Contraband/Chronicle (2012) Review

Both of these reviews are long overdue and I honestly forgot about both of them so I just decided to combine them into two mini-reviews.

Contraband
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K Simmons
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur 
Rated: R

Here’s a movie that is such major wasted opportunity, the fact that it’s the remake of a foreign film is even more depressing. Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, reformed criminal and family man who used to be the world’s best smuggler. Once his young brother-in-law blows a job for the ridiculously cajun-accented Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) he must perform one last job. (Cue eye roll) I’ll give Wahlberg the benefit of the doubt and defend him as an actor because when he wants to be, he’s charming, likable, and a believable badass, but in movies like Contraband, his character is as flimsy as a sheet of cardboard. His character might as well be named Mark Wahlberg.  The movie is so A to B you know exactly what’s going to happen at the end in Act 1, which leaves the rest of the film devoid of tension and suspense. Wahlberg’s character is so good at what he does and so infallible that I never doubted that everything would work out for one second, even at the end of the film everything works out and Wahlberg walks away unscathed with all his problems solved, no repercussions and coming out ahead even richer than before without even knowing it. Must be nice. Even when there’s a shocking moment involving what might be a lead character’s death, it turns out they are actually perfectly fine. ugh. The movie is so afraid to not please it’s audience it takes no risks and tidies everything in a nice little bow and then bakes a cake on top it. Even the movie ends on the song “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” The film is a remake of the icelandic film “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” starring the director of Contraband. Maybe on a smaller scale with unknown actors the story flourishes but with a bigger budget, and well-known actors the story is just running through the motions. Even with a cast of extremely talented character actors like Foster, Ribisi, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas, and Diego Luna, it’s sad to see their teaming up led to something so mediocre and unoriginal. My biggest complaints? I seemed to be the only audience member to recognize a Jackson Pollock painting in the film, and Central America should really get some good sporting goods stores because those duct-tape face masks must be a pain-in-the ass to remove.

Rating: 4/10

Chronicle
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Directed by: Josh Trank
Rated: PG-13

It was just a matter of time before the found-footage genre broke away from horror films and tackled other sub-genres.  The superhero genre only seemed like a logical choice. An original superhero story mixed with the found footage aspect by using the excuse that kids document everything is a legitimate reason that works for a majority of the time. Cleverly dissecting superhero and modern teenage archetypes is a testament to Max Landis’ Large scale story told on a smaller budgeted scale. The use of practical effects, the simplistic storyline, and the likability of the three relatively unknown leads is what really pumps the heart of this film. DeHaan as the outcast Andrew and Jordan as the ultra-popular Steve are standouts and actually create a believable friendship between the three leads, making it feel realistic from the discovering of their superpowers to their inevitable downfall. The characters gain telepathic abilities that give reason for the camera floating around at different angles along side them but my biggest question was why? Obviously the film is footage recorded from a digital video camera so you can get away with creative low-budget CGI, but I thought the story was compelling enough on it’s own then always wonder the reasoning for a camera recording an intimate conversation. The last action set-piece is vicersal and clever but becomes too contrived in trying to discover different ways of having footage recorded from obscene angles. Smaller intimate moments like when the three friends pull pranks telepathically and when Dane’s character pulls a spider apart with his mind is when the movie has it’s brightest moments. I enjoyed Chronicle way more than I should have and surprisingly really enjoyed the three leads and where the story went, and serves as an interesting experiment, but please: No sequels, although I wouldn’t have minded a longer cut of the Jessie J – Price Tag singalong.

Rating: 7/10

Advertisements

The Mechanic (2011) Review

Jason Statham stars in another Transporter sequel. Oh wait, it’s actually a Charles Bronson remake from the 70’s, You’d probably never know it though. Statham maintains his dry, cool personality mixed with a brand of tough guy charisma and real martial-art skill, while he fights, shoots, and kills a bunch of nameless henchman with ridiculous motivations all in the name of the audience getting the most out of their $10 bucks worth at the cinema with some old school action entertainment.It might sound like I’m picking on ol’ J. Statham but it’s quite the opposite. Jason Statham is the closest we have to a modern day Stallone or Schwarzenegger. He gives cheap thrills masked by his chiseled abs and solid screen presence. Plus, Statham sticks to what he knows best, killing and karate chopping, maintaining minimal character development, and splashing us with mucho sex appeal. It’s a formula that is working and he sticks to it, and he’s all the better for it. You won’t see Statham babysitting kids in a family comedy anytime soon.

 

The movie stars Statham as a hitman aka “mechanic” who kills people in a way that it looks like an accident. After killing his mentor for some reason, by people I never cared to learned the names of, he meets his mentor’s estranged son, who he begins to train in the art of mechanic-ing. Now the concept of a hitman who kills his victims to make it look like accidents is a nice concept for a b-grade action flick. It has alot of potential. The screenplay takes some advantage of it, but ends up resorting to shootouts and fistacuffs. For such a perfect hitman, he ends up in alot of broad daylight action, never hiding his face or fingerprints, and hanging out with a loose cannon, trigger-happy trainee, whom causes Statham’s character boatloads of messy situations that don’t seem to affect him at all, even though he is completely disregarding everything he is teaching. Speaking of which, Ben Foster plays his young trainee and like usual, he definitely brings on the crazy. Foster is an odd actor,  he always plays the psychotic supporting characters in films, but the thing about his psychosis is that he still has a likeable persona regardless of his crazy eyes and expressions. Foster drinks, shoots, and smokes his way through the movie and is actually a good foil for Statham’s quiet and cold hitman character. The two make an intriguing duo and are fun to watch onscreen.

However, I did think it was amazing that spending a few weeks with Statham, Foster’s character had the stealth and precision of a NAVY SEAL. The only other character worth mentioning is Donald Sutherland in a throwaway role as Foster’s Dad and Statham’s mentor, who does something, I’m not quite sure what, but it makes the villians angry and also sits in a wheelchair. The Only reason I can think of having that character trait is when he signed on to the movie, he stipulated that he would act as long as he didn’t have to stand up at all. For all its negatives though, the movie is a nice little 90 minute action flick. The setup and climax are all by-the-numbers if you are familiar with the action genre. The main reason to see the film is that it does succeed in giving satisfying action sequences. One shootout in a hotel room is particulary exhilarating, and it’s fast paced gunplay and stunts are memorable. Another memorable scene is a bare-fisted fight between Foster’s character and a hulk assassin, that is particularly brutal and enjoyable. It’s also nice to see a movie that doesn’t copout with it’s rating. The Mechanic knows it’s an R-Rated flick and doesn’t hold back from showing headshots or tits. Statham has another fun action film to add to his resume, and while the film doesn’t display Guy Ritchie acting depth, it doesn’t have The Transporter zaniness either. The Mechanic finds a comfortable middle-ground.

Rating: 6/10