“It’s Quite The Fairytale You Got Going On Here. From Top Flight Model In Moscow To Rubbing Shoulders With The Elite…”
After successfully managing to hit the grand old age of sixty, French filmmaker, Luc Besson, seems to have become slightly nostalgic in his old age as he returns to the type of feminine-led action flick which made him renowned across the world at the beginning of his career during the early 1990’s. With Besson sort of losing the plot in recent years with the simply awful, Lucy, and the woefully titled, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a film which begins equally as bad but then grew into some sort of guilty pleasure come the final credits, the Frenchman returns to the subject matter he knows best in the form of Anna, a clear modern-day incarnation of Besson’s own 1990 action piece, Nikita, and a movie which sees the relatively unknown Sasha Luss as the titular beauty who shifts from street-living junkie to globe-trotting deadly assassin within the confines of a screenplay which is as aggravating as it is enjoyably ludicrous.
With a narrative structure which jumps back and forth through different time zones more often than Back to the Future, Besson’s movie does begin in interesting fashion, with the opening hour utilising a particularly glossy sheen of smoke and mirrors as it introduces Luss’ titular leading heroine, a top KGB assassin working under the wing of Helen Mirren’s creaky, nicotine loving Olga, as she works her way through a number of high profile assassinations. As the movie soldiers on in a semi-effective, genre-literate fashion, the introduction of both the dodgy accented Luke Evans and cheekbone enthusiast, Cillian Murphy, as opposing geographical ends of a conflicted love triangle is where the film ultimately shows its’ rather annoying hand, utilising flashback after flashback in order to highlight just how clever Besson thinks he is. On the contrary, such diversions from what should be a generic, B-movie storyline ultimately makes it more aggravating the more it goes on, and even with an abundance of decent, John Wick inspired action set pieces, Anna is at least better than similar movies of recent years including Red Sparrow and Atomic Blonde, but too a movie which lacks that sense of cult-heavy wackiness which the early Besson movies stored in abundance.
Overall Score: 6/10
“We Got A Big Platform, Man. Use That Platform To Make A Change…”
Being in complete ignorance of most things hip-hop, rap and the late 1980’s, early 1990’s wave of prominent American gangsta music, my expectations heading into All Eyez on Me, a biographical dramatisation of Californian rapper Tupac Shakur, is muddled to say the least. On the one hand, the surprising critical success of Straight Outta Compton, a similarly biographical drama of rap sensation, N.W.A, has somewhat made me quietly optimistic for yet another effectively played cinematic treat, yet on the other, my complete inability to name probably even the most famous of Tupac tracks probably doesn’t exactly make me part of the top-end target audiences for a film which is bound to succeed in the eyes of many. Whilst director Benny Boom succeeds in terms of casting, with lead star Demetrius Shipp Jr. being a dead ringer for the fallen rap star, All Eyez on Me is a flawed, overlong and genuinely quite confusing drama, one which fails to live up to the sharp, dangerous power of a film such as Straight Outta Compton but does succeed on some levels due to some dedicated performances from many of its’ relatively unknown leading stars.
Amidst a ridiculous amount of annoying fade-out edits which not only ruin the fundamental storytelling throughout the drama but makes George Lucas look like the master of the long-held camera shot, All Eyez on Me suffers from being a tale which ultimately seems designed only for fanboys of the music genre it is attempting to portray, using on-screen depictions of real individuals in a manner so scarcely and sparingly that the lack of characterisation results in plot threads which I inevitably struggled to keep up with, something of which I didn’t find in Straight Outta Compton. Add into the matter a jarring level of misogyny in terms of the treatment of most of the women characters on-screen, Boom’s film is somewhat anchored in place by a star-in-the-making performance from lead Shipp Jr., whilst The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira is also rather exceptional as Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s inspirational mother. With the film’s 140 minute runtime, it comes as no surprise that the film does begin to wander in places, but the seedy and daring subject matter at the heart of the true story is interesting enough to warrant being viewed by even the most trivial of rap fans, if using the film only to garner a brief understanding on the complexities of rap’s leading icon.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Mayday, Mayday. This Is Deepwater Horizon…”
Proclaimed as the worst oil disaster in U.S history, Deepwater Horizon brings to the big screen the events which unfolded on the titular oil rig back in 2010, starring Mark Wahlberg as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams as well as a strong supporting cast consisting of Kurt Russel, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich. Directed by Peter Berg, whose back catalogue includes The Kingdom, Hancock and Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, Deepwater Horizon is a surprisingly effective disaster drama, one that focuses on the buildup of characterisation and plot and then throws you into submission with a slender mix of both practical and digital effects, resulting in an experience both impressive and terrifying in its’ attempt to showcase the horrific events that took place aboard the titular oil rig only six years ago.
Questionable accents aside, particularly from John Malkovich, as well as a wondering Texas accent from Wahlberg, and a tendency to resort to technical jargon and mumbling, of which was sometimes hard to unravel, Deepwater Horizon follows in the conventional genre-converting blueprint of attempting to tell the tale of a disaster from the POV of many, whilst primarily focusing on one in order to form an emotional and physical connection to occurrences on screen and whilst Wahlberg is effective in the lead role, the beginning of the film recalls a court case featuring the real life Mike Williams after the events of the Deepwater Horizon and thus prevents the audiences’ ambiguity regarding the fate of its leading character. A strange move indeed, but nonetheless, when put up against recent movies of similar ilk such as San Andreas and Everest, Deepwater Horizon is indeed the most effective, unexpectedly so and whilst it isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of cinematic originality, Deepwater Horizon is indeed worth the ticket price for its’ big screen quality if nothing else.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Have 36 Hours…”
Who doesn’t love The Stath? An actor who knows his strengths as well as his limits and makes the big bucks by doing what he does best year in, year out; meaty action movies. Although the 2011 version of The Mechanic was a reboot/remake/re-imagining of 1972 Charles Bronson thriller itself, its’ relative success didn’t exactly warrant that of a sequel in any shape or form yet here we are, with Mechanic: Resurrection being an A-Z in the blueprint of Jason Statham movies; little plot yet a hell lot of action. Supported by a rather starry cast with Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh and Tommy Lee Jones all fighting for screen time, Mechanic Resurrection is pretty much everything you would expect from an end of summer action flick starring The Stath, with Resurrection going in one ear and heading swiftly out the other without preaching anything other than adrenaline-fuelled mayhem.
Where the first Mechanic attempted to delve a bit deeper into the ambiguous livelihood of Jason Statham’s Arthur Bishop, the titular “Mechanic”, a hired gun who articulately kills people in ways that makes their deaths appear like accidents, Resurrection simply wants to kill as many people as possible, dropping in the idea of a plot as background for Bishop to shoot, punch, stab, blow up and eradicate as many hired goons as possible without ever leaving a scratch on his silky bald head. Although strictly not a comedy, the sight of endless waves of bodyguards being swiftly culled in the most violent ways possible did manage to produce a few fits of laughter, and although the film is incredibly violent, it never stops long enough to dwell on such as well as not having the chance to be regarded as lazy and offensive as something such as London Has Fallen. Yes, both films are ridiculously stupid and so lacking in plot it would make first year media students cry in fear, the truth is Resurrection is just plain dumb fun, something of which we can all do with sometime.