Non-Stop: an alcoholic veteran air marshal must figure out which of his passengers are picking the others off one by one until their ransom is met. To be fair, the director did all he could with this, but it’s a difficult task making a SMS conversation seem dramatic – although that can and has been done better with an even smaller scope. Neeson is in full-on Bryan Mills mode; the gruffly mumbling back-against-the-wall everyman with mad fighting skills and a character-defining family backstory. After the first couple of completely preposterous twisty-turney moments you learn not to think too hard about the rest of the plot. The one thing this film does have going for it is a sincere moment about the ‘Illusion of security’, which totally stands out against the dumbness of everything else going on. Probably an idea that sounded fantastic in a pitch, but was ultimately too great a task for the writers and director: leaving the end product feeling a bit daft. Japes on a plane! Proof that turkeys can fly! Plane rubbish! Etc etc…
– Dafuq Jeff – Plz stop sendin me grindr dik pics u basic bitch
– LOL IDGAF, shut yo skanky ass ratchet mouth #YOLO ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Red 2: a Retired, Extremely Dangerous (RED) agent Frank Moses is back on the radar when an APB goes out to every contract killer in the world, with a tasty bounty on his head. First off, although he’s in a restrictive role (and – skeptically – probably only to sell tickets in Asia) I like the gamble of casting a Korean megastar that is relatively unknown in the West. Even delivering phonetic/over-dubbed lines Lee Byung-Hun steals his scenes, and raises the action bar – peaking in the impressive and innovative fridge-door fight in Moscow. It’s also as funny as RED was, but every single laugh is John Malkovich – “If there’s one thing I know, it’s women and covert operations”. Hopkins is entertaining, Louise-Parker & Zeta-Jones are both hyphenated surnames, and dame Mirren also enjoyable company. The setup is rrrrrather contemporary for a comic – a’la WikiLeaks, but the overall story (and film) don’t flow particularly well as they’re determined to have a James Bond style travelogue element – popping up here, there, and everywhere for no real reason: London, Moscow, Paris, America… despite this, it’s hard not to switch off by the end as the required ‘twisty-turny’ but overall a fairly predictable story arc plays out – what’s wrong with goodies being good and baddies staying bad?!?!? Basically, Bruce Willis doing a dialed-in ‘wise guy’ with diluted attitude, surrounded by people you’d rather be watching – all reminding you of that film ‘Paycheck’, but for the wrong reasons. Less Die Hard, more Die Soft and wrinkly.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift: a ‘teenager’ who’s always in trouble moves to Japan to dodge juvenile prison (is this a real thing?), but is soon back in the shit when he joins the underground drift/racing crew in Tokyo. For being a franchise film, the only thing connecting it to previous outings is a 20 second Vin Diesel cameo in the final frames – that’s stretching it. A brief list of the things that pissed me off about this film would be: the cheesy all-Americanism, particularly the leads honking redneck accent & attitude; why would anyone give a total stranger their high-spec supercar to race in!?; suspiciously old actors playing teenagers; and most worryingly, all of the girls in the film are there to be race trophies, one of whom actually states “The winner gets me” – what a skank! Also, what the fuck is martial artist legend Sony Chiba doing in this, and why does every street corner, garage, club and eatery in Tokyo have a DJ with decks and big headphones?!?! In the film’s defence, the stunt driving / drifting sections are pretty cool – and to an extent, that’s probably the biggest target it had to hit. The visuals are rich and for all the flaws, it’s well shot and directed on a technical level. Tokyo itself is represented through vending machines, gadgets, high-tech garages, neon signage, quaint bath-houses and gangster-punks. There’s a handful of obligatory ‘Culture Clash – LOL’ moments also put in for good measure. If the rest of the Fast/Furious movies were normal Jonas Brothers this one would be the talentless, embarrassing, tone-deaf one that the parents intentionally keep locked in the basement – hoping that the world forgets about him: unfortunately, Tokyo Jonas is still part of the family, so comes with the box-set, and thus has to be watched and reviewed. Tokyo Drift feels like a totally unrelated, knock-off, emotionless, empty-car-chassis of a film, that had the potential to kill off the franchise. This one definitely failed it’s M.O.T.
The Fast and The Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os): an unemployed wayward man falls in love with a whale trainer – but in European cinema, it’s rarely as easy as that. This feels like a mish-mash of many big European films – although to name some would probably be spoilers. There’s not much of a scope or message, and as the film jostles with so many big questions that you leave the screen wondering what it was all about – love, coping with disability, family, sex, fighting, morals, fatherly responsibility… to name but a few. It’s also pretty nihilistic, to the point where you hope one good thing happens to the characters, although there’s a few silver linings, and some brief comic relief. You can’t fault the acting much – big, powerful, deep, solemn performances – but it’s very “European social-drama” (open, blunt, provocative everyday dialogue), which matched the vagueness of the story. It’s also peppered with dozens of random arty shots, for no reason other than filler. For such a diehard ‘European’ film, the American Indie/Pop soundtrack felt really out of place, and like it was screaming for international attention. The computer effects (greening out) when required were fantastic, seamless, you would think that everything you saw was absolutely in-frame. Rust and Bone is an interesting film, and to a point it’s watchable, but the vagueness and slow-pace means that your interest dips in and out, and it’s hard to engage with. It does end up feeling like a random bunch of poignant scenes and circumstances.
Infernal Affairs III: part sequel to number 2, and part semi-prequel to the original movie. The layout of the story in this film is ridiculous: it leaps all over the entire ‘Infernal Affairs’ timeline like a demented flea – so much so that it’s a chore trying to keep track of what’s before, after and between the previous two movies. It also doesn’t help matters that 6 characters have been thrown back on the screen after being killed in the first two movies! It even feels like it’s been directed by someone else, which it hadn’t, but tells us that even the director couldn’t be arsed. The signature moments of flare and tension are replaced with lots of forced, over-egged dramatic moments that rely on swooshy sound effects and slow-mo camera movements to create drama out of nothing. It really feels like IA3 only exists because the first two movies were so successful; it’s clearly retrospectively written, rushed, ill-conceived and a tad cynical. it’s a bit of a crushingly disappointing way of capping off a brilliant first and decent second film.
Infernal Affairs / 無間道: the Hong Kong triads have inserted a loyal mole into the police force, who themselves have an undercover officer in the same gang – which cover will get blown first? As soon as it starts you can tell that this is simply great storytelling; it’s not dumbed down, there’s no filler and most interestingly, very little shooting/action for a cop-gangster film. The scenes where both sides are simultaneously involved are truly heart-pounding – even after seeing this and the re-make several times each. Maximising the espionage, tension and suspicion this grips you like an anaconda for the entirety, and doesn’t let go until the final scene. The police mole also throws up an interesting moral dilemma in the final third of the movie. None of the highly-watchable central actors put a foot wrong, with solid performances from the who’s who in Hong Kong cast – the only rubbish character is the ridiculous, annoying girlfriend that should have been written out. Until recently, you knew that a foreign film was decent when Hollywood re-made it – sure The Departed is brilliant, but is essentially this with a 60 minute longer runtime. Infernal Affairs is better than decent, it’s better than brilliant, it is the gold standard of police dramas. Absolute must-see.
Ides of March: a brief glimpse behind the cameras and curtains of American politics as an idealist media mogul and presidential candidate get dragged through the dirt on a campaign trail. This has a serious political-thriller script and so many (old and new) big actors involved – which is why it’s unfortunately one of the dampest squibs of the year. The plot is strong, and a good insight into modern politics and politicians… but they’re somewhat of an easy target these days. There’s some great acting on display… but you’re still left wanting more screen time from the likes of Hoffman, Giamatti and Clooney. The direction’s good… but it’s nowhere near as slick or smart as direction of a political film needs to be. With all of these ‘buts’ The Ides of March is definitely weaker than it should be – sorely missing that additional thump that makes good films great, and political stories engaging.