Kate


Viewed – 14 September 2021 Netflix

I admit it, Mary Elizabeth Winstead just does it for me. She always plays cool characters, is a capable actor and exudes a subtle sexiness that’s very appealing. This latest vehicle, playing a character not too dissimilar to one she played in Birds of Prey has her as Kate, a professional assassin who following a hit that goes wrong, discovers she’s been infected with a deadly poison. With about a day to live she races against time to find out the culprit and eliminate them.

Co-starring Woody Harrelson as her mentor, this is very much the female take on John Wick and yes, Winstead is a badass. Set in Tokyo, of course this is stylish, full of neon, fast cars and plenty of gun-fu. Shame then that unlike that Keanu Reeves franchise, the direction here isn’t as slick, and action can occasionally feel stilted, with some uninspired camera work and sloppy editing – add to this an over reliance on (poor) CGI. The plot is still effective if simple, serving up some good twists, and the subplot of a teenage girl who Kate has to reluctantly team up with, proved interesting.

If you like your action fast and colourful, this is still the movie for you. Winstead is great, portraying her pending death well, but much of the plot was quite predictable. Harrelson also is also just ok, clearly capable of delivering this kind of character in his sleep. So no, not quite an action classic, but worth seeing regardless.

Verdict: Good

The Rhythm Section


Viewed – 28 July 2020 online rental

When a plane disaster kills Stephanie’s (Blake Lively) family, the government make out it was an accident. However when an ex-MI6 agent appears with information that suggests it was terrorism instead, Stephanie vows revenge. A quick glance online, this hasn’t had the most positive buzz, which is curious as overall I found it an enjoyably gritty thriller with a strong lead performance. Yes it’s a tad derivative of similar movies like French classic La Femme Nikita. Even though it lacks the style of a Luc Besson movies. This still delivers a semi-realistic experience with Jude Law on hand as another former agent who helps Lively become an Assassin.

Lively’s performance definitely has echoes of Noomi Rapace’s turn as Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, especially the down-trodden, self-destructive characteristics, and proved quite believable. The movie lacked a bit of exposition with the plane crash not being shown and the why ‘s and wherefor’s behind what really happened rather unclear. At time’s the cinematography lacked style also, with an overly murky atmosphere despite some glamorous locations. That being said one car chase and a fight do stand out. Jude Law also proves an enjoyably tough-talking mentor.

Apart from Stephanie’s motivation for revenge, why Jude Law or those that aid Stephanie turn to her in particular is anyone’s guess – considering she has no underlying skills to build on to make her an ideal assassin-type. It’s like the filmmakers really wanted to make a ‘girl with a gun thriller’, and didn’t concern themselves with the details. I’m guessing the book this is based on fairs better. Yet nit-picks aside this was still effective in places and Lively was decent.

Verdict: Good

John Wick 3: Parabellum


Viewed – 15 May 2019. Cinema

Everyone’s out to kill John Wick (Keanu Reeves) following the events of the last movie and the former safe zone of The Continental has ex-communicated him. So a price is put on our favourite assassin and now it’s just a matter of survival.

Once any franchise reaches its third instalment you’d be forgiven for expecting the stakes to be raised and they certainly are here leading to several violent, immaculately choreographed and particularly brutal confrontations. This is certainly a visceral, pulse pounding experience yet this time around any plausibility and believability occasionally leap out the window in favour of increasingly thrilling, but at times ludicrous set pieces. The violence takes on a near cartoonish quality at times and when you consider scenes of public fights where the public don’t batter an eye lid or run away screaming, it’s clear the movie exists in its own version of reality, not unlike that scene in The Matrix with the woman in red.

So despite these obvious gripes, how come I still managed to get a real kick out of this? It’s edited and presented with such a visual sheen with so much energy and personality that coming away from this not entertained means you either hate action movies or are a bit dead inside. Smatterings of humour are a welcome addition, and memorable support from Lawrence Fishburne, Ian McShane and especially Halle Berry as a dog-loving fellow assassin still managed to make this sequel worthy despite it all feeling a bit deja at this stage. And no, I haven’t a clue what ‘Parabellum’ means.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Villainess


Viewed – 18 February 2018  online-rental

I was first exposed to the wonders of Korean cinema quite like many were I presume with Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy.  From that starting point firstly, that director became a firm favourite, and I also was treated to some real gems; including last year’s personal top ten entry Train to Busan.  So we come to this somewhat under-hyped action thriller.  Sook-hee has been trained from a young girl to become a deadly, highly skilled assassin.  However upon the death of her mentor, she vows revenge which ultimately lands her in the custody of a government organisation that would like to put her skills to work.

The-Villainess

This starts brilliantly with a no-holds-barred visceral action sequence filmed mostly in first person that well, has to be seen to be believed.  This immediately hooked me, and once again it seems I was in for a top level Korean movie that I’d be recommending to anyone willing to listen.  There’s clear echoes of French classic La Femme Nikita here, as well as Lady Vengeance.  Also the direction, with rapid-fire editing and impossible camera work certainly makes this an experience.  It’s sad to report then, that this is all held together with a rather generic and muddled plot with a myriad of flashbacks that only help to confuse matters.  Performances are largely decent, especially from Kim Ok-bin as Sook-hee and there’s some fun characters and interesting twists.  It also doesn’t take any prisoners and is at times very bloody and violent.  I also found myself caring for the central protagonist’s plight and affected by the shitty things that happen to her … but with a villain who’s motives seem simply ‘because I’m evil’ this ended up not being the full package.

See it for it’s action and impeccable style.  Not so much for it’s plot.

Verdict:  3 /5

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