Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Bobby Z

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

tn_bobbyzPaul Walker won us over while starring in his six great FAST AND FURIOUS movies, so it’s a wonder he had time to do much in between. As you saw with yesterday’s JOY RIDE review I wanted to take the occasion of our saying goodbye to Brian O’Conner to pay tribute to his work again. The trouble is I’ve already reviewed most of his starring vehicles: RUNNING SCARED, EIGHT BELOW, every FAST AND FURIOUS movie… buddy, I saw BRICK MANSIONS in the theater, that’s the type of individual you are dealing with here. Luckily I remembered there was this one based on the book The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow, the author of SAVAGES.

BOBBY Z (released in some countries as KILL BOBBY Z or LET’S KILL BOBBY Z) is no SAVAGES, that’s for sure, but it has alot of the same elements: legendary surfer turned ultra-rich California marijuana magnate, Iraq vet turned violent criminal, crooked DEA agents, ruthless Mexican cartels, genius businessman friend turned unlikely kingpin, women scheming while taken for granted as sex objects by the empire. Walker plays the vet, Tim Kearney, a crazy long hair kicked out of the Marines for beating up an Iraqi general and turned into a lifer for three dumb strikes. Now he’s facing certain death from the Aryan Brotherhood for killing a fellow con named Mad Dog (UFC legend Chuck Liddell).

DEA Agent Tad Gruzsa (Laurence Morpheus Fishburne) offers him a crazy, convoluted deal: he looks kinda like this marijuana kingpin named Bobby Z, who cartel leader Don Huertero (Joaquim “Evil Phil Hartman” de Almeida, FAST FIVE) wants in trade for Gruzsa’s kidnapped partner. He says they don’t know the real Bobby Z is dead so if Kearney pretends to be him and successfully makes the trade the DEA will just let him go and he can try to escape from a deadly cartel or whatever but not have to go back to prison. I mean, it’s kind of the honor system I guess. If he wants to go back to prison that’s cool. (read the rest of this shit…)

Better Luck Tomorrow

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

tn_bltaka FAST AND FURIOUS ORIGINS: HAN

BETTER LUCK TOMORROW was not Justin Lin’s rookie film (that would be SHOPPING FOR FANGS, co-directed with Quentin Lee), but it was his buzzed-about Sundance film that got picked up by MTV Films and must’ve got him alot of meetings and what not. Next thing you know he’s directing Jordana Brewster in ANNAPOLIS and then what the hell, give him that third FAST AND THE FURIOUS movie, see what he can do with that, and then FAST 4, 5 and 6 and the world was changed forever and he almost did a TERMINATOR and a BOURNE and he’s actually doing a STAR TREK right now.

That trajectory started with this somewhat controversial teen crime movie. Narrated GOODFELLAS style, it’s the story of Ben Manibag (Parry Shen of the HATCHET trilogy), a Chinese-American student in a California suburb driven to succeed in school and get into a good college, but who also finds the time for decreasingly petty crimes with his friends. He’s employee of the month at the hot dog joint where he works, he practices free throws every day to get on the JV basketball team and vocabulary words to get perfect SAT scores, works as a Spanish translator at a medical clinic, organizes a litter pick-up crew for the local beach and is American history expert for his Academic Decathlon team. But also he pulls a fake return scam at the electronics store, TPs houses and starts selling seat cheats, then drugs, then starts carrying a gun. (read the rest of this shit…)

Run All Night

Monday, March 16th, 2015

tn_runallnightAlthough he’d already done HOUSE OF WAX and GOAL II: LIVING THE DREAM, it was ORPHAN that brought director Jaume Collet-Serra to my attention. I gotta admire a director whose movie I go to thinking I’m gonna be all ironical on it and then it defeats me with its audacity and genuine cleverness. So far that’s the height of his output, but I keep going back.

I guess I’d be watching them anyway, because his ORPHAN follow up has been three Liam Neeson vehicles in a row. UNKNOWN was a somewhat forgettable twisty thriller with some good touches here and there. Apparently I forgot to even post a review of it, but the part I remember liking best was some awkwardness between Neeson and Diane Kruger where they laugh because they’re in her small apartment and hear sex noises from next door, and that turns out to be set-up that her walls are thin enough for him to throw a guy through. NON-STOP was more my speed, a fun take on a confined-location-high-concept with some pretty interesting political subtext. Now the third one, RUN ALL NIGHT, takes the collaboration in a different direction. There’s less emphasis on the thrillery gimmicks and more on the character drama.

Oh, hey, this might explain it: it’s a screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, the guy that wrote OUT OF THE FURNACE. That’s another movie that uses badass genre elements but is more interested in exploring relationships than in satisfying expectations. (Though this one does have shootouts and car crashes.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Drop

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

tn_dropThere’s something I love about a movie where English Tom Hardy, Swedish Noomi Rapace and Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts play Brooklyn neighborhood folks. It’s this international cast, directed by Michaël R. Roskam (who previously did the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy Award nominee BULLHEAD starring Schoenaerts) but there’s still a theme of characters having to correct each other’s ignorant statements about nationalities and languages: no, those gangsters aren’t from Russia, they’re from Chechnya. And you call them Chechens, not “Chechnyans.” And the language they speak in Brazil is called Portueguese, not Brazilian.

Rapace actually doesn’t put alot of effort into hiding her real accent, but Hardy, being Tom Hardy, throws himself into the task head long, especially in his occasional voiceover narration. He loves to mumble and slur, and to be funny-dumb, but also intelligent-inarticulate. As good as he is at playing eloquent snobs I suspect he has way more fun playing louts like this. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wild at Heart

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

tn_wildatheartSailor Ripley is the character who was born for Nicolas Cage to play. He’s the ultimate bad boy who you wouldn’t bring home to your parents, an old timey hoodlum ex-con, self-conscious about his rebellious image, and obsessed with Elvis, who he calls “E” for short. He talks like him, combs his hair kind of like him, sings his love songs only at important romantic milestones. He and his young girlfriend Lula (Laura Dern) love to dance together, and at one point they pull their Thunderbird convertible to the side of the highway, play heavy metal and dance, which to him mostly means jumping around doing karate kicks and punches. They don’t have to discuss that they’re going to do this, so you gotta assume it’s one of their regular activities.

Sailor wears a snakeskin jacket, which he proudly says on more than one occasion “represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom.” He’s a self-professed “robber and a manslaughterer” and hasn’t “had any parental guidance.” He started smoking when he was “about four,” and cigarette brand loyalty seem to be one tradition he and Lula inherit from their parents. He knows many unsavory characters from his time as an underworld driver, including Lula’s mother Marietta Fortune (Dern’s real life mother Diane Ladd), who is so serious about keeping Sailor away from her daughter that she takes a hit out on him. She’s also so wicked that she frequently goes on cackling jags and is several times depicted as the WIZARD OF OZ witch, flying on a broom or watching them in a crystal ball. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wild Card

Friday, February 6th, 2015

tn_wildcard“I can take care of things. That’s all you need to know.”

In WILD CARD, Jason Statham plays Nick Wild (seriously), a legendary special ops badass who now works as an all purpose “security consultant” for hire. That’s not going well for him, though. He shares his office with a lawyer (Jason Alexander from THE BURNING) on the strip mall outskirts of Vegas, most of his friends seem to be prostitutes, hotel maids, gangsters or casino employees, and he gets such glamourous gigs as getting fake beat up by Vinnie from Doogie Howser to impress a Sofia Vergara. It’s hard to bask in your own greatness when you’re such a fucking loser. So in that sense this is less like THE TRANSPORTER and more like REDEMPTION (where he starts out as a homeless crackhead).

He gets a couple “Just how badass is he?” speeches, but one of them is by himself, and ends with “And I lie alot.” As cool as this guy is – his name is Nick Wild, for God’s sake! – everybody knows he’s a fuckup, and this is underlined by casual comments about the mediocre value of his life. When a friend wants him to get involved in something dangerous and he asks “What if they kill me?” she says “I’ll be miserable for days.” Not years, not months, days. Later a gangster wants to hear his side of the story before killing him just because if he was innocent of what he was accused of “I would feel dreadful.”

If some of this sounds familiar that’s because it’s a remake of HEAT. Not the one by Michael Mann, the 1986 one with Burt Reynolds and based on the book by William Goldman. It counts as a remake though because they re-used Goldman’s old script with just a few tweaks, like Van Sant did with PSYCHO. (In fact, Anne Heche is even in this. But not Vince Vaughn) They changed his name from Nick Escalante and added references to his Britishness. He says “mum” in one part. And I noticed big changes in the action parts (I missed a trick Burt did to light a guy on fire, and a scene where he torments a guy in the dark). But mostly, from what I could remember, it’s scene-for-scene the same. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Monday, December 1st, 2014

tn_sincity2BruceI’m not saying I liked SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR exactly, but it wasn’t as bad as reported. Considering that its two directors’ last films were THE SPIRIT and MACHETE KILLS, which I would consider among the worst things I’ve ever paid to see in theaters, this almost seems like a real movie.

It has all the same problems as the first SIN CITY without the novelty of being a weird new approach to a comic book adaptation, and with very little technological or stylistic advancement considering it was done 9 years later. But I think maybe things bugged me about the first one that people overlooked at the time and now are having a problem with, so they’re being harder on it than me. I don’t know. (read the rest of this shit…)

15 Minutes

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

tn_15minutesex3-grammer15 MINUTES is a transitional Robert De Niro thriller bridging the Everybody Respects Robert De Niro era with the Robert De Niro Is a Guy Who Stars In DTV Movies With 50 Cent one. Here De Niro plays Detective Eddie Flemming, famous NYC supercop who steps on the toes of younger hot shot Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw (Ed Burns in a practice run of his sidekick character in ALEX CROSS) when both report to the scene of a deadly apartment fire.

Eddie is famous for being on the tabloid show Top Story, where he lets the host, Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer, Cheetos*), follow him on busts, so everybody treats him like a rock star and it pisses Warsaw off. But he really has been around the block and has alot of wisdom to share, so it’s a buddy movie where they butt heads but then he unexpectedly goes out on a limb for the kid and sort of mentors him and what not. All that type of stuff.

But also this is a satire about this crime celebrity culture, that’s what that title’s about. Back in the late ’80s, early 2000s we were very concerned about tabloid news shows and their morbid obsession with O.J. Simpson, the Menendez Brothers and etc., so here is a movie coming years after after MAN BITES DOG, SERIAL MOM, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, SCREAM, etc., and hitting at kind of an embarrassingly obvious target in my opinion. But it does get a little bit of novelty by framing it as the American dream, showing a crime spree committed by two European immigrants (introducing Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) who have come to America seeking opportunity. Well, actually to collect their share of the money from a bank robbery, which it turns out their buddy already spent while they were in prison. Whoops. Sorry fellas.

By the way I wonder if they ever met Yuri Boyka in prison? (read the rest of this shit…)

Tequila Sunrise

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

tn_tequilasunriseex3-gibsonIn the opening of TEQUILA SUNRISE, Mel Gibson as “Mac” McKussic comes to a motel with a guy and a briefcase full of coke for one of those business transactions that guys with briefcases full of coke have at hotels. One of the guys who comes to meet him is Nick Frescia (Kurt Russell), talking cocky, hair all slicked back. Mac immediately knows that Nick is a cop so he talks his way out of the room and makes a run for it, doing a parkour-like swing from a balconly, nimbly hopping fences, ducking under a freeway overpass, trudging through water, dodging police searchlights. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lucy

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

tn_lucyLUCY is the new movie by Luc Besson and his first directorial work since… THE MESSENGER? … to be noticed much in the U.S. He had supposedly retired from directing after ANGEL-A in 2005, but then he made another one of those ARTHUR children’s movies and by 2010 he was doing THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (which I liked) and fuck it, he was still a director. Last year he did THE FAMILY with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (which I, like most Americans, haven’t gotten around to yet) but now all the sudden he has this LUCY and it’s a big hit, opening much bigger than The Rock’s HERCULES even though that one is PG-13. (There actually was a point early in LUCY where I thought to myself “Oh good, they do still make R-rated movies.”)

Scarlett Johansson plays the titlogical Lucy, a student in Taiwan when her douchebag boyfriend of one week (a Donal-Logue-at-a-rave type dude with a shitty cowboy hat and yellow-tinted glasses) gets her involved against her will with some ruthless gangsters led by Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY). She doesn’t speak the language so she barely knows what’s going on by the time she has a bag of experimental drugs (actually blue pop rocks I think) sewn into her belly for clandestine transport.

(read the rest of this shit…)