Category Archives: Thriller

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.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) Review

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Dong-jin
Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu
Bae Doona as Cha Yeong-mia
Director: Park Chan-wook

This is the story of Ryu (Shin Hagyun), a deaf man, and his sister (Lim Ji-Eun), who requires a kidney transplant. Ryu’s boss, Park (Song Kang-ho), has just laid him off, and in order to afford the transplant, Ryu and his girlfriend (Bae Doo-na) develop a plan to kidnap Park’s daughter. Things go horribly wrong, and the situation spirals rapidly into a cycle of violence and revenge.

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I knew of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance as being a film from Chan-wook Park, but also the first movie of his unofficial ‘Vengeance trilogy’, which also includes Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, I just knew that Song Kang-ho was in it, and I heard that it was quite depressing. That certainly turned out to be the case. While it’s not one of my favourite films from Chan-wook Park, it’s incredibly well made and gripping from beginning to end.

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I do think that the plot of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is one worth knowing as little as possible about before watching. All you need to know is that it is a revenge movie and concerns someone (with the help of his girlfriend) who was fired from his job, who then decides to kidnap the daughter of his former boss in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. You really should not look into the plot beyond that especially with the turns that the story makes. Something that some people will notice immediately is the rather slow pacing. Everything is built up rather calmly over the course of the movie especially in the first act, but none of that time is wasted at all. That time is used to set up the world and characters of this movie with incredible care and attention. It is quite absorbing and helps create a strong atmosphere as the situation in the plot gets more intense. What you’ll also notice is that the tone is dreary, gritty and overall sad, with almost no moment of happiness. The movie really is a classic Greek tragedy, and a real gut punch of a thriller, flipping the idea of a revenge film on its head. There’s just a large chain of tragic consequences and brutal reactions throughout the entire story, you don’t really know which of the two main characters to really root for. It deals with many subjects and themes that are incredibly heavy and dark that are present throughout the movie. It is certainly less pulpy and energetic than Oldboy, Park’s next movie after Mr. Vengeance, and there isn’t even a clear-cut villain here like there was in that movie. With that said, it still manages to draw you into its characters, story and world, and keeps you intrigued enough to see how everything ends. I really liked the ending and how everything was concluded, and it was as unflinchingly grim as I expected. The only problem I had was a flashback and narration which was used to explain something, when I didn’t think that it was needed. It’s a small thing but it took me out of it because up until that moment, the story did well at letting you understand what was happening with the story without having to spell it out for the audience.

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The acting is truly spectacular from everyone. The two lead roles of Park Dong-jin and Ryu are performed by Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun respectively, and their work here is truly phenomenal. Both incapsulated their characters so well and made them truly believable and compelling.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and his work in this movie doesn’t disappoint. While I wouldn’t put this up there with some of his other movies like Oldboy or The Handmaiden, it’s spectacular. The cinematography is stunning, whether it be capturing a brightly coloured room, or a grungy or dirty location. It really fits the tone of the story. The movie can be very gruesome too, don’t expect any exciting action scenes, it’s unflinchingly brutal and hard to watch at times (as intended).

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not a fun movie in the conventional sense. However it is a great movie for sure, the story is grim and hard to watch but compelling, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from the leads. You do need to go into the movie with the right mindset, but I think it’s worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Park Chan-wook’s other movies.

Old (2021) Review

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Old

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Cast:
Gael García Bernal as Guy Cappa
Vicky Krieps as Prisca Cappa
Rufus Sewell as Charles
Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott as Trent Cappa
Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz as Maddox Cappa
Abbey Lee as Chrystal
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Patricia Carmichael
Ken Leung as Jarin Carmichael
Eliza Scanlen as Kara
Aaron Pierre as Mid-Sized Sedan/Brendan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day.

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Old was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, I know that his movies aren’t for everyone and there are a few of his films which don’t really work for me personally. On the whole though, I like his movies. There was a lot of mystery surrounding Old but I knew it was a thriller about aging set on a beach starring Thomasin McKenzie and Vicky Krieps, and it was directed by Shyamalan, so I was interested in how it turned out. I actually really liked it a lot.

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Some have described Old as being Twilight Zone esque and while I’ve never watched the show, I can kind of get what they mean. The plot is fairly straightforward and fairly predicable at times, but has a high concept that they take advantage of, the horror of inescapable aging. The movie is about time as to be expected, with plenty of themes about growing old, experiencing major moments in life in a short time, and effectively is a meditation on time despite being a thriller first and foremost. In most Shyamalan films there is a level of sincerity to how seriously they take the story, and that goes a long way here. The movie is a family drama, and while this dynamic and concept has been in many movies (including horror thrillers), it was handled quite well here. This is one of Shyamalan’s darkest movies, but it also has a lot of heart in it, and it nails the emotional aspect of the story. I face found the story gripping on the whole. In terms of issues with the writing, it does have Shyamalan’s trademark awkward and artificial sounding dialogue as expected. However at this point I accepted it as a Shyamalan thing, if you’re used to it from his other movies, then Old won’t be too hard to get through. The movie has this general level of weirdness to it but I find that it helps the movie have an off kilter feel to it. There are some moments which are funny but some of those feel intentional. I know that a lot of people will compare Old to The Happening, but the former definitely does things a lot better. The invisible horror certainly works a lot better in Old, perhaps because of the existential nature of the rapid aging in the movie. I will say that the tone is a little messy and all over the place. There is indeed a twist as to be expected from Shyamalan, and I think the twist is just okay within the context of the story, but it is one that I’ll need to think about. It does have a big exposition dump and an odd tonal shift that makes it feel out of place, otherwise I was fine with it.

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This movie has quite the talented cast, and I thought that everyone performed their parts greatly. The main family is greatly played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie. They had strong chemistry between them and they really felt like a family. The rest of the cast including Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee, Ken Leung and Eliza Scanlen were also really good in their parts. The performances of the actors playing children who age up quickly (Wolff, McKenzie and Scanlen) particularly do very well at portraying older versions of the children while believably capturing the mentality of the younger people they were hours before. Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Rufus Sewell were the standout performances to me.

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M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is really solid, I think this is some of the best work he’s one on a technical level at the very least. He definitely excels at his smaller scale movies, and this is certainly one of his smallest movies, with it mostly taking place on a beach. Speaking of which, the setting of the beach was great and there were some stunning shots, and certainly a notable amount of use of blocking to hide certain things and capture characters’ perspectives. Shyamalan does a lot with the claustrophobia of the setting and being trapped there, much like how the characters feel. Most of the movie doesn’t have anything overtly violent but when it does, it is effective. There’s even a surprising amount of body horror and in those moments, Shyamalan lets it loose and gets more gnarly than I was expecting it too. Finally, the score works very well for the movie.

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I have heard some people say that Old is M. Night Shyamalan at his absolute ‘most’, and I can sort of see why. If you aren’t a fan of many of Shyamalan’s movies, there might be some aspects about it that might not work with you, from some clunky dialogue, weird tonal changes, and odd story and technical choices. However, I actually quite liked the movie and found it entertaining, the actors were great, I was invested in the story, and it was very well made. It is definitely a divisive movie, but I think it’s worth checking out. It is possibly among Shyamalan’s best films.

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

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The Handmaiden

Time:  145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Kim Min-hee as Lady/Izumi Hideko
Kim Tae-ri as Maid/Nam Sook-hee
Ha Jung-woo as Count Fujiwara
Cho Jin-woong as Uncle Kouzuki
Director: Park Chan-wook

With help from an orphaned pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri), a Korean con man (Ha Jung-woo) devises an elaborate plot to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance.

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I had heard so many people highly praising The Handmaiden. I decided to check it out based on that alone, not really knowing much about the movie outside of the fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. Overwhelming fantastic is how I would describe the movie. Virtually every element of this is phenomenal, and it was amazing to watch.

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The writing is admirable and impressive, with a twisty, clever and unpredictable script. It is intricate, methodical and quite complex, but also enthralling and by the end satisfying. The plot starts off simple enough with the plot following a pick pocketer posing as a handmaiden for a wealthy heiress as part of a con. Over time however, this plot develops into something bold and quite different from how it starts, it subverts expectations throughout and it wasn’t what I expected at all. This character driven plot is engaging, constantly turning and heightening. I went into this movie blind and that was the best way to approach this. I won’t talk too much about the story so you can experience it for yourself. To just classify it as a con artist film would be really selling it short, there’s so much that happens in this movie. This film has a lot of elements to it, it’s tonally all over the place but finds cohesion and balance among everything that’s here. There’s strong drama, with dark thriller (almost horror) elements throughout. However, there’s a lot of dark humour mixed in, and The Handmaiden also really is a love story. Something noteworthy about the movie is the non-linear structure, which keeps you guessing about how it would progress, and changes your perception of the events of the movie. By the time you reach the end of the first third, you’ll know that you’re watching something special. The movie is slower paced and long, but the way the plot reveals its secrets is what makes the almost 2 hours and 30 minute runtime fly by. The Handmaiden is also an erotic thriller, with a large amount of sensuality and sexuality which can be a bit overbearing at times, yet that aspect is also really handled well surprisingly. The film doesn’t start off being that crazy like some of Park’s other movies but make no mistake, it is a wild movie from beginning to end.

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On top of the writing, the performances are terrific as well and make this already fantastic movie even better. The highlights are the leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who share some great chemistry, and with their relationship being in the forefront of the movie. The characters are quite complex and interesting, especially in Kim Tae-ri’s wealthy heiress character.

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Park Chan-wook directs this film, and I think that this might be his best work. I think that this movie is pretty much perfect on a technical level. Every moment feels deliberate, patient and fully realised. The cinematography is gorgeous and mesmerising, every shot is masterfully framed and set up. The costumes and production designs are well detailed and exquisite and feel accurate to the time period the film is set in. The editing is also strong, with particularly some really good transitions. Finally the score from Jo Yeong-wook is relaxing, tender and fantastic as well. All around, it is a technically masterful film.

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The Handmaiden is excellent and arguably Park Chan-wook’s best film. Near perfect from start to finish, the story and writing is complex and subversive, the acting is wonderful, and the direction is absolutely stellar. It is genuinely one of the most finely crafted movies I’ve seen, and one that I want to revisit.

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.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Review

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Fast & Furious 6

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Luke Evans as Owen Shaw
Gina Carano as Riley Hicks
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
John Ortiz as Arturo Braga
Director: Justin Lin

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is tasked with catching a team of mercenary drivers who manage to evade him every time. However, he enlists the help of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team in exchange for full pardons for their past crimes.

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Fast Five injected some much needed life and energy into the Fast & Furious franchise. It was a street racing action series, but its fifth movie made the switch to being a heist action movie and that worked really well. Not only was it the best film in the series at that point, but critics and audiences alike really enjoyed it. Director Justin Lin, who made Fast Five (as well as Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious) directs the follow up with Fast & Furious 6. Whether or not its better or worse than the previous instalment, I think it’s around the same level, and I really enjoyed it.

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While I’m not sure on the whole it’s a better movie, I do think that the story of Fast and Furious 6 is more engaging than Fast Five. Rather than it just being another heist, it does take a slightly different story direction. It is definitely still in the heist/crime tone established with Fast Five, which is definitely to its benefit. However what makes it interesting is the way it changes it up. They team up with Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs this time instead of being chased by him. They are also up against another team of criminals led by Luke Evans, and as its pointed out in the movie, his team is like an evil mirror to Dom’s team. While you really only remember a couple of them, they do make for memorably formidable antagonists. Unlike the villain of 5 who’s just a guy they need to rob, you really feel that they are on the level of Dom’s team. And of course family is a notable part of the movie, this time the big family draw is the fact that the character of Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is not only back from the dead after being assumed dead in the 4th movie, but is also in Luke Evans’s team and doesn’t appear to remember anything. This is a key reason why Dom decides to work with Hobbs and so it is a key part in the plot. I will say though that some of the reasons behind her return are very convoluted and farfetched to say the least. That aside, both aspects come together to make a story that I was interested in. Once again it is the strange but nonetheless effective mix of an approach that doesn’t take things too seriously, while being endearing in how it handles the story and characters and of course family. It also has a good mid credits scene that leads into Furious 7, well worth sticking around to watch.

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The main cast of Fast Five return, with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot. They come into their own here, with great chemistry between them. I’d actually say that they are better here than they were in the last movie. The newcomer of the main cast in the last movie was Dwayne Johnson has Luke Hobbs, and as mentioned earlier is working with Dom and his team instead of pursuing them, he makes a great addition with them and they play off each other really well, as can be expected considering it’s The Rock. One of the main aspects of the movie is Michelle Rodriguez returning as Letty, and she’s a welcome returning player. The villain of Owen Shaw played by Luke Evans works quite well. He’s not great and isn’t that interesting of a character, however he’s definitely a step above the villains in the previous Fast and Furious movies. He isn’t intimidating and imposing especially when he’s put up against Vin Diesel or Swayne Johnson, but he is nonetheless shown to be ruthless and a different kind of threat that wasn’t in the past movies.

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Director Justin Lin returns from Fast Five for this, at this point he’s pretty familiar with the franchise. It mainly comes down to the action, and there’s not much to complain about there. There are some great set pieces and clearly a lot of thought went into them. They really benefited from energetic camerawork, solid editing and good practical effects. The action is even crazier and sillier than Fast Five, not at all worrying about the laws of physics, yet you are constantly focusing on what’s happening and entertained throughout.

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Fast & Furious 6 is around the same level of Fast Five for me. The action might not be quite as memorable as the action scenes in Fast Five, but here the story is a little more interesting, and the cast actually worked better. It’s a solid follow up to Fast Five and was quite enjoyable, among the better entries in this franchise.

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.

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Review

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The Conjuring 3 The Devil Made Me Do It

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & cruelty
Cast:
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Ruairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel
Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel
John Noble as Father Kastner
Director: Michael Chaves

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

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I was a bit sceptical about The Conjuring 3 going into it, mainly because James Wan, who directed the previous 2 films, wasn’t returning to helm it. However, I am a fan of the first two movies, so I was still interested in checking it out. While it’s definitely not as strong as the Wan directed Conjuring films, it was better than I was expecting and it was quite good.

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One way that The Conjuring 3 especially works is by being different from the other movies with regards to the type of story, while fitting in nicely with the rest of the series. It’s not a haunted house yarn like the past two movies, and goes for a more mystery angle that involves a lot of investigation as the lead characters try to figure out the possession. I’m not that scared by the movies, so I don’t mind the different approach, even though it is still very much a horror movie with jump scares. The first two acts are pretty good and entertaining. The movie starts off well with a great and memorable opening scene, which gets you hooked from the beginning. After that point we have two storylines that go in different directions, one following the murder suspect, and the other following Ed and Lorraine Warren. I was quite intrigued to see where the story played out. There were some issues with the writing. I wish more things were fleshed out, for example having a Satanist being the one behind everything is an interesting idea (instead of it just being yet another demon), though their motivations aren’t explored really. While I wasn’t expecting anything super deep, I was just hoping for something more. The third acts of the Conjuring movies are the least scary sections of those movies and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. A lot of over the top in your face supernatural stuff happens, and it also cuts between two storylines which sort of takes you out of it. I didn’t mind it though, the climax was entertaining and I was satisfied with the resolution, even though it felt a little rushed.

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The characters and acting are the stronger parts of these movies, and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. One of the best aspects of these movies is Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their performances are great, and they share such believable chemistry. They really are some of the most compelling protagonists in modern horror movies. Their relationship is in the forefront once again, and much of the investment in the story comes from us being invested with these characters and everything that’s happening with them. The rest of the cast are great too, including Ruairi O’Connor as the possessed murder suspect at the centre of the film, and John Noble as a haunted ex-priest.

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As mentioned previously, James Wan didn’t direct this movie, and while his absence is felt to a degree, director Michael Chaves does quite well at helming it. It is well shot (some of them felt signature to Wan), and it does well at setting itself in the time period of the early 1980s. There are some jumpscares that were predictable and not that scary, but it does well at building up an fairly strong horror atmosphere. The creatures, dead bodies and other similar entities look incredible, with some phenomenal visual and practical effects.

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As said previously, The Conjuring 3 isn’t quite as good as the previous two movies. However I was invested in the story and characters, and was interested to see how it all played out, paired with some solid directing and really good acting, especially with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the compelling and likable lead characters. If you liked any of the previous Conjuring movies, I think the third movie is worth a watch at the very least.

Speed (1994) Review

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Speed

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & Offensive Language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Officer Jack Traven
Dennis Hopper as Howard Payne
Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter
Joe Morton as Lieutenant Herb ‘Mac’ McMahon
Jeff Daniels as Detective Harry Temple
Director: Jan de Bont

A young police officer (Keanu Reeves) must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

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Speed is one of the most iconic and influential action movies from the 90s, with a memorable premise, great action sequences, and it was overall really good. I decided to rewatch it recently, it’s still really entertaining and it surprisingly holds up pretty well for the most part.

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The concept of the movie is fairly simple: if a bus drops its speed below 50 mph, it will explode. It works greatly in its simplicity and it’s brilliantly executed. The plot has plenty of creative ideas and situations that prevent the film from being repetitive. It might be a pretty standard plot nowadays in terms of action movies, but the high concept within Speed is sort of action movie genius, especially for the 90s. It’s engaging from its opening moments taking place in an elevator shaft, and remains tense throughout its runtime. The pacing is fierce, aside from its final 15 minutes, it’s perfectly paced. It is breathlessly energetic and intense, and there’s a lot of escalating suspense throughout, never letting you stop for a moment to catch your breath. It drags the audience from one disaster to the next, engaged in such a confined environment. The last act isn’t quite as strong as the first two acts, but it was entertaining enough. It’s definitely a 90s action flick, and with that comes all the typical cheese that similar movies have. This isn’t exactly an intellectually challenging feature, but it was never expected to be that. It fully commits to its ridiculous premise and that’s what makes it both charming and exciting. The dialogue is goofy but quotable nonetheless, and the characters are very cliché but still work well for this movie. Sometimes things happen that don’t make sense as to be expected. Physics and realism aside, the motivations of the villain are kind of shoddy and aren’t really that fleshed out for example. However it’s entertaining enough that it makes up for any problems you might have with the plot. It’s also a very rewatchable movie.

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Everyone gives the exact kind of performance you expect from them. The characters are all stereotypes but it doesn’t matter that much, and the actors are all good in their parts. The role of lead character Jack is right for Keanu Reeves, cocky and impulsive, but smart and engaging. Sandra Bullock also does very well here in her part, she and Reeves have some great on screen chemistry in this movie. Dennis Hopper plays the villain, while the character himself isn’t that great, Hopper is effectively chewing every scene he’s in. He makes the character feel crazy yet threatening and in control with all these bombs scenarios he set up.

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Jan de Bont directs this movie incredibly well. There are so many memorable action sequences, de Bont knows how to keep the tension at a high level throughout. It’s impressive how many different set pieces he’s able to pack into just one location. The opening on its own, the elevator sequence, was a great way of introducing the audience to the kind of tension they’ll be feeling for the rest of the movie. But of course it’s the majority of the movie taking place on the bus that’s so impressive, with some insane practical stunts. The editing is effectively tight, and the intense score from Mark Mancina is memorable and fits the movie well.

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Speed is pure high energy action cinema at its finest, and a near pitch perfect 90s summer blockbuster. It’s not only influential and iconic for its time, even today it still entertains and thrills with a simple and over the top yet effective script and plot, likable and memorable characters and acting, and impressive direction. I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) Review

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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Angelina Jolie as Hannah
Finn Little as Connor
Nicholas Hoult as Patrick
Aidan Gillen as Jack
Jon Bernthal as Ethan
Medina Senghore as Allison
Jake Weber as Owen
Tyler Perry as Arthur
Director: Taylor Sheridan

Still reeling from the loss of three lives, Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a smoke jumper who’s perched in a watchtower high above the Montana wilderness. She soon encounters Connor (Finn Little), a skittish boy who’s bloodied, traumatized and on the run in the remote forest. As Hannah tries to bring him to safety, she’s unaware of the real dangers to follow: two relentless killers hunting Connor, and a fiery blaze consuming everything in its path.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Not only did it have a great cast with Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Jon Bernthal, but it was coming from Taylor Sheridan, who’s last directing work was a great crime thriller called Wind River. So I was excited based off the premise and the talent involved. I will say it wasn’t quite like I hoped it would be but I still liked it.

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I went into the movie as someone who liked Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, so to those who like me were expecting something like that, Those Who Wish Me Dead is nothing like that. Not only did I find that it definitely doesn’t live up to his stronger works, but as I discovered within the first 10 minutes, it is more of a 90s throwback thriller. The plot itself is rather predictable but I was interested enough to watch throughout. However I will note that for whatever reason, I was more interested in the supporting characters than the stories of the two leads, and I don’t think that was supposed to be the case. There is some characterisation, especially with the two main leads, however for the most part it doesn’t really delve into the characters much. I also do like how it is unflinching with the relentlessness and brutality of the violence, quite familiar to some of Sheridan’s other works like Sicario and Wind River. By the end of the movie, you do notice that there are a lot of questions that are unanswered, and some aspects that aren’t explained the best. For example, the motivations of the hitmen chasing the main characters are murky at best, Tyler Perry appears in one scene as the person who hire the killers and that’s it. It would’ve benefited from being a bit longer, using that time to develop more of the characters and story, especially when you consider that the runtime is only 100 minutes long. The pacing is a bit iffy, not the strongest especially in the first act where it seems to be taking a while to get to the main event at the center of the plot. Not to mention that the first two acts spend time building to the 10 minute climax.

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The cast are great, and they deliver good performances on their parts. Angelina Jolie is headlining the movie as the lead, as she indeed plays the lead character. Despite this, she doesn’t really get the screentime necessary to give her the depth that is needed. She does have a tragic backstory as a smokejumper with a trauma and we do see how this affects her, which makes her the only major character in this movie with an actual backstory. Even then, it still feels like her character needed more development. Nonetheless Jolie does play the role very well. Finn Little plays the child that Angelina Jolie is protecting over the course of the movie, and he actually does quite a good job in the role despite feeling like a plot device. The chemistry and dynamic between Little and Jolie is believable and works well enough. With that said, these two seemed to be sidelined, and aren’t given the proper development that they need. As I said earlier, the supporting players actually end up being more impressive than the leads. First of all are the two hitmen played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. Their relentless nature to carry out this goal makes them unpredictable, and that unpredictability is definitely needed in this rather generic and familiar plot. Despite being stone cold killers and straightforward villains, they are pretty human as shown through the dialogue and solid performances, and I kind of wanted more screentime with them. There’s also Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore as the local sheriff and his pregnant wife, who are meant to be background characters but actually stand out. Bernthal does get a good amount of screentime compared to some of his other supporting roles (i.e. less than 10 minutes), and Senghore is something of a scenestealer. Tyler Perry is good in his one scene however his appearance is so brief that you could almost miss him.

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Taylor Sheridan’s direction wasn’t quite as impressive as his work on Wind River, but on a technical level it is still solid. The cinematography is gorgeous, with much of the film being shot against a stunning landscape. When a particular forest fire becomes present in the movie and affects the characters, it almost becomes a presence in itself, elevating the tension as the sight of fire just spreading through the trees being quite intimidating. The action is well put together and flows well, and as said earlier is brutal and unflinching. Brian Tyler’s score does a lot to elevate the intensity too, and fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was a bit of a disappointment to me, as someone who liked a lot of Taylor Sheridan’s past work (especially Wind River) and the cast involved. However I still enjoyed it. As a 90s action thriller throwback (albeit without the cheesy tone), it was entertaining enough, the cast were good in their parts, and it was directed reasonably well. If you’re interested in an okay thriller with great actors, then give it a watch but it’s not one that you’ll need to catch as soon as possible.