Trailer: “Lucy”

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What if we put Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman in a highly stylized action sci-fi that looks like “The Matrix” met “Limitless” and “Crank”? Interested? How about if Luc Besson was behind the wheel?

The basic premise of “Lucy” (by the way, Luc Besson apparently has a thing for turning people’s names into titles) is as follows: A girl (Scarlett Johansson) wakes up to discover that somebody has surgically inserted a bag of drugs inside her abdomen. Accidentally, some of that drug gets into her bloodstream and makes her uber-powerful to a point where the only thing that’s missing is Laurence Fishburne standing in the background saying ‘she’s the one’. It might not be the freshest idea ever, but – still – if there’s anyone capable of shooting aciton in a compelling way, it’s Luc Besson. And that makes me feel a bit excited, or even titillated…

“Lucy” kicks behinds on the 8th of August in the US and on the 22nd in the UK.

6 films to (re)watch and keep the “Non-Stop” genre fever nice and high

If, like me, you had a fun time watching Liam Neeson scratch his head, beat the poop out of random strangers and in the end save the day, then why not stay in the genre bubble for a little while longer?

Here are the six titles my mind immediately raced to when I was walking back home after watching “Non-Stop”: Continue reading

“Non-Stop” – a tasty home-made stew spiced with adrenaline

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I don’t believe I have had this much fun watching a pure action genre film since… I don’t know… …“Taken”, which conveniently enough also starred Liam Neeson in his full-blown bad-assery.  Bad-assdom? …Whatever… The point is that “Non-Stop” is a fun-to-watch well-paced thriller that will teleport you back to the late 80’s, or early 90’s when instead of superheroes, real men (very macho men at that) with guns were more than enough to save the world.  It is by no means a perfect film, but through solid craftsmanship and a suspenseful story-telling, it provides enough entertainment to keep your disbelief firmly suspended. Continue reading

“2 Guns” – because one double-crossing is just too mainstream…

I think it’s official now: the summer blockbuster battle fatigue has just kicked in and I can’t really see myself going out of my way to watch yet another 2.5 hours of destruction porn so abundant in the cinemas over the last two months or so. This is why I refused to watch “Wolverine” and “The Lone Ranger” (plus, a little bird told me that the latter would most likely suck royally), because I was approaching the tipping point, at which I would actively vomit in the cinema. I’ll still catch up with them whenever they’re released on Blu Ray, so no worries.

In order to save myself the embarrassment I have recently decided to undergo a detox of sorts that included picking mostly comedies to see on the big screen. Keeping in mind that there are still some big titles I’m looking forward to see this summer (i.e. “Elysium” next weekend), a course of treatment including some light cinema would freshen up my senses, keep my mind nice and open, and subdue the cynical prick that now lies dormant in the darkest reaches of my mind.

By total accident I ended up extending my latest trend of getting in touch with the buddy variety of action/comedy and added “2 Guns” to the list. I must admit that I ventured to see this particular film with surprisingly limited knowledge about it. Normally I do know certain things, which is a direct result of reading up about film-related news all the damn time, but “2 Guns” have blind-sided me really effectively. Prior to the screening I hadn’t even seen the trailer; I knew only the premise of the film (aka a one-sentence synopsis).

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“2 Guns” is basically a very classical take on the buddy cop comedy, in which we meet Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) who do some shady business with a Mexican cartel led by ruthless Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). They sell forged passports and do everything to stay afloat and climb up the ladder in the drug underworld. However, they are both undercover agents (Bobby works for DEA and Stig for US Navy Intelligence) and, to add insult to injury, they have absolutely no clue about their respective identities. (By the way, the lack of communication between federal agencies is simply stunning)

In order to take down Papi, Bobby orchestrates a bank robbery, where they would steal Papi’s dirty money as evidence to help lock him down for good. Little do they know, however, that the money they stole belongs to somebody else, who would stop at nothing to get it back.

Gosh, it’s difficult to summarize this film. Not that it’s overly complex and multi-layered and such, because it is after all an action comedy, but I found it amazingly difficult to write it up without giving the most important plot points away. That’s just how it is, “2 Guns” is a comedy about two guys, who don’t know who their partner is, and they end up being double-crossed while being double-crossed by somebody else. At some point, this film started to look more like an episode of “Scooby-Doo” with all the unmasking, betrayals and what-not.

Even though the plot looks rather convoluted, “2 Guns” plays out quite simple. It’s a very formulaic buddy comedy that takes a lot from “Lethal Weapon” and “Tango and Cash”. But, let’s be clear here for a second: even though the film is filled with witty humor and snappy dialogue, it’s still a pretty violent and action-packed show filled with blood, guns, some mild torture and even a topless chick (Paula Patton) whose breasts serve no actual purpose on the screen other than to tick the genre box. Surprisingly though and thankfully at that, in spite of pairing up Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, “2 Guns” doesn’t rely on racially-influenced dynamics and humor to propel the film. I find it very reassuring that we can now see a decent example of seeing past the cliché black/white buddy cop comedy, because there is only a finite number of puns and one-liners that would fit into that equation, and we’ve seen them all, I’m afraid.

 

Ok, so there are guns (2 of them, snap!), violence, humor, explosions, drug cartels, shootouts, car chases, boobs, money, rogue agents, rogue soldiers, rogue-pretty-much-anybody, fat useless policemen and sexy waitresses. On paper all the boxes are ticked and in theory “2 Guns” should be fantastic. Problem is that it’s all been done. Even Simpsons did it… Therefore, this little film will never be amazing and awesome – it will only be OK. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast, but it’s not one of the films that will linger in your memory for longer than ten minutes. It’s nice and refreshing, but it has nothing to offer apart from the solid craftsmanship.

“2 Guns” goes down very nicely, even with very predictable twists and turns. It’s perfect when all you need is a break from the heavy-handed blockbusters we’ve been seeing all summer, but it adds nothing to the genre. The actors are OK, the action is OK, the humor is OK – it’s all just… OK. If anything, “2 Guns” takes a few steps towards self-parody at times with the absurd amount of double-crossings and rogue agents that run rampant on the screen. Seriously, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that US Government agencies have zero control over their employees and assets – that’s how ridiculous it gets by the end. Maybe, for sake of clarity, this film should come bundled with a sign that says “Avoid taking anything in this film seriously… Seriously…” It’s just good fun, but nothing more…

“Snitch” – Parenting 101 by The Rock

How far would you go to save your son, the poster asks…  How many laws would you break? Those sound like really redundant questions, because of their seemingly rhetorical nature… Of course, you’d do anything within your powers to shield your offspring from danger and cinema is full of just such stories. From tear-jerking dramas, redemption stories, through uplifting feel-good comedies, all the way down to gritty morally ambiguous dramas, popcorn actioners, sci-fi summer blockbusters, and even horrors. Therefore, watching a flick about a father turning to the dark side to save his son should in theory reek of stale and rotten material – especially when a muscular Dwayne No-Longer-The-Rock Johnson stares at you from the poster.

Thus, with expectation level set adequately low I proceeded to see “Snitch” and I have to say I was rather pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Speaking as a person who cannot say ‘no’ to a solid action movie (with real people, that is – not gods or superheroes), I have to say that “Snitch” is a modern-day hybrid of a down-to-earth drama with a solid actioner worthy of the 80’s that not only provides solid entertainment, but touches on some delicate problems.

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“Snitch” is supposedly based on a true story (not quite, I believe, but anything goes in Hollywood, right?) and in it, we meet John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), a trucker-turned-businessman who has built a successful transportation company, owns a nice house, has a lovely wife and everything a man could ever wish for. One day, however, his teenage son Jason (Rafi Gavron) brings a metric tonne of trouble upon himself by getting involved in a drug deal. Well, technically the only thing he does is he accepts a package full of drugs from his friend, so that someone else could pick it up; nothing major. What he doesn’t know is that the whole drug deal is a sting operation led by DEA and he quickly ends up in jail sentenced to a decade behind bars. When his father learns about it, he tries to pull some strings with the DA (Susan Sarandon) – unsuccessfully.She reveals to John that his son has fallen prey to the DEA’s new and brilliant program of fighting the drug crime, that involves busting little school kids with sizable quantities of controlled substances and bullying them into setting up someone else in exchange for reduced sentence. Because Jason’s friend didn’t know any better, he ‘framed’ Jason instead – a boy with neither criminal record, nor any connections to the underworld, and made him up to be a gang-banger or something like that. Seeing that his son would not go down the same road and destroy someone else’s life, John offers the DA a deal, in which he would do the snitching instead of his son and if his work results in a major bust, Jason would get out of prison with a slap on the wrist; and he proceeds from there.

So, why again was I surprised? First of all, the action in “Snitch” is not at all overwhelmingly explosive – and that is a definite plus, because in the end, the film’s psychological level has a chance to surface a bit more and the characters are more colourful in return. “Snitch” is not a 2013 Commando-type revenge film, where a big and muscular ex-wrestler takes matters into his own hands, disregards the law and single-handedly brings down a powerful cartel. Instead, we see the more believable every-man character who doesn’t quite know, how to do what he needs to do, but his determination and a ‘particular set of skills’ have to suffice him in order to save his son’s life.

For once this summer (a four-month delay in relation to the US notwithstanding) I got to see some action drama with actual substance in it. While “Snitch” has its flaws and leaps in logic, I think it is fair to turn a blind eye on them and enjoy the positives. The film is paced rather well and the slow-down periods are few and far between, but the main reason I like this film has actually little to do with the car chases, gangsters, or shootings. The fact a pile of muscle like Dwayne Johnson can shed his image of a macho superhuman and go above and beyond to breathe life into his character is more than enough to buy me over. After all, when all the gunshots are fired and all the cars destroyed, we are left with ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances, and that’s vital for a good action drama.

 

About those circumstances: I have a reason to believe that the usual ‘based on a true story’ nonsense is about as accurate for “Snitch” as it is for any run-of-the-mill found footage horror flick. However, the only thing that was taken from real life was the fact DEA was (or is) running a huge scale game of “you’re it” where tagging a person ensured one’s freedom or reduced his sentence. Take it or leave it, but in general, the whole idea of the film hinges on something not even remotely possible (or even illegal) according to the rule of law. Therefore, “Snitch” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what could potentially be a very different (and very political) commentary, if done right. What it does, however, is take this highly illogical concept and makes it a canvas for some grit, tears, blame and penance – all the goodies that come with a family.

And that is what elevates “Snitch” together with Dwayne Johnson from the crowd of action-packed mindless strings of explosions. Apart from it providing adequate entertainment value, this film is a decent story in its own right and I think I’m OK with Dwayne Johnson dipping his toes in something more than just action films, because he has what it takes to create a character, make it his own and sell it to the audience. As much as I hate to say this, Dwayne Johnson proved here to me that he could make me forget it was ‘The Rock’ I was watching. And that’s a feat Arnold Schwarzenegger could never accomplish. Try as he might, he always remained himself.