If it's crap ... We'll tell you
DERAILED (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Clive Owen can't seem to catch a break. Here's an actor classy and with enough charisma to have been on the (very) short list to become James Bond, and here he is in a film with Jennifer Aniston. Admittedly, Swedish director Mikael Håfström (don't ask me to say it out loud) put together a reasonably competent crime thriller of a film, he just made a crap con movie. It's supposed to be a surprise (sorry) but I can't imagine ANYONE not being able to see almost from the get-go that some folks are pulling a long-con on hapless family man Charles Schine (Owen). When he has a meet-cute with Jane, a well-to-do also married business woman on the train (Aniston), it seems like what we've got here is another hand-wringing 'affair' movie, but they don't get so much as half unclothed before Phillipe (Vincent Cassel) busts into the run-down hotel room they'd chosen for their sordid exchange of fluids, and not only assaults and robs them both, but rapes Jane right in front of the decidedly un-Bond-like Charles. Jane doesn't want to notify the police because she doesn't want her moneybags husband to find out she was shacking up, but as the stakes mount when Phillipe starts blackmailing Charles for cash, it starts to feel to him that perhaps discretion in this case is NOT the better part of virtue. Unfortunately for the viewer, you're practically screaming at Charles all the way through to stop being such a dumbfuck, and by the time he finally gets a lightbulb over his head, you've given up caring about the schmuck anymore. A violent conclusion and a pretty cool twist epilogue are nice, but there's no fixing all the rest of the holes this dumb script that thinks it's smart is riddled with.
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This 2010 Nigerian/British film, doesn't want you to think it's a deposed prince, but it does want you to believe an action movie can take place (almost entirely) in a single room. A hard sell, to be sure, but if there's a guy to do it, it's the intense Idris Elba who plays Malcolm Grey, a military black ops vet who is trying to sort stuff out in his head in a Brooklyn hotel room and decide how he feels about his brother Darnell (Eamonn Walker), a slick politician on the road to the White House who married Grey's fiancee while he was missing/presumed dead. The story continually flashes back to Grey's last mission, an unsuccessful raid on a foreign arms dealer who caught him and his team, and apparently tortured him for months just for the hell of it. It's clear that the film isn't telling you everything, but that's about all the clarity you're gonna get. As we move back and forth from reality to what's just in Grey's head, it's impossible to tell what's actually happened and what's part of his deranged fantasies. By the end, it's hard to care too much either way. Yeah, he's disturbed, and yeah, he's a danger to himself and others, and yeah, it's awful the way the military psychological care isn't anywhere near as good as it should be. We get it. That's a theme. Get on with the actual goddamn story, "Legacy". Only Elba's performance holds this small production together at all, and even he can't quite hold onto his American accent for any length of time. Even so, I couldn't help but enjoy his intensity, if nothing else about the film. Certainly, despite the casual twisting of reality, the ending won't come as much of a surprise, I suspect, to most viewers. "Legacy" is a loud and furiously angry, yet largely unintelligible cry into the heavens that leads me to believe that its writer needs to seek therapy much more than to write another film. At least, I hope so.
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LEGENDARY ASSASSIN (DVD)
Director/Writer Wu Jing went to the same school and was part of the same competitive wushu team that Jet Li was on. Why did I not know who this guy was? It wasn't until 2005 that Jing started getting some HK film fan attention, with his impressively kick-ass parts in films like "Kill Zone" and "Fatal Contact", so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about only now cluing in. The upshot of all this is, this guy is a serious bad-ass to watch in the world of martial arts movies. The bad news is, "Legendary Assassin" isn't gonna be one of the better movies to choose to see him in. I mean, sure, he's pretty amazing here, but the fight choreography itself is kind of forgettable, as is the silly plot, which is about a hitman stuck on an island because of an oncoming typhoon, carrying the head of the gang leader he was sent to kill around with him in a bag. He ends up befriending a woman while helping her get her cat out of a tree and she turns out to be a policewoman. Despite his best instincts, he helps her take down a triad of tough criminals while they're at lunch (don't ask) and becomes the toast of the local PD, except for one younger cop who clearly has unrealistically hopeful aspirations to be with the policewoman (who is, indeed, very hot). Meanwhile, the widow of the gang leader has groups of her men looking for Jing on the island, as is the mainland police force once they realize a hit had taken place. Not that I'm too finicky about these things when it comes to martial arts films, but the story isn't funny enough to be as dumb as it is, and is a real thumb-twiddler between fight sequences which, as I said, while definitely showcasing the impressive skills of Jing, aren't all that special either. An odd Americanization of the film (which I can only assume was done specifically for the English release) featuring extra-crunchy foley work and a constantly insistent soundtrack, actually help matters, but even so, while "Legendary Assassin" might be a worthwhile diversion for big HK film fans, it's not going to bring in any new ones.
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