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.
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.
Traitor: An Ex U.S. Military bomb expert gets entangled with some Islamic radicals and ends up in a terror plot. I hadn’t even heard of this as it probably got swamped under by the glut of newfangled middle-eastern war & drama flicks. This begins in Yemen and the first 30 minutes is dedicated to unraveling the enigmatic main character – pretty much the crux of the whole film. After a short ‘Arabs in Jail’ section the pot focuses on acts of terrorism in France and America. Other than some heightened drama towards the end the film juggles the old civil liberties Vs greater good dilemma, what it is to be a Muslim following the Qur’an today, and painting an accurate picture of terrorist activities in the Western world. Don Cheadle holds his own well as the only main but really just has to look solemn or the most part. Guy Pearce could have been anyone, playing the stereotypical “hot on the heels” cop. Ditto Jeff Daniels in his role. The film looks pretty good and has a few memorable scenes but just doesn’t really grab you; how do you connect with a guy who’s BFF is an extremist and is plotting to kill innocent people? Hyper topical terrorist thriller that you should only check out if you like this type of film.