Broken City: A cop-turned-P.I. is out for revenge after the corrupt Mayor of New York attempts to frame him for murder. This film is a lot of things, some of them not what you’d expect, but for all the shortcomings, it’s always quite fun to watch, if you go along with it. The casting is top-notch, and for the most part, everyone’s giving it welly – particularly Crowe, who’s clearly having a ball. Marky Mark is playing short-tempered Marky Mark, Barry Pepper is – as always – a solid minor character, Zeta-Jones is a seductive MILF… that’s all fairly standard. My biggest issue is that it’s an out-and-out 40s/50s noir script, but set in contemporary New York. It wants to have all of the classic genre elements, but in a modern setting – but it just doesn’t sit well: unlike something like Brick, which has more of a timeless feel. There’s also a ridiculous sub-plot about his model/actress wife, that doesn’t really go anywhere – he should have just been hard–boiled. Although not quite as good as you’d expect from this caliber of actors, it’s nowhere near bad – more like the kind of film that you would see being re-re-re-re-repeated at 11pm on a weeknight on some far-flung channel, but with a stellar cast and decent director.
Wolf of Wall Street: based on the memoirs of a drugged-up banker that did a load of bad things. Most obviously, three hours is just far, far, far too long for this story, which is essentially: motivational speech, loads of drugs, party harder than Andrew WK, repeat x20. The premise is classic Scorsese – rise-and-fall – but they way in which it’s told, what he chose to film, and how he chose to film it is anything but. There’s so much skin, sex, sensationilsm, and alpha-male testosterone in here that it felt like Michael Bay defiling a Scorsese sceenplay. Another huge problem is that the main character – Jordan Belfort – isn’t even remotely likeable or interesting; just a one-dimensional, remorseless asshole. On the plus side the script it great, the casting is magnificent and Scorsese really gets the most from them. It’s also very funny, funnier than most comedies, although it does have a lot of time to play with. Sadly, it feels a bit cheap coming from someone that’s brought us films like The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver… and it made me remember how good a film Boiler Room was. Scorsese – you’re above this. Studios – no director is above cutting empty & pointless scenes from! Not Scorsese, not Tarantino, nobody.
Argo: one of the CIA’s clandestine experts creates a ‘real’ fake movie as the perfect cover-up to bring home 6 diplomats stuck behind enemy lines. The most obvious thing about Argo is the phenomenally chosen cast, particularly from the TV sphere; people representing Braking Bad, 24, The Good Wife, etc – everyone is on great form, doing their parts for the movie. Arkin and Goodman in particular get many great lines, which helps maintain the delicate balance between the drama & peril, and a tongue-in-cheek – almost knockabout – look at Hollywood in the early 80s (with a loving streak of appreciation for Sci-Fi B-movies). On that note, the immaculate, uncompromising, period detail adds an unusually thick layer of authenticity to the story. The film’s book-ended by some ridiculously tense, well-directed, moments of a siege and the final throes of an escape. There are a few minor issues; it feels a little longer than it needed to be, some of the drama comes from contrived methods (like the old “run that through the system again” trick); also, although it’s not a ‘political’ film per se – but it reeks of AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!! Bottom line, Argo is a solid, balanced (if somewhat over-dramatised), political/historical thriller, held together by a superb cast. It also looks like Ben Affleck is fast becoming one of the best Actor’s Directors around.