Category Archives: Comedy

Amelie (2001) Review

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Amelie

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains sexual references
Cast:
Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain
Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
Rufus as Raphaël Poulain
Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel
Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulain
Clotilde Mollet as Gina
Claire Maurier as Suzanne
Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
Dominique Pinon as Joseph
Artus de Penguern as Hipolito
Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
Maurice Bénichou as Dominique Bretodeau
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

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I had seen Amelie appear on many “Best movies ever” lists, and for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten around to watching it beforehand. All I really knew about it was that it was French and quirky, but that’s about it. Having finally seen it I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, and I now know why it is considered a classic.

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Something to note about this movie is that the plot is pretty slight. The story of Amelie follows its lead character who makes a surprising discovery in her apartment one day, and she uses that to complete a good deed. It pays off well and so she dedicates herself to helping others find joy and happiness in their own lives in the most unexpected ways, while struggling with the isolation of her own life. That’s it when it comes to the plot though. The screenplay is marvellous, and everything is well put together, from how it opens the story, introduces all its characters (especially Amelie), paces the narrative, and keeps everything glued together. It is a very peculiar story especially in relation to Amelie’s life, and it is all presented with an irresistible charm, and with such wonder. The film with all of its eccentricities was simply delightful, lovely and surprisingly humorous, and all of it really adds a lot to the film’s personality. At its core, Amelie is a celebration of life and a story about embracing the little things in life, and it’s done in a sweet and endearing, yet very intelligent way. Throughout its runtime, it takes some time to ponder on little moments that might initially seem irrelevant to the narrative at hand, yet without these little moments, the film just wouldn’t be the same. They add to the movie in their own ways. The movie is around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, but I was into everything from beginning to end despite the less plot driven approach.

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Coming to the characters, there are many memorable characters in this movie, even the minor characters are memorable, and they are all performed well by the cast. With that said, the biggest stand out of course is Audrey Tautou in the lead role of Amelie Poulain. Amelie is such a wonderful and easily likable character, and Audrey beautifully captures her innocent, naïve and shy nature. It’s actually impossible to imagine anyone else playing this role. As great as the rest of the movie already is, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Amelie wasn’t as perfectly performed and portrayed as she was here.

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The film is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and his work here is fantastic. What’s immediately noticeable when starting the movie is that the film’s visuals are notably gorgeous in pretty much every single shot, with every frame is bursting with unique life. The cinematography really is stunning, especially when it comes to the use of the magnificent colour palette used. The colours often correlating between the characters and the themes, and the colour gradients are so spectacular that they could rival even the most vivid Wes Anderson movies. There is always at least a hint of stunning shade of green, red or orange in just about every shot, and the colours pop like crazy. The colours, lighting and production design all contributed to create this fantasy and dream like feeling and aesthetic. The cinematography and editing are unorthodox in a smart way, it makes the film more eccentric, and the film becomes even more vibrant because of it. Some of the editing and CGI can be a little dated in an early 2000s way, but even that adds some level of charm to it. Also worth high praise is Yann Tiersen’s mesmerising score which works and elevates the whole ambience of the narrative seamlessly.

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Amelie is a quirky, heartfelt and entertaining coming of age movie. It is delightful from beginning to end, directed and shot vibrantly and with such energy, and has a perfect lead performance from Audrey Tautou. It’s really no surprise how it became widely loved amongst mainstream audiences. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Chungking Express (1994) Review

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Chungking Express

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Brigitte Lin as woman in blonde wig
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Cop 663
Faye Wong as Faye
Takeshi Kaneshiro as He Qiwu
Director: Wong Kar-wai

Every day, Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) buys a can of pineapple with an expiration date of May 1, symbolizing the day he’ll get over his lost love. He’s also got his eye on a mysterious woman in a blond wig (Brigitte Lin), oblivious of the fact she’s a drug dealer. Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is distraught with heartbreak over a breakup. But when his ex drops a spare set of his keys at a local cafe, a waitress (Faye Wong) lets herself into his apartment and spruces up his life.

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I watched Fallen Angels after hearing so much about it and I loved it, so I was interested in watching more movies from director Wong Kar-wai. Like with Fallen Angels, I also heard a lot about Chungking Express, there have been particularly a lot of comparisons between the two movies. I went in fairly blind aside from knowing that it was another WKW romance film set in Hong Kong, and it was also great.

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From everything from the story, to the characters, the settings, and the themes, Chungking Express is a beautiful film. Like with Fallen Angels, it is an unconventional romance story, and is what some would call a ‘vibe movie’. It’s fairly plotless and mostly just follows the lead characters of the movie. The movie works best when you allow yourself to go with the flow, and while there’s a number of vibe movies I just can’t get into as much as other people, I was really into this movie. The script is incredibly written, with some particularly great dialogue.  Also like with Fallen Angels, Chungking Express is made up of two stories each of which are different and disconnected, yet parallel stories of people who want to connect with others. The first of these stories is about a man trying to forget his ex-girlfriend, the second is about a cop after going through a breakup. Both of these are interesting, and these characters felt like real people that you can relate to. One way it does differ from Fallen Angels is that Chungking Express is a considerably lighter movie, in fact it was more light-hearted than I imagined it would be. Something clear from both movies alone though is that Wong Kar-wai really knows how to capture love. It’s delightful and charming without falling into cliches and conventions, and is just really honest in depicting the ups and downs of love. It’s equal parts melancholic and happy, and I loved the dreamy atmosphere throughout the film.

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The movie is made even better with the poignant and memorable characters, and the wonderful performances for them. Brigitte Line, Tony Leung, Faye Wong and Takeshi Kaneshiro are the main actors in the movies, and each of them are excellent in their respective roles.

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Wong Kar-wai is a fantastic filmmaker just looking at Chungking Express and Fallen Angels alone. His directing style is so messy, yet so inventive and creative. The cinematography is beautiful and the whole movie is a visual feast. Much of the movie is shot in a handheld way and it really fitted the movie. WKW also really portrays the setting of the movie greatly, it’s incredibly well lit and vibrant, every frame dripping with warmth. The use of music was also great, from the score to the memorable soundtrack. California Dreamin is particularly a song that is used so many times in this one movie, it should get annoying but it actually works for the story (although it will be stuck in your head for a while afterwards).

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Chungking Express is another heartfelt romance movie from Wong Kar-wai. The cast are amazing in their parts, both main stories were engaging, and the direction and handling made it a visual delight and a dream-like experience that you can get caught up in. I can’t tell for sure if I like this or Fallen Angels more, but whatever the case, if you haven’t seen them, check them out.

Fallen Angels (1995) Review

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Fallen Angels

Time:  96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Leon Lai as Wong Chi-ming/Killer
Michelle Reis as Killer’s agent
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Ho Chi-mo/He Zhiwu
Charlie Yeung as Charlie/Cherry
Karen Mok as Punkie/Blondie/Baby
Director: Wong Kar-wai

An assassin, his boss, an entrepreneur and two women cross paths in Hong Kong as their professional and love lives collide and influence each other, mostly without their knowledge.

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I had heard of Fallen Angels, I was seeing images from the movie floating around online, and kept hearing that it’s a really good movie. I really didn’t know much about it going in, I just knew that it was a crime romance movie, it was set in Hong Kong, and the director also made plenty of other movies that focus on relationships. So I went in fairly blind and I was quite surprised by what I saw, it really did live up to all the love.

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Fallen Angels has a unique narrative structure, with the two stories in the forefront being loosely connected in some way. The plot is also bit loose, it is definitely more character centric, but that works strongly and thankfully the characters themselves are interesting and fleshed out. They have their own struggles, ambitions and ways to live. They are lonely, relatable and you get invested in their stories. Along with the movie following these characters, the movie really contemplates and meditates on loneliness, relationships, love and the search for partnership through these stories. The setting these stories exist in have this seedy and dark vibe, and the stories are fully of despair, hopeless romanticism and emotion. From beginning to end, the movie has this constant feeling of melancholy. At the same time, the movie can be also eccentric and surprisingly funny. I found myself being quite engaged with the characters and their stories, and seeing where they would go next.

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The acting is another strong point in the movie, the cast are all great, especially Leon Lai, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Michelle Reis. Each actor gives such a strong and powerful performance, and each character is so quirky and memorable, the way they each interact and the world they live in is just so human yet so surreal. They really portray their characters perfectly.

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The direction from Wong Kar-wai is great, this is the first of his movies I’ve seen but I love his style even from this one movie alone. What’s immediately noticeable is the visual style, which is unique and nothing like any other movie I’ve seen. The movie is really atmospheric, being dream-like and detached, while having moments of tension and brutal violence. The cinematography from Christopher Doyle is unique; this movie is bursting with colour, and the use of neon and artificial lights and the setting of scenes at night gives the movie a gritty, harsh, dirty, and noir-esque feeling. Additionally, there’s a lot of kinetic and energetic large sweeping motions through, corridors, stairways, tunnels and more to deliver a dizzying experience (in a good way). The handheld shakiness brings a really exciting element to the film, especially during the scenes involving action. There isn’t a whole lot of action, but those scenes are filmed excellently. The stylish editing with seamless cuts really suits the overall vibe of the rest of the movie. I also loved the soundtrack, and the music choices were great, often having this soft jazzy vibe to it and it only added to the atmosphere.

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Fallen Angels is a visually gorgeous and energetic experience of a movie. The stylised direction is outstanding, and the storylines are engaging, with some interesting and memorable characters. It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. I do want to come back to this movie sometime, even just to experience the atmosphere and general vibe of the movie again.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Review

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Frank Grillo as Bobby O’Neill
Antonio Banderas as Aristotle Papadopoulos
Morgan Freeman as Michael Bryce Sr.
Director: Patrick Hughes

The world’s most lethal odd couple — bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) — are back for another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife (Salma Hayek). Soon, all three are in over their heads when a madman’s (Antonio Banderas) sinister plot threatens to leave Europe in total chaos.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a relatively okay action comedy which I only checked out when its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, was coming soon. Going into the sequel I wasn’t expecting a different movie, just more of the same. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson would be fun to watch, there would be some mixed action, and a generic plot. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard was that, but just a little bit sillier, for better and for worse.

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I remember one of the main issues of the first movie was that it didn’t seem to know what kind of tone it was aiming for. It was either too serious and dark, or it was too silly and goofy, and it could’ve helped by leaning towards one or the other. So one thing that the sequel does well is that it sticks to one side, that being the silly side. It’s on a larger scale, with a rich Bond-esque villain with a plan for large scale destruction using some machine. That aside, for the most part it does seem to be going through the same motions as the first movie, more of the same but even messier. One disadvantage of this decision to go in this direction however is that the plot is just so over the top silly. As soon as I picked up on the what it was going for, I stopped paying attention to the plot at all. The plot of the first movie wasn’t that good, but having it be a simple “get the hitman to the court alive” plot worked well enough. With Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it really just falls apart if you even think about it, and it is definitely less well constructed. The dumb plot is hard to ignore, packed with every dumb trope, including a weapon to blow up stuff on a large scale, flashbacks explaining characters’ backstories, you name it. Even the plot is surprisingly convoluted and barely comprehensible looking back at it, all the while still feeling like a plot is barely there. It’s clear that it’s the jokes that are the real focus. The characters are even more cartoonish too, it feels like literally every character is angry and screaming at each other at times, it really is such a loud movie. So while I’m not really the type of person to say to turn your brain off when watching a movie, I’d say try to not think too hard about what’s happening while watching. With that being said, I think the movie is deliberately parodying itself, and looking at the movie from that perspective does help. There is particularly a backstory for Ryan Reynolds which is so ridiculous that it’s actually quite funny, and I’m assuming that this was intentional. The humour is about the same level, mildly funny, however probably even more over the top and juvenile. Not all the jokes work out, but on the whole I was satisfied with the humour here. One of the best moments is actually the final moment of the movie, so if you’re two thirds into the movie and aren’t finding it funny, it’s worth sticking to the end at least.

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As usual the leading pair of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson return, and while not everyone likes their on screen chemistry, I do enjoy it and think it works. I will say that it does feel a little contrived that their characters are bickering so much in this movie, considering that in that both of them grew to like each other over the course of the first movie. However this time it’s not a leading pair, but rather a trio. Salma Hayek returns from the previous movie as Jackson’s wife, this time being upgraded to a co-leading role, and she definitely stands out among the movie. Her wackiness can get on the nerves at times but in all fairness, out of all of the cast she has the most energy and gives the most to the movie. There is a pretty strong chemistry between the three actors and once again this is the highlight of the movie. Antonio Banderas is the film’s villain, and he is committed to being intense, however a bit too serious in a movie this cartoonish. However character-wise, he does seem to work better in this movie as a D-level Bond villain compared to Gary Oldman’s dictator villain in the first movie.

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Patrick Hughes returns to direct this one, and the direction is at about the same level as the first movie. The action is mostly competent and gory, if too heavily edited and chaotic. It does go for more over the top comedy action, physics basically have no meaning in this movie. It is departing from some of the more grounded and serious action from the first movie, which even had some surprising tension. I remember that the first movie lingered on the grimness of some of the violence, which initially seemed out of place in a movie with that much comedy, however I think I still prefer the action of the first Hitman’s Bodyguard movie more. The CGI is quite bad, especially when it comes to the explosions. Still, I had some fun with the action in this movie.

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The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is another mixed bag really, better and worse than the first movie. It is more self-aware and silly, but sort of at the expense as itself. The chemistry between Reynolds, Jackson and Hayek was fun, and some of the action was enjoyable but that’s it. The ending of this indicates seems like there’s going to be a third movie, and I’m not really sure what they can really do with it. If you disliked the first movie, I don’t really see a situation where you’ll like the sequel. However, if you enjoyed the first movie and are interested in a sequel on the same level, albeit much sillier, then maybe check it out.

Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.

The Suicide Squad (2021) Review

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The Suicide Squad

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Idris Elba as Robert DuBois/Bloodsport
John Cena as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker
Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag
Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Nanaue/King Shark
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
Jai Courtney as George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang
Peter Capaldi as Gaius Grieves/The Thinker
David Dastmalchian as Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man
Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2
Director: James Gunn

The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others — to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave.

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I enjoyed the first Suicide Squad when it came out, however looking back on it, it was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. The follow up Suicide Squad film has been in development, eventually it was James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, who ended up helming the project. Honestly I wasn’t that excited for the movie, first of all while I enjoy the GOTG movies, I’m not a massive fan of Gunn and his style. Second of all, the trailers weren’t that good, and didn’t do a great job at getting me interested in watching it. Nonetheless, I still decided to check it out. The trailers really didn’t do The Suicide Squad justice, it was better than expected. I still have some issues with it, but on the whole, I enjoyed it.

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First and foremost, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the first Suicide Squad to get into this new Suicide Squad. While it works as a sequel, it is more of a reboot. I will say that as a movie about the Suicide Squad, Gunn’s version does succeed more than the Suicide Squad movie from 2016 (speaking as someone who doesn’t generally read comic books). In these Suicide Squad comic books, there’s usually a large cast of characters, and by the end most of them are dead. Whereas the first Suicide Squad really only had two members of the Squad being killed off throughout the entirety of the movie, The Suicide Squad has a larger amount of people dying. The tagline “Don’t get too attached” is certainly apt. Gunn certainly delivered a lot of deaths, almost to the point of going overboard, but more on that later. The plot like the 2016 movie is pretty straightforward. I do think that it gets a little weirdly complicated at points, with the time jumps, perspective changes, and the like. I was able to follow it fine enough, it was just a bit jarring how it jumps from place to place at points. The movie even surprisingly has too much going on at times. The plot is familiar to a lot of other comic book movies and doesn’t break new ground, but I don’t think it really needed to. The first act starts off pretty well, as it introduces the main characters. The second act is where plotwise I have most of my criticisms, it slows down quite a bit. The movie is long at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, while I don’t have a problem with longer comic book movies, The Suicide Squad is one where occasionally you feel the length, and you especially feel it in the middle section. There’s also a section involving Harley which I really didn’t like for the most part, even though it does pay off by the end of it. The third act actually does a lot at making this movie work as well as it does. It is very reminiscent of other comic book movie climaxes with large scale threats that the main characters have to deal with, but of those examples, The Suicide Squad is among the best executions of them. There’s also some surprisingly emotional and impactful moments involving the characters. I would say that it’s worth watching the movie for the climax alone. It is worth noting that there are two credits scenes worth staying around for, the second of which is especially worth watching.

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One of my main two predictions going into the movie was that the humour would be my least favourite aspect, and that turned out to be true. It is strange because although I don’t find the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to be hilarious, they are funny, and are certainly funnier than The Suicide Squad. For every witty line and joke that’s actually funny, there’s a back and forth lines about “an island of dicks”, or a 69 joke. Somehow the R rating actually made the jokes less funny, and most of the time they attempted humour, at best it doesn’t leave much of an impact, at worst it’s annoying. However, if you watched that first red band trailer and found the jokes in that to be funny, you’ll probably have a good time with The Suicide Squad. Effectiveness of the humour aside, another issue with it is that sometimes it undercuts dramatic or emotional moments, something that also appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The movie gets surprisingly dark at times, whether it be with characters, or the deaths that occur. With that said, there is a general feeling of Gunn trying hard to be edgy. This was a feeling I had ever since the trailers proudly announced that The Suicide Squad was “from the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn”, and that feeling was in the movie itself. I don’t have a problem with the violence, gore, etc. However when it feels like it’s being done to get a reaction out of the audience, it does get annoying, and unfortunately The Suicide Squad slips into that at points. Some of it is the violence, which might be surprising and shocking in the first act, but by the halfway point it loses its impact. Some of it was the deaths, specifically who is chosen to die. I mentioned earlier that I thought the movie had killed off too many of its named characters. There were two deaths that I downright hated in this movie. The first was in the first half of the film, it was partly because of how quickly it was executed, and it seemed rather unnecessary outside of it being done for shock value. The second was in the second half of the movie, and it was mostly the nature of the death, how it was done without having any weight to it, and feeling like a joke despite the death being for a major character that we are meant to care about (and do care about).

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Some of the highlights of the movie were the cast and characters for me, and they shared great chemistry between each other. There were two standouts for me. One is Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba, who is essentially the main character. Immediately there have been a lot of comparisons between him and Will Smith’s Deadshot from the first Suicide Squad. However, Bloodsport is his own character and he’s a great character, from his action scenes, to Elba’s performance. The other standout is Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melachior, who is essentially the heart of the movie. One of the new main characters is John Cena as Peacemaker, a character I was very curious about given that even before the movie was released, it was announced that he would be getting his own spin off tv series. I haven’t seen Cena in a lot of movies but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him, he handled the humour, the action scenes, and even the emotional and dramatic moments really well. I’m not sure that he’s interesting enough to lead his own spin off but I am curious to see how it plays out. Another new main character is David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, and it really is a credit to the movie that they can make us like a character as ridiculous in concept as him. Another of the main characters of the Squad is King Shark (who’s basically just like a giant humanoid shark), and the second of my main two predictions was that I would really dislike him, mostly because he looked like he would be treated as a mix between Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and any other ‘funny animal character’. However I was wrong, he’s not one of the best characters in the movie by any means, but I didn’t mind him and I surprisingly liked him. Joel Kinnaman returns as Rick Flag and although he basically has the same role as in the first movie, I do like him more in this movie.

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Another major returning Suicide Squad character is that of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of the biggest standouts in the first Suicide Squad, who had her own spin off with Birds of Prey last year. I do like Harley in this movie, although there were some decisions involving her I wasn’t such a fan of. There is a segment with Harley in the second act which I particularly take issue with. With that said, it does lead to one of the standout action sequences in the movie. In fact I really liked the action that she was involved with. She is more of a supporting player compared to her past appearances, but I didn’t necessarily mind that, as Suicide Squad in concept is more of an ensemble piece, and she does play off other characters quite well. Another returning Suicide Squad character is Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis. Waller serves as the same purpose in the first movie as the person making the Squad take on this mission, and Davis as usually delivers her part at the top of her game as always. The character is made way more over the top in this movie, but my main issues with her lie in the third act. In that section, the way she acts, the decisions she makes, and her motivations just made no sense. Her character is really the one part of The Suicide Squad where I preferred the 2016 version more. Other cast members like Peter Capaldi also delivered, as well as the other Suicide Squad members who don’t get that much screentime.

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The movie is directed by James Gunn, and it certainly feels like it, while still feeling different from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It does have a distinct visual style and it is well shot, from the camera movements, to the colours, the costumes, and the production design. Even the CGI is pretty strong throughout. The action scenes are one of the highlights of the movie, all very entertaining, bloody, well shot, and great to watch. The third act is particularly done well, and the final enemies managing to be effectively threatening despite the initially absurd concept. The Suicide Squad also handles its music a lot better than the first movie. In 2016’s Suicide Squad, there was a good score from Steven Price but most of the music that we hear is a ton of random song choices slapped together in so many scenes, and it was just a mess. In The Suicide Squad, we get both a great score composed by John Murphy, as well as a good lineup of pre-existing songs that are utilised well throughout the movie. There are some effective needle drop moments, even if they aren’t as memorable as in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

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The Suicide Squad has its issues. The humour which mostly doesn’t work, some of the characterisation, and some of the plot decisions (especially in the second act) do linger in my mind as parts I really didn’t like. However, I did find myself enjoying it, and what it gets right, it really gets right. The cast and characters for the most part are great and they have great chemistry between each other, the visual style is strong and distinct, and the action is enthralling to watch. The Suicide Squad is also a reminder that the DCEU movies really are at their best when Warner Bros lets their directors deliver their visions, and it would be great to see them learn this from how well their latest movie turned out (not that I’m counting on that happening). Even if you dislike the first Suicide Squad movie, this second version might be worth a look.

Jungle Cruise (2021) Review

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Jungle Cruise

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff
Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton
Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton
Édgar Ramírez as Aguirre
Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim
Paul Giamatti as Nilo Nemolato
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal — a discovery that will change the future of medicine.

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I heard of Jungle Cruise in the lead up to its release, I knew that it was going to star Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and that it was based off the theme park ride of the same name in Disneyland. Initially I wasn’t that interested in it, at the very least I found an adaptation of this to be quite a strange idea since all it pretty much is just a jungle ride with not much of a plot to really adapt. However some early responses were fairly positive, and the trailer looked fun enough. So I checked it out for myself and I’m glad I watched it.

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I haven’t been on the Jungle Cruise ride in quite some time so I don’t know if the movie contains many references to it. However from what I can tell, having the movie being based off the ride is just an excuse to have another adventure movie, definitely a throwback to those kinds of film. You definitely get the vibes of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, as well as National Treasure to a degree. If you enjoy those kinds of movies, then you’ll probably have a fun time with this. The plot itself is nothing unpredictable, you can tell what kind of movie you are in for, and as that I found it enjoyable. The first third is a bit slow but once the main characters are on the boat it was a smooth and fast paced ride. There are plenty of jokes throughout and most of them land. Tonally it is mostly consistently light and fun, and the movie knows what kind of film it is. At the same time, it does play around with the tone and gets surprisingly dark at points. One of the most standout yet confusing moments is a flashback sequence that has Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters playing, that makes it feel like it came out of a completely different movie. Definitely a memorable scene, but I can’t figure out whether I liked the inclusion, or whether it shouldn’t have been in it. Although the script is fairly straightforward, at times it can get a bit too convoluted. Also while it always shines whenever its following the main trio, some aspects of the story aren’t the most interesting. There are two villainous storylines, one is more relevant to the story but isn’t as interesting. The other involves Jesse Plemons and is less relevant to the story, but is a lot more fun because of his performance. The finale itself was pretty fun but a bit lacklustre when compared to the rest of the movie.

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The cast were good too and they added a lot to the enjoyment of the movie. Dwayne Johnson once again plays Dwayne Johnson, however for what its worth, he is entertaining, and his familiar personality and charisma works for this film. Emily Blunt was really the star of the whole movie, she’s really good and has a lot to work with in the film. She and Johnson has good chemistry. Jack Whitehall is the third main character as Emily Blunt’s brother and while I wasn’t sure about his character when it started, he actually grows on you as the film progresses. Jesse Plemons plays one of the main villains as a German aristocrat, and he is having a ton of fun here. The character isn’t interesting or memorable, but Plemons adds so much with his fun on screen appearances to make him stand out in the movie.

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Jaume Collet-Sierra being the director was one of the more interesting parts of the movie going into it. He previously made 4 Liam Neeson action movies (Unknown, Non Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter) and some horror movies (including Orphan and The Shallows). I think his work as a director added a lot to the movie. A lot of the action is fast paced, well filmed, and was fun to watch. Where the technical elements falter a little bit is the visual effects, which are a bit of a mixed bag and ranged in quality. I do think that they could’ve afforded to use more practical effects and rely less on CGI, and the CGI itself could be a little unpolished at times.

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As far as Disneyland theme park rides turned into movies, it is no Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was still fun. Jungle Cruise is nothing special when compared to the type of movies it taking inspiration from, but its nonetheless entertaining for what it is and better than it had any right to be. Its directed pretty well, the cast are good, and I was enjoying the experience from beginning to end. If you go in expecting a fun adventure, then that’s what you’ll get.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) Review

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Rain as Park Il-soon
Im Soo-jung as Cha Young-goon
Director: Park Chan-wook

After his bloody `revenge’ trilogy, Korean director Park Chan-Wook directs this deliriously daft rom-com. Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) works in a maddening dead-end job making transistor radios. Flipping, she insists she is a cyborg and that she only needs to lick batteries for sustenance. She is sent to a psychiatric ward where she is befriended by schizophrenic kleptomaniac Il-Sun (Rain). The two damaged souls fall in love.

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I first heard of this movie from it’s very distinct and weird title, which definitely made it stand out. Then I heard that Park Chan-wook directed it which interests me, the movies I had seen from him are great, and I never heard of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK before. I decided to check it out for Park’s involvement alone. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and while I don’t love it, I do think it’s quite good.

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This movie is basically a romantic comedy that takes place in a mental hospital and about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg, and much of the movie spends time with her going out with another patient. The story is not unfamiliar, focusing on humans who are longing to connect in a world of malnourished relationships. It’s definitely the lightest of Park’s movies if only because of how dark all his other movies are. With that said still, it does have some Park elements, a little bit of revenge and some darker moments. It is a very quirky and bizarre movie, absurd, creative and with a lot of humour, yet heartfelt and sensitive. It does have quite a bit of charm to it, and it’s like if you mixed Amelie with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it was directed by Wes Anderson. Most the characters in the movie are confirmed to be insane and are largely impossible to identify with, but they are still fully realised and complex characters. Something interesting is that compared to other similar movies, it’s less focused on these people escaping or trying to find sanity, instead focusing more on them accepting themselves, trying to find happiness and carry on. Whether you like this film depends on if you like atmospheric films and if you like the atmosphere of this particular film. Quite frankly, not a lot happens plot wise even when stuff does happen. The story was the characters, so your enjoyment also depends on how engaged you are with the characters. To be honest, the movie doesn’t connect with me that much. It does try to be whimsical very hard, and the quirks weren’t enough to keep me engaged. The humour wasn’t quite my thing either and didn’t always work for me. The movie is just following two idiosyncratic characters in a mental institution doing their own things for 90 minutes and that wasn’t enough for me. The characters don’t do a lot other than being weird and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. It is also a little too cartoony and light to actually get into it (surprising really). I will however give credit to the portrayal of mental health patients in this movie, they aren’t victimised or villainised. Despite being an absurd and quirky comedy, they display them in a somewhat serious way.

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Generally I thought the acting was good. The highlights were the leads in Im Soon-jung and Rain playing the roles of Cha Young-goon and Park Il-soon respectively, the former being a woman who believes to be a cyborg, and the latter a patient who is a thief. They both do great jobs in the lead roles and have a comfortable and believable chemistry in the forefront.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and once again his work is great here. The technical aspects definitely help the movie work as well as it does. There was a lot of energetic and creative work behind the camera, with some stellar cinematography. The use of colour was fantastic, and the production design was stellar. The fantasy sequences definitely go all out and are very fantastical and over the top, which is fitting considering that most of the movie takes place from Young-goon’s perspective and mindset. Finally, the score is great and really fits the movie well.

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I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is currently my least favourite film from Park Chan-wook but it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s acted well, its charming and I’m glad I watched it. I guess it just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t as invested with the story and characters as I would’ve liked, maybe I just prefer Park when he’s doing darker movies. The movie isn’t quite for everyone, if you’re not a big fan of movies with any degree of quirkiness, I’m not sure you’ll get into this one. However if you like any of Park’s other movies I do think it is at least worth checking out.

Wide Awake (1998) Review

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Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

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Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

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The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

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The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

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As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

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Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) Review

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The Hitman's Bodyguard

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Élodie Yung as Amelia Roussel
Joaquim de Almeida as Jean Foucher
Kirsty Mitchell as Rebecca Harr
Richard E. Grant as Mr. Seifert
Director: Patrick Hughes

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a protection agent, is tasked with protecting Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), one of the world’s most famous assassins. The two must then set aside their differences to tackle several dangerous events.

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I heard about The Hitman’s Bodyguard when it came out, an action comedy with the pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles. I didn’t watch it when it came out, it looked fun enough despite the mixed reviews, but it wasn’t something I was actively pursuing to watch. However with it getting a sequel this year, I decided I should probably get around to it. The Hitman’s Bodyguard was about what I expected it to be, it’s not that good and it’s a little generic but I had fun with it.

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The plot doesn’t really have much to it. I didn’t care much about what was happening, but it was simple enough and not overly convoluted. It’s also not particularly original, two people who have a lot of differences between them are stuck with each other but put their differences aside by the end. It’s very similar to the plots of other buddy action comedies. It’s very familiar, by the numbers and predictable but it’s still quite enjoyable. The movie does exceed when it’s the two characters getting in shenanigans, more so than its actual generic plot. The writing can be funny. Not all of it worked and for the most part I didn’t find it to be laugh out hilarious or anything, but the comedy was alright. One unexpected issue was that tonally, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a bit inconsistent. It has the goofiness as expected but also has its fair share of tonal shifts into dark moments and plays some scenes a hair too seriously. I’m not saying the mix of the two can’t work, but they certainly don’t pull it off in this movie. It probably would’ve been better leaning into the silliness. Finally, the movie does run on for too long. It’s around 2 hours long and you do feel that length, and the inconsistent pacing doesn’t help matters.

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The main draw of the film is Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles, it’s what most people who watch the movie are here for, and thankfully they deliver. The movie plays into the personalities that each lead has cultivated over their careers, and it certainly felt like each of them were playing themselves. The two of them are funny, have good chemistry and play off each other well. However I do feel like the writing wasn’t quite all there to utilise them the best and it could’ve been a bit better. The rest of the supporting cast are fine but they all feel wasted in a way. In fact, when it’s not focusing on the two leads, the majority of the characters are just sitting down and waiting for stuff to happen. Gary Oldman plays a generic dictator villain, and all he does is just sit down looking menacing and giving out orders to kill Samuel L. Jackson’s character. Salma Hayek is a standout in her scenes as Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s wife, but generally she spends much of the movie just in a prison cell and doesn’t do anything really. Elodie Yung is a disgruntled former lover of Reynolds’s character and doesn’t do a massive amount in the plot outside of waiting for Ryan Reynolds to show up at the final location with Samuel L. Jackson.

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Patrick Hughes is the director of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and initially I was sceptical going in since his last movie was The Expendables 3, which I found to be quite lacklustre. I will say however that the action here is definitely better than the action in Expendables 3, if only because it doesn’t feel forcibly toned down to get a PG-13 rating. The fight scenes are pretty decent and overall, the action is fun and entertainingly dumb, if nothing unique or special. However, some aspects take away from them. It has a little too many cuts and edits, the visual effects aren’t that great, and the scenes weren’t shot the best. I previously mentioned about the tonal inconsistencies and that especially is the case when it comes to the action scenes, specifically the violence. The violence at times can be surprisingly graphic and bloody and even lingers on gruesome images, but there’s also some very silly and comedic action scenes. Again, gore aside, I think the issue is that some of those scenes are played a little too seriously that they feel out of place even if they are going for dark comedy.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was pretty much what I expected, a very flawed action comedy with some mildly entertaining action and the highlights being Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Much of the plot is very generic and underwhelming, and even for a standard buddy action movie could’ve had more to it (or at least been a little more fun). However, the chemistry of the leads completely carry the movie. I’m just hoping that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is better than the first movie.