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.
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.
(updated: 06/08/2016) I approached this with expectations seriously dialled back after hearing a few mixed and negative reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s eighth directorial effort. Following up arguably one of his best movies, Django Unchained was no easy prospect but as expected with a director that single-handily seemed to shake up a tired industry in the 90s with his brand of pop-culture referencing, sharply written scripts, this doesn’t even try. Instead what we get is a slow burning but thoroughly gripping character-piece that harks back to Tarantino’s bold, iconic début Reservoir Dogs more than anything else he’s made.
Kurt Russell is a bounty hunter transporting a woman accused of murder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) via stage coach to Red Rock, when he comes across fellow Bounty Hunter and former Major Samuel L. Jackson who also needs to get to Red Rock to claim his own bounty. Yet along the way a blizzard hits and the men are forced to hold up in a local tavern, where they come across several other colourful characters. Like Tarantino at his best, the key to enjoying this is the snappy dialogue, the fleshed out characterisation and the tension that gradually builds. Some have said this movie is slow, that nothing happens … and considering it’s on for over 160 minutes, I understand the restlessness, but awaiting a gunfight or some violence or a chase etc. is to miss the point – it’s not about action, the dialogue is the action and it’s about learning about all these characters, figuring out their motives and watching it all play out, not unlike a game of chess. With this in mind, Tarantino is on solid form – his writing skills, if a tad self-indulgent throw in humour, red herrings and surprises and still has that edge that made his name. On a pure dialogue-basis I’d even go as far to say it’s some of his best writing in years.
Samuel L. Jackson is the star here and does a stellar job and is ice-cool and decidedly him, no bad thing if like me you’re a fan. It was also great to see Kurt Russell commanding and tough-talking, and a flamboyant Tim Roth was also a lot of fun. There isn’t really a bad turn here, and even lesser characters like The Mexican stand out. A turn of events in the final act was a tad hard to swallow however and the ending was a little over the top and perhaps overly brutal. Yet that’s to be expected I guess, and along with Ennio Morricone’s classy score and simply gorgeous cinematography, obviously echoing the great westerns of yesteryear like Once Upon A Time In The West or The Good The Bad and the Ugly … this love letter to the genre, and to cinema itself just worked for me on many levels.
I remember this being one of my favourite movies when growing up. I watched it on VHS and subsequently on TV and picked it up on DVD, so naturally I was going to get the Blu-ray when it came out. Telling the story of wise-cracking truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) who during a stop off at San Francisco China Town re-acquaints himself with old friend Wang (Dennis Dun). Wang informs Jack that he’s meeting his new girlfriend at the airport. However on going to collect her the duo witness a kidnapping and soon, along with the help of plucky reporter Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall – Mannequin, Sex & The City) head into the Chinese underworld on a rescue mission.
This is an immediately fun, fast paced, albeit very 80’s experience. Kurt Russell is on fine form; a little more bumbling than some of his other roles but it works a charm as the fish out of water in a whole heap of trouble. Dunn, the actor who really should have become a bigger name than he did pretty much steals it though and Catrall is particularly beautiful, spunky and proves great support. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) this genre entry overflows with ideas, is a love letter to Hong Kong action movies with heavy influence from Shaw Brothers Kung Fu and more mystical fair like Tsui Hark’s Zu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain, and it’s clear everyone involved must have had a ball making it. Add to this Carpenter’s excellent guitar-synth score and well, this is a movie that just bleeds fun.
It’s all very cheesy, the dialogue and some of the jokes are as corny as it gets and some of the action in my opinion could have been shot better – and well, the pace is exhausting, where I was wishing the breaks were applied occasionally. Yet with a great villain (genre favourite James Hong – Blade Runner, Wayne’s World 2) and some still great looking effects work … I got a kick out of watching this again.
The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is once again an above average treatment for a classic movie. Detail on a whole is high even if the slightly smudgy look of the era is retained. Faces and sets all display a depth with decent shadow detail and good clarity. The re-mastered DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack may not make much use of the surrounds but the bass-heavy score is effectively delivered and dialogue is crisp throughout. Extras-wise we get a pretty exhaustive selection with several interviews from cast and crew as well as a vintage featurette, music video, galleries, an extended ending and a feature-length commentary. Add to this Arrow’s inclusion of a detailed booklet written by John Kenneth Muir, and this rounds off an impressive treatment for a still very enjoyable movie.
Quentin Tarantino will always be fairly high in my books, as he made my favourite film of all time, Pulp Fiction, yet that doesn’t mean he’s even come close to that brilliance since, and with this, his half of the much maligned Grindhouse venture he collaborated on with Robert Rodriguez, that magic still seems to avade him.
Don’t get me wrong though, there is much to like in this road movie / slasher flick with its grainy, damaged look and a 70s car chase movie atmosphere. Mainly Kurt Russell as maniac ex stunt man ‘stuntman mike’ who’s one purpose in life is to stalk beautiful girls out on the road, then run them down. An interesting concept is peppered throughout with various (lengthy) talking scenes that have some good banter even if everyone still talks Tarantino-speak in Tarantino-land. Realistic, convincing dialogue still seems Tarantino’s Achilles heal. That said it does get you interested in the characters and their world, and adds greatly to their peril once Stuntman Mike is prowling. Add to the mix some top-notch car chase action, impressive stunt sequences (especially one nasty car crash), and overall this is enjoyable stuff. The first half builds to what I began to think could be quite a disturbing horror movie, but then things change dramatically when tables are turned in the second half – and all that initial promise slowly fades away to a ludicrous and very hard to believe conclusion.
So overall the Grindhouse thing pressed my buttons – two very enjoyable movies, but both only hint at each director’s talents, but individually they are still worth checking out – even if this isn’t quite the Tarantino I once thought I knew. Perhaps he should stop wallowing in his boyhood fantasies, and start making real movies.
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