Line of Duty (Seasons 1 & 2): police drama based on an Anti-Corruption unit and their internal affair investigations on potentially crooked coppers. The show’s biggest strength is that the main focus of each season is a very ambiguous character that looks clean and innocent, but makes some morally dubious choices – some of which are understandable – meaning that every viewer will see them differently depending on their individual moral compass. It also helps that the core characters are well-acted and for the most part, given backstory and more depth. There’s more shocks and violence than you’d expect from a Big British Castle (BBC) program – which helps to ratchet up the drama. It’s also well shot, with strong docu/realistic camerawork and a slightly gritty finish to emphasise urgency and drama. What I don’t understand is that it spends 5-6 hours setting up a complex, engaging, and constantly evolving crime scenario – only to completely fuck up the ending in both seasons: one is barely explained; the other is told only through flashbacks; and both times nothing really changes, the team don’t actually figure anything out, and it’s topped with cheesy follow-up post credit titles showing the fate of each main character (even though it’s fiction, and not true crime). For the most part Line of Duty is a slick, tense, and absorbing police procedural show; and if closure doesn’t bother you, you’ll like it even more.
Season 1 – Score: 7/10
Season 2 – Score: 8/10
Lockout: a wrongly convicted man is made to enter a maximum security prison, mid-riot, in space, and rescue the president’s daughter, thus winning a pardon. No, it doesn’t feature Snake Plissken, but bulked up Guy Pearce‘s supercop ‘Snow’ gives the character a good run for his money; he entertains and kicks ass in equal measures, and despite clearly having fun, he’s well above and beyond what is required in an action film this silly. It’s not just Pearce, as the two main baddies in Vincent Regain and Joseph Gilgun (despite the terrible Scottish accents) are a proper Dastardly and Muttley duo, both watchable yet nasty. Other than being set in space this has every other cliché in the action/cop genre; It’s physics-defying dumbness is laughable; it’s needlessly bookended by a boring & unnecessary briefcase / conspiracy side-story; and some really good action scenes are let down by a couple of ultra-cheap, poorly handled bouts of big, fast, loud, fuzzy CGI that are nothing but disorienting. Despite these snags, EuropaCorp delivers another film that punches way above its weight for a $20M sci-fi action picture. While it’s pretty much Escape from New York in space, Lockout is every bit as action-packed and blockbusterly satisfying as it looks, with a surprisingly entertaining cast, decent director, and a few good laughs along the way. I liked it, and oddly enough, so did my lady.
Colombiana: when her parents are killed in front of her as a child, Cataleya spends the next 15 years training as an assassin, and plotting her revenge. Despite being a bog-standard assassin story this has the advantage of having a decent actress as the star – Saldana nails the portrayal of a complex ‘hitwoman’. The action throughout is above standard, right until to the close quarter combat scene at the end, which gets horrifically minced up in the editing. There’s some generic Latino music, and general stereotyping throughout, and with Luc Besson taking a writing credit this covers no new territory for him, but in the same breath, it shouldn’t disappoint any of his fans. As far as hitman flicks go, this one’s rock solid, and as sexy as they come.
The Next Three Days: When his wife is sent to prison for a murder she didn’t commit, an everyman embarks on a long-winded jailbreak from the county’s most secure prison. The brunt of the film is Crowe scoping out the prison and dealing with Pittsburgh’s criminal underbelly – making it essentially the Russell Crowe show; which is great because he’s Russell Crowe, but bad because he’s one of those superb actors that manages to elevate otherwise average films above their natural place (see State of Play). The tone jumps up and down, with up to 30 minutes of slow-moving planning, then Crowe getting his action on for a minute or two. When you’re watching it, most of it seems plausible at a stretch, then you think back to everything that a sleepy English lecturer actually did… and feel violated! Also, unless I’m an idiot, they didn’t reveal one question: how did the blood get on to the back of her jacket?! Despite being pretty well made you get the sense that everyone here’s underachieving, and that it’s a film for the sake of being a film, with some big names… for the sake of having the big names (Neeson is in one scene, yet gets 3rd billing.) It’s also more about The First Three Years than The Next Three Days!!