Film Review: Final Score

During an interview with Jonathan Ross I heard this movie compared to Die Hard, which is fair enough given that this has a similar plot of a lone hero going up against a gang of terrorists. But really the film that this is most like is the Jean Claude Van Damme flick Sudden Death, the only difference being that instead of taking place during an ice hockey match, this is during a football game.

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Dave Bautista plays Mike Knox, an ex-soldier who comes to London to visit the family of a fallen comrade, who he was good friends with. He is an uncle figure to the man’s teenage daughter, Danni (Lara Peake), who he surprises with tickets to go see West Ham in the European Cup semi final (one of the more far fetched parts of the movie). While there he starts to suspect that something isn’t right and stumbles across a bunch of Eastern European bad guys.

Unfortunately, he also loses Danni, who sneaks off to see her boyfriend who is sitting elsewhere in the ground. Incidentally, the boyfriend is one of the worst written characters in recent memory, I get that he’s meant to be a douche, but you’ve got to show at least some charm that explains why Danni is into him, but here he’s just a turboknob in every scene.

With the stadium cut off from the outside world by the terrorists, and the police not believing him, Mike has to find a way to stop the villains and find Danni.

The problem with this movie is that a lot of it feels very familiar, as it lifts wholesale from other movies. There’s a fight in the kitchen which reminded me of Sudden Death and Under Siege 2, and Mike gets the attention of the cops by dropping a body off the roof just like John McClaine did. And one of the goons he takes out as a vengeance seeking loved one in the crew, like the brothers in Die Hard.

That’s not to say that the movie isn’t fun, the action sequences are pretty good, particularly a motorbike chase and the kitchen fight which features two inventive ways to kill a bad guy. Bautista is a decent enough lead, although due to his massive size the “everyman” aspect of the scenario is hurt a bit, and the dialogue he’s given is pretty generic. He’s likeable enough in the role, but he definitely lacks the charisma of many other action stars.

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The film does deserve praise for the set up actually making sense, with the crew led by Ray Stevenson’s Arkady attacking the stadium during a match because they’re actually looking for one particular person, his brother, the former leader of their revolution who faked his death and relocated due to the bloodshed that was happening in his name. Aware that he lives in London and will be attending the game, they spring into action. It’s a clever, neat set up and gives them a believable motive.

Pierce Brosnan plays the brother, Dimitri, and is criminally underused in a dull role. It’s especially galling as this is supposed to be the figurehead for a revolution, so you would expect him to be quite a charismatic figure, but Brosnan plays it very dry. This robs the movie of the point of having a big name in a supporting role, as you feel any middle aged actor could have played the role. At least he doesn’t sing, I guess.

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However, this is undercut by the fact that Ray Stevenson’s villain is unforgivably dull. While he’s shown to have a ruthless streak and military background that make him a legitimate threat, he gets no unique traits or flourishes to engage the audience. I miss when villains were more colourful.

In a way, he serves to illustrate the movie’s major flaw- it’s fine, and does the job, but in an extremely workmanlike fashion. There’s very little flair or charm to elevate this above the standard action fare you got in the early ’90s. It’s a decent enough popcorn movie, the kind of thing to pass the time of an evening, but it’s miles off the Die Hard level.

Verdict: A distinctly average action flick which is let down by a lifeless script and characters who don’t jump off the screen. Does the job, but without any flash. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Film Review: Mission: Impossible- Fallout

I’m not gonna lie, I’d kinda lost track of the Mission: Impossible franchise. It turns out that this is the sixth film and I’ve missed the previous instalment, Rogue Nation. Luckily, this film does a good job of getting you up to speed before the action kicks in.

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It’s been two years since Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) stopped former MI6 agent turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), stopping his international syndicate of rogue agents. While many of his associates have been taken out in the intervening period there are several who have never been identified and they continue to work as terrorists for hire. Hunt is tasked with stopping the sale of three plutonium cores which could make nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, during the operation Hunt’s friend Luther (Ving Rhames) is held at gunpoint, and the cores are stolen. The cores are held by the Apostles, Lane’s followers. They are to be sold to John Lark, a fundamentalist terrorist, however, nobody can ID Lark as all his associates have been taken out by the CIA. Hunt is reluctantly partnered with Walker (Henry Cavill) a CIA agent to take Lark out of the picture, pose as Lark and get the nukes back. Walker’s boss describes him as hammer to Hunt’s scalpel, and the character is portrayed as a powerhouse, and revealed to be the man behind taking out most of Lane’s associates. Their contrasting approaches and outlooks cause tensions as the two men are forced to work together.

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The mission hits complications, including the arrival of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), who previously worked with Hunt in bringing down Lane, a former colleague at MI6. Lark is killed and Hunt can’t create a mask, so wings it, cosying up to the broker known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Things become more complicated when it’s revealed that the deal is for the nukes to be traded to Lark after he helps break Lane out of custody.

Of course, Lane will recognise Hunt and Hunt’s reluctant to kill a bunch of French coppers. So, he double crosses the Widow’s team and extracts Lane himself, hoping that he can still make the trade for the nukes and save the world from disaster.

I really loved this movie. Like I said, it fills in the back story quickly enough and in a way that doesn’t resort to some bloke spouting exposition. That out of the way the whole movie is a roller coaster of thrills and spills, with plenty of double crosses and twists along the way.

Right at the centre of this is Cruise as Hunt. Cruise is brilliant in the action hero role, convincing in the fight scenes and bringing a lot of charisma to the role. Given that he’s been playing Hunt for over twenty years (man, I feel old now) he seems utterly at home as the character who is a mix of seemingly indestructible super spy and blagger. At several points the well laid plans unravel and Hunt is forced to wing it, which adds fun and unpredictability to the proceedings.

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It’s also good that as we seem him survive all these threats and dangers, that Hunt remains human and vulnerable, in part due to his connections with other people, not just his team but the wife he had to leave and now lives in hiding. It’s a human aspect and well handled, particularly in a scene where Luther explains the situation to Ilsa, urging her to back away as his feelings for her make Ethan vulnerable.

The supporting cast are solid from Rhames as his right hand man and best friend, to Simon Pegg’s techie comic relief. But the great strength is that a lot of the characters are quite ambiguous and you’re not sure who Hunt can trust beyond his core group. Is Cavill’s Walker on the level, or does he have other orders from the CIA? How much faith should we place in Alec Baldwin’s boss character? What is Ilsa’s involvement?

There’s a surprising amount of humour in the film, which worked for me, especially in the dialogue between the team and some of Hunt’s reactions as things spiral out of control around him.

mifall team

Another plus point is Sean Harris’ villain Lane, who is shown to be capable, vicious and ruthless, but without lurching into caricature. In fact, his softly spoken performance gives the character more gravitas and holds the attention better than any ranting supervillain would.

But the film thrives on it’s action sequences, and they are absolutely wonderful. Car chases, rooftop chases, parachuting through a thunder storm, shoot outs, fist fights, helicopter chases, helicopter chases all leave the audience perched on the edge of their seat. There are unbearably tense scenes, near misses and amazing visuals, the whole movie a brilliant thrill ride that locks you in, even when the stunts reach ridiculous levels. As I said, Hunt is beyond tough, surviving crashes and bruising brawls and somehow still having enough in the tank to run full pelt for ages. Despite this, you can’t look away and WoM and I were fully engrossed in the movie.

Given that I lost interest halfway through Spectre, it’s glad that someone is still making entertaining spy movies, and I’m definitely ready for the seventh movie now.

Verdict: Action packed but with moments of humour and genuine heart, this is a hugely entertaining spy thriller with plenty of turns in the road. Fantastic fun. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do? BETEO.


Film Review: The Hurricane Heist

Earlier this week I praised Rampage for being dumb fun that delivered on it’s ridiculous premise. This movie, however, doesn’t.

A heist during a hurricane? A trio of plucky heroes against a gang of thugs? This should be a fun action romp, but the whole thing falls apart. Firstly, the leads played by Maggie Grace and Toby Kebbell are painfully dull. The attempts at bonding fall flat and the third and potentially most interesting of the heroic trio, Ryan Kwanten’s drunk slacker ex-marine disappears for a long stretch.

It doesn’t help that the villains are lacklustre too. You kinda need a charismatic antagonist in a movie like this, but what we get here is a bit of a damp squib. The only interesting part is that one of the henchmen is played by Rhino from Gladiators. And his physicality goes underused.

Urgh. This film was way too dull given the potential of it’s premise. I suggest missing it completely and instead checking out Hard Rain, a massively underrated ’90s action movie which does much better with the “robbery during a storm” idea.

Verdict: Commits the cardinal sin for an action movie by being painfully dull. The leads lack charisma, it’s devoid of tension and the action feels flat. Avoid. 1/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Rampage

The Rock. A giant gorilla. I was in from that point.

WoM was less sure about it but taking advantage of our new Odeon Limitless memberships she agreed to take a chance on it. She wasn’t impressed, dismissing it as “stupid”. Me? Well, I love a big, dumb fun movie and this ticked all the boxes.

Dwayne Johnson plays Davis, a soldier turned primatoligist who works with George an albino gorilla he rescued from poachers. All is good until George is exposed to a gas contained in a pod which crashes into his enclosure. As a result he begins to grow ever larger and becomes more aggressive.

The gas is actually a weapon which genetically edits animals to turn them into weapons. The experiments were conducted aboard a space station but when a test subject gets loose the base is destroyed and the samples crash to earth. As well as George, a wolf and alligator are infected becoming vicious giants.

Davis is joined by Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the scientist who worked on genetic editing but was disgusted by how it was corrupted and used for weapons by the Wyden siblings, Claire and Brett (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, respectively). The Wyden’s want samples and lure the beasties to Chicago.

Can Davis and Kate stop the creatures before the army blow away half of the Windy City? Can Davis get through to George and stop his, um, rampage? Can our heroes trust the swaggering but secretive government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)?

I really dug this film because it’s got no pretensions or anything, just accepts it’s ludicrous premise and runs with it. The action is overblown and over the top, with very little basis in reality.

Johnson’s charisma carries the film and his friendship with George is handled well and engaging enough that you care. Johnson is so easily likeable and charming that the audience is on board with him pretty much right off the bat.

The Rock with a new tag team partner

It’s to his credit then that Jeffrey Dean Morgan more than holds his own as the cocky cowboy like Agent Russell. Oozing charisma and keeping the audience guessing as to whether he’s a good guy or not. JDM is one of my long term faves and always a winner.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough, with a special nod to Akerman who resists hamming it up too much as the uberbitch Claire.

Of course, this isn’t a character piece, and a blockbuster. And in that role it achieves, there are a few laughs, some big action sequences and it’s wonderfully, witlessly entertaining in places.

Sure, it’s daft, but sometimes that’s just what you need.

Verdict: A loud, dumb action movie which does what it sets out to- entertain. The Rock is his usual charismatic self and the action is well done and engaging. Great fun. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a gem of a movie which married the fun excess of old spy movies with OTT violence and foul language. Can they pull off the same trick twice?

Well, the answer is almost. 

This second adventure finds Eggsy AKA Galahad (Taron Egerton) still in action as an agent of Kingsman, a private spy agency. But when he’s attacked by a familiar face, it appears the agency is in the sights of a resourceful and ruthless foe. A foe who quickly takes out the agency, leaving Eggsy the only survivor other than tech expert Merlin (Mark Strong).

Following their “doomsday protocol” the two discover a bottle of bourbon branded Statesman and travel to Kentucky to investigate. There they find their American equivalent, posing as an alcoholic manufacturer. After a brief run in with Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum), they realise they are on the same side and unite. 

Their common enemy is Poppy (Julianne Moore), head of a global drug cartel and robotics genius. She has poisoned all of her drugs with a lethal disease, and promises the cure if all drugs are legalized, allowing her to enjoy her success and come out of hiding.

Unfortunately the US President (Bruce Greenwood) has no qualms about letting all the drug users die as it will mean he is remembered as the President who won the war on drugs and Poppy will be blamed.

Affected by the virus are Eggsy’s girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), Tequila and the President’s chief of staff, who objects to his plan but is sent away.

Eggsy investigates with Statesman agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) who survived being shot in the first film but temporarily lost his memory and is not yet back to his best.

Can Eggsy stop Poppy’s scheme? How much can he trust Statesman or Harry? Will he find the antidote in time?

First things first, here’s what works- the action sequences retain the gloriously gory and overblown touches of the original, and while it lacks anything as madly brilliant as the original’s “Freebird” sequence there are some great scraps here. There’s also a nice little gag that plays on one of the first film’s major scenes.

The returning cast are all on form, with Egerton being allowed to let Eggsy’s chavvy enthusiasm to pop up at times. Firth is excellent again especially as he has to play both the badass Harry and the softer, damaged version who can’t remember who he is.

Mark Strong is good in everything he does and here he gets more to do as Merlin.

I also liked that they kept the Princess from the first movie as the love interest, and this relationship, while fleeting in terms of screen time  is handled well enough. Also good that they brought back Edward Holcroft’s obnoxious toff Charlie as Poppy’s cybernetically enhanced goon as it added to his vendetta against Eggsy. 

The newcomers are decent, although Tatum plays less of a role than trailers suggest. Pascal’s swaggering cowboy Whiskey is pretty badass and as their boss Champagne, Jeff Bridges is his usual charming self. The surprise was Halle Berry who is better here than I’ve seen her in a while. 

Whiskey in action

Julianne Moore is clearly enjoying her campy, flamboyant villain turn but it’s less fun for the audience and it can’t match Samuel L. Jackson in the first flick. She’s not bad, and quite fun, but her reasons are flimsy.

But Poppy’s plan is pretty smart and the twist of having a callous President was smart.

There are a few flaws, some characters from the first film are written out rather cheaply and there is a sense of it sticking to formula. But the formula does work and it delivers plenty of laughs and fun along the way. 

There’s also quite a nice extended cameo from Elton John playing himself, Poppy’s hostage and keying up “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” to soundtrack a shoot out.

Harry and Eggsy together again

In fact the music throughout is playful and clever.

I really enjoyed it but MWF and I both felt this is probably where we should leave Eggsy as a third outing might stretch it too far.

Verdict: It can’t match the first movie but this is still a fun, frantic romp. OTT in the best way and with its tongue firmly in cheek this kept me entertained throughout. 7.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #49: The Running Man

It’s always interesting watching old sci-fi movies and seeing how quickly they imagined we’d balls everything up. George Orwell thought that by 1984 we’d be living under a totalitarian regime, constantly observed. John Carpenter went for 1997 as the year by which New York had become a prison colony. Of course, some of the joy watching them now is knowing they got it wrong.

And unless Donald Trump really cocks things up, The Running Man will join that list of films set in a future time we’ve now lived through. In 1987 they thought we’d really make a hash of things and live in a dystopian hell where the vicious government keeps the populace brainwashed with violence and glamour on telly.

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I know the poster says 2019, but the opening text says 2017

The film is based on a book by Stephen King (writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) and with all due respect to King, is far more entertaining, mainly because it was adapted to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger who was at the height of his powers. This takes the bleak and grim novel and revamps it as an ’80s action movie.

Arnie plays, Ben Richards, a police pilot framed for the killing of unarmed civilians, despite the fact he was the one who objected and refused to follow his orders. Locked up on a working prison where they convicts are forced to wear exploding collars that stop them from leaving boundaries. I saw this movie as a kid, and the exploding collars are the thing that stuck with me the most.

 

He engineers an escape with rebellion members Laughlin and Weiss (Yaphet Kotto and Marvin J. McIntyre, respectively). They want to bring down the government and expose the brainwashing, while Richards wants to get the hell out of town and go into hiding. He plans to get his brother to help him but when he gets to his apartment finds that he has been taken for “reeducation” and that a new tenant is living there, musician Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso). Richards uses her to attempt to flee the country, but she blows his cover and he is arrested.

As a result he meets Richard Dawson’s Killian, the smarmy game show host who runs The Running Man, the world’s most popular TV show. Dawson is a fantastic villain, arrogant, scheming and utterly without compassion, all hidden behind a friendly, polished public image. A game show host himself, he captures the faux sincerity and interest, before revealing a stone cold side away from the cameras.

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Also, in a brilliant moment he responds to Arnie’s trademark “I’ll be back” line with a simple “Only in a rerun”.

Killian wants Richards for the show in order to boost stagnant ratings. The show involves criminals having to run through a series of challenges, with the promise of a blissful tropical paradise should they succeed. Stopping them are the colourful, flamboyant and vicious Stalkers, who are a combination of ITV’s Gladiators and the OTT wrestling heels of the ’80s.

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The Stalkers are good value, each with their own gimmick. There’s Jim Brown wielding a flamethrower as Fireball, an electric shooting opera singer named Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth De Jeude), Sub Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka) who wields an ice hockey stick fitted with blades and chainsaw wielding Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch).

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Each operates in a different section and attack Richards, Weiss and Laughlin. Amber is also thrown in with them as she starts to realize that the government has lied about things and is busted snooping.

Of course, every Stalker fails and Arnie dispatches them in short order. Each time with a quip ready to go- “Here’s your Sub Zero, now plain zero” and, having cut Buzzsaw in half, “he had to split”.

Killian becomes increasingly frustrated, and the crowd after initial horror begin rooting for Richards. Killian wants to send in Captain Freedom, the retired all time champ played by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, but he refuses.

The action is fast and well orchestrated, with a simple, ’80s bloodiness reliant on practical effects which sees Arnie hack, smash and incinerate his pursuers. Arnie can do this in his sleep, but his odd, unique charisma carries him through and it’s an interesting look at how audiences can be bloodthirsty and fickle.

Arnie’s physical appearance is necessary here, his strength is why he’s chosen as a contender and against better armed enemies it’s ingenuity and brute force that hand him the wins. As a character, Richards isn’t the most developed and we’re expected to just accept him as a hero because he refuses to kill innocents, is fleetingly sad about his brother and tries to protect others, but at the same time he’s rather cold blooded, and physically violent towards Amber when they initially meet. Of course, we root for him because he’s Arnie, which is a clear example of star power.

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The ending, where the truth is revealed to the audience suggests things may be about to change. But it’s an ambiguous ending, and while Richards is free and cleared, it seems unlikely that the whole system will come crashing down.

In taking a decent premise but injecting the drama and visuals of wrestling and game shows, the filmmakers take King’s decent idea and transform it into something far more engaging and believable. This seems more like a show people would get sucked into than the idea from the book, where they merely evade capture in the real world.

By upping the cheesiness around the spectacle, they actually make it feel more real. That people will swallow and enjoy blood and mayhem if it’s packaged the right way.

One of Arnie’s best films and hugely entertaining.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #38: Taken

I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money…but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it- I will not look for you, I will not pursue you….but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you…and I will kill you.

That speech, delivered by Liam Neeson’s ex-government agent Brian Mills over the phone to his daughter’s kidnapper is the high point of this film and one of the most badass movie speeches of all time, like the 21st century equivalent of Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky?” speech.

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The snatching scene is an immensely powerful film, with Brian hearing his daughter scream for help and get taken. It would be effective in any film, but with Neeson rather than a traditional action hero it’s even better. As he listens his face clearly shows the fear and shock as he lives every parent’s nightmare, and then incredibly subtly his face shifts and a steely resolve is clear. Then he delivers the above speech.

taken call

The movie, written and produced by Luc Besson, the French action movie legend, follows Mills as he travels to Paris on the trail of his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who’s been snatched by human traffickers. Arriving in Paris he punches, shoots and tortures his way through the Eastern European heavies to track Kim and her friend down.

Along the way he realizes that the Albanian mob has ties everywhere and even old friends can’t be trusted and he wages his one man war on the mob.

The movie exists in a post Bourne and 24 world so there’s some extremely gritty, bone crunching action along the way and Neeson’s character isn’t adverse to torturing people for information. This causes problems for some viewers, but luckily despite the gritty realism of some scenes it stays true to it’s roots by having a string of unremarkable goons for Neeson to wade through.

Pierre Morel the director and student of Luc Besson (he’d previously worked as cinematographer on Jason Statham vehicle The Transporter and directed the pretty ace District 13) is capable behind the camera and shoots the whole thing in a tight, fast paced way with plenty of in your face camera work and a real knack for capturing the seedy underbelly of Paris.

But above all else it’s Neeson’s film. Since this he’s had a string of action hero style roles, but this was the first one and it was a bit of a surprise to see an actor like him switch to doing a rather nasty exploitation movie.

Neeson in action

Neeson in action

The nastiness works in it’s favour, allowing Neeson to sink his teeth into a morally ambiguous, relentless character who seems willing to go to any lengths to get his daughter back. The rather vicious, grim tone is a large reason for the film’s success which makes the fact they cut the sequel down to a 12 all the more mindboggling and disappointing, because this movie is a well executed, solid B-movie that sticks true to it’s nasty roots but is elevated by a strong central performance from Neeson.

Mills is an engaging character. His skills are impressive, but his strongest trait is resisting telling his ex wife “I told you so” after his fears for his daughter’s safety are realized.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Warning! Spoilers Ahead! I’ve tried to avoid them where possible, but some have snuck in, apologies.

Halfway during this film Colin Firth’s character, Harry Hart, is asked if he likes spy movies, to which he replies “Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones….marvelous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.” It’s pretty much voicing the film’s intent, which seems like a reaction against the more serious Bourne and Craig era Bonds, and delivers on the far-fetched theatrical plot front.

Of course, this is from the team that brought us Kick-Ass so we’re a long way from Roger Moore territory. Once again Matthew Vaughn directs a script he co-wrote with Jane Goldman based on a Mark Millar comic book, and the result is essentially what you’d expect from the above quote and that team: a plot from an old Bond movie but served with a heavy dose of profanity, hyper violence and hilarity.

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Colin Firth plays Harry aka Galahad, the sharp suited gentleman spy who works for Kingsman, a privately owned and run spy agency. Harry is investigating the death of a fellow agent, Lancelot (Jack Davenport), killed while on the trail of mercenaries connected with several incidents involving terrorist groups being taken out by being exposed to something which made them violently turn on each other.

With an agent dead, Harry’s boss, Arthur (Michael Caine), asks Harry to suggest someone to compete against the selection of the other agents. Harry’s unlikely choice is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of a former colleague who sacrificed himself to save Harry’s life. Eggsy lives on a rough council estate and doesn’t fit the traditional suave spy type, but Harry sees the potential he has squandered.

Eggsy in turn is impressed by Harry’s abilities as a fighter and his suave, restrained demeanor and agrees to engage in the training programme. Here he must compete against the other candidates, all of whom are posh toffs and he faces judgment and mockery from many of them, although Roxy (Sophie Cookson) does befriend him. The training is overseen by Merlin (Mark Strong), who also knew Eggsy’s father and was present at his death.

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

As Eggsy goes through his training, Harry investigates Lancelot’s death, which turns out to be connected to tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), who seems to be plotting something big and is assisted by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) an assassin who uses bladed prosthetic legs as her weapon of choice. What is Valentine’s plan and how is it connected to the free SIM cards he’s giving out?

Will Eggsy stick to the course and become a Kingsman agent? Will he and Harry be able to work out what Valentine’s up to and stop it?

This movie is an utter gem, filled with laugh out moments and hugely entertaining OTT action sequences. MWG and I laughed throughout and left the cinema extremely impressed and entertained, as did all of the people we went with. It plays with the spy genre conventions, ribbing and reveling in the excesses and ridiculousness of it.

At the centre is a fantastic performance from Colin Firth, who you can tell must have had a ball playing with his traditional persona. He doesn’t look threatening or badass, but throughout the film he carries himself with this taut restraint and posh mannerisms that suggest great personal control, which ensures that when he finally cuts loose in the fight scenes it’s incredibly entertaining.

Harry in action

Harry in action

Firth’s performance generates a lot of laughs and his stiff nature is the island of calm in the middle of the ridiculous OTT film that unfolds around him.

The rest of the cast are on fine form too, Egerton, who was a new face to me is wonderful as Eggsy, making the character believable and likable. He may front with swagger and bravado, but Egerton allows us to see the softer side and the fear which has hampered him from fulfilling his potential. Eggsy is an engaging character, guided by an inner sense of decency but also having a ball with the high tech gadgets and adventures that await him.

Egerton’s transformation from chav slacker to suited gentleman spy is well done, and best of all he maintains his grinning, life loving verve throughout, meaning that even when he’s an ass kicking spy there are still flashes of the jokey, loudmouth youth. He might have the suit now, but it’s clear that he was always a hero and that being a gentleman isn’t about where you’re from or who your family is, but how you carry yourself.

Eggsy transformed

Eggsy transformed

Of course, a lot of the scenes get stolen by Samuel L Jackson, who still has great gravitas even with the bizarre character he plays. A man with a plan for world domination who can’t stand the sight of blood and speaks with a lisp, it’s to his credit that SLJ manages to still make Valentine a mesmerizing and charismatic on-screen presence. It plays slightly with his usual type of character, as Valentine is far from a “bad ass mother f**ker”.

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

Valentine’s plan is a treat, the kind of nutso idea that old Bond movies would go for, a plan to save the world by culling the population by turning the masses into rage fuelled maniacs who’ll take each other out. This leads to a fantastically excessive sequence of extreme brutality as Harry takes on the congregation of a far-right church who have all gone crazy. It’s a fast paced, extreme sequence which mixes black comedy laughs with some wince inducing, bone crunching violence.

The movie zips along with a great sense of fun and while some developments are easy to see coming it still manages to surprise and amuse with little touches that toy with Bond movie tropes and builds to a crazy, but satisfying conclusion.

I also loved Gazelle, Valentine’s henchwoman who with her bladed legs is like a throwback to the colourful henchmen of Bond movies past and she’s a cool character, with a steely look in her eye and the perfect compliment to the squeamish Valentine.

kingsman gazelle

Vaughn’s direction is on point, with great comic timing, fast paced action and a joyous delight in the film’s daft touches. All in all it’s a hugely entertaining movie and left me with a big dumb smile on my face, and dare I say it, it even beats Kick-Ass.

Verdict: A magnificently overblown spy movie pastiche/homage complete with colourful villains, outlandish plots and insane gadgets. Vaughn and Goldman’s script is chockablock with laughs and the performances, particularly Firth and Egerton are extremely well done. The violence and swearing won’t make it everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it hit the spot and I found it a real treat, because I like my action movies to be a bit OTT and my spy movies on the silly side. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #35: Lethal Weapon 2

This movie means a lot to me, partly because I’ve watched it repeatedly and also because it’s one of the few movies that has made me cry as an adult.

In my defence, it was just after Valentine’s Day, I was single and I’d been drinking.

lethalweapon2

Picking up where the first movie left off with crazy Riggs (Mel Gibson) and family man Murtaugh (Danny Glover) as wisecracking partners we’re launched straight into the tone of the movie thanks to the Looney Tunes theme and then a big car crash where Riggs and Murtaugh chase a bunch of blonde crims and uncover a mass of gold coins.

The coins turn out to be South African krugerrands, which are illegal. Riggs and Murtaugh dig into it a bit more, but are warned off by the South African consul Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and his heavy Vorstedt (Derrick O’Connor), and reassigned to look after Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a loud and irritating witness. Pesci fills this role wonderfully and with the heroes forms a fast talking, quipping triangle which delivers some of the film’s big laughs.

 

Glover, Gibson and Pesci

Glover, Gibson and Pesci

Pesci’s character is annoying in places, but he should be applauded for softening as the film progresses. He gives Gibson and Glover someone extra to spark off, and fits well with the rapid fire, joke heavy dialogue. Of course, there’s plenty of this already thanks to the easy, natural feeling way that Gibson and Glover have Riggs and Murtaugh banter and bicker throughout, with the duo working together fantastically.

Leo is targeted and the duo protect him, and realize that he’s connected to the South Africans. This is apartheid era South Africa, so they also hassle Murtaugh and are instantly unlikable. I think this reason, along with growing up learning about apartheid is part of the reason I’ve had a problem with South Africa and been unable to cheer their sports teams on, although now as most of their players are post-apartheid kids it’s not quite as strong a dislike.

Riggs and Murtaugh then proceed to investigate and harass the South Africans, and Riggs woos Rudd’s secretary, Rika (Patsy Kensit), in a romantic subplot that is actually rather well done. It’s brief, but Gibson turns on the charm and his goofy, funny approach makes it easy to see why Rika might fall for him. The only problem is that during their flirting scenes Kensit’s South African accent clearly throws Gibson off and his Aussie side starts to come through a bit.

Kensit and Gibson, good onscreen chemistry

Kensit and Gibson, good onscreen chemistry

Rika and Riggs get it on, but their happiness is short lived as their attacked and captured by Vorstedt. Vorstedt reveals that they’ve known about Riggs for a while, and that when he previously got too close Vorstedt tried to take him out, causing the car accident that killed Riggs’ missus. This doubles Riggs’ desire for revenge and escaping he teams up with Roger and they both go out for justice on the dastardly racists.

Ackland is very good as the sleazy, menacing diplomat who abuses his power and diplomatic immunity to run his drug business, and the scene where a minor goon walks in to a plastic covered room is a nice touch. Ackland is the power and a hissable villain, but his right hand man Vorstedt is the physical threat and his tough one-on-one fight with Riggs near the end shows them to be evenly matched and has some bone crunching realism. It doesn’t quite match the Riggs vs Joshua smackdown of the original, but it’s pretty good.

That brings us to the ending, which is an action movie masterclass. After Riggs takes out his man he’s dramatically gunned down by Rudd. Rudd then taunts Murtaugh with his diplomatic immunity, teeing Danny Glover up to deliver one of the best action movie post-kill lines ever.

lw2 revoked

And then comes the part that made me cry. Already upset by the death of Rika, watching Murtaugh race to the fallen Riggs as “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” kicks in was all too much for me, despite knowing there were two more movies to come. This is down to the great directing of Richard Donner, who shoots it wonderfully.

Apparently at one stage Riggs did actually buy the farm, but thankfully, they decided this was too much of a bummer and an injured Riggs lives to fight and quip another day.

The impact of this scene is a sign of the movie’s major strengths, which is the way they build the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh. They’re still very different and bicker away, but there’s definitely a sense that they know each other a bit better, sparking off each other and joking along.

Riggs and Murtaugh- Best partners ever?

Riggs and Murtaugh- Best partners ever?

 

There’s also more signs that their partnership is helping to soften Riggs’ and that he’s becoming part of the Murtaugh family, and this is one of the series major themes and biggest strengths, the redemption offered by simple human contact and interaction.

Glover is solid, dependable and likable as Murtaugh and gets the movie’s big moment, but Gibson steals the show, and is unbelievably charismatic as Riggs, a motormouth ball of energy who looks genuinely badass and crazy in places. This is one of the best examples of why Gibson was such a massive star, and he has the easy on screen charm that few stars possess, and continues to make Riggs a man crush of mine.

The next two installments might not match the first two, but they’re still entertaining movies and Gibson and Glover’s chemistry continues throughout, making Riggs and Murtaugh one of the best buddy duos around. And this stands out as one of those sequels which builds on and strengthens the first movie, getting you even more involved in the characters and their adventures.

The connection with Riggs’ wife is a bit heavy handed, and you can’t help thinking that with all their cop buddies dead along with Rika, and a threat to his partner’s family, Riggs has more than enough reason to go after the bad guys, but it still works and gives him the closure to move on in parts 3 and 4.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: 22 Jump Street

I was looking forward to watching this movie, because the first one was pretty funny and I’d missed it in the cinema. Luckily MWG was a fan too and she picked this up the other day, although I suspect a crush on one of the leads may have had something to do with it. Unlike many women who find Channing Tatum hot, MWG has a thing for Jonah Hill (one of her five) and so we checked this out the other day.

22 jump street pos

What I dug about the first movie was the fact that early on they referenced the fact that it was based on an old TV by having a character openly state that they’d run out of ideas so were just doing what they’d done in the ’80s. Here they make lots of sequel jokes, with the same character (played by Nick Offerman) stating that they were to go back undercover this time as college students and do “exactly the same thing”, only with more budget this time. This postmodern touch is done rather well and referenced throughout as the characters have better offices and the set pieces get bigger.

While the joke is a little laboured after a while the movie totally works and a lot of that is down to the two leads, Tatum and Hill, who have amazing chemistry on screen as Jenko and Schmidt respectively. Hill is a fantastic comedy performer and makes the awkward, clumsy Schmidt a likable character but once again Tatum is impressive, showing some fine comedy chops as the dumber, more gung-ho half of the partnership.

Amazing chemistry- Hill and Tatum undercover as Schmidt and Jenko

Amazing chemistry- Hill and Tatum undercover as Schmidt and Jenko

Posing as uni students to track down a new drug on the market, this time it’s Jenko who excels, finding a place at a frat and as a football player and quickly establishing a bromance with quarterback and possible suspect Zook (Wyatt Russell).

Jenko fitting in well at uni, Schmidt not quite as much

Jenko fitting in well at uni, Schmidt not quite as much

This leaves Schmidt feeling sidelined and he struggles to fit in, apart from with art student Maya (Amber Stevens) who he hooks up with. Schmidt and Jenko clash and their friendship frays. They clash over how to pursue the case and also

Can they remain friends and crack the case? Has Jenko found somewhere better than the force? And should they really just try and do everything the same as before?

I loved this movie, it’s lovably daft and tongue in cheek, and contains several big laughs. I chuckled and giggled my way through the whole thing and while it’s extremely dumb in places, it remains a solid sequel and a well crafted action comedy.

As I mentioned the leads are sensational and play off each other to great effect. Hill gets some of the best lines, and some of it feels ad-libbed, but Tatum is also shown to be a strong comic performer and his bromance with Zook is well handled, being quite fun. They also manage to make both characters believable, likable and engage the audience in their partnership, and films, even comedies always work best when the audience buys into the characters and Hill and Tatum ensure this is the case here.

The action sequences are well done and manage to keep the balance between action and comedy just right. Not too vicious to sour the laughs, but not too silly to spoil the adrenaline rush. That being said the fight between Schmidt and a female villain is comedy gold.

The supporting cast do a good job too, Nick Offerman’s cameo gets a few laughs and sets out the movie’s tongue in cheek tone. Amber Stevens, who impressed me in the show Greek is a little underused, but still works well with Hill, and Jillian Bell as Maya’s sarky, bitter roommate gets some fantastic insults in.

Peter Stormare seems to have a ball in the kind of role he seems able to do in his sleep, but the strongest supporting player is Ice Cube as Dickson, the heroes’ boss. Playing up the “angry black captain” stereotype once more Ice Cube is hilarious as the foul-mouthed captain, yelling down those in his command and barking out insults. Cube gets some of the film’s biggest laughs and reminds you of how good he can be on his day.

Ice Cube on scene-stealing form

Ice Cube on scene-stealing form

The end credits are quite fun too, continuing the postmodern, mocking tone by including clips and posters for further Jump Street installments, which sees Jenko and Schmidt take on assignments in culinary school, scuba school and several other daft assignments. It goes on a little bit too long, but is worth it just for 29 Jump Street, which sees Hill replaced by Seth Rogen (another of MWG’s five) and I would probably actually pay to watch the spoof movie.

Shut up and take my money

Shut up and take my money

Verdict; Daft and fun, it’s not quite as good as the first but Hill and Tatum continue to work well together and there are plenty of laughs along the way. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.