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?


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

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.


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

Taken 2

Viewed – 08 October 2012  Cinema

2008’s Taken was one of the best thrillers I had seen in years.  Liam Neeson completely nailed it as a hard-as-nails CIA agent out to rescue his daughter from a sex-slavery-ring in France.  It was tough, violent and very cool.  It turned Neeson overnight into an action hero.  So let’s not be too shocked that they’ve gone and knocked out a sequel.

Neeson reprises his role as tough CIA agent Bryan Mills who invites his estranged wife (but they’re on good terms these days) and  his daughter to Istanbul where he is going to work on a routine security job.  Only one problem: the men he killed in Taken, well their family, especially their mob boss father are out for revenge, and soon track Neeson down with the very intention of taking him and his family.  Of course, Neeson has other ideas.

This follow-up doesn’t lack thrills or exotic locales and has some decent action (a roof top chase, various gunfights, fist fights, a frantic car chase etc) but with a more family-friendly rating – the whole movie lacks that ‘bite’ the first one had in spades.  All the violence is toned down in such a way I almost felt I was watching a badly censored TV version, with some deaths ending up looking bizarre and unfinished without the expected ‘snap’ or splash of blood.  Thankfully Neeson is still good as Mills, calculated, efficient and can deliver even the stupidest lines with vigour (when a dog has a bone the last thing you want to do is take it from him).  Also this time around Maggie Grace has been given a much bigger role and equits herself well, even if she is still a bit annoying.  Famke Janssen, usually good in other movies (the X-Men trilogy) is wasted here like she was in the first film.  Also for villainous fodder, Rade Serbedzija (Snatch, Mission Impossible 3) does his usual Rusky gangster thing he’s been doing for years … yawn.

So this does have some good ideas and moments that work well (how Neeson gets his gun back after being kidnapped for example) but along with sloppy direction and a lacking script, with an approach that aims at the wrong audience – this obvious cash-cow sequel just does too many things wrong to make me recommend it.

Stick with the original.

Verdict:  2 /5

Top Ten Movies 2009

Well after much consideration, here is my end fo year list.

Please note that this is a top ten of the movies I watched this year, and some may be older that 2009.

1.   Gran Torino

2.   Avatar

3.   Let The Right One In

4.   Taken

5.   Juno

6.   Slumdog Millionaire

7.   Star Trek

8.   Drag Me To Hell

9.   The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

10. Watchmen


Viewed – 26 Feb 2009  Blu-ray

It’s that rare breed, a film that seems to completely surprise you and take your breath away.  Only a few such films have made me punch the air in such a way, namely Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Switchblade Romance etc – when everything comes together and it all just works.  This is one such film, and I’ll warn you, this is a very gushy review.

Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA spy craving quality time with his daughter who he has mostly missed growing up because of his work, causing his marriage to Famke Janssen to fail as a result (shame).  Then when the daughter gets the chance to go to Paris on holiday with a friend, Liam is naturally a little cautious, but chooses to give in for the sake of getting closer to the family he has become estranged from.  Then on Paris trip, daughter is kidnapped, and Liam has to spring into action to save her from disappearing forever.  Using all his ex-spy training he must find who is responsible and make them pay – usually very violently.  Now what makes this so good, is that Liam Neeson plays such an assured, hard-as-nails part that he out Bonds even Daniel Craig in the chiselled out of granite factor, as he takes on seedy gangsters and small time criminals to get answers … breaking faces, cracking skulls and shooting a lot of bad people.

Add to this the harrowing reality of human trafficking and the real-life stories we hear every day of people going missing, this is both a high-octane action movie and a thought provoking reflection of our own messed up world.  With producer Luc Besson also writing this he lends no end of class to the style and the action, whilst at the same time making it look and feel totally real.  Some may find this disturbing, as so they should, but few should disagree that this is one of the best action thrillers in years.

On Blu-ray this is pristine looking with plenty of fine detail, helped greatly by the lush Paris locations.  The DTS Master Audio is also very effective, with plenty of effects, especially during the shoot-outs and car chases.  Extras-wise we get behind the scenes footage, a making of and a bonus view segment that gives you a counter, tracking every person Liam injures or klls during the movie.  Pointless but fun.  So, not packed, but an admirable effort for such a quality movie.

Verdict:  5 /5