Although the plot isn't particularly original, a darkly internalised tone makes this low-key thriller oddly compelling. It may be the usual serial killer nastiness, but it also pays attention to earthier themes like morality and the futility of revenge. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson is able to combine his more recent action-hero persona with his serious acting chops this time. And writer-director Scott Frank infuses the film with moody grit, quietly subverting each cliche of the genre.
The action picks up eight years after Matt (Neeson) stopped drinking and quit the police force, following a shootout that went horribly wrong. It's now 1999, and New York is in the grip of Y2K paranoia. Matt is working as an unlicensed private detective who uses word-of-mouth to find clients. So Matt is intrigued when one of his 12-step friends (Boyd Holbrook) introduces his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), a wealthy drug trafficker whose wife was kidnapped and then murdered even though he paid the ransom. As Matt digs into the case, he realises that the two killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) have a left a string of similar victims in their wake, and that the murders are connected. Meanwhile, Matt takes in homeless teen TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), an observant kid who helps him work piece together the clues. And together they try to figure out where the killers will strike next.
This story unfolds with a remarkably gloomy tone, combining horrific violence with introspective drama. This mixture can feel rather jarring, especially as it wallows in the nastier side of human existence. Every character is tortured in more ways than one, with lost loves, physical afflictions and internal demons. Even the smaller side roles are packed with detail, including Olafur Darri Olafsson's creepy cemetery worker and Sebastian Roche's frazzled Russian mobster. All of this adds texture to the film, a welcome distraction from the grisly central plot, which is never played as a mystery, but rather as an inevitability.
Continue reading: A Walk Among the Tombstones Review
It's only been four years since 2009's X-men Origins: Wolverine, and it's hard to see how this film does anything to correct that film's messy plot, harsh editing and uninteresting action. This one has a much more interesting Japanese setting and some great characters, but its focus on action over depth leaves it feeling gratuitous and empty. We may be entertained by the whizzy chaos of it all, but we never feel much suspense.
It begins in Alaska, where Logan (Jackman) is still licking his wounds after the death of his lover Jean Grey (Janssen), who appears regularly to him in sexy, soft-focus dreams. Then a young woman (Fukushima) turns up, insisting that he return to Japan to see Yashida (Yamanouchi), whose life Logan saved in the A-bombing of Nagasaki. But in Tokyo, Logan finds that the near-dead Yashida wants to relieve him of his healing immortality with the help of a sinister blonde doctor named Viper (Khodchenkova). Meanwhile, Yashida's son Shingen (Sanada) is miffed that his daughter Mariko (Okamoto) is the heir to his father's fortune. And there are armies of tattooed goons and arrow-shooting ninjas chasing Logan wherever he goes.
The film has a brisk pace, barely pausing to regain its breath before plunging into another massive action set-piece. But none of these sequences stands up to even the slightest scrutiny: laws of logic and physics are abandoned as the hugely muscled Logan battles everything in sight. Even after Viper steals his powers, he still has those retractable adamantium claws, which come in handy when you're fighting tenacious thugs on top of a speeding bullet train.
Continue reading: The Wolverine Review
When they get married, reporters John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his new bride Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) picture themselves setting the Fourth Estate on fire. Eventually, they end up in South Florida where she handles hot button political and social stories. He, on the other hand, is relegated to writing about building fires and lame local oddities. When his sourpuss editor (Alan Arkin) offers him a column, John is unsure what to do. Taking inspiration from the new dog named Marley he just adopted, our scribe is soon scribbling stories about how this cute-as-a-button Labrador retriever is evil incarnate. Labeled "the world's worst dog," Marley lives up to the title. Even as the Grogans grow older and raise a family, they still don't know what to do with their destructive hound from Hell.
Continue reading: Marley & Me Review
Chris's condition isn't as neatly symbolic as Guy Pearce's inability to make new memories in Memento. Moments of clarity brush up against considerable fuzziness; Chris can remember people and places while forgetting how to heat up pasta sauce. Gordon-Levitt specializes in plain-sight, makeup-free transformations, and here he nails the wounded body language and muted frustration of a fallen jock idol, creating someone far removed from the equally vivid young people he played in Brick and Mysterious Skin.
Continue reading: The Lookout Review
Samuel L. Jackson (Unbreakable, Shaft) teams up with Lemmons again (he played the philandering husband in Eve's Bayou) to star as the disturbed and homeless Romulus. Thankfully, no easy explanation is ever uttered as to the nature of his psychosis. He lives partially obsessed with a fantasy world in which exotic dancers inspire his hands on the piano, and his ultimate nemesis resides in the Chrysler building.
Continue reading: The Caveman's Valentine Review
The story goes: Travolta is Chili Palmer, a small time Miami hood, a "shylock" whose job is essentially coercing money out of people. His boss sends Chili on a chase for some questionably-raised funds; in Vegas, another contact sends him to L.A. to track down an entirely unrelated debtor, Harry Zimm (Hackman). And there are a few drug dealers who have their payoff stuck in a locker at LAX.
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The contrived setup gives us Nic as one Silvia Broome, a long-time resident of Africa who now makes a living as an interpreter at the UN. The headlines have a hated president from her homeland by the name of Zuwanie who's accused of genocide coming to give a speech to the General Assembly; most observers assume that the speech will save him from being tried for crimes against humanity as he pledges democratic reforms, and so his enemies are -- possibly -- planning to murder him at the podium. Or at least that's what Silvia says, as she overhears a potential plot late one night in her talkin' booth when she returns to the UN to get her "flutes and stuff."
Continue reading: The Interpreter Review
This is surprising because this remake is considerably faithful to the plot of its predecessor. The story tells the plight of an eccentric group of underachieving oilrig workers who become stranded in Mongolia's Gobi Desert (the Sahara in the original) after their cargo plane crashes during a fierce sandstorm. There's very little water, and only a few cans of peaches to sustain their existence under the scorching desert summer sun. Despite their circumstances, the group decides to take their chances and, gulp, build a new plane in a desperate attempt to save themselves.
Continue reading: Flight of the Phoenix (2004) Review
Although I am already going senile at a very young age and cannot trust much of any memories, I do remember thinking that Little Man Tate was a good film. I am glad to see that times have not changed that much.
Continue reading: Little Man Tate Review
Following a number of false starts that establish the film's unbalanced mood, The Ring rehashes an urban legend about a videotape. Very few people know its contents, though it's believed that the images found on the tape recap one person's nightmare. Initially I thought that tape was Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, but I was wrong. Once you watch the video, the phone rings and a child's voice on the other end of the line whispers, "Seven days." You now have one week to live.
Continue reading: The Ring Review
The premise is a mind-bending puzzle on the scale of Memento, courtesy of sci-fi legend Steven Spielberg and his first collaboration with a stellar Tom Cruise. It's also Spielberg's best work since 1993's Schindler's List and flirts with threatening Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange as the best paradoxical utopic/dystopic view of the future.
Continue reading: Minority Report Review