Category Archives: Crime

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) Review

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Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer

Time: 83 Minutes
Cast:
Michael Rooker as Henry
Tom Towles as Otis
Tracy Arnold as Becky
Director: John McNaughton

Henry (Michael Rooker) is released from prison following his mother’s murder. He supplements his job as an exterminator with a series of indiscriminate and violent murders. Fellow jailbird and drug dealer Otis (Tom Towles) becomes a willing accomplice in Henry’s bloody killings. But as the depravity escalates and Henry forms a bond with Otis’ sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold), things start to get out of hand. The film is based on the true-life story of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

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I heard some things about Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It’s a movie from the 80s where Michael Rooker played the lead role of a serial killer named (in apparently his best role to date), and it was extremely controversial, leading it to be censored and banned in many places. I did hear some positive things about it though, so I decided to check it out. I do think it is good, even though its very much not one I would ever want to go back to

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This movie is essentially the examination and portrayal of a psychopath and serial killer, focussing on protagonist Henry as he kills random people without any remorse or empathy. There doesn’t seem to be a point to these senseless killings, but that in itself seems to be the point. The film doesn’t dig deep into motivations or reasons for the killings, but I thought that it worked for the movie. From the very beginning, it establishes an uneasy tone and never lets up. There is very little humanity here; the only shred of empathy is in the form of a character played by Tracy Arnold. While I found myself locked in watching this movie, I will say that nothing substantial really happens with the plot. It’s a good thing that it is only 83 minutes long then, it might’ve suffered had it been any longer. There are some terrible and poor dialogue at times, but the roughness and rawness of the film’s approach does make it work in way, more so than if it was in a more polished movie. The story culminates with a very dark, bleak and chilling ending that lingers in the mind long after watching.

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The role of Henry is played by Michael Rooker, in what is quite possibly his best performance yet. He is outstanding, compelling to watch and unsettling, with a subtle menace to him. Despite his character being clearly a serial killer, Rooker makes him someone you are willing to follow (at least initially). He makes him more complex, and you are interested in seeing his interactions with other people. Some of the acting from the rest off the cast aren’t that good. However, much like the dialogue, with the tone combined with the realism, it worked.

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This movie is directed by John McNaughton and his work here really made it work. As said before, this film is low budget and it certainly looks like it, throughout it feels very dirty and raw. Its raw and grimy appearance gives it a sense of realism, helped by the 16mm cinematography and the grainy look. It almost makes it look like a documentary riding around with Henry. Additionally, it makes use of real locations and settings that give the story an added sense of realism, only making it more disturbing. Considering that this is a movie about a serial killer, a surprising number of the murders take place off screen and we usually see the aftermath, but they are no less impactful (or perhaps it makes them more impactful that way). The violence feels unsettlingly real with the movie never revelling in it, and the ominous tone and never lets you feel comfortable.

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Watching Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I can definitely see why it caused such controversy at the time. It is uncomfortable to watch and not for everyone, however I found it a compelling watch, and it is at least admirable with how uncompromising it is. While the writing and direction is very rough around the edges, that helped the movie succeed as well as it did, along with a strong lead performance from Michael Rooker.

The Raven (1935) Review

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The Raven (1935)

Time: 61 Minutes
Cast:
Boris Karloff as Edmond Bateman
Béla Lugosi as Dr. Richard Vollin
Lester Matthews as Jerry Halden
Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher
Inez Courtney as Mary Burns
Director: Lew Landers

A brilliant but deranged neurosurgeon becomes obsessively fixated on a judge’s daughter who in no way wants him. With the help of an escaped criminal whose face he has surgically deformed, the mad man lures her, her father, and her fiancé to his isolated castle-like home, where he has created a torture chamber with the intent of torturing them for having ‘tortured’ him.

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I’ve been meaning to check out some older horror movies, and from looking for some recommendations, I had heard about some overlooked films including The Raven, a movie made around the same time as other known Universal Horror movies like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. The only thing I knew going into it was that it had something to do with Edgar Allen Poe and starred horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. It was very hard to track down a copy to watch, but eventually I did and I think it deserves more attention.

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The Raven begins as a sinister noir as Bela Lugosi’s deranged surgeon develops an obsession on a judge’s daughter. Eventually it develops more into a horror movie, especially with Lugosi’s house of torture devices. It has the feel of other Universal Monsters movies but doesn’t have much if any comedy to relieve the tension. It’s a very dark film for the 30s, especially with violence (or even concepts of violence) back then. Eventually it builds to a great and tense final act. The movie is very short at about 60 minutes long, but I think that length worked well enough for this movie.

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The biggest selling points of this movie was the duo of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and they were the highlight, it was great watching the two of them together. Karloff plays a criminal who receives surgery from Lugosi’s character and ends up being disfigured. The character wasn’t that interesting, but Karloff manages to effectively convey sympathy for a character you otherwise wouldn’t have any for. However, the standout of the whole movie for me is Bela Lugosi as this mad surgeon, who is obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and torturing people. He starts off charming yet menacing, and by the end of the film is outwardly raving mad. It’s a very imposing, threatening, and theatrical performance, and he has a great screen presence. Karloff might have top billing, but for me its Lugosi’s movie; he has more screentime and outshines everyone else. There is also a possibility that this is his best performance, even more so than Dracula. I think the weakest part of the movie might be the rest of the cast, who pretty much act like stock B-level horror people being put in dangerous situations. The characters aren’t interesting, and the acting isn’t that good either.

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The direction from Lew Landers is solid. There is a foreboding atmosphere throughout, which only intensifies as the film progresses. It’s well shot and the set design is great. This is mostly to do with Lugosi’s house, which is the setting for much of the movie. Its very gothic and elaborate with the secret rooms, traps, and torture devices. That’s not to say that this movie has dated the best, the worst aspect is probably the makeup to make Karloff’s character look disfigured, it looks really bad, especially a distractingly fake looking eye.

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Although I need to see more, The Raven from 1935 is likely one of the most underrated Universal Monster movies. While some of the technical aspects don’t hold up and the supporting cast and characters aren’t the best, the surprisingly dark atmosphere and tone along with the great performances from Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi make it well worth it. I highly recommend checking it out if you can.

I Saw the Devil (2010) Review

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I Saw the Devil

Time:  141 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Lee Byung-hun as Kim Soo-hyun
Choi Min-sik as Jang Kyung-chul
Director: Kim Jee-woon

On a dark road, taxi driver Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) comes across a scared female motorist stranded in a broken-down vehicle. He pulls over — but not to help her. When the woman’s head is discovered in a local river, her devastated fiancé, Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a trained secret agent, becomes obsessed with hunting down her killer. Once he finds Kyung-chul, things get twisted. After brutally beating the murderer, Kim lets him go free, and a demented game of cat and mouse begins.

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I remember hearing about I Saw the Devil for a while, I didn’t know much about it except that it involved serial killers, and the title alone gave the impression of being a horror movie. I heard some great things about it going into it but it actually turned out to be better than I thought it would be. A gruesome yet engaging horror thriller, it was amazing on so many levels.

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I Saw the Devil is a revenge movie at its core, and there are plenty of revenge movies out there. There’s a lot more to it though, and so I do recommend going into it blind. It really is a blunt and graphic portrait of pure vengeance, intense, edgy, and unforgiving, yet thematically potent. From beginning to end, I was invested in which direction the story and characters would take. This movie really takes the typical cat and mouse and serial killer plots to a unique place. This time it’s the main character who is toying with the villain (and serial killer). Despite the killer being about as horrible as he could possibly be, it really shows that the main character really is losing it on his pursuit of vengeance, so it’s not just another gory revenge movie. I Saw the Devil is uncompromising in its darkness and brutality, yet never sadistic. It’s very graphically violent but never borders into torture porn, as the violence serves the characters and themes above everything. Despite it being sort of a thriller, I Saw the Devil arguably gives off horror vibes more than anything else, and you could argue it occasionally crosses into that territory many times. The movie was 2 hours and 22 minutes long, it’s pretty long but that runtime really flew by for me.

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The acting is great all around, with the two leads really being the standouts. Lee Byng-hun plays the agent hunting the serial killer as revenge after his fiancée is brutally murdered. While you know his actions are rooted in a sense of justice, it ends up being out of control. Lee effortlessly brings his immensely flawed protagonist to life, despite the dark actions that he commits, he’s far too wrathful and headstrong to see his crusades as anything other than completely justified. At the same time, it’s impossible not to sympathise with him because you know that his actions are rooted in some sense of justice. Lee’s performance is a calm and determined one, with subtle nuances and facial expressions to convey both his desire for revenge, as well as his grief. The serial killer is played by Choi Min-sik, I knew him from playing the lead character in Oldboy, and here he’s in a very different kind of role. Choi’s character is downright loathsome and monstrous in this, absolutely the worst of the worst. But he owns the part perfectly and convincingly, he’s such an immense presence whenever he’s on screen. Both Lee and Choi bounce off each other greatly in their scenes together.

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This film is directed by Kim Jee-woon, and his work is nothing short of excellent. First of all, it’s a fantastically shot film. The cinematography with its constant tracking shots is amazing and makes the dirty and grim sets and locations look more beautiful than they have any right to be. The scenes of action are great. There is a moment with Choi Min-sik in a taxi, and it’s a particularly impressive scene, and I still don’t know how they managed to pull it off. The violence on display can be so shockingly vicious that it verges on the absurd. Despite this, you feel the impact of these moments every single time.

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I Saw the Devil is a grisly and grim yet excellent revenge horror thriller. It’s directed amazingly, performed greatly, and the story is engaging and visceral. It’s definitely not for everyone, if only for the extreme gore and violence. However if you like horrors and thrillers, I do think that it is definitely worth checking out, ideally knowing as little as possible beforehand.

Memory (2022) Review

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Memory (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decision to Leave (2022) Review

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Decision to Leave

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Tang Wei as Seo-rae
Park Hae-il as Hae-jun
Director: Park Chan-wook

A detective investigating a man’s death in the mountains ends up meeting and developing feelings for the dead man’s mysterious wife in the course of his dogged sleuthing.

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Park Chan-wook is one of my all time favourite filmmakers and I was excited to see him direct another movie, especially since its been 6 years since his last movie (the excellent The Handmaiden). He did not disappoint with Decision to Leave.

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On paper, Decision to Leave looks like a very standard police procedural thriller, the he plot following a detective investigating the death of a man and his mysterious wife. Surprisingly though, its more of a romance, its almost like a Wong Kar-wai film if it was made by Park Chan-wook. I loved the first half, I was engrossed and intrigued with the story. Its filled with detailed clues, deceit, and is layered with important subtleties. That mostly comes down to the central relationship that is unconventional and weird, yet incredibly compelling, and one which I was wrapped up in. The movie isn’t without its issues. Unfortunately, around halfway into the movie (without spoiling anything), there is a notable shift in the story, and I became less invested. There are points where the plot could also get a little too convoluted, more so in the latter part of the story. It’s a film that is deliberately paced across its 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was very appropriate and allowed things to naturally develop, especially with the central romance. However, I found that it could drag in parts (mainly the second half), and there are parts of the movie which could’ve been tightened a little bit. That being said, the film does end on a great and memorable note.

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All the actors play their parts well, but it really comes down to the lead characters played by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, both of whom are excellent. Their relationship is what kept me invested throughout the film; there is a lot of intimate tension between the two, and you feel that every gesture, glance and action are significant. The relationship felt believable, and the two definitely played a big part in the movie working as well as it did.

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As to be expected, Park Chan-wook’s direction is phenomenal, and Decision to Leave is fantastic on a technical level. The cinematography is spectacular, and the visuals are alluring and vivid. Whether it is showing a mountain, an ocean, or anything else, it captures them beautifully. The camerawork is very creative and inventive, especially with its movement and focus. It is already one of the best shot movies of the year. The editing is energetic and fantastic too, with some particularly outstanding and smooth shot transitions. On top of all those is a hauntingly beautiful score from composer and frequent Park Chan-wook collaborator Jo Yeong-wook, which fits the film perfectly.

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Decision to Leave is another fantastic film from Park Chan-wook. There are some issues I have with it, the second half particularly brings down the movie from being on the level of some of his very best movies. That’s a little disappointing, because everything else is amazing. It is stunning to look at, Park’s direction is outstanding, and for all the faults in the story, the central relationship is compelling and is performed beautifully by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il. Decision to Leave is not to be missed, and it is already one of the best movies of the year.

The Punisher (2004) Review

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The Punisher (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Con Air (1997) Review

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Con Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assassins (1995) Review

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Assassins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Transporter (2002) Review

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The Transporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clue (1985) Review

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Clue

Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] 
Cast:
Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock
Tim Curry as Wadsworth
Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum
Michael McKean as Mr. Green
Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard
Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet
Director: Jonathan Lynn

Six blackmail victims are invited to an isolated mansion by a man who knows a dark secret from each of their pasts. On arrival, each is given a pseudonym drawn from Cluedo before being introduced to the blackmailer. Each is handed a weapon, at which point the lights are switched off and the blackmailer is killed. Can the guests uncover the murderer before they all become victims?

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I went into Clue fairly unsure of what to expect. All I heard was just that it was a whodunnit comedy based on the board game of the same name, and that it had something of a following. It ended up being one of the biggest surprises I had watching a movie.

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A movie based on the board game Clue seems like a weird choice, because at that point it would pretty much just be a Clue themed whodunnit film, which it is. It takes the basic premise of the board game and goes wild with it, finding clever ways of linking details of the game into the movie including the prominent rooms and possible murder weapons. The plot is actually clever and well thought out, so while its not one of the best whodunnits of all time, its crafted decently. The dialogue is witty, sharp and quotable and it’s a hilarious movie, mixing 80s cheese with dark comedy and slapstick to great effect. The jokes almost always hit for me and there are plenty of details that I missed from my initial viewing; I think that it’ll be a fun movie to rewatch. particularly with people who haven’t seen it before. Something worth noting is that there are three separate endings, and when it was released in cinemas, whichever ending each screening received was completely random. However, most versions of the movie nowadays have all three endings and I like it for that. Clue is just over 90 minutes and they move at a fast pace, I had a lot of fun from beginning to end with never a dull moment.

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The characters are all distinguishable and memorable, helped by the performances. The main cast with Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren along the supporting cast are all great. This ensemble cast is fun to watch together, playing off each other well and having their own little ticks that make them unique. They all get their moments to shine but my personal favourite of the actors unsurprisingly is Tim Curry, who particularly stands out in the third act during the final reveals.

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Jonathan Lynn’s direction is simple yet quite good and effective. The production values are strong, I liked the murder mystery party atmosphere and the spooky mansion. The editing and visuals for comedy is particularly done well.

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All things considering, Clue was way better than it had any right to be. It’s hilarious, the cast are fantastic, it’s very well made, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. It’s already become one of my favourite comedies and films, and one that I want to revisit multiple times over. I highly recommend watching it, especially if you go into it knowing as little as possible about it.