Goliath: a formerly great (now-down-and-out) lawyer lands a case against his old firm and their biggest client; but his life suddenly takes a turn for the even worse. While the premise is nothing new or original, this is elevated by having a horde of superb characters, brilliantly acted by the top-drawer ensemble cast: Billy-Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, and Kevin Weisman in particular steal every scene they’re in with phenomenally dry and naturally funny performances. It’s also quite smutty and sweary compared to most other shows – the frequency and inappropriateness of which adds an extra layer to the humour. In style and tone, a lot of Goliath reminded me of Justified; very human and flawed characters that you want to spend more time with in knockabout situations with dive bars, blues music, and some peril / mystique thrown in. It’s also very well made, measuring up to the biggest budget shows around with a bright and slick look, top-end camerawork (those time lapses!!!) and a tremendous blues/rock soundtrack. In fact, my only two reservations about the show is that the main antagonist (Bill Hurt) is pretty much played as a Bond villain with a burnt face, living in a darkened layer, and given some token perversions. Also, the first six episodes have plenty laugh out loud moments, whereas the final two wrap things up in a more straightforward way. Goliath is so funny, addictive, and crammed with entertaining dialogue & performances that I watched all eight hours over two nights. It’s a solid courtroom drama for people who don’t even have to like Courtroom Dramas.
Brick Mansions: a cop must team up with a convicted cop killer to take down Detroit’s most vicious drug dealer, who’s holding the city ransom with a nuclear bomb. The biggest thing that this has going for it is action; lots and lots of action. David Belle action is always a treat to watch, and his stunts are all to a high standard. David Belle’s dubbed face on the other hand isn’t as fun to watch, if anything, a little distracting, and it’s not just the syncing, but the ultra low gruff effects that make him sound like Vin Diesel. Paul Walker doesn’t lag too far behind Belle in the action stakes, which is surprising. With 90 minutes of sweet action, a ticking clock scenario, lame-ish acting and a basic, predictable story – it’s essentially a flashy B movie. Then there’s a massive elephant in the room though; the originals – which, if you’ve seen them, completely take the wind out of Brick Mansion’s sails as large sections are literally scene for scene, jump for jump, punch for punch re-shoots – with a bigger budget. Add to the fact thar this that 10 years on, Parkour is not as cool or fresh, and that the crucial social commentary (and plot in general) feels like more of an afterthought in this one – it lets the film down. If you have no interest in foreign films, this is as solid a B movie action film as they get, but if you’re feeling adventurous I’d absolutely recommend D13 and D13 Ultimatum over this.
30 Minutes or Less: two lazy rednecks kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank. There are plenty laughs here, but several unnecessary handicaps for a comedy film: the central character is a negative-Nancy and continually craps all over the knockabout tone of the film; some of the stuff is pretty grim (family murder/kidnap/bomb-vests) but related jokes are all played like is was a standard upbeat comedy; finally, it’s such a stupid, stupid story – especially when the hitman & strippers are added – that you lose interest. Both hicks were funny, McBride is token McBride and Swardson is a solid partner for him. The dialogue didn’t feel quick / smart / dry / sarcastic / scathing enough for Eisenberg‘s brand of humour, making it easy for Ansari to really shine as the comedy highlight. It’s a textbook example of when a trailer features and ruins all of the best gags. The story would have made a fantastic black comedy or screwball (given the number of ridiculous plot developments) but by playing it safe just leaves the film feeling messy and all over the place. Still, it’s entertaining and quite funny, but the silliness means it’s mostly forgettable; definitely sub-Zombieland.