The Equalizer


Viewed – 14 February 2017  Netflix

I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this.  It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward.  Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old.  So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz).  Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital.  So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.

The-Equalizer

What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home.  Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly.  This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates.  Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.

Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not.  Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun.  If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before.  That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Morgan


Viewed – 07 February 2017  online rental

A corporate risk management consultant (Kate Mara) is called to a secluded research facility after a top secret test subject attacks a doctor, leaving her blinded in one eye.  Said test subject turns out to be an artificially engineered young girl.  Was her actions a one-off or is she dangerous?

Morgan

Immediately this brought back memories of movies like Ex Machina and Splice and is always for me a fascinating subject.  Mara plays the stiff collared consultant called in and she’s one of those actress’s I’ve become increasingly aware of, following memorable turns in House of Cards and Gone Girl.  Although I’ve seen her as a much more feisty presence … she handled herself well enough here even if her particular casting didn’t seem all that suited.  However the fairly new to the scene Anya Taylor-Joy (who I recognised from The Witch) impressed much more and delivered a nuanced and layered turn as Morgan, keeping this viewer guessing on how things might turn out.  The concept although familiar was fairly well delivered and support cast was adequate, bar a scene stealing Paul Giammati (who come on, is always a scene stealer). 

As an observation on artificial life forms and with a smattering of action (with some rather impressive fight choreography) and a bit of horror, this made for enjoyable, if lightweight entertainment.  It certainly hasn’t as much to say on the subject as similar movies… but still managed to surprise, especially with that ending.

Verdict:  3 /5

Deepwater Horizon


Viewed – 31 January 2017  online rental

I love a good disaster flick.  Brings back to me memories of movies such as Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and  probably also Titanic.  So this based on true events story was an easy prospect.  Mark Wahlberg, one of those actors who I’ve always enjoyed in pretty much anything stars alongside veterans Kurt Russell and John Malcovich in the story of a colossal disaster that hit the an oil rig off the gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Deepwater Horizon

Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an electrical engineer who returns to work at Deepwater Horizon, leaving his dutiful wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter back home for what he believes will be a routine time on-board an oil rig.  However after coming up against the bureaucratic dealings of a group of BP representatives (headed by Malcovich) Mike along with his supervisor Jimmy (Russell) begin to realise several safety measures may have been overlooked.

The movie takes a bit of time to get going and I’ll admit some of the technical jargon went over my head.  Also Malcovich, usually a reliable presence in any movie, seemed particular subdued and sported a rather dodgy accent.  With that said, once things do go south, its full on thrills and spills for the remaining running time.  This is pretty intense stuff, directed with authenticity and boasts several heart-in-mouth moments that to be honest made the experience really jump from the screen and unnerve me.  Effects work, both practical and I’m guessing CGI were very impressive too.  Wahlberg, a very likable actor but with not that much depth, was also a surprise, proving convincing throughout; not too heroic but very human.  Russell was a little more stereotyped but despite looking older than his heyday, still had screen presence.  Also add to this what appeared to be first time actors or regular people filling out some of the extras for added realism and this had echoes of Tom Hanks vehicle Captain Phillips for an utterly believable representation of a shocking event.

Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Hell or High Water


Viewed – 24 January 2016  online rental

Toby and Jake, two brothers join forces to commit a series of robberies on the same branch of banks foreclosing on their family’s land, in the wake of their mother’s death.  Along the way the robbers attract the attention of a world-weary, near-retirement Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges).

hell-or-high-water

I’ve always been a fan of bank robbery movies, crooks on the run etc. and this confident and eye-catching thriller certainty appealed.  Add to this Jeff Bridges, one of my all time favourites and we have a recipe for success, right?  Well with a trio of solid turns this fun escapade thriller certainly entertained.  Ben Foster, one of those actors you know from several movies but may not know his name plays Jake, the more unhinged of the brothers whilst Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine is the more kindly Toby, estranged from his kids but trying to seek out a better future for them … yeah by robbing banks.  Despite first impressions, he’s no angel either (but damn do women swoon after him!).  For the most part this ticks all the necessary boxes; a likable due of criminals, a seasoned, wise-cracking Ranger and the backdrop of the Texas outback complete with sun-drenched vistas and oddball locales (the steak lady).  I was especially surprised by the often fun banter between the brothers and the Ranger and his partner which made for more human characters than I was expecting.  Oh and how many Breaking Bad actors can you spot?

Jeff BridgesHowever, I did get a feeling of déjà vu whilst watching this, which is no bad thing really … but the movie is clearly a homage to such movies like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which only caused the plot to get predictable rather quickly.  It also doesn’t help that Bridge’s increasing inability to form easy-to-understand dialogue rears it’s head often making each scene he’s in a little distracting.  Thankfully Pine & Foster are on brilliant form with Foster especially stealing the show with perfect, bad-boy elder brother charisma throughout.

It may not do anything all that clever, perhaps wearing it’s cliches with honour.  Despite such things though, I still had a ball with this and reckon you might also.

Verdict:  4 /5

Green Room


Viewed – 21 January 2017  Netflix

I’d heard some good things about this and so when it appeared on Netflix I jumped at the chance.  A low-rent punk band nearing the end of their tour take up an offer to play at remote rural roundhouse, but soon discover it’s run by a gang of neo-Nazis.  After witnessing a stabbing, the band find themselves battling for survival against a murderous group of thugs lead by Patrick Stewart.

Green Room

A familiar but none-the-less intriguing concept, I found myself quickly on board for this. Yet once the shit hit the fan, some issues rear their head, like how the band jump to the conclusion that their lives are in danger after discovering a stabbed girl.  Also, not one time do any of the band enquire what happened and proceed to provoke the thugs by calling the cops instead.  Add to this a mumbling, rather underwhelming Patrick Stewart who really should have stolen the show here and this soon turned into something a little less compelling than expected.  Thankfully there’s some very good stuff toward the end when events turn into a life and death battle of wits, and the late Anton Yeltchin (Star Trek) proves why he’s one young actor who will be sorely missed in the industry.  A spunky Imogen Poots (Need For Speed) as a girlfriend to one of the thugs also proves a welcome surprise.  Add to this some shocking violence that doesn’t cut away or go gentle and this at least delivers as a bloody horror-thriller even if its otherwise formulaic.  The fact some of the plotting is needlessly convoluted (the reason the girl gets stabbed) is another reason this falls short of future genre classic status.

As it stands though for 90 minutes of tense, violent thrills … I guess this still did it’s job, even if similar plotted movies like Eden Lake or Frontiers did it better.

Verdict:  3 /5