Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Drug War

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

tn_drugwarbtislJohnnie To’s DRUG WAR is a hell of a procedural, a fast-moving, heavily detailed look at a batallion of Chinese narcotics cops flipping a big time meth manufacturer and trying to use him to take out a guy that’s above him. We watch them step-by-step, finding the guy, making him give in, making a plan on the fly, changing things up as the facts on the ground evolve. They gotta worry if they can trust him, is he gonna blow the whole operation, are they gonna get him killed. They’re like high stakes gamblers almost. Seems like stressful work in my opinion.

In the opening scene the squad catches a bus full of drug mules on a toll bridge. They bring them to the hospital and proceed with the unglamorous work of making them shit out the “drug pods” into bowls before they burst inside them and kill them horribly. I’m looking for a HOLY MOUNTAIN Alchemist/shitting in a bowl joke here, but maybe I’ll just let the moment pass. I am nothing if not classy as all fuck. (read the rest of this shit…)

Redemption (aka Hummingbird)

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

tn_redemptionREDEMPTION, huh? ‘Bout time somebody made a movie about redemption.

Okay, this might tie WAR for “most generic Jason Statham title” (except in the UK, where it has the more-distinctive-for-a-Jason-Statham-movie title HUMMINGBIRD), but the movie itself is something else. Written and directed by Steven Knight (the guy that wrote EASTERN PROMISES), it’s in the BLITZ category of serious-minded British crime dramas where Statham gets to beat the shit out of a couple people without it really being an action movie. They hired him more for acting than action on this one.

Stath plays Joey, a.k.a. Crazy Joe, a homeless crackhead who was an elite commando in Afghanistan until he lost it, committed war crimes and went AWOL. You think that’s different from most Statham characters, wait ’til you see his long hair! (read the rest of this shit…)

The Counselor

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

tn_counselorI’m a lightweight when it comes to reading Cormac McCarthy books. I read No Country For Old Men, loved it, then loved the movie version. I was deeply moved by The Road, the movie was decent. Before those I tried to read All the Pretty Horses, but I think it was too dense for my brain at the time, I didn’t get very far. I haven’t tried Blood Meridian yet, I know that’s the one everybody recommends.

But from my limited experience THE COUNSELOR, the Ridley Scott movie made from McCarthy’s first original screenplay, is sure recognizable as his work. It’s a crime story full of colorful characters and the occasional brutal violence, but it’s not interested in a straightforward approach to storytelling. I mean, it’s never as aggressively untraditional as that one really abrupt thing that happens toward the end of No Country (I had to flip back a few pages after that one ’cause I thought I missed something), but it takes it’s sweet ass time getting to a point where you even know what it’s about on the surface. (read the rest of this shit…)

Empire State

Monday, September 30th, 2013

tn_empirestateDito Montiel is a director I’ve kept an eye on since I saw his underground fighting movie FIGHTING. That one’s not good for action filmatism, but it’s really enjoyable as a more realistically textured take on the LIONHEART type of movie, and it has alot of personality. The example I always give when I try to convince somebody to see it is that the ultimate goal of the fight manager character played by Terence Howard is to get enough money to franchise an IHoP. So see that one, everybody. Totally underrated.

EMPIRE STATE is Montiel’s first movie that doesn’t have Channing Tatum in it, instead it stars an occasionally Tatum-esque Liam Hemsworth, a.k.a. the only expended Expendable as of part 2 (spoiler). There’s something odd about an Australian doing a New York meathead character, but Thor’s little brother has more range than I knew. Maybe Tatum was Montiel’s DeNiro, and Hemsworth will be his DiCaprio. I guess we’ll know that’s what’s up if Tatum starts doing a bunch of DTV cop movies with 50 Cent. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pain & Gain

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

tn_painandgain“Well, I didn’t think it was terrible or anything.”

–Vern, outlawvern.com

For the most part PAIN & GAIN is not that bad in the usual ways that Michael Bay movies are bad. Check this shit out: I honestly had no major stylistic problems with this one, other than some late-in-the-game freeze frame/on screen graphic things that are supposed to be funny (listing the side effects of cocaine use, saying “this is still a true story” during a crazy part, etc.) Even the action scenes are fine and have a good energy to them. I think maybe when Bay is limited to what he considers a low budget ($26 million) he has to do more planning and less shooting everything from a hundred different angles to slap together later.

What I really expected to be deadly in this movie was the jokes. Of course I hold a grudge against Bay for the way his and Simon West’s editing and framing began the crumbling of the visual language of action cinema that led to the current state of things where only a very small percentage of American action movies are worth watching if you are hoping for there to be action scenes in them. That’s what he’s gonna have to answer for when he gets to the Pearly Gates, but it’s definitely not the worst thing about his movies – that would have to be his terrible sense of humor. BAD BOYS 2 and the TRANSFORMERSes especially can’t go a minute without some unfunny ad-libbed jibber jabber, or a cut away to a dog fucking something, or a sassy black lady swearing at somebody (or vice versa), or a cartoonish service person or government stooge being an asshole for no reason other than to reflect Bay’s world view. So when this joker said his next movie was gonna be a comedy I heard the JAWS music.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Place Beyond the Pines

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

tn_placebeyondFrom the trailers, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, from director Derek Cianfrance (BLUE VALENTINE), seemed weirdly similar to DRIVE.  Instead of a movie stunt driver who’s also a getaway driver, Ryan Gosling plays a carnival motorcycle stunt driver who becomes a bank robber. Instead of having a weird relationship with a married woman and her son he has a weird relationship with an ex-fling (Eva Mendes) who he’s just found out has his son (but lives with a boyfriend who doesn’t want him coming around). I’d heard that it wasn’t really what it looks like, that it “turns into something different,” that it’s “epic.” All these things are true, and I’m glad I didn’t know the specifics of it. But I gotta talk about those specifics if I’m gonna review it, so be warned. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dead Man Down

Friday, August 9th, 2013

WWEstudiostn_deadmandownNothing has changed since yesterday. I’m still against WWE Studios flying their prestigious banner above movies starring non-wrestlers. But I gotta admit that DEAD MAN DOWN is probly the best movie they’ve had their initials on so far. It stars Crusher Colin Farrell, Notorious Noomi Rapace and Terrence Dastructshon Howard in a moody revenge romance. (The token actual wrester is somebody named Wade Barrett as some character called “Kilroy.”) I think the movie it reminded me of most is LEON, but it’s a little more downbeat, and no uncomfortable underage business. But that’s a pretty abstract comparison, I don’t even know what it is that connects them. This is the rare movie that feels like it doesn’t really follow an existing template. Or if it does it’s a bunch of different templates collaged together in a weird way that’s hard to recognize. (read the rest of this shit…)

Only God Forgives

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

tn_onlygodforgivesFor ONLY GOD FORGIVES, the latest from writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn (DRIVE, VALHALLA RISING, etc.), Ryan Gosling trained in Thai boxing to play a quiet American running a Muay Thai gym in Bangkok. That lady who sued DRIVE for not being like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is gonna have to sue this one for not being like BLOODSPORT.

Or for not being like DRIVE, for that matter! This is not a commercial movie at all. It’s all mood and ambience. Slow, deliberate camera moves down hallways, precise, Kubrickian compositions, men introduced standing in poses rather than walking into rooms, not alot of dialogue, credits in Thai. It doesn’t explain much and leaves alot of weirdness lying around to either interpret, enjoy as surrealism, or get frustrated by. Of course I like to read a little symbolism into some of it, but I think it also works taken literally. This is a foreign, dangerous world that people like us wouldn’t understand. Not just because it’s Bangkok, either. The Bangkok you live in is just a sugar coated topping. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hit & Run

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

tn_hitandrunHere’s how I know marketing failed HIT & RUN: I was one of its test subjects. Some time last year I was at the multiplex picking up tickets for later in the day. In the lobby sometimes they have these survey people showing trailers on little monitors and asking focus group type questions. I always wondered what that was about, and I had some time to kill, so when they asked me to do it I said yes.

I saw other people being tested on THE EXPENDABLES 2, which at the time seemed exciting. But too my disappointment the survey focused on HIT & RUN, which I learned was a comedy starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold and Bradley Cooper as the bad guy. They showed me variations of different commercials, mainly consisting of Arnold yelling, Shepard getting hit in the face with a golf club, a car going off a jump, and the various actors in cars looking scared like they’re gonna crash. Some had a heavy emphasis on a scene where squeaky-voiced Kristen Chenoweth talks about taking Xanex. I struggled to answer questions like “What do you think the movie is about?” and “What is your favorite part?” (Answers: 1. “Well, they said he was a bank robber, so they’re after him? I don’t know.” 2. “I guess Bradley Cooper in dreadlocks looks funny.”) In the end I had to answer that no, I did not think there was any chance that I would see this movie, because it doesn’t look funny at all.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Bling Ring (2013) vs. The Bling Ring (2011) (plus Spring Breakers)

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

tn_blingringIt’s a crazy story, and it really happened pretty much like this: a group of well-off high school kids in the Valley, obsessed with celebrities and their clothes, decided to start robbing them. Using Google to find their addresses, and TMZ and Twitter to find out when they were out of town to host a party or attend an awards show, they’d show up at their mansions, let themselves in, then have the run of the place like it was the mall in DAWN OF THE DEAD. They stole clothes, handbags, jewelry, cash and (they say) cocaine. They chose Paris Hilton as their first victim because they thought she was “dumb” and might leave a door unlocked – sure enough they say they found the key under the welcome mat. Others (Lindsay Lohan, Brian Austin Green, Orlando Bloom, some reality show people I never heard of) left doors or windows unlocked. These kids chose celebrities whose fashion they admired, and they happened to be people with so much shit that they didn’t even notice when it was gone. Not until more experienced criminals got involved and knew to take the most expensive jewelry. (read the rest of this shit…)