From Paris with Love: A govt rookie teams up with an unconventional seasoned spy to take down a drug / terrorist ring in the city of love. This is essentially an action film with every cliché in the book: rookie cop with trigger issues, unconventional old-timer who gets results, and some of the most obvious twists in history – you all know the drill. There’s a lot of flashy direction with fast wooshing CGI pans, and action set pieces. Other than a couple of big, loud, fighty action scenes the only major redeeming feature is Travolta hamming it up: albeit with a brazen, overly offensive script. While it’s definitely not his finest 90, he is rrrather entertaining – even sneaks in a “Royale with cheese” – OH NO HE DIII IIINT!!! His partner (Jonathan Rhys Meyers – form a queue, ladies) is ok, but is basically there to say Travolta’s name (Wax) about 2,000 times. Despite using as many tricks as the budget could facilitate – flashy stunts / big action jumps / explosions / swearing / big stars – nobody could hide the fact that this is the kind of film you’ve seen a thousand times before, but in Paris instead of somewhere Stateside. From Paris with Love is a wild ride, but it’s the very definition of braindead action, even by Europacorp/Besson standards!
Infernal Affairs / 無間道: the Hong Kong triads have inserted a loyal mole into the police force, who themselves have an undercover officer in the same gang – which cover will get blown first? As soon as it starts you can tell that this is simply great storytelling; it’s not dumbed down, there’s no filler and most interestingly, very little shooting/action for a cop-gangster film. The scenes where both sides are simultaneously involved are truly heart-pounding – even after seeing this and the re-make several times each. Maximising the espionage, tension and suspicion this grips you like an anaconda for the entirety, and doesn’t let go until the final scene. The police mole also throws up an interesting moral dilemma in the final third of the movie. None of the highly-watchable central actors put a foot wrong, with solid performances from the who’s who in Hong Kong cast – the only rubbish character is the ridiculous, annoying girlfriend that should have been written out. Until recently, you knew that a foreign film was decent when Hollywood re-made it – sure The Departed is brilliant, but is essentially this with a 60 minute longer runtime. Infernal Affairs is better than decent, it’s better than brilliant, it is the gold standard of police dramas. Absolute must-see.
War: (Blu Ray) A gritty cop is out to avenge his partner’s death at the hand of the cockiest and most conspicuous hitman on the planet. Initially, this one doesn’t bat too high; with flashbacks referencing the start of the film after 20 minutes!! It’s also totally textbook, from the archetypal spy/metal music & story-progressing montage through to the constant ‘satellite’ shots and swooping cuts of cars driving over bridges. However, the last 30 minutes or so make this film more than worth persevering with – and in general the film was slicker and smarter than the uninspired synopsis and general image gives it credit for. There’s a lot of decent and original action/choreogrphy threading through the film – the best being an awesome footchase, and a jaw-dropping steakhouse punch up. You know what to expect from Statham and Li, and neither disappoint. The uncompressed audio mix bursts out of every speaker for the full duration creating one of the best soundscapes I’ve heard to date – every word, footstep, punch, gunshot and shatter is crystal clear and mixed in perfectly with the film’s fully orchestrated score – it’s truly an aural delight that should be a must-have for anyone with a home theater system, indisputable demo material. The picture’s generally good, but has a few bum scenes. Overall, if you like your cop-revenge-action films this is definitely one of the better ones out there – and while it’s not outstanding, there’s a lot of good touches that elevate it above expectations.