Rumble in the Bronx: whilst visiting his uncle in New York, Keong fom Hong Kong finds himself in the crosshairs of several gangs. The premise is basic (like the far East’s rebuttal to Black Rain – the West is full of uncivilized, violent punks!), the plot twists are silly and the acting’s borderline woeful, but this film has Jackie Chan; and an on form Jackie Chan of that! The action set pieces are still among the best you can find today; the shop fight, back alley fight, car park chase, and the superb gang den fight… action doesn’t get any better than this: strength, acrobatic skills, timing, planning, intuitive use of space & objects – it’s almost unbelievable. I could genuinely watch these scenes on loop all day and never get bored. The biggest stunts have a timeless jaw-dropping quality, mostly because they’re real and well-edited: you want to pull down a building? Lets build one to demolish! You want a hovercraft/car chase scene? Lets make it happen on real streets! Jackie Chan jumping a large gap between to 10-storey buildings? CGI boring and waste of money! Above the eye-blasting stuntwork there’s a lot of camera-friendly graffiti, clothes, cars, buildings and other such eye candy. There’s a couple of bizarre slapstick scenes that stick out like sore thumbs, but other than that, it’s all gravy. Sure it will never be on a Criterion or AFI “best films of all time” list, but Rumble in the Bronx is entertainment in one of its most pure and watchable forms, and they just don’t make ’em like this any more.
Note: this is post #500 since starting the site way back in July of 2009! To mark this, next week will feature guest reviews, several ‘feature’ posts as well as some more regular Paragraph Film Reviews. Thanks to everyone that reads, comments and visits the site, particularly the regulars. You folks are ace!
Seraphim Falls: a determined bounty hunter (Neeson) and his hired guns are chasing a skilled man (Brosnan) through the wilderness for reasons unknown. With two big actors centre screen you’d expect this film to play well… Broz takes his grunting to a whole new level as he’s on his own for most of his part – unfortunately, there’s also a scene where he’s genuinely out-acted by a horse! Pre-heroic re-invention Neeson feels miscast here, and in general everyone looks a bit disinterested. The writing is sloppy, and storytelling has a lot to be desired – an Indian and saleswoman appear – only to facilitate a showdown – and we don’t know why Broz is even being hunted for around 90 minutes – who should we be rooting for? With this, there’s not a whole lot of tension (essential for a decent cat-and-mouse story). It’s partially well-shot, making the biggest reason to watch this some great scenery of wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Overlong, uninteresting and full of questionable acting, Seraphim Falls feels like a bunch of guys walking about in the words, then desert for the most part – it’s is nobody’s finest hour. 3:10 to Yuma is still the daddy of modern westerns!
Amores Perros: three separate stories brought together through a nasty car crash, with love being the common theme. Gritty doesn’t come close to describing this; with dog fighting, robbery, murder, abortion, and crazy hobbos all brought up in the first 20 minutes… definitely not for kids. The three stories of a wayward youth, fashion model and homeless guy are all fantastic, and the acting couldn’t be any better. Even though he’s the hardest to like, the hobbo‘s story is still my favourite as it’s nothing short of a dramatic roller coaster. The filming style further intensifies each story making it even more raw, and visceral. Although dogs play a large role in all three stories this definitely not a film for dog-lovers… particularly in the last act, heartbreaking. What Amores Perros boils down to is simply pure storytelling with no tricks, low blows or grand budget. Inarritu creates an extraordinary set of circumstances woven through a cast of fleshed out, realistic characters. Dramatic, moving, powerhouse.
Bad Santa: An alcoholic deviant and his pint-sized sidekick pose as Santa and an Elf for a seasonal job; they then plunder the mall they’ve been working at, but can an 8 year old show them the real meaning of Christmas? BBT is superb at playing a senseless degenerate and all round terrible person, but no matter how low he stoops the scrooge in all of us still connects. With any other Santa, the Kid (Brett Kelly) would have been the star, pulling off a shockingly good junior Rainman. Then there’s the Dwarf, Mall Manager and Security guard… all great characters. For a festive film, this one’s as smutty as they get, sex, swearing, conmen, booze, strippers, blood, violence for the duration… The dwarf’s insults in particular are pure entertainment – great to listen to. The film’s backbone is some fantastic deadpan humour & black comedy, championed by a few recurring lines; shit right for a week, fix a sandwich, etc. It’s well made, well written, well paced, with well measured and well timed jokes. While it’s an anti-Christmas film, it’s still quite festive and uplifting towards the end. Great holiday movie, but don’t watch it with the kids.
Merry fuckin’ Christmas!
District 13: Ultimatum – It’s slightly further away in the near future and something’s still rotten in
Denmark Paris as bent cops, politicians and corrupt gangs continue to take advantage of the everyman! This ups the ante from District 13, opening with a the supercop – in drag – pulling off a 20-minute-long mind-bendingly intricate bust – capturing baddies and fighting his way out of a triad/yakuza heavy restaurant. Everything about the action is bigger, better, harder, faster and more creative than the first film (fight scene with the painting is so cool). I’d also like to point out some of the most hardcore stuntmen I’ve seen in all my years, hat’s of to those guys. Despite bigger stunts, bigger swat teams, bigger explosions and so on, this doesn’t really hit the mark as the socio-political commentary totally smothers the film, and it’s so, so cheesy this time round; especially when all of the rivaling gangs unite to bring down ‘the man‘ – Bleurgh! In saying this, scenes like the +50 Urban ninjas scaling elaborate walls and storming a political embassy are still great to watch. It has some good bits but this really does feel like a sequel for the sake of a sequel – only worth catching for the sensational action sequences.