Tag Archives: Jason Statham

The Italian Job (1969 & 2003)

4 Aug

There are movies that really succeed at capturing a certain time period and a very specific attitude, and one of the finest examples of this may be the 1969 British crime classic, The Italian Job. It’s cool, funny, and captures the time and place very well while also succeeding as a really entertaining caper flick. After getting a pretty good game for the Playstation 1, the movie got revisited once again in 2003 with a remake by F. Gary Gray. It’s makes me happy to say that both films work very well together and a lot of fun can be had with the original and also the remake.

Of course, we’re going to start with the 1969 classic.

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After being released from a stretch in prison, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) has a chance to turn his life around and fit in with normal society, but he’s just too good at what he does. With a plan already started by his recently deceased mentor and friend Roger (Rossano Brazzi), Croker starts getting a crew together to go to Turin, Italy to steal $4 million and escape to Geneva. None of this would be possible without a lot of funding, so Croker goes to Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward), who runs his criminal empire from prison, to finance it. With the money and the crew ready, the team heads to Turin to finish the job, but the mafia is on to them and will stop at nothing to keep the $4 million in Italy.

Since the time of its release, The Italian Job has grown into an iconic film filled with imagery that is immediately recognizable. Even before I saw this movie, I’d see a Mini Cooper drive down the street and my mind would go straight to The Italian Job. Maybe I just think about movies too much. Anyway, there’s plenty of great reasons why this film has achieved this status. One of the biggest reasons is the famous chase scene involving the three Mini Coopers making their escape out of Turin. This scene is reason enough to watch this movie, and it ranks as one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. It’s a blast to watch and it’s probably the best example of precision stunt driving in a movie. It almost seems like a scene that’s existed since movies first began, but it had it’s beginnings here in an action movie that never knew the legacy it would create.

While the action sequences are excellent, The Italian Job is also well known for its characters, writing, and soundtrack. The characters are a lot of fun, and Michael Caine and Noël Coward play the two leads with glee. Caine is perfect as the criminal everyone has to love. He’s cool, stylish, and has a temper that is good for a laugh. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie actually are played by Coward, whose Mr. Bridger practically runs the prison that he’s held in. The soundtrack by Quincy Jones is very cool and extremely catchy. I challenge anyone to listen to the theme song and have it not get stuck in your head.

To put it simply, the original version of The Italian Job is a super cool movie and has some of the most iconic and memorable scenes in film history. I honestly don’t think anyone working on this movie knew the legacy this movie would have, but it’s one of those movies that has to be seen to understand why it deserves such a status as a classic.

Let’s move on to 2003 to look at the remake. Normally, I’m not too thrilled about remakes, but the cast and F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair is enough to make someone interested.

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Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) is the head of a gang of very talented thieves (Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green) who along with Charlie’s mentor, John Bridger (Donal Sutherland) and their inside man Steve (Edward Norton) pull off a major heist involving $34 million of gold and escaping Venice. The job goes off without a hitch, but the gang is quickly double crossed by Steve who steals all the gold and leaves the gang for dead in the Alps. What Steve doesn’t know is that the gang got out of the mountains alive and want their gold back. Charlie enlists the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), a safe cracker working on the other side of the law, to help them with their heist. This time, it isn’t about the money, it’s about payback.

This movie has a lot going for it and it’s honestly a pretty good movie. F. Gary Gray is a director that really has an idea of what he wants and handles action and suspense very well, which is necessary for a movie like this. In fact, there are elements of this movie that are handled better than in the original. The main improvement is the gang that Charlie’s the head of. In the original, we never really get a chance to know anyone that’s part of the heist other than Michael Caine’s character. In the remake, they’re all established as close friends, have distinct personalities, and all have something important to do during the heists. The actors have great chemistry and there is plenty of room for comedy and drama throughout the movie.

The action scenes are really cool and pay good homage to the original film. Believe it or not, the scene with the Mini Coopers is a little underwhelming compared to the first movie, but there are plenty of other scenes to make up for it. One cool scene happens in the beginning as Statham and Green are making a quick escape through Venetian canals on a speed boat. Any scene with Edward Norton is also very memorable. His villainous character just oozes with smug confidence that just makes you wanna slap that grin off his face.

While the 2003 version of The Italian Job is a really well made and fun movie, I still prefer the fast paced wackiness of the original. Still, this is a remake that works very well for many different reasons. The most important thing is that while it honors the legacy of the original, it stands alone as its own movie.

So there you have it. The legacy of The Italian Job is definitely a strong one, and only a movie that good could create something like it. Any fan of the action/crime genre should definitely give both of these movies a look. They’re really cool and a whole lot of fun.

Parker – Review

3 Feb

Let’s face it, most action movies starring Jason Statham don’t require too much thought or attention, which is actually one of the primary reasons why a lot of them are so fun. Some of my favorite action films are The Transporter trilogy and the two Crank movies, but recently, Statham has been kind of in a low spot in his career with films like Blitz, the only moderately entertaining Safe, and his 2013 film Parker. I really wasn’t thinking anything much of it before I watched it, but as I was watching it I realized my suspicions were almost correct. This film is nothing special, but for certain reasons it is a little bit better than what Jason Statham has been in recently.

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Parker (Jason Statham) is professional thief who operates with his own strict moral code, so when he is hired to lead a job with a bunch of criminals who firmly believe that they can do anything to get the job done, personalities clash in a very bad way. After being left for dead by a member of the crew, Melander (Michael Chiklis), Parker starts a one man quest for revenge that takes him to the sunny and comfortable land of Palm Beach, Florida. While down there, Parker takes on the false identity of an oil magnate from Texas and enlists the help of struggling real estate agent Leslie Rogers (Jennifer Lopez) to covertly track down Melander, uncover his grand plan for his next heist, and ultimately get his revenge and his money.

Here’s the gospel truth: this movie is one of the most nothing special movies I may have ever seen, although I will say that there were points where it felt like it was trying. The biggest problem with Parker is that it’s just way too generic. Going back to The Transporter and Crank, those were Jason Statham movies that had material, scenes, and style that made them memorable. Parker doesn’t. Even Parker as a character is made generic. A criminal with a strict moral code that convinces the audience he’s a good guy? Doesn’t that sound like every other Jason Statham movie ever? I know that these movies are supposed to just be entertainment, but this gets old after a while. It all just feels so tired if there’s nothing in the movie that spices it up.

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Let me give this movie some credit though. There were parts in it that were really entertaining. Hearing Jason Statham try his best to go full Southern is hilarious and Michael Chiklis really hams it up as the villainous Melander. Even Jennifer Lopez brings some nice moments of drama and comedic relief, even though her character is pretty much useless. The best parts of the movie, and I say this without any shock, are the action sequences. One brutal scene in particular where Parker fights an assassin in a hotel suite was particularly satisfying and pretty much raised the standards of the film from being hopelessly bland to mediocre. Unfortunately, there are only a few other scenes like this in the movie, and never do they reach this level of intensity. This leads me into what may be my biggest complaint of the movie.

The structure of this movie is just too weird. It starts as a heist movie, turns into a revenge story, then some weird con/buddy movie, and then revenge again. Like, what is this movie supposed to even be? Not to mention there’s a mysterious Chicago mafia boss that is talked about for the entire movie and is only seen for almost thirty seconds at the very end of the movie. It felt like they had this big scene or twist with this guy planned and it just never came to be. I was really enjoying the movie for what it was at the beginning, but once Parker gets to Palm Springs, everything just gets so distracted and misused, which makes me wonder this movie would have been better if it was just 15 or 20 minutes shorter.

Listen, I don’t want it to seem like I hated Parker. It’s not that I hated it, but more that I thought it was just nothing too special. If you’re a Jason Statham fan, like myself, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to really enjoy with this movie, or at least kill a few hours. It’s time well spent if you’re enjoying yourself. I will say, however, that Statham has been in much better movies than this one. Compared to some of his recent stinkers, it’s a step above them and has its redeeming qualities. If you aren’t a fan of Statham’s other movies, you’re gonna hate this one. It’s ultimately a mediocre entry into his filmography.

The Expendables 3 – Review

2 Jan

When The Expendables came out in 2010, I was thrilled to see all of the legendary action stars coming together to be in one movie, even if it didn’t reach the high expectations that I set for it. I was even more pleased with The Expendables 2 in 2012, which was a superior sequel that added Chuck Norris to the mix and gave Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis more to do. These were two fun films that hearkened back to action movies from the late 1970 and 1980s, but Stallone wasn’t ready to stop there. The Expendables 3, which I can now say was released in 2014 (just for the sake of saying it), completes the trilogy and actually offered me with more entertainment than I was expecting, which is a nice surprise.

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Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), the leader of his team of mercenaries called The Expendables, start their mission by breaking an old member of the team, Doc (Wesley Snipes), out of prison and than rush to Somalia to stop the delivery of bombs by a mysterious arms dealer. The mission goes awry when it is revealed the arms dealer is an ex-Expendable and personal enemy of Barney’s, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). One of the team members is severely injured and Stonebanks escapes, forcing Barney to assemble a new crew to go in and bring Stonbanks back on the orders of his new boss, CIA officer Max Drummer (Harrison Ford). When the new team gets captured by Stonebanks during the mission, the old Expendables crew comes back in to save the new recruits, defeat Stonebanks’ personal army, and bring him in personally to be charged as a war criminal.

I don’t think I even need to say this, but just look at this cast. Just look at it. On top of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and the rest of the original cast we now have Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and Antonio Banderas added just to name a few. Not only that, but Schwarzenegger and Jet Li are back to join in to the action and join it they do. Obviously, there are also a bunch of fresher faces there like UFC figher Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, boxer Victor Ortiz, and Glen Powell. While it must have been cool for these fighters and actors to join in with the legends, they don’t add anything really special to the movie, and their acting can often be subpar, which shouldn’t even bother me in an Expendables movie. I was worried that these newcomers would push the others to the side, but it was great to see everyone get their chance in the spotlight, my personal favorite being Banderas. I just would have rather seen Gina Carano instead of Ronda Rousey, but that’s just me. There’s also a real big lack of Terry Crews in this movie, which was a little disappointing as well.

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Of course one of the biggest draws to see an Expendables movie is the action, and there’s plenty of it to go around. One of the things that concerned me along with the new cast was the fact that The Expendables 3 was PG-13, which made me think that this movie was going to be completely toned down. It really didn’t feel that way though. In fact, I’d say it may even be superior to the original movie. Another thing that is necessary in action films of this kind is a strong villain, and we get one with Stonebanks. It is obvious that Mel Gibson is having the time of his life, hamming it up as Barney’s arch-enemy and delivering his lines like he’s back in the role of Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies. Looking back on these movies, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mel Gibson were two of the best parts of the entire series, which is cool because cool villains are just plain awesome.

It’s clear that this is also a pretty personal project to all of the older actors in this movie, especially that there are now younger actors in the movie kicking ass with them. There’s been a few of these kinds of movies recently where the people we loved for years begin to talk about their age in a positive light. Stallone and the rest of them is reminding us once again that they are quite capable of high octane action scenes and still have fun shooting them. That being said, I don’t think we need another Expendables movie, and I’m hoping and praying that we don’t get one, because as much as I like what they’re doing, they’ve been doing it on repeat since 2010. I will say that some of this movie felt like it was getting a little stale (and I’m including the wonky special effects with this), which means it’s time to pack this series in.

The Expendables movies are simply nostalgic guilty pleasures that no one should really feel guilty about, in my opinion. These movies, the third movie included, are not pieces of work that need to be criticized to quickly. Maybe I liked this movie as much as I did because it exceeded my low expectations, but maybe it’s just because I like seeing these actors do what they do best. It’s not high art and it doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but we’ve known these actors for a long time and it’s cool to see them in a loud, violent, and often funny action film.

 

13 – Review

17 May

There are times when a foreign film maker shoots a film in their own language and injecting their culture into the plot, only to remake it for another country. Being an American, I notice quite a few foreign films and television shows get “Americanized” by either a production company or the original film maker. A notable example for me is Michael Haneke’s American version of Funny Games, which is a personal favorite of mine. In the instance of 13, Géla Babluani remade his 2005 Georgian-French film 13 Tzameti. How well the transfer goes is pretty up in the air, and in this case, it’s really iffy.

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Vince Ferro’s (Sam Riley) family is in some financial trouble. While all of the family works really hard to make ends meet, things just don’t seem to be looking any better in the near future. After overhearing a conversation about a quick way to make a lot of money, Vince jumps at the chance and winds up at a mysterious mansion in the middle of the forest. There are plenty of other people there, most of them wealthy. Among these people are Patrick Jefferson (Mickey Rourke), a convict who is forced into this game; Jimmy (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Jefferson’s escort to the game; Jasper Bagges (Jason Statham) and his psychotic brother Ronald (Ray Winstone), who is competing. The game is simple, yet deadly. A group match of Russian Roulette. The last person left standing is the winner.

When I first heard of this movie, I began thinking of Deer Hunter, which is a movie about Vietnam and its psychological effects, but a main portion of the story involves games of Russian Roulette. 13 is very different, because the game is done in a more stylized and unrealistic manner. Deer Hunter, on the other hand, makes it as real as possible. The idea behind this movie is certainly intriguing, as one can observe with the praise the original 13 Tzameti received on the festival circuit. Now, just because I like the concept doesn’t mean that 13 is a good movie. In fact, it’s a pretty objectively bad movie with sloppy storytelling that really brings the entire film down.

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The biggest problem for me is its complete lack of any real character development, even though there are times where the film really does seem to be trying. The whole point of the film is for the viewer to root for Sam Riley’s character. Too bad I didn’t really get enough information on him to really care. On top of that, there are so many side characters thrown your way that you’d like to learn more about but never do. The whole section concerning Rourke’s character is completely pointless and the movie would have been better off if it wasn’t even in there. Then maybe more time could’ve been spent on Statham’s character and Riley’s character.

13 was just way too short to be effective. A film involving an underground crime ring that hold Russian Roulette tournaments is such a great vehicle for a ridiculous amount of suspense. Too bad the whole plot flies by before you even have a chance to get acclimated. On top of all that, the last 25ish minutes of the movie could have been used for more character development. Instead, we get a subplot that has such little relevance to what’s going on that I’m completely surprised it’s in the movie at all. The person who looked over this screenplay and approved it without revising it in a major way should be fired. Seriously, some of the worst character development, narrative structure, and plot points I have ever seen.

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I do have to give the movie some credit though. All of the performances were at the least solid. Sam Riley was acceptable, even though he was pretty uninteresting. Statham gives a nice performance alongside Winstone, both sharing good on screen chemistry. Michael Shannon has a small, but excellent part that, if I were to be casted, would want to play. Finally, Rourke and 50 Cent were ok, but seriously, they did NOT need to be in this movie. The suspense was also good when the actual roulette game was being played, and the very end was pretty awesome. If anything, I was mildly entertained, and it was a pretty easy movie to watch and shut down for an hour and a half.

Even though there is some good to be said about this movie, it is still not very good at all. In fact, it’s pretty bad. The unfortunate thing is that there was so much potential, and Babluani already proved himself with the original version of the story. If you need some background noise while you fold laundry, 13 may do the trick, especially since you hardly need to pay attention. Anything more than that, don’t waster your time.

Safe – Review

26 Oct

I know that I just reviewed a Jason Statham movie a couple of weeks ago, but I just watched Safe in its entirety, so it’s only fair that I give it a review. By this point in time, we all know what to expect going into a Statham movie. There’s going to be a lot of ass kicking, gun shooting, car chasing action from beginning to end. Can that be tedious? Absolutely. Especially since we have seen it a hundred times before. Safe is very familiar, but there are just enough properly executed elements that saved this film from falling into the realm of mediocrity.

Luke Wright (Jason Statham) is about as down on his luck as one can possibly get. He lost his wife, job, and practically his entire life, forcing him to spend his nights at homeless shelters. He’s about to end it all when he see a little girl, Mei (Catherine Chan), being chased by Russian gangsters. He saves her, and makes it his mission to protect her from not only the Russians, but the Chinese mafia and the police who all want the number that she has memorized.

Pretty straightforward stuff here. Statham is a good guy who has to protect an innocent person from a lot of bad guys. What I love here is that there are SO many people to worry about. Three different factions blocking these two characters in the city and closing in on them, all while at war against each other, makes for some high octane action that doesn’t let up. Once the ass kicking starts, it doesn’t quickly end. Not only is there a lot of action, but it’s memorable and, thankfully, not so shaky that I have no idea what’s happening. It has enough aesthetic effects to make it intense and still watchable.

 

Another star of this movie was the outstanding sound design. The gun shots, the car chases, and the fight scenes all had a “pop” that really made them more immersive. Sound is a very important aspect of an action film. Are you really going to have a good time with muted gunfire and punches that don’t even sound like they’re landing? Of course not. Action is meant to thrill, and sound is part of the equation. In this, Safe, easily blows a lot of other films in this genre out of the water.

Pretty much what I’m saying is that this film had a lot of surprises. Statham’s performance goes beyond what he usually gives with scenes of genuine emotion that actually do tug at the heart strings. Catherine Chan unfortunately doesn’t hold up too well all of the time, but that’s pretty understandable considering she’s a young girl in an off the wall crazy action movie. One more surprise is the excellent implementation of zooms and camera tricks. It isn’t too often that a movie of this kind properly uses these techniques without going overboard (ahem, Bad Boys II). There were times where I would think to myself, “Wow, this  scene looks fantastic.”

 

Safe is one of those movies where you don’t really expect much, but end up getting a lot more. It isn’t derivative, stupid, or unoriginal. Sure, we may have seen some of these plot points before, but this film pushed to make them into something new. Thankfully, it succeeds. I want to like every Statham movie that I watch, but this isn’t always the case. I can say that Safe is one of his best films to date.

Blitz – Review

14 Oct

If Jason Statham is in a movie, you know there is going to be a certain degree of ass kicking. It’s pretty much a given, and Blitz is no exception. This is still a mixed bag for me with more positives than negatives. Still, it’s frustrating to see a movie that has the potential to be great, but falls short, nonetheless.

Detective Sergeant Tom Brant (Jason Statham) is causing a bit of controversy for the police force due to his violent tendencies. His position on the force appears to be jeopardy until a maniacal serial killer, who goes by the name Blitz (Aidan Gillen), begins targeting cops. Now they could use a cop like Brant, and with the help of Sgt. Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), a manhunt through the darkest corners of London begins with deadly consequences.

I want to start with the positives. First of all, Aidan Gillen gives a phenomenal performance as the killer. He doesn’t even have to say anything. Just his facial expressions and body language are enough to understand what he is thinking. The whole psychology behind him is so well crafted that I couldn’t help but love to hate this guy. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about any of the other characters, including Statham’s. It’s weird to have a movie where the main character isn’t anything memorable. It makes you almost not care about the outcome. Thankfully, Gillen supports the entire cast and makes the viewer care.

 

The compositions of the the shots in this film are surprisingly well done. Not very often do I see an action thriller of this caliber with style so above average. The use of negative space is utilized to the best degree that really gives the feeling of being exposed. No one is safe in this movie and there is nowhere to hide. This could have been a very bland looking movie. The gray London streets without anything really interesting to look at. But, the film makers recognized this and made it much more elaborate.

As far as the story goes, it’s nothing I haven’t really seen before. Sure, it’s original in its own way, but the formula remains the same. A tough cop who’s been through hell and back uses whatever means necessary to bring a villain to justice, even if it compromises the integrity of the station. Basically, it’s your textbook “tough as nails cop who doesn’t play by the rules.” I don’t want to say that the movie had stretches where it bored the shit out of me, but it had stretches where it bored the shit out of me. Statham has been in movies that are thrilling and not very violent. He can kick ass or act in a plot driven story like The Bank Job and ChaosThese are two fine examples. This one was close, but wasn’t as original as the other two I mentioned.

 

Blitz is saved from the hell of sub par action thrillers, and sits comfortably in the upper realms of the land of mediocrity. Jason Statham has been in many awesome action and thriller films, and even a couple bad ones. This one is closer to being good than bad, but is still just ok. Aidan Gillen’s performance supports the entire movie, and the style that is present adds a little bit more.Too bad the story and the rest of the characters have all been seen before in one form or another. If you’re a Jason Statham fan, then I don’t see why you should skip this. It isn’t bad, but isn’t too good. Still, give it a chance and see what you think. It definitely has potential.

The Expendables 2 – Review

18 Aug

I’ve gone to see more movies at their midnight openings this year more than I have any year of my life. I’m proud to say that I can include The Expendables 2 to this list of movies. I loved the first Expendables, but I’m excited to say that the sequel has surpassed the original in every way, making it not only one of my favorite movies of the year (after The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises), but also one of my favorite action movies of all time.

 

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of mercenaries are still out in the field doing some of the dirtiest mercenary work around. After a not so friendly meeting with Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), Ross takes a job to retrieve a package from a downed plane. This simple job quickly goes awry with the arrival of another team of mercenaries led by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who steal the package to unlock a powerful source of plutonium and hold the world hostage.

Something the original Expendables lacked was a strong plot line, but I felt like the movie took its weak plot seriously and tried to make it believable. In their second outing, the plot is still rather weak, but no attempt is made to take itself too seriously. Instead, we get a hardcore action movie that hearkens back to the eighties with quick one liners and plenty of over the top gunplay and fighting.

 

The Expendables 2 also has a lot less down time than the first installment. Thankfully there is also no Mickey Rourke monologue to get lost and confused in. I would go so far as to say that after a certain point in the movie, the action becomes a relentless barrage of guns, explosions, and satisfying blood spray (although some of it is still digital).

The sound design in this movie is really impressive. More than once I would stop and think to myself, “Wow, this movie is really loud.” The punning sound of Crews’ AA12 that is fired at the beginning of the movie is enough to make any action junky’s heart skip. In fact, the whole beginning of the movie has top of the line foley work and a adrenaline pumping sound track that made me more than ready for the rest of the movie.

 

What else made this movie really cool, you ask? Hmm, well, Chuck Norris gets to kick a fair share of ass along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Not only these legendary action stars, but Terry Crews, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture get a lot more to do than they did in the first film. They felt more like a team than in the original, which only made me root for them more. That, and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a real asshole and plays a villain that you love to hate.

The Expendables 2 exceeded my expectations in every way. I knew that it was going to be cool and exciting, but no where near as great as it was. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen out of fear of missing a split second of the action. This is a film that I can’t wait to see again, and will be seeing again before it is out of theaters. If you love action movies, or even ever seen an action movie, check out The Expendables 2.