Category Archives: Crime

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.

Nobody (2021) Review

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Nobody

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Strong violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch “Nobody” Mansell
Connie Nielsen as Rebecca “Becca” Mansell
Aleksei Serebryakov as Yulian Kuznetsov
RZA as Harry Mansell
Christopher Lloyd as David Mansell
Michael Ironside as Eddie Williams
Colin Salmon as The Barber
Director: Ilya Naishuller

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) fails to defend himself or his family when two thieves break into his suburban home one night. The aftermath of the incident soon strikes a match to his long-simmering rage. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must now save his wife and son from a dangerous adversary — and ensure that he will never be underestimated again.

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I heard about of Nobody for a little while. It was an action movie from the people behind John Wick (written by Derek Kolstad and produced by John Wick director David Leitch), it also had Bob Odenkirk in the lead role and I liked the look from it from the trailers. It ended up being pretty good, honestly better than I expected it to be.

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At first, Nobody actually does play things surprisingly serious, at least more than I thought it would compared to the trailer. However that’s just the case in the first third or half of the movie. While it isn’t as comedic as the trailers would suggest, it definitely is self-aware. Overall I’d say that there is quite a good balance between the melancholy and fun elements. It has some over the top moments and it is implausible, but the movie doesn’t care too much about that, and those moments don’t really bother you either. There’s a decent amount of well executed comedy as to be expected. The action only increases as the film progresses, it particularly ramps up in the third act, and it’s very satisfying. The plot is somewhat contrived, and the plot points are unrealistic but again that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t bother you. We have seen this type of story before especially in action thrillers, Russian gangster villains and all. The story is formulaic but is decent and executed well, which is helped by the good pacing. One of the immediate similarities that people will make is between this movie and the John Wick films, a comparison I deliberately held off making in this review. You definitely feel the John Wick similarities, but Nobody still makes itself distinct. For one it isn’t as interested in worldbuilding an elaborate setting like the John Wick films are, and keeps things a bit tighter in terms of scope. Also, John Wick’s revenge is one that generates sympathy from the audience and his return to the crime world comes after being forced back. In contrast to that, the reason for “Nobody” to return seems to be more that he’s bored, he’s wanted to return for a while, and the incident with the burglars breaking into his house just sparked his return (as well as the plot). You don’t connect as emotionally to the story or characters as the Wick films, but Nobody again is a different kind of movies. It’s a very tight movie and is 90 minutes long, and that actually was the right length for it.

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One of the strongest parts of the movie is Bob Odenkirk as the lead character of Hutch Mansell (who you can also call “Nobody”). He puts a lot of heart and soul into his performance and really brought this character to life. He’s convincing as someone who doesn’t seem capable of doing action, as well as convincing as someone who most certainly is. It definitely helps that Odenkirk did a lot of his own stunts. Although he is skilled like John Wick, Hutch feels like an everyman, he is imperfect and more human by being shown often to take a lot of damage (a particular fight scene on a bus is an example of this). On top of the drama and action aspects, Odenkirk also is great with the comedy, and some of the cheesier parts of the script become satirical with his delivery and works a lot better. He’s definitely up there in the category of ‘known middle aged actors who suddenly become action stars’ alongside the likes of Liam Neeson and Colin Firth, and I would actually like to see Odenkirk in more action films. The supporting cast are generally good. Connie Nielsen doesn’t really get much to do outside of being the ‘wife character’ in this sort of story unfortunately. Aleksei Serebryaskov plays the rather stock Russian gangster villain, however the performance is good enough and the character works well enough as an antagonist. RZA and Christopher Lloyd aren’t in the film a ton but definitely shine when they are on screen, and without giving away, Lloyd particularly is an absolute blast to watch.

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Nobody is directed by Ilya Naishuller, and his work here is good. His last movie was Hardcore Henry, an action movie that took place entirely from the POV of the main character even as he’s jumping around doing insane action choreography and stunts. This time, Nobody is a more conventionally directed film (in the sense that they don’t use GoPro cameras here), and I think this is a better movie overall. The action is great, brutal and bloody, definitely one of the strong aspects of the movie. It’s very well shot with a great use of camerawork and lighting. The choreography of the fight scenes are excellent, and the editing and pacing are on point. Much of the action is like the action from John Wick but it’s a bit different here, much less tactical and with more emphasis on hand to hand fights over gunfights (though there are differently plenty of action scenes involving guns in the film). There are also some gratifying needle drop moments with the soundtrack, and the score from David Buckley fits with the movie.

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Nobody is a fun action thriller, with a simple and familiar yet self-aware plot, some excellently filmed and directed action sequences, and a strong lead performance from Bob Odenkirk. It’s not terribly original but it really didn’t need to be, and works greatly as what it set out to do. There are potential for sequels even hinted in throughout movie, and I’d like to see them happen.

F9 (2021) Review

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F9

Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
John Cena as Jakob Toretto
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Michael Rooker as Buddy
Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw
Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody
Charlize Theron as Cipher
Director: Justin Lin

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is living the quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son, but they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered — Dom’s forsaken brother (John Cena).

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The long running Fast & Furious series just had its latest instalment (technically the 10th if you include Hobbs and Shaw) with F9. They keep getting more over the top with every movie while remaining kind of endearing, and I’m quite entertained by them. So while I wasn’t expecting anything special from F9, I knew that I would have fun, and certainly had that despite some issues.

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The overarching plot with the main goal does feel very familiar, even by the standards of the recent movies. The team have to get this particular world-ending weapon which that the antagonists are after, and the plot just so happens to be more larger scale than the last movie. It already turned into a spy series in Furious 7, becoming a more over the top Mission Impossible with further emphasis on the cars, and so they now have to raise the stakes with every future instalment. With that being the case, I do actually wonder how much they can really do for the last two movies of the series before the plot becomes literally about saving the world from being destroyed. Something that was very apparent when I was watching F9 is that it is absolutely packed with side quests, and that stood out even after having recently re-watched the movies in the series from 5 onwards. Sometimes the characters split off in groups to do different things and somehow it ends up being hard to follow everything that’s happening. At the same time there are some things that don’t make sense even by Fast & Furious standards, and is somehow complicated. That aside, the more recent Fast and Furious continues its interesting mix of not taking itself seriously while being genuine with the way it takes its characters and story somewhat seriously. There is a further emphasis on the story and characters in this movie to a degree, with the soap opera reveal that Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) has a brother that he never mentioned before in the prior films, and whom they are up against in this movie. Not only that, but there are a number of flashbacks which show Dom and his brother Jakob when they were much younger, and what caused their rift and put Jakob where he’s at presently. Not that I don’t appreciate that the filmmakers went through the effort to actually show what happened, but by the end it doesn’t really resonate as much as it was intended to. Overall, the story is very flawed, is sillier than before and even feels formulaic, however I was still interested in it throughout. For those interested, F9 does have a mid-credits scene, and if you’re a fan of these movies I think it’s worth sticking around for.

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F9 has the returning cast of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, they don’t really have a huge amount to do by Fast and Furious standards but are still enjoyable as usual. It really is lacking Dwayne Johnson from the past few movies but it is nice to see Jordana Brewster back as one of the team in her role as Mia Toretto. After Fast Five she was only making brief appearances and now she’s back as one of the main players. Also as hinted in the trailers, there’s the return of Han played by Sung Kang, who was shown to be killed off in Tokyo Drift, the mid credits scene of Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7. It’s nice to see him back in the team again, though he doesn’t do quite as much in this movie as you would think. As for the explanation for how he’s back from the dead, it’s a little unbelievable, convoluted and very far fetched, yet still rather underwhelming. However I think I’m fine with it, as long as the series doesn’t pull another one of these retcons again. Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren provide some good supporting work as they reprise their respective roles. John Cena was one of the most advertised actors in this movie, as he’s playing Dom’s long-lost brother. Cena can actually act well, although despite the critical role he has to play in the film, he doesn’t really have much to work with. He has a past with Vin Diesel and that’s it, he doesn’t have much personality really, which is strange considering that Cena is definitely a charismatic actor. Charlize Theron as the character of Cipher seems to be intended to be the overarching villain for the Fast and Furious series from Fate of the Furious onwards. However she doesn’t have as much involvement with the plot of F9 as you would initially think, unlike how the trailers showed it, she’s not teaming up with Jakob against Dom. For much of the movie she just spends her screen time in a plastic prison cell, Hannibal Lecter style. I get that they are trying to connect her to every movie in the series from this point but really, she could’ve been written out of this film, and not changed the plot that much. It’s hard to say Cena’s Jakob is the full on main villain of the film, and Theron’s Cipher certainly isn’t. So if there is a clear cut villain in this movie, then the only one left would be the character of Otto played by Thue Ersted Rasmussen, who’s usually in the background and is incredibly forgettable. If he really was intended to be the main antagonist of the film, than he would have to be the worst main villain in the entire series.

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Director Justin Lin makes a welcome return to the Fast and Furious series, after directing Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. As expected he brings such an energy to the movie that gives it a lot of life, it’s shot and edited well, and there’s a lot of attention to detail. The action goes into further levels of absurdity, even more so than the past movies. To a degree, it does feel like its running out of steam in terms of what action can be done with cars. However they still manage to be fun, there’s particularly some fun action involving magnets. Then there’s a particular moment hinted in the trailers that may involve outer space, and while I won’t elaborate on that, it is quite the highlight.

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I do actually wonder how much there’s really left in this series, with the absurd twists and retcons, the physics breaking action and the like. There’s a fine line that the series has walking, and while they haven’t crossed it yet, with F9 it’s pretty clear that they are pretty close to doing that. Speaking of the movie by itself though, I did enjoy it. I think at the very least, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 are better than F9. However I can’t deny that I had a lot of fun watching it, and I’m looking forward to watching the next movies.

Fast Five (2011) Review

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Fast Five

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Matt Schulze as Vince
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Joaquim de Almeida as Hernan Reyes
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
Director: Justin Lin

Ever since ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Torretto (Jordana Brewster) broke her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) out of custody, they’ve traveled border to border to evade authorities. In Rio de Janeiro, they must do one final job before they can gain their freedom for good. Assembling their elite team of car racers, Brian and Dom know they must confront the corrupt businessman who wants them dead, before the federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail finds them.

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Up until Fast Five, the Fast and Furious was a rather okay but entertaining action franchise based around street racing. Some of the movies were reasonably fun but that was sort of it. Fast Five changed that with a much larger blockbuster direction very much for the better, also changing the series as a whole.

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The plot is simple enough: main characters decide to pull off heist on a drug lord while they are being chased by a DEA agent. They don’t make it needlessly complicated, they know what this movie is, with just the right amount of self awareness and witty humour throughout. With Fast Five, they increased the scale and scope of the series. They replaced the street racing formula with elements of a heist thriller, effectively resurrecting this franchise and makes it go in a new direction that actually works quite well. What also works is that they reunite the whole crew with characters from the past movies, making this a sort of soft reboot. If you haven’t seen any of the previous movies, you really don’t have to. You might miss some details with backstories and other characters that are mentioned in passing, but you can pick up on those easily easily. On top of the original Fast and Furious team with Dom, Brian and Mia, there’s characters introduced from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious. While that could seem a bit overwhelming to have all these characters brought in, they actually work quite well together. Despite the over the top action, the screenplay does place more emphasis on its story and characters, to the film’s benefit. Then there’s the ever present theme about family, and as much as this has been made fun of, it is something that is throughout these movies. One of the things that I like most about these movies is that for as over the top they are, they are genuine and endearing with the characters and their journeys. So it’s just the right mix where they don’t take it too seriously and don’t let anything like physics get in the way of the action, while actually caring about the story and characters.

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The movie has a stellar ensemble with the actors playing to their advantages. Returning main cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster come back, as does Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Suan Kang and more from the previous movies to reprise their roles. All of them work together well in the team and have great chemistry together. It’s no coincidence that the series really found itself after Dwayne Johnson joined it. His personality and charisma adds a lot to this movie as well as the following movies. In this movie, he’s going after Vin Diesel and his group (before teaming up with him later on) and its fun watching them face off.

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Fast Five is directed by Justin Lin, who directed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious prior to it, but he seemed to have improved over these movies. He has such a sleek direction, the action scenes are particularly great. This movie obviously is far from being realistic but it’s all shot, edited and filmed well. The third act is the standout, and there’s particularly an insane final setpiece involving a giant safe, which is particularly strong. Brian Tyler’s score packs some intense tracks that adds a lot to the action.

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Fast Five is one of the best entries in the franchise, this is really where the series took off and it’s easy to see why. Even looking back at it now 10 years later, it still holds up despite its ever present flaws. It’s entertaining while caring about its characters and story, it’s silly and over the top while being endearing, it’s just the right blend of elements. If you’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie, you could jump right in with this movie.

Cruella (2021) Review

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Cruella

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Stone as Estella Miller/Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita “Tattletale” Darling
Mark Strong as John
Director: Craig Gillespie

Estella (Emma Stone) is a young and clever grifter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves (Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser) who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.

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Cruella was a movie I wasn’t entirely excited for in the lead up to its release. While I haven’t seen all the live action Disney remakes, generally they’ve felt rather average and not that impressive. However there were a few reasons I was slightly interested for Cruella. One was the cast, which included Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. There is also the fact that it’s an origin story for Cruella de Vil, which although potentially unnecessary, does mean that it’s probably going to do more than just be a repeat of the animated movie’s story beats. Also the trailers looked decent, and hinted at being more than just a replication of the animated movie. Cruella actually surprised me quite a bit and I liked it.

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Cruella was 2 hours and 14 minutes long, despite the fact that the movie is very fast paced, and I was entertained throughout. The plot is rather predictable and familiar (not necessarily in terms of it being a Disney movie), but nonetheless I was interested to see where it would go. Throughout when you’re watching the movie, you might be wondering how this version of Cruella de Vil is supposed to link up with the versions of Cruella de Vil that we are more familiar with. I get the feeling however that this is actually a reimagining of the character, and if that’s the case then I’m entirely on board with that. Even by the end, she’s more of an anti-hero than a full on villain. One way where the two versions of Cruella differ is with regard to the dogs, you don’t need to worry about seeing any puppy/dog killing because there’s none here. There’s even two dogs who are with Estalla/Cruella and the thieves she’s teamed up with, so it is definitely taking a different approach to the character. It is an origin story for Cruella de Vil, and while it does seem a bit unnecessary to bolt a tragic backstory and try to force it in, I was surprisingly rather engaged. One of the things that emerged online about the movie as soon as it came out was a particular moment involving dalmatians in the first 20 minutes, and yes it is rather ridiculous and forced. However it actually works alright in the movie itself, partly because of the tone. Throughout. it does have a rather campy tone, so some of the sillier aspects and issues seem to work alright here, including a flawed story and cheesy dialogue. I’m not certain that I’ve watched the original 101 Dalmatians movie but there were some moments that referred to that film, and they were quite on the nose. It was almost like the filmmakers were contractually obliged to include them. However there weren’t as many of those moments as I thought they would be, nor did they take away from the rest of the story. I feel like by it being an origin story, it actually had freedom to be its own movie (a crime comedy) rather than being restricted to just repeating story beats from a pre-existing film. For those interested, there’s a mid credits scene which hints towards a sequel.

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The cast were among the strongest parts of the movie. First of all is Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella de Vil, who turned out to be a surprisingly great casting choice. Stone humanises her and adds so much to the character, while giving a larger than life performance and is clearly having a great time in the role. Even if you don’t like the rest of the movie, I do think Cruella is worth watching for her alone. There’s also Emma Thompson as The Baroness, and her character does seem very similar to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. However it actually sort of works for this movie, and Thompson is great as the film’s scene chewing and hateable villain. The back and forth between her and Stone is very enjoyable to watch. Also really good are Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as the thieves that are teamed up with Estella/Cruella, and the three play off each other very well. Hauser particularly stands out, especially with his perfect line delivery and comedic timing.

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Cruella also benefits a lot from the energised direction of Craig Gillespie. Performances aside, the stylistic direction elevates the script immensely. The setting of 70s London is beautifully filmed with gorgeous cinematography and has well detailed set designs, it lends itself well to the fashion, music and grimy aesthetic. The wardrobe is fantastic as to be expected, the costumes are absolutely extravagant, and the visual style really showed them off well. The score from Nicholas Britell (who also composed Succession, Vice, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The King and more) is amazing as to be expected from him, and really adds a lot to the film. The soundtrack has a great lineup of songs, even if many of them feel very on the nose and there are too many needle drop moments. On a technical level, really the only aspect that isn’t so great is the CGI, especially the effects used for the dogs.

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One could argue that Cruella is an unnecessary movie, and in a way it is. However I can’t deny that I was enjoying it throughout. The plot is not the best but did enough to have me actually interested to see how things would progress, it’s directed with a very distinct style, and the performances were all great, especially Emma Stone as the titular character. There’s a sequel in talks, and while I’m not sure how it would be possible, I’m not against it. Even if you aren’t such a big fan of the recent live action Disney remakes, I think Cruella is worth checking out.

RoboCop (1987) Review

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Robocop

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
Daniel O’Herlihy as The Old Man
Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In a dystopic and crime-infested Detroit, a terminally injured policeman (Peter Weller) returns to the force as a potent cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

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RoboCop was a classic action sci-fi movie from the 1980s. 34 years later, it remains not only a staple for iconic 1980s action films, but also one of the most intelligent and satirical, and it surprisingly holds up all these years later.

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RoboCop could’ve been dismissed as enjoyable action fare from the 80s, but categorising this film as just a B-level action movie doesn’t do it justice. In fact, oncoming years have only allowed the value of the film to become clearer than ever. It is one of the most intelligent B-movies, flawlessly blending sharp satire and grand sci-fi action. RoboCop is a smart and sharply written satire of America’s warped, violent culture of vanity and the state of said culture. It lashes out at the division between the rich and the poor alongside the growing industrialism running rampant across the screen. It also covers Reagan era economics, corporate privatization of public services, corrupt politics, consumerism, capitalism, and of course militarisation of police. What used to feel like a cautionary tale about the near future’s rise of corporate fascism now just feels like a documentary of today, and much of the movie remains relevant as ever. Paul Verhoeven’s satire isn’t subtle but in RoboCop it is only fitting that everything is so distinctly in your face, it suits the nature and style of the film so perfectly. At the same time, RoboCop also works as a B-movie sci-fi flick. It is very cheesy from the over-the-top action moments to the dialogue, but it was also witty, well made and well paced across its roughly hour and 40 minute runtime, with not one wasted scene. It seems like it should feel dated but as said earlier, it was ahead of its time. As goofy as the movie is, it’s also violent, vulgar and schlocky. The main character is technically killed within 20 minutes in such a brutal way, establishing the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also all the little touches of worldbuilding throughout for this futuristic setting, such as the automated greeting unit for prospective house hunters, and the ads poking fun at consumer culture.

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The cast all perform well in their parts. Peter Weller convincingly portrays RoboCop even under the bulky suit and helmet. He really immerses himself as the character, giving him a real, profound depth. The supporting cast are good in their parts too. However among them, it’s the cast of villains who shine the most, especially Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer.

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Paul Verhoeven’s direction is great. Although it takes place sometime in the future, the film makes little attempt to look that much futuristic beyond its cyborg lead. The design, costumes and locations are steeped in the look and feel of the 1980s, giving the film both a recognisability and a lived-in aesthetic. The effects are sometimes rough but mostly well-rendered, and the practical effects are fantastic. There’s even some stop motion, while that does look dated, it does add something to the style and feel of the movie. The violence of RoboCop is especially unrestrained, and there are many uses of authentic looking effects for the gore.

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RoboCop works as both an 80s action B movie, and a social satire, goofy and entertaining, yet very intelligent and relevant. It’s been said many times but it’s surprising how well it holds up over a few decades later. I’d go so far as to say that RoboCop is essential viewing, especially if you’re a fan of action movies.

Army of the Dead (2021) Review

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Army of the Dead

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Dave Bautista as Scott Ward
Ella Purnell as Kate Ward
Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe
Ana de la Reguera as Maria Cruz
Theo Rossi as Burt Cummings
Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig Dieter
Nora Arnezeder as Lily
Hiroyuki Sanada as Bly Tanaka
Garret Dillahunt as Martin
Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters
Raúl Castillo as Mikey Guzman
Huma Qureshi as Geeta
Samantha Win as Chambers
Director: Zack Snyder

After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.

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Army of the Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. I’m not a massive fan of zombie movies, I don’t mind them or dislike them, and in fact I enjoy most of them. It’s just that nothing much draws me into them. However, the fact that Zack Snyder is directing had me interested. His first feature film was a remake of Dawn of the Dead, so it was nice to see him go back to his roots. It’s also the only other movie from him other than Sucker Punch which isn’t based on a source material, be that an existing movie, a comic book/graphic novel or a book series. The prospect of a zombie movie meets heist movie, and one set in a zombie filled Las Vegas, sounded very entertaining. So, I knew at the very least it would be a good time, and having watched it I can say that it certainly was that.

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As advertised, Army of the Dead is a mix between a zombie movie and a heist movie, with a team brought together to pull off a job with the twist that they’re up against a lot of zombies. Some could say that the plot is pretty standard and predictable, and in some ways it was, but it worked alright for the film and had enough interesting things to make it feel fresh. Overall, the script was pretty good, all the subplots meld perfectly together and I was satisfied everything by the end. There isn’t a lot of time to go deep into character backgrounds but there are moments given to make us care enough about the characters and see why they are there. The worldbuilding is also amazing, the world of this movie is really fleshed out, with a lot of potential for future stories. This is also Snyder’s most comedic movie, while being one of his darkest. Some moments work better than others for sure, but the comedy mostly worked for me, and the dark humour really gives the movie a lot of personality. Despite the premise and how it’s advertised, I wouldn’t say that Army of the Dead is a dumb movie that you turn your brain off before watching. It actually does have some motives beyond just being another zombie movie. There’s even some social and political commentary. Much of the movie revolves around a refuge crisis, and has quite a cynical view of the US government and people in general. That’s quite in line with a lot of other “of the Dead” zombie movies, which quite often have present social commentary. It is also surprisingly serious at points, while there might be some familiar emotional beats, it doesn’t feel forced in and is sincere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun movie, but ultimately at its core, Army of the Dead is about a man overcoming grief and trying to reconnect with his daughter. The importance of family and the pain of less is at the centre of the movie, making the film a weirdly fitting pair with Snyder’s other 2021 film, his Justice League. It is a long movie at 2.5 hours, and while that can be daunting, I thought it was the right length even if you really felt the length. It takes its time in the first section but it’s worth it, as it’s setting up and establishing the world and the characters. After that point, I was completely on board with the movie all the way to the end.

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The cast are all great and I generally liked most of the characters, each of them served their own role in the story. The standouts for me were Matthias Schweighofer, Tig Notaro and Nora Arnezeder. Dave Bautista is in the lead role as a former mercenary takes to gather a team to pull off the heist, and he’s great. Bautista has been good in past movies like Blade Runner 2049, Spectre and the Marvel movies, but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. The relationship between him and his daughter (Ella Purnell) felt very convincing. The rest of the cast including Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Raul Castillo, Samantha Win and more also do well in their part.

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Of course there’s Zack Snyder’s direction to talk about, which is all around great. I really wish that I got to watch it on the big screen instead of at home on Netflix, because it really felt that it was meant to be seen in the cinema. Army of the Dead actually sees Snyder helming the role of director of photography himself, and as expected, it’s a great looking movie. The practical and digital effects are pretty good, as is the makeup on the zombies, and I really liked how the zombies were portrayed here. There are a lot of fantastic action sequences, very well shot and choreographed. Not to give too much away but the highlight action scenes were one mainly involving Samantha Win’s character that felt something straight out of a John Wick film, and the entire third act which escalates the insane action. Army of the Dead also joins other Snyder films like Watchmen, Batman v Superman and Justice League for very stylish and excellent opening sequences. Junkie XL’s score fits the movie perfectly, and even makes many of the scenes better, especially the moments of action.

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It really is no surprise that Netflix is all in with Zack Snyder and Army of the Dead, with a prequel film and anime-style tv series in development already. The action is satisfying, the cast are great and memorable, and I was quite entertained and invested throughout. If you enjoy any zombie movies, it is worth checking out for sure. It’s so far among my favourite movies of the year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more Army of the Dead follow ups and spin offs whenever they come out.

Mr. Robot Season 4 (2019) Review

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Mr. Robot Season 4

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Elliot Villar as Fernando Vera
Ashlie Atkinson as Janice
Creator: Sam Esmail

Set during the 2015 Christmas holiday, the fast-paced season will be one filled with answers, hacking and blood. Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) are getting back to work and down a path that could prove endless. But have they crossed a line?

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Mr. Robot was already a fantastic show, Season 1 was a great start, Season 2 was solid while having its issues, and Season 3 took the show to new heights. However, much of how a show is eventually perceived depends on how well it finalises its story and characters at the end. With that being said, Season 4 is not only possibly the best season of the whole show, it’s one of the most memorable and satisfying conclusions I’ve seen to a TV show.

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It goes without saying, but there is a spoiler warning for the previous seasons leading up to this one in this review. An interesting aspect to note is that the whole show is stuck in 2015, this season picks up with having only advanced to just before Christmas 2015. As America recovers from the Five/Nine Hack, the focus of the narrative shifts to a somewhat heroic Elliot as he sets his sights on taking down Whiterose and her Dark Army. The show ups its game to deliver one very eventful season, one that raises the stakes for every character whilst delivering some of the best television in recent years. Season 4 really does feels like a true send-up of the first season everyone fell in love with, and everything that first season promised the show could be is what the final season is. Mr. Robot’s final season can be best described as incredibly emotional and heartbreaking; the opening moments of its first episode really does establish how much of a gut punch the whole season is. Season 4 runs for 13 episodes, making it the longest in the show’s history, and unlike say season 2, its time is not put to waste. I blasted through the episodes back-to-back, it was incredibly riveting and intense, even the slower paced episodes worked appropriately for the story and characters. As said previously, the main drive of this season is Mr. Robot taking down Whiterose, however there’s also plenty of other things happening at the same time. For example, there are episodes that focus heavily on the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot, which shows them more closely aligned in their goals compared to the past couple of seasons. This new dynamic is interesting and the writing definitely takes advantage of that, for instance, the narration to the audience that was done by Elliot is mostly done by Mr. Robot in this season. Additionally, as the season progresses, a lot of the sub-plots from the past and present interweave with Elliot’s journey. I won’t give too much away for fear of spoilers but suffice to say the final few episodes turn everything we’ve learnt up until this point completely on its head, delivering a shocking couple of plot twists to round out a thrilling and intense final season. Even on its last season, there are plenty of surprises that a lot of audiences won’t have expected. These plot twists are so good that it actually paints the entirety of Mr Robot’s early seasons in a completely different shade and I’m sure this will be a show that will be completely different to watch a second time through.

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The acting from everyone as usual is fantastic. Rami Malek and Christian Slater remain as brilliant as ever, and the change in their dynamic will be a treat for many. Rami Malek has always owned his role as Elliot Alderson but in this season in particular, he really shows his diversity and range with an absolutely stunning performance. There is particularly one episode (if you watch the episode you already know which one) in which Elliot learns something significant, and Malek’s performance is nothing short of spectacular and heartbreaking. This season also gives Christian Slater a lot more material than he has had since the first season. Slater is excellent in the role of Mr Robot, and his shift in character this season makes him much more intriguing than ever before. Many of the other actors playing the major roles of Price, Whiterose, Darlene and Dom all bring their A-game here and are given enough screen time to really flesh out their characters. Some characters get more attention than others, for example I would’ve liked to have seen more of Tyrell Wellick, but on the whole everyone’s stories were handled well, and as usual they were performed greatly. Outside of the main cast, one of the standout performers was Elliot Villar as the character of Vera. Vera had a small supporting role in the first season before he disappears from much of the show, only to return for this season. While he has a smaller role in this season, he’s great in his scenes, and especially shines in one particularly significant episode.

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All 13 episodes of this season are excellently directed by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot is on a technical level is in a league of its own when it comes to tv shows. The cinematography and visuals remain outstanding, and the sound design and score are top notch as ever, with composer Mac Quayle as usual somehow managing to top his work with every season. In its third and fourth seasons, the show has taken its stylistic ambitions to new heights. In season 3 it has a whole episode that was filmed and edited to seem as if it was taking place in a long, continuous single shot that darted and weaved in and around a massive skyscraper. I won’t go into season four’s own stylistic achievement of filmmaking, but just know that it only features two lines in the entire episode, and considering the stuff that happens in that particular episode, it’s incredibly impressive that that pulled it off.

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Mr. Robot’s fourth and final season is nothing short of outstanding, not only managing to produce its best season yet, but also able to wrap up the storylines and characters in such an impactful and satisfying way, while providing so many unexpected surprises throughout. Everything from the writing, directing and acting is at the show’s best. If you loved Mr. Robot from the past few seasons, I think you’ll really love how the final season turned out.

Mr. Robot Season 3 (2017) Review

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Mr Robot Season 3

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Stephanie Corneliussen as Joanna Wellick
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Bobby Cannavale as Irving
Creator: Sam Esmail

Picking up immediately following the season two cliffhanger, season three explores each character’s motivations and the disintegration between Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).

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Season 2 of Mr. Robot, while good, did feel a little disappoint when compared to its previous season. While it was ambitious and ended strongly enough, Season 2 was bogged down by self-indulgence and some storylines that seemed to be going nowhere. Even though I liked it, parts of it did feel like a chore to get through. Season 3 however is a noticeable step up and a real return to form for the series, a lot more focused and constantly engaging from beginning to end.

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This goes without saying, but this review will contain spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot. The action picks up from where we last left the show, with Elliot having just been shot by fugitive and former E Corp senior VP Tyrell Wellick. Angela is working with both Tyrell and the Dark Army, and Darlene is now serving as an FBI informant for Dom who, along with her colleagues, is still trying to get to the bottom of the E Corp Hack. A large part of season 3’s success comes from how it deals with that season 2 cliffhanger. Something that also made this season quite interesting is that Elliot and Mr. Robot are now individual personalities. This creates a new and interesting dynamic between those characters and others in their sphere. It also gives Season 3 a clearer narrative structure, as Elliot’s two personalities now rarely appear in the same scene together. and aren’t aware what the other is doing. It adds an extra level of tension and allows the audience to better understand every character’s motive, all while avoiding a simplistic ‘good vs evil’ narrative.

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For those already weary at the prospect of more episodes rife with frustrating mind games, just know that in season 3, Mr. Robot is much more consistently assured and compelling than it was in its uneven second season, while still having plenty of floating questions and mysteries. Esmail cleverly retrofitted some of the less clear plot points and character decisions in the past by filling the audience in on the missing parts (even dating back to season one) – all without being too much, or feeling dumbed down and just explained to us.  You do get some of the answers that many of us wanted, including what exactly Tyrell had been doing while he’s been away for most of season 2. It’s a tight season at 10 episodes but it’s very eventful and tense throughout, characters are placed in very dangerous situations in the story. The main arc of the season, centered around the Dark Army’s terrorist attack and Elliot’s attempts to stop it, comes to a head in a sensational midseason double-bill, and I won’t spoil it but it’s excellently done. As season 3 picks up and races forward, the series continues to poke fun at itself, this season particularly has a good sense of humour. Episode 2 for example opens with a mostly upbeat eight-minute sequence that follows Elliot as he re-acclimates to daily life as a corporate drone. The series also gets back to letting viewers dive into big questions of government control, corporate greed, the rights of citizens, and the power and shortcomings of technology. The season doesn’t really end with a cliffhanger, but it does end in a way that makes you excited for season 4.

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The acting from everyone is fantastic as usual. Elliot Alderson and Mr Robot get more focus in this season compared to the last, and thus Rami Malek and Christian Slater get to shine more. With their new dynamic (as mentioned much earlier) this means that Malek and Slater are more united ever as actors because they’re called to dip into each other’s performance tics in specific scenes. Both continue to give very compelling performances. The returning supporting cast including BD Wong, Grace Gummer, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, and Michael Cristofer also perform quite well in their parts. All of their characters are taken in more interesting directions than before, and as a result they get to do a lot more. There’s some particular standouts. Portia Doubleday’s Angela Moss is placed in an interesting position as she’s now working for the Dark Army, and she gets to stand out, especially in the second half. Speaking of which, there’s a lot more screentime for BD Wong as Dark Army leader Whiterose as we learn more about her, and as usually he’s fantastic in the role(s). The biggest surprise however is Tyrell Wellick, played by Martin Wallstrom, he’s taken to a whole other level in this season. It’s almost a reinvention of the character that we knew from him in the first two seasons, and Wallstrom does some excellent shape-shifting to pull that off. Bobby Cannevale also joins the cast as Irving, a fixer of sorts for the Dark Army. Cannavale maintains a chill, chatty demeanour throughout, and was quite entertaining to watch. He could’ve easily come across as too cartoonish, but Cannavale is so immersed in character that it works, he’s terrific.

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Sam Esmail directs every episode, some which started from the second season and continuing through to the very end of the series. Esmail remains a flashy and ambitious filmmaker, framing certain shots to be extra-top-heavy and capturing chaotic scenes via lengthy tracking shots, but in ways that feel more natural and doesn’t feel like it’s showing off. This is a show which moves its cameras like no other, plays with reality like no other, blends timelines across seasons like no other. His use of long one-take shots were particularly effective, it helps that this technique is saved for moments so dramatic you’re not even looking for the cut. Speaking of which, there’s particularly one episode which is made to look like it was in one shot, this episode remains one of the best episodes of the entire series and for good reason, it’s incredible impressive. The score by Mac Quayle is even better here than in the past seasons and it was already amazing.

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Mr. Robot Season 3 is a return to form for the series. From the first episode to the last, it’s a tight, incredibly tense and entertaining ride. The writing is incredible with compelling character work and social commentary, the visually striking direction is only improving as the show continues, and the performances from the stellar cast are fantastic as always. It continues on the ambitions brought forward from season 2 and is as precise and well put together as season 1, while also making itself quite distinct in tone and style. It’s a strong contender for best season of Mr. Robot, it’s between this and the final season.

Wrath of Man (2021) Review

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Wrath of Man

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Jason Statham as Patrick “H” Hill/Heargraves
Holt McCallany as Bullet
Jeffrey Donovan as Jackson
Josh Hartnett as Boy Sweat Dave
Chris Reilly as Tom
Laz Alonso as Carlos
Raúl Castillo as Sam
DeObia Oparei as Brad
Eddie Marsan as Terry
Scott Eastwood as Jan
Director: Guy Ritchie

Mysterious and wild-eyed, a new security guard (Jason Statham) for a cash truck surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score.

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I was interested in Wrath of Man. Not only was it a Guy Ritchie movie, but it would be his first collaboration with Jason Statham in a long time. The trailer for the movie was alright but it definitely seemed like more like a typical Jason Statham action flick than a Guy Ritchie movie, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect outside of some good action scenes. I still was interested in it however, and it ended up being better than I expected it to be.

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Essentially, Wrath of Man is a revenge thriller meets heist film. The plot wasn’t exactly predictable and was a tad on the generic side, but I found myself invested throughout its runtime. The characters are common personalities as well for a film of this genre, but they’re written confidently and in such a way that we can just focus on what they are involved in. While Wrath of Man features some Guy Ritchie tropes, there’s definitely a lot of distinct differences between this and most of his other films. It’s set in Los Angeles, the dialogue while being Ritchie-esque isn’t quite as snappy, and the characters aren’t quirky. It also doesn’t quite have the dark comedy that those other movies have. Wrath of Man is a dead serious, brutal, relentless, and violent revenge thriller, in fact this is definitely one of the darkest movies that Guy Ritchie has made. The middle section particularly gets grim, bleak and unsettling. At the same time, the tone felt right for this story, and it was well put together. One way Wrath of Man is similar to Ritchie’s other movies is the nonlinear narrative. We cut around to different character sand see their perspectives, even in the past. As a result, it gives the narrative even more context. It does get a little crazy with the time jumps, especially as we see title cards revealing that we are jumping months ahead and behind. The pacing runs a bit on the slower side, especially when we are often cutting back to the same events and just seeing them through different perspectives. A consequence of this is that it makes the movie feel longer than it really is. With that said, the slow pacing was necessary, and it is rewarded greatly with an entertaining and action packed climax.

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This movie has often been advertised as a Jason Statham flick, and he’s definitely the lead character in this. As expected, he plays his role similar to how you’d expect him to, basing it off his previous action and crime movie roles. However, there’s something slightly different to him in this, unlike his past roles (even his straight up villainous roles), he feels actually threatening in this. His character is mysterious and stoic, and he’s got this empty far-away look that makes him actually feel intimidating. He’s ruthless, and in some scenes seems almost like a terminator or slasher villain. At the same time he’s still very much not invincible, just very dangerous. Probably among Statham’s best performances. The rest of the cast are good too, with the likes of Holt McCallany, Scott Eastwood, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Eddie Marsan and Andy Garcia providing solid support work.

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Guy Ritchie directs this, and his work here is really good. Even though I previously said that its different to a lot of his previous movies, you still do feel to a degree that it’s a Guy Ritchie film with the way things are shot and edited. It’s a very well shot movie, there are some impressive long takes, the movie even opens with a great long take. Despite how it was advertised, Wrath of Man isn’t an action-packed movie. Outside of a couple of action scenes in the first two acts, most of the action takes place in the last act, and it’s brutal, bloody, and kind of realistic. You feel every shot and impact, and the build up to it all is just as effective. One of the standout aspects from this movie immediately was the foreboding score from Chris Benstead, making an already unnerving film even more haunting. It has a sense of doom and dread that fits with the film, even sounding like something from Joker. It keeps the tension rising throughout the movie, creating this unsettling and intense atmosphere. Speaking of which, with the level of violence and intensity, it really makes the movie stand out in Ritchie’s filmography.

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Wrath of Man might actually be among Guy Ritchie’s best movies. The plot isn’t anything special or unpredictable, but the bleakness, the intense and haunting atmosphere, the non-linear narrative, and the fantastic action sequences, along with some solid acting and directing, it all combines to make an experience that I’m glad I saw, especially in the cinema. If you are a fan of Guy Ritchie’s movies or Jason Statham’s movies, I do recommend checking it out.