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The Hitman's Bodyguard Review

Very Good

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of Ryan Reynolds with Samuel L. Jackson is so entertaining that we never want it to end. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) keeps the action so insanely energetic that we're not quite sure where to look. But at the centre of the mayhem Reynolds and Jackson are having so much fun that we can't wipe the smiles off our faces.

Reynolds plays London-based security expert Michael, whose high-flying career was derailed two years ago and stubbornly refuses to get back on track. Then his Interpol agent ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung) offers him a job escorting the ruthless assassin Darius (Jackson) from his British prison cell to The Hague, where he's needed to testify against murderous Belarusian warlord Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) in a war crimes trial. So far, Dukhovich's militia has made sure no witnesses have made it to the courtroom, so Michael has his work cut out for him. Meanwhile, Darius is trying to get in touch with his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), who is in prison in Amsterdam and lovingly calls him an unkillable cockroach.

All of this unfolds at a breakneck pace, with a flurry of hyper-violent shootouts, chases and fistfights. Cars fly in every direction as passers-by run for cover, bullets fly in every direction, and pretty much everything on-screen explodes into a huge ball of flames. It's so cartoonish that it's impossible to take even remotely seriously. So we just laugh along with Ryan and Jackson, as they bicker and fight, then bond over flashbacks into their amusingly messy love lives. Both are swaggering alpha-males who don't take instructions from anyone, so their interaction is feisty and funny. The supporting cast of glowering villains and secretive agents barely gets a chance to register, although Hayek nearly walks off with the movie in a riotously scene-stealing turn that leaves us wanting her to get a film of her own.

Continue reading: The Hitman's Bodyguard Review

London Has Fallen Review

Weak

It didn't seem possible, but somehow this action movie is even more preposterous than its predecessor, 2013's over-serious Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler is back as a Secret Service agent protecting US President Aaron Eckhart, this time in a Taken-style scenario in which they leave America only to be immediately thrown into the middle of a massive terrorist attack. But the script is so lazy that there isn't a moment when any of this is remotely believable.

Events are put into motion when the British prime minister dies of a heart attack and security services only have a few days to lock down London so that the world's leaders can arrive for the funeral at St Paul's Cathedral. Mike (Butler) flies in with his boss Lynn (Bassett) on Air Force One, accompanying President Asher (Eckhart) and a platoon of bodyguards. Then just before the funeral, a carefully orchestrated series of bombings and gun attacks take out five heads of state. Of course, Mike and Lynn get Asher out of the fray, but an army of bad guys led by terror mastermind Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter) pursue them across the city. Back in Washington, Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and the panicky cabinet (including Haley, Forster and Leo) watch all of this unfold on video screens and coordinates a counter-attack.

Even with four screenwriters, the movie makes no real sense. And worse than that, the filmmakers never take advantage of the story's potential or the heavy-hitting cast. There's a line about how all of London's landmarks have been destroyed, but the on-screen destruction is limited to just one of Westminster Abbey's towers. The depiction of world leaders is laughably cliched. And the award-winning actors have nothing to do but stand there looking worried. By contrast, Butler charges around shooting and stabbing everybody who moves in a display of shockingly brutal machismo. Eckhart is more believably reluctant to join in and dispense some violence, but of course he does.

Continue reading: London Has Fallen Review

Survivor Review


Good

Unusually gritty and grounded, this terrorism thriller avoids the pitfalls of most overwrought action movies by creating characters and action situations that are unusually believable, even if the plot itself feels badly undercooked. The problem is that there isn't a clear sense of what's at stake here, because screenwriter Philip Shelby insists on continually blurring the mystery by withholding key details until he's ready to reveal them. So the cleverly played old-style suspense never quite pays off.

It opens at the US Embassy in London, where new security chief Kate (Milla Jovovich) has been alerted to the fact that terrorists are trying to get visas to enter America. Working with the ambassador (Angela Bassett) her team leaders (Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster), Kate narrows in on a suspicious doctor (Roger Rees) who's an expert in explosive gasses. But a shocking bombing stops her short, framing her as the villain. Now she's being chased not only by the Americans, but also a British inspector (James D'Arcy) and a ruthless assassin known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan). And Kate knows that she's the only one who can stop the nefarious plot, whatever it might be.

This is one of those films that enjoyably pushes its central character over the brink, so we can't help but root for Kate to get out of this seriously messy situation and save the day. Jovovich plays her in a plausible way as a capable woman who has no choice but to fight back and try to survive, because she's the only one who knows that she's not the real threat here. Everyone else is extremely shadowy, although McDermott gets to show a heroic side, as does the terrific Frances de la Tour as the only embassy staff member who believes that Kate is the good guy. Meanwhile, Brosnan gives a remarkably effective performance as a cold-blooded killer.

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The Expendables 3 Review


Good

Striking a tone somewhere between the po-faced original and the silly Part 2, this rampaging action nonsense is badly overcrowded and chaotic, but there's plenty of comedy and whizzy stuntwork to keep the audience entertained. It of course helps a lot that the film is packed to the rafters with iconic actors and lively newcomers. And their sassy dialogue helps make up for the idiotic plot.

It opens with a prison break, as Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and his team (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews) rescue their old cohort Doc (Wesley Snipes) then head off on a mysterious mission that turns out to involve their presumed-dead nemesis Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who is targeting Barney's team. So Barney and his pal Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) set about finding four new commandoes (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz) to take on Stonebanks, but of course nothing goes as plan. For the final face-off they're joined by the old team, CIA boss Drummer (Harrison Ford), former colleagues Trench and Yin (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li), and chatty newcomer Galgo (Antonio Banderas).

The ever-increasing cast means that some characters can't help but be pushed into the shadows (Crews and Li are barely in this film), while others hover around the edges of scenes injecting moments of sarcastic wit. Each of the characters gets his or her moment of eye-popping action, as the film lurches from set-piece to set-piece in a whirl of bombs, bullets and blades. All of this is fun because the actors are gleefully refusing to take any of this seriously. The scene-stealers this time are Gibson, terrific as the swaggering villain, and Banderas, who's hilarious as the only person who can string a sentence together.

Continue reading: The Expendables 3 Review

Homefront Review


OK

With a powerhouse cast and an anaemic script, this violent revenge thriller never quite gets off the ground. It's watchable for the character detail, but resolutely refuses to make any logical sense as it charges through its corny plot. Fortunately the slick filmmaking and charismatic acting hold our attention, adding a hint of sophistication to the bluntly brutal story.

It's set in the Louisiana bayou, where former undercover agent Phil (Statham) is trying to have a quiet life with his young daughter (Vidovic). But the locals are wary of outsiders, and a schoolyard confrontation escalates into a feud between Phil and a resentful woman (Bosworth) who calls her gangster brother Gator (Franco) for help in getting even. Gator quickly discovers Phil's past, then enlists his trashy pal Sheryl (Ryder) to contact Phil's old enemies. But as these ruthless thugs descend on the bayou, they fail to take into consideration the fact that Phil has nearly super-human fighting skills.

There's plenty of possibility in this rather tired premise, but Stallone's boneheaded script never bothers to make things believable, skipping over key details and indulging in trite coincidences. Fleder manages to obscure this with his fluid, pacey direction, and the cast is unusually good for such a simplistic thriller. The charismatic Statham doesn't stretch himself much, occasionally attempting a bit of real acting in the father-daughter scenes (his romance with LeFevre's teacher is never developed). Bosworth and Ryder add some unpredictable edges to their stereotypical roles. And it's Franco who steals the film as an unusually thoughtful redneck thug. Although his moral quandary doesn't put off any of the nastiness.

Continue reading: Homefront Review

The Expendables 2 Review


Good
Although there's been no attempt to tone down the first film's bloodthirsty hyperviolence or dim-witted plotting, this sequel is a massive improvement simply because they have fun with the premise. As a result, so do we.

Barney (Stallone) and his team of ageing mercenaries are coerced by Church (Willis) into heading into hostile territory to retrieve a top secret electronic gadget. Most shocking is the fact that Church insists that a woman, Maggie (Yu), joins them. And when things go wrong, Barney leads the gang on a grisly revenge mission against a nasty villain (Van Damme) who's callously putting humanity in peril. Along the way they're joined by Church and Trench (Schwarzenegger), and get help from lone-wolf Booker (Norris).

Continue reading: The Expendables 2 Review

The Contract Review


OK
How'd a reasonably-big ($25 million) budget picture starring John Cusack and Morgan Freeman and directed by twice-Oscar-nominated Bruce Beresford go absolutely nowhere? I'd never even heard of The Contract until the DVD showed up at my house. I wager you're the same... and few will even see it on home video, either.

The story begins with decent promise as Freeman is revealed to be a stellar hitman, only his cover is finally blown and the many enemies he's made over the years come after him. He escapes an elaborate assassination and runs into the wilderness, only to be apprehended (because he's in handcuffs) by a camping father (John Cusack) and his son. While the trio attempts to get back to civilization to turn Freeman in, they're pursued by the bad guys and the good guys, and they still have to deal with harsh terrain surrounding them. Beresford's setup starts strong but soon peters out and gets repetitive as Cusack faces down one impossible situation after another, but never with much finesse. It's just running around on a mountain, often in the dark: The final showdown takes place completely and absurdly without lighting and pretty much seals the movie's doom.

Continue reading: The Contract Review

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Les Weldon Movies

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

London Has Fallen Movie Review

London Has Fallen Movie Review

It didn't seem possible, but somehow this action movie is even more preposterous than its...

Survivor Movie Review

Survivor Movie Review

Unusually gritty and grounded, this terrorism thriller avoids the pitfalls of most overwrought action movies...

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The Expendables 3 Movie Review

The Expendables 3 Movie Review

Striking a tone somewhere between the po-faced original and the silly Part 2, this rampaging...

Homefront Movie Review

Homefront Movie Review

With a powerhouse cast and an anaemic script, this violent revenge thriller never quite gets...

The Expendables 2 Movie Review

The Expendables 2 Movie Review

Although there's been no attempt to tone down the first film's bloodthirsty hyperviolence or dim-witted...

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