If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Time for another blast through some recent home releases, and these ones have been put off for about a week or so due to other articles that needed preference. Today's entry will be a rather short one, but maybe for the third movie I'll provide more in-depth to the review.
Let us start with Safe House, starring Ryan Reynolds as a Government member named Matt who holds up a residence that is used to interrogate suspects or criminals, while keeping them off the public radar. He is one day asked to take in a guest... Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who is suspected of leaking Government information and has been on the run for several years. During the interrogation however, an armed group breaks into the safe house and Matt is forced to flee with Tobin. Matt must now lead Tobin to a new safe location while still being pursued, but Frost only has the intention of finding his moment to escape. At the same time, the CIA is following the progress of the events, and it becomes clear that there may be danger from the inside too.
It really isn't necessary to discuss the plot beyond that, as this is one you have seen a hundred times before. Skilled information gatherers, corruption, chase scenes, over-technical observation from a Government agency... it's all here. And there really isn't anything special here to take not of, the story is generic and doesn't take any surprising turns, the performances are mediocre at best, and the action doesn't sparkle or thrill very much at all. It also has an issue that is becoming more common lately as well, where the main characters are surviving immense car crashes and gunfights without barely a scratch to mention. This is the logic and realism of "24", distilled into a film that has a cut-and-paste script.
Brendan Gleason, who plays a mentor in the CIA, is pretty absent from the film and doesn't have much of a performance to provide. While Denzel is simply playing the trademark tricks he has done for years now. There are one or two moments of interesting action, but the main problem is that this just felt so generic and expected. It has a lot of continuity issues too that kind of throw the simple story into a spin, when it really isn't needed.
Even as a rental, there are far better titles that at least try to be different or excite you. But, there isn't anything terrible here to speak of, it just does exactly what you see on the DVD case. It's a Low Rental. (4.5/10)
Next up is Act of Valor, which for a very short moment, seemed like a great idea for a film. Take some U.S. Navy SEAL's and some realistic action sequences, and add them to a story where they are tracking down a terrorist group that plans to attack America using a new ceramic form of bomb vest. It all seems very interesting.... until you see the end result of their efforts.
This is at the heart of it, a big-budget commercial for Army recruitment and American pride, slapped onto a very dull and hap-hazard type of script. The SEAL members themselves provide some genuinely convincing action sequences, the guns look like the real deal, and it is all very... tactical. Just as you'd imagine them to act like. Some parts are pretty cool as well, but the nail drops hard when you see them talk, because they simply cannot act. The performances are just dire, with hardly any emotion or believability in what they say at all. And add that to a damp script and constant FPS-game style camera shots, and you have a recipe for disaster.
If this had been a true documentary, and devoted to being that, then this could have ended up working on some level. But turning it into the film that it is just fails on so many levels, and some scenes are so ridiculously bad, you start losing all connection to the film entirely. I have no doubt in the capabilities of these soldiers on the battlefield, but this was the wrong way to represent them, and it's just a Some Ol' Bullshit. (4/10) Expect this technique to be executed far better in the future, but for now, this is one I recommend you to avoid.
And now to the last film, which thank goodness I can say some good things about. In God Bless America, Joel Murray starts as a man who has a passionate hatred for a lot of media-related things that are making the U.S. bad. Some examples of this include biased political shows, reality programmes that only want to embarrass or show off the very worst in people etc. etc. After losing his job and being diagnosed with cancer, he finally reaches the end of his tether, and decided to take vengeance on these people. He steals his neighbour's car, and sets off on his journey.
The first half of the movie is played out as quite a dark comedy, but one that is genuinely entertaining and funny to witness. It makes you totally understand the point it is making, while never being too serious with the message, it makes you laugh off the discomfort. Joel Murray is very fun to watch here, and later as he is joined in his vengeance by a young girl played by Tara Lynne Barr, the comedy only gets better and better. Their constantly changing partnership brings a lot more depth to the film that you really wouldn't have expected, and leads to some viciously violent, but immensely gratifying scenes.
I wish I could end my review here, pat the film on its back for a job well done, and go...... except that I can't. Because in the second half, things get a little too..... serious. The movie swings on its comedy aspect, and instead turns into a sombre Indie film. And it does this so fast that it never clicks at all, you have a hard time adjusting to the change or connecting the two halves together. The end is quite a disappointment as well, where it literally turns off the camera without providing any sense of closure or message to take from.
Which is such a shame, because I was loving the first part of God Bless America. The violence, the comedy, the mirror it holds to the modern media-obsessed culture, it's all fantastic. But sadly, I cannot judge this movie as just one part, and must observe it as a whole. And on that front it ends up feeling very disconnected and misleading in providing a message. I like all the performances in here, the camerawork was on the mark, and the parodies on the TV shows are very funny indeed. But at the end of the day I will have to give it a Low Matinee (6.5/10). It is something I think you should see, at the very least for the first half. But it does have a lot of lost potential that I can't ignore.
Thanks for reading! ^__^