Tag Archives: billy bob thornton

Faster – Review

24 Nov

I’ve heard quite a few positive things about the 2010 film Faster since the time of its release. While it didn’t do too hot with the critics, a lot of people who’ve seen it have recommended it to me. Honestly, I was just kind of excited to watch a movie where I wouldn’t have to think too hard. I mean, an action film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson couldn’t be anything too thoughtful. What I got instead was a satisfying action film that was equally intelligent with fully developed characters and some heavy thematic depth.

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After serving a ten year prison sentence, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is finally released with his mind solely focused on getting revenge on the gang that killed his brother. Armed with a pistol, a list of names, and unflinching fury, Driver begins making his way down the list of names, brutally killing anyone on it. This catches the attention of a few people. On one side, there’s Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a highly skilled but neurotic hit man hired to stop Driver at any cost. On the other side is Cop (Billy Bob Thornton), a detective trying to piece his life back together after struggling with a heroine addiction. As these three parties come closer to colliding, more is figured out about what truly happened to Driver’s brother, revealing a bigger conspiracy than was originally thought.

There’s a lot more going on in this movie than just brainless action, and that’s what really sets Faster up a step above many other films in this genre. Not only is there a revenge story at the core of the movie, but there’s also nice thematic depth, a purpose for everything you see on screen, and a message at the end that perfectly wraps up everything that came before it in a nice package. In one scene when we see Killer beginning to track Driver, he can be seen on the phone with his therapist while on the job. I found that to be a very creative way to add some levels to his character and made me realize that I wasn’t just watching a throwaway movie that I’d forget tomorrow. Mostly all of the characters in the movie have their own idiosyncrasies that make them feel real and help them give meaning to the message that sometimes it is too late to turn your life around.

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With a name like Faster, I also thought this movie was going to be one of those non stop jolts of action that’s kinetic and over the top. The fact is that that’s nowhere near what this movie is actually like. There are plenty of action scenes, but they don’t particularly last very long. Most of them are over within a few seconds since they mostly have to do with Driver getting his revenge on another person on the list. He really only fights one of them, and the rest he pretty much just executes. There’s also a small car chase that is fun, but that kind of stuff isn’t really what this movie is about. What I’m trying to say is that nothing is excessive in this movie. I never felt like I was watching a scene of violence just for the sake of violence. This just goes back to when I said that everything that happens in Faster has a purpose.

While the movie may be a step above average, I can’t really say the same thing for the performances. Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje stand out in terms of their performances, but everyone else is just so so. Dwayne Johnson kind of just stands there and kills people for most of the movie. There are one or two scenes where he lets his acting rip a little bit, but I think his character is a little underwritten and not very interesting. Carla Gugino and Jennifer Carpenter also show up in the film, but they also don’t give any kind of interesting performance. The only people to really watch for in this movie are Thornton, Jackson-Cohen, Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

Faster may not be the best action movie you or I will ever see, but it was really nice seeing some creativity and thought put into not only the story, but also what the movie was truly about. Not only did this film entertain me, but it actually forced me to think and want to dig deeper at what lied beneath the revenge story on the surface. I was really surprised by how good this movie actually was, and I can’t believe the review turned out this way, but I definitely recommend this one.

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Parkland – Review

10 Aug

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Since then, the story has been told in many different films and documentaries that look at the actual even, but also the load of conspiracies that come along with it. The most notable film being Oliver Stone’s JFK. Today, however, I’m going to be looking at a lesser known film about the assassination, Parkland. While this certainly isn’t what you would call an exciting movie, I was pleased to find out that it was very accurate to the real events and is something of a hidden and under appreciated gem.

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Parkland doesn’t so much tell the story of JFK’s assassination, but more so the events that happen in the 24 hours that follow. Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and the nurses of Parkland Hospital are forced into the extreme position of being the staff to operate on Kennedy mere minutes after being shot. Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who recorded the famous footage, along with Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) rush to get the film developed to see if there could be any clues that were captured. FBI Agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) has to deal with the fact that Oswald visited his office just days before the assassination. Finally, Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) has to come to terms with the fact that his life will never be the same and his family may never recover from the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong).

It really sucks when I watch a movie based on an actual historic event, and then I come to realize that it was all pretty much fictionalized. What would be the point of even watching it if you aren’t going to get at least a semi accurate experience. That’s the main reason why I was so into The Baader Meinhof Complex. It told about an event in history with great detail and accuracy. This is the first film since then that I felt showed a genuine representation of history. So yes, that means that it isn’t pulse pounding suspense or high octane action. It is, however, an intriguing look at how something like that can have such huge effects on the people surrounding it.

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Being a movie that takes place in 1963, it’s very important that it looks, sounds, and feels like 1963. Luckily, the production design of this movie is fantastic and bolsters everything with an almost eerie sense of reality. The clothing is all what you would picture people to be wearing, but there’s smaller things that really build the atmosphere more than anything else. Throughout Parkland, you both hear and see actual radio and television news broadcasts that pretty much started the notion of 24 hour news. This is like the cherry on top of the sundae, and really made me feel like I was in the middle of the chaos.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to talk about the actors and writer/director Peter Landesman. The screenplay sprinkles moments of unflinchingly real humanity throughout the film, even if they’re just small acts of kindness or hostility. It’s moments like these that real bring the film to life, and make it one of the more memorable pieces of historic film making. Landesman doesn’t try to make anything feel bigger or smaller than it actually is, and the cast back him on that. The performances, especially by Paul Giamatti (as usual), Zac Efron, and James Badge Dale, all stand out as exemplary.

Parkland is a film that doesn’t get nearly the credit that it deserves. I’ve seen a lot of critics call it unorganized, slow, and say that the narrative doesn’t flow. Well, did all of the events flow in real life after JFK’s assassination? Or was it all just a mess of chaos and confusion. Not only is this film great to look at and full of memorable performances, it’s also historically accurate, and that’s why I give Parkland a heavy recommendation.

Dead Man – Review

30 May

Westerns are certainly not my favorite genre of film. For the most part, I find them boring with some exceptions like the remake 3:10 to Yuma and Appaloosa. These two films are very different from Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, a strange, dreamlike Western that explores the themes of death and how we can prepare for it, and through that preparation find out who we really are and what we are capable of.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is an accountant from Cleveland who is offered a job in the town of Machine, despite warnings from the fireman (Crispin Glover) on the train he is traveling on. Upon arrival, Blake discovers that the job is no longer available. No out of work and only a few cents to his name, William decides to drown his sorrows in alcohol and meets a former prostitute, Thel. (Mili Avital). When Thel’s fiance (and son to the man who promised Blake a job) walks in on William and Thel, a shootout occurs resulting in the death of Thel and her fiancé. Now, William is wounded and on the run until he is found by a Native American named Nobody (Gary Farmer). While William travels with Nobody, a group of killers (Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, and Eugene Byrd)  are on their trail to bring Blake in dead or alive.

This isn’t a Western about good guys and bad guys, although the film does have its fair share of both. What really is at the core of this film is a philosophy on death and society. As the title states, William Blake is dying, making him the walking dead. This intense newfound version of mortality brings upon a strange change in William Blake’s character. He goes from being a push over accountant to a gunslinging man on the run who has found peace with himself. It made me think how I would handle myself in that situation. Would I be as accepting as William Blake?

There is a commentary, albeit a bizarre one, on society. Machine is a lawless city where bounty hunters are brought in to take care of the murderers and other criminals. Essentially, this is just killers chasing down other killers and getting paid for it. I don’t’ know if I would go so far as to say that Jarmusch is saying using this as a metaphor for police officers, but I wouldn’t discount that theory. The Native Americans portrayed also celebrate killing as something honorable. This served as a reminder that murder is purely a societal condemnation, and humans would kill each other in nature. I’m not saying that the Native Americans are portrayed as cold blooded killers; they merely have different views on the act of killing.

This movie is full of stars. Johnny Depp is really in charge of pushing the movie forward and it was cool to see him in one of his earlier roles. Gary Farmer was fantastic as Nobody and brought a lot of sympathy and understanding not only to his character, but to the Native American people. There’s so many other great roles in this with fine actors playing them. Dead Man features the likes of Crispin Glover, Gabriel Byrne, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum (in his last role), Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris, and Alfred Molina. This film is a performance powerhouse.

As a word of warning to casual film goers: Dead Man is very, very slow. There are times where I didn’t think the story could move any slower and then it did! This is the way to tell the story though. With the overlying theme of preparing for death by discovering your inner oneness with nature is a powerful message. This slow pace perfectly accentuates the arc that William Blake travels. The opening scene where Blake is on the train keeps cutting from the inside of the train, to the mechanics of the train, to the desert. This perfectly shows just how long this trip is taking and it sets up the feeling for the rest of the movie.

I also feel the need to mention the cinematography and soundtrack. Robert Müller creates a beautifully bleak atmosphere with his flowing camera work and black and white photography. Neil Young’s music also is a big contribution to the film, and is just as minimal as Jarmusch’s storytelling. These combined are all very important to the atmosphere of the film and immersing the viewer into its unsettling hold.

If you feel like you have the patience to sit through Dead Man and think about it long afterwards, as it is inevitable, then this is a phenomenal experience. I call it an experience because I never felt the pulse pounding entertainment that you would feel in a typical Western or thriller. This is a quiet storm that hits the viewer hard with its messages, scenery, and mood. I’d go so far as to call Dead Man a masterpiece.