Quick Review: 2 Guns

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Summer of 2013 for movies was laden with big budget disasters like “R.I.P.D.”, “After Earth,” and “The Lone Ranger.”  (I actually liked “The Lone Ranger”, check out my review for that here.) Even the box office smashes such as “Iron Man 3” and “Man of Steel” felt grossly underwhelming.

In the midst of all the trash and mediocrity, we find “2 Guns,” an action thriller directed by Baltasar Kormakur with relentless style and efficiency.  It stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who sizzle on screen, cooking up chemistry that is sorely missed by the summer films that bombed.  Combine this with solid supporting performances by Paula Patton and Bill Paxton and it’s a movie that has you glued to the screen.

Halfway into the film you’ll realize that the plot becomes fairly irrelevant; there’s lots of gun fire, money goes missing, there’s crossing and double-crossing, etc.  At the end of the day, this becomes another movie where really cool actors look good doing bad-ass things on screen and the audience is brought along on the ride for the thrill of it all.

I was a bit surprised that the film did not do better financially, considering how entertaining it was.  Perhaps the R rating turned off some.  I also think that the theatrical release poster is a blunter, as Denzel looks like a stiff and in no way reflects his calm and calculated character.

It is everything you can ask for in a pop corn summer film: Funny, smart and action-packed.  If you missed this film when it came out in August, catch it on home entertainment (netflix, dvd, etc).

Quick Review: Killing Them Softly

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At times, “Killing Them Softly”‘s brutal and stylized action is reminiscent of “Drive,” a modern classic of a similar genre.

The film is a social commentary on the forgotten American middle class through the backdrop of a robbery involving low-life amateurs and the mob.  The result is a bit of a mixed bag, and the filmmakers would have been better off focusing either on the thematic elements and tone down the violence, or go all out on the action and do away with the social commentary.

The filmmakers’ choice to deliver its message through the voices of various political figures heard from the radio or television, rather than through dialogue between characters, feels heavy-handed.  I’m skeptical of the notion that the lower working class / middle class people listen to this much politics on any given day.

While the film boasts a star-studded cast, headed by Brad Pitt, the characters don’t really sync well with the plot to hammer home its message.  The characters themselves are not especially remarkable, either; Brad Pitt is his usual, dreamy self, playing a hit man a little too laid back, like someone who is going through chores instead of pursuing his objectives with intensity.

It’s not a bad film, by any means.  But the hit and misses and tonal inconsistencies held this film back.

Quick Review: 47 Ronin

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Everything that can potentially go wrong in a fantasy action epic does go wrong in “47 Ronin,” a samurai action film starring an ensemble cast headed by Keanu Reeves.

In all honesty, Reeves has never looked better in an action film, bringing intensity to the action scenes and making the most out of his underdeveloped character.  The same can be said of every character in “47 Ronin”; the script is so sappy and cringe-inducing that at one point I thought to myself “you can’t be serious, right?”

Fifteen minutes into the film, I realized that the film would have been much better off completely done in Japanese.  Having famous Japanese actors act out their roles in English tremendously limits their abilities to do a remotely good job.

For a film that took over $175 million to make, “47 Ronin” is definitely money not well spent.  The CGI is passable, but the action is nowhere near frequent enough to showcase it.

Finally, the marketing campaign of the film misleads potential viewers but placing emphasis on characters that barely has any screen time in the film.

All of this culminates into a film that looked promising, as if it stood a chance to challenge “300” for becoming a modern fantasy action classic, but ended up a disastrous piece of junk.