Tag Archives: action

Baby Driver (2017) – Film Review

The opening to Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” feels a bit braggadocios, a bit indulgent, and a bit too similar to a recent Apple commercial. All in one take, the opening tracking shot follows our main character, Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, as he walks freely through the streets, crossing roads, passing murals, and avoiding bystanders. Each set piece he walks by correlates with the words in the song he’s listening to with his signature earbuds, always at hand and usually blaring full volume.

It’s a clever opening, though very self-referential: “Shaun of the Dead” featured one of the greatest one take tracking shots ever with Simon Pegg’s character bumbling through his town, ignorant of the blood and zombies surrounding him as he yawns his way through the vacant streets. The movie slows down a bit after the opening street dance/music video, getting into the reality of Baby’s life as a getaway driver for low-life, high-stake criminals.

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The leader of the operation is Doc, played smugly by Kevin Spacey. Jamie Foxx plays the confrontational character, even having a line in the movie commenting about the crazy position being filled already, by him. Jon Hamm plays a more sedated role as Buddy, another member of the crew; he wants to get the job done and get out of town with his girlfriend as soon as possible.

Baby drives as a result of a traumatic childhood experience involving a car wreck and the death of his mother. He has permanent ringing issues in his ears as a result of the accident, hence the constant music. The soundtrack is the lifeblood of the movie: the characters question it constantly, but when the music starts, Baby switches gears and turns into an 11th grade version of Ryan Gosling in “Drive”. He’s slick and intelligent, knowing the routes by heart, able to intuitively escape from seemingly inescapable scenarios.

Lily James plays Deborah, a young girl that works as a waitress at the diner where Baby’s mother used to wait tables. He’s a regular at the diner and soon garners her attention with a few of his songs and some friendly conversation. They have a runaway vibe throughout, though their relationship can’t be entirely filled out due to his responsibilities to Doc as the whiz-kid driver.

The movie has a lot of heart and clearly a lot of passion for the art of fast-speed driving. The coordination that had to happen to clear the roads and perform the spinning, sliding car donuts must have been exhausting. “Baby Driver” is an exhilarating chase movie made by one of the most inventive action directors of the decade.

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The Magnificent Seven – Film Review

The greatest moments of “The Magnificent Seven” aren’t the scenes where all the magnificent’s are sitting around, talking about their magnificent adventures. Movies should show, not tell, and I agree. But if you aren’t willing to show a characters journey, their past, their present state in the world, then you’ve got to try to tell us a little bit about them.

Cowboys talk in gravely, deep-voiced mumbles, I understand. But not all of them. Josh Faraday, the alcoholic magician played by Chris Pratt (or is it just Chris Pratt played by Chris Pratt?), has a lot to say. The quiet one, Chisolm, played by Denzel Washington, talks and acts as if he were living in an entirely different cinematic universe, a slow-burn, darkly-lit drama photographed by Roger Deakins.

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Luckily for Chisolm, he isn’t required to interact a whole lot with this ensemble, other than the obligatory assembling and introductions of the squad. We’ve got 7 here? One, two, three…I count six. Never mind, the seventh is standing over there, as Pratt’s character says in the beginning of the film, “Oh, good, we’ve got a Mexican!”

On-screen diversity is a hot topic in Hollywood and they’ve responded, if not in any dramatic way. They’re learning that people don’t just want diverse characters, they want actual characters. You know, a person with a motive other than revenge or a skill unrelated to their culture.

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The Chinese cowboy, Billy Rocks, played by Lee Byung-hun, is very skilled at throwing all sorts of sharp, metallic weapons, even his own hair-pin. It’s typical to cast a Chinese man as the prototypical knife-thrower (with a twist, albeit), but at least his stereotype isn’t dull. Billy actually rocks. He’s a quiet character but arguably the most entertaining of them all.

The second most engaging character arc would have to be Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, a PTSD-ridden sharpshooter who uses Billy as a circus entertainer for the locals, splitting the dividends between them. Their relationship seems very complex: Billy feels bad for Goodnight’s war-torn suffering, while Goodnight takes advantage of a foreign mans abilities for his own gain.

The film doesn’t come close to replecating the greatness of the original film, or even close to The Seven Samurai, Kurosawa’s original telling of the tale. But beyond the sketchy, loosely-plotted characters, there is a thirty-minute plus action sequence that’s very entertaining. If anything, you can be assured that director Antoine Fuqua hasn’t lost his interest or his touch in direction large scale, dynamite-driven action sequences.

Premium Rush (2012)

Premium Rush, a movie that brands itself as a thunderous, fast-paced thrill ride, is a bit of a disappointment. It features some excellent performances, most notably from Michael Shannon, but places them like simple pawns on the city streets, en route a formulaic plot and an unsatisfying, predictable pay-off. There are enjoyable parts in the film where we are amused and intrigued by the characters, their actions and situations, but not enough to sustain a feature-length film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, an enigmatic bike messenger who rides inexhaustibly throughout the streets of New York. The decisions made by the messengers have to be decisive and smart: there cannot be any indecision when looking for a way through traffic, and that’s why Wilee doesn’t have any brakes, period. This is the macho line that sets Wilee aside from the other hardcore messengers, though when we’re talking about bicycles, it seems like mentioning testosterone and competitiveness is a joke in itself. The slow-motion cinematography, implemented during times when Wilee is trying to calculate the best route in, around, and between speeding, dangerous boxes of rationally-assembled metal; arrows appear on the screen, a borderline lazy cinematic technique that could have easily been replaced with some urgent editing; anybody remember “Limitless”, with Bradley Cooper? A cinematographer can express distance miles ahead of where a person stands, and the viewer will understand the message, the size-able amount of land to conquer.

The rule is that once you get the package, you don’t trade or hand it off to anyone except the final destination, the recipient, ot explain who it’s intended for, or where it originated from. Wilee isn’t ready to break that rule, his job principles remaining firm.  He takes an envelope from a Chinese college student in intention of delivering it, and is encountered by a nosy man, Bobby Monday, who says nothing of credentials, and for a specifically implicit reason. The story that follows becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Wilee and Officer Monday after Wilee finds out Monday’s occupation while reporting him to his own station. A cop on a bike who doesn’t seem to have been trained along the lines of Mr. Livestrong, adds an ‘aw shucks’ comic-relief, always close to and in pursuit of Wilee but never actually capturing him.

The reasons behind Wilee being a daredevil bike messenger are not revealed through any sort of character development: instead, it is said that he simply does it because he doesn’t want to wear a suit and sit in an office, an explanation reminiscent  of the voice-over in Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting”, a wholly different story, but with the same sort of social futility. The difference, though, is the rebel personalities in Trainspotting have been built up, their every word having an emotional impact. Wilee, for all we know, could just be a lazy, greedy maniac frantically spinning his bike wheels. He’s constantly talking from the blue-tooth device plugged into his ear as he rides, often times trying to repair mistakes while swerving through cars sweeping past him, a 8-bit arcade game brought to life. What a life.

It’s an enjoyable movie at face-value, even for people who shy away from prototypical ‘action movies’; maybe even more for them, as it isn’t any sort of martial-arts or gun wielding spectacle. The acting is solidly consistent and there are some engaging scenes that momentarily hold ones attention–but it’s little more than what the title suggests: a fast-paced pump of adrenaline to the gut, missing anything substantive or interesting for the viewer to keep track of.

Inglourious Bastards: Okay, a little glorious

8/10

Quentin Tarantino packs a punch like usual with his Nazi slap-in-the-face, Inglourious Bastards, showing an organized, street-like Jewish rebellion: The bastards. A crew of Nazi killers who remove the German’s scalps for treasure, and wipe out whole scouting parties to the point of making a name for themselves amongst the Nazis. It’s well acted all around, and rightfully won Christoph Waltz an Oscar for his role as a cruel German officer, or ‘The Jew Hunter’ and features a very dense plot, with several story-lines weaving into one, like the Director did in one of his earlier films, ‘Pulp Fiction’.

The movie is somewhat exploitative in the way it takes a terrible event in history and turns it into a showcase and excuse for being terribly violent; yet, its rewarding in more ways than this, and Jewish folk are a bit to modest to make a movie so audacious: Roman Polanski making this film would be much different than Tarantino making it, and people no doubt can make the distinction. Lt. Aldo Rain (Brad Pitt), is leading a team of Jew-recruits into the heart of Germany; their scenes are the most exciting, like a scene taking place at a bar where a member of the crew is trying to fit in amongst a table of hearty German officers. The result is not a gentle tip of the hat and a salutation, the bastards send bullets in all possible directions. This leaves a famous German actress, alive but wounded in the leg,  for their taking: they use her as sabotage to access a party for the Fuhrer, later in the film.

A young Jewish girl, Bridget Von Hammersmark, who escaped Lieutenant Hans earlier in the film, becomes a theater owner at a fairly young age, having inherited it, and becomes the attraction of a young and famous German soldier, who, as a a hiding Jew, she internally could never love. He’s more than just a soldier, too: he is a star in a new German film where he solely sits at the top of a clock-tower and shoots down Jews below. The fuhrer loves it, but Bridget comes up with a plan to show the Germans their cruelty, a down-pouring of beautiful revenge: Let the theater on fire. And with the easily combustible film of that era, it would not be difficult for it to actually happen.

The film is a fantastic genre-blend of action, violence, and alternate history, featuring typically memorable characters from Tarantino, some hypnotic scenes, and an all around entertaining flick: Inglourious Bastards is far from a disappointment from Tarantino.

Sucker Punch: To Zach Snyder’s career

4/10

Zac Snyder’s new geek-aimed film, Sucker Punch, first released with the motto that it was “for woman’s rights”. Well, it lost everyone elses in the process, including the girls, through exploitation and depictions of innocent stupidity. However true, it is nowhere near a plus for woman’s rights. The film evokes a feeling of a silent movie, where the prospect of said films sounds riveting, with action progressing through pounding soundtracks in a synthetic, natural linearity. However, this is not the case here; Snyder has tried to copy and paste the feel of a graphic novel onto the screen with terrible dialogue and an uninvolved plot.

The plot surrounds a girl in a psych-unit, who escapes the dreary world through unexplained dreams of epic-fighting and Japanese like dodging. The movie feels like a long music video for a dubstep song, with never ending swirls of noirish imagery and girls’ hips. Blue Jones, played by Oscar Isaac, is a pimp for the backstage girls; he releases his angers through pretensious directing, like wincing with his eyes closed before putting his head up to make his frustrated point. He has a thin-mustache and tries to act seductive, which nastiness would be right for the character, but the actor doesn’t play the role to good effect. The girls are depicted as far too innocent and indecisive; they are in a psyche unit, I would image they would be a little more on the fringe.

As the director of Watchmen, some say he ruined a masterpiece. He no doubt has a knack for wild special effects, but what he does with them is what makes his reputation drown. Sucker Punch stars  Emily Browning as Babydoll, sent to an old fashioned psychiatric unit by her father; the whole institution is filled with prostitutes;the costumer designer definitely makes them look like one, but doesn’t draw the line for who isn’t, maybe everyone; a great thing to look at for a couple hours, no doubt, but once again, Woman’s rights?

The film is redundantly paced and childishly made, featuring Nazi zombies and ninja skirt-wearing ninja girls. The effects become tiring in the noirish swirls of uninspired terror and fear, and even the girl’s pottiness gets tiring,  the actresses effortlessly sad that their director didn’t supply them with a more justified reason to be balling their eyes out. Sucker Punch drags and brings nothing new but an army of red-eyed nazi zombies, a big misfire for effects-director Zac Snyder.