Out of the Furnace: when his kid brother disappears after getting involved in redneck bare-knuckle boxing, his stoic brother takes the law into his own hands. The acting is nothing short of stupendous; everyone is in full on beast mode; although Casey Affleck does his trademark mumbling incoherency shtick – which is becoming pretty tiresome / irksome. Despite the array of colossal performances topped by Bale and Harrelson, the film is completely marred by a time-bendingly-slow pace, which makes it seem like a 4-hour affair. It’d be like watching Aryton Senna do a Formula 1 circuit in on a mobility scooter. When you’re filling an already lengthy movie with unnecessarily long aerial takes of a car driving through woods, and a time-consuming barely relevant sub-plots (like drink driving) – your editor needs to take a running jump. As the buildup to the finale is so agonisingly drawn out, the end – although satisfying – is ultimately underwhelming. Despite being a more grim version of the boxing sub-plot from Snatch, this it’s a gritty portrayal of a broken American steeltown community in decline. A very Eastwoodian sleeper, but only because it makes you want to sleep…
The Interceptor: [Blu Ray] [not even going to try to explain the plot here]. It boils down to being a hardcore Sci-Fi picture featuring the paranormal, supernatural, people from another realm… and that’s just the headlines. It starts with a dude jumping out of an exploding plane, and has similarly insane and impressive stunts for the duration. The action’s handled and executed very well – edited perfectly with long steady takes so you know what’s actually happening! (Speedboat chase / huge fight scenes and generally a shitload of car-flipping stunts) To balance out the awesomeness there’s an overdose of artsy-fartsy dreamy sequences that don’t really make much sense, or advance the story much, but nevertheless look pretty. There’s Assassins creed style visuals with symbols and glyphs all over the shop, an overload of suits ‘n’ shade dudes, and a few hotties thrown in for good measure – put everything together and it’s a nerds wet dream. The BD picture detail is stunning and the minimal pallet ensures that any colours leap out; the sounds solid enough too, particularly in the action sequences. After Nightwatch and Daywatch it’s strange that Russia’s biggest films still go down the Black Vs White, Good Vs Bad… route. A more technically proficient, stylish and insane film you could not ask for – a simpler story, you could.
Newsmakers: When Moscow police are left looking weak a hot-shot PR chick turns their next operation in to a media circus live feed news event. The synopsis sounded familiar, but about 5 minutes in I knew I’d definitely seen this before… What starts off with homage feel to Breaking News soon digresses into a scene for scene re-make that doesn’t shake off the lethargic pacing, bizarre minor characters or sushi lunch of the original – although it does leave out the farting! Being Russian, the subtitles are beyond dubious – favourite line was “what the devil are they doing” – also, this is supposed to be about cutting edge technology but still uses classic rhetoric like “Virtual hyperspace“, “multimedia technology” and “information war” – GROAN!! The action however is still pretty sweet, particularly the opening quality gunfight and car-flipping chase scene. Bottom line; Newsmakers isn’t a bad stand-alone film, but when you’ve seen the original it’s a needless carbon copy with less style and flare, poorer direction, and additional to say. Made me feel like I’d been a bit too harsh on the original – which I’d probably bump up a full mark now.
Hard Boiled: a classic cops Vs Triads flick by John Woo, arguably at his peak. This is almost always cited as one of the best action films ever made, and with good reason. The bloodshed is so, so stylish and cool: slow-motion, intricate and technical. The action is completely mesmerising in places with explosions, bullets, bodies, weapons and debris all dancing around the frame. This is the closest thing to an action-ballet you’ll see, with long swooping shots, that make the even the most intricate of scenes seem effortless. It also has a real cinematic quality for the most part, with brilliant camera work jumping out in places – peaking with a meticulous 2 1/2 minute single-shot through hospital corridors and lifts, like a shoot-em-up game. The story is pretty standard – fallen colleague, hostage situations and undercover cops – but Woo avoids cliché by putting 90% of the focus on the action. There are some minor downsides to Hard Boiled; the hospital siege goes on for far too long (well over 40 minutes), The 1980s synth soundtrack is incredibly out of date and there’s a bizarro Jazz motif throughout. It’s also the only foreign film I deliberately watch with English dubs because the original audio is in worse synch than the voiceovers. All in, Hard Boiled is the definitive action film that takes all the best parts of a tired genre and makes them great again, and so much more watchable.
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.