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 – Only God Forgives – He won’t forgive this…

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I’ll put my cards on the table straight away. I loved Drive. I loved the presentation, the cinematography, the performances, the stylistic lack of dialogue sharply followed by bone crushing violence and other such assorted things that people have been waxing lyrical about since its release. It was a masterpiece, plain and simple and certainly ranks as one of my favourite films of all time (Possibly not in my top 5, but definitely up there) It was a lovely little reminder to us all than films about a stuntman-cum-getaway driver don’t need to pander to the popcorn chomping masses in order to show a fantastic story on screen.

And so we get to Only God Forgives, the latest collaboration between Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling. It tells the story of the murder of a Bangkok based American gangsters brother and the subsequent attempt by their mother to gain retribution on the killer.

Much like Drive, there’s a distinct lack of dialogue and lots of emphasis on silence, emphasis on characters using more than their wordsmith skills to convey a mood and a rather over top use of the soundtrack. No tub-thumping 80’s synth though I’m afraid. This is about where the similarities end though. While Drive managed to be stylistic and entertaining in equal measures, Only God Forgives only manages to badly attempt to showcase its style.

It’s an incredibly polarizing film, people either love it or hate it and sadly I’m in the latter group. The vast majority of the film seems to be either artsy shots of people singing or artsy shots of Ryan Gosling looking off into space, probably wondering why he signed on for the film. It’s narrative is unclear, almost bordering on non-existent at times. There’s a very very basic plot but that’s about it. There’s lots of staring into the distance, lots of staring at hands and lots of cut scenes to something else completely unrelated. Nothing outside of the obvious is ever explained and it’s all left to the viewers interpretation. Very artsy. It’s all rather… Strange.

Staring... So much staring

Just to be clear so people don’t think that I’m the sort of film fan who will only watch films about shit getting blown up, I love it when directors don’t take the easy option when it comes to film-making and try to think outside the box and offer the viewer something different to your usual Roland Emmerich / Michael Bay style of “Shiny things go bang” film-making. But in all honesty, this attempt at doing something stylish and different is utter torture to watch, and my attention span and patience had long worn out way before the finale. Which true to form was again attempting to be artsy and stylish without having much substance to it. To be brutally honest, this sort of tale could’ve been told with Jason Statham / Nicolas Cage in the lead role in your standard straight-to-DVD thriller and it’d probably have more redeeming features than the film in its current state.

It feels a lot like cinematic gentrification. Style and visual qualities and appearing to be cool taking precedent over any sort of substance or attempt to tell a ripping old yarn. Instead of being the darling of Camden Town and being a film hipsters wet dream it feels more like watching your drunk Dad dancing to the Macarena. A devastatingly disappointing effort that is nothing more than a very large blot on Winding-Refn and Goslings CV’s and should be banished to the fiery pits of hell post haste

I’ll give it two points for only being 90 minutes long though. Kindness and all that.

2/10

Rick

Review – The Frozen Ground – Get given the cold shoulder…

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the_frozen_groundNicolas Cage seems to be in quite the career funk at the minute, almost aping Jason Statham in his quest to attach his name to practically every limited / straight-to-DVD release possible. After scouring IMDB for some of his latest works, I’m genuinely unsure whether it was one of Seeking Justice, Rage, Stolen, Trespass or A.N.Other Thriller that I watched a good few months ago. What happened to the man who thrilled us in Leaving Las Vegas (not a thriller by any stretch of the imagination but an indication of what the man is capable of) and the mighty Con Air?

Speaking of Con Air (that was a nice segue wasn’t it?) Cage and John Cusack reunite once again in The Frozen Ground, a based on true events story of the police man hunt to capture and charge Robert Hansen with the murder / disappearance of a vast number of young women in Alaska the 70’s and 80’s. Vanessa Hudgens also stars as Cindy Paulson, one of Hansens victims who managed to escape. Young High School Musical fans looking forward to another highly schmaltzy, saccharine sweet, all singing, all dancing number with their favourite gal Vanessa would be well advised to steer clear of this.

Today I'm going to revisit my top five murders, I mean break-ups

Today I’m going to revisit my top five murders, I mean break-ups

 

The film sets it stall out rather quickly, identifying its target very early on and focuses more on gathering evidence and good old fashioned detective work in order to convict its bad guy, rather than a darker, torture porn esq flick. It does still have its moments that are a bit grim where a couple of attempted escapes and dead bodies are portrayed on screen. Family viewing, this is probably not.

The performances, Cusacks in particular, deserve some attention. Cusack is rather menacing as the god fearing family man / serial killer and his transformation between the two is commendable, especially in the latter stages of the film where he realises that the game is nigh on up. A snarling, angry, loathsome beast which is deserving of such a violent and depraved man. Hudgens proves she’s more than just a cheerleader with a decent enough performance as one of Hansens escaped victims and the subsequent meetings between the two give plenty to rave about. Cage is Cage, he never really seems to, or has to, get out of second gear for this performance, playing the detective who’s a couple of weeks away from re-assignment and gets handed this case. Sure there’s plenty of shouting and determination to find the missing link for the case, but it’s been done far better on far too many occasions. As far as Cage performances go, it’s rather bland and tame, certainly not the mark of Big Daddy.

The film follows the well travelled path as most police procedurals do but sadly takes too long chewing through the evidence gathering and supposition before getting into the meatier stuff. Admittedly my attention was long waning before a half decent final 20 minutes which saved the film from being no more than a straight to DVD hatchet job. The performances are solid enough but ultimately thanks to a rather poor script it’s left with the unenviable job of being lumped in with almost all of Cage’s latest output. Will I be able to differentiate between this and Seeking Justice in a years time? Without the help of this review… Probably not.

4/10

 

Rick