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.
The Heat: a talented but unlikable by-the-book FBI agent is paired with an unorthodox-but-gets-results detective. It’s one film where FBI could mean ‘Female Body Inspector’ like those awesome t-shirts you see guys wearing on holiday (aside: they’re not awesome). Bullock is clearly going through an “I work hard on this body, so will show it off as much as possible” phase… no complaints over here. Joke-wise, it’s got a few good laughs, but unlike Bridesmaids original script the funnies here are much lazier; with Boston stereotypes, racism, vulgarity, and albinos doing all the work. The elongated drunken montage / gratuitous dance scene underlines that this is definitely more humor than humour. At two hours the film outstays its welcome a little; every scene (and joke) feels stretched out to the max, and it feels like there was a lot of ad-libbing that nobody was allowed to cut out. Other than the central pairing being two wimin’, there’s not much here that we haven’t all seen before. The Heat started off quite strongly, but soon went down the well-worn ‘mismatched buddy cop’ path: but you expected something different – or better – given the caliber involved.
It Follows: after sleeping with her new boyfriend a teen picks up a curse where a shape-shifting demon will always follow her, at walking pace, until it kills her or she bangs the curse in to someone else (an STD – Sexually Transmitted Demon – if you will). It sounds like an average idea for a horror film, but the execution is outstanding: taking this one simple (but powerful) idea and drawing tension, scares, and thrills from it. Like all of the best horror pictures it also works as a thinking film, steeped in subtext and wide open to interpretation and analysis. It lets the audience consider how they would handle It – would you try to outrun it, or it pass on, or just kill yourself?!?! Shunning almost everything that makes modern horrors lazy, it boasts a nostalgic ‘classic’ suburban horror setting where people used landlines, CRT TVs, Polaroids, and eerie synth dominated the score (although they could just be modern hipsters?) Other than a couple of early ‘cattle prod’ moments, the thrills come from the atmosphere and suspense of ‘It’ – and the zombie-like relentless shuffle towards the camera. In saying that, the film could have done with a few more ‘chase’ scenes or false demons walking around; if only to capitalise on the eerie vibe sustained by the director. Also, “It” is not always following, which is weird – it’s apparently scared of water & hospitals, or just hangs around on rooftops or at the back of cinemas when it can’t be assed pursuing. The direction is very strong: solid camerawork, paired with the perfectly captured suburban and run-down areas of Detroit – which all come together to give the film an authenticity. If it wasn’t for a few flashes of gore and gratui-tits this could be the scariest PG movie ever made. IT Follows is nothing short of a miracle given the state of modern horror – Insidious 9, Paranormal Inactivity 13, Texas Chainsaw 17 – it’s genuinely atmospheric & scary, avoids cheap shocks, and lingers with you long after.
My solution: fly to another country, bang a young hooker, she passes it on almost immediately, and the curse will keep going back to said prostitute every time the unlucky john dies.
Momentum: an ex-military ‘ghost’ turned bank robber and her team get tangled up in a conspiracy after a high-tech heist. Think Salt or Colombiana but on a tighter budget and with no characterisation. Kurylenko is just right for this role: she doesn’t get to act much, runs around in a sassy robe and knickers for the first act, then does enough pouting, shooting, and punching through the rest of the movie to distract you. Purefoy on the other hand is good fun as the devilishly smarmy antagonist – essentially reprising his Joe Carrol role from The Following. Good acting feels like a bonus here as this is all about the highly styalised action; and on that front the film delivers: prolonged bank heist, car chases, home invasion, abandoned factory & airport showdowns – no box is left unchecked. For a 15-rated film, it’s pretty severe – “very strong language, strong violence, sex, sexual threat” – to quote the BBFC rating, which doesn’t even mention torture or child abuse – I kept thinking it had to be an 18. The biggest thorn in the movie’s side is the scatter-gun approach in tone: it’s a bit sci-fy-y, a bit superhero-y, a bit revenge-y, a bit quirky, a bit tasteless-y, a bit dark, and a bit leery (the girls are formidable – but still run around in their panties and hooker boots)… it makes watching Momentum confusing at times: having to judge if certain parts should be funny, or shocking, and if parts are cliché, or a more knowing parody. Momentum is a brainless, action B-movie with a hack plot (nothing wrong with that) but sports a fascinating veneer of fringe A-list actors, slick visuals, ambitious action scenes – it’s not Citizen Kane, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the one-star reviews and relatively unknown status would lead you to believe. An entertaining action film aimed primarily at teenage lads.
Literally dialing in his couple of scenes
The North Face: follows several climbing teams in a 1936 race to tackle the The Eiger’s deadliest ascent (literally nicknamed “murder wall” in German). Even on a TV shots of the Eiger render you speechless – when you see the sheer, menacing vertical monster of a cliff face, and picture anyone trying to climb it, it’s nothing short of madness. The historic setting is done well, and packs an additional punch when you see the basic clothing and equipment climbers used back in the day. With this setting and a ‘proper’ orchestrated soundtrack (+ cabaret piano songs!) it’s got a sorely missed ‘classic film’ vibe that you rarely see these days. The film takes about one hour of average backstory to properly get going, but once the ascent has begun the second hour is nothing short of nail-biting superbity. It would have done well to focus solely on the climbing, and leave the journalism side-story out of the picture – the leading female seems happy to risk two life-long best friends for a minor career advancement… just gives that story a silly vibe. Despite being a tad on the long side, The North Face is a great watch, and a fascinating / unbelievable true story.
A Lonely Place to Die: [Spoilers] When a group of mountain climbers discover a captive girl their trek takes a turn for the dangerous. The film’s biggest weakness is that it’s totally confused, trying to mix action, horror, thriller, moral drama, hiking and more. The story’s also pretty poorly thought out – given the age of the person the ‘hidden’ back story is fairly obvious; half way through 99% of people would probably do the immoral thing; and the central group are also killed off too quickly, forcing the film to lean on the weaker story toward the end. It’s also fetishly ‘dirty’ by lingering on graphic violence throughout – especially gunshot wounds! Not to mention silly touches of ‘flare’ like the ridiculous pig mask and carnival in the last act. The final blow is that it’s insultingly over-Scottish: bawdy gaelic music, whisky, money jibe, bonnie highlands, bad accents, etc. With all that covered, there’s not a whole lot left to like; Melissa George leads the cast with ease, some of the aerial shots are technically proficient… and that’s about it. If you like homegrown horror this may be for you, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
Amores Perros: three separate stories brought together through a nasty car crash, with love being the common theme. Gritty doesn’t come close to describing this; with dog fighting, robbery, murder, abortion, and crazy hobbos all brought up in the first 20 minutes… definitely not for kids. The three stories of a wayward youth, fashion model and homeless guy are all fantastic, and the acting couldn’t be any better. Even though he’s the hardest to like, the hobbo‘s story is still my favourite as it’s nothing short of a dramatic roller coaster. The filming style further intensifies each story making it even more raw, and visceral. Although dogs play a large role in all three stories this definitely not a film for dog-lovers… particularly in the last act, heartbreaking. What Amores Perros boils down to is simply pure storytelling with no tricks, low blows or grand budget. Inarritu creates an extraordinary set of circumstances woven through a cast of fleshed out, realistic characters. Dramatic, moving, powerhouse.