TAKEN 3 REVIEW

Taken-3-Movie-Poster

Taken the p*ss, more like. Hopefully it will end here.

I made the mistake of listening to a critic when the first one came out. I ended up seeing Shrooms. Remember that? If you don’t, you’re lucky. And DO NOT bother checking it out.

When I finally got round to watching the first Taken film, I was impressed. A proper action movie. Iconic dialogue, intense action sequences and a welcome return for a very talented actor. Instant cult status achieved.

The only problem with instant cult success and a shed load of money at the box office, it meant meant one thing. SEQUELS!

Taken 2 was a poor retread of the exact same story line. Only in a different city and with Maggie Grace’s irritating Kim having to save Mills. NO!

It didn’t help that the static camera work didn’t show any of the action properly and the dialogue was that hammy, I felt myself cringing.

So, here we are. Third time’s the charm? A reprieve to end the franchise with a fiery finale?

Unfortunately not. They should have left it at the first one.

The trailers piqued my interest and with Forest Whitaker taking the helm as the relentless pursuer, I had hope.

That was soon crushed after the drab opening sequence.

So what happens in this one? Ex-government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name.

Where to begin? It was a mess. I know! It’s an action movie. Not a thought provoking, mind bending thriller. BUT still . . .

A feeble attempt at mystery came off flat and dull as Sam Spruell’s “menacing” villain (with a ridiculous Lloyd Christmas haircut) disposed of some unknown secondary characters.

Dull, uninteresting . . . where’s Liam Neeson?

We are then pulled through some awful and incredibly cheesy exposition between Bryan and Kim. It’s obviously become a joke. BUT a joke that was never funny in the first place.

I could feel my very being sinking into the seat.

Then we had the inevitable “Will they, won’t they?” spiel with Famke Janssen and Neeson. You would have thought after all their “mishaps” (two violent kidnappings that destroyed two cities) that they would have got back together.

No, no, no. She’s gone and married another moronic businessman. Dougray Scott nailed the accent but was terrible as the suspiciously shady looking Stuart.

However, it soon kicks off. Rather predictably if you’ve seen the heavily flogged trailers with Mills set up for murder and on the run.

One thing I will commend is Eric Kress’ cinematography. A beautiful sunny Hollywood gloss over the relentless, unnecessary and OTT carnage.

Olivier Megaton really needs to fire his editing team; Audrey Simonaud and Nicolas Trembasiewicz. The action was way too fast and far too frantic.

The very sequence in which Mills must run from the scene of the crime was disorienting. One second, you’re looking at Neeson’s foot, his shadow, an angry dog and then a confused police man.

It felt like it was overcompensating for the fact that Neeson is too old.

It pains me to say that but the poor guy look jaded. Every time the sporadic shot swapping subsided, you could see he was struggling to keep up with the pace and the frantic fist fighting the film desperately tried to deliver.

He did his best to add his gruffly gravitas to this disaster but even his performance felt like a parody of his own. He doesn’t even say the iconic line properly, “I have skills. You know what I can do with them”.

To me, it felt like “You know what I’m going to say, you can fill in the blanks”.

A shame. What annoyed me even more was the fact that he suddenly breaks into a house, finds a garage containing an old truck which is conveniently hiding an escape route to the sewers that leads to Bryan’s hidden factory fortress complete in emergency supplies.

WHAAAAT?!

I thought switch off. It’s just a dumb action movie. Forest Whitaker is here. He’ll do something good.

He pretty much plays Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh from The Shield. At first glance. BUT he does absolutely nothing.

While Mills is running around aimlessly, punching people left, right and centre. Whitaker is scoffing bagels, flicking an elastic band around his wrist (for no reason) while fumbling about with a chess piece (Steady now) in his pocket, looking confused.

What a waste of a talented actor. All he does is relay the information we all know. The plot isn’t that complicated or that interesting for that matter!

In fact, it’s bloody bonkers. Mills makes more elaborate and unexplained escapes than Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes!

He escapes a car that we saw him drive down an exploding lift shaft that seemed to blow up a whole car park complex. And somehow manages to hide behind a rock despite seeing his car rammed off a cliff and rolling into a fiery blaze.

A crappy flashback makes no explanation or sense to his miraculous Houdini acts.

I also felt my loyalties divided with Mills. I used to route for the big guy BUT I felt myself scratching my head at his logic. He kills and injures dozens of coppers. He throws grenades in a school. And even causes a ridiculous police chase that was completely unnecessary.

Mills finds evidence that proves his innocence. Does he tell the police or show them? No! He lets them take him in for questioning. Changes his mind. Only to cause a highway pile up with heavily used CGI cars flying all over the place.

Time to let old dogs lie.

I think it’s time for Neeson to get back to what he did best. Acting. This affair offered no cool dialogue, no baddies of any merit, by the book action sequences with no memorable moments to recollect and . . . hammy vomit inducing exposition.

Olivier Megaton, I don’t know where you are. BUT I have a particular set of skills. If you dare make another, I will find you . . .

1.5/5

Advertisements

3 DAYS TO KILL REVIEW

three_days_to_kill_ver6

It will take 3 days to kill the pain of watching . . . No, it’s not that bad. Unfortunately not that great either. Kevin Costner plays the hard man as well as he can. It’s just a shame that it’s the same old recycled clichéd action movie garbage that we’ve come to accept. By all means, it’s certainly watchable but that’s because I knew what to expect going in.

The trailer inevitably made it look bad ass but I didn’t really get what was promised. The joy of a shoot em up soon sithered away with that beautiful 12a certificate rearing its ugly head. McG has never been subtle. I mean this is the guy who brought us the Charlie’s Angels reboot franchise. And that’s also the problem, this is the guy who brought us the Charlie’s Angels reboot franchise. Credit where it’s due. Terminator Salvation was actually not that bad. Could have done with a little bit of that dark undertone in this.

We have the usual opening stake out that sets up bad guy, good guy. Costner playing a trained killer with . . . a cold. That’s right, coughing and spluttering away. Inevitably that would lead to something more important. But for an opening, I was thinking how did he kill all those bad men? Simple. They don’t show you it. Just a room with 30 dead men and Costner strolling out while blowing his nose. The cringe-inducing birthday phone call with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) was terrible and so corny. Doing it while people are being shot up and explosions above him. Tut, tut, tut.

Tomas Lemarquis made a great bald, I mean Bond, villain with a dark signature move. But never going to its full gory detail. After all, it was a 12a. Inevitably the stake out goes wrong. Costner loses baldy, collapsing for some reason. That reason is that he is suffering from a terminal illness. So a botched op and a dire diagnosis, not looking good for Kev. Of course, he decides to pack it in and reunite with estranged daughter after neglecting her for 15 years. But . . . oh no. He’s needed for one last job. Deal breaker. Get this. They have an antidote that will help give him more time. Aww.

Costner plays it well. You can tell at points he is just going with it. At one point, he has to write a nice big purple bike in Paris after his daughter rejects his attempts at fatherhood. Old Cossie’s face with a nonchalant shrug says it all. The alluring Amber Heard plays the mysterious femme fatale to perfection. Not enough of her in my opinion (What?). However, once you get past her beauty (Don’t judge me), you realise her character doesn’t do much. Other than look incredibly sexy and inject Mr C with the magic antidote to keep him going. All for her own diabolical plan. Diabolical in the sense that she basically got him to do her work.

Steinfeld, the talented actress that she has proven to be in the past, is incredibly annoying. Unfortunately, it’s mainly because it’s all so predictable and clichéd. Their father/daughter relationship just seems to break up what little action there is. The bickering and snipping works well, at points, but all to an inevitable cause.

Costner’s killer soon turns into a parody of himself. The jokes in which he kidnaps a contact, chucks them in the truck work at first. But then when he keeps doing it, it gets old really quick. The action is also a little lacklustre. Costner grins like a Cheshire cat. And . . . quick edit. Bodies on the floor. Only a couple of scenes where Cos gets to kick ass. And when that happens, it’s not bad. Entertaining enough. The car chase was so quick and flat. Could you really call it one?

Also what infuriated me was, understandably, Costner’s character is ill but collapsing every time he comes close to the bald baddie? Annoying. Connie Nielsen (The Following) wins Mother of the Year for leaving her daughter with an estranged father who has been unreliable and has a mysterious past. Hmmm. Cudos for Steinfeld getting the title of the movie into her lines. The tone at times, jumps from darkly comical to straight balls out (not literally) crazy. An inevitable, and much needed, shoot em up finale boosts the slackening pace.

It’s watchable guff. Nothing more. Costner has enough charisma to carry this bullet ridden mess. Amber Heard is . . . to be expected. There are some good bits but that’s the problem, it’s a film of moments. A funny one, an action packed one, etc. I thought the scenes in which a group of squatters invade Costner’s apartment was quite funny. However, they soon overstay their welcome. Shame. 2.5/5

Currently ranks 103 out of 190!

22 JUMP STREET REVIEW

22-Jump-Street-2014-Movie-Banner-Poster

Jump to your nearest store or online outlet and see this movie!

Hill and Tatum reunite for a ridiculously OTT but incredibly funny sequel that has enough to match its predecessor and possibly surpass it.

Now Jump Street has never been (and never will be) subtle. If you like your comedies a little more subdued and less about sex and drug gags than . . . Why are you here?

Now I liked 21 Jump Street but felt it was a little overhyped. The way my brother bigged this movie up to me; I was expecting an Anchorman but it still delivered the goods.

What I loved about these movies is the blatantly obvious self-referencing, the ability to poke fun at itself and constant breaking of the fourth wall. This is perfectly demonstrated with Deputy Chief Hardy Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) explaining how the idiotic success of their last mission has led to their budget being doubled so they can do the exact same thing and hopefully yield the exact same results.

And boy do they! With crazy car chases, OTT action pieces, zippy one liners and laugh out loud gags from Jonah Hill’s wooing poetry slam to Tatum’s buffoonery. I always knew Hill would impress. You can tell where he improvises and it makes things all the better for it. There are a couple moments where the jokes have the tendency to go on a little bit.

I always found Tatum a little wooden in his other movies but whether it be the subject or his partnership with Hill; he has really come out of himself and is absolutely brilliant and they fantastically together.

It’s hardly perfect. The plot line is reversed to predictable if hilarious results. This time around, the inevitable happens in which Hill struggles to adjust to college life after his surprise performance at high school, while Tatum blends straight in, forming a bromance with another jughead that soon threatens to destroy the relationship of the dynamic duo.

I could list all the gags but hey, why would I do that? I was just pleased that this wasn’t a case of all the best bits in the trailer.

Ice Cube was actually very funny. I felt his typical angry bravado was used for its strengths this time around and he was given a little more screen time which allowed for some cracking moments.

Peter Stormare seemed to play a strangely out of place and generic villain. I mean the passing joke about what happened to the 90s works for those are familiar with his numerous bad guy roles back in the day but for anyone else, it will go straight over your head.

Patton Oswalt (King of Queens) was in a funny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as a teacher whose just received tenure. I just wish he was in it more. The alluring Amber Stevens (Greek) plays the love interest well and was able to be more than just a cliched cut out. The Lucas Brothers (TWINS! JINX!) were brilliant as the Yang twins. A memorable supporting role if ever there was one.

I found Jillian Bell quite irritating by the end. Her old guy jibes at Hill were funny (At first) BUT the massive punch up goes on far too long. I could respect the Mr & Mrs Smith parody nod BUT it got a little repetitive.

And of course, regular faces from the original (Well, original remake) pop up. Inevitably, the teasers were hinting for another sequel. IF the gags are this good, I’m happy to keep watching.

Keep watching the closing credits for a fantastic sequels gags. There was a surprising cameo from a certain comic actor.

I would have to say that this is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while. My name is Jeff! INVEST!

4 (just) out of 5!

ROBOCOP REVIEW

MV5BMjAyOTUzMTcxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjkyOTc1MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ (1)

I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar. Well, imagine the original cult classic in all it’s glory, being de-shelled, removing all the tasty innards, the icy satire, the hysterical commercials with the infamous one liner, and replacing it with generic characters, predictable boring corrupt copper spiel, and oh yeah, pimping it out with a gloss black finish and you’ve got a slight indicator of what to expect. If you didn’t already get that from the trailers. Not a complete write-off. Ro-bore-cop has impeccable special effects, combined with decent set action pieces (when they happen), but it doesn’t excuse or help defend the argument that remakes should be done. If anything this one is an example against that said cause.

Mini-rant over. Now to the rest of it. Now, dead or half-asleep, I’m going to review this. Now, I’m not going to lie. I am a huge fan of the original 1987 Verhoeven sci-fi classic. When I first heard about this remake and saw the proposed robo-suit, I was livid. BUT . . . I was proved wrong with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake and the trailers for this rehash looked promising. So I went, ready to give it a chance. Hope went out the window when the 12A certificate came up across the screen. You know what to expect as soon as you open to Samuel L (the L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson doing Ron Burgundy-like vocal exercises before appearing on a news segment, criticising America for being “robophobic” (A guilty titter. It worked) and demanding to know why it is the only country not to have robots protecting the streets.

The opening sequence was very good and showed potential, brushing lightly on the satire of the Middle East with their new “protectors”, which soon leads to a gun frenzied attack on live air, which for security reasons, is cut short. The visuals are fantastic and the robots looks good. The action is pacy. Good start but that is soon droned down by more talking about why robots should be in America. I felt I was watching the news. Then the theme song kicks in, re-calibrated, tinny and awful. I thought it sounded a little dated before, but this film managed to make it stick out like a sore thumb.

Enter our hero, Alex Murphy played by Joel Kinnaman (you may remember him from the disappointing US remake of The Killing. However, I did like his performance . . . in that). Kinnaman is very wooden in this and he soon narrates a quick plot summary of a horrible weapons dealer whose working with corrupt coppers. Two of which are blatantly in the room with him.

We are soon lulled into a quick who’s who of stocky generic bad guys relieved by a reasonable gun blazing shoot em up. While that’s going on, corporate bigwig Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is working with his team (PR guru Jay Baruchel in a minor and passive role. Plays it well. But he is a good actor) to try and market a robot on the streets, but they realise they need a human touch to it. Cue the inevitable double crossing and trusting the wrong people for poor old Murphy, who is then “dealt with” in the form of a ferocious car bomb. Would have been more of a shocker, if we didn’t see it coming. There was no suspense building to his inevitable demise. We were just waiting for “when he’s going to be Robo?” as the bomb was set up ten minutes before.

Now, the effects are very good and the suit looks decent and it was great to see a more slim-lined, less bulky, version of the original with the blue titanium. We soon get all the issues, man v machine, is he a human in a machine or a machine who thinks he’s human? Now, I can respect Jose Padilha and the writers for trying to do something different to the classic and break away from it, looking at aspects that weren’t considered or couldn’t be. But looking at this, maybe they should have just done it shot for shot.

Gone are characters like Louis, to be replaced by Michael K. Williams (the legendary Omar from the Wire/Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire). Williams does his best but his character gets pushed aside that much that he can only pop out two good one-liners. He isn’t even really brought back until the (much needed) explosive finale. Gary Oldman plays Dr Dennett Norton to perfection, with the beautiful, if wasted, Aimee Garcia (Jamie Batista from Dexter) as his lab assistant.

But it soon drags into a dull, mind numbing hour of training montages, reboots and battles with his body, bearing in mind, (in a beautifully animated if graphic display) that he is a head, set of lungs, heart and a hand. The training montage relieves with some action and clashes with head honcho Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley – Rorschach from Watchmen). He subtly delivers the best line of the movie. Hint hint Robo fans. It is only after the first hour, when Murphy is let out on the streets that it picks up and gets more watchable. However, as a marketing ploy, they pimp him in black, which makes the suit look like bulky biker gear with enormous shoulder pads (or a black dildo). However, still looks good, badass and less stompy to his Weller predecessor.

Now, it only appears that as Kinnaman is supposed to be more robotic, that his acting gets better. Now Peter Weller was always a bit wooden with his monotone voice but Kinnaman appears to out-Weller Weller. BUT . . . he runs really funny. I mean I was in stitches. Maybe he should have kept the Weller stomp and the jump over the wall was OTT. The training sequence was also let down with OTT music that had ridiculous jazz flute music. I was waiting for Ron Burgundy to pop out.

There was needless time building up Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), who was an awful baddie. Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence J. Boddicker just looked evil. We didn’t need to establish anything. It was evident that he was a piece of work. The baddies in this were generic, stocky and didn’t stand out. Might as well have been named Cannon Fodder #1, 2, etc. Oldman and Keaton worked well together. Oldman as the tormented compassionate scientist to Keaton’s devilish corporate money maker. Not enough of the pair and not enough going to keep them on. In the original, we had the malicious Ronny “Dick” Cox and gullible yuppie/guppie Miguel “Bob” Ferrer competing with their programs and their . . . explosive rivalry (What?). Not so much in this.

Also, as a side note, what was with Keaton’s lip-licking? Did he need Vasoline? Seriously he kept looking at Oldman like he was a piece of KFC. Understandable if it was Abbie Cornish. What? Cornish (Limitless. The movie. Come on, we’re better than that) did her best as the distraught wife and the writers tried to bring the family angle into it more but it just didn’t work and came off half-baked and corny.

The busts were even uninteresting. Trying to keep in with its teen audience, Robo does an emotional analysis on a druggie, his screen states: TOTALLY STONED. However, his screen’s visuals although cool are stupid. SUSPECTS LOOKS VIOLENT or something along those lines. Mate, I could have told you that and saved you a million bucks. Some liked the Knight Rideresque bike with his neon blue lights, I didn’t. I was waiting for it to say, “You’re not Michael”. Also, how much longer can films ride off a volatile Jackson shouting at you and spewing Motherfuckers everywhere. In this case, as its 12A, once and bleeped. Well he was on live TV. His biased news channel had the odd chuckle but the joke went on too long. The final 20 minutes made up for a hit and miss (more miss) ride with all out explosions and carnage.

Now what have I forgot to speak about? Call myself a Robo fan. ED209! Or E-D-209. Yep, not even ED. Looks incredible, says the command once maybe twice. But they can use stairs. Not as shocking a revelation as the Darleks. Craaaap! One cool little sequence redeems that with Robo running underneath them and because they are so big and bulky, they can’t actually fire at him in a Doomesque first person shooter point of view. That made up for an earlier night vision sequence that was erratic, flashy and all over the place. Did my eyes in.

It was always going to be tough to beat a classic, especially from the visionary Paul Verhoeven of Total Recall and Starship Troopers fame. It has a great cast (that was wasted), great special effects, good action but all let down by needless plot, mind-numbing pace and cliched characters. Padilha cannot be marked down for ambition but it was almost too serious. All too . . . mechanical. Yes, I wrote it. Very much like it’s robotic lead, the film had little heart, little brains and parts all over the place. Not one for the scrap heap, watchable (just) but let’s hope there’s not another reboot. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #108 out of 139!

BRICK MANSIONS REVIEW

Brick-Mansions-2014-Movie-Poster

A ridiculous remake of a furious French film that did not need to be touched.

This won’t sully the memory of an actor that left us too soon but it won’t do much to help it.

Let’s be honest, Paul Walker’s movies were hardly groundbreaking but they were big, dumb and most importantly fun. I thought he was a decent actor and loved the Fast and Furious franchise.

Brick Mansions is so incredibly stupid and OTT that you can’t help but laugh at it. A guilty pleasure. It’s the sort of film you’d expect to find in the bargain bin at your local supermarket, the kind you would sit and watch on a Saturday night with a few tins and a curry or when the lads come over. But to pay a tenner? Nah, you’re alright.

Nearly every cliché in the action movie checklist was ticked with this bad boy. The late Paul Walker and District veteran John Belle do their best with the laughable and predictable reluctant cop and criminal duo who must work together for the greater good, after lazy insults and typical fisticuffs.

In all fairness, as the film goes on, the pair manage to make the laughable lines work to their advantage and comes off quite well by the end.

RZA cannot act. It’s bad enough that his character is naff to boot but he doesn’t do anything to make the shoddy lines any better. He is so flat and robotic. Surely he couldn’t have grabbed some emotion from his rapping days? No? His only outstanding attribute being his craving for culinary excellence while unleashing hell. Problem is, not much hell is unleashed. Well, not as much as you think or hope.

District 13 and District B: Ultimatum were hardly renowned for their fantastic plot lines but how could Brick Mansions make it look like Inception by comparison. What made it was the frenetic free running sequences and the opening sequence with Belle gives us hope.

For those who have seen the originals, it literally is a rehash of the same sequence but if you were impressed, the first time round, you most likely will be again. The slow motion does kill a little of the fun. Belle’s acting leaves little to be desired as he’s grasps, well I say he, as I grasp that he’s speaking English.

Always will find it weird when you’ve watched a foreign film and then you see the actor speak English. I know, multi-cultural. People can speak more than one language. But weird, guy. Anyway, he soon gets into the flow and his acting does improve. More so when paired with Walker.

Paul Walker is to be expected, charismatic as hell and constantly poking fun at the stupidity of the movie. He manages to make it work; embracing the madness and giving it a good old go. You can tell he’s having a laugh and just accepting that this is what it is. Big, dumb, and mental.

A mental sequence in which Belle and Walker are fighting a Goliath-esque henchman has enough humour and craziness to get away with it. The action sequences, when not bogged down with droll predictable dialogue are fast paced, frantic and utterly bonkers.

A little too much quick cut editing reduces the impact as we see Walker go for a punch, then suddenly the henchman is on the floor. Just lacks that hard hitting tenacity. I mean this is Camille Delamarre who brought us Taken 2 and Transporter 3; the weaker sequel entries. Third time’s the charm? Apparently not.

However, why should Luc Besson and Delamarre care about it now when they’ve been doing this for some time? I mean they knew who they were aiming for this film. The lads. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the ladies will want to see the late Walker.

But in one scene, Belle’s incredibly raunchy and short skirted waitress gf/ex-gf (the alluring Catalina Denis – The Tunnel) gets into one of the raunchiest punch ups I’ve seen. It pretty much goes into a violent game of slap and tickle with leather clad HOT head case Ayisha Issa (Warm Bodies).

As a side note for the 24 nuts out there, I can’t believe Carlo Rota was in this. Old Maurice as a mobster. Brilliant!

I don’t know why but it felt a little close to home with Walker racing around in fast cars, crashing them into numerous objects. A scene in which he drives a car with no brakes was a little near the mark. I mean granted this was done some time ago but still . . .

A nice little tribute is tagged on before the end credits. Look, this is hardly going to win plaudits. It brings the odd laugh, cheesy banter, the occasional crash bang whallop to take your mind of the crappy dialogue.

It’s laughable and that’s the thing you can’t help but come out with a guilty grin, even if it is for the wrong reasons.

2/5 (just)

Currently ranks #143 out of 171!

NEED FOR SPEED REVIEW

NFS_1-Sht_v5_Lg-610x903

I feel the need, the need . . . to review this film, yo! We’ve seen the story before but where it lacks in that department (I mean, come on, it’s a car movie), it cooks up octane action and special effects with real cars in proper car chases without CGI, making this one to watch and I’m sure regardless of reviews, it will be breaking bad at the box office. What? Not subtle enough. It’s tough not to compare it to the Fast and Furious franchise and you can’t help but feel things might have been copied but it just about stands it’s ground and manages to still be an enjoyable ride. Check it out, bitch!

What’s it about then, san? Fresh from prison after being framed by a wealthy business associate (Dominic Cooper – Fleming), street racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad) joins a cross country race seeking vengeance. However, when said business associate learns of the plan, he places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

That’s the gist and you pretty much get that from the trailers. The opening 30 minutes sets up the vengeance seeking plot in which we follow Marshall, a struggling debt stricken mechanic who supes up old Gran Torinos and shows them off in street races. It’s all the same old cliched set up. Brooding shots, slow motion as he mourns father’s loss. The typical banter between his rag tag team of mechanics. The rivalry with the guy who got it all, even the girl. Michael Keaton’s irritating radio DJ narrating the obvious rivalry between Marshall and wealthy hot shot Dino Brewster (Cooper). Paul and Cooper are likeable leads and play their parts well. Cooper is exceptionally shady and sly and passes off a good accent. Marshall’s rag tag team of misfits, however, feel like a loosely based rip off of the Fast and Furious ensemble. The ultra cool Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is really annoying, and feels like he’s trying to do his best Tyrese Gibson impression. The others, if not for a couple of moments of craziness, were hardly memorable which is a shame, considering the talent (Rami Malek – 24/The Pacific and Ramon Rodriguez – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).

However, the main stars are the cars. I mean Koenigsegg Agira R, Torinos, Lamborghini Elemento and a suped up Ford Mustang. Cracking cars. This is where the points are gained. The chase and race sequences are fantastic to watch. The camera angles are frantic, fast and really make you feel like you’re in the car. The build up in the opening race with the heart beat pounding, the engines revving and the first person shots are fantastic. That pause before the cars pull off or make a dicey movie. Brilliant. Waugh makes the city his playground. There were a few unexpected moments that stood out in 3D but not a huge investment. The race and chase sequences are very much faithful to the style of video game franchise; without feeling like you’re watching someone playing it. A noticeable nod to the EA franchise can be spotted, of course. I was surprised in the opening credits, they didn’t say EA Films. Challenge everything. One for the gamers.

The earlier city race sequence through the alley ways and underpasses is brilliantly done and brilliantly shot. Cudos to the cinematography of Shane Hurlbut. The earlier races are very reminiscent of the old car chase movies. A homage to the infamous Steve McQueen Bullitt chase flashes across the screen at the Drive Thru as the racers get ready. The Koenigsegg Agira R race sequence was incredible and what a stunning car. I’m not the biggest car lover but wow. A predictable and inevitable tragedy still surprises and catches your breath as Marshall is set up by Brewster, leading to a corny, OTT but thrilling ride. It can be patchy at parts (It drags). At two hours, it pushes it a little bit. However, it’s soon relieved by a thrilling chase here. A police car flagging up there. Pretty much like Need for Speed: Most Wanted. One of my favourite games.

The locations are perfectly selected for some cracking sequences. The cliff ambush being a particular highlight minus the ridiculous cliff hanger involving the Mustang and an Apache helicopter. Granted it was actually done and wasn’t CGI’d (well only to insert Paul and Poots). I didn’t think this film could deliver more cheese than the Fast and Furious franchise. It had an opportunity to be slicker and darker but went for the schmaltzy, corny route. It doesn’t spoil the sequences with chained safes, flipping oil tankers and bridge leaps as the later Furious films did but it certainly served it up with the characters. Some of the ‘banter’ comes with the odd chuckle, other moments are just stupid. The beautiful Imogen Poots manages to charm and annoy in alternate scenes leaving you on the fence about her. I think I liked her by the end. Her first meeting with Paul being a predictable corny set up, once again poking fun at the dumb posh English girl spiel. Wait a minute, she knows about cars? She said some things about engines. Shock horror! Come on guys, really? And Keaton may tried to Beetlejuice his role up (seriously) but he just recites what we’re all thinking. If it weren’t the fact, the big race was his creation, his character would have been pointless. Well, it already was.

It’s hammy, a little long, corny, OTT but despite all that, the chases are superbly shot, the action is tense, suspenseful, helped by a likeable lead. Just should have used the Fast and Furious as a guide book not a template. However, it’s all still watchable, with the odd tut or sigh. Can’t help but compare it to the F&F, it does stand along some of their weaker entries, which were still good. So 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #74 out of 153!

JACK STRONG REVIEW

jack_strong_ver2_xlg

Hit and miss. Suspenseful in parts. This US/Polish collaborated thriller just wasn’t strong enough.

I was impressed to see a foreign film at my local Cineworld. However, this film might not be the best case to persuade them to do so. An intriguing opening certainly got things going. The sinister looking Dimitri Bilov showing how the Soviets deal with spies. BUT that was soon bogged down with heavy exposition which people (who are unfamiliar or a little bit rusty with their Cold War history on the Soviet Empire) would find quite hard to follow.

It seemed to skim across the years without really establishing a date. The characters age at an alarming rate. It’s only when a brief encounter with an army officer confirmed that three years had passed, five years, etc that you even had a clue.

It was a good half hour before anything happened. I don’t mind a slow burning film if there’s enough suspense or story to keep it going. This was just lulling me into a coma. It was established early on that this account is a flashback which killed a good bit of the tension.

It was only when Ryszard Kulinski (Marcin Dorocinski) decides to provide important information to America that we start to get an engaging and suspenseful thriller. It was nostalgic of the early Bond films. The markings on the bricks, secret meetings, as well as the odd piece of gadgetry in the form of a nifty cigarette lighter that my interest was piqued.

However, this all gets too repetitive. The tone stutters along. With one brilliantly tense scene, there is one OTT and unintentionally hilarious one. Without spoiling too much, whether it was the acting or the execution; two scenes came off like something out of a parody! In one tense scene, Kulinski steals an important document, shoves it in his bag and attempts to walk out of the fortress. Only to walk into a wall.

Another example; the gruesome Putek (brilliantly played by Miroslaw Baka) suspects that someone in the room is the spy. What do you do? Keep calm. Act dumb. Or do you sweat profusely, ring your handkerchief out like a sponge and then grab the nearest piece of paper and rub ink across your forehead? Hmmm. Yeah didn’t think so.

Obviously, the main character is under a lot of stress and risk which would test you psychologically more than physically but it came off hammy and if I was in that room, I would have pointed him out in a heart beat. I mean he was a highly ranked military figure. Surely he had experience in hostile situations?

The family element seems to be forced in to break up the floundering tension and was only really necessary in the final act. I mean the heated tension between Kulinksi and his son Bogdan (Piotr Nerlewski) had its moments but more could have been made out of their fractured relationship. Shame. Kulinski’s encounters with his wife Hanna (Maja Ostaszewska) lacked real chemistry and came off sloppy.

It was a surprise to see Patrick Wilson (Insidious/The Conjuring) in this and speaking Polish. He played the part well but in all fairness, anyone could have done it. You would have thought having a big name (ish), you would have given him a meatier role? Nope. Wilson is wasted as a deadpan handler who reels off the usual cliched rubbish and then isn’t even around for the big finale.

The finale, on the other hand, does pay off. As the pressure mounts, escape is the only option. There is a brilliantly shot car chase across an icy Polish town that was tense and pacey. Remembering it was a flashback, there were a few cheeky red herrings that made you stick with the finale.

However as the film catches up with the present. You’re left somewhat confused. Although pacey and suspenseful, you notice plot holes. The intentions of the police become increasingly unclear. A reveal in the closing minutes was surprisingly laughable.

What was also infuriating was the unexpected demises of several characters I had followed throughout the film. They were rushed and unexplained. BUT as the credits rolled, it was revealed that some of the deaths are still not. This did add a somewhat sombre touch to the aftermath.

Not a complete dud, but it’s stuttering style and execution took the wind out of what could have been one heck of a thriller. Not strong enough for me.

2.5/5