A rare film that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, this works as both a dramatic character study and a tense thriller. The title is Mexican slang for "hitman". And with fierce direction, razor-sharp writing and breathtakingly layered performances, this is one of the most involving, thrilling movies of the year. It also has something urgent to say about the political world we live in.
Kate (Emily Blunt) is the leader of an FBI unit in Phoenix, and is taken aback when offbeat Homeland Security agent Matt (Josh Brolin) asks her to join his team tracking a Mexican drug cartel kingpin. She brings her partner (Daniel Kaluuya) along, and they struggle to make sense of their new mission, especially the shady operative Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who's working alongside them. The question is which organisation is actually running this operation, and what the real goal is. Clearly international laws are being bent at every step, and Kate is worried that she might also be compromising her moral and ethical principles. Meanwhile over the border, a local cop (Maximiliano Hernandez) is involved in activities that may cause trouble for his family and community.
Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) keeps this story tightly under control, taking the audience along on Kate's odyssey into the dark side of international law enforcement, which has little regard for the law. Blunt brings a remarkable authenticity to her role as a steely, smart leader who is always on-edge, trying to find a way through an unpredictable situation. As she quietly reveals Kate's thought processes, the audience is able to identify with her at every step. Which makes every scene both riveting and emotionally wrenching. Opposite her, both Brolin and Del Toro are on top form, infusing the film with quirky details, black humour and challenging ideas. There's also an astonishing role for Jon Bernthal as a cowboy who flirts with Kate, and then some.
Continue reading: Sicario Review
There have been so many awful revenge thrillers lately that we've almost forgotten that it's possible to make a good one, and this is a rare example of striking the right balance of exhilarating action and dark emotion. Yes, there's a high body count, but this isn't a mow-them-down romp: there's a real sense of pain at all of the senseless bloodshed caused by one idiot's inability to conceive that his actions might have repercussions.
The film also gives Keanu Reeves yet another chance to cleverly reinvent himself on-screen as John Wick, a still-feared former mob hitman who left his job to have a happy life with his wife (Bridget Moynahan). But her untimely illness and death have left him a broken man. His only glimmer of hope is her deathbed gift of an adorable puppy to keep him company. Then even this is taken from him, when cocky Russian thug Iosef (Alfie Allen) steals his vintage Mustang and kills the puppy. In need of closure, John resurrects his past, which is a problem because his ex-boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) is Iosef's dad, and he knows that John is unstoppable. So Viggo reluctantly offers a massive bounty on John's head, taken up by John's former fellow assassin pals (Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki). But it's doubtful that anyone can stop the legendary John Wick from bringing down the entire Russian mafia.
Intriguingly, everyone in the film knows this legend except the dim-witted moron Iosef, who blithely keeps on carousing while everyone around him prepares for Armageddon. Writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski set the story in a fantastical criminal underworld that uses solid gold coins as currency in shimmering underground nightclubs, lavish spas and a mob hotel in which "business" is strictly prohibited. All of this is fiendishly inventive, with a striking visual atmosphere and an even stronger moody tone. At the centre, Reeves gives John a jagged sense of humour as he braces himself wearily for the inevitable carnage, all while trying to control his much deeper emotional pain.
Continue reading: John Wick Review
Barney (Stallone) and his team of ageing mercenaries are coerced by Church (Willis) into heading into hostile territory to retrieve a top secret electronic gadget. Most shocking is the fact that Church insists that a woman, Maggie (Yu), joins them. And when things go wrong, Barney leads the gang on a grisly revenge mission against a nasty villain (Van Damme) who's callously putting humanity in peril. Along the way they're joined by Church and Trench (Schwarzenegger), and get help from lone-wolf Booker (Norris).
Continue reading: The Expendables 2 Review
While this sequel is just as loud and chaotic as 2010's Clash of the Titans remake, it's also considerably more fun due to some exhilarating action and a refreshing sense of humour. It also looks amazing in 3D on an Imax screen.
Years later, the now-widowed hero Perseus (Worthington) is trying to live as an anonymous fisherman with his pre-teen son Helius (Bell). Then he hears about stirrings of a coming calamity. Indeed, his father Zeus (Neeson) has been kidnapped by Hades (Fiennes) and Ares (Ramirez) as pat of a plan to release Zeus and Hades' evil father Kronos from the underworld. So Perseus teams up with Queen Andromeda (Pike) and rogue demigod Agenor (Kebbell), son of Poseidon (Huston), to rescue his father and stop his brother, uncle and grandfather.
Yes, this is one seriously dysfunctional family, as four generations of men set out to either destroy the world or save it. To be honest, it's never clear why Hades and Ares are so hellbent, as it were, on cataclysmic destruction, but at least this also allows for changing alliances as the story progresses. Not that there's much story, really, as the plot essentially just links a series of action set-pieces.
Fortunately, most of these sequences are entertaining enough to keep us gripped. Highlights include a rather fabulous dragon attack and a desperate, full-on fight with cyclops-giants in a forest. Less convincing are a convoluted underworld rescue-battle and the climactic assault on the volcano-sized Kronos, who rains down fire and destruction rather selectively. (There's also the problem of how the filmmakers can top Kronos in the probable sequel.)
Along the way, there are some refreshing moments of deranged humour, mainly in Kebbell's snarky dialog, Pike's sharp glances and a particularly colourful turn by Nighy (as super-spear smelter Hephaestus). But as the story progresses, there's more than a whiff of Lord of the Rings (the fires of Mount Doom, plus some pointless two-torsoed Orc-a-likes), Harry Potter (the three-pronged Deathly Hallows) and even Star Wars (all that father-son angst). But filmmaker Liebesman keeps things moving briskly, wowing us with so much eye-candy that we just sit back and enjoy the rickety ride for what it is.
The Charlestown neighbourhood in Boston is a notorious home for bank robbers, and Doug (Affleck) leads fiendishly efficient heists with his brother-like pal Jem (Renner), driver Albert (Slaine) and techie Des (Burke). But Jem's trigger-happy temper almost undoes the last job when he briefly takes bank manager Claire (Hall) hostage. To make sure she's not going to turn them in to tenacious FBI Agent Frawley (Hamm), Doug gets to know her. And of course falls in love, finally seeing a way out of this dodgy life.
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Three Brooklyn cops are confronting moral dilemmas on the job. Eddie (Gere) is a week away from retirement when he's asked to help a couple of rookies learn the ropes. But he'd rather just keep his head down. Tango (Cheadle) is deep undercover in a drug sting, threatened by a tough FBI agent (Barkin) to set up his childhood friend (Snipes). And Sal (Hawke) is looking to steal some drug-bust cash to top up his salary so he can look after his pregnant wife (Taylor) and children.
Continue reading: Brooklyn's Finest Review
Perseus (Worthington) is a demigod who has been raised by humans and now finds himself at the centre of a war between man and the gods Zeus (Neeson), Hades (Fiennes) and Poseidon (a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Danny Huston). Accompanied by a handful of plucky warriors from Argos (including Mikkelsen, Cunningham, Hoult and Matheson) and his spirit-guide Io (Arterton), he heads off to find the secret to defeat Hades' feared Kraken so he can save Princess Andromeda (Davalos).
Continue reading: Clash Of The Titans Review
Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is the prosperous head of security at a Seattle bank. His wife, Beth, (an utterly wasted Virginia Madsen) is a successful architect who designed their gorgeous home. They have two lovely stereotypical kids and a dog, and in our first five minutes with them just about every major plot point of the film is telegraphed in 28-point blinking bold script.
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Enter former President Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman). He's the most liked President since JFK, and he has decided to make Mooseport his retirement haven. Not that he has much of a choice since his ex-wife, the former First Lady, has nearly cleaned him dry in a nasty divorce. Mooseport is also going through a crisis. The mayor has recently died, and the troubled city council cannot find anyone willing to run for office. With President Cole now living in town, the city council sees him as the answer to their prayers, and after enough of their pressure, Cole enters the race for no other reason than to keep his last possession: his vacation home.
Continue reading: Welcome To Mooseport Review