Friday, September 25, 2020

Tag: Idris Elba

Finding Dory (2016)*

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Title: Finding Dory
Rating: PG
Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse and Bob Peterson
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy and Idris Elba
Release Date: 6/17/2016
Running Time: 97 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

“Finding Dory” welcomes back to the big screen everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang Dory (voice
of Ellen DeGeneres), who’s living happily in the reef with Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) and Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence). When Dory suddenly remembers that she has a family out there who may be looking for her, the trio takes off on a life-changing adventure across the ocean to California’s prestigious Marine Life Institute, a rehabilitation center and aquarium. In an effort to find her mom (voice of Diane Keaton) and dad (voice of Eugene Levy), Dory enlists the help of three of the MLI’s most intriguing residents: Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), a cantankerous octopus who frequently gives employees the slip; Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who is convinced his biological sonar skills are on the fritz; and Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark. Deftly navigating the complex inner workings of the MLI, Dory and her friends discover the magic within their flaws, friendships and family.


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Dedication: This film is dedicated to all our families – of every kind. You keep us swimming.

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Jungle Book, The (2016)*

Title: The Jungle Book (aka. The Jungle Book 3D)
Rating: PG
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Marks
Based on the book by: Rudyard Kipling
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken and Garry Shandling
Release Date: 4/15/2016
Running Time: 105 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

“The Jungle Book” is an all-new, live-action epic adventure about Mowgli, a man-cub raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan, who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera, and the free-spirited bear Baloo. Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa, a python whose seductive
voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie, who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.


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Zootopia Review – 4 out of 5 Stars

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With the recent issues in our country, you would expect a lot more mainstream films to tackle race in America. Between smaller issues like #Oscarssowhite and larger problems like the shooting in Ferguson, racial equality is a serious discussion that needs to happen in our country. But besides maybe Straight Outta Compton, it’s rare to find big budget movies that are willing to tackle this story head on in a competent way. This may seem like an odd way to start to a review for an animated kid’s movie but believe me when I make this next statement. Zootopia is a fantastic movie not just because it’s a funny children’s film and a clever addition to the mystery genre, it’s also a fantastic movie because it manages to create one of the most intelligent and bold discussions on race that I’ve seen a movie do in years.

In the city of Zootopia, the buildings, jobs and attitudes very much resemble the world of our own. The only major difference is that this world is run by anthropomorphic mammals rather than human beings. Predators and prey must live together under the same roof and deal with each other despite their differences.

ZOOTOPIA. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

For our main character Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), her lifetime goal was to become a police officer. This proves to be a challenge because she’s a rabbit (prey) in a workplace dominated by bears, lions and wolves (predators). When she finally gets recruited, she finds out that the job isn’t exactly what she hoped it would be as she has to face discrimination and scrutiny from the other officers on the force. A missing person’s case gives Judy 48 hours to prove to her colleagues that she has what it takes to solve a crime. If she doesn’t get the job done in that time, she has to resign. With the help of a con artist fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Hopps searches the wide, massive city of Zootopia for clues.

Before I explain my opening statement, I want to address some of the other things that made this such an entertaining film. For starters, the world inside of Zootopia gives directors Bryon Howard and Rich Moore a lot of leeway to create this expansive and ambitious landscape. I love it in movies and shows when you can tell how much detail went into the world building. The way they use the different animals is endlessly unique and there’s so much layers to the city of Zootopia from the billboards to the cities to the newspapers. You can find everything from a shrew that’s a crime boss protected by security guard polar bears to a sloth that runs a DMV. There’s an ice cream shop where elephants scoop ice cream with their trunks and there’s a drug lab that’s run by rams. I’m really reminded of something like Brazil or even Futurama where everywhere you look you can find concepts and characters that you want to learn more about. You can literally point at one area of the screen at one point in time and find something that deserves further acknowledgement. It helps that the animation for this film is the best I’ve seen for a Disney film since Wreck-it Ralph. One of the amazing things cinema can do is that it can build places that you can explore from multiple angles on repeat viewings; Zootopia has definitely succeeded at this.

The voice acting for this film is wonderful. Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman have great chemistry as Hopps and Wilde and they infuse there characters with charm and sincerity. They nail the funnier lines of dialogue and when the film gets darker, they make the drama feel sincere and warranted. In a particular scene, Wilde has to tell Hopps about a dark thing that happened to him in his past and it feels as authentically tragic as the darkest moments of a drama like The Big Short or Boyhood. They’re supported by a huge supporting cast who make the most of the wide variety of characters. Tommy Chong playing a stoner yak and Idris Elba playing a stern buffalo that’s the chief of police are only two of several wonderful choices they made with the ensemble.

Finally, I have to discuss the outstanding score done here by Michael Giacchino. Between this and Inside Out, Giacchino has quickly become one of my favorite film composers working today. Whatever he does, he manages to make huge, breathtaking compositions that fit perfectly with the films without becoming too sentimental or overbearing. The music he does here reminds me of those old scores from the Hitchcock films and it helps to give Zootopia the feeling of one of those classic, large scale mysteries. The use of drums and a huge orchestra makes the movie sounds big and grandiose in a way that can’t be found in most major studio blockbusters today. I would personally take one soundtrack by Michael Giacchino over twenty of Thomas Newman’s sappy, phoned in soundtracks any day.

So now that I have gotten these basic things mentioned, what is it about Zootopia that makes it such a daring discussion on race? First off, the movie takes place in a world that doesn’t have any of the same people as our own. This allows them to take on race in a way that’s more abstract and less restrained. They can talk about the problems of the time while creating a work of art.

ZOOTOPIA – Pictured (L-R): Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

And the problems in Zootopia do a great job presenting the problems in the US today. They present these animals of different types being forced to live and work together and they show the different misconceptions and beliefs that these animals have with other animals. For example, the rabbits see the foxes as savage liars who can’t do anything right. Hopps’ parents tell Hopps at the beginning that it was scientifically proven that foxes are born dangerous because it’s in there DNA. In a scene where Hopps and Wilde are arguing, Hopps’ immediate reaction is to pull a weapon on him when he moves towards her in a specific way. On the other side of the coin, the rabbits are seen as weaker and more pathetic. They can’t be police officers because they aren’t as strong and powerful as the other officers around them. When the officers do get a rabbit officer, they celebrate it as this big achievement but they don’t put her in the line of duty or give her a job that isn’t invisible. As Hopps puts it, they make her the token rabbit. Hopps and Wilde are only two animals in a city of prejudices lying underneath the disguise of thousands of animals living together in harmony. The movie constantly mirrors how people of different genders and colors are viewed in America but it does so using a blank canvas of opportunity for its world. The movie is totally different yet totally accurate at the same time.

The other terrific thing Zootopia does in handling race is in how it humanizes racists. In a lot of movies about race, it feels incredibly easy to make all the racists these big monsters and the oppressed these wonderful, beautiful angels who are practically perfect in every way. Don’t get me wrong, racism is a horrible thing and it would be incredible if we could live in a world without it. At the same time, it’s always seemed ineffective and hypocritical to me to simply portray racist people as the one dimensional villains. These are people who are very misguided, but they’re still human beings. They have friends, they go to work and they love just like the rest of us. And even though we might not personally want to believe it, sometimes we can all in one way or another be unintentionally racist to someone else. Racism is a struggle humans have to deal with, but if there is happy ending to our struggle with racism, the answer isn’t to attack and ignore every single person who disagrees with our world beliefs. Everyone has the potential be racist and the world doesn’t exist in black and white.

At first, Hopps seems like the clear hero who has to fight against discrimination. But as the movie goes on, her prejudices are revealed and it turns out that she can be just as judgmental as the people who were attacking her earlier on the film. The movie has no clear hero when it comes to racial tension, both sides are equally bad. And at the same time, both sides can be equally enlightened. A bully who beats up Hopps in her childhood is shown later on the movie to be a farmer working with her parents. So as the movie goes continues, the answer to the problem isn’t a fight or a self-righteous speech. The solution is the admittance of our errors and the hope that through simply hanging out and talking with each other, the misconceptions in our society can go away. Like Mannix and Warren in The Hateful Eight, the difficulties of racism are thrown away by the ability for two largely different people with different viewpoints to work together and see beyond their own opinions to share a common goal. Hopps and Wilde have demeaning opinions of each other that are solved by not just ignoring the problem until it hopefully goes away, but by solving the mystery. It’s bizarre to have to say this, but like the bloody Tarantino movie, the Disney film has found an honest and helpful way for us to view race in this country. In the ending, Hopps view of Zootopia isn’t as perfect and clear as she had originally thought when she was child. But at the same time, she sees it as a place where amazing things can still get accomplished.

Zootopia is a movie that I continue to love the more I consider it. Beyond the weighty stance on race, the film is a clever buddy cop movie set in a beautiful, complex world that I wouldn’t mind returning to time and again. Let me put it this way, I would watch the hell out of a TV show involving these two characters going around the city solving crimes. And it only adds that the film brought up racism in a kids movie with more nuance and depth than Crash, The Blind Side and Driving Miss Daisy combined. Every year we need one movie to come along to be the first amazing movie to get released. In 2014 it was The Grand Budapest Hotel, in 2015 it was Ex Machina and in 2016 that film is Zootopia.

Rating:(4/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 3/4/2016

Rating: PG

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk and Shakira

Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush

Screenplay by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon and Dan Fogelman

Zootopia (2016)*

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Title: Zootopia
Rating: PG
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Written by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon and Dan Fogelman
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk and Shakira
Release Date: 3/4/2016
Running Time: 108 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde, to solve the mystery.


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Special thanks to Frank S. for this submission

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Beasts of No Nation Review – 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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From a distance, there’s not a lot of things that this film does that would set it up to be a terrific movie about war.

As the title hints, Beasts of No Nation is a film taking place in an unnamed country, presumed to be in Africa. In the same way, many of the main characters go unnamed and the conflicts and the different groups that are fighting are close to impossible to follow. However, it’s through this purposeful lack in clarity that Cary Fukunaga creates a brutally honest depiction of a soldier that American cinema has been lacking for years. Beasts of No Nation is an atmospheric journey into human darkness that allows the audience to explore the mind of its protagonist without spelling anything out for you or rewarding you with easy answers to challenging questions.

At the beginning of Beasts of No Nation, Agu (Abraham Attah) is a young boy living in a small village in Africa. His simple life is torn apart when an army invades his town and kills his father and older brother. Not long after he escapes, he’s captured by a different rebel group led by an enigmatic figure simply called The Corporal (Idris Elba). The Corporal sees potential in Agu and recruits him to become a soldier for his army. In joining up, Agu enters into a nightmarish journey that will make him question his morality, beliefs and sanity.

At this point, making a war movie that’s original feels difficult. That’s not to say there aren’t any recent ones that have been solid but it’s becoming a genre that’s very easy to predict. Going into a war movie, you know what it will most likely be about. One side will be the hero and one side will be the villain. You know what each side is fighting for and you know how the story will conclude. Even if a movie tries to represent a more grimy depiction of war, many of these things are still expected nonetheless. Though I to some extent enjoyed Fury and American Sniper, those are two movies that are fairly easy to predict with what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it.

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In everything decision Fukunaga makes; he goes out of his to make sure that all of the things mentioned above never make an appearance in Beasts of No Nation. No side of the war is shown to be any better than the other. You could never tell the political differences between the sides. Most of the time it’s never explained why they’re fighting or what it is that they’re fighting for. By the end of the movie, you don’t feel that the conflict within the country is anywhere close to being finished. The title gives away that we don’t even know where it is that they’re fighting. The movie takes very general things that you would just expect in this type of movie and it refuses to give the audience these comforts. There are all of these things that are going on and the audience has to pick up on them while being mostly in the dark, this forces the audience to use their brain. There’s a moment where The Commandant does something unthinkable to Agu and instead of showing it or shouting out what just happened, the director expects us to piece together subtle, quiet details in the following scene to create a bigger, more grotesque picture of thing what just took place. The movie is purposefully quiet so that you can pick up on the story by exploring the surroundings of the world it creates with its visuals and performances. This hits down on why this is such an intelligent and ambitious film, we are finally getting a look at war through the eyes of the person fighting it rather than someone looking above it all.

There’s no generic narration or characters that simply exist to explain what is going on. In fact, the only other people you have to go off of besides Agu are his deaf comrade Stryker and the drunk, lost soul that is The Commandant. We feel just as confused and horrified at what is going on as Agu is because we’re right there with him as they go from town to town committing terrifying acts of violence. The bits and pieces that you do pick up on are only shot from the eyes of the main character. Much like Agu, we have no real idea why we’re doing this or what any of this means. The only real solution we have is the same one Agu is given which is to keep going down this rabbit hole of destruction. Cary Fukunaga has finally given us a war movie that cuts through everything and presents War as what it actually is from the perspective of someone within it. To Agu and to us, war becomes endless, meaningless and unsatisfying chaos. They wander from place to place serving the deeds of higher ups that only care about them when they need them to perform their dirty work. A great scene shows how much of a fish out of water they are whenever they are forced to come into contact with something involving legitimate politics. Everything about this movie from the title to the location to the filmmaking was to set up to be the most basic, intimate presentation of war humanly possible and whether you like it or not, this story that we follow and the frustration we get while watching feels like the most accurate representation of what battle actually is.

More than just war through the eyes of a soldier, the movie also does an incredible job capturing war through the eyes of a child. Many have discussed how visually beautiful the movie is despite the atrocious acts taking place within it. The cinematography makes every scene look like its taking place in a dreamlike, other worldly place. Whimsical doesn’t seem like the type of word you would use for a film in which the characters snort a mixture of cocaine and gun powder and yet I can’t think of a more perfect description for how they have made the world look in this movie. To understand why Fukunaga did this, you first have to understand that one of the biggest struggles Agu faces in the movie is in maintaining his innocence. The deep tragedy of the film is that Agu is still a young boy and his outlook on the world is still very vast and naïve. There are many things he is still learning about life and he is only beginning to comprehend many of these things throughout. For the movie to be a realistic portrayal of Agu’s experiences, you still need to show this youthful nature that’s within him even when he’s being asked to grow up very quickly. The way the movie shows Agu’s true spirit is in the breathtaking cinematography that highlights the vast wonder of its surroundings even when it contains disgusting madness. Cary Fukunaga shows this story as it is taking place in the mind of our young protagonist.

Lastly, I would be remiss to not discuss the two outstanding performances of Idris Elba and Abraham Attah. For years, we have been waiting for Elba to finally give a performance as strong as his television work on Luther and we have finally gotten that performance with the fascinating Commander. The Commander is an amazing character because he does so many unforgivable things from murder to molestation and yet you still find yourself sympathizing with him. You can get the sense that he has come to a point in his life where he can’t do anything other than what he’s doing right now. He has followed this road of blood for so long that he can’t return to a normal life and it is presumed by the end that he will continue fighting until he dies. He would rather hold on to his army for as long as possible than help out in finding some conclusion to the war. The Commander says multiple times that he sees himself in Agu so it also makes me wonder if The Commander is set up as a warning to Agu of what he can become if he doesn’t escape. This part gives Elba the chance to do two things he’s terrific at, being really charismatic and being very intimidating.

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The ultimate triumph of the movie is the breathtaking breakthrough performance here by Abraham Attah as Agu. For someone who’s never been in a movie before, he gives the performance of a master actor. The character doesn’t have as much dialogue so it relies on the actor to really provide humanity into these quiet parts. Attah sinks into the part and he makes the most out of every scene. It’s in the more quiet moments that don’t rely on dialogue that he shines and you get to see the sorrow and loss and the dismay that’s hiding in this young boys eyes. The final speech he gives at the end of the movie when he talks about whether or not he is a good person is cinema at its most powerful. Abraham Attah sinks into the part so perfectly that you often forget that what you’re watching is a character and not the real experiences of a child soldier in Africa.

Beasts of No Nation is an absorbing, powerful portrait of the mind of a soldier. This movie is filled with such rich filmmaking, writing and acting that I fear I have only skimmed the surface of the film with this review. It’s certainly a challenging movie to watch and at times I wished I was watching it in a theater instead of at home on Netflix. But if you sit down and let yourself become absorbed in the surreal yet grounded battlefield Fukunaga created, you’ll be moved by the surprising places it takes you. If you have a Netflix account, you have no excuse to miss out on this one.

Rating:(4.5/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 10/16/2015

Rating: NR

Cast: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor and Idris Elba

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Screenplay by: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Based on the Book by: Uzodinma Iweala

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

BeastsOfNoNationPoster

Title: Beasts of No Nation
Rating: NR
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Based on the novel by: Uzodinma Iweala
Starring: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor and Idris Elba
Release Date: 10/16/2015
Running Time: 137 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.


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Note: “Tell the world children are not soldiers at www.takepart.com/nonation

Special thanks to Frank S. for this submission


RocknRolla (2008)*

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Title: RocknRolla
Rating: R
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson and Idris Elba
Release Date: 10/31/2008
Running Time: 114 minutes

IMDb

In London, a real-estate scam puts millions of pounds up for grabs, attracting some of the city’s scrappiest tough guys and its more established underworld types, all of whom are looking to get rich quick.


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Special thanks to Malfoy for this submission


The Gunman Review – 2 out of 5 Stars

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Before I get started, I should probably warn you that this wasn’t the strongest weekend for mainstream releases in movies so if you wanted to watch something then I recommend you try staying home. That is, unless you are living next to a smaller theater that will be playing Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter. I saw this gem a little under a year ago at the Seattle International Film Festival and just recently it got a release in a few select cinemas. The film is a heartbreaking and intense psychological thriller that contains some of the best music and cinematography I’ve seen for a movie in years. It’s so good that it even got a nomination for best director and best actress at The Independent Spirit Awards months before its release date. If you haven’t already seen it, I deeply urge you to check this film out.

Aside from his crazy speech at the Oscars, Sean Penn hasn’t been up to much lately. He’s clearly a talented actor but it seems as though he’s had other things on his plate recently with his heavy humanitarian work in different parts of the world. But for the first time in a couple of years, Sean Penn is back playing the lead in a big budget studio film that also happens to have been partially written by him. It’s a shame that his big return is The Gunman, a well-acted misfire dragged down by a terrible script.

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In The Gunman, Sean Penn plays Jim, an ex-soldier that fought in The Democratic Republic of the Congo who made a mistake in carrying out a specific assassination. To keep the mission a secret, he had to leave his girlfriend Annie as well as his home behind. Eight years later, a group of henchmen find and try to kill him. After killing all of them, he goes on a journey to find out who sent these people after him. Along the way, he meets up with his old military friends Stanley (Ray Winstone) and Cox (Mark Rylance), along with Annie and her fiancé Felix (Javier Bardem).

Before I get into what I thought was so bad about this, I will mention there are a few things about this movie that I did respect. For example, I thought it was ambitious of them to try to center the story around such a complex and difficult subject as the violent conflicts in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a topic that I (along with most people I assume) know very little about and with this, the writers and directors had a chance to bring this to light in an eye opening way. The movie doesn’t end up doing that at all but it still deserves a little credit for being a better set up than telling the same story with yet another retired bank robber or member of the mob. This at least had the chance of being an informative political thriller.

I still don’t think I buy Sean Penn as a badass action star after this, but when he has to act in this he gives it his all. His performance here kind of reminds me of Bryan Cranston in Godzilla in that Penn is trying to give his heavy and genuine performance in this very standard, cut-rate action thriller. There’s this one very simple scene where Jim is thanking a man for saving his life. With a lesser actor this would’ve been a quick line that was thrown into the script but here he makes the scene surprisingly heartfelt. Penn is doing such a great job that you wish he was giving this kind of performance in a movie that actually deserved it. For as hard as he tried, Penn’s fantastic work here didn’t save the movie. But to his credit, he tried as hard as he could.

Javier Bardem was also really entertaining in the couple of scenes that he’s in. I think he’s become one of those actors where he can make a weak movie entertaining when he’s on screen and he can make a great movie incredible when he’s on screen. He’s got one of the most poorly written characters in the movie but whenever he’s on screen he’s a lot of fun to watch. He and Sean Penn are going to be in a movie later this year called The Last Face and I hope that that movie is more up to the type of movie they both deserve.

The film aims to be an action thriller and while the film fails at the thriller part, the action scenes in this movie are pretty good. The fights are never over edited and there wasn’t any shaky cam. The director of this film was Pierre Morel and since he directed the first Taken film, you probably know what type of action you’re going to get in this movie. If you’re into that raw and brutal action style that’s known in Taken or The Raid, then you’ll probably find at least a little entertainment in this film. I will give The Gunman that it is one of the bloodiest mainstream action movies I’ve seen recently. These are the moments where it feels like Morel got to shine and its clear he put the most effort into action instead of the substance, which unfortunately is supposed to take up a larger part of the movie.

So yes, there were plenty of things that could’ve made this film at least decent and I can even see how at one time such a talented cast would’ve looked at the concept and thought this was a good idea. Unfortunately, the film stumbles hard in the area that perhaps matters the most when you’re making a geopolitical thriller, the script.

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The movie takes its interesting concept and weighs it down to the most cliché, phony story you can think of. As I mentioned earlier, Jim being an ex-soldier in The Democratic Republic of The Congo is the only thing separating this from every other story about a man who has to return to dark, violent past. When the movie tries to throw in its possibly interesting political storyline, it comes off less as a coherent part of the story and more as lazily thrown in bit of exposition that’s too hard to follow and ultimately unnecessary to follow by the end of the film. The basic story ends up being the equivalent of a totally predictable, direct to DVD action thriller combined with the charm and emotion of reading a Wikipedia article. When the film ends, you’re given all of these different poorly told bits of information that lead you to nowhere. You could’ve just as easily understood the story half-watching this at home while trying to work on your computer or play a game on your mobile device. For the overly complicated story line they went with, I still know very little about the conflict they were trying to present here.

And when the movie isn’t being a sloppy political thriller, it’s making sure to check off every single action cliché. Is there an old mentor to the main character who ends up dying heroically near the end? Check. Is there an unrealistic and underwritten happy ending? Check. Is the villain an old friend of the main character from his dark past? Check. Does some of the dialogue come off as laughable in how pretentious it is? Check. The main character even has a poorly thrown in illness that only matters to the story when it’s convenient for it.

Hands down the worst character in the film is Jim’s ex-girlfriend Alice. She has got to be made up of every single, terrible, misogynistic stereotype you can put into a female in an action movie. Let’s pretend that you had a girlfriend or boyfriend who disappeared without telling you anything. Eight years later you’re married to someone new and this person shows up out of the blue to say they’re sorry. What would you do? Perhaps you would get angry at them, tell them to leave or at least slowly rebuild your relationship with this person over time. What does Alice do? One scene after finding out he’s alive, she goes to his hotel and has sex with him. There’s no conversation between them or anything, she sees him again at a restaurant with her husband and then cut to them making out. It’s extremely unrealistic and it’s one of the ways her character is disposable to this film. She only shows up in the film when they need something for the villains to point a gun at to motivate Sean Penn’s character.

Lastly, I want to mention this movies ridiculous waste of actor Idris Elba. Every bit of marketing for this movie had him highlighted as the second most important actor to Sean Penn. He shows up when the movie is almost over and he is on screen for maybe four minutes tops. He plays this detective character that could’ve easily been played by anyone. The only thing he offers to the movie is a conversation with Penn that features a hilariously, forced usage of treehouse metaphors. Here’s just one of the incredible pieces of dialogue that you can hear in this scene.

“You don’t want to climb this tree house Jim. There’s some termites in it and they aren’t just going to bite your hands.”

I’m paraphrasing a tad but that’s basically it. They hired one of the most acclaimed actors in Hollywood for an absolutely useless part. Idris Elba is in The Gunman in the same way Liam Neeson is in Battleship. At least this part probably paid for his vacation before his part in Beasts of No Nation.

For much as I hated the screenplay, The Gunman wasn’t a movie I left the theater hating. There are some impressive action scenes and Sean Penn does a great job. This is one of those cases where a film isn’t a bad as it could’ve been but it also isn’t as good as it could’ve been. The compelling concept is wasted on endless clichés, forgettable characters and some pretty horrendous dialogue throughout. The only people who I would recommend this to are maybe fans of Taken as they might be able to get some minor thrills out of the brief action scenes. Maybe if you had a filmmaker like Kathryn Bigelow or Paul Greengrass handling the story then you could’ve ended up with a great thriller but bits and pieces of potential aren’t able to keep the movie from falling flat on its back.

Rating:(2/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 3/20/2015

Rating: R

Cast: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance

Directed by: Pierre Morel

Screenplay by: Don MacPherson, Sean Penn and Pete Travis

Based on the novel by: Jean-Patrick Manchette

Gunman, The (2015)

TheGunmanPoster

Title: The Gunman
Rating: R
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Don MacPherson and Pete Travis
Based on the novel by: Jean-Patrick Manchette
Stars: Sean Penn, Idris Elba and Jasmine Trinca
Release Date: 3/20/2015
Running Time: 115 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

A sniper on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.


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Note: One of the action sequences takes place in Barcelona, in a stadium during a bullfight. There’s a note in the credits that says Barcelona is anti-bullfighting and there have been no bullfights in the city since 2011.


No Good Deed (2014)

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TITLE: No Good Deed

RELEASE DATE: 9/12/2014

RATING: PG-13

An unstable escaped convict terrorizes a woman who is alone with her two children.

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Official Site

Amazon

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No