Strike Back: Shadow Warfare – when an undercover Section 20 agent is executed in cold blood Scott and Stonebridge set their sights on the killer and his terrorist organization. For this first time, this season pulls out some big names with the likes of Martin Clunes (best death face ever), Dougray Scott, Robson Green, and Rhona Mitra. And when you thought it wouldn’t be possible, everything is EVEN MORE ridiculous, funny, cheesy, trashier and sensational than the previous outings: a sexy Russian agent-babe is introduced in one scene, and literally a having vodka sex (with Scott, obvz) in the next one; a gay transvestite pensioner hard-man starts prison riot; and only Strike Back could have the Real IRA team up with Muslim terrorists and get away with it. This is the first season where the different directors stand out as the opening two episodes have computer-game / John Woo slow-mo vibe, with epic music and everything exploding; the middle six feel more ‘traditional’ action episodes, and the final two play out more like 24 episodes with the focus being on twists and reveals (and some poorly handled shaky cam action). The overall story and structure stick to previous season formulas, but hey, every plot thread in Strike Back is just chasing McGuffins to serve up more action scenes. When things aren’t being blown to shit, the drama stuff is well handled, characters get a bit more time to develop, and the show still isn’t afraid to pull punches or shock the viewers with main cast killings. I’ve pretty much ran out of superlatives and phrases to describe how good Strike Back is because it’s so consistent in delivering five top-drawer action B-movies season after season. The show gives its audience (14-40 year old boys) exactly what they want: action, babes, guns, nudity, explosions, gadgets… and the fact that this rollercoaster series ends with a sex scene says it all really. The tagline for this season is “The world’s not saving itself”; but Strike Back is definitely saving the action TV genre.
STRIKE BACK REVIEW
STRIKE BACK: PROJECT DAWN REVIEW
STRIKE BACK: VENGEANCE REVIEW
Strike Back: Vengeance (Season 3) – when a billionaire acquires four nuclear triggers in order to re-shape Africa, only section 20 can stop him. Continuing with the UK/US collaboration, this takes everything that worked about ‘Project Dawn’ and made it all bigger/louder/better. Every episode is wall to wall action; with dozens of set pieces, hundreds of deaths, and a load of whiz-bang sex scenes. The entire season is 100mph, and it’s simply great fun. The characters feel more rounded, the leads’ chemistry is fantastic, and it’s very professionally made – but things like ‘character development’, ‘plot’, and ‘direction‘ are background noise to the explosions, gunfights, stunt driving, and spec ops that march the show forward. It’s hard to believe that such a ridiculously intense level of action (huge set pieces every 10 mins or so) can be done on a TV budget – the 10 episodes are paired off into FIVE 90-minute long mini missions that run together. In a world of toned down and heavily edited 12-rated action films, the swearing, sex, and sensational action makes this feel like something from ‘the good old days’. Completely knowing, and aimed directly at young male action fans, Strike Back Vengeance is a show that only really does one thing (infinite ammo, high-octane action turned up to 11), but does it brilliantly – making it a truly unmissable show for action fans
Generation Kill: an honest and accurate account of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq – told from the perspective of a journalist riding with an elite Marine battalion. Several things come together to make this an exceptional miniseries: i) the ensemble cast is phenomenal – you don’t for a second feel like they’re not real soldiers or real people spittin’, shittin’ and singin‘ their way through a dangerous and unfamiliar country; ii) the dialogue, interactions, plot and shooting style make this feel ultra–realistic: you’re sitting in the Humvee with the battalion; seeing their choices, struggles and the ‘greyness’ of the scenarios in which they’re left to operate in – corpses everywhere, very little action, not much heroics, and all part of the larger, poorly-led mess of an invasion. You also get a warts and all picture of the military: how the chain of command has the wrong people are in the wrong places; how some degenerates make it to the front line; the misuse of army personnel and equipment; and how they have the power to wipe out entire villages with a single decision. Despite the eye-opening shocks, action, and tension the most enjoyable parts are the inane chat and time-filling banter between the troops – and moments like the unit singing Drowing Pool’s “Let the Hajis hit the floor“ , “Teenage Dirtbag”, or “Sk8er Boi” are pure television. The only gripe I have is that some of the night-time scenes are infuriatingly dark and impossible to see anything – let alone follow what’s happening. Generation Kill is everything that you want from television (entertaining, informative, political) and everything you’d expect from the man behind The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets. Credible and incredible television.
American Sniper [Spoilers]: follows the life of America’s deadliest sniper from childhood hunting and adolescent rodeos through four tours (+1,000 days) in the Iraq war. Unsurprisingly, this film boasts typical Eastwood directing hallmarks; it’s taut, oppressive, fairly downbeat, and contains superfluous racism; told with no-frills direction or distractions from the story, which is heavily centered around emotions and individuals. The one thing that’s most problematic – at least to foreign audiences – is the cheesy portrayal of Kyle’s blindly patriotic all-Americanism, and although it’s not a particularly glamorous account, the film feels like a glorified highlight reel of a war and sniping ‘legend’. Even the ending – after showing Chris Kyle graphically kill dozens of men, women, and children, and mention 100s more – the film couldn’t even show his fate, at the other end of the barrel. The biggest reason to watch this is Bradley Cooper’s magnetic performance, showing the highs and lows of being a famous/infamous killing machine. All things considered, American Sniper comes out as somewhat mediocre; it tries to show a fresh – personal – perspective of the effects of war, but uses the full range of war film clichés like the worried wife, absent father, soon-to-be-married guy getting his shit ruined, and a crow-barred-in big action finale; which is poorly shot and difficult to follow. If you have the time to spare something like Generation Kill (which this references at least a couple of times) is a far more effective, balanced and entertaining way of seeing America’s role in the Iraq war.
John Wick: after his wife dies thugs steal his car and kill his dog, which forces former assassin and ‘bogeyman’ John Wick to go on a rampage of Archer proportions. No need to worry about the Bechdel Test with this film – as the only two women with dialogue appear as a video recording, and a sassy female hit-woman. No need to worry about the plot either, as it’s based around a hotel where assassins live and party with each other – and gold coins are the preferred payment method. Whilst Keanu isn’t the most watchable of frontmen he handles is action scenes with style, and Nyqvist, McShane, Dafoe fill in any gaps with fun roles. Reminiscent of 90s European / Asian action movies like Taxi, District 13, Hard Boiled etc – this is all about the guns, cars, pounding techo music and hyper styalised violence, of which there is shitloads. The action scenes are second to none: graphic and wild gunplay (most villains get ‘double-tapped’ – chest then head), there’s excellent combat which incorporates wrestling holds and slams, and a couple of nifty car chases. One of the directors is a stunt man, which shows as the action scenes are a cut above your standard affair. John Wick is a rarity these days – a no-brainer, balls out, gritty revenge / action film, that sticks to its R-rating and doesn’t claim – or try – to be anything more. It’s the kind of film that Taken 3 wishes it was.
Special ID (Tè Shū Shēn Fèn, 特殊身份): an undercover cop finds himself in danger when he’s set on a collision course with an old protégé. Tonally, this film is an absolute mess; there’s Loony Tunes style moments of slapstick comedy in the middle of realistic MMA-Style fight scenes; despite it being a big-budget movie with slick intentions it continually returns to the super-cheese with bawdy music and silly melodramatic over-acting; there’s also a few sleep-inducingly boring scenes (one about Tattoos in particular). The timeline is all over the place, jumping around with no explanation, unaided by the lax direction and editing. There’s some woeful Volvo product placement: not satisfied with having their ‘City Safety’ mode blatantly pimped, there’s an entire fight scene AROUND THEIR CAR – it also doesn’t blow up when it’s dropped from height, unlike those rubbish Land Rovers!!! Ppsschhhtt!!! On the plus side, the action is generally impressive (particularly the two elongated fights at either end of the movie) despite some superhuman abilities being thrown in to the mix here and there. I love Donnie Yen and will watch anything he’s in, but he’s going for a Jackie Chan style cheeky-chappy role here, and doesn’t quite have the charm/charisma to nail it. In the end, this is amounts to little more than another completely forgettable Asian undercover cop film – with two decent fight scenes.
Sabotage: a D.E.A. legend and his off-the-rails team of undercover NARCs are being hunted down by a cartel for skimming off $10M of the gang’s money in a recent raid. I know, I know, this one’s never going to win any awards – but in a world where studios are pussying out of 18-rated movies right, left, and center this is like a breath of fresh (or rotten) air. A dark, violent, dingy film that harks back to the 70s–90s cop films that had plenty of grit and edge. From the writer of Training Day, Street Kings and End of Watch you know you’re in good hands here. Machismo’d to the rafters, there’s a whole lot of big-dick swinging, heavy swearing, ‘cop banter’ – and the women in here are strippers, ‘sluts’ or a general nuisances to the lads. The story’s not as black-and-white as it first seems, and neither are the characters – as the film balances both intense action scenes with a well-crafted thriller storyline. You either love these sort of films, or you hate ‘em; and for me, Sabotage is a decent, violent cop film with a rock-solid ensemble cast and an interesting enough story to keep you tuned in.
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.
Breaking Bad (Season 4): The pressure’s turned up even higher as Walter White and his protégé Jessie Pinkman play a dangerous game of tactics with Mexico and ABQ’s top drug kingpins. This is the first season of BB that comes out of the blocks sprinting, starting dramatically, with the coldest murder to date. Almost every episode has a narrative purpose, story & character development and some solid drama – it’s not just about the characters anymore (finally). Needless to say the acting is some of the finest on TV; Walt and Jessie continue to evolve, but it’s Gus who shines brightest as an ever-calm, focused, calculating, courteous, professional, ruthless, business-minded, innocuous drug lord. Hank gets a lot more time, and a gripping sub-plot as he does some top investigation work; as does Mike, Gus’ hardened, dryly comic right-hand man. Visually, the show is like nothing else, with so many innovative & beautiful time-lapses, montages, and knockout camera shots. They’re often unusually high or low which sticks out; attached to an object (like a shovel or self-navigating vacuum cleaner); and sometimes stuck inside / behind / under something – a pipe or oven – and there’s even a dodgy ‘filming up through glass pretending to be underground’ shot. The show’s visual flair is one of its best and most unique features, and something that always keeps you on your toes. The tone also becomes more eclectic as everything closes in on Walt: synth music and manic laughter wouldn’t feel out of place in The Shining, and there’s some flat-out slapstick moments like Walt scrambling around his house trying to evade hitmen. Season 4 is when Breaking Bad finally makes the leap from good to fantastic and unmissable TV; every aspect is continually improving and evolving in to everything you could ask of a show; stylistically, plot-wise, and such 3D characters – which comes together to produce a final product that is entertaining, thrilling, dark, funny, ‘gritty’, and believable.
Breaking Bad Season 1 Review
Breaking Bad Season 2 Review
Breaking Bad Season 3 Review
Jack Reacher: an ex-military investigator is called in by a man who claims he’s been framed for the murder for five seemingly random sniper killings. Being based on a book, it’s got a good central story, packed with action and it moves along at a good pace, getting better as a conspiracy begins to unfold – although it’s seems deliberately obvious; the cooked evidence, motives and clues are easy for viewers to pick up. My biggest problem with this is that it reminds me how much of a ‘high-rent’ Jason Statham Tom Cruise is; same look, same voice, same haircut, same righteous quick-fire lines in every film – he never attempts anything new or different. There’s a couple of massive mis-steps that break up the tension – mostly the two bat-wielding goons that feel like they came from a Laurel and Hardy film, and the fingerless mastermind (Herzog!) – all seem unnecessary and out-of-place, given the otherwise serious / straight-up tone. Rosamund Pike‘s top also gets lower and lower as the film progresses. Back to the film, it’s a well-made piece, with some solid moments of tension like the opening scene – and sniper-scope-o-rama. On the other hand, you always know exactly how the film’s going to play out, and because Mr Reacher is ten steps ahead of everyone else, which forfeits a bit of suspense. Overall Jack Reacher is a decent, well-made, entertaining film, despite being a “bit wet” and a “genre picture” if there ever was one. Guns, fighting, cars, cleavage – it hits all the right targets.
State of Emergency: Accident at a chemical plant. Lone survivour. Mutant zombies. Barricaded in. Headshots and axes… You know the drill. What sets this apart from the tons of zombie movies out there is that it has an indie sensibility about it. It’s heavily character based, spending the entire time with Jim and his backstory – the only drawback is that it’s fairly familiar. There’s a few action scenes, but more impressively, several very well crafted moments of crazy tension and all-round creepiness. The film tips it’s hat towards Romero through countless references, and while that’s no bad thing, it does miss out the very important ‘social’ slant that elevate the Romero films from good to fantastic. The zombies are pretty cool, standing ominously still – relying on hearing – then hulking out and fighting! One even talks, which is a bit weird. It also looks very slick, being filmed on Red Ones. State of Emergency feels quite simplistic held up against its contemporaries, like a throwback zombie film – and while it may not be the most original or action-packed film in the genre, it’s a solid watch, and shows some great potential from Director Turner Clay / The Clay Brothers.
The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only
real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.
The Front Line (a.k.a. Battle of Highlands): a lieutenant is sent to the front line to investigate potential betrayal and espionage among the South Korean army. The main plot point is as compelling as you could ask for in a War film: North and South Korea sacrificing over 50,000 soldiers to continually fight over one ‘strategic’ hill that would shape the border when the country is divided – control of the hill flipped between North/South over 30 times during the Korean War, it’s unbelievable. Interestingly, it’s politically neutral – there’s no ‘bad guys’ as both sides are painted as simply following the mad orders from above. The battle scenes are scarily realistic and intense, peaking in a brutal, heartbreaking, final 25 minutes, as the story takes one last turn. The performances are solid, soldiers come across as realistic & human, and are developed enough that you care about them – there’s more emotion than most war movies, although there are points where it’s tipped into manipulative melodrama. This also helps the impact of the toll of war on these guys; shell shock / injuries / senseless violence / limb-loss. The side-story about the box used to swap supplies is also a nice touch. There’s not much colour in the movie, grey, greens and white snow are about as bright as it gets, and there’s a hammy song repeated several times, but they’re minor complaints.The Front Line delivers everything required of a war picture, and can easily stand up there alongside Assembly as the best Asian War films I’ve seen.
Homeland: eight years after going MIA a U.S. marine is rescued and taken home, but a C.I.A. agent suspects he may be a terrorist. Overall the scope of the plot feels like it would be a side-story in 24, maybe spanning 6 episodes – Homeland is stretched over 12 full episodes ‘beefed up’ with small, pointless stories – some of which aren’t resolved, or even mentioned again (internal investigation / Saul’s potential involvement / Saul’s wife). My biggest problem was the very slow-moving is he / isn’t he story, it gets quite monotonous after several episodes, and once you know what side he’s on, it kills the show flat. Both central characters are extremely complex – Danes struggles to convince with some horrific eye-bulding and body/movement over acting. Lewis is good, but doesn’t quite have the full chops to convey the inner conflicts and troubles of the character. The daughter (Saylor) and Saul (Patinkin) were the two best actors. In the end, I cared just enough to watch the finalé, which was undoubtedly the best and most fresh / original part of the series, 60 minutes of killer, 30 more minutes of wrap-up ‘meh’. I can appreciate how this would go down more favourably in the USA (it’s current, it’s political, it hits a lot of nerves) but for me, Homeland feels like it’s just filling a ‘post-24 American domestic terrorist drama’ gap, and not much more.
The French Connection: two NYPD narcotics officers uncover a smuggling operation with links to a French movie star. Despite being set in New York, his isn’t the Big Apple we all know; it’s filthy, seedy, unpleasant, and realistic with bodies in doorways, fires in the alleys and racial tension – there’s a thick social commentary here, and with it, documentary-level realism. Hackman is great – carving out a legendary cop figure as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle; anti-heroic to the bone, he’s an unorthodox disobedient alcoholic racist, but has some fantastic lines and scenes to help out. Interestingly, the bad guys are also cunningly clever – particularly Fernando Rey, who’s the embodiment of dastardly, a joy to watch. Action scenes are intense (urgency of the car chase amplified by the road-level car cam) but are hidden among a lot of cops tailgating and observing their marks; it sounds boring but these sections are also very well done and exciting. Streets ahead of any ‘great cop films’ that came before it – sorry, Bullit – this became the blueprint for everything from cop dramas to computer games (Driver / Grand Theft Auto). Because of this it’s probably lacking a the full effect that it would have had 40 years ago – also, I didn’t understand the opening Marseilles scene – Doyle finds the smuggling ring without this. Bottom line: this is 90 minutes of all-killer, exciting and intriguing story – The French Connection is way, way more than just a fantastic car chase.
La Femme Nikita [Blu Ray]: a young drug addict street punk is given the choice to die or train for the French secret service – surprisingly, she opts for the latter. The most striking thing from the opening frame onward is how horribly this film has aged – not unlike a nylon shell suit, it may have been smack-up-to-date at the time but it somewhat limits the ‘timelessness’ factor being so deliberately 80s. In saying this, it gives the film an authentic retro feel, and coupled with the cyber-punky tone & Besson‘s peculiar visual style, it’s definitely unique. Gear and tone continually change as Nikita flips between the perfect assassin, a normal girlfriend and broken down cry baby. Story has some awful comedy moments, but is balanced out with tense action scenes and over-the-top graphic violence. Blu Ray picture and sound are both solid, but never really jump out, and don’t leave a lasting impression. It’s strange that for a film which is unique and powerful enough to define a director and influence most of his subsequent works – not to mention becoming the benchmark of modern assassin, especially female assassin, films; it’s surprisingly not-that-great. Much like Leon (who puts in his first appearance here as The Cleaner) it’s still an enjoyable film, but I remembered it far more fondly than it stands up today. Proof that Besson’s target audience is exclusively teenage males? La Femme Nikita is a solid nuts ‘n’ bolts action piece, but for every good aspect, there’s a counterbalancing disappointment!
Matador: a struggling salesman and troubled hitman meet in a bar… no it’s not a joke! First thing’s first, Brosnan absolutely owns this film as an alcoholic, borderline psychopathic, burn-out, jaded, lonely, vulgar assassin with homosexual undertones, including a wicked tache and fashion sense. He is nothing short of pure entertainment, with great comedy timing and black comedy vibe, effortlessly creating an unforgettable character. Greg Kinnear’s also rock solid, and plays the straight-laced guy perfectly – because there’s only two mains they’re both fleshed out well. There’s a great off-kilter tone throughout and it harks back to the classic screwballs – which keeps the film interesting. Visually, it’s delightful with lots of bright colours, tourist-friendly cinematography and some unique direction. There’s a few great songs masterfully inserted too. Of all the decent things that Broz has ever done, this is the one film that put him up for a Golden Globe – make sure you see why! Bottom line, it’s a well-made, very funny, black screwball comedy with two great characters at the centre.
Colombiana: when her parents are killed in front of her as a child, Cataleya spends the next 15 years training as an assassin, and plotting her revenge. Despite being a bog-standard assassin story this has the advantage of having a decent actress as the star – Saldana nails the portrayal of a complex ‘hitwoman’. The action throughout is above standard, right until to the close quarter combat scene at the end, which gets horrifically minced up in the editing. There’s some generic Latino music, and general stereotyping throughout, and with Luc Besson taking a writing credit this covers no new territory for him, but in the same breath, it shouldn’t disappoint any of his fans. As far as hitman flicks go, this one’s rock solid, and as sexy as they come.
The Good Wife (Season 2): looks at a housewife-turned-lawyer whose husband is jailed after a sex scandal. The structure of this show is great – each episode is a stand alone court case, however there are always several stories playing out in the background spanning large parts of the series. Instead of focusing just on the court cases (could become boring territory) this does well to juggle courtroom, political, and family storylines. What makes it stand out is that it feels very current – we see politicians/investigators utilising twitter, youtube, foursquare and memes; the cases also mirror characters & events from recent high-profile headlines. Some other plus points are the brilliant writing, great casting, stunningly acted (other than Chris Noth), has too many great characters to mention, is believabile, and with Ridley & Tony Scott watching over the production you can’t really ask for more from a TV show. There are a couple of slow episodes, and one ridiculous one (Chavez), but other than those this series is TV Gold, that draws you right in to the stories – you punch the air in pivotal courtroom moments and invest in the central characters. At 23 episodes long this could have dragged, but it’s the 7 day wait between them feels like an eternity.
[Would recommend starting at season 1 – which is also great]
The Tourist: an American tourist has a bad case of mistaken identity when the police and Russian gangsters believe he’s a wanted criminal. Step back for a second and consider the following: biggest actress in Hollywood; biggest actor in Hollywood; Oscar-winning director; writer of Usual Suspects; re-make of an interesting French film; and Timothy Dalton! On paper this is cinematic gold, however, on celluloid, it’s so far off the mark. To call the casting of the mains ‘stale’ would be an insult to the word – Jolie plays a seductive siren (good English accent though!) and Depp is an eyebrow-wagging bumbling idiot. Both appear to turn up, force themselves through the motions, then laugh to the bank. What’s worse is that the stronger supporting cast all share a handful of short scenes. The slow-paced story uncomfortably meanders towards an unsurprising finale – that doesn’t make any sense in hindsight. Not unlike The American, this is more of a throwback to the classic thriller films (than their trailers would suggest), but where Clooney actually acts the part, a vacant Jolie just stares on as the lens slowly zooms in on high-fashion clad arse, legs and neck – a big indicator of how weak everything else about the film is. On the plus side it’s efficiently shot, classically lit and what you see of Venice looks nice. The final product is OK, and just watchable but if you want to see Jolie frolic with some Russians and a few plot twists, Salt was far better.
The Warrior’s Way: Seriously, $42M spent on a film that has ninjas, cowboys, guns, swords, circus freaks, dynamite… and it’s still this boring? With almost nothing physical to film +85% of the buildings, scenery, props and even people are CGI. Because of this it looks pretty dreadful and feels cheap. The trailer suggests a fun action-fest, yet there’s around an hour of awful character building – this is not the type of film in which I wish to invest in characters!! When the action finally rolls round it’s emotionless, over-styled, plagasised, dull, vague, and edited to within an inch of its life to preserve a 15 certificate. The main guy (Yang Dong-gun) is a total vacuum; with almost no lines he tries his best to convey mystery and enigma but ends up just looking confused. The Leading lady (Kate Bosworth) looked good, but was the human version of Jessie from Toy Story – down to the bad accent. The script is riddled with clichés, there’s corny narration, an unforgivable pseudo-Asian soundtrack, and a heap of ‘cutesy baby’ shots!? I can only
imagine hope this will be Sngmoo Lee’s first and last time behind a camera. I walked in to the cinema yearning to like this but there wasn’t a single scene where I thought “That’s original” or “That’s cool”. 100% stick to The Good, The Bad, The Weird as it’s not an Asian stereotype and actually has story, acting, exciting action, a proper ending, Even Sukiyaki‘s worth your time, but not this – ever…
RED: (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) A retired Black Ops soldier is targeted by a hit team, so he calls a favour on his old-time buddies to get to the bottom of it all. I guess the best thing about this newfangled trend of adapting the shit out of every comic ever made is that – on the whole – the source material is usually good, and abundant. Because of this, RED is watchable enough as the story predictably lurches forward, however the way it’s all presented on the big screen is nothing new – peppered with gratuitous fights, action and explosions. They must have known the story was ten-a-penny before they pulled in such a heavy-hitting cast: Malkovich steals every scene with his familiar oddball routine, and the only other person that turns in something good is the determined agent Karl Urban. Everyone else, including Bruce Willis, is on cruise control, and despite being OK, everyone seems more interested in making a quick buck than doing anything noteworthy. There’s a couple of ‘hostage humour’ laughs as Willis tries to win over a girl that looks half his age, and the overall script is decent. Between the massive cast and unusually low certificate for an ation/spy flick (all violence and most swear words are edited out or covered up) this is clearly all about getting as many bums on as many seats as possible. RED nowhere near as good as the sum of its parts – and ends up being nothing more than a Bourne/Salt/A-Team re-hash, with marginally more interesting than average geriatric characters.
Shooter: ex-sniper with a vanishing pony-tail (stupidly) gets caught up on the wrong end of a presidential assassination attempt. The politics and explanations in this were so clichéd and had so many twists / conspiracies that Michael Moore could have written it. Wahlberg’s not exactly on form, and pretty much mumbles his way through the majority of the script, which is heavy on the sniper talk – giving the film (and Swagger) authenticity. The best thing about this film was the action, and although there’s not loads, it’s was about quality over quantity – especially the cottage shoot-out and counter-sniping scenes. The ending feels totally rushed, with everything being cleared up in about two minutes flat. It’s an OK flick, but ends up way off target.
Shiri: Korean action blockbuster that opens up promisingly with some apeshit assassin training followed by a slew of hits that leave police scratching their heads. Throw in a couple of grudges, potential moles, twists, numerous gunfights and you’d think this film was solid gold. Unfortunately, it’s not very original: secret weapon nicked by breakaway terrorists who threaten to use it against the public. Someone basically nabbed the best bits from films like Nikita, Heat, Hard Boiled and Die Hard. Unfortunately, they didn’t steal a good soundtrack, as this one is beyond rubbish. The 2D characters could have benefited from a better script. Despite on-screen animosity between North and South Korea the film’s clearly pro-unity. Overall, it’s a pretty standard effort that brings nothing new to the table. Brainless action flick – best stick to the one’s mentioned above.