THE GUNMAN REVIEW

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Sean Penn doesn’t do many films but when he does . . .

They’re pretty damn boring.

So what’s it about? A sniper (Sean Penn) on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

That was according to the IMDb. I had no idea what was going on. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

From the director that brought you Taken . . .

Which one? 1-2-3? Oh, the first one. It should be okay, then. Biggest mistake of my life.

I expected no-nonsense, fist crunching, cars chasing, buildings exploding. ACTION! Not mindless exposition and cliched dialgoue with hammy characters that you couldn’t give two umphs about.

Sean Penn did his best. But his character was so weak and bland. He was the typical generic action hero.

Tortured good guy trying to do the right thing. Smitten with a woman he can’t have. Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t mind being force fed the same old predictable action movie bilge. Nothing’s original. BUT at least try and make it interesting or throw in lots of shiny explosions and high octane punch em ups to make up for it. Is that too much to ask?

Penn looked fit (Not in that way. Steady now). At 54, he proved he could still kick an ass or two. He dealt with the (little) action sequences we had on offer with ease.

I just wish his character didn’t feel like someone pulled out of The Expendables.

The plot was terrible. To make matters worse, it didn’t make any sense. The more they bleated on (and believe me, they did!), the more questions I had.

The opening didn’t really get things going at all. The whole Sky News reporting on The Congo showed potential. Keeping up with the times and building a story around it.

BUT oh how wrong I turned out to be.

The graphic footage and statistics were certainly an eye opener but they were soon pushed into the background for the usual Hollywood guff.

We are had to endure the drudge that was a hammy love triangle between Penn, Jasmine Trinca and Javier Bardem.

Bardem was probably one of the only saving graces. It’s just a shame that he got on my nerves as he went on. His *SPOILER* early departure from the film left a void that was never filled. The void being the rest of the film.

He played the part well as the sleazy operation leader hell bent on stealing Penn’s bird.

That was about as much as I got out of his murderous intent.

Seriously, the plot was that convoluted that it gave me a headache.

BUT don’t worry, it all ends the same way. That’s right. Corny as hell with no real thought or proper explanation. Lovely!

The problem with Bardem’s performance was that it was too manic. He went from a sleazebag to a drunken child within a few scenes. Bad writing. Bad interpretation. Shame.

Speaking of poor performances, Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall). Lordy lord. I couldn’t take him seriously. He sounded constipated. I kid you not. He looked the part. A slick, slimy corporate business type. Until he opened his mouth.

He wasn’t strong enough to be a lead villain. Even Penn didn’t look that convinced by him.

And Idris Elba. What was the point of him? What was his character’s relevance? He smarms his way in for about five minutes spouting some waffle to Penn about not building a treehouse in this garden today.

He chucks him a calling card (accompanied with a cheeky wink) and buggers off!

What a waste of a talented actor. The money must have been good. I mean, was his role cut in the film? To be honest, they missed a trick by not having his presence.

His character was a much needed injection. A bit of mystery. A quirky (if stupid) anecdote. BUT at least it was something.

The Gunman was dull, uninteresting and way too long. And considering it was called the Gunman. Penn didn’t use a lot of guns.

The action sequences were good when they appeared. Frantic, explosive but memorable? Hardly. They became a messy blur by the closing credits.

My main issue was that it seemed to take itself too seriously. The political commentary, the examination on the Congo, the endless “Will they, won’t they?” between Trinca and Penn (when we all knew they bloody would).

AND THEN as the final 30 minutes approached, they realised they had backed themselves into a corner and then desperately went out on an all-out offensive that just came off hammy, laughable and boring.

I mean, the showdown at the bull ring should have been brooding, tense and metaphorical. NOT hysterical.

I felt numb by the end. Deflated and my boredom still very much intact. To make matters worse, I looked to my movie massive (My two mates) and asked; “So why did they want him dead?”

The writer didn’t even make use of Penn’s forced plot device. A revelation that had potential to make this dud so much more.

Hardly spoilierific as it wasn’t explained or executed properly.

Penn’s character is diagnosed with an Alzheimers like disease. He has to record and write everything down. For a moment, I thought Memento meets American Sniper. Okay, let’s do this.

Oh no. Pardon the irony here but it seemed after introducing this newly discovered character flaw, they seemed to forget about it until the final 20 minutes when every time Penn has the chance to dispense some vengeance, what does he do?

He drops to the floor and wails about like’s he having the worst hangover ever!

The whole scorned man with nothing to lose as he’s about to lose the most precious thing of all has been done to death but it still could have offered something.

Not even Ray Winstone could save the day. You know you’re onto a loser when you’re praying for Ray’s messy mercenary to pop back into things.

Sean Penn should have corned him and said, “What are the odds of this film being recommended?”

(In gruffly Winstone voice) Defo worth seeing, san 1000/1.

Place your bets because I’m not.

And to make me laugh even further, I looked into the screenwriters. One of them. Sean Penn. Case closed.

AVOID.

1.5/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* BLENDED REVIEW

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If you still like or even love Adam Sandler movies, then this one is for you. For everybody else, move on. There has been a lot of cynicism and “hate-watching” surrounding his last entries. A good portion not completely unjustified. (That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, I’m looking at you!)

Let’s be honest, they are guilty pleasures. (Apart from Sandler’s more serious acting ventures; Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love). The story lines were always predictable, corny and OTT but as long as they were funny, I was happy to let that slide. I know, me letting a film slide?

So what did I make of Sandler’s latest offering? One that seemed to take a huge hit at the box office? Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s actually not that bad. A vast improvement from the Grown Ups movies (I did enjoy the first one. What?). I went in, anticipating the worst and came out surprised.

So what’s it about? After a bad blind date, a man (Sandler) and woman (Drew Barrymore) find themselves stuck together at a family resort in Africa, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Awww . . . yuck.

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for their third outing (The Wedding Singer/50 First Dates). The chemistry is still there and they work well together yet again. You can see at certain points that they are improvising by the cheeky grins and little jibes.

The plot set up is incredibly lazy in how the families end up in Africa. Even when I heard it, I thought why they don’t just meet up by accident? Still corny but a lot less ridiculous than Barrymore’s mate (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rules of Engagement) giving up her vacation with Sandler’s boss and kids (the number of kids that make up the two families – yeah that’s right). Long winded and stupid.

Anyhoo, we get the set up and see both families all with their neuroses and issues; Bella Thorne battling with her sporty persona crushing her femininity as she keeps being mistaken for a boy, Barrymore’s dicey divorce and Sandler coping with loss and grief. Inevitably, both sets of kids are in need of a mother/father figure.

The divorce arguments contribute nothing to the movie as they are so predictable and you know the inevitable will happen. What was well done was how both families dealt with the issue of death and loss. A scene in which Emma Fuhrmann’s character Espn (named after Sandler’s favourite sports channel – Tut, tut, tut) saves a seat and plate for her mum is touching. Corny but touching. A well-acted scene between her and Sandler was unexpected but endearing. For the cynics, a big no, no but for everyone else, very good.

It’s not perfect. Certain jokes fall flat as a dead zebra carcass. A joke in which Barrymore struggles to carry her son and keeps bumping his head against the wall, while funny the first time, soon dies a death when she keeps doing it. If not for a punchline from Sandler, it would have been a complete write off. The inevitable ‘getting together’ of Barrymore and Sandler will always be hanging over moments where they walk away or hurt each other’s feelings.

However, there are some cracking moments and to be honest, it was the one liners that got me. Terry Crews (The Expendables/Brooklyn Nine Nine) pops up, Michael Jackson thrusting and bursting out into song with his African choir in tow every time the movie looks like its slackening. Hilarious. Some might find them irritating, I thought it was brilliant.

Along with Crews, there are a few Sandler stalwarts that pop up and provide a good old chuckle. Shaquille O’Neal as his crazy work colleague, Kevin Nealon (Weeds) as the horny vacationer and a cameo from Allen Covert (Mr Deeds/Wedding Singer/Anger Management). Shame the Schneider/Sandler cameos stopped. Was there a fall out or something? Or did they both hate each other’s movies?

Joel McHale’s (Community) character was very stocky and generic as Barrymore’s ex. The kids were irritating to begin with, but I think that was the point. They soon grow on you, eventually. Well they have to, I guess. Alyvia Alyn Lind was adorable and came out with some of the more surprising quips that got everybody chuckling.

It was great to see a Sandler film actually use some people from the community and actual country they are filming in, who get to deliver some cheeky punts at the tourists. A joke involving Brad Beckham’s resemblance to a hobbit had me in stitches.

It’s corny, cheesy, ridiculously OTT and predictable but it’s funny, at times endearing and better than you think. If you’re a cynic who likes their comedies subtle and clever, then firstly why are you reading this? Secondly, if you’re a struggling Sandler film aficionado, you might be surprised. I was.

3/5

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

HERCULES REVIEW

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Can you smeeeellll what Hollywood is cooking? A mediocre action epic of a blockbuster that regurgitates the same old cheesy guff and desperately craves to be so much more but alas it was not to be. Still not a bad way to kill 90-odd minutes, jabroni!

Bless my soul, Herc is on the . . . No, enough of that. Wrong Hercules. If there was ever a man to play the ultra-strong demi-God Hercules, it is Dwayne “The Man that is becoming a Rock” Johnson. The man is a machine with enough machismo to inject the wrinklies for more Expendables movies. An absolute tank. Plenty for the ladies and even the fellas . . . if only to sigh at their feeble mortal body flab. On a serious note, Dwayne Johnson is not a bad actor (Hello? He was a wrestler) and always has a charismatic presence on the screen. He has proven to be a reliable lead and it’s great to see him given the platform yet again.

However, there are only so many poor lines that The Rock can make sound good. His stone cold stare and asking his foes if he looks afraid, brilliant. His longwinded chivalrous speeches about becoming the legends you were born to be, meh not so much. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) has never been one for story and drama. His strengths have always been action and bringing the laughs. Now when the action does kick in, it’s pretty decent. The CGI actually helps make the scenes. The 3D was actually very impressive, if gimmicky. I mean a flaming arrow flying at you out of the screen is always going to be gimmicky but cool. (I know. Lame so sue me).

The animated adversaries that Hercules must fight are brilliant visual sequences as well as the battle scenes. That along with Hercules’ rag tag team of misfits makes this an easy going, silly but watchable movie like the movies of old. However, it is when the team disperse and Ratner has to tell a story to piece all the wonderful animation and good action together that it drags the film down and puts you into a lull. I know? Even at 98 minutes. Even with a decent cast, you can’t help but laugh or tut at the predictable and lazy guff.

It’s so corny and dull, you find it hard to keep an interest. I mean after all the promise of the opening with Hercules’ team fighting while delivering cheesy banter, I actually wanted more of that during the “serious getting to know the characters and trying to add dimensions to them” segments. Joseph Fiennes plays a restricted if perfectly type cast role as the sleazy King Eurystheus. John Hurt does his best to try and apply some acting gravitas to his frail malicious Lord Cotys (no, not Coitus! Stop it!). Peter Mullan is to be expected as the shady Sitacles. It’s great to see him getting in bigger movies. A great actor. Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane were certainly the most memorable out of the misfits.

Sewell is an underrated actor and it’s nice to see him play a good guy for once. He manages to come out with some of the better one liners. Ian McShane is pretty much playing himself but as a wizard who can see his own death. However, the rest of the cast are either flat or really irritating. Reece Ritchie and Rebecca Ferguson (no, not the X Factor singer!) I’m looking at you. Ritchie’s OTT narrator was awful. Sorry, only Paul Bettany got away with that in A Knight’s Tale.

To be honest, it has fun moments but it gets dragged down by its own lazy attempts to try and be serious. It’s big and dumb. Don’t try and be clever. While I was watching the Rock dispense enemies with a fist here and a mighty swipe with his club there, I really wanted more. I mean, not even a Rock Bottom or an Elbow of his people? Apart from punching a guy off his horse and one 50 yards across the field, there isn’t much else.

The idea of playing down Hercules as a demi-God and that he is a fraud, exaggerating stories to bring fear to his captives for his bounty is a good concept. But when you see him punch guys across the battlefield and fight giant lions, you’re not fooling anyone. I mean, look at him? It also made me want to watch The Scorpion King again. A film that by comparison knew it was being big and dumb and was better for it.

It’s okay. At it’s best, action packed and cheesy. At it’s worst, dull, boring and cheesy. Worth a watch if you want a no-nonsense punch up blockbuster but otherwise, invest in Gladiator or The Scorpion King!

2.5/5 for me. Next time, Mr. Ratner better banter, better baddy and a bit more fun. Screw the story. Do I look afraid?

Please find my Hercules related videos just to make a change.

1) The first one my reaction when I first saw the trailer for the new Hercules movie with The Rock

2) My reaction after watching said film using TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo

3) Just for fun