…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “action

Haywire


Channing Tatum brings the first great quotable of 2012. As privately contracted secret agent Aaron in Haywire, he says “I’m hungover…and you’re really starting to cut on my vacation time so can we go,” being straightforward about the state of mind that he says he’s in.

In short he’s there to propose that his former colleague Mallory Tate (Gina Carano) to surrender herself. That’s a contrast from the flashbacks – she narrates the events to some bloke name Scott (Michael Angarano) – they seemed to get along like a perfect couple. He looks good for someone who might talk with his mouth full, she sounds like a robot trying to hug me after my father died.

They’re assigned on a rescue mission in Barcelona and cross professional boundaries when they finish the job. Days and oceans later, they kick each other’s butts, letting us know that this isn’t a love story. It’s one of professional betrayal, as each man in the field tries to kill her while she uses her training for self-defence.

Steven Soderbergh here employs the same drained digital color schemes as he did in Contagion. I forgive directors who ‘improve’ on themselves but he’s more ubiquitous, inadvertently letting his audience see him as derivative of himself. Two years might make us look at four movies conflated into a phase instead of each one being able to stand up on their own.

The choreography of the fight scenes are also noticeable. Punch, unfurl, weapon, punch, kick, wall, unfurl, repeat, choke hold, death (I actually don’t mind how he films fight scenes, as wide shots and no sound make limbs do all the good work).

Despite of Soderbergh holding on to a list of obsessions, a few end up working. If Contagion felt like the angel of death with a coach ticket, Haywire finds the B-spy action (sub)genre perfect for cinematic globe-trotting. A chase scene in Barcelona is exhilarating partly because we’re going through strange city streets.

The action also brings out the sadist within all of us, the audience with whom I watched the film laughing when Carano injures her sparring partner. Soderbergh as usual finds humour within confrontations between professionals.

Haywire also plays around with the feminine action hero. Unlike others, it lets Carano – a MMA fighter in her movie debut – be a lover, eye candy or the cool-headed avenger. She softens up during  dialogue or when she’s with her father (Bill Paxton) but becomes intimidating when she needs to.

The other male actors including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor – I love his bunny-like grin as he asks Paul (Fassbender) if ‘the divorce is final’ – and Antonio Banderas, who plays a philanderer, eventually cower under her fists. Just the way we like her. 3.5/5

Advertisements

Yes or No: MI – Ghostocol


Like other series in this blog “Yes or No” is ripped off Nathaniel. It also won’t last long because I just see the good and the bad within movies instead of seeing what switches the movie could have made. Brad Bird‘s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is one of those rare cases where the thing that can make the movie better is already within it, it just needs highlighting while pushing the boring parts out. With….

Yes: Action sequences. Especially the first two which are immaculate pieces of cinema, starting from when Agent Hanaway (Paul Gross lookalike Josh Holloway) almost gets away from the bad guys. Then we get to when our hero, Impossible Missions Force Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), escapes from a Russian prison with the help of a few friends. I apologize for conflating them but they just have the same spirit.

These scenes have the greatest acting in the movie, from Lea Seydoux as Sabine Moreau – more about her later – to the goofy way Simon Pegg‘s IMF Agent Benji Dunn says ‘sorry,’ to Cruise actually pronouncing ‘Bogdan’ (Miraj Grbic) properly. It also took me days to realize that I was listening to Eminem, the perfect background music to Cruise punching out Russians of both hot shirtless prisoner or armed guard form.

It’s a surreal adrenaline pumping dream where there’s a tiger behind every door, or in this case an enemy behind every turn, back alley or hallway. These remind me of video game levels, Bird’s animation training translating so well in hyper-reality. If only he could have sustained this energy. Sure, that sandstorm was ballsy and visually ambitious but the movie hurriedly goes from one locale to another, making these changes feel forced.

No: Mikael Nyqvist as sadistic, apocalypse lover and nuclear warhead fetishist Hendricks. “For some reason, this $100 million tent pole movie couldn’t afford to hire Christoph Waltz. I’m underwritten, mostly silent and one note.”

Yes: It’s sad that Seydoux as Sabine is an afterthought in some of the criticism I’ve read. How else can a relatively unknown actress magically transform herself from an idealized young lover Midnight in Paris to a sashaying gunslinger in this movie? Sabine is an assassin getting paid with diamonds, which is a hilarious, borderline sexist stereotype by the way. But her reptilian yet graceful demeanour, the way she literally bears her teeth while exclaiming ‘Tuez-le!’ is what I look for in a beautiful yet scary woman If there’s anything I love, it’s an actress’ dedication to camp even in a secondary role.

No: Auteur-izing an actor here, but Jeremy Renner picks characters who obsessively follows esoteric, self-inflicted honour codes brought on by the post-traumatic, stressful, working class ‘modern’ masculine condition. His character, ‘analyst’ William Brandt, is one link more helpful in saving Ethan’s life in that thrilling Burj scene. But he’s so negative, nagging his teammates during missions and constantly picking fights with then. Is this who we want to spend two hours with in the new MI movies?

Yes: Instead of William, Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) seems more of a deserving heir for Ethan. Since she and Hanaway were an item, both she and Ethan are kindred spirits in the ‘I lost love for this job’ cliché. She also hides her pain during missions most of the time. And there’s also something about Patton’s performance as a woman in the field, never seeming vulnerable like the way other movies present women. Her bone structure doesn’t get in the way of her being occasionally worn down, not caring which angle makes her face look better.

This is especially true in the Mumbai scenes. Ignore that image where she bites a cherry so seductively that it’s cartoonish. It’s probably her biceps talking but it seems like she’s wearing her slit green dress like an athlete, revealing skin for a public appearance but she stops being that ‘feminine’ once she’s in a more private place.

Yes and SPOILER: Mrs. Julia Hunt (Michelle Monaghan). Monaghan is a great actress and a national treasure just like many actresses who broke out in the mid 2000’s and are now stuck within girlfriend roles and worse. I’ve spent most of this post praising this movie’s women. I think I’m straight. 3.5/5


Scenes: John Singleton’s Shaft


Search ‘cluster fuck’ in the dictionary and you will find John Singleton’s ‘re-imagination’ of the 70’s classic Shaft. The movie tries to deliver an all-star cast into a violent pool of bullets, beatings and stabbings. Ryan G. Helms was just talking about this. This is especially true around the movie’s sixty-five minute mark with a scene portraying Shaft’s botched rescue of mysterious star witness Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette). She lives in a pier, for some reason. Anyway, I also love how she’s wearing a leather jacket at home, coincidentally well-prepared for any time like now when she has to escape. When she does, all she does is react to the violence around her, as anyone else in the same situation would.

The swift close up zoom on her is reminiscent of the 70’s camera work and aesthetic. We the audience also get the earlier decade’s vibe from the amentioned leather jackets and the music but it feels as if the movie just tacks on these motifs. Calling this movie Shaft sort of elevates this movie. Without the title it would look like a directionless action/crime movie that came a year too late.

“Yo get the BROAD in the fucking car in!” Ok, Busta Rhymes as Rasaan, a second generation Trinidadian or an American with Trini affectations. You’re such a worry wort.

Hey look! There’s also Peoples Hernandez played by Geoffrey Wright. In both the actor’s incarnations as the gangster and the nerd, he will always be the poor man’s Laurence Fishburne. But only Wright had the body and the audacity to pull off a white outfit like that, with histrionic wailing and self-stabbing, reacting to his brother’s accidental and instant death.

See?

“It’s fucked,” Dan Hedaya weighs in with unintentional hilarity. The most exciting four minutes of those people’s lives, thirty seconds of which is Diane and Shaft crossing a street.

And the thing is Christian Bale isn’t even in this scene. He is in others where his character deals with Peoples and his drugs and a memorable one that stuck out when I was younger. The one in the beginning taking place in a lounge/restaurant, playing Walter Wade Jr., a pompous, rich yet crass character that a younger James Marsden would have played. He throws remarks across the room to where Trey Howard (Mekhi Phifer) is sitting, his racism seeming both out of the decade’s context yet timeless, like many tensions between groups of people in any fictional world. Blame the third world child of my past for that skewed perspective.

When Shaft enters the crime scene, he sees blood on Diane’s chin. She doesn’t talk because she seems like she’s also hiding things on her own.


TIFF 2011’s Birthday Gift: Guns!


For the past few Tuesdays – or the occasional Wednesday – the Toronto International Film Festival announces their line-ups bit by bit, and its my duty to write about those films an Anomalous Material. For some reason I chose to movies about alleged female murderers, assassins as my leads and wrote a bit more about movies about women experiencing violent births, smoking cigarettes and second wives left out of inheritances. I forgot to mention Christophe Honore’s Beloved, about a mother-daughter team (real-life mother and daughter Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni) who go through a lot of men. Gritty.

But don’t think that the unfair sex isn’t getting in on this action. Films included in the Gala and Special Presentations are the previously announced Machine Gun Preacher and the newly announced Intruders and Killer Elite, the latter also starring birthday boy Robert de Niro! I’m not that much of a snob and I guess I should open my mind to genre. Preacher seems more of the prestige awards film and I assumed that guns belonged to Midnight Madness territory. But apparently Gerard Butler, Jason Statham and multitasker Clive Owen’s muscular bodies don’t fit with that programme’s zombie theme. And apparently a Nicholas Cage movie called Trespass is playing too. The end! Photos courtesy of TIFF.


…My Posts Keep Chasing Pavements!


I’ll tell you first about The Film Experience, where my DVD review of George Nolfi‘s The Adjustment Bureau is. It’s just about adjuster Harry’s (Anthony Mackie) struggle as it is protagonist David’s (Matt Damon), as David tries to defeat the adjusters from stopping the latter to stay with his one true love Elise (Emily Blunt), and they run around NYC, hands together. Link’s below.

Speaking of a movie where people run around a big city, I might have just written the whitest review for Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block  ever. Here I am talking about the symbolism, treating the movie like a 19th century novel. I wonder if other online film critics have moved into the neighborhoods like ones I grew up in, ones where gang fights happen, making them go like ‘believe,’ ‘allow it!’ and ‘MERCK!’ But then I’ve always been the most square boy in the block. And I come from the same people that birthed the JabbaWockeeZ. Oh where oh where did my swag go?  Anyway, when Basement Jaxx hits the right notes and the kids in the hoods of South London blow up that first alien, that’s where the fun begins. I hope you have fun watching the movie – after its early festival and UK release, it’s out in selected cities in North America like LA, New York, Seattle and Toronto. Image for Attack the Block from Anomalous Material, where my review is. Bitch.


Daughter: Leon The Professional


Luc Besson‘s Leon: The Professional is part of the ‘wave’ of crime movies from the mid-to-late 90’s that I’m hesitant to (re)visit because of its violent fan boy reputation. Though it’s respectably well-shot in the beginning, especially in its first cleaning – or assassination – scene perpetrated by its quick eponymous hero (Jean Reno). Although he’s a physically trained man in his forties, he’s also meek, childlike and his self-imposed isolation – in New York City nonetheless – doesn’t help in ironing out his quirks. And you know he’s lonely because there’s nondiagetic European accordion music in the background trying to get empathy out of the audience, exposing how dated and uneven this film’s tone could be.

Next door to Leon’s apartment is Mathilda (Natalie Portman, living with an abusive family situation. Buying groceries for herself and volunteering to buy Leon’s two quarts of milk, she arrives too late for her family’s massacre by the corrupt DEA officer Stansfield (campy Gary Oldman). The street-smart girl ignores the thugs bringing the bloodshed walks forward to Leon’s apartment, persistently asking to be let in while ringing the doorbell and crying. Leon finally relents, white light shining on her face, bringing the film’s first redeemable moment. This is one of the moments in the film that remind us of the way her face strongly evinces emotion in her future movies as an adult. She’s also intense when she attacks her violent or sexual lines with determination, smoothness and an uncanny maturity.

After opening the door for her, Mathilda gives Leon an ultimatum to let her live with him teach her how to clean, threatening him with her alternative – death in the hands of Stansfield. But in a way, entering his apartment is equally an ultimatum for her, feeling a nix of Freudian resentment towards her new father figure and his closed-up, workaholic, machine-like nature. Fortunately, she elbows her own version of childhood naiveté, allocating some well-needed play-time in their routine. They squirt each other with water or impersonating pop-culture icons, finally makes us understand that this movie is like what would happen if Jacques Tati directed an action film. And then the guns go satisfying blazing.


“Lethal Weapon” Movie Pitch


I watched Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 3. This is 1992 and the film shows the contradictions within depicting black people in cinema. The threat of Danny Glover’s character’s retirement and old age is ever-present because of Mel Gibson’s trickster of a character, but said threat is heavier against the former because of his son who is suddenly listening to rap music and hanging out within the bad crowd!

I changed the channel half an hour later, and I’m not going to wait to see this film in its entirety before I write about it, because what will probably make a better movie is if fact and fiction mix. If Gibson’s chauvinistic persona and Glover’s super left-wing self were in a movie and wrestled or fought or something. That’s worth ten dollars.