Review – Sabotage (2014) – Totally recalling the best action hero?

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“They don’t make ’em like they used to” is the usual cry from action film aficionados who idolise everything from the 80’s. Apparently todays modern actioners don’t stack up to the golden oldies and everything was done much better before anyone had ever heard of CGI or 4k digital projection. In the case of Die Hard and the like, fair enough, a very valid point. But are todays actioners just like that annoying little kid trying to act cool in front of the older, cooler kid in the corner wearing a leather jacket and smoking? Absolutely not.

In Arnie’s case however, most of his better output came in the days before politics came a-calling. The likes of The Last Stand and Escape Plan genuinely do not stand up well to the likes of cult classics like Total Recall, Predator etc etc. Let’s be honest, most of us at one point or another have shouted in a friends face “GET TO THA CHOPPER!” Chances are that we probably won’t be quoting Arnie and Johnny Knoxville’s witty ripostes from The Last Stand in 20 years time.

And now we move on to another post-politics Arnie flick with Sabotage, a tale of how a crack DEA team starts getting picked off one by one after a bungled attempt at stealing some cartel money. Anyone looking for the usual Arnie one liners, a bucket-load of action and three breasted whores should probably look elsewhere because as far as Arnie films go, its a relatively slow burner, focusing more on suspicion between members of the team than using the Korean army’s entire armoury to blast their way out of trouble Expendables style.

The Governor is his usual charming, gun toting cigar chomping self, in charge of looking after his team and dealing with his own personal demons of loss. He may be knocking on a bit and not as ripped as he once used to but there’s no elder statesman you’d rather have backing you up. Sam Worthington manages to show off a side that goes beyond his usual Keanu-style monotone mumblings and manages to convince us of the fear that his character feels regarding who’s next on the cartel chopping block. Not a jaw dropping performance by any stretch of the imagination but it’s an improvement.

"Pandora? Get your ass to Mars instead..."

“Pandora? Get your ass to Mars instead…”

The film manages to do well at keeping the viewer guessing who’s behind the killings. There’s always the cartel there as the big bad guys but there’s always this apparent inward suspicion of each other between the DEA agents which manages to keep things interesting. Although I do believe that it was overdone with a rather dramatic character and plot twist at the very end which doesn’t as much tarnish the entire film but just slightly soils it.

There’s a good few car chases and gun fights for those of us who love nothing more than seeing a bit of mindless action on a Saturday night but as stated previously, it’s not budget busting “classic” Arnie. It does the job though.

It’s a welcome return to form for our favourite Austrian, a very enjoyable thriller with some pretty smart action sequences and decent performances all round. Even if most of the budget did go on feeding Arnie’s cigar habit throughout the film (is there one scene in the movie where Arnie isn’t either fighting or smoking?) it’s still a decent little flick that manages to avoid the confines of the formulaic genre it comes from.

Will we be quoting from this in twenty or thirty years time? I ain’t got time to quote…

7/10

 

 

Rick

Review – The Amazing Spider-Man : Suited and Rebooted

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A pessimist once told the world to “quit while you’re ahead.”Sage advice for those of us who only have fleeting moments of greatness, not so sage for those who are destined for a lifetime of it. Unfortunately this advice wasn’t well heeded by the team involved with the original Spider-Man outings, a highly successful franchise practically destroyed in 2 hours with a third installment filled with villain overkill and a badly advised and even more badly received Peter Parker catwalk strut.

Rather than have the studios cut their losses with the franchise or try to repair the everlasting damage, they’ve gone for the ever popular and easy option of a reboot. A re-telling of the story of Spider-Man, different actors and a different spin to keep the money rolling in. A more polite way of saying that the last outing was a bit naff. And who can blame them. The Spider-Man franchise pretty much heralded the boom of modern day superhero movies and it could be argued that without everyone’s favourite leotard wearing roof jumper paving the way along with Wolverine and his mutant cronies, Iron Man and Co might not have had quite the same box office success and critical acclaim that they’ve had in recent years. But I digress…

Taking over the reins from Tobey Maguire is Andrew Garfield as our titular masked hero. Kirsten Dunst and Mary Jane are relegated to the bench and in comes Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Spider-Mans love interest / eye candy. The opening ten minutes could basically have been taken from any high school movie of the past twenty years, the tortured outcast struggling with acceptance in school and struggling to get the girl to notice him. Not to mention the issues with Parker being abandoned as a youngster by his parents. Daddy issues? It seems to be the main prerequisite of being a superhero these days…

Even though the whole “high school outcast” schtick has been done to death, it actually works well in this. Spider-Man isn’t a Batman blessed with money and gadgets or an Iron Man blessed with being a playboy philanthropist, he’s just a normal lad blessed (through blind luck?) with great power.

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The main gripe with Tobey Maguire for me was that even though Spider-Man is supposed to be relatable and more like an everyman than a murderous nasty bastard, he managed to overplay that everyman role to such an extent that it made the character more annoying and unbelievable than relatable. Emotional range as the main thing that’s unbelievable in a film about a guy who gets bitten by a spider and can swing from rooftop to rooftop whilst battling giant lizards… Yep. Garfield manages to play that vulnerability to a tee, keeping Parker / Spider-Man as a relatable and “human” character without overplaying it and becoming more like a figure of ridicule than a superhero.

Garfield and Stone’s sheer likeability gives the film a fair amount of heart, especially in the latter stages, showing us that superhero movies can still be allowed to have a few tender moments and hit those emotional high notes as opposed to just seeing “cool shit getting blown up for 2 hours.”

It’s what you’d expect from a modern block buster: Man starts as tortured man, man gets powers, man is misunderstood, man fights evil, man is understood. All the bases are covered, but it still manages to feel fresh and more than just a rehash of a tired franchise with new faces. The Spider-Man franchise had a lot of soul searching to do after the pitiful 3rd installment, but with this reboot they’ve managed to put a new spin on a much loved and popular character and ensured that the superhero juggernaut has no signs of slowing down. I just sincerely hope that they’ve learnt from their mistakes in the past and don’t make Garfield strut smugly down a dimly lit street in the next outing…

8/10

 

Rick