Black Widow


Viewed – 10 July 2021 Disney+

I think few could argue that Scarlett Johansson is a real movie star and has proven herself more than capable in many types of roles. However many will know her as one part of Marvel’s Avengers alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. However unlike those characters, Scarlett’s Black Widow hadn’t until now got her stand alone origin story. This finds Natasha Romanova / Black Widow being hunted down by the shady organisation that turned her into an assassin, leading her to explore her own past and confront the broken relationships she thought she’d left behind.

Scarlett Fever…

Midsommar’s Florence Pugh plays Yelena, the estranged sister of Black Widow and it has to be said steals the show with her personality and sarcasm, and the banter that occurs not only between the two females but also with David Harbour’s Red Guardian proves this movie’s best aspect. Add to this some decent action, with a stand-out prison break sequence, and this was ticking my boxes.

Unfortunately the plot wasn’t very engaging with what was happening and why not pulling me in. Also Ray Winstone’s villain was rather forgettable. Although the mysterious henchman ‘Task Master’ was much more interesting. Yet as an origin story, this failed to delve into the character of Black Widow, only showing glimpses of her training or much of her upbringing. As a Marvel movie however, this still delivers the necessary spectacle, slick action and fun moments – but overall felt a bit under-developed with occasionally lazy writing. For fans of the MCU this is worth seeing, but adds so little to the whole narrative it’s far from essential.

Verdict: Good

The Gunman


Viewed – 26 March 2015  Cinema

Sean Penn isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you’re talking action movies … he’s more your method actor thesp with a few decent performances under his belt.  However with not a great deal to choose from at the cinema recently, this movie from the director of Taken (is that a trusted recommendation these days?) made for an intriguing prospect.

the-gunman-sean-penn

Penn plays a special forces operative in the Congo on a top secret mission where he is involved in the assassination of a politician.  He subsequently goes into hiding following the hit and has to turn his back on his sultry girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) and his best bud (Jarvier Bardem).  Eight year’s pass and he’s working as an aid worker in a  village when a hit squad recognise him and attempt to kill him.  Scared and worried who might have been talking, Penn goes about tracking down his former colleagues in search of answers.

Penn is on fine form and handles some slick, violent action with ease – this is certainly a side we don’t normally see from him and like his predecessor Liam Neeson he acquits himself with honours.  This surprises and shocks in equal measure with some brutal violence and an intense, nerve-wracking tone.  A clever brain-injury plot device aside, It lacks the emotional wallop of Taken and Penn doesn’t quite have Neeson’s charisma, but buffed up and breaking skulls a plenty, he still does a decent job.  Supporting cast especially Bardem as the grinning, shifty friend and a weary-looking but enjoyable Ray Winston add flavour and we even get Idris Elba as a shadowy Interpol agent.

It’s not about to spawn a franchise like Taken (thankfully) and probably won’t become a classic due to a sometimes confusing plot, but for fans of gritty, bone-crunching thrillers that don’t let up – this one is worth your time.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Sweeney


Viewed – 09 March 2013  DVD

My American readers may not be aware of 70s Brit TV show The Sweeney, starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, and to be honest neither am I really.  Yet I understand it had quite a following and had a reputation for being hard-hitting (for the time).  So a modern interpretation, albeit for the big screen seemed a good idea.

Sweeney

Hard man Brit actor Ray Winstone plays Regen, a tough cop who takes no s*** and calls everyone a slag.  He is joined by younger side kick Carter (Rapper Plan B) an equally tough talking cop with a troubled background.  After a jewelry store robbery leaves an innocent woman dead, these tough cops begin an investigation, whilst the suits of their department breathe down their neck over their questionable methods of law enforcement.

I was skeptical going into this.  I like Winstone but have found many of his appearances disappointing – he’s everyone’s favorite cockney geezer but sometimes he’s not let off the leash.  That couldn’t be further from the truth here, with him in full throttle   A special mention must go to Plan B (stupid name aside) who makes for a worthy co-star and has some great moments.  Plot-wise this is basically a story of cops, car chases and geezers but some developments really struck a cord – giving Winstone more to do than just crack skulls.

My only real negative is that the villains were little more than stereotypes, and I found their motives somewhat unclear.  Yet along with a sharp, tinted and stylish sheen and expertly handled action sequences (with a Heat-like shoot out in Trafalgar Square) … this was still  much more than your usual Brit thriller.

Verdict:  4 /5