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Film Review: Dragged Across Concrete

“There’s A Reason I’m Sitting Behind This Desk Running Things. And You’re Out There With A Partner That’s Twenty Years Younger Than You…”

When it comes to discussions regarding the best new filmmakers working out there at this very moment in time, the one-two success of both Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 has deservedly placed S. Craig Zahler on the watch list for any new release which might come this way. After doing the rounds on the festival circuit, the long wait for the American’s latest, Dragged Across Concrete, finally comes to an end to audiences in the U.K, with Zahler once again returning to the B-movie genre in which he truly admires and loves, a particular dedication both impressive and ballsy considering the now common approach for independent filmmakers to make a couple of little-seen gems and then fancy their chances within the cinematic big leagues. Reuniting with Vince Vaughn after directing him to his best ever work on the big screen in Brawl in Cell Block 99, Zahler’s latest sees Vaughn co-star with Mel Gibson (Blood Father), who reunite themselves after their work together on the Oscar nominated, Hacksaw Ridge, for a movie which makes absolutely no mistake in coming across as one of the most seedy, nihilistic and hard-edged movies of the year so far, a police procedural crime drama with a double-edged twist which sees Gibson and Vaughn as suspended police officers who soon flip in allegiances to the law as they attempt to intercept a bank heist involving Tory Kittles’ (American Heist) recently released ex-con and a merciless band of stone cold murderers.

At just over two and a half hours long, Zahler’s impressive positioning in seemingly having complete control over his respective works and directorial final say means that Dragged Across Concrete does ultimately come across as his most indulgent production yet, a full on Tarantino-esque cinematic sprawl which at times feels overly joyous in attempting to frustrate you with drawn out set pieces, particularly in a first act which does take slightly long to really get going, but as with both of Zahler’s works so far, the testing nature of the pacing is offset with a mature and natural flair for excellent writing, interesting characters and incredibly tense set pieces which in their sense of tonal unease creates an off-kilter vacuum which filmmakers of lesser skill would undoubtedly not be able to handle. Whilst it’s hard to like any of the leading characters at the heart of the drama, with Gibson’s Brett Ridgeman a racist, old-fashioned relic of the past ages whose refusal to adhere to the modern world has resulted in failed promotion bids, a particularly chin-stroking set of character traits when considering the actor’s infamous private life, the fact remains that I still found everything involving his relationship with Vaughn’s Anthony Lurasetti utterly fascinating, ranging from elongated stake-out scenes to their ruthless ability to manage the most hostile of situations. With the final ninety minutes of the drama essentially one big heist set piece, the B-movie style for which Zahler is already renowned for really goes all gun blazes, with the introduction of Jennifer Carpenter’s (Quarantine) return-to-work mother giving birth to one of the most jaw-dropping character arcs I have seen in recent memory, and whilst some will gasp at both the runtime and the darkness at the heart of Dragged Across Concrete, name one other independent filmmaker at this very moment in time who has the cojones to make these kind of movies, a film so gritty and so brilliantly summed up by its’ title that come the end of it, you’ll feel that you’ve been dragged across volcanic ash, let alone concrete. That’s my kind of movie.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Daddy’s Home 2

“This Year It’s No More Back And Forth At Christmas. It’s A Together Christmas..!”

With 2015’s Daddy’s Home being one of the few cinematic releases which managed to simply pass me by without me having the chance, time or perhaps the need to catch up and review it, the release of it’s inevitable sequel after the comedy hit became Will Ferrell’s highest grossing live action film to date brings with it a sense of heavy duty dread, particularly when reminiscing the more contemporary Ferrell releases such as The House and Zoolander 2, and whilst it requires quite an extensive amount in the American comedy genre to actually impress me, who would have thought that a Christmas themed sequel to a film which never really was asking for a continuation in the first place was actually somewhat quite good fun? With Mel Gibson and John Lithgow added to the cast as the fathers of Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty and Ferrell’s Brad respectively, Daddy’s Home 2 is a surprisingly sharp and witty sequel which although suffers from a overly formulaic plot, some interesting narrative swings and a completely saccharin sweet ending which nearly resulted in me chucking up into the nearest popcorn box, is throwaway comedy trash of the cheesiest order which just happens to be quite enjoyable.

With a script which ironically mirrors the Bad Moms Christmas approach by utilising the added input of an older generation to the plot and therefore the inclusion of much more acting talent, the inclusion of both Gibson and Lithgow does strangely work, with the latter using all his musky, outdated charm and guile to interfere with the family arrangements, and the latter’s penchant for cringe-laden conversations and weirdly intimate family relations managing to balance the widely cliched characterisation of pretty much everyone from child to elder. With rib-tickling set pieces managing to win me over from the start and Wahlberg being undeniably the star of the show, Daddy’s Home 2 does falter in an over-reliance on weak slapstick more times than necessary, whilst the inclusion of a strangely ill-judged gun scene is somewhat muddled in its’ execution, particularly when contemplating recent events in the US. Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t perfect, but nobody heading in was expecting It’s A Wonderful Life, and whilst some may feel the need to slate it’s cocksure and rather unsteady cinematic existence, it really isn’t worth getting angry about, and with that particular mindset in check, Ferrell’s latest is just plain dumb fun.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

“Most Of These Men Don’t Believe The Same Way You Do, But They Believe So Much In How Much You Believe…”

Eleven years after the non-stop intensity of Apocalypto, everyone’s favourite crazy American Aussie returns to directorial duty with Hacksaw Ridge, a similarly profound and incredibly violent tale focusing on the true events of The Battle of Okinawa in the early months of 1945 and specifically upon the actions of Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector to ever receive the Medal of Honour for his services during the taking of the titular Hacksaw Ridge, a cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment surrounded by Japanese forces. Taking on the challenge of a non-fiction wartime miracle, Mel Gibson’s latest suffers from a fundamental flaw of being a movie of two halves, with the first half being primarily a cheesy, eye-gouging hour of character development which evokes everything from Forest Gump to Full Metal Jacket and a second half which can only be regarded as a simply stunning visualisation of the madness of war and one which ranks up there with the best there is to offer in regards to on-screen depictions of the Second World War.

In the lead role as Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield attempts to shows off his best Virginian accent amidst a performance which reeks of similarity to his character in Martin Scorsese’s Silence in terms of his seemingly unbreakable penchant for sticking to his faith, whilst the rather formulaic and obvious narrative twists doesn’t exactly give much meat to any other character throughout the course of the movie, particularly Teresa Palmer who is wasted as Doss’ wife, Dorothy, who seems to be key in the first half of the movie but then disappears into the abyss of two-dimensional nothingness come the second act. Star of the show however is a joint title for both Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn, with the latter channelling his meanest R. Lee Ermey and provoking a rafter of laughs from the audience during a superb Drill Sergeant scene which of course harks back to Full Metal Jacket, a film which similarly suffers from a superb first act but then loses steam after the half way mark. After the brilliance of Apocalypto, Hacksaw Ridge does seem like a fall back into second gear, with Gibson’s latest more of a crowd-pleasing romp in contrast to his other work yet for the time it was on screen, it was a solid and overly violent roller-coaster. Well, just in its’ second act.

Overall Score: 7/10

Triple Whammy Review! – Mad Max: Fury Road – SPOILERS

Dan –Mad Max 2

In a time where remakes and sequels are in constant supply, regardless of the demand, it would be fair to say that George Miller has fully deserved the chance to release another addition into the world of Max Rockatansky, with 30 years passing since the the release of Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome, where back then Mel Gibson was still slightly sane, Everton and Liverpool were the dominant footballing sides in England, and Queen were blowing minds during their performance at Live Aid. So now, in 2015, we have Mad Max: Fury Road, with the wonderful Tom Hardy replacing Gibson in the titular role, as well as Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult in supporting roles. With Miller himself stating in an interview with Empire Magazine that Fury Road was set to be “big on action and low on dialogue,” it would be foolish to believe that this latest addition to the Mad Max saga was going to be anything other than spectacle. And boy, is it. And some.

Still suffering heavily from the loss of his wife and daughter from the first film, our titular hero Max (Hardy) is captured by the War Boys, the violent army spawn of King Immortan Joe, whose teachings and tyranny have forced the people of the Citadel into poverty and sickness. Once captured, Max becomes a blood bank for illness-strapped War Boy, Nux (Hoult) who follows Joe and the rest of the War Boys into battle with Imperator Furiosa (Theron) after hijacking a war rig secretly containing King’s Joe’s “wives”, each of whom are used for the purpose of breeding. First off, as you can tell from my very short plot synopsis, to say Fury Road is mad would be doing it a huge injustice. It is a film wrapped in a straight jacket whilst shock-therapy treatment is being applied to it throughout. Seriously, what other film includes a guitar-yielding mad man playing heavy metal riffs on top of a truck whilst his equally mad colleagues set about causing endless destruction, all at the speed of 100mph? That’s right, none. The sheer madness of Fury Road is one that shouldn’t alienate the audience at all and instead, should be admired for the sheer bravery of it to not just be another quirky action movie and instead, stick to its’ guns and be something completely different, much like the original was more than thirty years ago.

If ever there was a cult/B-movie hidden in the form of a summer blockbuster, Fury Road would undoubtedly be it, with the violence turned up way past eleven, and the post-apocalyptic view of the Earth being one totally lost in the face of craziness, of which, is worse than any vision of the future that has ever been seen before in Mad Max universe where ironically, Hardy’s portrayal as the slight-spoken titular character is the calmest thing within it. Hardy has always had a knack of brilliantly portraying characters in films that focus on the physical aspect of their demeanour, whether it be Charles Bronson in Bronson or even Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and it is no surprise that such a gift is fully formed within Fury Road where although there is little in terms of dialogue from Hardy, the sheer physical demands he adheres to from Millers’ 21st century take on Max is more than enough to warrant standing up and applauding.  Applause is needed too for the overall look of the film, with the colour palette ranging from the gorgeously vast sand-induced emptiness of the day to the dark, moonlit shadow of the night, whilst the CGI and stunts seemingly outdoing themselves as the film progressed throughout its’ more than satisfactory two-hour runtime.

There was a personal fear of Mad Max: Fury Road being just another action film before I had watched it, but this potential downfall was put to bed as soon as the film started. What Miller has created here is not just another action film, it is one of the greatest, yet strangest and completely bonkers, action movies of recent times and is easily the best yet in the Mad Max canon. If this is the result of a thirty year wait for a sequel, then I am more than happy to wait just as long for the next. Simply brilliant.


Josh –

I have to say I made a huge mistake before watching Fury road and that is not watching any of the previous Mad Max movies. I would have enjoyed this film so much more if I knew about the earlier Films in the series. So keep in mind that this review is based solely on what I have seen in Fury Road. Fury Road threw me into detailed apocalyptic baron wasteland, Our protagonist, Max has been captured By a group known as the “War Boys” which serve the Warlord “Immorton Joe”. Immorton Joe is somewhat the god of the citadel and controls the only water source in a vast desert wasteland.

Fury Road shouldn’t be labelled as an action film, it should be “THE” action film. This is exactly what action should be a Chaotic symphony of destruction with cars, flames and blood! Despite most of the action taking place around what is initially a truck the fight choreography is amazing and brutal especially to old ladies. What really makes the action shine is the creativity of the vehicle designs and how they use some of the unique design features to fight on.

Mad Max 5Something I really enjoyed about this film, was the detail in the culture of the War Boys and their Valhalla worshipping towards Immorton Joe. It seemed that every action that one of the war boys took whether that be my Nux or other War Boys added more to the insanity and brainwashing by Immorton Joe for example spraying their teeth silver to look “shiny and chrome” before trying to become suicidal martyrs in the hopes they will be carried through the gates of Valhalla.

Though Max was intended to be the main character, there seemed to be very little character development throughout the film with Max being a man of very little words however definitely made up for it with thrilling action scenes. However in my opinion he was out-shined by Furiosa mainly because she is what starts the events throughout the film with her stealing Immorton Joe’s wives in the hope of taking them to the “Green Place”.

The only negative I had when I was watching the film was the CGI. Luckily there was very little of it apart from the enormous dust storm which did look amazing, however near the end of the film they used a CGI steering wheel that was coming towards the camera as a transition between shots and it really broke my immersion not only because the CGI looked awful but it just wasn’t necessary they could have just faded to black or had rock cover the screen and it would have been perfect.

As you can tell I loved this film yes there was little character development for Max, apart from what we assume is the death of his daughter however nothing else was needed. All we needed to know was that he is awesome and bad ass. The action is amazing creative with raw destruction and apart from a few CGI issues there was nothing wrong with this film and I look forward to watching the previous films and new ones to come.


Drake –

I’m in the same sinking boat as Josh. A member of the audience with no experience of the original trilogy and I’m ashamed that I never got around to watching it. I’d call it excusable but now, I’m excited to get my teeth in. Aware of the story and basic points of its predecessors, the reveal trailer for this monster had me excited (wink wink). Tom Hardy, explosions, gore, violence and incredible vehicles had me drooling from the start and if you’re reading this and have yet to see this movie, you should probably have left half way through Dan’s introduction.

Rather than babble on, lets get down to business. Fury Road brought a soap box to the convention of movie goers, threw it as Sylvester Stallon and his loaf of bread, pissed on his foot all while making him their little bitch. Expendables? Pffft. Rambo? Pfffft. George Miller isn’t afraid of you. He’s got Mad Max. A crazy SOB with a predisposition to kill shit.

The movie rocks. It rocks harder than Dwayne Johnson. The action is like nothing I’ve seen before. The practical effects were incredible and it must be said, the stunt crew must drag their nuts around in wheelbarrows because the shit they were pulling is next level. Often the difference between CGI and practical is difficult to distinguish which is incredible work by the department, apart from the 80’s transitional effects of Max’s daughter. That stuff was a little weird and outdated in context. I can’t actually pick a favourite between any of the visual effects. The microsecond glimpse of someone’s ribcage opening, the crazy costumes, the big balled stunt crew or the astonishing selection of vehicles. Its a V8 ratters wet dream and I want to be part of it, so much so, I’m going to buy myself one…So click that big Razer sign to the right and fund my new hobby!

Ahem, enough of this plug. The guys have given you a stellar report of the movie. I’m tagging in merely to extenuate their points. Visual effects were top gear, the acting was perfect and the characters were just insane, in a good/bad kinda way. A man with elephantiasis repping a dapper waistcoat with nip holes for his blinging nipple tassel hip-hop chain and dude who should really be DC’s newest Joker what’s not great about that!? But lets be honest, those milk udder women were just plain freaky.

Sure, there are a couple things I have issues with. Its suffered from the Hobbit 2 syndrome where it went from Ultra Mega 8 Billion K cameras to a crappy 10MP compact with dust on the lens and a scene where Max tells the crew to move on while he goes Hulk only to return to the exact spot a cut later. Otherwise, what else can I complain at? Well, apart from the fact that it ended.

In an unpredictable story of survival, Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that won’t last for just a year. It’ll drop into the books as one of the biggest and best movies of our generation and cement Mad Max at the top of the food chain. BRING ON THE SEQUELS!

Overall Score – 9/10


Mad Max 7

The Expendables 3 – Quicky Review – SPOILERS

The ExpendablesSo if you’re expecting a critical analysis of Expendables 3, I would recommend you close this window. Renowned for its historic cast of action/adventure actors and its excessive action, the series was always going to be a hit. Expendables 3 is no different, just a few new faces to spice it up a little. In all fairness, the series in general isn’t something you can look at and go, “These movies are solid pieces of theatre art”. It just doesn’t work that way. Not many action movies can really collect such praise from critics but draw a lot of support from fans for the real reason many people watch them. They’re fun. It’s the genre for the everyday man, not those who likeability sits firmly in the off position.

When we look at the Expendables, we see a big cast that has shifted fairly regularly over the series. This time around instead of having Bruce Willis playing Church, Harrison Ford took his place by killing Church off for good (Turns out Willis wanted £1million a day for filming). Of course we have the regular crew back but unfortunately, one of my favourites – Terry Crews – sat out for the majority of the film. Perhaps due to other commitments but at least we got to see him in action. Returning original Jet Li was also back in the fold and it was publicised heavily of his involvement but with only 5 minutes of actual screen time, I’m sad to say that it was a bit of a waste of time for him to have even turned up. Not entirely new and fresh, Arnie is back but this time he actually features throughout the movie getting his hands dirty and obviously we also have Wesley Snipes. Charged for Tax evasion, his return to the big screen ironically began in a train convoy returning to his black ops prison cell. With a little joke about his conviction thrown in, Snipes was an OG Expendable from the very beginning. After going a little mad for money, he got himself caught and went dark for 8 years. Once Barney Ross (Stallone) caught wind of his location, the plan was set into action and as you’ve probably seen in the trailers, he was busted out. With his help, the crew immediately go to a new destination to retrieve a bomb for the CIA. However, another OG Expendable by the name of Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) turns up even though Barney supposedly killed him many years back. Making a new name for himself and taking control of his own personal army, Stonebanks is now a billionaire weapons dealer who after finding out Barney was after him, sets out to cause him equal pain. Now you may be wondering who the new lot are and why they are even there. It turns out that after the encounter with Stonebanks, Barney retires the old group for their own safety in favour of a new crew who can hold their own but are a little messed up supplied by Kelsey Grammer. These include MMA’s Victor Ortiz & Ronda Rousey, actor and model Kellan Lutz and Glen Powell, joined in the final third by the not so fresh faced Atonio Banderas to take down Stonebanks for good. As ever, not everything goes to plan and the old crew jump back into the fray to help. Out of the new group, my least favourite is Kellan. When trying to act as this big hard man, he looks like he’s posing for a glamour shoot and it’s fairly off-putting. Not including the fact that his character is a dick and his acting is awful.The Expendables 3

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to what the movie is really about, the action. Its extremely fun and flows really well throughout. Enough explosions to give Michael Bay a hard-on the size of the Eiffel Tower, hand to hand combat with the experience of MMA fighters to really demonstrate how it’s actually done and general chaos and anarchy that they’ve always done so well. Obviously it wouldn’t be an action movie without a bit of a cheese fest and witty one liners and they kindly obliged with some hilariously funny quips from their previous roles or history. Although the acting is pretty awful, in the face of stunts and action scenes, many of the characters were very competent. Ronda sticks out the most to me. In the final action sequence, she has quite the scene which really displays her UFC prowess. Moves that were incredibly well choreographed with a blend of music and shifts between a few other characters did help to create atmosphere within in the building that was set to blow. The only iffy bit of action was between Barney and Stonebanks. The acting and script for the scene was frankly laughable.

So if you got this far, cheers. Many of you probably just want the basics and seeing that I’ve run out of steam, here it is. Poor acting, awesome cast of classics and newbies, hella fun and Michael Bay’s wet dream. Go watch it, have some fun and see the reason films exist. 6/10 for the outcome but that really shouldn’t count. PS – Have a creepy photo of Snipes down below…

The Expendables 1