*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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THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

Third time’s the charm?

They’re back. The Dad’s Army of movie action heroes return for another round of ridiculous mayhem, OTT action and cheesy banter.

It is what is. Big dumb fun. If you don’t know that by the third outing then why are you here?

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t rate the first Expendables. I was baffled when it was green-lit for another.

I remember reluctantly sitting through the second and being pleasantly surprised for what it was. Van Damme and Chuck Norris the saving graces!

So here we are. Yet another and the verdict? Not bad.

The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong a franchise no one really wanted. Especially when the newbies in question were so bland and cliched.

The opening prison train sequence got straight to business. The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show.

Snipes’ introduction into the mix was brilliant. When asked what he is in for, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be good if he made a tax joke” and before I knew it, bam! Tax evasion.

The banter and quick witted insults really livened up the hammy dialogue. I lost count of the speech digs at Stallone. Even being so bold as to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste.

Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role, which I found highly strange. Can’t there be two black guys? Apparently we’re only allowed one.

Crews had one moment to shine with a chain gun before swiftly picking up a weak injury and disappearing into the background. The real reason being a contractual issue BUT a missed presence nonetheless.

The first hour was surprisingly watchable and pacy. The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they?

However, the middle act tested with lifeless exchanges, generic plot lines and clichéd one liners. Seriously, the story line was so predictable as Barney (Stallone) confronted an old foe and former Expendable in the form of William Wallace.

Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with our hero pushing away the old gang and recruiting a new one (in the form of ex-MMA fighting champion Ronda Rousey and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz).

It took a while for Gibson to shine. An initial ‘shout-off’ with Stallone didn’t build high hopes. It was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Stallone’s inaudible screeching. Yikes. I couldn’t understand a word that man was saying (More so than usual). BUT thankfully ol’ Blue Eyes managed to deliver some malice to the stale role.

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden (I know. Shock horror!). Disappointing. While Antonio Banderas pretty much did a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone and Grammer an unsuspecting Shrek and Donkey.

Lundgren, Ford, Schwarzenegger, Snipes, Li and . . . Kelsey Grammer?!

Really? Frasier “I’m listening” Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in his small cameo. Providing “valuable Intel” for Rocky as he selected the new recruits.

And that was the problem. The oldies were the appeal. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, give them a break, they’re in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma proved why they’re still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn.

Rousey and co may have looked tough and done their own stunts BUT when it comes to (I can’t believe I’m writing this) acting? Generic face pulling wasn’t enough.

The inevitable “out with the old, in with the new” spiel was unnecessary and so predictable. You were just counting down the minutes before the old crew returned.

Swarnie wasn’t in this enough. While Harrison Ford showed he still has a sense of humour. Playing the hard ass role to perfection even if his lines didn’t make any sense. Seriously, there was a clunky exchange about somebody messing up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head.

I can’t believe this script was penned by an Oscar winner.

The action pieces were entertaining enough BUT there were moments where the erratic camera work struggled to keep up. An issue I had with the first Expendables.

The finale got more ridiculous as it reached its explosive conclusion BUT with The Terminator bellowing endless “GET TO THE CHOPPER” quotes to my heart’s content, I was happy to oblige.

A guilty pleasure. Say no more. It wasn’t the best one of the bunch BUT it didn’t have that much to compare to.

If you’re looking for an action packed time filler with some of your favourite 80s/90s action heroes then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks!

2.5/5