Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Atomic Eden SPOILER FREE Review.

I will pretty much watch anything that Fred "The Hammer" Williamson is in. No matter what he is doing he is normally good value for money and damn cool with it. So when I heard about Atomic Eden, originally during an interview The Doc and I did with The Hammer, I, of course, wanted to see it.

The plot, very briefly, is that the Nazis built a doomsday machine which has stayed buried for years under the radiation fall out of Chernobyl. However, since it is now, apparently, safe to enter the contaminated area for short period of time, it is up to Fred Williamson's hastily assembled "Expendables" style team to go in and stop the device falling into the wrong hands.

The movie, after a fairly swift first act, basically becomes a siege movie with action set pieces interspersed with the minimum of plot and character exposition and, honestly, for a low budget, European, independent production it sustains all that pretty well.

Yes, The Hammer brings his star power, spouts the odd one-liner, does a little bit of the physical stuff and shoots a gun a lot, which is all tremendous, but the real eye opener in the film is the martial arts of Mike Möller. Its the ambition of the stunts and of the fight choreography that really sells the film, even if the direction and photography is occasionally a little slow and flat.
What I will say though is thankfully there isn't a lot of shaky cam and there isn't some fake, 70s, flickery, grindhouse film effect on it. It's lit well, shot adequately and with a little quicker editing and some more dynamic camera work it could really elevate itself above its B Movie trappings.

The design of the faceless bad guys is very similar to George A Romero's The Crazies with them all wearing white radiation suits and gas masks. It's a great look and a good cheap costume for multiple people at once for a low budget production. The only thing is I would've requested all the extras wear black shoes because some wearing trainers/sneakers and some wearing boots etc. gave away the fact they were all just random extras. Impressive the production was able to get so many to turn up and some to do stunts, wear squibs etc. It added a lot of production value.

All of the characters have their own special expertise, style and nickname. This is a great throwback to the ensemble war movies of the 60s and 70s and adds a good light hearted camaraderie to the proceedings. The acting throughout, however, sadly isn't amazing and some of the line deliveries, especially the guy attempting a Texan accent, can be a little cringeworthy but the sheer balls of the project, the sturdy presence of The Hammer and Wolfgang Riehm, the martial arts of Mike Möller, good sound and clear photography win the day.

Definitely not the greatest low budget action film I've seen but far, far from the worst and as the debut feature from writer, director Nico Sentner, it's an impressive start and hopefully he goes from strength to strength in the future. I will watch future films of his for sure.

A sometimes flat but ambitious and enjoyable debut 6.5/10
- The Kick Ass Kid

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wild Card SPOILER FREE Review

If you're like me, or the Doc, or if you're a sane person then a new Jason Statham film, whatever it is, is reason for rejoicing. Maybe even doing a little jig, in a manly way.

After a fantastic and prolific run of films from The Expendables through to Redemption/Hummingbird, Homefront, while it was good fun, seemed a bit like treading water for old Stath. Then last year we only had the lacklustre Expendables 3 in which Stath was relegated to the sidelines, first with the appearance of the wonderful Wesley Snipes (which we didn't mind) but then bizarrely and wrongly for Ellen Klutz!
2015 though is shaping up to be more of a usual run for Jason Statham. It begins with Wild Card, we have his first foray into big budget comedy with Spy and a lead baddie role in the much anticipated Furious 7. Then hot on the heals of all that he kicks off 2016 with a sequel to his awesome take on Bronson and Winner's The Mechanic with Mechanic: Resurrection.

Ok, so to Wild Card then, what's the verdict?
Well the first thing I should point out is that it's not really an action movie, in the traditional sense. There is action in it and two of the scenes in particular are joyous, violent, exciting, well shot, brilliantly executed and suitably cathartic but overall I would describe it as a character piece with a slice of crime drama and action/revenge film tacked on for good measure.
I have read tons of reviews coming down on this movie, mostly criticising The Stath, and I have to say that they couldn't all be more wrong. The two best things about this movie are Statham and Simon West, the director. The third best thing is Vegas.

First though, let's get the bad news out of the way. The one thing the other critics won't say or do is criticise the Hollywood legend William Goldman who penned this film, the book it's based on and the Burt Reynolds version of the same story Heat from 1986. I, however, am not most critics. This script, which is almost identical in places to Heat, has no structure, pretty weak dialogue and never quite delves into the character of Nick Wild in the way the movie sort of suggests it should.
Let me explain that last part.
The film is made up of lots of little strands of plots. A crime story involving the mob and a battered woman's revenge, a wealthy kid who hires Wild to bring him out of himself and be more of a man and, all the while, Wild wanting to leave Vegas but also never quite being able to. None of which are ultimately, really important as they are all meant to just add up to a character study of Nick Wild who, we learn, is a well liked security expert/bodyguard/problem solver with a rough exterior but a heart of gold who has a little issue gambling.
It's the 'throw enough bits in a pot and you'll be able to cook something' approach to screenwriting.
What depth, character and moments there are to be found are brought out by the collaboration of Simon West and Jason Statham, not by anything readily apparent in the script and the pair of them are superb here.
It's a difficult watch though because it's not a standard narrative. The crime story sort of has a three act structure but not really and the film, if it was a traditional film, just sort of ends.

The other thing that threw me out of the film a little was the whole world Nick inhabited was populated by famous actors but all of them just showed up for one, sometimes two small scenes. It's an interesting way to cast a film but it did leave me sitting there thinking 'what the hell are they doing in here for just 5mins? that's a bit mad' rather than fully engaging with their characters.
Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander, Sofia Vergara, Hope Davis, and Anne Heche all just crop up and are gone almost as soon as they appear. They play such innocuous, nothing roles as waitresses, card dealers, a lawyer, a mobster... just random 'that guy' roles but being played by recognisable, fairly high tier, character actors.
Due to the nature of the plot and the nature of the casting, when the film ends you sort of wish you could spend a lot more time in this world. I have heard this said by another critic but it's something I agree with, it's almost like a pilot for a Statham driven show on HBO or Showtime. It has that kind of plot and casting. A TV Show, I might add, I would watch every week. However as a film it does feel slightly like 90 minutes of set up and no pay off.

All that being said Vegas has never looked so 50s, shabby and cool. Simon West directs with the sure hand of an old pro while also putting in some welcome style and interesting editing. It has a 50s meets 70s feel, it's scored with groovy, slow versions of Christmas songs and it's very very cool.
Nick Wild is also a great Statham character because while he can handle himself physically, and he does in some tremendously choreographed, beautifully shot, violent as all hell fight scenes, he also has a nice sense of humour, a strong moral principle and a weakness for the cards. It is only this last aspect, the gambling addiction that traps him in the purgatory of Vegas, that just doesn't come across very well. There's either not enough time spent on it, the script doesn't write it well enough or it just belongs in another movie like a "Leaving Las Vegas" style thing perhaps. Statham does his best to sell it though.
If I had to pitch it to you it's Drive (the Ryan Gosling film) meets Leaving Las Vegas the TV Show pilot with Jason Statham.
oh look! It's Lee Christmas! wait... wrong movie...

I would say catch it on VOD unless you're a hardcore Stath head like I am. It does look kick ass on the big screen though, just saying.

- The Kick Ass Kid

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Raid 2 Berandal SPOILER FREE Review

The Raid reinvented action cinema and became, amongst the right people, THE film to know about and to have seen. Were there lots of precedents and already existing elements that went into The Raid? Of course but, much like the film it is often compared to, Die Hard, it is a film that has changed everything in the genre. For example, Sylvester Stallone saw it, realised Expendables 3 had to up its game and tweeted as much and although Hollywood is so slow and unimaginative that we'll see a Raid remake before we feel its influence in blockbuster fight scenes, you better believe it'll happen.

Gareth Evans though is a film maker that isn't going to wait around and isn't going to take some generic offer from Hollywood, just yet, when he can make a sequel in the same way they made the first film, by his own admission, in a 'creative bubble' with no one looking over his shoulder. I am sure if anyone did look over the shoulder of the man who wrote, directed, edited (on set and on the go!) and even helped choreograph The Raid 2: Berandal over the course of 6 gruelling months and on the jaw droopingly low budget of only $4.5 million, they wouldn't have a clue what was going on or what to say anyway. I know how they did some of the stunts and sequences and I still don't believe it!

The strength of The Raid 2, may also be its only weakness, which I will explain in a minute but basically The Raid 2 isn't anything like The Raid. Yes it follows on directly from the first film, stars the same person, has the same kind of awe inspiring fight scenes and the same limits testing, inventive camera work but in tone, story and pace it is very different. In attempting to describe it I have said it's both art house and grindhouse, action packed, comic book but dramatic, emotional, character and story driven, it's Donnie Brasco meets Hard Boiled, it's both utterly beautiful and violent, excessively gory and boundary pushing. Which is all tremendous but also leads to a long and unevenly paced film.
I definitely need to see it again now that I know what to expect and see if I still feel that way because, I have to say, during the first hour of the film because I was expecting, like a brainless idiot, The Raid again, I guess, I did find myself a little fidgety and, even, disappointed. This was entirely down to my expectation going in though and once the film hit its stride and started trying lots of different things I saw and appreciated what it was doing. So while, now, I perceive the pacing and tonal shifts to be a weakness, that might change and even if it doesn't, it's fantastic that Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais and co. tried something so different, second time out of the gate.

The Raid was criticised, by some utterly idiotic critics, for having little plot. I am sure the same critics thought of Evans as a one trick pony 'yeah the actions cute and everything but where's the character hmmmm' This is because most critics are ill-informed, humourless, action hating twats who hadn't bothered to see the excellent and full of plot, characters and drama, Merantau.  So, while the basic story of the script for The Raid 2 was actually written after Merantau and before The Raid, it still feels like Gareth Evans thought 'no plot eh? well I'll show you!' because the plot of The Raid 2 is so classic, so epic and so dramatic that, in some scenes, the fights can feel a little crow barred in actually, despite them all being driven by or furthering the plot.

I won't go into too much detail but basically our hero, Rama, in order to protect his wife and newborn son against the vengeance of the gangsters, whose business he effectively destroyed in the first film, begrudgingly becomes part of an undercover unit to weasel out corrupt police in the main Indonesian gang. This sadly means leaving his family in a safe house and getting himself purposefully arrested in order to get close to the son of the Indonesian crime boss Bangun, Ucok (Arifin Putra) while in prison. Meanwhile there has been peace for 10 years in the gang wars between the Indonesian crime family and the rival Japanese crime family, with each having and controlling their own defined territory. However a third party, Bejo (Alex Abbad) who has clawed his way up from nothing, decides to manipulate and eliminate his way into getting his own territory... and that's JUST the set up. There is SO MUCH more to it.

Normally I am not a fan of long movies. I think it's becoming a worrying trend. It's also difficult as movie theatres really don't have seats conducive to sitting that long. The Raid 2 is 150mins long and while there's definitely never a dull moment and I am not sure what more you would cut out, considering there are already 10 major deleted scenes apparently, I wouldn't usually advocate for that length of film. It has so much to cram in though and quite an intricate, part Shakespearean, part gangster epic plot that it definitely has plenty to do during that running time, not to mention the incredible fight/stunt sequences throughout.
So, to those fight scenes. Compared to the first they are bigger, have more people, more bloodletting, are more varied and are in many, many different locations. They are similar in that they are inventively choreographed and the camera and the fighter entwine constantly, like an omnipresent combatant and supporter, in such a pleasing and innovative way that it is both not immediately noticeable and would make my head spin if I had to work out or plan anything that intricate. During the spectacular car chase, the use of multiple operators risking life and limb at speeds of up to 60mph to get the effect that the camera comes out of one car window, floats down the road and then into the car behind it is absolutely jaw dropping.
Also for people, like me, who were watching the film and could completely, mentally appreciate the changes from the first film but were also waiting just for Iko Uwais to be completely unleashed on some people in a series of awesome kick ass scenes one after the other, like the first film, have no fear, the climax does NOT disappoint!
There is plenty of blood flying around in the film as well and, certainly in terms of gore and single, shocking violent moments, it certainly felt more brutal in places than The Raid. It is absolutely on the edge of a very hard R. To be honest, if this gets an R, why even bother having an NC-17.

The acting and the writing are also expanded upon in the second film with Iko Uwais, especially, playing a wonderfully angry, downtrodden, confused at times and sad at times version of Rama that shows so much depth of character in-between the frenetic fighting. Rama is not just the focus though in this film and all the characters have their moment. They have fleshed out motives, understandable reactions and there's twists and shocks aplenty.
I was talking earlier about a clash of styles and I described the film as a gangster epic, Shakespearean and even comic book like, well this is reflected in the characters, the set design and the cinematography.
The characters range from a serious, quietly spoken Yakuza boss played by Ken'ichi Endô, to the anxious, fiery tempered, ambitious, upstart son, to even a Manga like assassin duo with hammers and a baseball bat respectively, as their stylised weapon of choice.
The terrific sets range from gritty, shot-on-location streets, buildings and alleyways to meticulously designed apartments, offices, a banquet hall and a jail.
Likewise, the cinematography is one moment, still, specific, beautiful, slow and focussed and the next minute handheld, frantic and insane.
It's a film maker and his crew not resting on their laurels or repeating previous glories but instead using all of their abilities to produce a rich, varied and enjoyable film. It's diverse but understandable, it's crowd pleasing and thought provoking and it's massive, visual and jaw dropping while having moments of quiet, desperate, emotional intimacy.

Has some of the surprise of the first film dissipated? a little but not entirely and does it totally reinvent the game again? not at all and, if anything, is more traditional than the minimalist, relentless first film but both as a sequel and as a film on its own, it's an incredible piece of work. Incredibly assured, incredibly entertaining and incredibly inventive. It can now be added to the list and sit proudly next to The Godfather 2, Evil Dead 2, Aliens etc.

If you love action, gangster films or Asian cinema then make sure you watch this at least twice when it shows up in cinemas on the 11th of April.
- The Kick Ass Kid

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Sabotage is a gritty crime action thriller co-written and directed by David Ayer and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard and Olivia Williams along with TV hunks Josh Holloway and Joe Manganiello.
It is also, on the surface, an unusual film for Schwarzenegger who, despite a slate of upcoming sequels to his former big hits or franchises, is in the middle of a really interesting comeback. The criminally underrated Last Stand saw him try a little bit of an Eastwoodish turn as the old, tired, grizzled sheriff of a small town but still with all the humour and over-the-top action that used to be his stock-in-trade, Escape Plan saw him having tremendous fun in a bravado performance and stealing the film in his supporting role and in the upcoming Maggie he will be dipping his toe into the bloody and crowded waters of zombie films but with Sabotage it appears to be a first for Arnold: a, mostly, dramatic, serious performance, leading an ensemble cast, with, comparatively minimal action.

Arnie plays a tough as nails but quietly haunted and lost DEA Agent, whose special team of hard training, hard fighting, hard drinking and hard talking undercover agents are divided by an incident and investigation surrounding a missing ten million dollars. This fills the team full of mistrust, which only grows as they, individually, start showing up dead in a series of brutal, unflinching and hard R murders. Schwarzenegger must team up with Fed Olivia Williams and work out just what the hell is going on.

Sabotage is a film that is all about appearances. It appears to be a grainy, dark, violent and adult crime film which pulls no punches with language, nudity and gore but aspects of the plot are as generic as your favourite 80s or 90s revenge action film. We are told that Arnold's team are the best at what they do but we don't really ever see that as they appear to just be a bunch of loud mouth, alcoholic hotheads who happen to be armed. They also all appear to be innocent but maybe there's something else going on!
It's, also, a film that appears to be taking cliches from the past and turning them on their head and a film that appears to be clever, full of twists and reveals but, a few minutes out of the cinema, you have more questions than answers and any logic the script has falls away pretty quickly.
This, normally, in a wham bam, 80s throwback, action film wouldn't matter but structuring it the way they have and presenting it the way they have, demands you look into it a little closer and, when you do, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

One of the good things about the movie was definitely the fact that, from the trailer, I thought it would have that shaky-cam, grainy-video style cinematography that sadly passes for so-called "realism" these days and is meant to signal you're watching something edgy and serious but it didn't. The cinematography was pretty good and the action scenes, particularly, were clear, pleasing and watchable. There were a couple of moments where the camera would suddenly and needlessly be mounted on top of a gun or something silly but apart from that, very cool.
Another thing was Arnie and Olivia Williams performances, while the chemistry between them never really materialised like maybe the script called for it to, he has presence by the bucket load and she has the acting chops, so that you were always pleased when the film followed them.
Lastly it's violence and gore is joyously hard R, in your face, unflinching and even, at times, shocking. I wish it was attached to more enthusiastic and pleasing action sequences but that it was there at all, was a surprise.

Sadly though the movie has a lot of faults and I hate to write or report this as I really do think Arnie fans, action fans and thriller fans should go and see it, if for no other reasons but to make your own mind up and to see the Austrian oak do something very different in tone at least, if not in story. However, a couple of hours detached from the movie now and I just wish they'd told the story differently or it had been a different story. While I applaud anyone trying to come at generic material a different and new way, I don't think this did it successfully. There's a reason this kind of story has been told differently in the past, it's more satisfactory that way. Also it's full of plot holes which are covered only by the fact that, because we are meant to suspect everyone in the film, no one really has any kind of character to speak of. Their motives aren't quantified, explained or examined beyond very basic assumed reasons.
The second reason Sabotage is not the success or the film I hoped it would be, is that the team around Arnie are all arse holes and while Sam Worthington's character displays a little sensitivity and tragedy, quite well I might add, most of the time they are all obnoxious, swearing, ego fuelled, bickering imbeciles. I couldn't believe one of them had any more elite training than a low paid mall security guard and even if they did, not one of them seems to respect it. I understand the team in the film is meant to be divided by mistrust and devastated by the deaths of their team mates but there are more scenes of them visiting titty bars and drinking their body weight in booze than there are scenes of them kicking ass and taking names, which is a real shame and also annoying and grating.
Lastly, the film is also horribly misogynist. I can't, exactly, go into all the reasons why here but there aren't many glowing representations of women in the film, most of them are drug addled, whores or strippers. Not that the men are likeable and perfect either but they don't get anywhere near the bad representation that women do in the film. It thinks it combats this claim by having Olivia Williams' seemingly strong, intelligent character in there but it really doesn't once you see what happens.

None of these niggles, of course, have to matter. Despite all this stuff, I did enjoy the movie for what it was and it's definitely an interesting film for Arnie to have in his come-back cannon. It's nothing like I was lead to believe from the trailer though and it's not as clever as it thinks it is but disengage your brain and just go with it and there's a ton to enjoy. It's my least favourite of his films since 2010 though.
- The Kick Ass Kid

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dark Vengeance SPOILER FREE

We here at Dr.Action and the Kick Ass Kid headquarters, in conjunction with our parent site www.aftermoviediner.com, were very happy to get a preview copy of, one of our favourite action men, Steven Seagal's latest film Dark Vengeance. Set to hit Redbox and VOD services today Thursday, February 27th.

If the truth be told, rather than being a feature film, this is actually 2 episodes of his TV Show, True Justice, edited together. It is a part 1 and part 2 of the same, on going, serial killer storyline though so it sort of works, despite there being no traditional character introductions or setting exposition that might  have helped for folks not familiar with the continuing adventures of Elijah Kane (Steven Seagal) and his band of bland CSI: Miami wannabes.

Imagine True Justice the series as a sort of CSI: Seattle but filtered through the fascinating brain of Steven Seagal and you can sort of imagine the look, feel and sound of Dark Vengeance. Sadly Seagal rarely whips his glasses off, stares just off camera and utters some punning bon mot on the discovery of a body. He does get some pretty terrific Seagal style, semi-philisophical one liners though, which are sure to please fans of the man.

The plot centres around a tough-to-catch serial killer that has been bumping off strippers in a way that seems to link the deaths to Chinese mythology. As the bodies stack up, Kane sends the two female members of his team under cover at a PG rated strip joint with the hope of setting a trap for this, slowly becoming, mass murderer. However all is not as it seems when Kane apparently captures and shoots the man responsible only for the killings to continue...
Along the way Seagal stops off to natter Asian healing techniques, herbs, mystical balms and mythology with his friend Chen, play some distorted blues guitar and occasionally shoot someone or beat someone up, even if it's not always entirely apparent why any of this is happening.

Also, along for the ride, is the cameoing George Takei as the not particularly helpful and stater of the obvious medical examiner in the police morgue.

When the action is happening Seagal proves he can still aikido his way out of a convenient plot contrivance or shoot his way into a pleasant diversion. His hands are seemingly as quick as ever and when it comes to staging a lean, mean shoot out, he's your man. The serial killer plot, too is pretty good, even if bodies are seemingly racking up on a daily basis with no useful clues to further an investigation, which becomes a little repetitive. The acting from the supporting cast is serviceable and rarely grating although you can't imagine they were given much to work with. The big man himself, Steven Seagal does that whispery thing he does with that ever evolving accent, including referring to his team as the POleese (police). It's fun to watch, if sometimes a little hard to hear exactly what words of wisdom he's attempting to depart. He has presence though, I'll give him that.

There are a lot of wild liberties taken with the law and police procedure, as you'd expect and seemingly there are no official repercussions for Kane's lax and violent approach to his job. This would all be fine if the story justified it in any way but then you're always welcome for some gun play or fisticuffs as, when they happen, sporadically, it reminds you why you were here in the first place. ACTION.

The main problem is two episodes of a TV show, while maybe having the same running time, do not have the same pacing, momentum or structure of a feature film. They essentially, or normally, would have a three act structure condensed to 45mins with a cliff hanger/twist ending. This means that Dark Vengeance has 6 acts, a twist and apparent wrap up in the middle of the film and then a lead up to the next episode/film at the end. Watched, however, with prior knowledge of the series and I imagine this is a lot clearer and maybe more enjoyable.

While I am not, personally, a fan of the flash cuts and close ups of the transitions that typically appear in police procedural shows in the US these days, the rest of the scenes are filmed ok and with, at least, a definite eye to some stylistic set dressing and lighting. The director, Keoni Waxman does his best work with Seagal, however, in 2012's Maximum Conviction.

So the plot's a bit all over the place, the final villain a bit laughably obvious and you'll have a tough time of it if you're not familiar with the TV Show but it has some amusing one liners and some sadly occasional but top-notch fighting and shooting. Probably only for hardcore Seagal fans but not one to miss if you are.

- The Kick Ass Kid

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grudge Match, let's talk about how GREAT Stallone is and why critics are wrong, AGAIN!

Far from being some silly comedy based on the Rocky meets Raging Bull gimmick, this was a well scripted, well performed film about men, age, skill, passion, regret and dignity that, also, happens to be hilarious.

The only negative for me was the unimaginative, slow paced direction and editing. With someone who actually believed in the material and had a bit more visual flair and a marketing team that had any skill and this film would've been perfect.
Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin are consistently hilarious and the emotional story lines DeNiro and Stallone have to carry are maybe cliche but always engaging, never overly sentimental, always understandable and from a very manly perspective - few words and whole shed load of meaning. When you throw in some fun training montages, a great end fight, DeNiro being the funniest he's been since Midnight Run and a few welcome, but never heavy handed, in-jokes you have a solid, decent, enjoyable film that more people should see and enjoy but probably won't.

As for Stallone, why is it critics are shitting on all of his movies? they portray him as a rangeless, emotion-less, slab of no good, idiotic meat and they can barely even bring themselves to acknowledge his action prowess unless in a derisive or ironic way. They criticise his acting, his looks, his speech - everything! but Stallone is terrific in Grudge Match. Utterly believable, charming and matches DeNiro beat for beat in the acting stakes. You say he has no range but was he playing Rocky? No! was he playing Rambo? No! was he playing Barney Ross? No!
Critics should watch old films occasionally and remind themselves that their set-in-stone, out-dated, stereotypical and lazy opinions about some actors are wrong. Al Pacino is mostly always Al Pacino, same with DeNiro and more-often-than-not Nicholson, go further back and Mitchum, Bogart, Stewart, Grant etc. all were GREAT but all had onscreen personas. Well so does Stallone but he's not always the same, any more than any of those other actors I just mentioned. No he's not Daniel Day Lewis, thank god! That guy puts on a fake beard, stoops over slightly, talks in a funny voice and people think he's a genius (misguided fools!) but Stallone is a strong, interesting actor and Grudge Match gives him some scenes to show that off. It may well be his single best straight performance roll since Cop Land.

Most people who go to see this film won't take away from it what I did and that's a shame but even if you don't, if you can look past the somewhat slow pace and inept editing, there's at least a good man-centric comedy there that never has to resort to gross-out or infantile humour to get a big belly laugh.
This movie got made because it has a cracking script, the Rocky/Raging Bull thing was just a bonus.
- The Kick Ass Kid

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Homefront' Review SPOILER FREE

The ever prolific Jason Statham is back for his third film this year! First it was Parker, then Redemption/Hummingbird and now, finally, the Sylvester Stallone penned Homefront, based on the book by Chuck Logan.
My reviews of his earlier outings this year were full of pride and praise for the guy who, despite harsh, incorrect criticism and rarely stella box office, continues churning out diverse, yes I said it, diverse films.
This time round please take that as read because, actually, in Homefront, Statham has delivered his most throwback, recognisable and just down right enjoyable action film of the year. While the junkets and interviews for this have tried to emphasise the emotion in the story, Statham showing vulnerability as a father and talk of The Man Who Is The Stath trying something different, actually this is the one movie this year that he's made that is just a straight up, old school, action film.

When the movie starts we see undercover agent Stath's last case gone bad when his delicate work undercover with a biker gang is shattered by the heavy and messy hand of the DEA. He resigns, his wife gets sick and dies and so his daughter (Izabela Vidovic) and him move to the Louisiana countryside that his wife loved so much. He hasn't been there long when trouble at the daughter's school escalates into confrontations with the local, strung-out hillbilly woman (an almost unrecognisable Kate Bosworth) and her no good, dentally challenged, lank haired man. Bosworth happens to be the sister of the local nut job meth dealer Gator (James Franco), who is unceremoniously banging an ex druggie biker chick (Winona Ryder) who,     in turn, happens to know the old biker gang who still hold a massive grudge against our musclebound, monosyllabic, balding hero.
The stage is set for all hell to break lose and for The Stath to do what he does best and clean house. Throw in a crooked but charming sheriff (The always welcome Clancy Brown), the dependable, one good man in a hick town, best friend (Omar Benson Miller) and the beautiful, red headed, more than perfect, school psychologist (Rachelle Lefevre) and you've got yourself a damn enjoyable, by the book, nostalgia tinted, kick ass action movie.

If you've seen and loved Walking Tall or Road House then you'll like this. In fact I had to chuckle when I heard the name he was using, at the beginning, as an undercover biker. You'll see what I mean...

Much has been made of the script being written by Sylvester Stallone, you know because short-term memory critics forget the man has written a ton of screenplays, was Oscar nominated and developed three of the most successful franchises of all time, but, here, again,  he shows that he hasn't lost his touch. Stallone writes relatable, human and enjoyable, kick ass entertainment and he does it almost better than anyone else. That's what you get here, some pretty decent character moments, some recognisably entertaining and enjoyable interactions, the odd cool one liner and action on and off through out.
There is a pause in the middle to allow for character and plot development, some father and daughter bonding scenes and a nice sense of building tension for the third act fight but Statham dispatching some lunk headed rednecks is never far away.

As for the action we get a couple of car chases, some old fashioned fisty cuffs and even an enormous explosion. Statham is an old pro at this stuff and, thankfully, there isn't too much shaky cam-itis or heavy handed editing to ruin his masterful handling of the rough and tumble, although, ideally I'd prefer my fight scenes with no added style or flash from, overly twitchy, DPs at all.
The direction from Mr. Old-reliable, Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls, The Runaway Jury) is absolutely fine. He captures everything with the minimum of fuss and you're never unsure of what is going on. I imagine it would be difficult to make Louisiana look ugly but Fleder and his DP do their best to really make the surroundings pop with colour and texture.

As for the acting, the mad hodgepodge of a supporting cast do their roles pretty damn well actually. Kate Bosworth stands out in her role of the tweaker sister and it's by far the best she's been in anything I've seen her in. Franco is good, he doesn't overplay it and while he lacks overall menace and is clearly a bit out of his depth, he does his best to portray the strung out Gator as a ruthless, wasted loser who could snap at any minute. Winona Ryder doesn't have a ton to do and neither does Rachelle Lefevre but Clancy Brown and Omar Benson Miller are effortlessly enjoyable and welcome whenever they're on screen.
Statham is his usual strong self, with maybe even less to say in this than in his normal roles and while he seems comfortable and it's never jarring, he does, sadly, lack great chemistry with Izabela Vidovic, the girl playing his daughter. Which is odd because in Safe he formed a very real and pleasing on screen bond with the girl in that. It is not that Izabela is no good, either, because she's a great little actress and they do have some affecting scenes together, it's just not 100% believable, not that it has to be for the film to work.
So, for all of you who don't believe Statham does anything but the same character in the same film, hopefully 2013 has proved you wrong, if it hasn't, Homefront is hardly going to go any further to change your mind, that being said, if you watched Parker and Redemption and longed for some of the wham bam, throw back days then Homefront should help stop that craving.
For me, personally, I like them all. If I had to rank his last three it would be Redemption, Homefront and then Parker but there's really very little between them. They're all damn cool.

Long may Statham continue.
- The Kick Ass Kid