Self/Less: when a terminally ill millionaire has his mind copied into a young and healthy body he gets a second chance at life… but there’s always a catch. This one has a great, high-concept idea at the core, however it deliberataly shifts lanes into a generic Bourne-type action movie instead; shying away from the higher brow sci-fi elements. It’s not all bad though as the action is to a decent standard, the story is a bit different, and because it’s a Tarsem Singh film the look and design is fantastic (although it’s nowhere near as styalised or ‘Tarsemmy’ as his other movies). The emotional scenes are also stronger than you’d expect from a film like this. Reynolds is great at portraying a new man; and I love how he isn’t afraid to take on more risky and interesting pictures than his peers: stuff like Buried, RIPD, The Nines, Deadpool. While Self/Less won’t be going down as a Sci-Fi (or action) classic, it’s a both solid and interesting enough to keep you entertained – and maybe even think a little – for two hours.
There are very brief glimpses of Tarsem’s visual flare
Broken City: A cop-turned-P.I. is out for revenge after the corrupt Mayor of New York attempts to frame him for murder. This film is a lot of things, some of them not what you’d expect, but for all the shortcomings, it’s always quite fun to watch, if you go along with it. The casting is top-notch, and for the most part, everyone’s giving it welly – particularly Crowe, who’s clearly having a ball. Marky Mark is playing short-tempered Marky Mark, Barry Pepper is – as always – a solid minor character, Zeta-Jones is a seductive MILF… that’s all fairly standard. My biggest issue is that it’s an out-and-out 40s/50s noir script, but set in contemporary New York. It wants to have all of the classic genre elements, but in a modern setting – but it just doesn’t sit well: unlike something like Brick, which has more of a timeless feel. There’s also a ridiculous sub-plot about his model/actress wife, that doesn’t really go anywhere – he should have just been hard–boiled. Although not quite as good as you’d expect from this caliber of actors, it’s nowhere near bad – more like the kind of film that you would see being re-re-re-re-repeated at 11pm on a weeknight on some far-flung channel, but with a stellar cast and decent director.
End of Watch: two of LAPD’s finest end up with a bounty on their heads after accidentally disrupting the activities of a brutal cartel. From the opening car chase this feels very realistic, shot primarily on dashboard / surveillance / handheld cameras etc. This style not only lends itself to authenticity – glamour is played down throughout – but heightens the drama and urgency of action sequences. Both leads (Gyllenhaal and Peña) are superb, the naturalistic script makes them genuinely feel like friends, and their performances make you believe that they are regular guys – the fire scene in particular shows us that they are real heroes. What sets this aside from most cop films is that the antagonists are painted as being so ruthless and violent that there’s a genuine sense of danger that simmers throughout the film, hitting boiling point at the climax. My only major issue is that because the overall style is ‘handheld’/’genuine’ footage, characters in the middle of drive-by shootings / full-blown firefights / intimate moments are always carrying a camera/phone etc; even when there’s plenty shots in the film that aren’t handheld, so it seems a bit stupid. Also, if the penultimate scene had been cut, the ending would have also been so much more powerful. Niggles aside, End of Watch is a stunning cop film, with a strong ‘buddy’ vibe, real threat and two great performances at its heart. This is easily the best cop film in years, and arguably ever.