not disappoint Statham fans. The mechanic is nothing new, or nothing original but it’s a well-excecuted popcorn action flick. Statham!
The Expendables: A band of gruff mercenaries feel up to the task of overthrowing a corrupt Latin-American dictator. First thing’s first: this film has the action cast to end all casts – while it’s not 100% perfect, you just don’t see this many huge names in a film these days. It’s hard to describe but seeing star after star after star is spectacle in itself. Then there’s the action, which is awesome – and although CGI heavy, it’s great fun watching henchmen get mauled by fists, blades, bullets, fire and grenades; watching anything and everything get blown up; watching all the standout musclemen fight each other; and watching set piece after set piece. Little else is particularly noteworthy, but little else matters in a film like this; the script’s terrible laughable, the plot is contrived beyond belief, the acting’s utterly forgettable (everyone’s on auto-pilot) and even the ‘hot chick’ was a bit of a dog. Essentially a B-movie with an A-star cast and massive budget, this isn’t a homage to 1980s blockbuster action films, this is a 1980s blockbuster action film. It’s also an action film for action fans, and it does the big scenes way better than anything else I’ve seen recently. I laughed, I cringed, and I shouted ‘Holy Shit’ (usually while clutching a limb that’d just been snapped on screen) about 20 times. What can I say? I’m a sucker for big names, big guns, big explosions and big set pieces. Roll on the Expendables 2!
War: (Blu Ray) A gritty cop is out to avenge his partner’s death at the hand of the cockiest and most conspicuous hitman on the planet. Initially, this one doesn’t bat too high; with flashbacks referencing the start of the film after 20 minutes!! It’s also totally textbook, from the archetypal spy/metal music & story-progressing montage through to the constant ‘satellite’ shots and swooping cuts of cars driving over bridges. However, the last 30 minutes or so make this film more than worth persevering with – and in general the film was slicker and smarter than the uninspired synopsis and general image gives it credit for. There’s a lot of decent and original action/choreogrphy threading through the film – the best being an awesome footchase, and a jaw-dropping steakhouse punch up. You know what to expect from Statham and Li, and neither disappoint. The uncompressed audio mix bursts out of every speaker for the full duration creating one of the best soundscapes I’ve heard to date – every word, footstep, punch, gunshot and shatter is crystal clear and mixed in perfectly with the film’s fully orchestrated score – it’s truly an aural delight that should be a must-have for anyone with a home theater system, indisputable demo material. The picture’s generally good, but has a few bum scenes. Overall, if you like your cop-revenge-action films this is definitely one of the better ones out there – and while it’s not outstanding, there’s a lot of good touches that elevate it above expectations.
The Bank Job: although the actual Bank job is finished within the hour, after that everything goes ‘Pete Tong’ and the 20-odd main, and shallow, characters all come together in a poor Lock-Stock fashion. It’s also the classic Hollywood version of Britain, where every man’s a wheelin’ & dealin’ geezer and everyone , including the royal family, are sex’d up to the maxxx – tits are pretty much the first thing you see. Jason Statham, as always, is grittier than a pocked of sand, but not superhuman for a change. Didn’t once feeling anything for any of the characters, but neither did the cast as they threw a party at the end; despite 1/2 of their crew getting killed! There’s also a cracking Ronnie Barker look-a-like. It’s a watchable stereotypical vapid Brit-flick but really only stuck it out because it’s all based on real rumours.
Chaos (2006): Statham, Snipes and Ryan Philippe playing off each other in a film about a complicated bank robbery. The majority of the film walked a tightrope between brilliant and shit, but it stayed watchable. A twist-o-rama at the end (complete with flashbacks for the terminally stupid) pretty much saves it, although didn’t leave many clues throughout the film to figure it out yourself. The 5.1 surround was great, but the dialogue / action balance was rubbish. It’s OK, but will never make a list of the best cop films ever.