Thursday, 24 September 2015

'Sicario' Review (2015): Cops and Cartels

Television will often portray officers and detectives as the ideal of law enforcement. Aside from more recent shows like 'The Wire' and 'Chicago P.D', cops for decades were presented as good natured men and women in trench-coats, intimately involved with the cases that come to their desk that get solved at the end of each episode. But whereas the corrupt cop is the exception in the land of tv, film takes the opposite approach. Dirty Harry looks for the excuse to pull his gun, Alonzo Harris runs drugs in L.A, and most recently, the feds in 'Black Mass' were actively involved in the goings on of a criminal organization! It's safe to say that when it comes to law enforcement in film, you can expect a few morally questionable individuals to be in the mix. Of course, that's what makes them so good. You take what is supposed to be an institution for the protection of the people and you perverse it. The trouble is, if every representation of a thing is similarly contrary, how the hell do you stand out?

Simple, take a white British actor as an american trying to make a difference in a drug system dominated by other ethniciti- oh that's 'The Wire' isn't it.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

'Black Mass' Review (2015): Strictly Criminal

Crime films are quite possibly the most conflicted genre of cinema. Here you have films that depict the most gratuitous acts of violence, moral depravity and disregard for the rules that society has agreed to align themselves by. Their charactes use foul language and more or less depict psychopathic tendencies. This is a genre that takes it's cues from the villains perspective. Yet, for every misjudged act of hyperbolic violence, the audience never seems unnerved. The reason is, mob movies, like the western before it, present these heinous personalities within the context of something that makes all the things that are inherently wrong right. A code. Characters in mob films live by a sense of honour, and presenting that as a central theme in the film makes the story you're watching feel as if it exists in a state of ordered chaos. After all, in the words of the immortal philosopher Omar Little, a man must have a code.

A man of principles

Thursday, 10 September 2015

'The Perfect Guy' (2015) Review: Evil Ealy

Stalker movies are a special breed of horror. While most horror films take a supernatural element and then go from there, stalkers tend to be less fantastic. Sure you have slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th, but those always end up morphing into supernatural horror anyway. Strictly speaking, a stalker is the scariest thing you could put in a film that relies solely on the horrors of the known world. 

The idea of a crazed obsession that escalates to homicidal rage is not only scary but somewhat relatable. We've all been witness to a show of affection that rests on the thin line between intensely charming and massively unsettling. Stalker films that focus on that thin line have the potential to be a commentary on how a solitary act is socially acceptable in one context but deplorable in another.

'The Perfect Guy' kind of does that, but is mostly a loud thriller. As the title suggests, 'The Perfect Guy' focuses on that old cliché of the man that fits virtually every heterosexual woman's checklist, otherwise known as 'Prince Charming'. The woman in this story is 'Leah Vaughn' played by Sanaa Lathan. After breaking up with her boyfriend Dave, played by Morris Chestnut, Leah finds herself involved with the infinitely charming Carter Duncan, played by Michael Ealy. Carter seems to be a flawless fellow, until about a third way through the film when Leah realises, Carter is not who she thinks he is. 

All the good men are gay, taken or psychotic.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

'Transporter: Refueled' Review (2015): Running On Empty.

This summer saw quite a few fourth and fifth franchise iterations. There was 'Jurassic World', the spiritual sequel to the original 1993 epic, but still the fourth film in the series. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' saw the return of a franchise long thought dead, and even 'Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation' brought back a Tom Cruise that most believed to be past his prime, for the second time in a row. Typically a franchise tends to lose steam after the third film, but in the age where the seventh 'Fast & Furious' film was the #3 movie at the world wide box office, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. They're also doing well critically. Both 'Rogue Nation', and 'Fury Road' have received great praise so far this year standing at 93 and 97 percent respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. No longer is it easy to write off a franchise that goes beyond the standard trilogy, as the viewer might just be walking into something marvelous that they didn't expect to.

Immensely, 'Transporter: Refueled' is not that. In fact, the only thing unexpected about the film is just how bad it can get. After 3 films starring Jason Statham, a critical and commercial failure of a television series, the Transporter returns with Ed Skrein at the helm. He plays the same character as Statham, Frank Martin, and his role is the exact same. I never much got into the 'Transporter' series, mostly because the description alone bored me. He's a very well established courier, who fights real good, and drives pretty quick.

The deal never changes and neither does this franchise. Still boring.

The movie opens in a style that settles your expectations for the movie. A van drives up in a shady part of town and a couple of Russian gang members establish themselves as the criminals that now control the area, running a prostitution ring. The gang members are more criminal caricatures than characters. Radivoje Bukvic plays main bad guy 'Arkady Karasov', whose only character trait in the scene and in the whole movie is that he's Russian and angry. After he creepily recruits Loan Chabanol's 'Anna', the movie jumps 15 years later and Anna is out for revenge. She hires the Transporter to move a package, and when it's revealed that she intends to use the transporter to help her dismantle Arkady's whole organization, he's unable to say no as Anna has Trasporter senior, played by Ray Stevenson, held hostage. What follows is a mess of car chases, choppy fight scenes, wooden dialogue and the year's most improbable action in a summer where 'Hitman: Agent 47' exists.

This was a much better "Man who kills drives Audi" movie

This is usually where I get into what parts of the movie were bad or good, but seeing as there was mostly bad, it's just a matter of choosing something to start with. First off, the dialogue in this movie is absolutely atrocious. I can't think of a single witty line, or clever turn of phrase in this film to make it memorable. Part of what makes bad action movies so good is when the characters themselves charm you into forgiving the film's faults. But 'Transporter: Refueled' does nothing to help its overall mediocrity. Cheesy lines are one thing, but when your lines are also boring, that's when you have a real problem. There are even points in the film where the general audience member can predict just what the characters are going to say next. There's absolutely nothing new brought to the table with Refueled.

As bad as the dialogue is, wooden words can be saved by a charming cast. There's absolutely nothing charming about this cast. Their roles are paint by numbers at best. 'Anna' is a prostitute out for revenge, 'Arkady' is a crime lord with an ego, and even the Transporter is an anti-hero who can't help but do the right thing. The movie tries to play with its cookie cutter composition in a few scenes (Frank is referred to as a new age John Wayne type) but instead of coming off as clever, they simply highlight the movie's sins. I can't really blame the cast for being unwatchable, because when the characters are this poorly developed, it's difficult for any performance to seem endearing. The only one with any sort of charisma to him is Ray Stevenson as Frank Sr. His character is nothing new, just a silver fox with a blooming pension, but that character is fun to watch when he's on.

Aside from being boring, the movie also seems to think its audience is as unintelligent as it is.The dialogue is heavy on exposition and the worst type of exposition, repetition. About 12 minutes after that opening scene, which establishes the faces of our main antagonists, the movie shows what these characters are up to 15 years later. Except, the movie decides you probably fell asleep after the first 5 minutes, and proceeds to show you flashbacks of the exact same opening footage in black and white. Granted the main antagonist has a hair cut now, but I don't recall having to go up to a friend with a picture of what I looked like last week every time I go to the barber.

Of course going bald was a different story...

It also doesn't help that there's zero tension in the movie. Ed Skrein's performance suffers since his character is smirking the entire time. Every attempt to inject tension just ends up falling flat since the audience can see right through the facade the movie is trying for. It might help if the villain himself was engaged in the plot at all, but because Anna's plan is unexpected by him, he spends the movie going "Huh? What? Someone stole money from my account?" This makes it all the more apparent that there's not a chance in the world that their plan won't go through. Not to mention Frank's car doesn't receive a scratch in this movie. Of course, with the way the Audi was shot in this film, I'm not surprised. Never have I seen such product placement be so integral to a film in such a shoddy way. Frank will actually go on about the features of his new car as the camera lovingly pans over the Audi logo niiiice and smooooth, so that in reality, we're watching a 93 minute Audi commercial

Pictured: A scene from the movie. Not. A. Scratch.

Of course the action saved the movie right? Well, no, not really. The chase scenes are poorly shot and choreographed, and the scenes do nothing but lose momentum as they meander along. Pacing is a real problem in this movie that runs for only 96 minutes but feels like 130. I can't remember the last time I checked my watch as much as I did in this movie. Pacing aside, there was just a problem with spacing in this movie. It has an over reliance on close up shots and doesn't let the frame tell the story as it unfolds. This forces the camera to move erratically as it tries to keep up with the action. It got to the point where I wanted to scream "GET YOUR FINGER OFF THE ZOOM" but stopped myself, because I realized I just didn't care anymore. There are a few scenes that come off as unpopped kernels of something clever, but they never do more than disappoint you.

You know that feeling you get when you look into your popcorn bag and it's just a bunch of seeds? That's the movie.

And that's all Transporter will do is disappoint you. Even if you had the lowest of expectations, the movie won't even match that. Yeah it's entertaining to laugh at how bad it is, and if you look at it as a parody of modern day action films then it's probably brilliant, but even having said that, I can't recommend it to anyone. It's not a bad film that I would say you should see like 'Fantastic Four', it's a bad film that I would ask you "Why are you wasting your time with this, go read a book" and books are for nerds, man.

Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 1/10

Side Note: This plot is exactly the same as 'Mad Max: Fury Road'. The female protagonist takes it upon herself to take the female concubines of the antagonist away from him, whilst using the skills of the titular male protagonist who isn't really more that just the driving force of the film. Also it's the fourth in the franchise and for the third act, they have to go back to where they started. The only difference is 'Transporter: Refueled' sucks, and I'm about to watch 'Mad Max: Fury Road' again.

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