Killing Them Softly : Review

 

Based of the George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade, the new film by Andrew Dominik is a fine addition to the crime film genre. Starring Brad Pitt, Dominik’s third feature film is more of an ensemble of great performances with Pitt at his most watchable. Killing Them Softly tells the story of heist of a hight stakes poker game, ran by helpless gangster  Markie (Ray Liotta). With money stolen, gangster bosses are eager to find the money and take out the two robbers (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn). Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is called in to fix the problem.

Dominik brings the 70’s retro grittiness from Chopper, witch in turn marries the book (written in 1974) with it’s updated setting of the 2008 presidential election. Although not a brutal or gory as his directional debut, Dominik has the touch to mix dark realism with flashes of human comedy.

Killing Them Softly works as a character peace while acting as a social commentary on America. Rather than a series  of action scenes and lavish set pieces, the film is made up of mostly conversations, it could  have easily have been a stage play. Glittered with good performances from everyone involved. James Gandolfini has fun as an out of shape hit-man and Liotta is refreshingly sympathetic as the down on his luck Markie. Pitt is the one who shines the most, straight talking and painfully honest fixer. Having all his A list charm to the role and being utterly convincing as someone dishing out violent acts  as if he is just doing the dishes.

Due to its tone and pacing, Killing Them Softly may leave viewers with an enjoyable but empty experience of being lectured to. However in time, the films magic creeps up on you with a desire  of a re-watch.

 .

Hope Springs

 

Meryl Streep stars as Kay in this unusual relationship comedy as someone stuck in a marriage without physical affection. For years sleeping in separate beds, Kay tries to inject some passion into Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), who is not in the least interested and prefers to spend the rest of his days watch the golf channel. Much to Arnold’s objections, Kay takes him to Maine to see a marriage counselor (Steve Carell) were they get to the root of there problems and rediscover themselves.

Jones earns the most laughs by doing what he does best witch is to act extremely grumpy while Streep portrays a shy and retiring character who is just as box off as her husband. The film is lead by it’s two leads in a film that is charming and left of the field. Carell plays it relatively calm and monotone  with a series of wool ties for every scene, just like his character should.

The humour is light in tone but verges the edge of your comfort as Kay and Arnold clumsily explore their sexual desires, it is endearing but also awkward to watch, mirroring the antics on screen. Then again, that may well be the point..

The Sweeney

 

There is not a lot to be said about The Sweeney, directed by Nick Love, it is an honest attempt at a british action movie that rarely gets made these days. Based on the 70’s television series of the same name. Starring Ray Winstone and Ben Drew as two renegade cops Jack Regan and George Carter, who play by their own rules to get results. This version attempts to bring a different spin on the original. Set in modern day, where police offers would find it difficult to be ruff and ready the criminals, our hero’s manage to do it somehow. This still attracts some attention from internal affairs, just for some grounds of reality witch there is not much of here.

It would be a mistake to take The Sweeney seriously, as the plot is so by the numbers, that the audience is already way ahead before Ray and Ben evan get going. Still there is fun to be had, amongst the car chases and huge Heat style shoot outs, in a surprisingly bare Trafalgar Square. Winston fits the role like a glove by being…. Well… Ray Winstone and just has fun with. As does Drew who produces chemistry with his on screen partner. Damian Lewis is solid as the police chief as well as Hayley Atwell, who is convincing as a though officer of the law. What may take some persuasion is her marriage  to head of internal affairs Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh). Their marriage is so tagged on it’s no wonder she’s have an affair with Regan. Then again, it was probably in Ray’s contract.

This is a marmite film. Anyone looking for just a bit of friday night fun and not bothered about substance, will enjoy the hell out of this film. Everyone else wanting more than cheap thrills, better look else where. Love has done a great job with the £14 million budget, London looks great and the action scenes are exciting, it’s just a shame that more could have been done with a better script.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 .

Dredd 3D

 

17 years has past since hearts were broken at the sight of Sylvester Stallone without the helmet and missing the point entirely playing the 200AD comic book character Judge Dredd. Since then, time has past, wounds have been healed and with all the comic book adaptations and re-makes, now is as good as time as any. Directed by Pete Travis whose previous general release was the interesting but flawed Vantage Point, Dredd 3D is a faithful transition from comic to screen. Set in the futuristic city of Mega-City One, where violent crimes are committed everywhere, the only law enforcement in town are called Judges. Who act as judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Played by Karl Urban, Judge Dredd is the most feared as the indifferent, unsympathetic, emotionless, by the book arm of the law. Urban is fantastic playing Dredd, righting the wrongs of the 1995 version in every way, right down to the shape of his mouth.

With basic premise of a day of the life of Dredd, he takes on a rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a psychic who has failed other tests, for her assessment. Together they pick up a call to a 200 story tower block investigate a murder related to a new drug Slow-Mo. Things go bad however when they become trapped in the tower block by its criminal kingpin Ma Ma (Lena Headey) with orders to kill the two Judges. It’s an unfortunate turn of events, that the plot resembles the one of  the excellent The Raid witch was out this year. Of course neither of them knew about each other at the time of production, it’s a shame as the story written by Alex Garland, feels like it came straight from the Dredd comics. Headey does a great job as the antagonist, with a scared face, it could have easily been over the top, but she plays her like a drug addict, rarely raising her voice, even when killing without mercy. It’s eerily affective.

Dredd is action packed with plenty of slow motion, to reflect the films drug use and bullets flying and bodies thrown off balconies. It’s refreshing to see a british produced film, with a 45 million budget with a hard 18 certificate and is true to it’s roots It’s not a perfect film, the 3D is well done, but is mostly redundant that you wonder why they bothered in the first place. There are a few pacing issues and sometimes the budget for a film this scale shows. Be that as it may, I had a blast with Dredd, and I think you will too.

 .

Lawless

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csLbNO5cYSM

 

Based on the novel “The Wettest Country in the World” by Matt Bondurant, Lawless tells the real life tale of the authors grandfather Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and his two elder brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy)and Howard Bondurant (Jason Clarke). Set in probation era, the three brothers made and sold moonshine to everyone in Franklin County. That is till the arrival of Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and threatens the brothers and their business. Pearce puts on a creepy performance as the villain with no eyebrows, that is the most colourful here. With his pristine attire and fondness for cleanliness, all the while keeping a sense of dark menace that unnerves.

Told from Jack’s perspective, LaBeouf is less annoying than usual in the lead role as the younger brother trying to step out of his brothers shadows and become a man equal to his elder siblings. Eager to impress, much like LaBeouf here, he craves to get in on the action and not just driving them around and sweeping the floors, while attempting to win the heart of  Bertha. Played my Mia Wakikowska, Bertha the local preacher’s daughter, witch clashes with Jacks life style. It’s a role that we have all seen before and Wakikowska is given little to do, but does a great job with the material in hand. The films focus is scatty at times leaving some parts under written. The role of Howard for instance felts under written in comparison, Clarke does a fine job but never really gets his moment to shine. I guess that the problem when your film is filled with the actors Lawless  has, not everyone can get a fair look in. Dane DeHaan is an actor lost amongst the list of stars, however he is a integral part of the story as Jack’s best friend and technical brain, Cricket. DeHaan who stared in this years surprise hit Chronicle, holds his own with his cast mates. Gary Oldman features as Floyd Banner in what is an extended cameo. Oldman fans feel short changed with his name plastered all over the posters, although Olman has the screen presence  that holds the importance at Banner has in the plot.

Jessica Chastain is very good as always as Maggie, a stripper from Chicago who is hired as an waitress working for the Bondurant”s with a keen eye for Forrest. Her part is subtle amonst a male dominated cast, but Chastain captivates and is utterly convincing. The star of the show is Hardy as Forrest. Rocking the cardigen look while grunting and growling his way through his lines, he has a dimanc screen presence. Armed with a fresh approch to this kind of role, he plays Forrest as the mother of the family, as suppose to typical hard ass ganster roles. Not to say that he his any less intimidating. Hardy plays it quite and retireing before exploding in an act of extreme bloody violence. The film doesn’t shy away from these moments and earns it’s 18 certificate in the few key scenes. John Hillcoat directs as the tension mounts up against the gorgeous rural backdrop, adding his sense of grit and detail. Beautifully shot by Benoît Delhomme and containing a brilliant music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, mixing bluegrass with post punk, Lawless is an tad uneven by an enjoyable ride.

 

 .

Total Recall

 

Colin Farrell stars in the new remake of the 80’s Schwarzenegger classic, with out the insane comic book violence. What we have instead, is a more character driven sci-fi fair, witch is different but not as much fun. The story is petty much the same but instead of a mission to Mars, we get a mission from one side of the planet (Great Britain) to the other (China) involving a lift that goes straight down through the Earth’s core. Our hero, Dennis Quaid dreams of being a spy fighting side by side with a mystery woman (Jessica Biel). Unable to shake off his desire to live his fantasy, he visits Recall to implant a memory. Of course things go drastically wrong when they turn out to be real memories and bad guys turn up shooting until just Quaid remains. Things go bad to worse when doting wife (Kate Beckinsale) changes to assassin with a British accent and proceeds to hunt him down. Beckinsale has fun playing the antagonist, swishing her hair as she shoots at Farrell and Biel. Her stoney demeanor works well as the wife from hell.

 

Ferrell does a good job, playing the role with a confused vulnerable, distancing himself from the Austrian oak performance. It’s a shame that the set peaces and story isn’t entirely memorable. The action sequences are done pulled of perfectly fine but are not supported by a strong enough story that does not engage you enough to care. Bryan Cranston play’s the main villain Cohaagen and simply isn’t given enough to, where as Bill Nighy turns up for one scene and then leaves with you trying to remember if he said anything what so ever. Things aren’t helped by the consistent references to the original, witch makes you recall the fun you had that time round.

.