Tag Archives: Simon West

Con Air – Review

17 Oct

When I think of the first R-rated movies I ever saw, my mind goes to the same two. The first that comes to mind is Gladiator and the second is Con Air. Two very different movies, yet they both have a special spot in the heart of this overly sentimental film geek. I actually haven’t seen Con Air in a really long time, so I had this fear that it would be nowhere near as great as I remember it being. So, I put it on and hoped for the best. What I got isn’t nearly as spectacular as I remembered it being, but it’s certainly an acceptable and memorable action fest that could’ve used a few more brain cells amongst other things.

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Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has just finished serving his country as an Army Ranger and is celebrating his return with his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). That night, Poe gets into a fight with a couple of bar patrons and accidentally kills one of them in self defense. Because of his extensive military training, he is deemed a human weapon and sentenced to 8 years in prison for manslaughter. After quietly serving his time in prison, he’s finally paroled and ready to be reunited with his wife and his daughter whom he has never met. Poe, along with some other inmates getting transferred board the transport plane, which doesn’t get too far until it is high jacked by the psychotic criminal Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) and his crew. With U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) fighting on the ground to get the plane back, Poe is left to his own devices on the plane to stop Cyrus from using the plane to gain his own freedom, while also staying alive long enough to get home and see his family.

Like I said, I have very fond memories of watching this movie when I was younger, and while it still has some elements of being a guilty pleasure, I’ve noticed a lot of weird things that I really dislike about it. Before we get to them, I’d like to something I really like about the movie. The cast of Con Air is fantastic. Other than the names I’ve already mentioned there’s also Danny Trejo, Dave Chapelle, Colm Meaney, Ving Rhames, and Steve Buscemi. All of these actors do a fine job in their roles, with Buscemi bringing a really creepy performance as a Jeffrey Dahmer like serial killer that has disturbed me ever since I first saw this movie. The real scene stealer, though, is John Malkovich as Cyrus. Cyrus the Virus has remained one of my favorite screen villains, and this viewing of the movie still holds that opinion to be true. He just oozes with over the top villainy, and it’s so easy and fun to hate this character. I honestly feel like Malkovich is the only person that could’ve played this role, which is odd because it feels so out of place from what he usually does.

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So while the majority of the cast is really fantastic, there are parts of this movie that are so distractingly terrible, they pull me out of the movie and makes me think twice about what I’m watching. For one thing, I can’t get into Nicolas Cage’s character even though he’s the hero of the movie. There are scenes of his ridiculous long hair blowing in the wind and some really awful lines of dialogue that are so bad, it almost isn’t even funny. But I really can’t totally fault Nicolas Cage for this. Despite what many people think, Cage is a fine actor and has proven so in the past. Con Air isn’t quite a shining point in his filmography. I’d much rather blame the writers for most of the cringe inducing moments. Let’s just say that Con Air is one of those movies that you can only show to the closest of friends in order to save yourself massive amounts of embarrassment, solely because of all the awkwardness and corny dialogue.

Honestly, that one paragraph doesn’t really do justice to the amount of negativity that I would have towards this movie if it wasn’t for some really badass action sequences. The fact that a lot of this movie takes place on a plane is enough for plenty of set pieces, but there’s great sequences on the ground as well. Add in an element of time sensitivity, and you got yourself some suspense filled and memorable action scenes. There’s plenty of explosions and gunplay, but what really makes these parts so great are the maniacal villains and their psychopathic nature. There’s plenty of stand out scenes, and it’s funny to say that Con Air was nominated for an Academy Award for its sound design. It’s an example of really well constructed moments of mayhem, and these parts save the movie from being a complete flop.

The bottom line is that Con Air didn’t hold up quite as well as it did when I was a kid. I remember all of the characters and the action to their full potential, but I simply didn’t realize how awful some of the writing was. Now that I have more experience with film and how real people talk in real life, I know awful writing when I hear it, and this film is filled with it. As an action movie, it’s memorable for many different reasons, and it’s arguably a good escape from the real world. Objectively, however, it’s got so much going against it that the whole experience can feel kind of awkward.

Final Grade: C+

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The Mechanic – Review

2 May

Just to be clear, this is the review of the 2011 remake of The Mechanic and not of the 1972 original version. This film appears to have everything that would appeal to an action movie fan, like myself. There was lots of action, great explosions, loud gunplay, and Jason Statham kicking ass for an hour and a half. That definitely sounds like a movie I’d want to watch, and sadly I don’t think I ever need to see it again.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is what you call a Mechanic. He is tasked with assignments to assassinate various individuals, but make it appear like an accident, a message, or as if someone else is to blame. When Bishop gets a contract to assassinate his mentor and friend, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), he is hesitant but still carries out the mission as normal. Complications arise when McKenna’s dead beat son, Steve (Ben Foster), approaches Bishop to begin his training to become a Mechanic, Arthur is put in the position to take him under his wing and get revenge on the man who ordered the hit on Harry, Dean (Tom Goldwyn).

The disappointing thing is, this movie started out really cool. The introduction really set the stage for what the feel and pace of this film was going to be like. It was quick, loud, and exciting, so naturally I was ready for more and couldn’t wait for what other great action set pieces were ahead of me and how the story would play out.

The Mechanic had absolutely no idea what kind of movie it wanted to be or what storyline it wanted to follow. It was like the film makers had a set plot which can be visually seen as a road. As long as they stayed on this road, they would have a plot that was appropriate for the movie. All they had to do was follow it. But they soon went off a very shady exit and started an uphill climb that was taking them in the wrong direction, but at this point they totally forgot about the road they were on. When they reached the top of the hill they finally remembered that they were riding on a totally different road and had to drive really fast back to the original road to get to their destination. I guess that’s kind of how the movie felt.

I was really enjoying the original story involving the conspiracy around McKenna’s death, and the addition of Steve was great, but the movie just strayed way too far. Ben Foster and Jason Statham played their characters very well, but everything else was so cliché and generic, it was almost pathetic. There is a scene where McKenna is telling Arthur how much of a “damned disappointment” Steve is. I’ve heard this speech so many times in so many different ways, but this is the blandest and most unoriginal. Dead is also a generic, boring villain who doesn’t really do anything at all. The villain is one of the best parts of an action movie, so if they area boring, then it’s a big detraction. Another thing I’m sick of is digital blood effects. They don’t look good! STOP USING THEM!

This movie certainly isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The action sequences towards the end were just what I was looking for in the rest of the film. The rest were pretty forgettable. Ultimately, that’s what The Mechanic is: forgettable. Look at The Transporter series, The Expendables, or Chaos. Statham obviously has talent for action films, and the director, Simon West, did Con Air, which is one of my favorite action films. With all of these credentials, this was a really disappointing movie.

There have been films that have succeeded in cramming in a lot of plot twists, points, and characters. One Jason Statham film that does this is Killer Elite. There is a massive web of different characters and situations that make the movie pretty confusing at times, but the impressive and memorable action, the three dimensional characters, and internal struggle along with the external makes this film highly enjoyable. The Mechanic has a bland story and generic characters, which makes it hard to really enjoy the film.

I’d say that if you’re a fan of Jason Statham and you really want to watch this, go ahead, but it really isn’t what you’re expecting. This movie has a lot of potential with both the plot and the emotions, but it goes the absolute wrong way and becomes really boring. This is a a black spot on the career of Statham and something I’m probably not going to watch again.