Tag Archives: violent

Free Fire – Review

6 May

Have you ever been so excited for a movie, but knew you had to wait so long to see it that you were convinced it would never be released anywhere around you? Well, that’s how I felt about Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. I saw the trailer for this movie months ago, and was so excited to see the cast and the insanity that the trailer had to offer. It also is worth mentioning that this movie has Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. All of the pieces were in place and I’ve finally gotten to see the movie I’ve been so excited for… The disappointment has really set in hard.

Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) are two IRA members who have travelled to America to buy rifles from a known arms dealer and all around douche bag, Vernon (Sharlto Copley). Along for the ride is Vernon’s associate Ord (Armie Hammer), the intermediary Justine (Brie Larson), and some other hired hands to help with the transaction. This is a pretty volatile bunch to begin with, but once it’s revealed that Vernon has brought the wrong rifles and that there are hidden tensions shared between a few of the hired hands, things start to go south until shots are fired. Now the two groups are split at opposite sides of the abandoned factory they are meeting in with a suitcase full of money and crates of rifles and ammo standing between them. Whoever is left standing wins.

This as an idea sounds perfect. Put a bunch of volatile criminals in a room together with guns and money and see what happens. It’s not something we haven’t heard of before, but it looked like a movie that was going to take the idea and inject it with some high energy and lots of laughs. I’m not really sure what happened. As the movie started, I was into the dialogue and the characters. They were setting up the scene very well and when a new character was introduced, I liked seeing their personality matched with everyone else’s. I had this picture in my mind that this was just going to be a raucous clash that didn’t have time to slow down, but Free Fire is surprisingly boring. There’s a lot of sitting around and yelling insults and when a shot is fired, someone is either just clipped or missed all together. And this goes on and on it seems, until things finally pick up the way I wanted it to in the last act of the movie. If the whole film had the energy of the last act, this review would be going a whole other way.

I do have to give it to all the actors in this movie. All of them give their best to their performances, which is really the strongest point of the movie. The characters are what’s going to be remembered most. Cillian Murphy,Michael Smiley, and Brie Larson work off each other very well and they spend most of the movie together. If their chemistry didn’t work than that would have been a real problem. I also have to give it to Armie Hammer for being surprisingly hilarious as Ord, who just seemed to have an answer for everything. How could I talk about the good performances in Free Fire without talking about Sharlto Copley? This guy is one of my all time favorite actors, and for good reason. He has all of the best lines in this movie, and quite frankly, it’s clear that Wheatley wrote Vernon as his favorite character. It shows in every line Copley delivers. He’s the best part of the movie, hands down, and I know I may be a little biased in saying that, but I don’t really care.

When I think of all my favorite parts in this movie, they all come from the last half hour or so. I was looking at the time all throughout the movie wondering how they were going to fit in what I wanted to see with the time running out so quickly. This is not a long movie, so when I got to the 45 minute mark, I kinda lost hope that this movie was going to be as exciting as I originally thought it was going to be. Then the third act happens and it was a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help but wonder where all that energy and excitement and humor was for the beginning and the middle. Ben Wheatley did not handle the material well in his writing and seriously undersold what this movie could have been. The whole thing is a huge missed opportunity, which is sad because I see so much potential.

Free Fire had everything it needed to be a cult classic. It had a really cool idea, memorable characters, a great cast of actors, and a writer/director that has proven his skill in the past. I’m still not sure what happened. The finished product is a lackluster action/comedy that provides a good deal of laughs but is bogged down by an overly short run time and a surprising lack of energy. This film could have been an incident of hilarious contained chaos, but it never reaches this potential which left me wanting so much more. This is one of the bigger cinematic disappointments I’ve seen in quite some time.

Final Grade: C-

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The Hateful Eight – Review

14 Jan

When Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, it was clear that he was to be destined for stardom, but it was Pulp Fiction that made him one of the most recognized and often most abrasive cinematic voices of our time. But that’s part of the fun of watching a new Tarantino movie. You really just never know what to expect. To be quite honest, I’ve been getting a little sick of all the Tarantino hype. This made me feel a little bit less than excited to see The Hateful Eight, but this film turned out to be a breath of fresh air. If Reservoir Dogs meets a spaghetti western, meets Agatha Christie doesn’t sound appealing, then I don’t know what would.

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On a snowy road in Wyoming, a bounty hunter named John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) comes across Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter with more ruthless tactics. Warren joins Ruth and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in their carriage as they are both making their way to the town of Red Rock. They also pick up the future sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), but have to stop when a major blizzard forces them to take shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is actually a stagecoach lodge with a more than deceiving name. Things don’t seem right at Minnie’s Haberdashery, and it becomes clear that some of the other inhabitants are planning something sinister. Now it becomes a drawn out fight to stay alive and figure out who has something up their sleeves and why.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because The Hateful Eight is nowhere near a perfect movie and still doesn’t stack up with Tarantino’s earlier efforts. Is this movie a huge ego project for Tarantino? Yes it is. Pretty much everything has been since Pulp Fiction, but I’m not going to hold that against him because I enjoy a lot of his movies quite a bit. The Hateful Eight drags on and on in the first 45 minutes of its nearly three hour runtime with the kind of dialogue you’ve come to expect since the first scene of Inglourious Basterds, which I still think is his masterpiece. The only problem is that the dialogue is far too expository and nowhere near interesting enough. It’s pretty much just the characters in the stagecoach telling each other about their pasts so the audience knows how quirky they are. 45 minutes of that. My God, it was really killing me. Thankfully, things start getting a lot better when they get to the cabin.

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What made Inglourious Basterds such a cool movie was that it took the feel of classic war films and a comic book style of rules and mushed them to become one of my all time favorite movies. The main reason I like The Hateful Eight as much as I do is because of those same reasons. This movie takes a spaghetti western format and injects a classic murder mystery with the style that Tarantino is known for. Speaking of things this guy is known for, it’s really cool that the majority of this movie takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Someone said before I saw this movie that it would work great as a stage play, and I couldn’t agree more. I love when movies feel like this, and it only makes me compare it more to Tarantino’s exceptional debut, Reservoir Dogs.

There’s also plenty of things in The Hateful Eight that I was not expecting, and that’s a good thing. Tarantino has made it quite clear that the shock value in his movies are there on purpose, and that’s part of the fun of watching his movies. While this movie does feel very self indulgent when it comes to the violence and shocking scenes, I still can’t deny that they weren’t effective. Also the cast of actors in this movie is one of the best of the year. Jennifer Jason Leigh was fantastic as Daisy Domergue and has earned herself an Academy Award nomination for her performance. I was also thrilled to see Walton Goggins, who is one of the most underrated actors out there, get a lot of time to shine at the forefront of the movie. Finally, this film has the best original score you’ll hear all year. It’s already won the Golden Globe, and if it doesn’t take home an Oscar for it, I’ll eat my elbow.

I’ve been really on the fence with Quentin Tarantino recently, and I still have my reservations about what’s to come. While that is said, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight far more than I thought I was. I still say that Tarantino just has to tone it down a little bit and not work to make another movie simply to show how awesome he is. A lot of people are saying that this is his worst movie, but they must have all forgotten Jackie Brown. While this isn’t as satisfying as some of his other work, I still can’t deny the fun that I had with it.

Commando – Review

4 Oct

I consider 1980s action movies to really be a genre of their own. They really don’t make them like they used to in this case. Movies featuring the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others were violent, gritty, and over the top. For this review, we’re going to travel back to 1985 for the movie Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his earlier starring roles. By this point, the Austrian behemoth had already starred in Conan the BarbarianThe Terminator, and Red Sonja, but I feel like this is the movie that defined the kind of roles that Schwarzenegger would take for the rest of his career. Other than that, Commando is simply just a wild movie.

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Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an ex-Delta Force soldier who was forced to retire in order to protect him and his team from the many enemies they made over the years. When members of Matrix’s old team begin to get brutally murdered, Major General Jack Kirby (James Olsen) warns Matrix that he, along with his young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano), are in trouble. Kirby is too late,however, and accidentally leads the assassins to Matrix’s secluded home. Jenny gets kidnapped and John learns that Arius (Dan Hedaya), a former South American president deposed by Matrix and his team, and Bennet (Vernon Wells), a violent former member of Matrix’s team, are behind the kidnapping and murders. Their demand for John: To take out the current president of Val Verde so Arius can regain the presidency or Jenny will die. While the terrorists believe they have the upper hand, they aren’t fully prepared for the one man war that’s about to be waged by the vengeful commando.

To start off with why Commando absolutely succeeds as an action movie is the fact that it has a body count of 109, with 102 of those being killed by Schwarzenegger. That means that in the 11 hours of movie time that Schwarzenegger’s character is doing stuff, he kills over a hundred people. That’s absolutely ridiculous, which is great because this movie knows that it’s being absolutely ridiculous. There’s no attempt of getting into anything deeper than what this movie actually is, which is a loud and entertaining action vehicle for Arnold. The movie pretty much sums up everything you need to know about its characters in the first few minutes and then the rest of the relatively short run time is spent filling the screen with non-stop action. I don’t really see how someone could be bored with this movie at all.

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Like I said, this knows it’s absolutely ridiculous, so it has plenty of humor to back up its nearly non-stop action. Schwarzenegger has dozens of cheesy one liners he says after he takes someone down, and he delivers them with deadpan perfection. Vernon Wells also has plenty of opportunities to make us all laugh with his over the top villainy an out of this world chain mail shirt and leather pants. Listen, because I’m about to get really real. To me, this is all great and funny, but you have to be in the mood for it. Trying to seriously critique this movie is kind of hard because it’s just something to be taken lightly and to have fun with. While I say this in defense of Commando, there is something in this movie that I absolutely hate.

While this is a one man action show starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, he does have a side kick. Unfortunately, this particular side kick would get along just fine with Jar Jar Binks. Rae Dawn Chong’s character, Cindy, is one of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It’s fine that the writers tried to put in a funny side kick to work against the serious nature that the movie might have had otherwise, but everything was going just fine without her. Her shrieking voice and completely incompetent behavior was completely out of place and overused.

Can you really critique Commando like you would Citizen KaneGone With the Wind, or Lawrence of Arabia? No, certainly not. I feel like I have to judge Commando based on what it is. It’s a crazy action film that showcased how much of a badass Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and in that regard it succeeds wonderfully. Once the action starts, it hardly ever lets up. The only problem I have is one awful character whose absence would make the movie a whole lot better. Still, if you’re looking for a ridiculously ludicrous movie to watch, this one will provide lots of fun.

Running Scared – Review

31 Oct

I’m the kind of guy that loves an action movie that isn’t afraid to push everything way over the top. Hell, I could watch the Crank movies on repeat any day of the week. Much like Crank, Wayne Kramer’s 2006 action thriller, Running Scared, is certainly not a film that’s afraid to go way overboard in quite literally every aspect of its presentation. When done correctly, this kind of film making can heighten the movie watching experience, and it definitely does that in some, if not most, moments in this film, but it also detracts from it at the same time. This feeling of being slightly uneven makes Running Scared a good film, but not a great film.

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Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is a small time gangster working for mafioso Tommy Perello (Johnny Messner). During what should have been a simple drug deal, a trio of masked crooked cops led by Rydell (Chazz Palminteri) burst in and threaten to steal everything and murder everyone. After gunfire erupts, two of the cops are dead and Rydell is on the run leaving Perello to entrust Joey with the pistol that was used to kill the two cops. Instead of dumping the gun right away, Joey goes home to see his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son Nicky (Alex Neuberger). Unfortunately for Joey, Nicky’s friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) gets a hold of the gun to get revenge on his step-father (Karel Roden) for his acts of abuse, but soon the gun becomes lost in the seedy night time underworld leaving Joey to speed through the streets trying to find it, but danger seems to literally lurk behind every corner.

As you would probably expect, one does not have to think a whole lot while they’re watching this movie, but I was actually really surprised when I began losing track of the plot at certain points. Luckily, I know exactly why this was happening to me. As I said before, this movie goes way over the top in the way it tells its story, it almost feels like a graphic novel. The problem is that it goes too far over the top in terms of plot contrivances, twists, and motivations. It seems like something new came along in every scene to completely change the course of the movie. It seems like a million and one different events and motivations just mush together in the span of a two hour movie that it was hard to keep track of it all.

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Now to talk about what’s awesome about Running Scared is the excellent action sequences and really cool editing. First of all, the action in this movie is turned up to 11. This isn’t to say that this is the kind of movie that has non stop gunfights and what have you, but when it does happen, things get really crazy. Blood and chunks of gangsters fly all over the place in such a way that reinforces my looking at this as a graphic novel put to screen. One awesome scene in particular has a gunfight occur in a hockey rink that is lit entire by black light after the ice was specially painted. The editing and the action go hand in hand like a match made in heaven. The camera flies all over the place, while the editing fast forwards, rewinds, or halts the action to sudden slow motion. Images flash across the screen and colors and frames get distorted. With an action movie that can get as insane as this one does, kinetic editing is crucial and is a huge success in Running Scared.

In keeping with the tradition of this review, I think I also need to talk about how (at time ridiculously) over the top the acting is. I can’t say I’m a fan of Paul Walker, especially with my lack of interest in the Fast and the Furious movies. In this movie, he has a lot of energy and hams it up in an entertaining way, but sometimes it just felt weird. For most of the film he just came off as a loud and arrogant protagonist that I know I wouldn’t get along with if I ever met him on the street. The villains on the other hand, with special nods to Palminteri and Messner, ham it up to perfection. My favorite performance in this movie is actually Vera Farmiga, who really doesn’t seem to be her normal self. There are moments in this film where she really seems to be playing the role with enormous amounts of honesty and seriousness, which can’t really be said about the hammed up performance by everyone else.

I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t have a really good time watching Running Scared. There’s really nothing in this movie to take too seriously, even though the film often deals with serious themes. It’s lack of organization can make things confusing and the acting can be a little overbearing at times, but watching this movie is like seeing an insanely kinetic and violent graphic novel come to life. Do yourself a favor and don’t think too hard while you’re watching this because I don’t think that’s what the movie is all about. Instead, treat this film simply as an above average action movie who’s purpose is to get your adrenaline going for a few hours.

The Wild Bunch – Review

13 Feb

“Bloody” Sam is a nickname that I envy and Sam Peckinpah rightly deserves it. This controversial, but infinitely important American director is responsible for helping mold the film medium into what it is today and inspire famous film makers like Quentin Tarantino. A lot of Peckinpah’s work, even though he is long dead, can be seen in the technique of film makers now. Let’s look at what many call his masterpiece. The time period is around the Vietnam War and the Western genre is slowly dying. Peckinpah had the perfect way to close off the genre with his almost anti-Western (in the traditional sense), The Wild Bunch.

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In 1913, the wild West is beginning to be more modernized and civilized. For aging outlaw Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his gang, this is a sign for retirement. Before he can call it quits, Pike needs to find that last score that will guarantee his riches for the rest of his life. Along with his best friend Dutch (Ernest Borgnine) and the rest of the gang, Pike makes his way to Mexico where they encounter General Mapache (Emilio Fernández), a sadistic general who has his claws in small villages. Pike is hired by Mapache to rob an American military train of its weapons cargo and in return will pay the gang $10,000. The robbery goes just fine, but Pike’s worries are just beginning which will end in an inevitable bloodbath.

If you think about the time that Peckinpah made The Wild Bunch, it may seem kind of clear as to why he took such a violent approach. The year was 1969, and Bonnie and Clyde shocked audiences with its depiction of graphic violence, but what’s even more significant is that this was made during the heat of the Vietnam War. War violence was shown in the households of American families by the news media, and this made Peckinpah amongst other people feel very nihilistic. To show the desensitization to violence that Peckinpah feared was happening to Americans, he decided to make The Wild Bunch as violent and graphic as he could possibly make it. Unfortunately for him, audiences ate it up instead of being shocked by it.

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Another inspiration for “Bloody” Sam was to make The Wild Bunch sort of an anti-Western. Before this movie, Westerns were relatively bloodless and even had the outlaw characters portrayed as heroes. Just look at John Wayne’s character in Stagecoach. In this film, the characters are all flawed or downright awful. The outlaws aren’t meant to be heroes, nor are they meant to be villains. They are whoever you want them to be. As for the blood, there is plenty of it. Just enough to match the amount of bullets being fired. Here’s a fun fact. More blank rounds were fired for this movie than were actually fired during the Mexican Revolution. That says something, I’d say.

In my opinion, the set design is also an improvement over the average American Western. The dirt and the grime all have a more realistic feel to it, and not like it was done specifically for the movie. It all looks appropriate for where the character’s are. This is also a testament to what Same Peckinpah was trying to do. He wanted to create a realistic Western to end the genre of what he thought to be unrealistic representations of the old West. Now, I wasn’t alive then, but I can imagine that this movie may have come pretty close.

The Wild Bunch is said to be the last of the great Westerns, and in the movie, it shows the last of the wild life that outlaws lived. With ties to the Vietnam War and Peckinpah’s own views of what the genre should be, this is truly and American masterpiece. I may stir up some controversy with this, but forget John Ford and forget John Wayne. If you want an exciting and brutally violent Western that will really leave you speechless, look no further than The Wild Bunch.

Straw Dogs – Review

28 Nov

Sam Peckinpah is a name that goes along with controversy in the film world. In fact, one of his nicknames was “Bloody” Sam. Straw Dogs continued that streak of controversy, and even went on to be banned in the UK for 18 years! The reasons for this is Peckinpah’s unapologetic depictions of violence and rape, and his filming something so graphic at the time was pretty ballsy and I respect that. This has made the film somewhat of a keystone in modern film making, even if Peckinpah’s depiction of women can be somewhat… I don’t know… misogynistic?

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David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy (Susan George) are trying to get away from the anti-war protests and anger that has engulfed the United States, so to get some peace and quiet they move to a small village in Cornwall, England. This being the village where Amy grew up, she starts to get harassed by an old boyfriend. The troubles don’t stop there as a group of drunken villagers begin tormenting them day in and day out, until one day David just can’t take it anymore. As the villagers begin attacking his house, David lets out a much more violent side and shows that he will kill, maim, and otherwise disfigure anybody who steps through his door.

The first time through this movie, it feels really slow and really boring. I will admittedly say that for a while, I wasn’t really feeling the movie at all. Then the climax came and the whole drama played out and I was sitting on my couch in a state of shock. First of all, in terms of suspense, I can’t believe how intense and violent this climax is, and in such a way that I felt like I was stuck in the scene. The lighting and sound is gritty and dark, and once David begins blasting Irish music, my blood really starts pumping. Another thing that this now infamous climax does though is make you appreciate the slow boil of this movie and the constant pushing that the villagers do to David.

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When I say slow, I mean slow. It seems, at times, that nothing is really happening in the story, but once the movie is one you realize that everything is connected and everything is important. This isn’t a very complicated movie when it comes to the story, but the tension is what really makes it. It seems like every line of dialogue is pushing the movie forward in some way. Plus the slow pace of the movie makes the climax that I just can’t stop talking about even better since we’ve been waiting and watching for an hour and some minutes.

We’ve all been pushed in some ways in our lives, whether it’s at work or home, it’s happened to us before. In this way, we can relate to David and stand by him in his acts of extreme violence. Peckinpah had it right there. In terms of the woman in the movie… that can be debated. In a way, her dynamic made the movie very interesting, up until the end when she was just annoying. Without giving too much of the plot away, Amy behaves in a way that people may find unrealistic and kind of sexist towards women. That’s really the only fault I have for this movie. Unfortunately, this fault could be a major turn off for some people, which is really disappointing considering how great this movie is.

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Straw Dogs is a violent and evil ride. Evil is a weird way to put it, but I feel like it’s one of those movies that have been stigmatized so much that it’s considered a necessary evil in the film world. It did help push film into the more modern direction and was a good early film in one of my favorite decades of film. This may not be for the weak stomached not folks who turn away at the possibility of cringing, but it is a very important movie and I love it very much!

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.