*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

*NEW* THE HATEFUL EIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Well, I didn’t hate it. QT is back and bigger than ever. But better?

In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

From the beautifully shot opening, I was entranced. The 70mm film format capturing the picturesque cinematography of QT stalwart Robert Richardson perfectly. The credit sequence accompanied by an original Ennio Morricone score (The first in 30 years) brought back that old school nostalgia of the classic Westerns.

However that nostalgia soon dissipated when Russell’s John Ruth crossed paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Major Warren sitting on a cushion of dead bodies. After an initially tense and intriguing introduction with QT’s chapters popping up left, right and centre, the first hour soon churned along at an agonizing snail’s pace.

There wasn’t enough tidbits, stylish dialogue or suspense to keep me going. It was almost mind numbing. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. Russell, Leigh and Jackson were doing their best BUT it wasn’t entertaining enough. A running joke about Jackson receiving a letter from Lincoln did the job BUT I found the first act lacking. That was until they reached Minnie’s Haberdashery.

A grotty shack with even grittier lodgers. It really was a case of the waiting game. BUT was it going to be worth it? Trapped for the next few days during a blizzard, the tension bubbling. Each shady individual casually interrogated.

Russell and Jackson were superb. They had a real rapport and ran the show for me. Leigh was brilliant. A real rough looking menace with an acid tongue. It was great to see a good portion of the QT regulars popping up in this. What a supporting cast. However, some characters didn’t quite deliver as much as I had expected.

I have been a big fan of Walton Goggins for some time after some cracking turns in The Shield and Justified. QT finally gave him the platform he deserved as the gullible dim wit Sheriff Chris Mannix. He was perfect. His dumb theorizing and poor deducting skills delivered the laughs.

Tim Roth was great as the delightfully flamboyant Oswaldo Mobray. If anything, I wanted more of him in this.

Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Michael Madsen weren’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped. Once Jackson delved into Dern’s past a little more, things got going BUT Madsen was a highly unmemorable red herring. Mumbling and grimacing away to no avail this time.

I was more entertained by James Parks (Kill Bill) as the unlucky stage coach driver O.B. and Demian Birchir’s (The Heat) Senor Bob.

At first, it had my curiousity. BUT once Jackson’s Major began to suspect foul play and connect the dots, it finally got my attention. It was funny how convenient everyone’s back stories were. Ruth conveniently bumps into the town’s new sheriff and hangman at the same time that he’s bringing in a huge bounty? Hmm . . .

After that insufferable and completely unnecessary intermission*, the second act redeemed itself. A tense little nail biter with a few twists here, some grandiose Jackson monologues there, and all the demented mayhem you could expect from a QT flick. It was bloody, violent and ridiculous. Typical of the man and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You really couldn’t take your eyes off it. Lulled into a false sense of security. The finale was every bit as outrageous and brilliant as I could hope for.

I was ashamed to doubt QT. It was always going to be tough to top Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction BUT this certainly wasn’t QT’s weakest effort. That honour goes to Jackie Brown or Death Proof.

Overlong and a little patchy in parts BUT once it going, it was everything you could want from a Tarantino penned Western.

3.5/5

*The intermission was a joke. I don’t know whether in the States QT did something special in those 15 minutes BUT over here, it did nothing. Probably didn’t help that the cinema had already closed the food and drink stand. Logic? None, apparently.

TAKEN 3 REVIEW

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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