Little more than a paint-by-numbers action thriller, it's anyone's guess why the filmmakers have bothered to make a connection with the 1980s TV series of the same name. Because this film bears almost no resemblance to it. Instead, this is a reunion of Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua, who last collaborated on the Oscar-winning Training Day. And since it's packed with brutal violence and questionable morality, that's clearly where this movie's roots truly lie.
Washington stars as Robert, a meek shelf-stacker at a DIY warehouse store in Boston. He can't sleep at night, so he heads to the local diner to read classic novels. That's where he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teen hooker who is having problems with her psychotic Russian pimp (David Meunier). Ever so quietly, and clearly relying on some external source of income, Robert goes about helping Teri secure a free future. But when he offers to settle her debts, the pimp and his thugs just laugh at him. So Robert mercilessly kills them all, drawing on his secret past as a black-ops agent. The problem is that this puts Robert at odds with the top Russian boss Teddy (Marton Csokas), who heads to Boston to get even.
In standard action movie tradition, Robert works his way right through the entire Russian mob, along the way cleaning up Boston's corrupt police force before the requisite final confrontation. His only distraction is a brief visit to his old CIA boss (Melissa Leo) and her husband (Bill Pullman) for a bit of moral support and added starry cameo value. Yes, there isn't much about this movie that doesn't feel concocted for the box office, which means that the story is both achingly predictable and littered with gaping plot-holes. And with Washington in the focal role, everyone else fades into the woodwork. Moretz is excellent but badly underused, while Csokas is never given much to do with his one-note villain.
Continue reading: The Equalizer Review
There's nothing very original in this spy thriller, but director Branagh gives the film a weighty sense of importance that at least makes it feel important. He can't make up for the flimsy plot or cliched characters, but he can coax shaded performances from the cast to grab our interest. And while the action is never as coherent as a Bourne movie, it at least has a sense of gravitas about it.
For yet another reboot of the Tom Clancy franchise, we go back earlier to follow Jack Ryan (Pine) as he is inspired by the 9/11 attacks to leave his financial studies and join the Marines. Shot down over Afghanistan, he undergoes a gruelling recovery and is recruited by CIA operative Harper (Costner) to work undercover on Wall Street, monitoring terrorist fund movements. A decade later his girlfriend Catherine (Knightley) has no idea what his real job is, so when she surprises him on a business trip to Moscow she ends up in the middle of an operation to investigate shady Russian businessman Cherevin (Branagh), who's behind some sort of imminent global attack.
The film's brisk pace focusses on Jack's motivations all the way through, so we understand his earnest desire to serve his country. Although we can't quite figure out how he developed all these he-man skills working behind a desk in a bank. Not only is he adept at firearms and hand-to-hand combat, but he can ride a motorcycle like a stuntman! Fortunately, Pine's everyman persona makes him easy to identify with and bodes well for future franchise instalments. Opposite him, Costner is marvellously lean and cool, Branagh has terrific lip-less menace and Knightley does her best in the standard underdeveloped female role.
Continue reading: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review
The latest movie adventure from Tom Clancy's most famous character stars Chris Pine, Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit will look to once again draw audiences in to see Tom Clancy's most famous literary creation take on the terrorist world for the sake of American freedom. The fifth Jack Ryan film to date, the cast and crew of the spy title gathered at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for the film's premiere on Wednesday, 15 January, scrubbing up nicely for the glitzy event.
Director Kenneth Branagh, screenwriter Hossein Amini and hands on producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura have brought Ryan wilfully into the modern age with Shadow Recruit and as you could probably tell from the casting of Chris Pine as the titular Ryan, the film incorporates a younger cast for a franchise enabling launchpad of a movie. Pine rolled up to the premiere of the film looking sharp in a black, tie-less suit and sporting a cheeky bit of stubble, strolling down the red carpet to pose for photos with fans and answer some questions. Before the premiere, the actor and some of his film associates were on hand to discuss the film and its possible direction at a Paramount press conference (via Cinema Blend).
After 27 years as a political prisoner, Nelson Mandela (Freeman) was released in February 1990 and four years later became South Africa's first democratically elected president. Caught between the black majority's yearning for revenge and the white minority's fear of violence, he tenaciously plots a course of reconciliation. His focus becomes the Springbok rugby team, a loathed symbol of white rule. Working with team captain Francois Pienaar (Damon) as the 1995 Rugby World Cup approaches, he knows that getting the whole country behind them will unite people more effectively than political willpower.
Continue reading: Invictus Review
The story of the devil's son born to the American politician begins with a moment that only reveals its ridiculousness in retrospect: when Ambassador to Italy Robert Thorn's (Gregory Peck) first-born dies moments after birth, he is offered, and accepts, an abandoned child as replacement. He does this so that his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) is spared the torment of the death. I know politics is pragmatic, but really. With any moral quibbles twitched away by a few hard long stares, the Thorns take up shop in England when Robert receives a promotion. The years pass in dreary montage and Damian (a creepily cute Harvey Stephens) grows to age five in blissful British tranquility. Naturally, when his nanny (Holly Palance) hangs herself on his sixth birthday, announcing "It's all for you Damian," things change.
Continue reading: The Omen (1976) Review
At least there's a handsome mental patient who's allowed to work in the grounds near the Raphael's house, giving Stella reason to get up in the morning. For those not as terminally depressed as Stella, it would seem a negative that Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas) had been put in the asylum for butchering his wife; but hey, a girl's got to keep busy. Director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) and screenwriter Patrick Marber (Closer) don't waste much of the audience's time before bringing Edgar and Stella together in a brutal coupling in a half-ruined greenhouse that shows, in one simple and uninterrupted shot, more heated passion than a half-dozen other films' frantic editing and sensuous lighting could manage. The heated connection between the two is so believable that all the events which follow from their affair - including, but not limited to, Edgar's escape - and the depths of darkness into which nearly all the characters are plunged, seem nothing less than utterly inevitable.
Continue reading: Asylum Review
Turns out it doesn't matter much. Ford is of course a talented action/adventure hero, maybe the best ever. It's too bad that this Jack Ryan adventure has less epic-ness than Red October; it's written small, with Ryan caught up in an IRA attack on British bigwigs. After capping off a few of them in an impromptu streetfight, Ryan finds his family hunted down in America. Eventually -- of course -- he has to save them (using his litany of superspy tricks and tactics).
Continue reading: Patriot Games Review
Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk, the carefree leader of an exploration team working to recover lost artifacts from the ocean floor off the coast of Western Africa. Dirk is infatuated with the story of a captain from an ironclad American Civil War battleship who owned the last known U.S. gold dollar. As luck would have it, this ship just so happened to journey from Virginia to the nearby nation of Mali after the war. With the permission of his boss Admiral James Sandecker (William H. Macy), Dirk and his team, including his wiseass sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), are given three days to search the Niger River for the ship and the lost gold coin.
Continue reading: Sahara Review
I won't try to explain the metamorphosis of Ryan because it's never mentioned in the movie (and no, it's not a prequel; the film takes place in the present). Central to the plot is the hunt for an old nuclear bomb lost by the Israelis in 1973 and recovered, sold, and rebuilt by various arms dealers, terrorists, and neo-Nazi groups decades later. Their idea is to blow up the bomb in the U.S., blame it on the Russians, ignite a massive nuclear response from both sides, and -- in the greatest stretch of imagination ever to strike a Hitler enthusiast -- somehow survive WWIII and seize control of the world in the aftermath.
Continue reading: The Sum Of All Fears Review
Too bad that with plenty of raw material (notably Willem Dafoe as an American mercenary working in Columbia), Danger comes up awfully short. For starters, what is our CIA hero doing poking around in the Colubian drug trade? Sure, he's rooting out a huge conspiracy that goes all the way up the U.S. political ranks, but must we be subjected to endless Latino stereotypes en route to that? Clancy is always at his best when he's dealing with terrorists or Russians. Here we have a plot (nearly 2 1/2 hours in length) that trots out the usual exploding drug factories and endless cartel assassinations. Ryan's escape from a troublesome mission is infamous for the bad guys' repeated inability to hit a near-motionless target.
Continue reading: Clear And Present Danger Review
And to open August, enter Bless the Child, possibly the worst movie I've seen this year. Well, after Mission to Mars.
Continue reading: Bless The Child Review
Baldwin is perfect, but his sparring partner, Sean Connery, is even better. As a Russian sub captain defecting to the U.S. -- and bringing his titular, silent sub with him -- Connery turns in yet another memorable performance, full of ballsy gusto and cocksureness. Supporting players run the gamut from Sam Neill to James Earl Jones (the only real fixture in the Jack Ryan cycle) to Tim Curry.
Continue reading: The Hunt For Red October Review
Continue reading: The Saint Review