Tag Archives: Melissa Leo

The Equalizer 2 (2018) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains graphic violence, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal as Dave York
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) returns to deliver his special brand of vigilante justice when thugs kill his friend and former colleague.

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I liked the first Equalizer by Antoine Fuqua, it was almost like a throwback to violent vigilante action movies from the 70s and 80s and was entertaining, with Denzel Washington as the titular “Equalizer” playing a large part of that. It’s not going to rank among even the best action movies of recent years but it was still enjoyable for what it was. 4 years late, Fuqua and Washington return for a sequel and while The Equalizer didn’t really need one, I was nonetheless interested in seeing what they would have next in store for us. Getting this out of the way, The Equalizer 2 is not as good as the first movie. It has some plot issues, mostly with the unfocussed plot and the fact that the pacing can be just a little too slow. However it is still decent enough, and Denzel Washington once again is great.

The plot and writing of The Equalizer 2 is a mixed bag. On one hand, The Equalizer 2 does have some more emotional depth than the first, it’s not hugely emotional but it is there. It’s also got a lot more going on, which ended up being more of a problem. Despite the length of the movie, the first Equalizer was a pretty straightforward movie that was quite focussed on its plot. The Equalizer 2 has some subplots, and most of them would only fit in well with the movie if it was a mini series instead. There is a subplot with Denzel and a teenager (played by Ashton Sanders) which really does work, the others don’t work as well unfortunately and deviate and distract from the main plot. Even the main plot has some problems. While it seems straightforward (Denzel’s friend is killed, he goes after whoever is responsible), it takes a long time to go through it. The second half of the movie however, it does pick up and becomes more focussed on the plotline but before that we’re just waiting for things to move along. The Equalizer 2 is a little shorter than the first movie, at 2 hours. Despite this, the second movie feels rather slow. Now it’s probably because it was meant to be a much slower and smaller movie, you don’t even get many characters here. However, I think it was a little too slow for its own good, and most of it is to do with the unfocussed plot.

There aren’t too many actors who stand out here outside of Denzel but they do their part well. Denzel Washington remains effortlessly capable in his role. He can switch from likable guy, to becoming very threatening and dangerous within a second. The first movie was him reaching his breaking point and taking action, this movie has him actively going out and taking action quite often. The villain here is just as strong as the villain in the first movie, he’s not as memorable but he does seem to have more to the character than just “generic Russian villain”. However with his character being a twist reveal (which you can see coming), we don’t really get enough screentime with him as the villain and once again, not as memorable. However the character and the actor did their part. Also, all the villains here in general were not cartoonishly one dimensional and over the top like with the first movie.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction once again was great for the most part. The action scenes are fast and brutal, maybe a little too violent. As mentioned previously, there wasn’t as many fight/action scenes as in the first movie. Something I did notice with the action scenes, particularly with the fight scenes with Denzel is that there were more cuts compared to the previous movie. The only thing I can think of is that Denzel being 4 years older couldn’t really perform all the stunts and so they tried to hide that.

The Equalizer 2 isn’t as good as the first movie but it is still entertaining, with Denzel Washington once again being the main highlight. If you liked the first movie, the second is worth a watch, otherwise this new movie won’t change your mind. While I have a feeling that we won’t get an Equalizer 3 (especially releasing it alongside Mamma Mia 2), I wouldn’t be opposed to it if it happened, hopefully it just takes the best elements of both movies and doesn’t make the same mistakes.

The Equalizer (2014) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual themes & offensive language.
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert “Bob” McCall
Marton Csokas as Teddy Rensen/Nicolai Itchenko
Chloë Grace Moretz as Alina/Teri
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Johnny Skourtis as Ralph/”Ralphie”
Haley Bennett as Mandy
David Harbour as Frank Masters
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a man of mysterious origin who believes he has put the past behind him, dedicates himself to creating a quiet new life. However, when he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenager who has been manhandled by violent Russian mobsters, he simply cannot walk away. With his set of formidable skills, McCall comes out of self-imposed retirement and emerges as an avenging angel, ready to take down anyone who brutalizes the helpless.

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With The Equalizer 2 coming soon, I decided to check out the original movie released in 2014 (it was the second time I saw it). The Equalizer is loosely based on the tv series of the same name. Antoine Fuqua is a director I really like, with Training Day, Southpaw, Olympus Has Fallen and even King Arthur (yes I like it), he’s done a lot of impressive work. He brings his solid direction here to make The Equalizer a brutal yet entertaining action movie, that’s maybe a tad overlong.

The plot is rather straightforward, a particular event compels a likable but dangerous and capable main character to take action. There’s nothing particularly special about the plot, but most of the time it keeps your attention and you are entertained throughout. There aren’t many issues with the movie. If there is a slight ‘problem’ it’s that most of the time, Denzel Washington doesn’t really encounter a lot of problems. Even with the Marton Csokas character, for most of the movie he feels like he’s on top of things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s not really a lot of tension. You only feel like he’s in some form of danger in the climax. Also the Equalizer is about 2 hour and 10 minutes long, which is a tad too long. I think some of the beginning segment was a little too long with the scenes of him being normal and before taking action. The moment he decides to take action though, the movie really picks up. Outside of that there aren’t too many issues.

Denzel Washington is effortlessly good in the role of Robert McCall. He is believable in the role, has his typical Denzel charisma and likability and really works as the main character. Marton Csokas is really good as the main villain, his character is sent in to fix up the situation that Washington causes early on. Csokas is very menacing and commands a whole lot of attention and precense. He also makes up for a lot of the lacklustre villains in the movie, who are mostly cartoonish and one dimensional. Chloe Grace Moretz, despite her character being one of the main motivations for what Washington does, doesn’t appear very often but she’s good in the scenes that she’s in.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction really works here. Like with some of Fuqua’s other action movies, this is a hard R action movie and it is really quite violent. Denzel Washington dispatches many people effortlessly and brutally, and it’s kinda glorious to watch. If you are a squeamish person, The Equalizer is really not for you at all. While the fight and action scenes are entertaining, the climax which takes place in a hardware store was the highlight of the movie. Not only was it creative, but it’s also one of the only times when McCall seems like he’s in danger.

The Equalizer is a very solid action movie, Denzel Washington and Marton Csokas are both good in their roles, Antoine Fuqua’s direction really worked and it was just really entertaining overall. It might’ve been a little long and was sort of predictable and familiar but outside of that it worked very well for what it is. With Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua returning for the sequel 4 years later, I’m looking forward to it.

London Has Fallen (2016) Review

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London Has Fallen

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Gerard Butler as Mike Banning
Aaron Eckhart as Benjamin Asher
Morgan Freeman as Allan Trumbull
Alon Moni Aboutboul as Aamir Barkawi
Angela Bassett as Lynne Jacobs
Robert Forster as Edward Clegg
Melissa Leo as Ruth McMillan
Radha Mitchell as Leah Banning
Charlotte Riley as Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall
Jackie Earle Haley as DC Mason
Sean O’Bryan as Ray Monroe
Waleed Zuaiter as Kamran Barkawi
Director: Babak Najafi

After the death of the British prime minister, the world’s most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it’s up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate.

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Olympus Has Fallen was a surprising action movie, it really was the Die Hard that we deserved in 2013 (and unfortunately was a better Die Hard movie than the actual Die Hard we got that year). However I didn’t feel like it needed a sequel and after seeing London Has Fallen, I can say that I was pretty much right. London Has Fallen is still enjoyable with reasonably fine action scenes and a pretty good cast involved. However, it definitely feels like a step down compared to the previous movie.

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Let’s get this out of the way, even if you cared about what happened in Olympus Has Fallen, you likely won’t care about what happens in London Has Fallen. Even though the previous film’s focus wasn’t really on the story, you could at least feel tension for what’s going on. The sequel tries to recapture it but it doesn’t really achieve it. The writing is significantly lesser in comparison, I can’t really describe it, it feels like its missing something, it was probably Antoine Fuqa’s direction from the first film, which really made the first film work. The humour and dialogue is also a little off. Overall though this movie is fine, it’s just really forgettable, typing this review out was hard actually because I was trying to remember what happened in the movie.

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Gerald Butler really worked in the movie, he was great in the action scenes and you bought him in this movie. I also liked Aaron Eckhart who was also really good in this film. I really liked how Butler and Eckhart played off each other, you can actually buy that they are friends. The acting in this movie for the most part is fine, nothing spectacular, nothing horrible, it just works fine. The villain in the first film worked pretty well for the film, the villain in London Has Fallen however isn’t interesting. He worked fine I guess, but there wasn’t anything compelling about him.

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This film definitely feels like it’s missing something, especially when compared to Antoine Fuqua’s direction for Olympus Has Fallen. The direction for the most part is fine though. The action is decent, reasonably entertaining but aren’t anything special. There’s not much tension and it feels more in line with a normal above average action movie (which is really what this movie is). The first film felt a little gritty, but aside from the blood there really is nothing gritty about Olympus Has Fallen. There are some moments which are noticeably CGI and fake. Direction wise this film was quite a significant step back from the previous movie.

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Overall London Has Fallen is entertaining but I’m not sure if I can call it good. I know that it’s a mindless action movie (much like the first film) but even so, the writing isn’t really good and the direction feels like its lacking. I think the main thing missing was Antoine Fuqua’s direction. He made the first film way better than it could’ve been. Still, the action in this film is fine enough and Gerald Butler was great so I can say that I enjoyed the movie. If you liked Olympus Has Fallen, you might like the sequel but know that it’s not as good as the first film. It was fine overall.

Prisoners (2013)

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Prisoners

Time: 153 Mins
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover
Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki
Viola Davis as Nancy Birch
Maria Bello as Grace Dover
Terrance Howard as Franklin Birch
Melissa Leo as Holly Jones
Paul Dano as Alex Jones
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), his wife Grace (Maria Bello), their teenage son Ralph and little daughter Anna celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends, Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard), his wife Nancy (Viola Davis), their teenage daughter Eliza and their little daughter Joy. After a while, the parents noticed that their youngest daughters disappeared. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case. The only lead is an RV parked on the street the day the girls disappeared. Its driver Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is arrested but is released due to a lack of evidence. As the police pursue many leads, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands, knowing his child’s life is at stake.

 

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Prisoners is a very surprising movie, first hearing about it I expected good performances. Instead what I got were great performances, high tension and well written dialogue. There was never a moment when I predicted something would happen. The dialogue between people is already fascinating and interesting; on top of that it’s delivered by actors who can make the lines very authentic and real. A lot of the movie spends time just on the family, when they aren’t looking for their daughters. That’s something that I don’t see with most kidnapping movies, most kidnapping movies follow the police trying to find the captives or focus on family trying to find them. Prisoners has probably the best representation of a family reacting to a kidnapping. There is still quite a bit of looking for the daughters and that is done very well too but the fact that the film takes time to focus on the characters instead on the plot, makes it stand out from other kidnapping movies. The final act was very intense for me as the stakes continually rise.

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A lot of this came from the excellent performances from this movie. This is hands down the best performance I’ve seen from Hugh Jackman, even better than in X-Men and Les Miserables. He plays Keller as a desperate father who will do anything to get her daugbhter back and holds nothing back. Another great performance is from Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki. Terrance Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo are also very good. Paul Dano is also worth mentioning as the role of Alex, the very disturbed driver of the RV. If there is a common thing all these performances had, they have a grounded sense of reality. The film is so well acted that I felt the emotions that these characters experienced. That is something that I don’t find very often in most movies, at least for me.

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The cinematography by Roger Deakins gives the film a dark look which adds to the dark atmosphere. It is never sunny in this movie which really suits this movie’s tone. As a result, the movie felt very dark and damp which was good for this movie. There were moments that reminded of David Fincher’s Se7en with all the grittiness and darkness. It had a sense of dread throughout the entire film and the look really sells it.

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Some people will call this movie depressing but there is no denying the skill of this movie. It’s probably not for everyone, especially for parents with young children. The film unfortunately isn’t as known as it should. The dark look of this movie, combined with the excellent acting results in a thriller that truly feels real. This is one of the most surprising movies that I have watched. I knew that this would be a good movie but it didn’t expect the expert craft of this film. This is one of the best films and surprises of 2013.