Category Archives: Crime

Malignant (2021) Review

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Malignant

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell
Maddie Hasson as Sydney Lake
George Young as Kekoa Shaw
Michole Briana White as Regina Moss
Jacqueline McKenzie as Dr. Florence Weaver
Director: James Wan

Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a young woman, is terrified by visions of the murders of strangers. Later, Madison decides to find and save the victims.

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I was quite interested in Malignant, not only was it director James Wan’s newest film, but it also his first original horror movie in a while (the last instance being The Conjuring in 2013). I also found the initial reactions to the movie to be quite intriguing, with some people having no idea what they just watched. Honestly, I wish I had the chance to watch the movie in cinemas to hear the reactions, because it was quite an experience.

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It’s unsurprising that the trailers didn’t sell the movie that well considering how weird the concept sounds on paper. This is James Wan’s craziest film to date, and that’s saying a lot. There are some over the top moments and even comedy throughout the film, yet it somehow all fits together, managing to not ruin the grounded and dramatic moments. It is definitely an absurd movie, but it is self-aware of what it is, while still taking itself somewhat seriously. You can feel a mix of other horror directors’ influences, including Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, it feels like a perfect mixture of different horror subgenres. However, it is still all James Wan, while feeling so totally different from what he has done in the past. You could probably see elements of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, but Malignant still has its own distinct tone and feel. The first two acts build mystery around lead character Madison, intriguing you and locking you into the central mystery as she sees a lot of murders being committed by a mysterious killer. However, it is really the big reveal and the whole third act which is the point where you’ll realise whether you’re on board with the movie or not. Even if you’ve predicted the twist beforehand, the details surrounding the twist are so nutty that they have to be seen to be believed. I for one didn’t quite expect it, the third act was surprising, fun and satisfying and I had a blast with it.

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Annabelle Wallis is really good in the lead role and puts a lot into her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t bad, but they are serviceable. A lot of them act very odd at times especially with how they deliver their dialogue. However, it does work well for the movie’s campy feel at least. Ray Chase is also superb as the voice of the main antagonist of the film.

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This is a James Wan movie and as usual his work is really fantastic. This movie is visually beautiful to watch. There is also a great atmosphere throughout, greatly helped by the slick camera work as well as the sound design. It really should be said that this is by far James Wan’s goriest movie yet. Without going into the details of the scenes, there are some set pieces that are truly a sight to behold, especially in the insane third act. Everything from the choreography, the blood, the camerawork, everything in that last 30 minutes just turns everything to 11. The design and presentation of the main killer in the story is creative and truly memorable. The soundtrack from Joseph Bishara is great too. There’s particularly a piece of music that sounds like Where is My Mind by The Pixies, and it actually works as the main theme of the movie so well.

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Malignant definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be quite a satisfying and surprising horror film, with plenty of thrills, bloody and fantastic set pieces, and is absolutely bonkers. I’d go so far to say that it is one of James Wan’s best films. If you like horror movies, I do highly recommend watching it. Go into it blind, and if you find yourself not feeling it within the first 20 minutes, I recommend at least getting to the third act because it is worth watching the film for that alone.

Kate (2021) Review

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Kate

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate
Miku Martineau as Ani
Woody Harrelson as Varrick
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Slipped a fatal poison on her final job, a ruthless Tokyo assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has less than 24 hours to find out who ordered the hit and exact revenge.

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I heard about Kate leading up to its release. I knew that it was going to be an action thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead which was going to be released on Netflix. Despite being sceptical of action movies with known actors put on streaming services, I was somewhat interested in this one, I thought it looked pretty good from the trailers. Kate is yet another serviceable assassin centred action thriller which has its issues, but was better than expected.

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As expected, the writing is the worst part of the movie. The story is by the numbers, and it is very familiar and formulaic. It has its fair share of tropes and plot devices you’ve seen countless times. It’s also quite predictable, even some of the main reveals are easy to see coming. With that being said, it is thankfully paced fast enough and with enough urgency, especially given that the premise is about the main character only having a day left to live. The dialogue isn’t the best and it can be awkward, especially whenever the movie tries to throw in the odd moment of humour. The story to a degree had some depth, the main characters have backstories to them, and it feels like some effort was put into them. Unfortunately, the drama and emotion aren’t quite as well executed as they could’ve been. Some plot beats that should resonate feel undercooked. A big part of the movie is a relationship between Kate and a girl she’s trying to protect named Ani. This is meant to be the heart of the film, but their relationship isn’t given enough time or development. The third act gets even more formulaic and feels a little rushed as it races towards a climax, despite being entertaining for what it was. I enjoyed Kate for its 1 hour and 46-minute runtime, but I think it could’ve been a bit better if it was around 90 minutes long.

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If you need only one reason to check out Kate, it is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In the lead role, she pretty much carries the whole movie. The writing for the character is pretty thin, but MEW makes the part great, delivering a commanding central performance and being such an on screen presence. She even gave more than the character needed, conveying a certain vulnerability, urgency and sadness I didn’t expect. And of course, there’s the action scenes where she is particularly impressive, she uses pretty much anything as a weapon and the stunts are very convincing. At the same time, she is also shown to be vulnerable, she doesn’t come out of these fight scenes and gun battles unscathed. The rest of the supporting cast are a bit of a mixed bag. One notable character is that of Ani, the child that Kate has to protect throughout much of the movie, played by Miku Martineau. I mentioned that the relationship between the two doesn’t work well enough, but there’s issues even on her as a character alone. Ani is grating and annoying to watch, and while I get that she’s intentionally annoying, her character doesn’t seem to learn or change at all. It’s a shame considering that her character is what ultimately gives Kate a significant purpose, so it’s unfortunate that this key character wasn’t exactly handled the best. There are also some solid supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Jun Kunimura. Speaking of Harrelson, he is good here, but his character feels very much like a copy of others seen before. He gets very little screentime and the role could’ve been played by any character actor.

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Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is the director, and for the most part I liked his work here. Much of the visuals and action are taken from the likes of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, but I still liked what was here. I really enjoyed the style and the visuals, especially the use of colour and neon. The cinematography and lighting also added a lot to the fight scenes. Speaking of which, the action scenes are part of the reason why the movie works. The action is striking and intense, it’s brutal and gory and doesn’t hold back at all. The choreography is solid, and some scenes are genuinely impressive. The only action scene that wasn’t that good was a bad looking CGI car sequence early on, aside from that I was quite entertained by the action set pieces.

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Kate isn’t anything special and it has its issues. The story and writing are very familiar and derivative, and some of its drama and emotional aspects are a bit undercooked and needed more work for it to resonate. With that said, it was visually stunning, the action is intense and great to watch, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic in the lead role, making this movie worth checking out. I really enjoyed it.

The Protégé (2021) Review

Maggie Q stars as Anna in the new film, T Protégé.

The Protege

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Maggie Q as Anna Dutton
Samuel L. Jackson as Moody Dutton
Michael Keaton as Michael Rembrandt
Director: Martin Campbell

Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer. However, when Moody is brutally killed, she vows revenge for the man who taught her everything she knows. As Anna becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton), their confrontation turns deadly, and the loose ends of a life spent killing weave themselves ever tighter.

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I was interested in The Protégé. Along with it having a main cast consisting of Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, it is directed by Martin Campbell, who made Casino Royale and The Mask of Zorro. The premise on paper looked very familiar, but I was hoping for a decent action movie at the very least. For the most part, The Protégé was indeed an enjoyable action flick, but does have some flaws holding it back from being better.

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The writing is the worst part of the movie, and the script really is at odds with Martin Campbell’s strengths. The story is not very original, it’s generic and we’ve seen many of these plots in plenty of other better spy and revenge thrillers. The story and characters aren’t that interesting, there aren’t any stakes or emotional payoffs, and the few twists it has are rather predictable. Not only that but the plot could get unnecessarily complicated at times. It was incoherent, and by the end I was still wondering what it was even about. It is also very tonally inconsistent, mainly with the attempts at humour which never really landed for me. The dialogue is to blame for this, it is honestly terrible at times. By the time it reaches the last third of the film, it starts to lose steam. Not only that but it starts to try to be about something, and if anything that brought the movie down for me. Up to that point it was just a B-level schlocky action flick that I was having fun with. The ending itself was quite abrupt and it felt like something was missing. The story felt unfinished, there’s lots of loose ends and I didn’t understand why certain things happened, or why certain characters chose to make certain choices. I still enjoyed the movie, but the ending left me feeling cold, and not in a good way. The movie is just under 2 hours at 109 minutes, I think it could’ve been a little shorter than that.

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The characters aren’t that interesting and are rather one note. However, the main three actors at the centre make up for it at least. Maggie Q is solid in the lead role as the assassin seeking revenge, both in her performance and the action scenes. Michael Keaton is great too as the bodyguard and right-hand man of the main villain, very entertaining to watch. He even gets some action scenes of his own, and it looks like he actually does take part in some of the stunts. While I did like Keaton here, I do feel like his role was supposed to be played by a younger actor, making some of his scenes with Maggie Q feel very out of place. I especially wasn’t really sure what was going on with the relationship with those two characters, it kept going back and forth, and not in the way where it keeps you guessing. Its more like the writers couldn’t make up their minds about where it was going. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t in the movie a ton and it is definitely a role that he can play in his sleep, but as expected he delivers on his part.

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Michael Keaton as Rembrandt

Martin Campbell is a good director of action, and his work here definitely elevates the movie. The action scenes are really good, its shot in a mostly clear fashion, the fights are well choreographed, and it was satisfying to watch. It is surprisingly graphic and gory at points, plenty of people get damaged and killed over the course of the movie. The action isn’t as memorable as some of Campbell’s other action work such as Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro or Goldeneye, but nonetheless it makes the movie more entertaining to watch.

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The Protege feels like an action movie that would’ve come out decades ago, for better and for worse. The writing really is its worst aspect, the dialogue and plotting are very lacklustre, and it’s hard to really care about what’s going on with the story and characters. It’s the strong direction, action and the solid cast that elevate the movie, making it entertaining for the most part. If you are up for a decent but forgettable action thriller, then The Protégé is an entertaining enough 2-hour watch.

Bound (1996) Review

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Bound

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Gina Gershon as Corky
Jennifer Tilly as Violet
Joe Pantoliano as Caesar
John Ryan as Mickey Malnato
Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the mistress of the gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), is in a torrid love affair with Corky (Gina Gershon). For Violet to dump Caesar, they formulate a plan to rob millions of dollars of stashed mob cash, blaming him for it.

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I had watched all of the films from directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski except for their first film, Bound, which I heard was really good. I really didn’t know much about this movie going in. However it was great, and I think it might actually be their best film yet.

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Bound’s plot is relatively simple, yet quite effective and handled very well. It is essentially a modern noir, but with aspects that make it stand out. Its script is meticulously refined, the characters are more than just mere caricatures, and the relationship between the lead characters is well realised. Bound does seem to have a selling point with the lead character being lesbians, but it’s not the only thing that the film is about, while making that storyline feel very human and believable. The movie actually has a creative take on a whole lot of stale genre tropes, playing with gender and femme fatal cliches and subverting them. At the same time there are a lot of enjoyable noir elements on display, there’s a good balance of satisfying and subverting tropes. The pacing is electric, and the plot and characters are always in motion. The film has a lot of energy, and between the snappy dialogue, the scenes of tensions and suspense, there is so much going on. The first act’s slow build of tension is done to really sell Corky and Violet’s relationship and motivation into doing what they do for the rest of the movie. Then the second and third acts deliver a lot of suspenseful moments that are unpredictable, which are made even more tense given that most of them take place in a claustrophobic setting. The film does have some very cheesy dialogue, especially in the first act, but so does a lot of classic noirs. That’s also not to mention that there is a general self awareness throughout, so the cheesiness doesn’t seem out of place. The humour actually plays nicely together with the building of tension, and they have a satisfying payoff. Something that is impressive, especially given that its their first movie, is that the Wachowskis don’t compromise with any of its aspects, whether it’s the illustration of a lesbian affair, or the surprisingly brutal violence which the movie shows unflinchingly. It’s bold for a debut, and they definitely showed themselves as bold filmmakers with this one movie.

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This movie is also perfectly cast and well-acted. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are perfect in the lead roles of Corky and Violet respectively, they give amazing performances and have great chemistry as we watch their romance grow throughout the movie. They are believable as two lovers trying to make their ways out, especially with Violet trying to escape from her gangster boyfriend played by Joe Pantoliano. Speaking of which, Pantoliano could almost be seen as a third lead in this movie and this might be the best I’ve seen him in a movie. He kind of steals the show as a paranoid mob thug who’s at times entertaining and hilarious and other times threatening.

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As said earlier, Bound is the debut film from the Wachowskis, and this has to be one of the most confident debut movies I’ve seen from first time directors. It’s directed incredibly well and in such a stylish way, you can pick up on some iconic stylistic choices and see how it would influence their later movies. It is great seeing the Wachowskis work with a smaller scope instead of the big and grandiose action and sci-fi genres and stories that they are known for. It is small in scope but is so polished at the same time. It has a low budget of $6 million but every technical aspect is perfect. Bill Pope shoots this movie incredibly well, and the camera work with the high angle shots and close up shots felt very professional for a debut film. The editing is great and adds tension when needed, especially in the last two third of the movie. It is very well scored by Don Davis (who would also compose the scores for the Matrix movies), and the sound design fits well for this simplistic story.

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Bound is a bold and confident debut from Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and a great movie in itself. The acting particularly from Tilly, Gershon and Pantoliano is great, the story is tight and captivating, and it’s directed very well. As much as the Wachowskis are known for their big budget movies, I would love to see them work with smaller scale material again. At this point, I’m pretty sure Bound is my favourite movie from them so far.

Rashomon (1950) Review

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Rashomon

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Takashi Shimura as Kikori
Minoru Chiaki as Tabi Hōshi
Kichijiro Ueda as the listener
Toshiro Mifune as Tajōmaru
Machiko Kyō as the Samurai’s wife
Masayuki Mori as the Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa

The rape of a bride (Machiko Kyo) and the murder of her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the bride, the samurai’s ghost and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura).

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I wanted to watch more films from Akira Kurosawa after watching Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, both of which were fantastic. I set my sights on Rashomon next, it has been said that this movie has been so essential and influential to cinema, and it’s known as a real classic. Having seen it, I can say it certainly lived up to its reputation.

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On the surface, Rashomon about a crime that took place, focussing on who saw the crime and what happened, with the story being told through different perspectives of those involved. I really like the way that this movie narratively unfolds, especially how it is constantly changing with every person who tells their side of the story. I found the plot to be engaging, and it does well at making you suspicious with every version of the story that you hear. The writing is quite clever, only showing you what it wants you to know and when they want you know. The structure is worth noting too, with a lot of non-linear storytelling that makes a lot of use of flashbacks. Its use of both makes Rashomon a unique and game changing movie for its time considering that it was in the 1950s. It’s quite intelligent, well put together, and very compelling to watch. Along with being very clever in terms of a crime thriller, it also has a lot to say thematically. As you can tell, truth and narrative are definitely a big part of the movie, with how easy it is for people to falsify the truth, and how interpretations of the truth can be subjective. However, Rashomon is also about morality and human nature, as well as the human condition. With all this, it packs an emotional punch at the end that surprised me. It is quite a short movie at 90 minutes long but it’s the right length, and despite the shortness still has a lot there that can be delved into. With the different perspectives that are given in this movie, I want to watch it again because I feel like I’d get more out of it on repeat viewings.

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The acting is all great, from the people in the present storyline debating about what happened in this crime, to the people who are giving their sides of the stories. The performances especially from the lead three, The Bandit, Husband and Wife, really make you question everything about the film. Of course out of all of them, it is Toshiro Mifune who is the standout in his role as the bandit. He is very much a supporting character here but he steals every scene he’s in.

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Akira Kurosawa’s direction is incredibly impressive as always. For one, it is shot very well. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and beautifully lit, and the use of natural lighting really makes it appealing to watch. Many of the camera techniques used here also help with the narrative, for example each of the four people who give their side of the story during the trial face the camera directly, as if we are the court in this trial. The editing also played a key role, and it’s incredibly sharp and puts everything together excellently.

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Rashomon is a fantastic film, and I can see now why it’s so famous and iconic. It is a simple yet complex crime thriller about unreliable perspectives, human nature and morality, which is incredibly written, directed and acted. I think it’s a must watch, and it is a movie that I’m interested in rewatching.

Chungking Express (1994) Review

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Chungking Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallen Angels (1995) Review

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Fallen Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Rain (1989) Review

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Black Rain

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Michael Douglas as Nick Conklin
Andy García as Charlie Vincent
Ken Takakura as Masahiro Matsumoto
Kate Capshaw as Joyce
Yūsaku Matsuda as Koji Sato
Director: Ridley Scott

Nick (Michael Douglas) and his partner, Charlie (Andy Garcia), are New York City policemen who must track down Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), a Japanese gangster, who gives them the slip while being transported to Osaka for his murder trial.

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I came across Black Rain at some point, I initially heard that it was a decent crime thriller starring Michael Douglas. Then I found out that Ridley Scott directed it so that got me interested in checking it out. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Black Rain, it is actually one of Ridley Scott’s more underrated movies, and it’s one worth checking out.

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The plot of Black Rain is nothing too special despite some interesting turns here and there. Basically the main two characters must escort the dangerous Yakuza gangster to Osaka, Japan, they are dragged into the Japanese underworld where things are done much differently. Don’t go in expecting a whole lot other than that really. The dialogue is occasionally cliched for this genre, and the plot occasionally relies too much on the expected tropes of the genre. This is as 80s cheese as it could be, it can get silly and over the top at times. However Scott’s take on the “tough cop” action movies that were more than prominent throughout the 80s was a step above other cop thrillers in that period. It is probably worth knowing going in that Black Rain more of a straight thriller than a pure action flick, so don’t expect a massive amount of action. It is also paced on the slower side, and the movie is a tad too long. However it is a well structured movie with a great atmosphere, and that atmosphere goes a long way towards getting you invested.

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There are some strong performances throughout. First of all there is Michael Douglas as the lead character of Nick Conklin, and this is the closest that Michael Douglas has been to leading an action movie. He plays a NYPD officer who plays by his own rules and the character is in many ways unlikeable and corrupt. However it works because the movie doesn’t try to make him more likable, Douglas adds a level of charm to the character (while not overdoing it), and he brings an intensity to the role. Andy Garcia is also good as his partner Charlie, offsetting Nick’s chaotic nature by being comparatively soft spoken and the voice of reason, and the two of them are quite believable as partners. Ken Takakura is also great as a sympathetic Japanese policeman who joins with the two to track down the Yakuza gangster. He has a great screen presence, and he shines from the moment he first appears till the end of the movie. The relationship between Douglas and Takakura is the heart of the movie and it was quite interesting see these two very different characters try to work towards the same goal. Yusaku Matsuda plays a yakuza boss, the scene chewing villain of the movie, and he is also great in every scene he is in.

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Ridley Scott directs this, and his work here as a director is one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Strangely enough, it is so stylised that you might actually mistake this as a film from Tony Scott instead of one from Ridley. There’s an art to the cheesy 80s action flick, and Ridley seems to know it quite well. It is visually stunning, the cinematography from Jan De Bont is amazing. It particularly shines when it takes place at night. Ridley shoots much of the movie in the same way he did Blade Runner with the heavy focus on streets with fog and neon lights, and contains some of the dark cityscapes and industrial looks that film has as well. Black Rain isn’t loaded with non stop action, again it is more of a crime thriller than an action thriller. The few action sequences aren’t absolutely bonkers, but they are well executed, and you feel the thrills and suspense. Its use of slow motion is corny at times, but this actually works in the movie’s favour. The sound design is great, and the electronic and orchestral score by Hans Zimmer is top notch, really adding to the movie.

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Black Rain is not one of Ridley Scott’s best movies, but it is one of his most underrated. The plot isn’t anything special, but it is elevated by the strong cast who give good performances here, and of course Scott’s stylish direction. So if you like 80s crime thrillers, you’ll definitely be on board with this movie.

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

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Review

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Time:  115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek
Director: Park Chan-wook

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) has spent the last 13 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s fantasized about getting revenge on the various people who wronged her, including the police officer (Nam Il-u) who forced her to confess and a shady teacher (Choi Min-sik) with whom she has a checkered past. After her release, she teams up with a group of eccentric friends she made while behind bars and sets out to clear her name and find the daughter she was forced to leave behind.

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I heard of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance for a while, mainly that it’s the third part of the Vengeance trilogy from Park Chan-wook. I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, outside it being another movie about revenge I didn’t know anything about the story. I checked it out and it’s actually quite an incredible movie, one of my favourite movies from Park.

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As said earlier, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is another movie about revenge and like the other movies in Park’s Vengeance trilogy, shows the consequences and weight of revenge. The characters here are tired, bleak and just want it done so they can move on. The movie shows the many sides to a human’s moral compass, and what vengeance means to different people. The approach to the subject matter is more thoughtful and nuanced than some other films in the genre, and on the whole I’d have to say that this is one of the most mature movies about revenge I’ve seen. The script is expertly crafted and written. It is surprisingly quite complex, mostly to do with the unconventional structure for the first half. This structure is a little choppy despite the story being relatively straightforward looking back at it, it meant I was a little confused at first but on another viewing I probably would understand it more. The story is haunting and chilling, it’s an incredibly gripping psychological thriller. It isn’t as kinetic and frenzied as many other South Korean revenge film, but it still packs an emotional punch when it needs to. There are some harrowing scenes, and the movie can go from gritty and grounded and into something brutally cold and draining. The movie can be violent, dark and bleak but it’s all done with a purpose. Beneath all the violence lies genuine emotions from everyone affected by these acts, and the movie never falls into a display of cheap thrills. The last third was really well done and a great conclusion to the story. I will say that the movie is quite long, especially at the end. There are so many characters in this movie that are hard to keep track of, some scenes felt dragged out and there’s a lot of exposition that is overdone. Outside of those, I don’t have a huge amount of issues with the movie.

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There are some wonderful performances in this movie, but it ultimately comes down to Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja, the “Lady Vengeance” in this movie. It’s a fantastic performance of a compelling lead character. She’s developed and explored in both flashbacks and the present storyline to give her the backstory and depth needed. She shows such a range throughout the movie, threatening and out for revenge but we also see her more emotional side too. This performance and character definitely plays a big part in the movie working as well as it does. Choi Min-sik (Oh Dae-su in Oldboy) plays the real killer behind the murder that Geum-ja was sentenced for. He is great in his role here, and has a commanding presence on screen.

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Unsurprisingly, Park Chan-wook’s directing is incredible. Although each film in the Vengeance trilogy is similar in some way, each of them has its own distinct style, and Lady Vengeance is no exception. The cinematography is gorgeous, every scene is shot well and is mesmerising. The colour schemes were memorable, especially with how the colour tones slowly shift to black and white in the last half. There is a lot of creativity on display in this movie, with some inventive shots and bold transitions. Although the movie can be violent and gory, it does well at knowing when to not show violence completely. You still feel the impact of these scenes all the same. The score is melancholic and fantastic, and really fits the story really well.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fantastic movie on pretty much every front. It’s directed excellently, the story is complex and compelling, and Lee Young-ae is incredible in the interesting lead role. This would be my second favourite of the Vengeance trilogy, and one of my favourite films from Park Chan-wook.