REVIEW: “THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD” (2017) LIONSGATE

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So what’s this movie about? Well it’s about a guy Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who used to run a Triple AAA Protection Service before he lost a big-time client Kurosawa (Tsuwayuki Saotome), who was murdered after boarding a plane and while in the ‘security’ of Bryce. Flash-forward to two years later and we see Michael’s business failed in a big way, now having become a personal bodyguard for low-end, eternally coked-out paranoid players. Now being forced by ex-girlfriend/agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) to transport an important ‘witness’ to The Hague, Netherlands to testify against a murderous Belarus dictator (ring any bells anyone?) Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), only to discover when he arrives that star witness is none other than Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) the world’s most deadly assassin, who is only doing this in exchange for his wife Sonia’s (Salma Hayek) freedom. Now with half of Eastern Europe hot on their heels, Bryce is discovering that being the bodyguard of a hit-man turned informant is no easy task. And viola’ ladies and gentlemen – that is how we have “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”.

While the story sounds interesting, it plays out in a pretty typical and predictable way, not that I should have expected much more as after all, it is billed as a action/comedy film. But all predictability aside, the story does get the job done. Yes, you’ll be able to figure out how the film will end within the first 30 minutes or so, but truly in the scope of all that’s going on, it’s not all that important, because it’s all about the journey to that very predictable, albeit quite fun, entertaining and satisfying ending.

Ryan Reynolds on the other hand is, once again, cast as the somewhat fussy do-gooder who’s in over his head and constantly put upon, but manages to pull through because he tries really, really hard! The results are pretty fun though and the chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds is very spot on throughout the film, while the storyline between Michael and Amelia is well..boring, the one between Darius and Sonia is on a whole other level and they may just win the ‘crazy movie couple of the year’ award. Sadly the rest of the cast doesn’t really hold up as well as it’s leading men. Gary Oldman is very much here for the paycheck, as Belarusian President (cough) Dictator, while Salma Hayek is given near nothing to do as Kincaid’s incarcerated wife, though she makes her mark in her few scenes. Elodie Yung’s character does have a little more bearing on the plot, but her early-onscreen promise to be noted as a capable Interpol agent is set aside so she can be honored with the role of the proverbial last act love prize. *sigh

As formulaic as ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is, it’s light – maybe even too light for all the blood-splatter that takes place – but it never insults its audience by say, trying to even begin to explain why Samuel L. Jackson can take a bullet to the leg then jump a multi-story building like it’s nothing. It’s can be dumb but it never makes you feel dumb for watching it. The movie doesn’t take itself seriously and I was perfectly fine with that because it’s was more than enteraining to watch.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening ~ Wednesday, August 9, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate Film

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, August 18, 2017

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REVIEW: “DETROIT” (2017) MGM Pictures

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With “DETROIT” Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s new turn at making another hard-hitting film, just doesn’t connect completely. Though again, Bigelow takes on delicate subject matter with the expertise of a great filmmaker, and it is a very good film – for about 60 minutes of the 2 1/2 hour run time.

‘Detroit’ takes place in 1967 during the midst of the riots after a black owned Blind Pig bar where patrons were kicked out due to lack of liquor license and eventually leads to the towns people rioting and destroying the nearby businesses, even with tags of “Soul Brother” as a way to try to protect their black owned business. However, most of the film centers around the several young men and 2 women staying in the Algiers Motel. Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) has a starter pistol which he shoots in the air, and police mistaken it for a sniper, and begin to surround the Algiers and harass and intimidate the guests beyond recovery.

‘Detroit’ is filmed wholly hand-held, and the shakiness that comes along with that direction choice is effective and not the nausea-inducing type that can sometimes happen with this type of filming, The opening scenes before the riots even start and as watch them proceed brought a note of flashbacks for me, having been through the L.A. riots, it’s not something you easily forget. The storyline that follows is where the weakness of the film sets in. If I didn’t know that this was actual history, I would have thought this part to be made up as you get introduced to the characters Larry (Algee Smith), Michael (Malcolm David Kelley), Morris (Joseph David-Jones), Jimmy (Ephraim Sykes) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) who make up the singing group the Dramatic’s. Once they are told to leave the stage before their biggest performance to date, because of the riots is where the film really starts to kick in. This is where the shocking nature of what takes place really begins and you will be set on edge throughout the next 60 minutes by what unfolds in front of you. It’s also where we meet the rest of the characters to whom this appalling and disturbing event happens to.

Dismukes (John Boyega), the security guard who witnesses everything that happens, though honestly, I don’t think he was in the position to stop what was happening. Julie (Hannah Murray) & Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) are the two white girls who happen to be at the hotel also, partying with their African-American male friends Green (Anthony Mackie) Aubrey (Nathan Davis Jr.) and Lee (Peyton Alex-Smith), which in the 1960’s still was not accepted. This alone creates tension that is only ratcheted up little by little as the film progresses. At this point we also meet the police officers involved Karuss (Will Poulter), Demens (Jack Reynor) and Guardsmen Flynn (Ben O’Toole) who along with the terrifying nature of the situation, help make this feel like what happened is something out of a horror film.

Every actor here gives a near flawless performance. this is actually a film without a standard Hollywood- style star. These actors are treated as equally important details in a larger event. The performances here are emotional, powerful, but most of all, real and feel instead as though each actor embodies the real life people that lived through these events and that let you get to know them as people, allowing you to genuinely care about them.

While this is a great film, it is a hard watch. This is an emotionally grueling film for the most part. With that being said, the two and a half hour run time of this film is exhausting and the length is something that can really work against this film. While I do recommend it as a watch because of it’s intrinsic value that it carries, it’s not as brilliant of a watch as I expected it to be.

Grade: B-
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Review Screening – Wednesday, August 2, 2017 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film Group
“Detroit” will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, August 4, 2017

REVIEW: “WIND RIVER” (2017) Weinstein Company

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Writer/Director Taylor Sheridan is a wonderful screenwriter in his own right, however, he’s a terrible writer of film titles. Think Sicario, Hell or High Water or this latest title. “Wind River”. All had me questioning whether or not to see them before-hand based on title alone. Luckily for all of us, like the previous two, this film is much better than it’s title, and also gives the title sense as to where it came from.

Fortunately, this latest film “WIND RIVER” – his debut as a director – is a solid modern day western-type that starts us off with a slow burn leading into the plot of a Native American woman being found frozen dead and barefoot by local Fish & Wildlife hunter/employee Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). The young woman turns out to be the daughter of a friend Martin (Gil Birmingham) and the similar circumstances surrounding the death of his own daughter means that when Elisabeth Olsen’s FBI agent Jane Banner comes from the closest bureau office, which happens to be Las Vegas, and turns up clearly completely out of her element, being both underdressed and overwhelmed, you do get a feeling things could go terribly wrong. Along with the completely understaffed Reservation Police Chief Ben (Graham Greene), she asks him to please tag along and help bring the killers to justice.

The trail leads them through the reservation – with its social problems of drugs, criminality and social exclusion pointedly presented – and up into the wild. Here, Cory is the expert and Jane’s role is confined to hanging onto the back of his snowmobile for dear life as they plow their way through the snow. The investigation doesn’t allow her much scope to use her skills as one clue leads succinctly to the next. There are surprisingly few twists and turns, instead like Cory, the film doggedly follows the tracks. In apparent recognition of this, the film abandons mystery and reveals all with an expository flashback putting you the audience, completely in the emotional-fed moment right with them before sneakily edited into a tense stand off.

Renner confirms himself as a very respectable action lead, (despite the mis-step of Jason Bourne effort). He is a quiet professional here, a rugged sober man who is not afraid to show his sensitive side, as when he commiserates with the father of the murdered girl by baring his own grief. Olsen has less to do, but she manages with the thankless task of following Renner around and agreeing to follow his advice. The underwriting isn’t confined to her character. The motivations and actions of the villains also appear to be random and the sudden escalation of violence doesn’t make much sense except for providing us with a slickly realised set-piece.

All in all this is a satisfying and entertaining work from Sheridan. The portrayal of a forgotten American community – albeit from the point of view of a white-man saviour type deal we sometimes just see to much of – at least gives some visibility to an isolated part of the country. Though “Wind River” is far better than its title suggests and a promising directorial debut.

Kudos to director and all others involved in this remarkable outdoor production. The entire production was filmed in the middle of a brutal winter in Utah although the setting is supposedly Wyoming on the Wind River Reservation i.e., why the title finally makes sense. An added reality perk, real Native American’s play the actual Native American characters which for me, gives it a more realistic approach to the story at hand. A story that while starts slow, winds itself up into a vast emotional tug-of-war that left me thinking about the film long after it ended.

Grade: B-
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Review Screening: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 ~ Courtesy LAFTV Film Meetup
“Wind River” will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, August 4, 2017