Heat: a professional robber and homicide detective go head to head in a battle of wits, guns and getting the job done. The film is laden with superb moments & set-pieces: action, suspense and climaxes, which means that the film is gripping, explosive and unpredictable for the most part. You couldn’t hand-pick a greater cast of actors at their peak – right down to the extras (including Henry Rollin’s neck!!). Both leads are fantastic, equally volatile yet in-control men, despite the contrast between Pacino’s shouting / flailing and De Niro’s calm / focused anti-hero. Both portrayals are physical, entertaining, and career-tipping performances, so much so that by the end, you don’t really want either to snuff it. The biggest problem is that, by wanting to keep the film believable and give it more clout, almost every character gets some back-story, which means that the film spends some time opening lots of minor tangents, many of which are never resolved or revisited – or related to the plot. There’s no question about it, Heat is an outstanding film, and I’d love to give it 9, or 10, but I’d have been much happier watching a three-hour film focused almost exclusively on the two central performances, than have them share the runtime with a multitude of smaller, less relevant characters.
“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
Justified (Season 3): the Dixie Mafia – backed by Detroit – are aggressively targeting Harlan with oxy; but Raylan, Boyd, or anyone else in the county isn’t going to be a rollover. The lead antagonist, Robert Quarles, absolutely steals the show, phenomenally played by Neal McDonough: smart, uncontrollable, freakishly calm and articulate, deeply troubled psychotic – he’s like the Bond villain that never was, and watching his tailspin into tragedy is an absolutely engrossing. He also gets called everything from an ‘albino giraffe’ and ‘big stupid baby face’ to ‘the man with a thumb for a head’ – unsure if he knew about this or not – but talk about a punchbag! Quarles also brings out the best in his permanently startled-looking right-hand man,Wynn Duffy. The only main character I didn’t buy in to was Limehouse, who was simply played too goofy, and only really appeared to speed up sub-plots. While there’s a few goodies, and baddies, Justified succeeds in leaving most others in the grey area – where you must make up your own mind. The dialogue one-the-whole is so well-written, and characters like Boyd, Quarles and Raylan are an absolute joy to listen to. The only thing that lets down justified is that, in order to keep characters alive, or the story from drying up, some people do things out-of-character, but the fact that you notice these shows how well-written they are to begin with. This series also peaks a little too soon, in the penultimate episode. Every aspect of Justified gets better with each season: the stories, the characters, the humour, the action, the suspense, the acting, the stakes, the entertainment factor – it’s simply TV at it’s best. It’s also not afraid to dig up a storyline / grudge from episodes or seasons past – which rewards die-hard viewers. This is the only show that’s come close to The Good Wife and The Wire for me. TV Gold.
Con Air: a released prisoner (former U.S. Ranger) gets caught up in a plane hijacking carried out by the criminal cargo. This is one of the best examples of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films (homage to 80s). There’s something about the huge fiery explosions, big loud action and epic weeping / heroic guitar licks that plunges me right into these films. Cage, despite being laughably shit and doing THE worst accent in the history of cinema, holds the film together surprisingly well. Malk is the perfect villain – whose calmness only makes him more terrifying – and his band of crazy henchmen are all gratuitously evil. Cusack is good, but his dashing young looks always make him feel miscast as an authority figure. Everything towards the end of the film (In Vegas) is beyond excessive, ludicrous, and poorly cut – but I guess that’s Vegas for you! Held together by the supercast this is a solid, big action, big entertainment, film that still holds up well.
24 – Season 8: Quite a strange season. The episodes seemed to alternate between good and boring; but when it was boring it centres around the political aspect of the story, which bogs the entire season down and doesn’t have shit on the Palmer years. Because all the good people get killed off for dramatic effect the acting roster’s diluted beyond recognition. In the crap corner we have President Taylor. Dana Walsh, Rob Weiss, Charles ‘the human scrotum’ Logan, Kim Bauer, Meredith Reed… Most of the others are in the middle of the ring, sketchy at best – exceptions being rock solid Ethan Kanin, Michael Madsen super-typecast cameo and Dailia Hassan; who single-handedly blows the rest of the cast away with her intense performance. Jack’s looking older, but still talking ridiculously fast, and if there ever was a moral line he’s been treading for the past 7 years he finally flies over the edge – which sees his story change from the familiar risque agent to a full-on revenge rampage. Story-wise the plot-holes were more like black holes; Rene (real or fake?) infiltrating the Russian mob for five years… mmmmm, that wasn’t mentioned before, and the token mole was so rubbish and predictable. Given all of the memorable twists, turns, highs and lows through all eight seasons the ending was a very, very disappointing cop out, leaving the scope of the upcoming movie wide open. There were a few great scenes and turning points but in general we had seen everything here before.
Note: I’m actually relieved that it’s finally been axed because the show and format had ran out of ideas around season 3. It was like to watching a new pet grow up, have its glory days, then become lamer and lamer to the point where it needed to be taken into the garden and smashed over the head with a brick, for its own sake.