Category Archives: Action

Memory (2022) Review

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Memory (2022)

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Alex Lewis
Guy Pearce as Vincent Serra
Monica Bellucci as Davana Sealman
Harold Torres as Hugo Marquez
Taj Atwal as Linda Amistead
Ray Fearon as Gerald Nussbaum
Director: Martin Campbell

When Alex, an expert assassin, refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization, he becomes a target. FBI agents and Mexican intelligence are brought in to investigate the trail of bodies, leading them closer to Alex. With the crime syndicate and FBI in hot pursuit, Alex has the skills to stay ahead, except for one thing: he is struggling with severe memory loss, affecting his every move. Alex must question his every action and whom he can ultimately trust.

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While I generally like Liam Neeson’s action movies, they are very samey and repetitive and there’s only a few I’d call really good. I heard some mixed things about his latest film Memory, but I was willing to check it out, especially with Martin Campbell directing it. Having seen it, I wouldn’t call it good but overall, I liked it.

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Memory is a very generic revenge crime thriller. Essentially its two separate movies in one, following Liam Neeson’s hitman getting revenge, and Guy Pearce and his FBI team investigating a child trafficking ring and tracking down Neeson. The story is average and isn’t that interesting, but it is watchable and it is easy to understand what’s going on. The mystery wasn’t that intriguing, it pretty much tells you (almost spoonfeeds you) exactly what’s going on. It doesn’t help that it is predictable, and you can tell what’s going to happen. There are some interesting aspects which had potential. The title of the film is Memory because Liam Neeson’s character is suffering from memory loss. It does dedicate some scenes to that, and they could’ve done something with it. However, it almost just feels placed in there so he can struggle in convenient moments.

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Liam Neeson has done many of these types of movies before, but he’s generally good in all of them and at least seems committed to the roles, Memory is no exception. This is darker than some of his other characters, leaning into being more an antihero. He does well at appearing convincingly intimidating but still manages to convey vulnerability in some scenes. Guy Pearce is also in a major role and is really good, giving some sincerity to his FBI agent character. Both Neeson and Pearce are probably the reason that I enjoyed the movie despite its major faults. The rest of the cast including Taj Atwal and Ray Stevenson plays their parts well too. The only exception is Monica Bellucci as the closest thing to a main villain in the movie. She’s given so little screentime, doesn’t do much, isn’t interesting, and even the performance is very bored and phoned in.

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Martin Campbell directs this, and unfortunately this is not one of his greater action films like Casino Royale or The Mask of Zorro. Nonetheless it is still competently made. The visuals aren’t that interesting, but are serviceable nonetheless. The action isn’t as frequent as you would like it to be, when it’s on screen it is pretty good, if standard and mostly consisting of typical fighting and gun battles.

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Memory was a better movie than I was expecting given its reception, but it’s not like I don’t understand it. It’s another disappointing movie from Martin Campbell, who has delivered some great action movies in the past, but whose recent work has been fairly underwhelming. Even when you compare it to his weaker movies, this is probably one of his worst yet. Ironically, Memory is a very forgettable movie that’s mostly let down by its script. That being said, the direction is competent, the action is enjoyable, and the performances are mostly solid, particularly with Liam Neeson and Guy Pearce’s committed work. If you generally like Neeson’s other action movies, you’ll probably find stuff to enjoy here.

The Punisher (2004) Review

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The Punisher (2004)

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/Punisher
John Travolta as Howard Saint
Will Patton as Quentin Glass
Rebecca Romijn as Joan
Ben Foster as Spacker Dave
Roy Scheider as Frank Castle Sr.
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

After his wife and family are murdered by a gang of ruthless criminals, special agent Frank Castle takes it upon himself to hunt down and punish the criminals responsible for his loss.

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The Punisher has had many on-screen adaptations, I was only familiar with the Netflix version starring Jon Bernthal, as well as 2008’s Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. There are also two other known adaptations of The Punisher, one in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren, and another in 2004 starring Thomas Jane. I heard mixed things about both, but nonetheless I decided to check out the latter, and I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws.

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The first thing to note about The Punisher is that it was made in the earlier years of comic book movies, and was a Marvel movie before the MCU was a thing. It feels like a movie first, and a comic book movie second. That in itself is something to appreciate especially with the MCU today. If you went into this movie without knowing its comic book source, it would work perfectly fine as an action movie. That being said, one of the big issues is that the tone is all over the place with what its aiming to be, and it is a weird mix overall. A big aspect about The Punisher character is that he’s meant to show the dark side and consequences of being a vigilante, this movie skips that in favour for a revenge fantasy. Not to say that there aren’t attempts at showing depth, the initial tragedy that the protagonist experiences is treated very seriously. However it just doesn’t go deep enough it is clear that it is more focused on the revenge. It is indeed very dark (as were most comic book movies released in the 2000s), but some o the nihilism is played so straight that it become unintentionally funny. At the same time, a lot of the movie feels like its aiming to be throwback to the B-level revenge thrillers of the 70s, the source material seemed to be pulpy, and there’s plenty of moments throughout the film where it goes for that. It also has goofy dialogue and one liners alongside the brutal violence. However, it even suffers as a revenge thriller, especially with how cliched and routine it feels. Another thing holding this movie back is that whatever way you’re reading the movie, the story is a bit dull. The overall length is over 2 hours and it’s a bit too long for this movie. The story and characters aren’t that interesting or given enough depth, so there are moments where you are just waiting for the action to appear again.

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Thomas Jane is the thing most remembered about this movie, as he plays Frank Castle/The Punisher. I still prefer Jon Bernthal’s version of the character, but Jane is good here and one of the highlights of the movie. We see Castle start off fairly light hearted towards the beginning, and then becoming cold and calculating when he becomes the Punisher. That being said, I feel like he doesn’t get much chance to show his Punisher off. The character isn’t that interesting here, and he doesn’t have much personality outside of brooding and seeking revenge. Still, Jane plays his part well. Something that would keep the movie exciting is by having the Punisher go up against an over the top and memorable villain. The main antagonist in this movie is Howard Saint, a mobster who is responsible for the death of Frank Castle’s family, and he is played by John Travolta. However, this character and performance are the most disappointing parts of the whole movie. You’ve seen this type of mobster villain in plenty of other action movies and nothing about this version is remarkable. The idea of Travolta playing him had potential, and had he brought some of his manic energy from his previous on screen villains like in Face/Off or Broken Arrow, it would’ve really made the movie more fun to watch. Weirdly though, Travolta plays things so straight to the point of it being emotionless and dull, and he doesn’t even succeed in being convincingly menacing. There are some other actors who are generally good, including Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn and Roy Scheider, with Will Patton as Travolta’s henchman being the standout.

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This is Jonathan Hensleigh’s first movie, and while his directing can be a bit of a mixed bag, it is a decent debut. On a technical level it is solid, if unremarkable. While the editing can be a bit shaky, on the whole there are some good action scenes. This is definitely an R rated movie, and that works to its advantage. This is a very violent Punisher movie, and they definitely deliver on the brutality. In some ways it feels like the R rated action movies of the 90s, and if that’s what they were going for, they succeeded.

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2004’s The Punisher is far from being one of the best comic book movies or one of the best adaptations of the character. The writing is unremarkable, the story is dull, and the tone is confused. However, I still enjoyed it; I appreciated the different tone compared to the comic book movies of today, the action is entertaining, and Thomas Jane is pretty good as The Punisher. It’s an above average action thriller which is mostly forgettable, but I’m glad I saw it.

Con Air (1997) Review

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Con Air

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe
John Cusack as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin
John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom
Steve Buscemi as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene
Ving Rhames as Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones
Colm Meaney as Agent Duncan Malloy
Mykelti Williamson as Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell
Rachel Ticotin as Guard Sally Bishop
Director: Simon West

Cameron is a wrongly convicted prisoner who is going to be released when his plane is hijacked by other criminals. While they seize control of the plane, he attempts to wrest control and return home.

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When it comes to the 90s and especially for Nicolas Cage, Con Air is one of the quintessential action movies, even if I wouldn’t consider it one of the all time best. I rewatched it after many years after seeing it for the first time, and it was even more enjoyable than I remembered it being. It is absurd, yet thrilling, and constantly entertaining from beginning to end.

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One thing that everyone will say is that Con Air is very over the top and ridiculous, it is almost insane that this movie was made at all. It just runs with whatever ridiculous happens, no matter the absurdity, and it just keeps escalating and escalating. Its very noisy, and nothing about the movie is subtle. It is helped by a light tone and the simplicity of the plot, which is basically Die Hard on a plane. Nicolas Cage is a prisoner going home on a plane full of convicts, and the convicts take over the plane. This movie is always moving, with rarely a dull or boring moment. I also love how confident this movie is, there is an earnestness to the movie, even with the tongue in cheek and self-aware moments, which gives it a real personality. There are even certain choices that are played completely straight, but come across as unintentional comedic, and that adds to the movie if anything. Its really hard to criticise the writing of the movie because any negative you could find in it also serves as a positive (on an entertainment level at least). What I will say without spoilers is that once everything with the plane is done, there is a final action segment to conclude the movie. It is still enjoyable, but does feel a little tact on.

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There is a stacked cast with plenty of recognisable names here, and everyone delivers in their parts. They know what kind of movie they are in and are committed to the film despite the goofiness. Nicolas Cage leads this movie with long hair and a wonky Southern accent. Even though its not one of his all time best action roles, its one of his most memorable. He’s likable, easy to follow, and has some memorable moments and delivers some fun one liners. John Cusack is also good as a US Marshal who helps Cage along the way. The standout is John Malkovich as a menacing and great villain, I really don’t think the character and movie would’ve worked as well without Malkovich. Supporting villains including Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo are solid, and Steve Buscemi is a scene stealer.

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Something that also helps the movie is the direction by Simon West. Its so overblown yet well filmed, stylistically it is the epitome of 90s action cheese. The action is entertaining and intense, the camera movements are great, and everything from the fight scenes to the shootouts are crafted well. The score is wonderfully bombastic, and is operating at the right tone and feel for this movie.

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Con Air is the most Michael Bay movie that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. It has the right amount of absurdity, earnestness, and self-awareness, made even better by Simon West’s solid direction, and an ensemble of enjoyable performances led by Nicolas Cage. It is a lot of fun, and is a great candidate for the ultimate popcorn movie. If you like action movies especially those which are incredibly over the top, I think Con Air is worth checking out.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) Review

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Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator
Nick Stahl as John Connor
Kristanna Loken as the T-X
Claire Danes as Katherine “Kate” Brewster
Director: Jonathan Mostow

A powerful cyborg from a post-apocalyptic future appears in search of a drifter. Soon, he must protect himself and his companion from a deadly robotic threat.

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The first two Terminator movies are widely regarded as action sci-fi classics. However, the following movies in the series has been receiving a rather mixed reception. That being said, I like them all, and that extends to Terminator 3. Made and released over a decade after the excellent Terminator 2, Rise of the Machines is enjoyable despite its many issues.

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The biggest problem of Terminator 3 is how similar it is to Terminator 2, to the point where it almost feels like a copy. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator goes back in time to protect John Connor from a more advanced Terminator, and there are plenty of one liners and action scenes. It doesn’t help that much of it feels like it is on autopilot. The plot is less interesting, the characters aren’t as strong, and there’s not nearly as much emotion or depth to it, despite some of the opportunities presented here. The attempts at comedy are increased, but come across as being more forced, and I think its goofier than it was intending to be; the scene in which the Terminator gets his clothes here is an example of this. While some one liners are memorable, they were more misses than hits. That being said, I was fairly entertained with the movie, helped by a tight pace. It is also elevated by a surprising third act, with the bleak ending being a standout. While I can see why people wouldn’t like it, it is at least admirable. It is a bold move for a franchise movie to end on such a nihilistic note. At the same time, you get the feeling that it could’ve been more impactful had it been handled better.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as another Terminator sent back in time, and is solid as usual even if he’s feeling a bit tired here. One thing working against him is that he just feels like a copy of his Terminator from Terminator 2, only he’s not as good, almost like an empty shell. His characterisation isn’t as strong and doesn’t feel as human. At the same time, there are plenty of human moments where he acts like his Terminator 2 counterpart, despite not having humanising moments like he did with young John Connor. The rest of the cast aren’t as good. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes are fine as John Connor and his future wife Kate, but are forgettable. Terminator 3 is a logical and accurate continuation of where John Connor would go after stopping Judgment Day, but they don’t do much beyond the first act. Danes is also fine with what she is given but is underdeveloped despite playing a major role in the movie. Then there’s the new villain Terminator, this time it’s the T-X as played by Kristanna Loken. While the idea had potential, the execution has much to be desired. It’s a female Terminator and that’s all that’s going for her. She wasn’t menacing, she was hard to take seriously and was a step back after the Terminator villains.

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Jonathan Mostow directs this, overall his work is just okay but unsurprisingly pales in comparison to James Cameron’s work on the previous movies. Much like the writing, a big part of the problem is that it just feels like a copy of Terminator 2, except not as good. It doesn’t have much of a style of its own. Its also feels on autopilot, not helped by the generic score from Marco Beltrami. That being said, the action scenes are quite entertaining. It can be a bit messy and sloppy at times, but at the very least goes all in with the bonkers action. An early chase scene involving a truck in the first act particularly shines. While there is clearly an overreliance on CGI and the effects haven’t aged well, there are still some good practical stunts.

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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a decent enough sequel, Arnold Schwarzenegger is entertaining as usual, the action is fun, and there’s some aspects that are well done. The problem is that its just pretty much just a copy of Terminator 3, only not done as well. The only purpose of the movie seems to be the direction of its ending, and even that could’ve been handled better. Still, it’s okay if you manage expectations going into it.

National Treasure (2004) Review

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National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

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I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

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The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

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The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

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If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

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National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.

The 6th Day (2000) Review

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The 6th Date

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Adam Gibson
Tony Goldwyn as Michael Drucker
Michael Rapaport as Hank Morgan
Michael Rooker as Robert Marshall
Sarah Wynter as Talia Elsworth
Robert Duvall as Dr. Griffin Weir
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

In the distant future, human cloning technology falls into the destructive, corrupt hands of a multinational corporation. But one man refuses to be a pawn in this deadly conspiracy.

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I have been meaning to check out The 6th Day for some time, I knew it as another Arnold Schwarzenegger action sci-fi movie. However from what I heard going into it, its not exactly one of his most beloved movies. It definitely has a lot of problems, but I liked it overall.

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The story of The 6th Day definitely has some holes and issues; it starts off intriguing but becomes less interesting as it progresses. I liked the slightly futuristic setting with the technological advancements, some of those predictions are even accurate to today. It also raises some interesting ethical questions, especially about cloning. However, the movie is not clever enough to do anything interesting with those ideas, like its in completely the wrong movie. As a result, it is all over the place tonally, it has dark and disturbing implications with the future but has plenty of silly moments. However there is a charm to the movie, ,and I think The 6th Day does work better as a silly Schwarzenegger film with sci-fi elements than a serious sci-fi movie about cloning. The movie definitely succeeds when it has fun with its premise, and it definitely has those moments. While the overall plot isn’t memorable, there are some individual sequences which are. It is also a funny movie and has some great one liners.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger leads The 6th Day, and this is definitely not one of his best movies or performances. However, he’s as enjoyable and charismatic as ever, handling the action and the one liners with ease. Robert Duvall has also done much better in other movies, but he’s decent in his screentime here. The villains aren’t anything special but work well enough for this plot, from Tony Goldwyn as the main antagonist, to Michael Rooker as one of his henchmen.

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Roger Spottiswoode directs The 6th Day, and his work here is fine. Some of the CGI is very early 2000s and is dated, but it can be enjoyably silly. There are some entertaining sequences, and I liked the futuristic setting shown in the movie, especially with the technology and weapons. The action isn’t fantastic but between the laser shootouts and car chases, its fun and well shot.

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The 6th Day is not a good movie, despite an intriguing premise and ideas, it really doesn’t utilise them to their fullest. Out of Arnold’s action movies, its not one of his best. That being said, I still had fun with it. The cast are decent, and the action was at least entertaining. It’s definitely no Total Recall, but if you’re a fan of Schwarzenegger, then The 6th Day has enough to make it worth checking out.

Assassins (1995) Review

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Assassins

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] 
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Robert Rath
Antonio Banderas as Miguel Bain
Julianne Moore as Electra
Director: Richard Donner

Professional hitman Robert Rath seeks to retire peacefully. However, he teams up with hacker Electra when Bain, another killer, wants to murder him.

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I knew very limited things about Assassins going into it, just that it starred Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas and it was directed by Richard Donner. Its not that great and I can see why it didn’t get the best of reviews, however I still think its fairly enjoyable.

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Script-wise, Assassins is nothing special. I heard that the Wachowskis (post Bound and pre Matrix) wrote it but then it was completely re-written by Brian Helgeland. The plot starts out pretty simple but adds some more complexity over the course of the movie, however this resulted in the movie being a bit convoluted in parts. It has an unexpectedly serious and sombre tone and I think it could’ve afforded to be a little sillier or over the top. I liked the idea of the cat and mouse game between the two lead assassins played by Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas, however the execution was just okay, and should’ve been much more considering that premise. Its also quite long at 132 minutes, and it probably could’ve afforded to be shorter than that. It doesn’t help that it takes a while for the movie to kick off. By the time Julianne Moore comes into the plot, I think Assassins really starts to pick up. The plot isn’t all that memorable and I wasn’t particularly invested, but I found it enjoyable to watch nonetheless.

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I generally like Sylvester Stallone as an actor, however as the protagonist of Assassins, his work is rather underwhelming. I get that he’s acting solemn because he’s a hitman who is tired of his work and wants to retire, but he seems bored and half asleep most of the time. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad performance, but he’s easily the weakest link of the main trio of actors. Julianne Moore was quite good. She actually gets a chance to be involved in the plot, and isn’t just relegated to the love interest role. However, the main reason to watch this movie is Antonio Banderas, playing the rival assassin that Stallone goes up against. He is clearly having a ball here from beginning to end, and is an absolute joy to watch. He provides the energy that the movie really needed.

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The movie is directed by Richard Donner, its not some of his best work, but it is solid nonetheless. With films like Lethal Weapon movies under his belt already, he more than knows how to helm an action movie, and Assassins is no exception. Its not the mot visually interesting of movies, but its still well shot. The action scenes aren’t special or memorable, yet they are decent and fun to watch, as to be expected.

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Assassins is generally forgettable and held back by the sloppy and generic script, and the overlong runtime, but its fine for what it is. The action is well shot and enjoyable, and some of the performances are decent, with Antonio Banderas stealing the scenes he’s in. Despite its faults, Assassins is an entertaining enough thriller that’s worth checking out.

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

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The Expendables 2

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Chuck Norris as Booker
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid
Scott Adkins as Hector
Yu Nan as Maggie
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain
Bruce Willis as Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench
Director: Simon West

All hell breaks loose when Barney, along with his band of old-school mercenaries, sets out on a path of carnage after one of their comrades gets killed during a simple task assigned by Mr Church.

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I rewatched the first Expendables and while I enjoyed it, it was worse than I remembered it being. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the sequel again because I remember it being much better. That proved to be very much the case, The Expendables 2 is a noticeable and immense improvement over the previous movie, and was fun in itself.

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The plot isn’t the best, its very standard for an action movie and doesn’t really matter that much. However, the straightforward nature of the plot was for the best, and it helps that it’s at least coherent and paced well, with never a dull moment. Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 continues to be a homage to the action movies of the past, and embraces much of its tropes. That being said, the sequel seems to serve better as that. Part of that has to do with the tone, which is way more consistent throughout. Despite many of the ridiculous moments, the first Expendables movie took itself too seriously. It would go from a goofy airplane action scene to a well written and performed but nonetheless out of place emotional monologue from Mickey Rourke. In contrast, The Expendables 2 leans more toward being an over the top blockbuster, and not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dramatic moments, but it works with the rest of the movie much better. Much of the dialogue and humour came across as being very forced in the first movie, this again is improved in the sequel. There are some good one liners and enjoyable references. It does unfortunately has the odd situation where it can overdo it with the meta jokes. There’s particularly an exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris which make 3 meta jokes in the span of 20 seconds, and in those cases they could’ve dialled it done. Otherwise, it was just on the right level for me.

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Much of the cast from the first movie return and are even better here, including Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Everyone here delivers as you’d expect, though the standout might be Dolph Lundgren. One disappointing aspect of the last movie was that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were in just one scene (though it was one of the highlights of that movie). However, they actually play more notable parts in the movie, we even get to see them involved in the action in the third act and it was great to see. The new additions are good too; Liam Hemsworth plays a new member of the Expendables and while he feels out of place, he serves his purpose well. Nan Yu is also a good addition to the cast, playing a notable part and is alongside the Expendables for much of the film. Chuck Norris appears in a few times for a fun cameo, and it really is credit to this movie that they somehow make the tired Chuck Norris jokes actually funny here. Another aspect that was improved here was the villain. Eric Roberts was quite forgettable in the first movie, this time they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the villain, who’s name is literally Vilain. He feels like a worthy antagonist to the main team, and fits perfectly here.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction of the first movie was fine, but was ultimately lacking. The second movie is a noticeable improvement it with Con Air director Simon West, who does a much better job. From the opening action sequence, you can already tell the difference in the handling. The action is much better, its well shot, better edited (especially for the fight scenes), and it reduces the shaky cam. It still has the problem with the bad looking CGI blood that messily splatters everywhere, but it does look a little better than in the first movie.

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I’ve been constantly stating this point throughout this whole review, but The Expendables 2 really does improve on the first movie in just about every way, and is everything that its predecessor should’ve been. The action, characters, plot, humour and more are just more finely tuned to deliver on its promise of being a throwback to the action movies of the 80s and 90s, I was consistently entertaining from beginning to end. If you are fan of those movies, The Expendables 2 is well worth checking out. You don’t even need to watch the first Expendables, just jump straight into this one.

Predator 2 (1990) Review

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Predator 2

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Danny Glover as Lieutenant Mike Harrigan
Gary Busey as Special Agent Peter Keyes
Ruben Blades as Detective Danny Archuleta
María Conchita Alonso as Detective Leona Cantrell
Bill Paxton as Detective Jerry Lambert
Robert Davi as Deputy Chief Phil Heinemann
Director: Stephen Hopkins

Lieutenant Mike Harrigan and his police force try to hunt down a vicious alien hunter killing drug gangs in Los Angeles despite the warnings of a mysterious government agent.

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I’ve been curious about checking out Predator 2 for quite a while. All I knew about it was that it was a sequel to Predator, only it isn’t as good as that first movie and stars Danny Glover instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So I went in fairly blind and I ended up liking it more than I expected to.

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Regardless of if you think it works or not, I think its admirable that Predator 2 is not just a lazy re-tread of the first movie. Instead of taking place in the jungle once again, it instead sets the Predator in the crime filled streets of L.A., I thought that it was refreshingly different when compared to the previous film. In some ways, Predator 2 is just a cop movie with an alien in it, but I thought its fun for that, like its combining completely separate genres. That being said, it can be messy with what it tries to be, and doesn’t quite works as well as the first movie. Plotwise it wasn’t the best, and it can be stop and start with the pacing. There are some other issues, despite the setting change it is in a way very similar to the first movie, and perhaps that works against it. Compared to Aliens where it builds upon the knowledge and events of the first Alien, Predator 2 has a new set of characters, so naturally they have learn about the Predators for the first time, even though the audience knows about it. Whenever the Predator is on screen and when it is facing off against Danny Glover however, it really shines. As such, the third act is particularly great. The movie is very over the top especially with it playing into the many aspects of the action crime movies of the 80s. It is very pulpy and cartoonish with the representations of LA gang wars and definitely falls into being cheesy (even more so than the first movie), but enjoyably so.

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There’s a cast of enjoyable characters here. Danny Glover is on top here in this movie, its like his character was taken straight from one of his cop roles like in Lethal Weapon, cranked up and angry, particularly shining when he goes up against the Predator. There needed to be more from the supporting cast but there are some standouts, including Gary Busey, and a charismatic and fun Bill Paxton.

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Stephen Hopkins’s direction is decent enough, it is well shot and really leans into the gritty city setting. There are some good set pieces, especially one in a subway and the third act. There are some good special effects for 1990, the sound effects are good, and so is the score from Alan Silvestri. It is particularly violent, perhaps even more so than the first movie. The kills by the Predator are gnarly and the movie definitely leans into the absurdity.

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Predator 2 isn’t to Predator what Aliens was to Alien, but I thought it was pretty good for what it was. While the story wasn’t the best, it benefits from being refreshingly different from the original film, and having some solid action sequences and performances. Its an underrated, and if you liked the first Predator movie, I think its worth checking out.

The Transporter (2002) Review

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The Transporter

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Jason Statham as Frank Martin
Shu Qi as Lai Kwai
François Berléand as Inspector Tarconi
Matt Schulze as Darren “Wall Street” Bettencourt
Ric Young as Mr. Kwai
Director: Corey Yuen, Louis Leterrier

Former Special Forces officer, Frank Martin will deliver anything to anyone for the right price, and his no-questions-asked policy puts him in high demand. But when he realizes his latest cargo is alive, it sets in motion a dangerous chain of events. The bound and gagged Lai is being smuggled to France by a shady American businessman, and Frank works to save her as his own illegal activities are uncovered by a French detective.

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2002’s The Transporter is known for being an action movie starring Jason Statham, and was in fact the film that started his career as an action star. It’s not that good, and its not even one of Statham’s best action movies, but its still a lot of fun to watch.

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Plotwise, it is a very basic action plot: protagonist works in crimes and has a set of rules, but something causes him to have a change in heart. The story doesn’t really make sense, nor is it engaging or particularly interesting. Its not well structured and the plot can be choppy. Thankfully, it is shamelessly silly and knowingly over the top, so it is fun to watch. Additionally, the runtime is short at around 90 minutes and the film moves at a relatively quick pace, making this a very easy movie to watch. When it arrives the third act, it goes all out with the action and fight scenes and is very entertaining.

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Jason Statham’s debut action lead role is really good, he’s well cast as Frank Martin. His character is yet another, cold blooded anti hero who has a bit of heart (and is more restrained compared to Statham’s later action characters). It’s a typical archetype for an action movie, but he makes his character engaging enough. He’s confident with the action scenes and the one liners, you can see from this why he would go on to have an action career. The rest of the cast aren’t all that special, but the movie just requires Statham to do his thing.

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The direction from Corey Yuen and Louis Leterrier isn’t great and the movie looks a little dated (it looks firmly in the 2000s), but is decent enough and stylish. The highlight outside of Statham are the well-crafted and exciting action sequences, from the car chases to the fight scenes. There are some quick cuts during the action scenes, but they’re actually done in an effective way.

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The Transporter is an above average action movie made entertaining by the fight and chase scenes and Jason Statham in the lead role. It’s not special but it doesn’t need to be, and it succeeds at what it sets out to be.