Aftermath [mild spoilers]: follows two men after a fatal airplane collision that changes their lives forever. The film starts with a relentlessly grim and drawn-out opening act in which both leads deal with the shock of their situation, frequently tipping over into forced melodrama; it’s all very burdensome and somber. Where the film really fails to deliver is after a 70 minute gloomy setup; the ‘climactic payoff’ is far too brief, and then we get a post-script ‘years later’ scene that you could see coming a mile off. Stylistically, the film is equally austere, with a grayed out colour palate; it starts at Christmas for no real reason than to crank up the sorrow-o-meter; and contains some rather clunky imagery & parallels between the leads’ lives. Strangely, the movie takes a powerful real-life story and changes core elements that ultimately lessens the story’s impact in the fictionalized movie version. I’m a huge Arnie fan – and think he’s a better actor than he’s generally given credit for – however this film asks a little too much of him: there are moments where you can see him struggle with the emotions. Scoot McNairy is rather good, but doesn’t get a lot of gears to change through. From the director of Bltiz (a solid police action/drama) the lack of action and tunneled focus on tragedy feels like a huge – but just-missed – leap. Aftermath is by no means a bad film, but it is a very heavy film about a very heavy subject that you’d need to be in a particular mood to watch.
Taken3: when he’s framed for the murder of his wife ‘Dad of the year’ Bryan Mills needs to clear his name, and keep his daughter out of danger. For a blockbuster film the action sequences are frustratingly disappointing – looks like they’d been filmed for a more violent edit, then cut down to get the lowest certificate possible; leaving them disjointed, and Neeson looking like he’s barely trying (Seagal in Russia style). More generally, everything about this is lifted and slightly shifted from the first movie: he meets the wife, but they’re getting on slightly better; there’s a torture scene, but it’s waterboarding instead of electricity; he meets the lads, but they’re golfing instead of BBQ-ing; they have a chase, but instead of a boat, it’s a plane; Kim’s gift it a teddy bear instead of a karaoke machine… There’s too much time spent re-treading overly familiar ground, trying to add depth to one-dimensional (and already established) characters and relationships – at the expanse of time that should have been piling up Eastern-European bodies. Despite being a derivative and inferior shadow of the first movie, Taken 3 is nowhere near as terrible as the 1* reviews would suggest; it’s just that with the first film being so great the sequels taste all the more bitter.
More widely; the Taken trilogy (and Expendables) perfectly sum up the problem with successful “one-hit wonders”. Both were originally Hard-18 blood-and-guts nasty / B-movies, kneecapped to a more timid 15 for the second installment, then a paralysing 12A for the third – removing any semblance of the original films which weren’t actually all that different, but had the edge in terms of violence, and no expectations
FuckYeaPANDA: So long, and thanks for all the dosh
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.
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.
Faster: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an insane gun and a fast muscle car are out to avenge his dead brother ten years after a failed heist. Despite everything about this film looking awesome, it’s totally pants. For a stripped down revenge film there’s almost no action and only a handful of kills. Dwayne almost goes full retard, with no expressions and about two pages worth of lines in total. Then there’s the wholly unnecessary assassin side-story that serves absolutely no purpose but to beef the film up – and has no payoff. Billy Bob turns up and does his thing; nobody else leaves a mark. Also, for an R-Rated revenge film with an action star, massive guns and fast cars there’s no boobs… genre fail! The two-minute Red Band trailer honestly has the whole story – and all the best bits. If you can’t tell by now, Faster is a waste of everyone’s time and money, that’s been done about a million times, and far better.