A fractured and unrealised sci-fi drama which results in a dissapointing and unsatisfying action viewing experience.
I saw Hancock listed recently, in a collection of Superhero Spoof movies. Let’s get this straight from the start, this is not a spoof. This is a superhero movie and if you go in expecting a spoof you’ll be disappointed. Yes, it’s a comedic superhero movie, but the comedy is an inherent part of the action and the story, this is a superhero movie with heart, depth and an excellent twist.
I was in fact, totally surprised at how much I enjoyed this, certainly, the most surprising movie experience in quite a while. I was expecting a steady Will Smith comedy vehicle but Hancock is much more than that. Our hero (Hancock) is a drunk, asshole superhero who saves people from crime and causes more damage in the process than the criminals ever would. His reputation stinks, most people hate him and the city has hundreds of warrants out for his arrest, which he ignores. It’s clear who really needs saving in this town, and when Hancock saves the life of a publicity specialist the resulting relationship nearly kills them all.
I won’t tell you anything else about the story because the real enjoyment of this story comes from the twists and to give them away would destroy half the film. Suffice to say the performances are great, I really thought Will gave a great performance, big when it needed to be big and understated when it needed that. Charlize Theron is a little hit and miss, but when she hits the character it’s really great. There’s one really emotional scene, but it’s quietly sad and Charlize pulls a blinder. I loved the humour, the subtle touches and the excellent action sequences. Hancock really is a fully rounded and enjoyable movie.
Liam Neeson isn’t the first person that springs to mind when talking about action movies but he’s a great actor with plenty of on screen presence and I was hopeful that Taken would deliver. The film starts out pretty well, we learn about Neeson (ex-government agent of some kind) and his relationship with his ex-wife and 17 year old daughter. Neeson is clearly paranoid and his ex-wife is maybe less protective of her daughter than she should be, so neither of them are perfect. His daughter is planning a trip to Paris with her slightly older friend, they tell Neeson they’re staying in one place but the reality is they’re following a band on tour. He finds out, but she still goes.
Once in France however, it’s clear her friend has slightly less concern about their safety than maybe she should and within moments they’re both kidnapped. There’s no real spoiler here, the whole premise of the movie is that Neesom’s character has to locate his daughter, everything up to this point has really been about setting your expectations of him as a father and an action hero.
The pace quickens immediately from this point onwards, with Neeson telling his daughter’s captors that he has ‘certain skills’ and that he will find them. You get the impression that these skills will be stealthy, investigative, assassin-like . It turns out he’s just good at killing people with guns and running around. The first big let down of the film is that Neeson isn’t that believable, not because of his acting but because the character isn’t that well written. He’s too blundering, too reliant on luck, too emotional. Yes, he’s trying to save his daughter but he’s a man of steel and iron and if he can’t control his anger at the critical moment then what kind of government agent was he? The second let down is that there’s no twist. None. The movie starts at A, moves through the alphabet and arrives and Z.
All that out of the way – it’s a half decent action thriller. The scenes are well played, there’s a small amount of tension as Neeson gets closer and closer to the men who have his daughter, and there’s a couple of moments where we see what might have been with a better written hero. Maybe Bourne spoiled us all but in his shadow Bryan Mills (Neeson’s character) just looks like a thug.
I would have liked to see more skulduggery, and more involvement from his former team members (they get a small intro at the start). Taken is a simple movie without complexity or concern for detail, it’ll probably entertain you for 93 minutes but you may soon wonder what you just did and where those 93 minutes went.
The advertising for Body of Lies says something like “Packed with breath taking action sequences” which is essentially a lie. This isn’t an action flick and trying to sell it as such does it an injustice. Either the studio were nervous, stupid or perhaps they don’t think much of the cinema going public. Whatever the reason, Body of Lies is actually a dramatic thriller espionage action movie with some action sequences (impressive) and lots of dialog. I really enjoyed DiCaprio and while I disliked Crow’s character immensely it’s probably because of his acting prowess that he made the man so odious with so little screen time.
The story covers a US CIA agent (DiCaprio) based in the Middle East, trying to get closer to a terrorist leader who is currently coordinating attacks on mainland Europe. DiCaprio and his superior (Crow) differ in how they want to deliver results, with DiCaprio clearly more sympathetic to Arabic and Muslim sensibility. They clash several times and as we proceed to the movie’s climax we see how much both of them are prepared to sacrifice for what they believe in.
I found the dialog absorbing and the roles well played. I can’t comment on whether the movie is an accurate portrayal of the conflict going on in the Middle East or America’s involvement in it, maybe Ridley Scott has spent years researching it, maybe it’s just a pastiche or an impression but it certainly raised some interesting ideas. The action sequences were well done, realistic and gritty and the scenes in the final act were suitably traumatic (I won’t spoil it too much for you).
Ultimately however the ending felt too loose, too open perhaps. Maybe because Crow doesn’t seem to suffer any consequences for his actions, maybe for other reasons. In any case it was like the last rocket of your fireworks evening misfiring, it didn’t spoil what came before but it left me feeling like we’d missed out on something important at the end.
If your audience is expecting a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie in which your beefcake hero runs around and shoots a bunch of bad guys, while protecting a mysterious young girl then really, it should be quite hard to screw it up. Make it exciting, give it some funky dialog and some charismatic characters, give them something to deal with together to form some bonds, and reveal the back story as you go illuminated through the lights of tracer rounds and frag grenades.
I admit it’s not easy or we’d all be doing it, but there are some advantages to bringing a sci-fi action movie to the screen in terms of plot development and character depth. Get it anyway half decent and the crowds will be happy.
Which makes it all the harder to excuse Babylon A.D. and to understand what the hell they thought they were doing. Oh it starts out on a firm footing, Diesel still has enough on-screen presence and acerbic charm to pick up the role (essentially Riddick without the mirrored eyes) and he can cook! We get a little back story, we get some evidence he’s bad ass, and we get to meet the other two of the trio as he collects them (in quite an amusing manner) from their little convent. There’s something weird about the girl, and there are some people trying to capture her. Perfect, now we just need a good solid set of action combat / chase sequences and a small twist near the end and we’re golden.
Maybe the girl’s female protector turns out to be a bad guy, maybe Diesel’s character turns out to be a double agent, maybe the whole world turns into tofu, just something little and twisty after all the action to make us look back and go ‘oh yes, I see now’. That’s what a twist should be, not something out of the blue but something which makes you re-evaluate what you saw and assumed. Just to remind you to pay more attention next time. It shouldn’t be obvious before-hand, but it should be totally obvious with hindsight. That’s the point right? To suck us in and then whack us when we’re not looking?
Why then, why in the name of all the Norse gods, does Bablyon A.D. take a 345 degree turn 15 minutes before the end and tell a completely different story about which we had no warning. No hidden messages. Yes, the girl was weird, maybe psychic, maybe telepathic, perhaps just odd. But if you have to tell us what happened before the movie started, with 8 minutes of monologue from a character we’ve only just met, so that you can then justify the last 11 minutes of the movie, you’re doing it wrong.
Come on! Basically, Bablyon A.D. is two movies, everything you see up to the 15 minutes before the end, and then everything after that. We listen to some exposition which explains why the girl is weird, who the bad guy is, what is really going on, and then we get a limp-wristed end sequence. Really, I’ve not been left hanging by a movie as badly as this before and I’ve watched some crud. It’s a true shame because it feels like Bablyon A.D. reached for something and failed and instead of that being recognised and aspirations toned down, they just hacked it together any way they could to deliver the story they’d tried and failed to shoot. I’d rate the first three quarters as a passable and watchable action sci-fi movie and the last 15 minutes or so as pure shite.
A by-the-book action thriller with no twists or turns and a hero who at times stretches his credability.
Don’t let bad reviews fool you, Hancock is a pretty good movie with a quick-turn in the latter half which gives this mildly comic superhero action flick a nice edge.
Much like a surfer who spends a long time waiting for the right wave, only to have it vanish beneath them just as they’re about to rise and finally reach the sky, Rocknrolla never gets a stable footing despite several attempts and misses the crest too often.
A lowly noodle chef dreams of being a mighty Kung Fu champion, turns up during the selection of the Dragon Warrior and ends up joining the Five Kung Fu heroes he has idolised for his entire life. It’s a common enough story (down and out turns good and saves the world) and it needs a strong cast and some solid writing to really give it any life these days. Kung Fu Panda comes close to nailing it but falls short at the final bout. Everything is flawless, the animation, the voice acting, the humour is excellent, the story is interesting enough.
But there’s something missing. Some heart, some soul and a huge act from the second half. Where is the scene with Panda and the Five taking on the enemy together? Where is the scene of them training together and finally coming to accept each other? Where is the team work? Instead we are left with the Five setting out on their own to defeat the enemy and Panda training in their absence, becoming the Dragon Warrior while they are away.
It feels like something was left out. Which is a true shame. I really enjoyed watching it, I laughed, and it was suitably touching, but it was too short, and subsequently too hollow to be a classic.
Burn After Reading is witty, well paced black comedy with some very surprising ‘oh my god’ moments and although the ending feels rushed it doesn’t detract too badly from the superb performances throughout.