Thursday, July 18, 2013
When I saw RED in the cinema I liked it, when I watched it again on Blu-Ray I LOVED it. The humour was fresh, the action was great, the story was surprising, there was energy, great performances and some genuine punch-the-air and cheer moments. Like the lighter, comic-book, family version of The Expendables. I will never get tired of old folks beating people up. It's just better, funnier and cooler.
Now here comes the inevitable sequel and, truth be told, it's not bad. If you enjoyed the first one then you will not be disappointed by the second one. The script is ok, the performances pretty good and the action enjoyable.
For some reason and I can't quite put my finger on why, although the pacing and globe-trotting may be a factor, it doesn't quite have the zing, pop, crash, bang, cheer factor of the first. The action, while executed well and while there's plenty of it, has the little annoying twinge of 'you've seen this stuff already quite recently' and 'oh look, they've walked on to a sound stage, here comes another big set piece' and it has a little annoying script trait where characters we know and see being cleverer than the other guy are easily duped when the script requires it, even though the audience see it coming. These are, however, just small complaints as neither hugely detracts from the enjoyment of the film. One thing that seemed a little forced was the rather heavy handed jokes, nods and winks concerning Willis and Parker's ongoing relationship struggles but I suppose the screenwriter thought it would give everyone something to do apart from just shooting everything. Lastly, it's a tad, needlessly, over long and suffers from World War Z lack-of-blood syndrome, despite plenty of dead bodies piling up.
There are still some great, explosive action and fight scenes though and, despite the bloodless quality, it's plenty violent. On the plus side, too, the director doesn't wave or shake or flail the camera around during the action like a mental having a spasm, so you can actually see what's going on. A breath of fresh air after some spectacularly badly filmed sequences in a certain Summer blockbuster about a flying alien with a cape and little maroon booties. In fact, despite some of the, maybe overly critical, down points I listed above, the more I think about the film, the more I remember bits in it that seriously kicked ass and there was certainly one or two moments where fists were pumped and appreciative laughter happened.
Willis returns to the role of Frank Moses well and has a particularly fun scene in a records room at the beginning, Mary Louise Parker is charmingly ditsy although her make-up makes her look weird and plastic-surgeryesque from time to time, Zeta-Jones is a little surplus to requirements, Anthony Hopkins leaves little scenery unchewed, Byung-hun Lee plays the Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4 role but does it well, I could watch Helen Mirren fire a gun from noon to night every day for a year and never get bored and Malkovitch (and his outfits) steal the show.
The film has a little bit of an Oceans 11/12/13 vibe, in the sense that you get the feeling the cast are having a better time on set than actually translates on screen but, overall, I would definitely recommend it. It's not going to change any lives but I'd happily check out a third if the box office so demands it, after all it's by far the best DC Comics movie we've had since RED (the first film). Here's hoping, like the first, it gets even better with repeat viewings.
- The Kick Ass Kid
Monday, July 1, 2013
Internet haters, the uninitiated and people who can only just remember 2011 often think of, the ever increasingly prolific, Jason Statham as 'just an action guy' the same way they think of Stallone as 'just an action guy' (despite his long history of not only writing scripts but directing and the fact that Rocky, Copland, Night Hawks and others are more dramas than they are traditional action films, shit Dustin Hoffman was considered for the part of John Rambo so, Stallone's no slouch!) and the other accusation that is often thrown about is "Statham just plays Statham"
If, however, you have seen Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Transporter, Crank, The Bank Job and Safe you know that Statham diversifies, plays different characters, is a damn engaging screen presence, takes training very seriously and has more variety on his CV than almost anyone ever gives him credit for.
Not only that but Statham, as he has gained in popularity and more importantly power, he has strived to work on interesting scripts, more challenging roles, with a variety of great actors and some, genuinely, different directors & writers.
Does he predominantly make kick ass action films, yes? some of the best in recent years actually, but within that genre he is an actor, aware of his limitations (and the ones imposed on him by a narrow-minded, scared Hollywood), that has tried to do as much different stuff as possible.
So along comes Redemption, or Hummingbird as it was called in the UK, after the unmanned drones that patrol the war in the middle east (one of the themes in the movie is 'the ever watchful eye of surveillance') and while the trailer may look as if it's just the next Statham punching, kicking and taking-names vehicle and while the critics keep talking about it being the type of film we've not seen Statham in before, this is actually a film that sits nicely in his timeline with the early Richie films and next to later, more dramatic fare like the good 'The Bank Job' and the patchy, despite the presence of Paddy Constantine 'Blitz' which I think makes Statham something of a contender for Bob Hoskins hard man with a heart of gold crown.
Redemption is about an AWOL Royal Marine living rough on the streets of London who, one night while on the run, after taking a fairly horrific beating from two local gangsters and losing his girl/friend manages to take sanctuary in a, luckily open, loft apartment. After slowly sobering up and healing he decides, with the help of the owner of the apartment's debit card and a confused, shy but pretty nun to spend the summer putting his life back together. Sadly that comes with too many catches for him to bare and while he attempts to balance the right with the wrong he knows the direction he's truly headed will lead him back to the streets and drowning his post traumatic stress in the bottom of a vodka bottle.
Written and first-time directed by Steven Knight (the man behind Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) Redemption is definitely a drama. There are moments of action, mostly the stuff you've seen in the trailer and there is an underlying revenge plot, like a Death Wish or a Get Carter but mostly it's a drama about a man attempting to face his demons while being torn between two worlds and the nun who attempts to help him but, herself, becomes torn between what could be and what is. Both of them are flawed individuals, both of them don't have the answers and both of them are prone to giving into temptation.
In the performances, the themes and the direction there are nice echoes of great early 80s Hoskins stuff like Mona Lisa. The leads all do good work with a pretty decent script, Statham gives a subdued, wounded and different performance than some might expect and his scenes with the delicate but occasionally feisty Agata Buzek are the films highlight. While it isn't Eastern Promises and while The Bank Job is probably a better and easier watch if you want to dip your toe into Statham's more serious stuff, I actually liked this film a lot. It even had me shedding the odd single man tear on occasions, I don't mind admitting.
For sceptics, cynics and haters looking to be blown away and have their opinions changed on The Stath I am not sure there is an assured enough hand in the director's chair or that the subject matter is 'palatable' enough for them to really concentrate and give him the benefit of the doubt. This is because while, yes, Statham is doing some really terrific work, Steven Knight drenches a light neon, Chinatown glow to London's streets, the beautiful cobbles of Covent Garden are given their time to shine and while there is tons going on, it's weirdly just not as engaging or as satisfying as it could be with a slightly different vision behind the camera.
All that being said, I liked it and, if nothing else, gives credit to an actor refusing to be pigeonholed and who, despite his Hollywood leading man status, keeps coming back to Blighty to give rich, varied, character based performances.
Keep it up JS!