Category Archives: Action Thriller

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5

kingsman

A spy organisation recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. (IMDB)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past), co-written with Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black). It stars Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill, Michael Caine and Jack Davenport.

The agency is fashioned after King Arthur and the Knights of the not-so-round table, including a Merlin. All the agents’ code names are derived from the knights, like Lancelot and Galahad, and Michael Caine is Arthur. Styled after old school spy films with its personality, gadgets, and gentlemen super agents, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy action comedy film based on the comic book The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

Matthew Vaughn has created a film with a personality. An absurd, quirky, nostalgic and violent personality. It takes after classic spy movies with its style, lightness, the colourful characterisation and the even more colourful supervillain. And yet it’s like the new brand of thrillers and spy films which lean towards realism. With its gritty violence and expertly choreographed, lengthy action sequences it’s more like the Bourne, Bond, and other recent, action films.

It also seems to make fun of the very spy films of which it speaks and, subsequently, itself. The humour is satirical, tongue-in-cheek and often crass. But it manages to not take itself too seriously, and neither should the viewer. Instead it becomes an extravagant yet down to earth source of entertainment.

The plot is typical yet it surprises one at many turns. Other than the excessive, often dispensible swearing, the writing is good.

The casting is spot on. Taron Egerton, playing the role of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, was refreshingly good. A very well written, three dimensional character for a change who was more than just a typical street smart guy.  Egerton stood out and held his own very well among the rest of the distinguished cast. Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine was a good villain but not effective at being a scary, “genius megalomaniac”. His partner in crime Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), so called for her razor sharp prosthetic legs I’m sure, was much more impressive in that regard. Mark Strong (Merlin) was super as the dignified agent and trainer, especially in the second half.

Colin Firth as Harry “Galahad” Hart broke away from his popular image and pulled off the action sequences better than most. The standout church scene was simultaneously the most awesome and revolting piece of cinema I may have ever scene. I was gaping throughout because of the unapologetic violence and the sheer amazingness of the action, choreography and camera work. It’s a prime example of many scenes which were darkly humorous in both tone and subject matter.

Technically the film is quite perfect. During the quicker movements of the fight scenes the camera was never too close or wide, and there wasn’t much of the incomprehensive blurring seen in most action movies in scenes of hand-to-hand combat. The effects, the editing, and the music – everything is superb. If not for the effective direction I don’t think the movie would have been as good. And yet, none of these elements overpowered the story or rose above it. All of it only served to heighten the comic book/spy thriller aspects of the film and served to compliment the story.

Morality issues such as excessive violence are not present, particularly after the major fight scenes. The heroes are bold and do what is necessary. In that regard the story maintains a lightheartedness and is not meant to be taken seriously. Whilst some deaths are (mostly) meaningful, no character becomes bogged down by them. Lack of emotional melodrama sees characters moving on to the next problem at hand.

Kingsman is a bizarre, head-spinning movie with memorable characters. Its essence and attitude rub off for a while. I left the hall with a smile on my face which stayed for some time, and the film spun around in my head for longer. It’s a multiple time watcher for me and I give it an extra half star for its novelty. However the film may not be to everyone’s taste, and those who dislike violence and outlandish films may want to skip it.

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Movie Review: Now You See Me

3.5

Now You See Me

Now You See Me is a 2013 movie, directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans).

The opening of the movie introduces us to 4 magicians performing solo acts: an arrogant street magician J.Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), an escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), a mentalist Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a sleight-of-hand artist and when needed, a pickpocket. While these four are busy performing their acts, a man in a hooded jacket observes and later drops tarot cards with invitations for the four on them. They are intrigued and take up the invitations.

Fast forwarding to a year later, the four magicians are now a team, called The Four Horsemen. They are riding the big waves. For their final act on a stage performance in Las Vegas, they teleport a man and rob a bank in France. Then, they shower their audience with the same money. When the robbery is disclosed, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), FBI and Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), Interpol get involved.

The Four Horsemen are a team; arrogant to the bone, and impossible to shake down. And they promise that more of such acts (or robberies) are yet to come. Without any evidence, and since magic is obviously not a viable explanation for robbery, they cannot be put in prison. Even so, FBI is hot on their trail, and to make things easier, they consult Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). Bradley used to be a magician, but now makes a living exposing the secrets behind famous illusions.

The cops are constantly a step behind, but it is not because they are slacking. They suspect a mole – a Fifth Horseman. The mastermind who created this team of magicians. But there is a large suspect pool, and no evidence regarding the man behind the plans. Meanwhile, there are two more acts to come, and each act is always better than the previous one.

After the second act, The Four Horsemen go on the run, which culminates into a man-to-man fight, some action-filled car chase, a deadly accident and finally, a very public finale.

The story-line is good, though slightly misleading at times. There is a string connecting all the events, and this connection goes farther than expected, which is a good thing. Some events aren’t very impactful, because you can guess the reality behind the illusions, which makes the movie foreseeable to a small degree.

The movie has a good beginning, and the acts are astonishing . The explanations for their tricks and the heists don’t take away the charm because of the simple mechanisms behind the tricks. And though the movie revolves around the heist, the actual question is: who is the mole?  Morgan Freeman partially works as a narrator, and some good part has been put in by Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler (the benefactor of The Four Horsemen). Needless to say, the movie has a nice cast and crew.

At times the glitz is a bit too much and on a few occasions, it’s hard to follow the story line, but it can be overlooked. What cannot be overlooked however, is the finale. I was slightly put down.

Many people have classified this movie as belonging to the genre of Ocean’s Eleven, but though the genre remains similar, the two movies simply cannot be compared. Ocean’s Eleven had its own subtle charm, while Now You see Me relies heavily on loud glamour. The former is expected deception, with no cover ups. The same cannot be said regarding the latter.

There is a small romantic development, but it is kept at the back, for the better. The story is good. And the depiction made me chuckle and laugh. I found the mastermind plan behind the whole scheme genius in its modesty. The credit of course goes to the writers: Boaz Yakin( Prince of Persia: Sands of Time), Ed Soloman(Men in Black), and Edward Ricourt.

Did I like the movie? Yes! I watched this movie with no expectations and enjoyed it thoroughly. Overall, it’s a really good choice for a one-time watch.


Movie Review: Premium Rush

4gem

premium_rush_xlg

A 2012 action-thriller film directed by David Koepp (Jurassic park, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, Zathura, War of the Worlds, Angels and Demons), co-written with John Kamps. The story follows a thrill- seeking New York bike messenger, who picks up an envelope to deliver, but is pursued by a bad cop who wants it for himself.

From the very first scene we plunge into the heart of the action as Wilee, a law school graduate who doesn’t want a regular, humdrum job, flies through the air after crashing into a car. The rest of the movie is a continuous mind boggling ride of exhilarating and high speed bike chases across the city as Wilee weaves through traffic, jumps fences, roofs, stairs, zips through alleys and dodges people.

The plot is simple, straight forward with minimalistic characters. It almost runs in real time, as the storyline takes place in two hours of character time, from 5-7 p.m., with numerous flashbacks and flash-forwards to weave the action and characters together. The live action movie has minimal use of CGI, put to clever use to show Wilee’s split second decisions when weaving through traffic.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is charismatic, likeable and wonderful (as always) as Wilee, while Michael Shannon is the menacing, volatile Bobby Monday whom you love to hate. Even as Bobby makes play on Wilee’s name (Wile E. Coyote), you realize he’s the Coyote giving futile chase to the Road Runner. Apart from the stunning action, these two are the best things about the movie, especially Shannon. His seemingly normal behaviour with sudden bursts of violence and manic giggles make for a great, creepy villain and is more than enough to keep the movie going.

It may not be complex, but its light and fun with energetic, fast-paced direction and editing. A humorous blend of adrenalin and suspense. A better film than most hyped up, convoluted action thrillers, this one’s definitely worth a watch.

 


Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy (#4 in The Bourne Series)

2.5gem

bourne legacy

Sequel to the ground-breaking Bourne Trilogy, The Bourne Legacy overlaps with the events of The Bourne Ultimatum. It deals with the consequences of Jason Bourne’s exposure of Operations Blackbriar and Treadstone. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is an agent of an offshoot Program, Operation Outcome. The soldiers of this programme take pills to enhance their physical strength and mental capabilities. Edward Norton’s character Eric Byer, a retired Air Force Colonel who overseas CIA’s clandestine operations, in trying to prevent the scandal from spreading further, decides to shut down the operation, and kill all the subjects and the doctors involved.

To begin with, there is no suspense in the movie. In the first half hour you find out everything, and what will happen in the rest of the movie, which isn’t much. Aaron and biochemist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) are the sole survivors of their respective groups. He needs the enhancing pills; she knows all about them, they run for their lives together. There is no complexity, no layers to the story, no secrets to unearth; it’s an empty plot. Hence the screenplay is flimsy and hollow.

There is nothing novel about this film. The only new thing is the enhancing drugs developed to eliminate the flaws in the previous programmes. But, it doesn’t sit well with the concept of the franchise, where super soldiers were psychologically created via brainwash. They were real soldiers with real abilities, enhanced through painful labour. Aaron Cross was admittedly a less than impressive soldier who is only capable of being impressive through chemical enhancement. His character is not any different from any of the super soldiers previously shown, apart from his energy and humour. Looking at him, you don’t believe that he’s from a better, pharmaceutically enhanced stock of agents.

Unlike Aaron Cross, Jason Bourne was a complex, compelling character that was on a quest to find his identity, and retain his individuality once he does. You felt for him as he struggled to come to terms with the world and the role he played in it. The moral, emotional conflict was what kept the story alive and kicking. In Cross’s case, there is no conflict, no mysteries, no struggles. Basically the movie is about a junked up soldier who is desperate to find pills to survive. Cross feels like a teenager compared to Bourne, who was far more sophisticated, serious and mature. And there is no effect on Cross of Bourne’s actions, something the word ‘legacy’, or the tagline “There was never just one” suggest. No reaction is shown, even when he has to run for his life as a consequence. They don’t show him questioning the cause of the peril.

Rachel Weisz is the best thing about the movie. She managed to keep the movie floating, barely, solely by trying very hard with a script which gives them nothing. Renner could not hold the kind of attention Matt Damon did even in stillness. There is no proper characterisation, sufficient background for them to feel like real people. Weisz does the innocent-caught-up-in-a-violent-world part well, but even her protests and ramblings come across as shrill and at times annoying because the dialogues were insufficient and screenplay gave no space to express. Edward Norton was a total waste in the movie. They could’ve put any random actor in his stead and it would not have made a difference. But this is also the fault of the script. The lack of suspense stems from his character. From the very beginning he’s shown as the villain, the mind behind the whole mess, so there’s nothing there for the audience to watch other than Cross trying to accomplish his goal.

With a fresh hero and sequel, one expects at least new locales and action sequences, but that’s also not accomplished. It lacks the edginess and thrill of the previous movies. There’s the same old roof-hopping, squeezing into narrow lanes and alleys, jumping and running through small houses and the bike chase. Absolutely no new action; and the only hand to hand combat scene was awesome but only lasted for 2 seconds!

The movie was too long for a non-existent plot. Overall there is nothing original or interesting about this movie; it lacks the charm of the originals. The direction lacks energy and characters are single dimensional. It’s hard to believe the writer/director Tony Gilroy worked on the previous films. The Bourne Trilogy was airtight storytelling, with all loose ends tied up, and no scope for continuing the story. It was a complete package. This one has no substance and fails to justify its existence, as well as disturbing a perfectly good trilogy.

Can’t help but agree with Paul Greengrass, director of Supremacy and Ultimatum, who said that any future Bourne movie would be The Bourne Redundancy. And Legacy is that – redundant. It fails to reach the bar set by the previous ones, and moreover will always be remembered by me as the one that ruined a good franchise.