Tag Archives: Ray Winstone

Black Widow (2021) Review

BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
Ray Winstone as General Dreykov
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

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After playing a large role in many entries in the MCU, the character of Black Widow is finally getting her solo film… and it only took 11 years after her first appearance back in 2010 with Iron Man 2. I will admit that I wasn’t the most excited for the film, of course for the fact that it feels a little late given how long she’s been around and hasn’t received a movie of her own. Then of course there’s the fact that the character died during Avengers Endgame, and so having a film take place earlier on in the timeline feels almost a bit in vain and pointless. In the lead up to Black Widow however, I was sort of looking forward to it. This is partly because of being back to see more movies in the cinema but also probably because it was originally meant to come out a while ago, so I’m just glad for it to be finally here. Black Widow was about as good as I expected it to be, with some of the unfortunate problems that I expected it to have, but also surprising in other areas. Overall I enjoyed it.

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Plotwise, the movie isn’t anything special, but I was interested to see how it played out. For what it is worth, Black Widow does feel a bit different in terms of the MCU movies. It is something of a spy and espionage movie, and does have some Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes, which is good as it was one of my favourite movies in the MCU. Of course with this being Black Widow’s solo film, this allows us to learn about her past. The movie introduces us to Natasha Romanoff’s “family” in the characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. This adds a backstory to Natasha’s life before SHIELD showing a side of her we hadn’t seen before. With that comes themes about dysfunctional and unconventional families as expected and I really liked that aspect. There’s a surprising amount of quiet moments that I did not expect, and moments of people just talking. I don’t see this a downside. The first half was probably the strongest part of the movie, without getting into it too much, the opening was especially good. However around the halfway point it starts to decline a little, when it gets into the third act where it has a pretty standard and generic MCU climax. I know that this is typical for most MCU movies but it stands out more in Black Widow because it feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It really pulls you out of it and it’s rather disappointing.

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In terms of other writing issues, Black Widow is yet another victim of MCU movies having way too many (and poorly timed) quips and jokes, which end up being at odds with the rest of the movie. There are scenes that are serious and quite dark and then some other scenes which are really comedic and played for laughs, and they don’t gel together. The humour occasionally worked but some of them ruined some sentimental moments or felt forced. It makes the tone feel all over the place. I do have some other issues, part of it was the intent of it being made and the context of the film. This movie takes place right after Captain America: Civil War where Black Widow is on the run, Civil War was released 5 years ago and that’s when the movie should’ve been released. If you showed this movie to someone who are just catching up in the MCU right after they saw Civil War and told them that it was also released in 2016, they would probably believe you. So it almost feels pointless watching it now, especially as you know that Black Widow is going to survive the whole movie. Then to a degree it doesn’t feel we’ve learned a whole lot about Natasha. We’ve learnt some of her backstory but not much necessarily about her as a character. Then there’s the feeling that it was made mainly to introduce another character in the MCU more than actually being for her, like it’s not really her movie. A lot of the film was a setup for Yelena Belova which I’m not necessarily hating as her character is one of the highlights. However it didn’t quite feel right with Natasha/Scarlett Johansson being sidelined in her own movie. It needed to work as a proper sendoff for the character and for me it didn’t do that. There is a mid credits scene, which I think is worth sticking around for.

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The cast were one of the highlights of the film. Before this movie, the closest that Scarlett Johansson has gotten to be a lead in a MCU film as her character of Black Widow was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a co-lead. So here she finally gets to be in the forefront. I will say that this is definitely her best performance as the character if only because she’s the lead this time (sort of), and generally she’s pretty good here. Florence Pugh is the standout of the movie as Yelena Belova, she’s great, she’s hilarious, and steals every scene she’s in. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in other MCU projects. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are also really good, rounding out the rest of the “family”. The interactions between the main family were pretty strong and believable, especially between Johansson and Pugh. The film really suffers from the weak villains, it’s an MCU film so not really a big surprise. Ray Winstone effectively plays the main villain as the head of The Red Room, the main antagonists of the movie. I will say it is refreshing to see a more straightforward evil villain as opposed to yet another attempt at making a sympathetic villain. However despite how much the movie builds him up as a big threat, we don’t really see enough of him for him to make an impact. Usually people in these scenarios would to fix this by compensating by giving the lead villain a strong henchman to have the main antagonistic focus. Which brings me to Taskmaster, who in this movie effectively serves as a Winter Soldier stand in, hunting Black Widow. In the comics Taskmaster is an assassin who mimics people’s fighting styles and that aspect is certainly here. I’m not going to pretend that I particularly care about comic book accuracy. However Taskmaster did feel underwhelming here, somewhat adequate in the action scenes but that’s it, certainly not as impactful as the Winter Soldier was in the second Captain America movie. There is a reason provided behind why the character exists so it isn’t just a random assassin or a robot, but we are not given nearly enough time with them. Even the reveal doesn’t go down well enough to create a memorable impact. Ultimately Taskmaster was more of a sidekick to the main villain, and a rather forgettable one at that. As for the identity of Taskmaster, I figured it out surprisingly early on.

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Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, and on the whole I think she did a good job, it’s very well shot and put together. The action is generally quite good. A lot of the hand to hand combat is great with some stellar fight choreography, and the sound design really helping with that. It may well be the most brutal MCU movie with regards to the action, you do feel the impact of some of these fight scenes. Where the action suffers is in the third act, with explosions everywhere, over the top scenes, and a whole lot of CGI thrown in. While other MCU climaxes have certainly been more overblown than here, the fact that it’s in this particular movie with very different first two acts makes it feel really out of place. The visual effects are mostly fine and when it gets to the third act they look messy. I’m not going to pretend that it does anything particularly egregious by MCU standards, but it is quite unfortunate to see them fall back on that yet again. The score by Lorne Balfe is pretty good, mostly standing out in the action scenes. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie actually has opening credits, as in there’s a montage towards the beginning of the movie that’s a credits sequence featuring the names of the main cast and other people who worked on it. Honestly that was rather nice to see in a franchise that hasn’t used them, and this sequence at least tonally gives a hint of it possibly being quite different as a Marvel movie.

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Black Widow does have a lot of issues. It is 5 years late, it doesn’t feel like Black Widow’s movie and isn’t quite the sendoff that she deserves. The humour is at odds with the darker story and tone the movie is going for, as is the overblown third act. With that being said, I did still enjoy watching it. I generally enjoyed the action scenes, I was interested in seeing where the story would go, and the cast were quite good in their roles, especially Florence Pugh. It’s at around the midpoint of the MCU for me, if you like the movies I’d say that it is worth checking out.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Review

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko
Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood
Ray Winstone as George “Mac” McHale
John Hurt as Harold “Ox” Oxley
Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth
Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams
Director: Steven Spielberg

In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

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Despite the original trilogy being received very well, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got a lot of hate when it was released, especially from audiences. I always remembered liking it across the few times I had watched it, but I hadn’t seen it all that much, and it was just under a decade since I last saw it. With my recent rewatches of the other movies, I knew I needed to get back to the fourth one, and I’m glad to say that I still like it quite a lot, despite its very present issues.

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Storywise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t as strong as Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade but I was still interested in the adventure and was entertained from beginning to end. To a degree it plays things rather safe, it doesn’t do too much differently and it could’ve tried to stand out more among the other films. With that being said, it is the only Indiana Jones movie to features aliens. Some people don’t like the movie ultimately being about aliens, as you quickly find out. While I can certainly understand why plenty of people aren’t so that into that, thinking about it, I don’t really have that much of a problem with it. I do like the new setting, it’s a couple of decades later after the last movie, and so it’s during the Cold War, with Russians being the main source of conflict. With this being an Indiana Jones movie, it does have its silly moments as to be expected. Although there is the scene where Shia LaBeouf is swinging on vines with monkeys, the biggest one where Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge. This scene is beyond infamous, even many long time Indiana Jones fans hate on it. Honestly though, I found it absolutely hilarious and kind of enjoyed it. Considering this is the same series where Indiana Jones and two others flew off a plane in a inflatable raft onto a mountain, sliding off it and falling onto rapids without sustaining any injury, I think this isn’t that unexpected. With that said there are some parts that they could’ve toned down, as in some scenes (especially towards the end) there were certain things I would’ve preferred them not showing.

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Harrison Ford reprises his role from the last time since 1989. Some say that he wasn’t up at the level that he was in the other movies, mainly that he was too old for the role, but I thought that added to his performance quite well. At the same time, in his performance here I still saw an older Indiana Jones and not just older Harrison Ford (especially after seeing the other movies more recently). The line delivery, the comedy, the energy, all of it was here. Some people really didn’t like Shia LaBeouf in his role of Mutt Williams here, but I actually thought he was pretty good on his part. Considering what his role sounded like on paper, it could’ve been way worse. I do have a feeling that much of the dislike of the character might’ve come from the fact that it was LaBeouf playing him at that time. Karen Allen returns to reprise her role of Marion Ravenwood, and while she and Ford don’t have quite as strong of a dynamic as they did back in Raiders of the Lost Ark, they still had some great chemistry and it was still nice seeing them back on screen together. Ray Winstone and John Hurt also worked quite well in supporting roles. Cate Blanchett is the villain, and is actually probably the most memorable of the Indiana Jones villians, albeit being a bit cartoonish. However she works because of the dedicated and reliable performance from Blanchett, campy and entertaining, yet threatening enough as an antagonist.

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Steven Spielberg returns to directs this, and I still think he did a pretty good job. On a technical side it all works, it’s a great looking movie too. The action is pretty good on the whole, with some entertaining sequences that aren’t quite as memorable as the action in the rest of the series. There was a fight scene with Indiana Jones and a Russian later on which was sort of weak, but most of it is fine. The use of CGI has been criticised quite a lot, honestly most of it isn’t so bad, the biggest problem is the overuse of it (you can really feel George Lucas’s hand on that part). Even a gopher is created using CGI early in the movie for some random reason. Some of the action scenes do have this weird CGI feel to it, as if some parts of the background had digital effects thrown in for some reason. The third act without spoiling anything has some CGI which doesn’t look the best and in fact looks very goofy. I do agree that they should’ve had more practical effects, generally the use of CGI was unnecessary. With that said, when it came to the practical effects and production design it was all handled very well. The score by John Williams is good, there aren’t many distinct or memorable themes compared with the other movies, but the score as it is was worked. It’s always satisfying hearing these iconic themes in a movie again.

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As a return to the series almost 2 decades after the last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just a little bit disappointing. Nonetheless, on its own, I can’t deny that enjoyed it a lot. It has plenty of silly moments, it used a lot of CGI unnecessarily, and did play things a bit safe. However it was entertaining from beginning to end, the cast was great, and I enjoyed being on the adventure. I’m glad that it exists and I have problem placing it alongside the original Indiana Jones trilogy.

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

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I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

The Gunman (2015) Review

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The Gunman

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic Violence and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Sean Penn as Jim Terrier
Jasmine Trinca as Annie
Javier Bardem as Felix
Ray Winstone as Stanley
Mark Rylance as Cox
Idris Elba as Jackie Barnes
Peter Franzén as Reiniger
Director: Pierre Morel

Eight years after fleeing the Congo following his assassination of that country’s minister of mining, former assassin Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is back, suffering from PTSD and digging wells to atone for his violent past. After an attempt is made on his life, Terrier flies to London to find out who wants him dead — and why. Terrier’s search leads him to a reunion with Annie (Jasmine Trinca), a woman he once loved, who is now married to an oily businessman (Javier Bardem) with dealings in Africa.

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On paper this movie seemed like it would be good. It had great actors like Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and others involved and it was also directed by the director of the original (and only good) Taken. So where did it go wrong? Despite the talented involved, they just couldn’t rise above the uninteresting and boring story. With characters not interesting enough to care about and the poor script, the actors ultimately didn’t have anything to work with, and even the action scenes aren’t that great. There are hints of a good movie but that’s it, only hints.

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The best scene in the movie was the first scene, which involves Sean Penn carrying out an assassination. There isn’t a lot of action in the movie, I’ll just say this now, the trailer downright lies about what this movie is about. However even looking at this as anything but an action movie it fails. This movie is slow and really boring, even if it supposed to be a slow burn action movie. Because of how slow and uninteresting the movie is it’s at time hard to follow what’s going on. However there was a twist in the movie which I saw coming, even though I wasn’t really following the movie that much, which really was a bad sign. The worst part about the writing is that I didn’t care about what was going on. There are glimpses of a good movie, apparently it was based on a book. However for whatever reason, this movie didn’t turn out as well as it should have.

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Sean Penn was pretty good in his role, he doesn’t have a lot of good material to work with but he at least had more than some of the other actors. Idris Elba and Ray Winstone are only in like a few scenes and are fine but they don’t do much. Javier Bardem is also wasted (both literally and figuratively), he just plays some drunk guy who’s on screen for about 10 minutes. The only actor other than Penn who gets something to do is Mark Rylance, but even he was quite limited in what he could bring. I don’t think anyone gives a bad performance but no one really gives much of an impression either.

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There wasn’t much action in this movie but when it was on screen it was fine. However the action while not shaky, does use a lot of cuts, making some of these scenes a little incomprehensible at times. The best scene of ‘action’ once again was the opening assassination because Sean Penn actually aims and shoots someone. The rest of the action mostly involves him hiding behind a piece of cover and shooting people from there. Also as I previously said, it’s hard to care about what’s going on, so when the action scenes happen there is no intensity or suspense.

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The Gunman isn’t a good movie and it really should have. The talented cast is wasted, the action is not very prevalent and when it’s on screen, it’s only above average quality, the pacing is slow, and it’s hard to care about what’s going on with the poor script and characterisation. It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen this year but there is really no reason to watch it, despite the talent involved. Even in a non-action mind-set, there’s not much enjoyment to be had in watching this movie.

The Departed (2006)

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The Departed

Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan
Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan
Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello
Mark Wahlberg as Dignam
Martin Sheen as Queenan
Ray Winstone as Mr French
Vera Farmiga as Madolyn
Alec Baldwin as Ellerby
Director: Martin Scorsese

In South Boston, the state police force is waging war on Irish American organized crime. Young undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob syndicate run by gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). While Billy quickly gains Costello’s confidence, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the state police as an informer for the syndicate is rising to a position of power in the Special Investigation Unit. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the mob and the police that there’s a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself. Each police officer gives his best effort trying to disclose the identity of the other “rat.”

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Martin Scorsese is no stranger to crime movies as well as not being a stranger to making great engaging movies. The Departed is wonderfully made, excellently edited, has great performances and has an interesting story. All of these things are what I ask for in a movie, which The Departed successfully delivers here.

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Despite the fact that this movie is actually a remake of a Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs, I won’t compare it because I haven’t watched it. The movie takes many twists and turns and does a good job at showing the events unfold. The plot can be quite complicated so it does require your full attention when watching. The film is filled with that same energy that Scorsese had in films like Goodfellas and Casino. There is always something going on to interest the viewer. The film is long at about 2 hours and a half, so it needs to have an engaging story in order to interest the viewers. Fortunately, it does that and so much more, providing many plot twists that keeps the audience guessing what will happen next.

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The acting was really good from everyone they fill their roles perfectly. Both DiCaprio and Damon were really good here as they played characters that were the opposite sides of the spectrum of the other. Their performances were emotionally complex, which made the story more complex than the usual good guy and bad guy type. Jack Nicholson is incredible as Frank Costello who is the mob boss, who is a very sinister and dangerous character. Costello is an unpredictable character and Nicholson channels James Cagney’s performance in White Heat to create a personification of evil. Mark Wahlberg is also fantastic in this movie as Sergeant Dignam; despite him not having many scenes as some of the rest of the cast he delivers some of the best lines and steals the scenes he was in. The characters are well defined and we really feel like we know them, which are done well by the actors.

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The setting of Boston and the atmosphere were captured so well. During the film we often we get shots of many locations of Boston. The music was also good and comes from both from the score by Howard Shore and from existing songs, both which fit the moments they are put it, especially the use of The Dropkick Murphy’s’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” during the opening credits.

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Smartly written with many complex plots and with great acting, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed delivers as great crime drama. It is one of his best movies and is one of the best crime drama movies I have ever seen. It’s gripping, it’s entertaining, it’s overall a great movie. Check it out when you can.