Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard





The Hitman's Bodyguard
Cert: 15 / 118 mins / Dir. Patrick Hughes / Trailer



It seems like we've waited most of the year for a break in the downpour of superhero tentpole-movies. So, before the autumnal clouds gather for Thor and the Justice League, Lionsgate have taken the opportunity to get the unmasked Deadpool and Nick Fury sent to Coventry*1 for a road-trip in The Hitman's Bodyguard, the kind of movie which would usually land in March or October, were it not for the names on the poster...

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a down-at-heel close-protection bodyguard, tasked to safeguard professional assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) on his journey to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to testify against despotic war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). The underhand and frighteningly-connected Dukhovich has strike-teams out to silence the sole witness before he can arrive, but Bryce and Kincaid have their own intertwined history, and the road-trip will be anything but straightforward for this odd-couple! [ Do you see? One of them is an expert at killing people, whilst the other specialises in keeping them alive. It is this central disparity which creates unavoidable friction between the lead characters, and from whence the thrills and indeed humour will arise. Salma Hayek also stars as Kincaid's wife Sonia who swears a lot and who is in prison, and can therefore have her segments produced entirely separately. ]

At least I imagine that's how the pitch went. What we actually get here is a lighthearted generic action movie interspersed with scenes of Reynolds and Jackson's semi-improvised bickering in a car. Which is fine. The Hitman's Bodyguard feels for all the world like a Gerard Butler schedule-filler*2 that struck gold when the casting director was able to call in a couple of favours. The screenplay is efficient enough, if largely unimaginative, and leaves you with the impression that the 'comedy' aspect was tacked on in the third-draft once the lead performers had been confirmed. Reynolds and Jackson are great of course, but there's little here that they haven't done elsewhere, and to greater effect. Despite the best work of writer Tom O'Connor*3 and multiple narrative-assisting flashbacks, the audience never forgets that they're watching the actors, not the characters.

Likewise, Gary Oldman is basically fine as an Eastern-European warlord who mostly sits in a courtroom arrogantly protesting that he has no charge to answer, although he's not doing anything that a hundred other character actors could have brought in at less than half the price. Salma Hayek, as noted above, swears for comic effect at regular intervals. And she's good at it, but y'know. It seems like director Patrick ('Expendables 3') Hughes doesn't really know what he wants to do with his players so he's just letting them autopilot*4, and handing the day's footage to the editors. To be fair, that strategy could have backfired far worse than it did here.

The film's action set-pieces are on-par for the genre with some fantastic stunt-work, but using a hyper-shaky cam that's designed to disguise the lack of movement in a frame, and the kind of CGI explosions which make you realise how much of the budget went on the casting.

Overall, it feels like everyone had an absolute blast making this movie, which is rarely the sign of a focused piece of work. This is no exception.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is eminently forgettable and more than a little uneven, although it's distracting fun for the duration of the run-time at least. But when it comes to the standout actioner of the Summer-season with an A-list cast, gleefully stylish violence and a jukebox soundtrack, that crown belongs to the Atomic Blonde...



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
If you liked what Ryan Reynolds was doing in Deadpool*5, what Sam Jackson was doing in Die Hard With A Vengeance and what the story was doing in From Paris With Love or Olympus Has Fallen, you'll get a lot out of The Hitman's Bodyguard.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Not while Charlize Theron's kicking arses in the screen next door..


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not as much as director Patrick Hughes would perhaps like to think, but just enough to warrant the budget being funnelled directly into the casting department, yes..


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
With the best will in the world, of course not*6.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Nope.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is, indeed.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in this. Come on, keep up…


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Literally, not metaphorically. That's something you don't see every week at the flicks. [ BACK ]

*2 With the added bonus of not starring Gerard Butler. Now there's a selling-point for a movie. You can have that one for free, guys... [ BACK ]

*3 Not that one. [ BACK ]

*4 Not the requirements of the directorial role of course, but I suppose this was never going to be 'an auteur's movie'. [ BACK ]

*5 Also if you like Deadpool's thing of taking an iconic 80s ballad and framing it in an ironic way against a background of carnage. This film does that. Twice. [ BACK ]

*6 Oh, and while I'm on, despite what the film says there's no Dover-to-Amsterdam ferry. It's geographically unfeasible; the Amsterdam ferries leave from Newcastle. The ferries from Dover sail to Calais or Dunkirk, where you'd drive up through France to Holland. And sure, those of you who haven't seen the film may be wondering 'well how do you know that's what they don't do?' which would be a fair question except that 'Amsterdam' is on the ferry in huge letters. Okay, this isn't as whopping a transgression as the last Transformers film, but I didn't want to go the whole review not mentioning it. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review: A Ghost Story





A Ghost Story
Cert: 12A / 92 mins / Dir. David Lowery / Trailer



It's hard to know what to say about David Lowery's A Ghost Story without somehow spoiling it, even though (with perhaps one exception*1) it's not the kind of movie you can actually spoil. It was only after watching it in its entirety that I understood why the trailer is so vague; it's not that the film follows suit, but the story needs the full run-time to unfold and can't really be compressed into snippets. There are single, static, dialogue-free shots in A Ghost Story which are longer than the trailer. There will be some who don't get it*2, which is as all art should be.

The story is, as you would assume, about ghosts. And while the poster and trailer's figure-in-the-sheet may seem inherently comical, this is one of the most profoundly heartbreaking films I've seen. Less of a linear haunting, more a tone-poem on memory and loss. It's thoughtful, lingering, and treats time like a tidal-lake rather than a river. Lowery slowly administers an existential anesthesia, simultaneously telling you that everything's not going to be alright, but it's alright that everything's not going to be alright. A Ghost Story is either brilliant or merely intriguing, I can't decide which on a first-pass.

Rooney Mara is quietly compelling as always (this role seems to be tailor-made for her particular skills) and Casey Affleck may just have found the role where he can take his broodiness to its peak-level. There are many other cast-members too, in smaller roles, but to go there would be to undo the magic of watching it for the first time.

For the regular, non-arthouse movie-goer (let's be honest, me), there are a couple of hurdles to overcome, of course. The 3:4 aspect ratio with the addition of rounded corners makes the film look like it's being presented through a View-Master, as does the feeling that every frame has been post-processed in Instagram. I found the first half-hour simultaneously entrancing and infuriating. But at the scene when the central, restless spirit has its first meaningful contact with… well, anyone - a wide, sad grin spread across my face and it all clicked in to place in my brain.

Although I have issues with A Ghost Story, they're my issues, not the film's. I'm just aware that this is absolutely the work which David Lowery wanted to make and that counts for a lot…



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I'm actually not sure.
It's definitely more M.R. James than James Wan, at any rate
.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can, but you won't lose much by seeing this at home.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I'm pretty certain it does.
It's hard to tell.
Which is one of the things I liked about it
.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's entirely possible.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Rooney Mara's in this, and she was in 2010's Nightmare on Elm Street remake, as was Clancy 'Opress' Brown.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Vague spoilers, highlight-to-read: And sorry to be 'that guy', but the scene with the piano which the film waits the whole film to proudly unveil is super-telegraphed. Anyone who's seen the first two Insidious films will clock that one a mile off. Although by the same token, anyone walking out of the film saying 'well I knew that was going to happen' has fundamentally misunderstood what they've watched. Yes, of course I realise how contradictory this sounds... [ BACK ]

*2 On a similar theme to Overdrive's slack attendance record from the same day, there were three walk-outs during A Ghost Story's screening. I understand this with a Saturday night audience when Annabelle: Creation is playing further down the corridor and undoubtedly lost the toss for some folks standing in the foyer, but come on people, show some discipline… [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Review: Overdrive





Overdrive
Cert: 12A / 93 mins / Dir. Antonio Negret / Trailer



You just know that Statham got the call for this. But having already progressed from the Transporter movies to a mainstay in the Fast & Furious franchise, there's no way he was taking a step back down the ladder. Clint Eastwood's boy, on the other hand, also appeared in the last F&F but has a CV which looks more like the floor-level shelf at Blockbuster. I imagine everything after that just fell into place.

Overdrive is the tale of half-brothers*1 Andrew (Scott Eastwood) and Garrett Foster (Freddie Thorp), a pair of car-thieves eking a living by liberating rare vintage models from their lawful owners. When a job in the south of France runs into difficulties, the brothers devise a plan to play one buyer of hot-wheels off against the other, for which they'll need the help of hustlers Stephanie (Ana de Armas) and Devin (Gaia Weiss). What could possibly go wrong..?

This is the movie that's so fast it missed the signs saying >> Straight to Video >>.

It's a film for people who become genuinely aroused looking at classic cars and who wouldn't know a tight script if it bit them on the arse. Anything outside of the actual car chases has plot developments and dialogue so clunky that you'd swear the film was storyboarded with Lego. To be fair, there's little to actively to hate in here, but only because it's not that interesting.

Eastwood has clearly pinned his repertoire on the strong/silent archetype, meaning he's not the one who explains the plot developments every fifteen minutes. Which means a lot - a lot - of this is left to Freddie Thorp, who drops the narrative ball every time it's passed to him in. He limps through the film like an enthusiastic, second-tier boyband member who's won a walk-on part in a competition then been handed the wrong script. At least, for once, Scott Eastwood isn't the worst thing in a movie. And you needn't worry about any of the classic-cars getting trashed; the filmmakers seem too scared of making middle-aged men in the audience cry for that to happen.

And another thing…

That poster is a bit disconcerting, too. "From the maker of Taken", it boasts. This movie is directed by Antonio Negret, who has precisely not fuck nothing to do with Taken. However, the actual director of Taken - one Pierre Morel - is a producer of Overdrive. Someone who, and I'm generalising here, organises and interferes rather than brings any grand vision to the set. And he's this, along with ten other people. Which is a bit like saying "From the maker of Grace of Monaco" just because Adrian Politowski's name is attached to the project as well. I know this is a standard industry move - it still hacks me off. It's a lazy gimmick for a lazy audience*2.

But y'know what? At 93 minutes Overdrive doesn't outstay its welcome, the scenery is gorgeous*3, the cars are shiny and the chase-cinematography is executed efficiently. And that's what's important here, right?



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Okay, it's not The Fast & The Furious, but at least it isn't The Transporter Refuelled either…


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
It's got a fairly low-key release, so that probably won't be a decision you have to make.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
*shrug*


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not the worst.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Nah.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Scott Eastwood's in this (every scene, pretty much), and he was also in 2014's Fury alongside Jason 'Inquisitor' Isaacs.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 I particularly like the way that Andrew and Garrett mention to each other that they're brothers/half-brothers approximately every three minutes, in precisely the same way that actual, real-life brothers don't. [ BACK ]

*2 There were two late arrivals for this screening. One 20 minutes into the film, the other 25. Now, given that there are 27 minutes of ads and trailers between the time on the board outside and the BBFC card appearing on-screen, that means these people were arriving 47 minutes+ after the ticket time. Which is fucking insane, frankly. I get antsy if I miss the first minute of a film because any establishing plot-point could have happened then. And while this is hardly the best movie for that example (yeah, they hadn't missed that much, to be fair), the point still stands. The only explanation other than monumental rudeness is that the stragglers were people who'd come out of a film further down the corridor and thought they'd chance their arm sneaking into another auditorium. Which is even worse... [ BACK ]

*3 That's not a euphemism for bikini-clad eye candy (which is at a welcomely surprising minimum here), I mean that the film's setting, Marseille, looks absolutely stunning. [ BACK ]



DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Review: Prevenge

*1



Prevenge
Cert: 15 / 87 mins / Dir. Alice Lowe / Trailer



Let's be honest, when the words 'written, directed by and starring..' are followed by only one name, that usually sets off more alarm bells than an earthquake at the Chubb factory. And yet that wasn't the case when I heard of Alice Lowe's feature-project (alas I couldn't schedule a cinema viewing as it was a somewhat low-key release). Quite the opposite, if anything. It was also a good vibe that was borne out in full over 87 minutes of escalating, often eviscerating, existential dread and gore. Because with a film like Prevenge, you'll take all the good vibes you can get…

Lowe plays (and yes, writes and directs) Ruth, a recently bereaved pregnant woman who becomes convinced that her unborn child is urging her to kill. And who can say no to their own baby, right? It's not a random slaughter-spree, and the link between the victims is teased out over the course of the film as Ruth gets closer to the little one's arrival.

Having seen Alice in a (vaguely) similar role in Sightseers (which she co-wrote with Steve Oram), I have to say that this feels very similar and I wonder how much of Wheatley's directorial style has influenced this film. That's not to dilute Lowe's skills as a storyteller, but these are definitely movies you'd keep on the same shelf*2.

The film is accompanied by Toydrum's synth-driven soundtrack which brought to mind Giorgio Moroder's score for Scarface*3; growing heavier and more intense with each scene, you know things are only going to end one way.

It's a fascinating study into how repellent you can make a lead character (and not framing them as an anti-hero) without the viewer turning against them. Because Ruth is more difficult to like as the film progresses, yet the narrative angle never turns to one of pity. Just morbid, eyebrow-raising curiosity. The supporting cast are familiar faces from British TV comedy and/or drama, but with the exception of Jo Hartley's midwife and Kayvan Novak, they're in largely one-off appearances due to the nature of the story.

Although this is a comparatively short film (by today's studio standards - 90 mins seems to still be the standard for indies) it's structured almost episodically, as Ruth adopts a slightly different persona for each killing, with recurring anchors of her own flat and the pre-natal midwife's office. This almost makes it feel like Prevenge could have been a series of interconnected web-shorts at one point in its development, with the potential for wider tonal shifts in each sequence.

But all in all, Prevenge is an amazing, near-perfect achievement. Not least because Lowe made it while she was actually pregnant herself. Most parents show their kids photos of the baby-bump in an album. This will be an altogether different conversation…



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Sightseers, The Love Witch, Filth.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD / Blu-ray / Video-on-demand, though?
It is.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
So far, quite possibly.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Hell no, it won't be for everyone.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got Alice Lowe in it, and she was in Kill List along with Michael 'The Rogue One Dr. Evazan' Smiley.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Because I can't really complain about my local cinema not showing enough new movies and complain that I never have time to watch stuff at home, now can I? [ BACK ]

*2 Unless you're one of those insane people who keep all their DVDs and Blu-rays in alphabetical order irrespective of category or genre, just like no video store ever has… [ BACK ]

*3 The second movie this year to give my that feeling and another nod to Ben Wheatley. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Review: The Emoji Movie





The Emoji Movie
Cert: U / 86 mins / Dir. Anthony Leondis / Trailer




Where'd they print that? You can't print that!






So, watch this if you enjoyed?
This is Sausage Party, for kids.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I have no idea. I hope not.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
HAHAHAHAHA… no.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Yep


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
No.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This filmfeatures the voice ofPhil 'Kit Fisto' LaMarras well asMatthew 'Grievous' Wood


And if I HAD to put a number on it…




DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.