Tag Archives: Revenge

Movie Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

blue_ruin

Rating: A/  As far as I can tell, one of the great mysteries of the modern age is why Macon Blair’s career didn’t go wild after being in this movie. Blair plays Dwight, and let me tell you, he makes one hell of an entrance. A traumatized homeless vagrant with achingly sad, lost eyes, Dwight is a guy for whom jumping out of a window naked after sneaking a bath on the sly is the extent of his criminal activity, but that’s before a compassionate police officer takes him to the station and gently informs him that ‘he’ has gotten out of prison. Continue reading Movie Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

Advertisements

Movie Review: City of God (2003)

City-of-God-2002

Rating: B/ This ain’t the vision of Rio di Janeiro you see on travel brochures! Told in a nonlinear style somewhat akin to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, City of God tells the disturbing story of a Brazilian gangster named Lil’ Ze (Leandro Firmino) living in the crime-ridden ‘city of God’ who really wants to make a name for himself, and climbs up to the top of the food chain amid the senseless slaughter of hundreds of unfortunates.

Continue reading Movie Review: City of God (2003)

Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)

deadpool-poster

Rating: C-/ Loud, crass, self-indulgent, and with more dick and blow job jokes than a stand-up comedy hour commandeered entirely by drunken frat boys, Deadpool is an over-rated, interminable mess. You can practically hear the jokes fall flat at delivery, which is kind of sad, because you can tell it really really wants to be funny, but somehow it just keeps coming up short of charm and laughs. Continue reading Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)

Movie Review: Reservation Road (2007)

reservationroad

Rating: B-/ I’ll begin my review by saying this; people who rent this movie probably know what they’re getting. The acting is terrific all around, but the movie itself is overwrought, filled with shrieking and heated accusations. It gained my sympathies and tugged on my heartstrings, but I feel like it did it kind of dishonestly, if that makes sense; instead of being extraordinarily well-written or featuring interesting characters it jack-hammered it’s way into my heart by presenting me with lots and lots of showy displays of grief. The excellent actors are compensating for the fact that there isn’t much below the surface here. Continue reading Movie Review: Reservation Road (2007)

Sicario (2015)

01sicario-movie-poster

Rating- A+/ Buckle your seat belts, because this ride gets pretty crazy. Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario is a unrelentingly bleak and fascinating film about a subject I know nothing about, Mexican Drug Cartels. The only stuff I know about Cartels I learned from the television shows Breaking Bad and The Bridge, so don’t expect me to know a lot about the authenticity of this film. But my dad is a cop who hates cop shows, and he was totally fucking psyched about getting us to watch this. Anyway, there’s hardly a dull moment in Sicario, it’ll get your heart pounding and your adrenaline going, and although it’s a bit too character-driven to be described as an ‘action movie’ (not in the same vein as say, Transformers,) it’ll have your attention every moment of it’s duration. And some of that time you’ll literally be holding your breath in suspense (as cliche as that sounds.)

This is a film where things go from bad to worse. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a by-the-books FBI agent who specializes in kidnapping scenarios. After a raid goes badly awry, Kate is approached by the CIA and offered a job she knows nothing about. Eager to get back at the people who are responsible for the massacre of her teammates but sad to leave her partner and best friend Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) (How refreshing to see a storyline featuring male-and-female besties that doesn’t devolve into a predictable romantic scenario!,) Kate travels by plane to Mexico, and is told by her superiors she is going to El Paso. Turns out, she’s not, she’s going to Juarez, the most corrupt city in Latin America, where there are literally mutilated bodies hanging from bridges in broad daylight. Shit. She’s going to need to ask for paid vacation time in the near future. Six months in Oahu won’t be nearly enough to get those images out of your head.

Kate is accompanied by an an chilled-out agent named Matt (Josh Brolin) who seems to be doing his best Jeffrey ‘the Dude’ Leboswki impression, and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro,) who doesn’t seem to be working for any one organization as much as his own twisted agenda. In the process of taking down a cartel led by the ruthless Fausto Alarcon (Julio Cadillo,) Kate goes in way over her head, falling down a kind of rabbit hole of violence and corruption.

sicario2

Kate’s story is interspersed with the plotline of Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández,) a Juarez cop who is similarly digging himself into an awfully big hole, but for different reasons. Despite what he might or might not have done, Silvio will break your heart as he makes one bad decision after another in the attempt to fully provide for his wife and son. His corruption and eventual undoing is juxtaposed with the other characters’ deep moral ambiguity and bad decision making throughout. There’s a lot of grey area here, and the characters range from the flawed, to the evil, to the downright dastardly and hold some of this complexity on both sides.

Sicario feels very raw and realistic, especially for an American movie, which seem to usually feel more sitcomish or fake than their overseas counterparts. The movie doesn’t show a whole ton of violence on screen but is gut-wrenchingly effective when it does, capturing the viewer’s imagination in scenes of implied torture and child murder. Kudos to whole cast from the biggest stars to the fairly obscure secondary players. Together they create a world of intrigue and chaos, and most of all, of unflinching realism. This is not a movie where the good guys go in guns-a-firing and save the day while dropping the occasional shitty one-liner. I’m not entirely sure there are any good guys, at least not in the typical sense. There is, however, a whole lot of devastation and emotional damage on the part of the people who have to deal with this crap- every day. To see the awful side of humanity on a regular basis is enough to make anyone go a little crazy, but these guys- particularly the dead-eyed Alejandro- go above and beyond the call of duty in terms of nuttiness.

Combining excellent foreshadowing  and script writing with a astonishingly chilling score, Sicario is a thriller with brains- I know, pick your disbelieving jaws off the floor- that provides no easy answers or platitudes about the drug war in Mexico or the infinite potential for darkness within the human condition. I’m not exaggerating when I saw this movie might contain the best ensemble cast of the year. The players give it all they’ve got, and the results are nothing less than harrowing. And this from the person who thought the directors’ earlier effort, Prisoners, was mindbogglingly overrated. I guess you don’t know exactly what to expect of a filmmaker until you’ve seen them at their best.

sicario

Return to Sender (2014)

 ***Warning- Some Spoilers***

return_to_sender_ver3

Attention sex offenders- whatever you do, do not drink the lemonade!

What could have been a harrowing study of the long-standing psychological aftereffects of a horrific crime becomes disappointingly seedy, exploitative, and torture porn-y in this mediocre rape-revenge thriller. The actors do their best, but the results are as icy and soulless as the main character, a perfectionist who begins to show her rotten core after being raped by a depraved stalker. If this movie has any real message, it’s that the victim of a rape can be just as sick and demented as her assailant.

Miranda (Gone Girl‘s Rosamund Pike) is a capable nurse and all-around compulsive type who seems to have a bit of an issue with the opposite sex, perhaps springing from childhood trauma. But not a bad lady, right? So you would think… until Miranda commits the ultimate no-no for potentially likable characters and poisons her dad (Nick Nolte)’s dog to death. And baby, that’s only the beginning.

Anyway, before all that shit goes down, Miranda seems like a fairly likable, albeit high-strung protagonist. During a blind date, Miranda is raped by the mindbogglingly sleazy Will (Shiloh Fernandez.) But the crafty Miranda is not going down without a fight. Ever the sultry minx, Miranda visits Will in prison and befriends him under false pretenses, grooming him to walk right into the trap of a perfect revenge. Hold on to your balls, gentlemen!

returnto

However long I waited in earnest for the revenge scene, I found myself somewhat disappointed with the way they handled it. The cheesy and lurid finale just doesn’t fit with the reasonably well-conceived and thoughtful beginning. The problem is not in the actors. Maybe developing Miranda as a more likable character would help. Regardless of the sympathy you feel for her initially, she betrays your trust and reveals herself to be a over-the-top, evil, backstabbing bitch.

I guess the revelation that Miranda is an evil wench is supposed to be thrilling but it seems like a cheat, especially with so many unanswered questions regarding the plot floating around the stratosphere. We’re simply left with the question, why are we supposed to care about this story?  The filmmaker starts out with some good ideas, but “Return to Sender” succeeds in the end as being entertainment in only the basest sense. It’s not inspiring, it’s not enlightening, and it certainly doesn’t offer any comfort or emotional relief to those who’s lives are affected by rape.

Three things save this movie from being a complete bust- the actors (uniformly competent,) the first thirty minutes or so (which maintains a sense of relative realism that falls to pieces in the messy, sadistic climax,) and the fact that the rape scene itself is handled with more finesse than one would expect for a movie of this type. Rosamund Pike is lovely and shows obvious talent, but in the end this film is just another creepy movie about rape, without the soulfulness or the seriousness to make it work.

return

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

DennisLehane_MysticRiver

Three childhood friends, reunited in adulthood and all marching toward a shared spiritual and psychological destruction. Sound cheerful? Clint Eastwood adapted this novel, so if you’re a fan of Eastwood’s directorial endeavors you might be familiar with this story of betrayal and revenge. The aging movie star’s filmmaking capabilities are undeniable, but there’s something about reading a novel versus watching it’s film adaptation, you know? Most of the time, anyway.

‘Mystic River’ is a dark read on a plethora of tough subjects (child abduction and the ensuing sexual abuse, latent pedophilic tendencies, a father’s grief over the violent death of his daughter,) but if anyone is up for the job of writing gritty urban realism featuring the tragic mistakes of regular people and their fatal repercussions, it’s Dennis Lehane.

The man has a gift- with dialogue, with character description, with prose so fluid and lush it’s reading is similar to the experience of watching a great movie. His characters never seem unrealistically colorful or contrived. They grab your attention honestly- through the strength of great storytelling. ‘Mystic River’ is about three boys- Dave Boyle, Sean Devine, and Jimmy Markum- who grow up into three damaged men. Where did it all go wrong? For these guys, the proverbial shit hit the fan when 11-year-old Dave was coerced into a car by two men pretending to be police officers as his friends looked on and molested for five days before making his escape, becoming quite the local celebrity in the process.

But Dave doesn’t want lurid, however short-lived fame. He wants his childhood back. Once an eager-to-please schoolboy and a bit of a brownnosing crony to the stronger, more well-liked Jimmy, Dave grows up to be a tormented adult who has experienced a splintering of self- some of him is still in that basement, yearning to escape. Hell, all the boys are haunted by that day, the unresolved questions that reared their ugly heads when that car came to take Dave away. Twenty-five years later, another tragedy occurs. Now-grown ex-con Jimmy Markums’ 19-year-old daughter, Katie, is brutally murdered in the park after a drunken night on the town.

Now, who should come back into Jimmy’s life but Sean- a cop investigating the Katie Markum case- and Dave- a suspect in her violent death. Katie’s death has many suspects, more the further you look from different angles (in classic detective story fashion.) While initially Katie seems like a girl with not an enemy in the world, further inspection produces a different, darker take on those she associated with. Confronting a case that seems increasingly personal the farther he digs forward, Sean must ask the ultimate question- who killed Katie Markum? And will the actual murderer’s insistence on keeping his identity under wraps spell destruction for the three men?

I found ‘Mystic River’ less confusing than the first novel I read by Dennis Lehane, “Gone Baby Gone” but also slightly less compelling. That might have been partially because I already knew the ending to ‘Mystic River,’ having seen the movie beforehand. It was just a matter of getting there. There is no real redemption in either story; if anything, every good thing that comes from ‘Mystic River’s ending is more detrimental that satisfactory- take, for instance, Sean’s reunion with his wife paired with his decision to take all the flack for their break-up. He got what he wanted, but will he really wind up happy?

I don’t think the mystery is too hard to solve if the reader pays close attention to the clues provided along the way. All three men are sympathetic In their own way (despite Dave’s impure, albeit unacted-on, carnal appetites and Jimmy’s astonishing capacity for violence) while still being deeply flawed and troubled. Dennis Lehane’s prose is so easy to fall in love with. It is strong, consistent, and descriptive.  He cares about these characters and he wants you to care about them too, but he doesn’t always make them easy candidates for compassion, if you know what I mean.

In the end, what has been gained? What has been learned? If you say zilch. you’re certainly on the right track. A continuing theme is loss- of innocence, of love, of family, of humanity. We move beyond our past tragedies, if we’re lucky. But do they move past us? More of a psychological study of guilt and grief than a hard-and-dry mystery, ‘Mystic River’ is simultaneously harsh, delicate, and haunting.