The Highwaymen


Viewed – 02 April 2019. Netflix

You’d think a movie based on a notorious true story and starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, would be a sure bet. However this thriller told from the perspective of two former Texas Rangers, pulled out of retirement to put a stop to Bonnie & Clyde was surprisingly ‘meh’.

Costner & Harrelson make for an good pairing however, and their banter and slightly bumbling approach to an off-the-books investigation proves the main enjoyment of the film. You see, despite an atmospheric setting and authentic sense of time and place, the movie really plods along, barely even showing the legendary bank robbers, especially ‘in the act’ and by focusing more on these has-been lawmen the movie fails to be as riveting as the subject might suggest. It’s also one of those very vague movies when it comes to various clues and important details leading to finally locating Bonnie & Clyde – which proves rather frustrating. In addition, the real-life fame and hysteria that surrounded the murderous criminals is only slightly touched upon.

There’s entertainment to be had here, but overall this was a missed opportunity.  Another so-called Netflix original that underwhelms … I’m sensing a pattern.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

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3 Days To Kill


Viewed – 12 April 2015  Netflix

So it seems to be another acclaimed actor’s turn to do the whole Taken thing with this Paris set thriller written by Luc Besson and directed by McG.  Costner plays a CIA agent, who returns to Paris after a job goes wrong.  Sound familiar yet?  Oh but wait, Costner’s character has brain cancer and only an experimental drug and one last contract can save his life.  Does he trust the sexy femme fatale CIA agent offering him a miracle cure, or does he settle for the quite life with his estranged wife & daughter?  What do you think?

3-days-to-kill

Costner handles the action well but also has to deal with a script that awkwardly juggles comedy and family bonding (let’s teach the daughter how to ride a bike, and yes there’s an African family squatting in Costner’s apartment…).  It’s a strange tone for sure considering that some of the action is pretty full-on, fairly violent and intense.  Amber Heard’s CIA agent is cool, mean and sexy but looks like she’s wondered off the set of an anime movie, lending little other than eye-candy and a lot of pouting.  Oscar winner Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit is also quite wasted here, but tries her best.  Thankfully then Costner who is probably mostly known as a supporting actor these days plods his way through very silly material fairly unscathed.  But where’s the danger?  Why doesn’t the daughter or ex-wife ever get kidnapped?  And what’s the point other than for Costner to take a drug he accepts purely on good-will from a very dodgy woman with a gun?

With a couple of exceptions, these kind of European action movies are getting very tired, how the once talented Luc Besson pimps out script after script to once major actors clearly just after a pay cheque, is bordering on insulting.  We as movie goers deserve better, and all the talent involved can certainly do better.

Verdict:  2 /5

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


Viewed – 08 June 2014  Pay-per-view

I never saw the previous, highly regarded Jack Ryan movies; the Alec Baldwin starring The Hunt For Red October, the Harrison Ford vehicles Clear & Present Danger etc.  Something about their overly serious approach to CIA espionage action always had me leaning more towards Mission Impossible or the James Bond franchise for my escapism.  Now in the wake of his credible turns in the recent Star Trek reboots, pretty-boy actor Chris Pine steps into the shoes of a more rookie Ryan, in this origin tale to Tom Clancy’s famed character.

jack ryan

I’ll admit the casting of the likeable Pine drew my attention and well, I can be a sucker for a good action thriller.  Here we also get Kenneth Branagh, another actor I have admired, albiet in a typical English-thesp cast as the bad guy turn, as a Russian terrorist attempting to over throw the U.S. economy.  I was hoping Hollywood had grown out of such casting by now.  He is also the director so maybe he only has himself to blame for that.  Pine however has Keira Knightley as his girlfriend who gets caught up in proceedings when she follows him to Russia fearing his secretive goings-on are hiding an affair.  This is fairly formulaic stuff, and isn’t helped by a chemistry-free pairing of Pine & Knightley, whose relationship is given no weight due to the fact their casual hook-up during a prologue hospitalization is glossed over.  Costner also offers little more than his presence and a mentor vibe (which seems to be his thing these days, see: Man of Steel).  Thankfully Branagh’s villain is fairly decent and charismatic.  The biggest problem though is that we’re presented yet again with a thriller more interested in fancy rapid-fire editing, it’s pounding score and a great deal of espionage mumbo-jumbo than conveying a plot that is easy to follow or characters and situations we can care about.  Doesn’t help either that what action there is, is fairly limply handled and over before you can get into any of it.

For Chris Pine fans, its worth seeing, and I expect we’ll see a more polished sequel down the line.  Yet I’ll hazard a guess for Ryan enthusiasts … you’re probably better off with the books.  Everyone else, this is simply a glossy but otherwise by-the-numbers thriller – and not a particularly surprising one at that.

Verdict:  2 /5

Man of Steel


Viewed – 18 June 2013  Cinema

Following the huge disappointment of Brian Singer’s Superman Returns, fans and critics alike have been right to think the series was dead in the water, again.  Thankfully, I have been quite optimistic on just how this latest interpretation of one of the most famed superhero characters ever might turn out – mainly because Zack Snyder was directing.  Overseen by producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S Goyer (the team behind the Dark Knight movies) – and with the man who brought Watchmen to the big screen – really, could this fail?

Man-of-Steel

Inspired by the story of Superman: The Movie (1979) and the comics before it we start on the gradually dying planet of Krypton where Jor-El (Russell Crowe) launches his only child into space after General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to rage war.  Yet once baby boy Kal-El (superman) is gone, Zod is trialed for treason and sentenced to the phantom zone along with his cronies.  Cut to about 30 years later on earth, and Kal-El is now Clark Kent, raised by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, but yearns to find out his true origins whilst struggling to hide from the world who he really is.

From the off this is an energetic and confident movie full of spectacle and solid performances, especially from scene-stealing Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire).  Casting here is what impresses most with a surprising but perfect Crowe nailing the part of Jor-El and also an enjoyably feisty (and gorgeous) Amy Adams as Superman’s love-interest Lois Lane.  Snyder’s direction whilst at times lacking in subtlety like a mad professor drunk on his own power (or wealth of effects tools) still delivers probably the best Superman movie we could hope for in this age of anything-is-possible CGI.  The action is loud, brash, mad-as-hell but most importantly FUN, and with an interesting structure (Clark’s childhood / teenage years is shown only in brief flashbacks) and lots of welcome ideas (Clark overwhelmed by his powers, more back story of Krypton) … this fan-boy couldn’t have had a bigger grin on his face.  Of course the big question remains just how good was Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent?  Well, if memories of the late (great) Christopher Reeve didn’t even come to mind, then instantly he’s doing something right – he had the charisma, the vulnerability and the looks, so yeah job done – and ladies, prepare to swoon big time!

There you have it … Superman returns – for real this time!

Verdict:  5 /5

Mr Brooks


Viewed – 19 March 2008 DVD

Where to begin? This against type role for once Hollywood a-lister Kevin Costner, has him as a successful businessman and loving family man, who also happens to be a serial killer – constantly coaxed into murder by an imaginary friend (William Hurt). Committing a murder after a two year hiatus, he grabs the attention of a female detective (Demi Moore – also out of the wilderness), who has more than a few problems of her own, juggling a career and a pending divorce settlement along with the menace of a recently escaped killer vowing to track her down.

This over-complicated plot though soon takes an interesting twist when a witness tries to blackmail Costner, and proving to be rather unhinged himself. Overall I enjoyed this take on a tired genre, and William Hurt steels the show as Costner’s alter-ego, even though Costner himself is rather good as the calculated killer despite lacking the menace of similar nice guy actors who have played psychotic roles (step forward Robin Williams in One Hour Photo). Yet the major fault here is the casting of a way past her sell-by date Demi Moore, who although feisty, comes off as inferior to the rest of the cast. Also the Director at times didn’t seem to know if he was making a serial killer movie or a John Woo action flick, with jarring action set pieces that feel totally out of place. So a good idea initially, let down by a crowded script with too many ideas for its own good.

Verdict: 3 /5