Hacksaw Ridge Review

When Mel Gibson releases a film, people sit up and pay attention. Ever since Braveheart back in 1995, which he directed, starred and produced, Gibson has been one whose films are shocking and controversial, while also receiving high critical acclaim. Does his new film Hacksaw Ridge follow the great string of films before it?

Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Teresa Palmer and is directed by Mel Gibson. The film follows the true story of Desmond Doss (Garfield) a contentious objector during the Second World War. He volunteers as an army medic instead and is sent out during the battle of Okinawa, in which he saved the lives of seventy-five men.

If Mel Gibson’s films are known for anything is their almost pornographic depictions of gore and violence and the sometimes heavy-handed religious metaphors and aggrandising of the main character. In terms of the former, Hacksaw Ridge has the blood and bodies turned up to eleven. This isn’t the bloodless fights of Marvel, or the rather scaled-back violence in Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge paints the screen red with blood. It’s an odd balance of sickening and gratuitous; a solider picks up the corpse of a comrade and uses him as a shield, we get several body pans focusing in on missing legs and the Japanese soldiers use samurai swords when finishing off the barely surviving soldiers. The start of the film is an almost Nicholas Sparks-style romance film, with Garfield’s Doss falling in love with a nurse. When it comes time for the battle to start, the switch to dismemberment is a tonal whiplash, leaving you completely open to the vile amount of gore on stage.

Garfield is near perfect in his role as Desmond Doss. Most people only really know Garfield as the second Spiderman, a character known for being quiet and unassuming. He brings that, along with a childhood innocence and naiveté to the role, leading to a main character that you root for and understand his motivations. His religion is not over-played, it’s just another layer to the character. My only flaw would be his “aw-shucks” accent, which makes him sound like he’s talking with a mouth full of food. The rest of the cast are good, even if most of his fellow soldiers are one-word stereotypes. And who knew that Vince Vaughn, the guy from Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball would do a good job in an action role? And Sam Worthington could actually emote?

The accompanying score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is an excellent addition to the film. It has the hallmarks of a war movie; the marching drums and the bold brass for the action heavy second half, but evens it out with some beautiful string and woodwind solos during the beginning and the downtime in between the fights on the battlefield. It’s easily one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time, not since Bridge of Spies have I been blown away by the score of a film.

The film does have some minor faults. While it was important to establish Garfield’s character’s optimism and innocence, the first half feels both overlong and cut short at the same time. It’s pretty much the first hour, but most of the scenes that are a good few weeks apart are shunted together like they are happening in the same day. As I said before, the romance sometimes comes off a little corny, with cheesy one-liners being most of Garfield and Teresa Palmer’s dialogue together. The film also ends with actual interview footage with Doss and his fellow soldiers, which feels a bit at odds since we’ve just got done watching a dramatisation of the events. Maybe it was to show that some things depicted in the film actually did happen, but I got that from the “this is a true story” at the beginning.

In the end, Hacksaw Ridge completely blew me away. While it may not reach the cultural heights of Braveheart (everyone knows the “they may take out lives” quote), it’s still a bombastic, violent depiction of the Second World War. It’s definitely not one for the squeamish.

Score: 8/10 A cinematic tour-de-force on the brutality of war and the power of the human spirit.

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xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage Review

The first xXx came out back in 2002. I vaguely remember it; explosions, stunts and Vin Diesel in a fantastic fur coat. I know even less about the sequel xXx: State of The Union, save for that Xander Cage (Vin Diesel’s character) had apparently been killed off so instead Ice Cube was brought in to fill the gap. Now, fifteen years after he first starred in the role, Vin Diesel comes back for more extreme stunts.

xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage stars Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose and Samuel L. Jackson and is directed by D.J. Caruso. The film follows extreme sports star Xander Cage (Diesel) as he is brought out of the retirement by the CIA to stop a rogue faction from destroying the world.

I’ve given the most blandest of synopsis I can, because this a film without a story. Oh sure, there is a lot of nonsense about crashing satellites and covert-government types, all interchangeable and doesn’t do much apart from set up to some crazy stunts. And really, I’m okay with that. So many films nowadays take themselves too seriously, it’s good now and again for a film that just leans right into the madness and has some fun to it.

Vin Diesel does his usual grumble-mumble and cute one-liners, no different from the fifty other Vin Diesel roles he has. It’s the newcomers that are the most interesting characters. Ruby Rose gets to show off her action chops while flipping the table of what an “action heroine” should be, Donnie Yen get’s to kick ass in his style but has an actual backstory and motivations, Deepika Padukone is a freedom fighter who is conflicted over how to achieve liberty, this is all cool stuff in an industry that just labels characters as “the Asian One”, “The Girl” and “The Other Girl.” Granted, the other actors; Tony Jaa, Rory McCann, Kris Wu and Michael Bisping don’t have much to them apart from a name and a one-line backstory, but it’s still an improvement over Hollywood.

The other major point I want to show off is how diverse the cast is. It’s cool to see these big actors from Chinese, Thai and Indian cinema get some major roles and screen time in an American blockbuster.

I was drawn to xXx 3 because I was promised action, and damn if it isn’t filled to brim with stunts. While there is noticeable instances of green screen, most of the action seems to be done for real. Even with the use of handheld cam, the action is bone-crunching and visceral. This is why you get Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa in; these guys know how to fight, how to pull off stunts and make it look good. The plot enables these top notch performers to just let loose, with Jaa having an excellent parkour-infused chase on a freeway, while Yen get’s to show off his martial arts in a six-on-one fight in the finale. The finale ratchets up the ridiculous to eleven, with zero-gravity plane rides and robot boxing gloves, but is it still filmed relatively well, not obscuring any of the over-the-top action.

The film has downsides. I’ve talked about the plot, it’s got so many holes and loops that there is no point trying to figure out how and why things happen. This is one of those “plot armour” situations, just go with it. The film does start pretty slow, with at least an hour before it becomes a full-on action fest, with only minor action sequences to tide us over. Also, near the beginning of the film there are so many navel shots and full-body pans, it’s just tasteless. Refreshingly the main female characters aren’t sexualised in any way, but there is still a romance sub-plot that comes out of nowhere.

In the end, I left xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage with a huge grin on my face. For those looking for some good action and fun characters, but zero plot, this is one for you. I wouldn’t mind seeing this one again.

Score: 7/10 Over-the-top fun for the action fans.

The Magnificent Seven Review

I guess Westerns are back. With the surprise hits of Slow West and Salvation back in 2015, and the utterly amazing Bone Tomahawk earlier this year, Westerns are getting both commercial and critical acclaim (let’s just all forget The Lone Ranger, yeah?) And now for one of the most high-profile Westerns ever created, now remade.

The Magnificent Seven stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier and is directed by Antoine Fuqua, The story follows a bounty hunter (Washington) who wrangles up a posse to protect a town from a dastardly industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard).

The director, Antoine Fuqua, is the man behind films such as Training Day, Tear of The Sun and The Equalizer. Gritty “guy movies” about competent bad-asses who give and receive gruelling punishments while also being actually good films rather than silly pabulum like the Taken sequels or anything by the director Luc Besson. And with The Magnificent Seven, he’s continuing his trend of macho-action blockbusters without much fail.

The actors are well cast. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are doing roles they could do in their sleep, smaller roles for veteran actors such as Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio and a breakout action female role for Haley Bennet. The best though are Byung-hun Lee as assassin Billy and Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, a Comanche warrior. Both are relative newcomers (Lee is a star in Asia but not Hollywood) but they are perfect in their roles as ultra-capable killers and are seemingly born to be action stars. Look out for these two later on in Hollywood.

The action is explosive and bloody, but Fuqua is a master at capturing the gunfights, which play out more like opera or music, with a great rhythm to the hits and bullets. The sound design is good, you can feel the weight behind the bullets, instead of just sound effects. The first skirmish is split evenly, with each character showing off their abilities. This where the previously mentioned Lee and Sensmeier shine, with their respective weapons of knives and bows. The second and final fight takes up the last half an hour and while it make become a little repetitive after a while, the final five minutes, when our heroes are beaten down and battered, is a high point of emotion-driven action.

There are also tense standoffs, in saloons and deserted streets near the beginning, and again, they are shot very well. You can feel the rhythm of the shots building up, as the film draw close to a shootout. It’s not a slow-burn tension of say, Anthropoid. It’s much more geared towards a popcorn entertainment, but it’s still created well.

The story is a little clichéd, with nothing really standing out or subverting trends in scriptwriting. The scriptwriter is Nic Pizzolatto, the creator behind True Detective. Despite that excellently written former work, M7 comes nowhere close to it. There aren’t many stand-out lines and the plot points feel like 101 scriptwriting. There are obligatory break-up/make-up sections and back-stories to characters that feel tacked on/aren’t explored. One of the main characters has a personal connection to the villain, and if we had learnt about it earlier it could have injected the third act with some human drama about sacrificing innocents for revenge. But no, it’s done away with in a few lines, sloppily added in just because it was on a generic story checklist.

In the end, The Magnificent Seven is a well-done popcorn earner. The little generic traits and standard story conventions are easy to point out, but the action and the actors are what make it a highlight. It doesn’t stand with Seven Samurai (the story M7 was based on) but it probably stand there with the original.

Score: 7/10 Not magnificent, but solid entertainment.

Hell Or High Water Review

Sicario was one of the highlights of last year. A dark, twisting film about an extra-legal team from the FBI trying to shut down the drug cartels in Mexico. So when writer of Sicario, Taylor Sheridan, name came up in the pre-release buzz around Hell Or High Water, my interested picked up. Are we in for another grim treat?

Hell Or High Water stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham and is directed by David Mackenzie. The film follows a pair of bank-robbing brothers (Pine and Foster) who after several daring heists are chased by a determined aging Texas Ranger (Bridges).

The three leads are tremendous, a sure reason to go see Hell or Water. Just like other great suspense heist films such as Heat, we see both sides of the law, seeing their wins and losses, with us rooting for both cop and criminal. Jeff Bridges does his usual “too old for this” schtick. He even says that this is his last case (an all too common trope), but he is still an interesting character. Chris Pine and Ben Foster work well together as brothers Toby and Tanner, they have a good back-and-forth, whether it be during the getaway or back home on the ranch. Pine sheds his usual douchy persona and brings a layered character, trying to provide for his family doing something that might get him killed. Ben Foster starts off as the wackier older brother, but thankfully adds more nuance to his performance rather than the played out lunatic bank-robber formula. All three sport Texan accents, which sometimes are hard to understand.

While the film is supposed to be in West Texas, it was actually filmed in New Mexico. Even so, the scenery is beautiful. Much like Sicario before it, Hell Or High Water has may long. wide shots of the never-ending landscapes and stunning setting suns. The film also makes use of the urban environments, little one-street towns and retro diners, leaving a sense of places that simply got lost in time. It gives both a feeling of modern day but also timelessness. If you swapped out the 4x4s for horses and the automatic rifles for revolvers, you would have yourself an old-fashioned Western.

The film is over 100 minutes, but none of it felt like it was dragging or padding out the run-time. The extended bank sequences, using long sweeping takes rather than conventional editing keep the excitement up as the brothers go from bank-to-bank. The film also masters the art of the “ticking-time-bomb”, having something dangerous (in this case a bank robbery) in the background, while the other characters are talking with each other, oblivious to what is happening behind them. These dual approaches to the story keep it moving rather than the slower methods or predictability of previous heist films. The plot might become apparent to more savvy watchers, but the story behind why the brothers are bank-robbing will keep you invested until the finale, with raging gun battles and car chases suiting the more action-oriented fans.

The action is rather sporadic, but it is explosive and brutal. Guns are used more for intimidation, but when bullets start flying they leave blood and brains splattered. It isn’t glorified, again, similar to Sicario, it’s more sickening than fun.

The film is completed by country music, blaring both out of the radio and as part of the soundtrack, created by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. While country may not be to my taste, it fits the film’s setting perfectly, once again creating that atmosphere of young and old merging together.

I was holding Hell Or High Water to a high standard with the list of names attached, but it easily delivered. With tense and dramatic heist sequences, beautiful scenery and supreme acting from the three leads, this is one to go and see.

Score: 9/10 They don’t make many like this anymore.

Jason Bourne Review

This has been one of the films I’ve been waiting for. In a year of unnecessary sequels, we finally get to one that I have a small amount of interest in seeing. And with the last film in the series, The Bourne Legacy, being rather dull, it’s back to series greats Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to give us a return to form. This is Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne stars Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed and Tommy Lee Jones and is directed by Paul Greengrass. Set several years after The Bourne Ultimatum, the new film follows Jason Bourne (Damon) as he is roped back into conspiracies involving new CIA programmes.

I was really looking forward to Jason Bourne. The first three films I would say are some of the best action films to come out of 2000s and it’s made a lot of changes in how action films are created nowadays. But all throughout the film I couldn’t escape the fact that I just wasn’t interested with what was happening on-screen.

I’ll start with what I did like. The cast is a great ensemble, and certain actors (like Tommy Lee Jones as the Director of the CIA) fit straight into the world of Bourne. Vincent Cassel, who plays a CIA asset who has history with Bourne, is another character who again, fits right into the setting of secret assassins and conspiracies. But the standout is Alicia Vikander as CIA agent Heather Lee. Vikander plays her very ambiguously, with several layers of intrigue and menace, ready to do what is necessary to rise to the top of the Agency.

Sadly, that’s really all that’s either new or good in Jason Bourne. The fight scenes are one of my biggest gripes. While the originals were known for their quick cuts, at least they were clear. They would cut to a wide shot, allowing you to see the choreography. You could tell who was hitting who, you understand the geography of the fight. Here, that’s gone out the window. The final fight scene is ridiculously close-up, meaning you have no clue what is actually going on. The rest of the action is quite generic; a motorcycle chase here, a punch-up there, a big smashing-everything-up finale, it’s all rather dull in a series known for fantastical set pieces. I clocked out during the final ten minutes, I was just so disinterested.

The story is another low point of the film. Damon and Greengrass said they would return unless the script was good, but this one feels like a lacklustre one to return for. A lot of it feels like a retread of the earlier films, with several points ripped from one to the other. The main driving force of Bourne in this movie is something that was already explored in Ultimatum and the new stuff feels like a bit of ret-con of character motivations in earlier films. I won’t spoil anything, but one of the main revelations of this films had me shaking my head in the cinema, it was a vain attempt to make the continuity of the franchise seem rich and deep, when it fact it strips Bourne of much of his character arc of the original trilogy. There are some new ideas, which while timely, aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, leaving a couple questions unanswered.

In the end, Jason Bourne really let me down. It might be a tiny bit better than Legacy before it, but it get’s nowhere near the heights of the original series.

Score: 5/10 A low return of a once great franchise.

Now you’ve read my thoughts on Jason Bourne, why not check out my review of the rest of the series?

Gods Of Egypt Review

I’ve been waiting for Gods Of Egypt for a good couple of months now. Released in America back at the second half of February, it was commercially panned by critics. The director started calling film critics “deranged idiots” and “utterly worthless”. So naturally I wanted to see it, despite having to wait three more months before it came out in the UK.

Gods Of Egypt stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Gerard Butler and Courtney Eaton and is directed by Alex Proyas. The films follows god Horus (Coster-Waldau), as he must team up with the mortal Bek (Thwaites) to defeat the evil god Set from destroying Egypt.

I won’t deny I had fun in Gods Of Egypt. For maybe around five minutes overall, a little bit here and there, I liked it. Everyone is playing it up to the nines; metal CGI god-bird things are flying around smashing into each other and generally the film is unabashedly campy. I mean, quality actors like Chadwick Boseman, Rufus Sewell and Geoffrey Rush are in this. They must know it’s a ridiculous film but they are having fun with it. Thanks to Christopher Nolan, every big spectacle smash-fest thinks it has to be smart and broody. For that, I almost want to be lenient on Gods Of Egypt, it’s glorious in all its inept idiocy that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself for brief moments.

But please understand, it’s not good.

For all the exquisite cast, it really is poor acting. Geoffrey Rush looks like he’s about to fall asleep when delivering his lines. Chadwick Boseman is mincing around the place like Raul Julia and leading man Brenton Thwaties has only two emotions, earnest and REALLY, REALLY earnest. There is no chemistry between Horus and his bride Hathor (played by Elodie Yung) and nothing that can really get me invested in these characters or their struggles. That might be down to the script (written by the director Proyas), which are mostly just reused lines from every other blockbuster-budget movie that has ever graced cinemas.

I quite enjoyed some of the action scenes. Sure, it’s just big CGI messes smashing together, like a five year-old playing with their toys, but some were entertaining. A battle between Horus and two of Set’s lieutenants (riding giant Cobras) was fun while it lasted and the opening of the film, where Horus and Set face off, morphing into their metallic forms was enjoyable. Another point, when Bek must raid Set’s treasure room, which is filled with traps, was entertaining enough, even if it was over quite quickly.

My main problem with the film though was the extraordinary run-time. The film is over two hours, which is not acceptable for a film like this. There are several scenes that I could cut, where nothing is being added to the narrative or characters.

Some people have been calling this the worst film of the year. I don’t object to people called it bad, but the outlandish villainization of this one film is ridiculous. Sure, the film is rather simple-minded, loud and whitewashed or Orientalized (go read Edward Said), the script is messy, the characters are either wooden or pantomime and it drags on for way longer than it need to. All fair points, but several films that have come out of Hollywood have a few of the same problems. The Star Wars prequels, Avengers 2/ Civil War, Batman Vs. Superman, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Angry Birds Jurassic Park 2-4, they all have at least one or two of these problems. Even the original Clash Of The Titans/Jason And The Argonauts that Gods of Egypt is referencing have them. Yes, Ray Harryhausen is legend and his work shines above criticism, but the other parts of his films are really quite bad (trust me, I’ve seen them both in the past week).

In summary, Gods Of Egypt is dumb. It doesn’t get a recommendation from me, but it’s definitely not the worst film of the year. Maybe one for lovers of spectacle and campy cheese, but for everyone else, it’s a no-go.

Score: 4/10 A so-so big-budget adventure with many faults.

Jason Bourne Collection Review

Preface

With the new film in the series, Jason Bourne coming out in the…Jason Bourne franchise, I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the series as a whole. The Bourne series’ influence on cinema in the post-2000 scene is massive, everything from Taken to XIII to Daniel Craig’s James Bond owes a debt to Bourne, and it’s still influencing cinema today. The films I will be reviewing are;

  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Bourne Legacy

Review

The Bourne Identity

The start of the series, with Matt Damon in the title role and Doug Liman on directing duties. The film follows Jason Bourne (Damon) a spy for the CIA who is struck with amnesia and hunted by his old firm. We see the start of the themes and notes of the franchise here; the European setting, a sense of realism (distinguishing it from the most recent James Bond film at the time, Die Another Day) and the bone crunching mix of Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali for the fight scenes. And while there are moments of greatness peppered throughout (The bank/embassy evacuation, the Mini chase through the streets of Paris and the showdown with Clive Owen’s Professor) there is a hint of ropey-ness about it all. The fight scenes aren’t well shot and the sound effects are ripped straight from an Adam West Batman episode. The staircase ride, while it starts interesting, also has some video-gamey sound effects, poor CGI and sped-up footage. Apart from that, Chris Cooper is a great villain as Conklin and John Powell’s score is one of the most recognisible themes in all of cinema.

Score: 6/10 A Good start to an action series.

The Bourne Supremacy

Matt Damon returns as the superspy but the director’s chair has moved from Liman over to Paul Grengrass. The story continues two years on, when a shadowy Russian oligarch forces Bourne back into the CIAs spotlight. While this was never my favourite Bourne film, after going back to it, I look upon it more favorably. Greengrass’ signature hand-held shaky style is at it’s best here (and sadly imitated poorly by many other directors) conveying the brutality and speed of the hand-to-hand fight scenes. One fight, between Bourne and the last Treadstone assassin, Jarda, is a brilliant display of improvised weaponry. The hotel/ Neski segments have a nice Traditions Of The Trade feel and help fill in background to Treadstone. The main weak point is the story. Who is Gretkov (the oligarch) and why is he so interested in Bourne? Why does he have the Neski files? There is no clear point to why the main bad guy is setting up Bourne other than to make some money, which is quite poor character development.

Score: 8/10 If it wasn’t for the weak story, this would have been the best one.

The Bourne Ultimatum

The final chapter of the Matt Damon trilogy, with Paul Greengrass returning to direct. Set mere hours after the end of Supremacy, the film follows Bourne as he finally heads after the CIA to find out who he really is. This is the culmination of everything that was great about the first two while taking out the elements that didn’t work. The hand-to-hand combat is better than ever, with a beautiful set piece against a Capoeira-infused Blackbrair agent. The rest of the action set pieces are on par, with a great rooftop chase in Tangiers as well as a shootout in London Waterloo. The story is also leagues ahead of the tenuous link in Supremacy, with it linking back to Bourne as his origin rather than some half-baked scheme about stealing money from the second film.

Score: 9/10 The best of series so far.

The Bourne Legacy

With Matt Damon and Paul Grengrass both said they were not returning to the series, it fell to the previous three film’s screenwriter Tony Gilory to take the directing chair and Jeremy Renner as a new “Outcome” agent Aaron Cross to take hold of the Bourne franchise. Set during and after The Bourne Ultimatum, the film follows another agent, Aaron Cross, as the previous programs are shut down by government bureaucrat Eric Byer (played superbly by Edward Norton) to risk embarrassment of the CIA. Cross is the only survivor of his program, leading the CIA to hunt him down. While Jeremy Renner is good stand-in for Matt Damon in the action scenes, his manner is too cheerful. He’s always cracking jokes, which doesn’t really fit the character of a deadly assassin. His romance with Rachael Weisz seems token and the film ends flatly, obviously trying to set up a sequel that never came. Apart from one long-take of Cross in a shootout in a house and a nifty motorcycle trick near the end, the rest of the action is boring or ridiculous. The story isn’t engaging like the third film and it’s only the barest relation to the Bourne series that made anyone want to go see it.

Score: 4/10 Generic-o fist-punchy, gun-shooty (that means it’s bad).

Bastille Day Review

Just before the big summer blockbusters come out in cinemas, I decided it would be time to catch up on the backlog of films that I missed the first time around. Bastille Day had been I film I thought looked interesting, but it was slowly pushed back and back more by other, newer films. But I finally went and now the review.

Bastille Day stars Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon and Kelly Reilly and is directed by James Watkins. After a bomb accidently stolen by a pick-pocket (Madden) goes off in the middle of Paris, Briar (Elba), a CIA operative has to find the real terrorists while Paris is on the verge of revolution.

After seeing the trailer for Bastille Day, I thought this might be Idris Elba’s audition for James Bond. Everyone and their dog seem to want him to play the part and this could have shown how he deals with action. Sadly the Bond film he’s imitating is Quantum Of Solace. Crunching sound effects accompany 0.6 second-long takes, tricking our brain into believing we are seeing fighting while all we’re seeing is bodies and fists flying about.

The rest of the action is pretty standard affair. While there is a really well done chase scene over the rooftops, similar to the Tangiers chase in The Bourne Ultimatum and a layered pick-pocketing sequence both at the beginning and in the middle of the film, there is not much else. There is a big gun battle at the end between Elba and the main bad guys, but none of it has much flair. It’s all been done better before.

Briar is a “loose cannon” operative, the kind of guy who sticks his gun in the mouth of an unarmed civilian, punches men off moving motorcycles and doesn’t use door handles, instead kicking every single one down. It’s more Jack Bauer than James Bond, but apart from his fascination with caving men’s skulls in, Elba doesn’t give him any other interesting personality traits, just a terrible American accent. He also sings over the end credits, make of that what you will.

Elba being a shell of character though might be down to the script. It switches from boring to unintentionally hilarious. Some story aspects are fun, Richard Madden’s pickpocket has some good lines as he warms to working with Elba, but most of its forgettable. But there are lines that we are meant to take serious, such as, “the hashtags are spilling over…follow the hashtags…send the final hashtag.” Why try to make believable characterisation when we could just talk about what’s trending on Twitter?

While the film is set in the French capital, it doesn’t use the setting to great effect. The opening of the film, a street party at Sacré Coeur and the finale at the French National Bank are good uses of the setting, the rest of the film is in back alleys and run-down apartments. Similar to last year’s The Gunman, it’s a sad waste of a good setting.

The film is full of these moments, brushing shoulders with ideas that have been done better before. There is a shadowy conspiracy in Bastille Day about government paramilitaries being involved with the destruction which would have been good…if White House Down hadn’t done it better back in 2013. Bastille Day also takes the politicising of White House Down and tries to do its own version of it. It’s trying to put some subtext into the story events but the rest of the film is too on-the-nose to successfully have a subtle thread running through it.

Bastille Day could have been, if not great, at least entertaining. It’s not as sharp as Bond or as gritty as Bourne, instead it’s trying to take what it can from everything else without making an identity of its own.

Score: 4/10 Painfully dull and lifeless.

Hardcore Henry Review

I saw the first trailer for Hardcore Henry in the cinema a few weeks ago and I was shaking my head at the ridiculousness of it. It seemed like just another dumb shooters with a gimmick of that it was in first person. But trailers have advertised their films wrong before and I always try to go into a new film with an open mind. So, does Hardcore Henry actually come together as a film?

Hardcore Henry stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett and Tim Roth and is directed by Ilya Naishuller. The film follows Henry as he is brought back to life as a cyborg by his wife Estelle (Bennett). She is soon captured by mercenaries led by villain Akan (Kozlovsky) and Henry sets out to save her.

Hardcore Henry‘s main selling point is its first-person camera perspective. While films have dabbled in first person (the adaptation of Doom had a cringe worthy stab at it), it hasn’t been widely used by creators for films. And sure, for a good while the first person viewpoint works. And extended sequence in an abandoned hotel, which features a floor-by-floor gunfight is gloriously dumb, along with several moments of flashy parkour chases, it comes together for a few minutes. Sadly, a film can’t be an hour and a half of continual gunfights and punch-ups. You need peaks and troughs, otherwise the audience doesn’t get a break. I eventually lost interest because there was no lull in the action for me to catch my breath.

The film proudly wears it’s inspirations on its chest. Naishuller as a director has obviously grown up with YouTube, as he swipes not only video game Let’s Play’s but also amateur parkour videos and smashes them together. But that’s actually a point against it, it doesn’t feel like it should be in the cinema, it feels like I should be watching this on my computer at home.

Most of the storyline can be swept aside by just saying “because video games.” The main character having amnesia and being mute? Because video games. Telekenisis? Because video games. Women used as catalyst for story and is trophy for completing mission? Because video games. The previously mentioned abandoned hotel is ripped straight from Call Of Duty, there is a strip club from Grand Theft Auto and the parkour is from Assassins Creed. It even tries it’s hand at a Bioshock type of twist (which even the most simple of audience member will guess). That’s where Hardcore Henry will find its audience, in video game lovers and players who want to see their favourite games on play out in real life.

The script even goes a bit video gamey. Henry get’s a phone from his friend Jimmy and he calls him with his next mission. “Go there. Kill this guy. Take his macguffin to keep the plot moving.” The script also tries it’s hand at a few jokes but most of these miss. Apart from a rip on The Magnificent Seven as well as a two second visual gag involving a doormat, most of the rest of the jokes feel aimed at the teenage audience that can’t even get into the screening (Hardcore Henry is an 18). Jokes about women and gays are throughout, with nothing more to say than “you’re not the target audience for this film so we’ll make fun of you.” The whole script feels like it was made by a twelve year old hooked on sherbet, filling it with all things he thinks are cool. The previously mentioned strip club scene, which brings in needless titillation, as well as heaps of gore throughout (that makes Deadpool look like it was made for kids) it all seems juenvenile.

In the end, Hardcore Henry is exhausting. If you can turn your brain to the male teen setting (other films in this category are 300 and Grown Ups) then you might find some enjoyment. If not, then skip it.

Score: 3/10 If you’re old enough you to see it, you’re probably not its target audience.

London Has Fallen Review

Finally, it’s March. We’re going to be having some great films this month, Hail Caesar!, Anomalisa and even though I’m not looking forward to it, many film-goers are eagerly anticipating Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. But, before we can enjoy those, I have to clean house one last time for London Has Fallen.

London Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Alon Moni Aboutboul and is directed by Babak Najafi. The films follows secret service agent Mike Bannng (Butler) who must protect US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) after terrorists attack London.

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t seen Olympus Has Fallen. I’m much more of a White House Down kind of guy, but due to the former being a box office success and the latter flopping, we get an unnecessary sequel. But anyway, how does London Has Fallen stand as a film?

The answer is poorly. Very poorly.

The action scenes are passable. Most are just confusing jump-cut affairs, apart from one pretty good long take of a firefight in the London streets. Several explosions open the terrorist attack and it seems every single object in London has been doused in petrol and is a hair away from catching fire. Everything that can explode does explode, it starts to become almost comical. Director Babak Najafi seems to be giving Michael Bay a run for his money in the unnecessary explosions department, as we have around seven explosions delivered in a montage.

As the set-up for the film is the state funeral for the British Prime Minister, several heads of state are present in the film. Just in case we get confused between them, each one has a lapel pin of the flag of their nation attached to them, it’s like the film is holding your hand in case you get confused. The leaders on screen are thinly disguised versions of each the real life version, with Merkel, Berlusconi and Holland in all but name on screen. But as nearly all of them get wiped out in the opening ten minutes it falls to Gerard Butler as the world’s most Scottish American to save the day. He makes the British police and army look like bumbling fools, but that might be because Banning himself seems to be like a video game character in comparison, with the unlimited ammo and auto-aim cheats turned on.

The London displayed in the film was designed by someone who used tourist books as their research. The capital of England (not the capital of Britain, something the movie keeps getting wrong) is just made up of famous landmarks and tube stations. I guess this is to cater to the American audience, who only recognise London from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.

While the first film had rogue elements of North Korea attacking the United States, for the sequel the bad guys are rogue elements of Pakistan. The films tries to put some motive into why the bad guys are staging a terrorist attack but it never really comes together. It tries to make the audience see their side of the conflict, with drone strikes killing their families, but then the film just turns around and becomes pro-US again, instead of staying with what could have been a good theme of the context of war. What we get is another modern action film that ends up painting all people from the Middle East as terrorists. For the finale it goes overboard, with Gerard Butler torturing the second-in-command bad guy while explaining why America is the best country in the world. I was half expecting to see an eagle fly overhead with the US flag in its talons and it screeching “‘MURICA!” for the end credits.

In conclusion, London Has Fallen is just a mindless action film with not much to recommend. If you want something as dumb as this to work, get Roland Emmerich to direct it. At least he knows how to make this stuff entertaining.

Score: 3/10 I can’t remember a single scene composition from the film…and I watched it yesterday. That should tell you all you need to know.