*NEW* HACKSAW RIDGE REVIEW *NEW*

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Brutal, gripping, hard hitting.

The true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

I was a little worried at first that Garfield was going to come off as a bumbling Forrest Gump with his bashful demeanour and Southern accent BUT he delivered enough charm and charisma to win me over. A strong performance.

The first 40-odd minutes was corny but easy going enough as we followed Desmond through his childhood years right up to his enrollment.

A good portion of that time was spent on wooing the local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer – Lights Out). It may have been a little schmaltzy BUT the pair had good chemistry and I was happy to watch.

The flashbacks flicking back and forth into Desmond’s past broke up the cheesy romance as we discovered the reasons behind his refusal to carry a firearm.

It was great to see Hugo Weaving as Doss’ embittered drunken vet father. He played it with aplomb. A tormented man who had already “died” with his men in the Great War.

His survival nothing more than a curse. Punishing himself and his family. I was surprised at his reaction when he discovered that his two sons had enlisted.

The boot camp training montage was a little predictable. Especially when Doss had to compete with the macho hot head Smitty Ryker (Luke Bracey – Point Break).

BUT it still hit home as Desmond fought against the military hierarchy. Reserving his right to serve as a medic:

“No less danger, just . . . while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together”.

I wasn’t sure whether Vince Vaughn would cut it as Sergeant Howell. I was hoping this role would be a change from his usual spiel.

BUT his Wedding Crashers style drill call and endless shouting was hit and miss. It was a little too OTT for my liking as he gave the privates nicknames. However, there were a couple of clever one liners.

BUT as Doss’ struggle worsened, Howell soon won me over as he realised the stubborn Virginian wasn’t going to back down. Fighting for his beliefs.

Sam Worthington (Avatar) was brilliant as the callous Captain Glover. Embarrassed to have a “conscientious objector” in his ranks. Ordering Howell to force the boy’s resignation.

Doss’ treatment was shocking. Beaten until he was black and blue by members of his own infantry. Pushed to the very edge. He was even denied a day pass to attend his own wedding. Unbelievable.

It went right up to a military tribunal and even during the first attack on Hacksaw, troops were still weary of the medic. The second half of the film was something to behold. A true act of honour and dedication.

I had no doubt on ol’ Blue Eyes taking the helm. We had already seen a return to form with his stellar turn in Blood Father and this latest entry from the Braveheart and We Were Soldiers director was a step in the right direction.

The violence was ridiculous. Gibson definitely didn’t hold back the punches. It was visceral, gory and bloody as hell. He really showed the true extent of what war can do to a soldier.

The only problem with all the CGI (especially with the flamethrower attacks) was that it came off like something out of Starship Troopers! And when Doss kicked that grenade like a football, I couldn’t help but tut. Hollywood had to put their stamp on it somewhere.

“Just give me one more”

I was on tenterhooks right up to the emotional and fitting tribute. As every one else had climbed back down off the ridge, Doss stayed to tend to the wounded.

Covering up the injured from the lurking Japanese. Evading capture and sniper fire. Discovering their hidden trenches.

Tense, gripping. I was completely transfixed as this young man, with no firearm, saved 70 soldiers who were already deemed lost by their superior officers.

He even tried to save several Japanese officers who didn’t quite make the journey back to the medical tent.

Despite a 139 minute running time, the pace didn’t test. Garfield impressed yet again, giving one of his best performances to date.

It was nail biting and enthralling. That final act when Glover apologizes to the crazy Virginian was heartbreaking.

The real life interviews and footage in the closing credits really brought it home.

A compelling drama as one man defied the odds and fought for what was right.

While not the greatest war film, Hacksaw is still worthy of your attention.

4/5

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*NEW* DON’T BREATHE REVIEW *NEW*

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Don’t bother . . .

Messing with Stephen Lang. That dude is a machine.

Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

From the creators of the Evil Dead remake. My heart sank. A shambolic monstrosity that should never have happened. Thankfully, I didn’t share the same sentiment with this taut thriller.

The establishing shot hooked me in from the get go. Tension set. However, I did have a little grumble as the story flashed back BUT thankfully writer/director Fede Alvarez didn’t mess about. The film set up the characters and the premise pretty sharpish.

It takes a lot for a premise like this to work when you only have three characters BUT thankfully the cast were perfectly chosen.

We join our trio in the middle of a burglary. I felt my loyalties were tested very early on. Their unlikeable and amateurish antics had me silently rooting for the appropriated titled Blind Man as they robbed and destroyed people’s homes.

As much as you could feel for Rocky’s background (Jane Levy – Evil Dead/Suburgatory) and need to break from the desolate Detroit backdrop; you despised the way she strung along her best friend Alex (Dylan Minette – Goosebumps) and manipulated him to do her bidding.

It made a change to see Minette break away from family movies. He played the conflicted (and tragically “friend-zoned”) Alex well. Torn between pleasing the woman he loves and giving his father a prison sentence after stealing all his client’s files to help in their burglaries.

For a good 20 minutes, it was a slow burning crime thriller. That was until they received the tip of a lifetime (or so they thought). A blind war veteran sitting on a fortune. Daniel Zovatto was highly annoying as Money. The corn rolled douche. I’m sure that was the point BUT I was actually hoping the big man would wake up as they broke into his home.

The stake out and dull cliched rationalizing did have me fidgeting a little bit. BUT that all changed when Lang (Avatar) was introduced. He was superb. His physical presence, along with those unsettling scarred eyes, freaked me out. From the moment he stumbled onto the scene, I was hooked.

For a brief moment, I felt more empathy towards the baffled vet. The silence created a perfect atmosphere as the thieves crept around the house avoiding his clutches. I couldn’t help BUT think of that infamous Simpsons episode with Bart and the blind man. Especially when one of them was hiding in the closet.

I tried not to pick at the amateurish mistakes that the gang made. Walking past the only door with a padlock on it and wondering where the fortune was? Hmmm . . .

BUT it did unfold into one of the deadliest games of hide and seek. You could cut the suspense with a knife. The night vision sequence was brilliant as the Blind Man cuts the power to his advantage. Waiting in the darkness for the slightest sound or movement. You could hear a pin drop.

From how the film was advertised, I expected a horror for some reason. And if you were too, I warn you. It isn’t. If anything, I’m glad that it wasn’t. A proper little thriller. Just when I was getting bored of the endless hiding and breath holding, the closing act took an even darker turn and I was transfixed right up until the tense finale.

A great cast, a creepy premise and some perfectly executed suspense ridden sequences makes this one to watch.

3/5

*NEW* SABOTAGE REVIEW *NEW*

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This was sabotaged from the start.

Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.

From the guys who brought you End of Watch and Training Day. That tagline delivered so much promise BUT failed on so many levels.

From the opening, I felt like I joined the movie halfway through. It certainly grabbed my attention BUT only because I was so bloody confused.

It kept flashing forward as we follow a botched raid on a Mexican cartel safe house and the ongoing investigation after a $10 million overhaul went missing.

Considering the strong cast consisting of; Terrence Howard (Empire), Josh Holloway (LOST), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Mirielle Enos (The Killing US) and Arnold “GET DOWN!” Schwarzenegger, I haven’t seen such an UN-interesting bunch of characters in quite some time.

The cliched macho talk and poor banter did nothing to win me over. The cartel stuff was so generic. It was merely used as a poor plot device to hide the inevitable backstabbing that would inevitably happen among the team.

This could have been a perfect platform for Arnie to have a pop at some serious acting. I couldn’t think of anybody better to play the head honcho of a dysfunctional and deadly team BUT I have to say that this was one of his most wooden performances to date. And that is saying something! He made something that should have been a sure thing on paper seem like such a stretch.

After watching Big Love and the American remake of the Killing, it made a change to see Enos play a drug addicted adrenaline junkie on the verge of a breakdown. Tragically, the more we saw of her character, the more annoying she got. So annoying in fact that I prayed for her swift exit.

Worthington’s performance was laughable from his mangled accent to his horrendous beard. A shame, really. His character was the only one that had a little bit of depth. Albeit, a cliched one.

The story line involving corrupt cops should have been writer David Ayer’s forte (by now) BUT alarm bells were ringing at the obvious plot holes – it had to be a team member that stole the payload. Because every other cartel member was butchered.

After a stupid BUT watchable first act, it took a good half hour before anything really happened. My curiousity was finally peaked when (out of the blue) a team member was bumped off in a highly gruesome manner. Olivia Williams’ (Rushmore) introduction was a much needed trigger and certainly got the ball rolling.

BUT I was too distracted by her nauseating accent. Her character was a total bad ass. BUT she caved into Arnie’s “charm” so easily and had a terrible sidekick in Harold Perrineau.

The wafer thin characters and agonizing pace didn’t do the movie any favours and even when the body count rose, my interest sank. The cloak and dagger stuff behind the task force had potential as Williams’ investigation was hindered by red tape.

I don’t mind dodgy and corrupt antagonists BUT I just didn’t care by the end. The Shield (one of my favourite shows) had me secretly rooting for the bad guys BUT the only rooting I did for Sabotage was for it to finish.

It felt like Ayer was poking fun at the very genre that he has been so accustomed to. For all their flaws, Harsh Times and Street Kings were solid efforts by comparison.

A dull story line with poor revelations was thankfully thrown out the window BUT replaced with an even more ridiculous shoot em up and a laughable street chase with incredibly dire techno video game music.

The ending was horrendous. It was supposed to be this big unravelling moment and a huge sombre footnote to the piece BUT it was just terrible. The overlong pace and poor storytelling literally left a stellar cast waiting around for Arnie to show more life than an IKEA table.

I’ve never been so disappointed in a Swarnie flick and it’s not as if the expectations were ever high in the first place.

2/5