"If victory favors me, I will protect your child with my life."

"I ask you not to worry about that possibility. Because my son and I live on the Demon Way in Hell, we're prepared to descend into Hell through the Six Realms and Four Lives."

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Sanctuary

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

SANCTUARY (1998) is not The Great American Mark Dacascos Vehicle, but it’s pretty enjoyable classical DTV (or in this case straight-to-cable, I believe) action, the kind that made me fall in love with the format in the first place. Yes, it’s messy, at times confusing or befuddling. It’s kinda gloomy looking, sometimes there are iffy line deliveries, and there are definitely parts that I laugh at that I’m not supposed to. But also there’s some showcasing of a cool actor I like, pulpy traditions of the genre are exercised, and when something really cool happens there’s a sense of underdog achievement. You’re really pulling for it to be good.

It has a convoluted chronology: it starts with our Catholic priest hero Luke Kovak (Dacascos a year after DRIVE) in a Vatican interrogation room being questioned in Italian about what happened six days ago when he got attacked by some killers from his secret past. From the story of six days ago it keeps flashing back to the larger backstory of his former career doing dirty deeds for the government and why he went into hiding to get away from it. A few times he even remembers his childhood, when a priest was his role model until Dyson (Alan Scarfe, CATHY’S CURSE, IRON EAGLE II, LETHAL WEAPON 3) took him and some other orphans and raised them to be experts in martial arts, guns and spycraft. (read the rest of this shit…)

Miss Bala (2019)

Monday, May 6th, 2019

SPOILERS for both MISS BALAs

You may find this shocking, but the American remake of the great 2011 Mexican film MISS BALA is not as good as the original. Director Catherine Hardwicke (THIRTEEN, LORDS OF DOGTOWN, THE NATIVITY STORY) doesn’t Hollywood it up quite as much as the trailer made me think she might, but maybe she should’ve. She stays maybe 75% faithful to the original, maybe more, but the normal, slick style severely blunts the impact of the story compared to the previous suspensefully long, unblinking takes and documentary-like realism. It goes from an intense CHILDREN OF MEN type of style that puts you in the middle of it all with the protagonist to just some random, normal TAKEN sequel or something. And the major story changes that do happen are, in almost all cases, less interesting than the earlier version.

It might seem okay if I hadn’t seen the original. Gina Rodriguez (ANNIHILATION) is quite good in the lead. In this version her name is Gloria Fuentes and she’s an American citizen returning to Tijuana to visit her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo, The Terror) and help her with her makeup when she tries out for the Miss Baja California pageant. After an audition they go to a party where her friend tries to flirt with the corrupt chief of police (Damian Alcazar, MEN WITH GUNS), who supposedly has some sway over who wins the pageant. So they’re there when members of the Las Estrellas gang come in to massacre the police, and Gloria, having seen them sneak in while she was in the bathroom, escapes alone. (read the rest of this shit…)

Serenity (2019)

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

I have great respect for Steven Knight. He wrote EASTERN PROMISES, ALLIED and THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB, he wrote and directed the under-recognized Jason Statham movie REDEMPTION (a.k.a. HUMMINGBIRD) and the Tom-Hardy-on-the-phone movie LOCKE. Most of his shit is good. So when his new steamy sleazy noir thriller thing SERENITY was universally panned and made fun of for a purportedly insane plot twist I didn’t entirely buy it. I thought maybe people were being unappreciative of its apparent audacity, maybe I would enjoy it more.

But jesus, they weren’t lying. This is the most potent feeling of how did all these people agree that this was a movie worth making I’ve had in a long time. It’s not just that the twist is outlandish – it’s that it’s just not a good premise. Being crazy, being unpredictable, being bizarre, unfortunately does not always equal being cool. I just can’t picture the person who would get to the part where you find out what’s going on and think Ah ha, now we’re talking! This is absolutely an idea that is not dumb and was worth writing down and printing out on paper and getting talented people to convey in a storytelling medium! Your mileage may vary.

I will of course tell you what the twist is. I have to. But it starts as a story about Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey (AMISTAD), Iraq vet turned charter boat captain and fisherman on a quest to catch a mythical beast of a fish he has named “Justice.” He’s kind of a mess, but well-liked on the tiny island of Plymouth. Also he’s hard up for money and taking it out on his faithful first mate Duke (Djimon Hounsou, also AMISTAD), who he fires and accuses of being bad luck. (read the rest of this shit…)

Into the Night

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

A while back, when I reviewed INNOCENT BLOOD and got into a bit of a John Landis run, I realized I’d never seen his 1985 movie INTO THE NIGHT. Didn’t even know anything about it. I guess you could say it’s kind of a thriller, but of the happening-over-one-night variety, and with some humor. Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum, DEATH WISH) is a regular boring aerospace engineer guy who’s unhappy and doesn’t know why. He hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time and he feels disconnected from his wife (Stacey Pickren, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Then he starts dozing off at work, getting himself in trouble, so he decides to go home for a nap, and I think we are all familiar with what happens in movies any time somebody goes home in the middle of the day when their spouse doesn’t expect them. It’s just like in TOY STORY how the toys are always having meetings and playing games and shit whenever you’re out of the room. Similar thing with movie spouses when you’re at work. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Guilty

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

THE GUILTY is an elegantly minimalistic Danish thriller. It’s a premise that makes LOCKE seem needlessly extravagant. Like that movie it’s a story told entirely through its lead character’s phone conversations, but in this one he’s not driving around. Tom Hardy saw it and said “God damn it! Why did you put me through all that? I could’ve just been in a room.” I’m not sure which accent he used.

(I haven’t seen BURIED and don’t remember much about THE TELEPHONE with Whoopi Goldberg, so I don’t know. Maybe they make this look like Michael Bay.)

The visuals take place entirely inside a small call center at a police station. The beautiful thing is that it neither feels like a gimmick or a thing they could’ve changed if they’d had a bigger budget. No, it just feels like the natural, best way to tell this particular story. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

It’s fair to say that earlier in the century The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a pop culture phenomenon. Stieg Larsson’s three novels, posthumously published starting in 2005, were worldwide hits. I enjoyed the stories through their 2009 Swedish movie adaptations (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST) which launched their star Noomi Rapace (PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP, CLOSE) into international movie stardom, and their leading man Michael Nyqvist into spending his last years playing bad guys in Hollywood movies including ABDUCTION, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL and JOHN WICK (where he delivers the best syllable: “Oh.”). David Fincher’s 2011 English language take on the first book was pretty great and even got Rooney Mara an unlikely but well-deserved Oscar nomination.

But it wasn’t a big enough hit to justify a sequel budgeted for Fincher, Mara and Daniel Craig, so after years of haggling they went with plan B: a lower budget sequel with new director and cast, based not on the next in the trilogy but a continuation written by new author David Lagercrantz. And nobody really seemed to be waiting for that.

Except me! Selling point #1: director Fede Alvarez, who really impressed me with EVIL DEAD and DON’T BREATHE. Selling point #2: less grim and rapey, more fun and actiony. You still got the trademark fucked up and fetishy shit of the snow-bitten Larssonverse, but in this one our heroine is never sexually assaulted, but does have high speed chases on multiple vehicle types. Hot move: ditching police cars by jumping your motorcycle onto a frozen lake. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Commuter

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Liam Neeson is… The Commuter, starring in his self-titled, totally solid addition to the catalog of Neeson vehicles directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP, RUN ALL NIGHT). Written by previously unknown Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, this is a gimmicky suspense thriller taking place almost entirely in the limited location of a New York City commuter train, but it manages to also mix in a couple of impressive action exclamation points, not to mention the director’s endlessly playful computer-assisted camera show-offery.

The Commuter is Michael McCauley, an ex-cop who is suddenly fired from his current job at an insurance company, and then finds himself under siege in dark territory on the ride home. It’s the train he’s been riding for ten years, and most of the passengers know him by name, make small talk with him and ask about his wife (Elizabeth McGovern, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, CLASH OF THE TITANS) and kid (Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones). The usual sameness of his mornings is cleverly illustrated in an opening scene that shows him getting up, having breakfast, talking to the family and getting dropped off at the train, jaggedly cutting between seasons, emotions and conversations to show the passage of time without interrupting the flow of the daily routine. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Simple Favor

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

A SIMPLE FAVOR is an entertaining thriller from known-for-comedy director Paul Feig (THE HEAT). He brings to it some humor and his obvious rapport with the great casts he puts together, but if we had to categorize it we’d be forced to put it in with GONE GIRL, because it’s a twisty mystery based on a recent book by a female author and with entertainingly amoral, even wicked female characters.

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, THE ACCOUNTANT) is a widowed “mommy vlogger” who, in between cooking and crafting demos, has been filling her subscribers in on the disappearance of her “best friend” Emily (Blake Lively, GREEN LANTERN). Even from the bits of vlog we see, before the omniscience of cinema kicks in, this seems fishy, because she admits she’s only known Emily for a few weeks. Their sons are in school together and tried to set up a playdate, causing intimidating fashionable rich mean lady Emily to begrudgingly bring Stephanie to her (extremely modern) house after school for drinks. (read the rest of this shit…)

Glass

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Like many of you I was a pretty big fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s UNBREAKABLE when it came out in 2000. It was a different time. One year after THE SIXTH SENSE, the idea of Shyamalan as a master of suspense was not a punchline, and quiet, sad Bruce Willis characters were fairly new territory. It had only been about a month since the very first X-MEN movie came out, and would be years before Batman began and the Marvel Cinematic Universe followed, so when we were blindsided by the opening title card of oddly useless comic book statistics, and Samuel L. Jackson (THE SPIRIT)’s character proceeded to make grandiose generalized proclamations about the comic book mythology, it was semi-forgivable. The ads gave no hint of this, but the movie took the idea of super powers and put them in a grounded suspense thriller context that felt like a pretty new combination of flavors at the time.

Sixteen years later Shyamalan had been a laughing stock far longer than he’d been a respected auteur, and the popularity of SPLIT counted as a comeback. Though I found the “oh, this was actually a super villain origin story” ending a little anti-climactic, I thought most of the movie was effectively creepy and I was really impressed by James McAvoy’s playful turn as the many personalities of “The Horde.” And of course I enjoyed the wacko reveal at the end that it was I DON’T THINK THIS IS A SPOILER ANYMORE taking place in the same universe as UNBREAKABLE.

Now, finally, Samuel L. Jackson is… GLASS. Except he gets a “with” credit. McAvoy gets top billing, because he does the most acting, by many different meanings. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Foreigner

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

I’m more of an action guy than a thriller guy. But I can appreciate different stuff. Martin Campbell’s THE FOREIGNER (2017 – not a remake of the Seagal film) is definitely more on the thriller side, mostly seeking its excitement in a complex web of police, compromised politicians and terrorist groups all dealing with the aftermath of the bombing of a London clothing boutique.

At the center of it is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan, FINAL SCORE). He’s a former IRA member and seems to be pretty fucked over by this incident because he’s built a reputation as a moderating force, but behind the scenes still has relationships and understandings with the IRA. This bombing was done by some young upstarts calling themselves “The Authentic IRA,” and there’s alot of pressure, including from police captain Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), to find out who’s responsible. If another bomb goes off it’ll be the end of his political career, so he spends most of the movie desperately asking around and trying to set up traps to out the culprits and stuff like that. (read the rest of this shit…)