Archive for the Action Category

RED SPARROW :: ACTION :: 062

Posted in Action, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/20/2018 by joycereview

Red Sparrow (2018)

While it is true that Jennifer Lawrence makes any film better, she follows up her X-Men (2016) and Mother! (2017) films with a bit of a flop. Though an exceptional actress, it was the movie, not the actress that caused the tailspin.

PLOT
J. Lo plays Dominika Egorova, a ballerina-turned spy when her uncle sends her to the Russian Sparrow School. Her codename at one point is Katrina, a fairly obvious connection to her character in Hunger Games, Katniss. Anyway, as an untested secret agent, she is ordered to make contact with C.I.A. agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in order to reveal the identity of an unknown Russian informant.

THOUGHTS
Though there are some surprise moments, the plot is a bit too convoluted and unrealistic. After being in the Sparrow School only 3 months, Dominika is sent on the secret mission for the State – whereby all that we see that she learns is how to accept and dismiss sexual violation and learn how to administer this sexual control to someone else. There are no other evidence that she is learning anything useful (except for one lock-picking class).

The first act is well-done and quite interesting however, by the time she leaves the Sparrow School the movie loses its luster, especially with the poor chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton. Keep in mind that this was just as much of a writing problem as it was casting problem – I just don’t feel that Edgerton was the right person for the role.

Several of the cast members did wonderful job, most notable is Belgian actor Mattias Schoenaerts who played Dominika’s uncle Vanya, and Charlotte Rampling who played the Sparrow School’s matron. The wife and I had seen her since she played Doctor Evelyn Vogel in Dexter. Ciarán Hinds (best know as Caesar in Rome) had a small, yet well-played role as Zakharov, while actors Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher) and Jeremy Irons (General Karchnoi) were quite poor. I like to give most actors the benefit of the doubt though as Parker’s performance might be rooted in poor direction and Iron’s abysmal Russian accent a result of not enough preparation time, that according to dialogue coach Erik Singer, is more often the case (especially in seasoned/veteran actors).

Overall, this movie is a hard pass and certainly not a movie that I will be adding to my home collection.

It get’s a (generous) 5 out-of-10 bear claws.

But what did YOU think?

Do you feel we were wrong in any aspect of this review?

Let us know in the comments below.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

TRAILER:

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Click the image above and follow me on Instagram. Every 3rd picture is a new movie review!

Advertisements

DEADPOOL 2 :: ACTION :: 060

Posted in Action, Comedy, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/01/2018 by joycereview

Deadpool 2 (2018)

“Deadpool. That sounds like a franchise.”

Nearly every film falls short on the sequel and Deadpool 2 is no exception – but not by much!

In Deadpool we meet Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) a foul-mouthed mercenary that undergoes an experiment that leaves him with amazing, self-healing abilities and enhanced physical prowess. We learn quickly that this “Merc with a mouth” isn’t your typical superhero – often roasting his colleagues and screen stars with sarcasm, pop-culture references and insults. Like his actual comic persona, he occasionally is guilty of “breaking the fourth wall.”

“I may be super but I’m no hero.”

Deadpool 2 has all the same elements of the first, but this time they double-downed on the action and gore. They also added some new characters, including one, time-traveling terminator named Cable (Josh Brolin). Sister Margaret’s Tavern, a pub frequented by shady characters and mercenaries becomes HQ to a special team or “force” whose first directive is to rescue a misguided youth (Firefist) before he is killed and/or does something monstrous. Friend and bartender, Weasel (T.J. Miller) is hilarious…again, and new-comer, Domino (Zazie Beetz), many times, stills the show!


Deadpool movies are perfect for those of that relish with glee witty and racy remarks (especially those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s). Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) and director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) have similar styles, it seems to me, which adds to the continuity. They also keep with the same primary writers (Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick) but this time, instead going with a group effort like they did in Deadpool, they added Ryan Reynolds to the writer’s table.

The action, dialogue and story moves along quicker than the first and can be rather daunting to take it all in. Keep in mind that some people, not a lot, believe the opposite. While I won’t scoff…. I feel strongly that the action had more of the Hollywood effects element. And though Deadpool continues to flirt erotically and sometimes homo-erotically (like in the first) the sexuality seems a bit toned down, possibly with the studios expecting a younger crowd.


Be on the lookout for some surprise cameos and prepare yourself for a good time!

Let us know what you thought in the comments!!!!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Trailers:

Deadpool (2016)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Deadpool 2 (2018)

SaveSave

THE SNOW WALKER :: DRAMA :: 053

Posted in Action, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/19/2018 by joycereview

The Snow Walker (2003)

Like my previous review of Dune, this movie is not without its biases. The Snow Walker is made up of three things I love; aviation, Inuit culture and survivalism. When I first saw the trailer for this I was like, “Oh my God…a cross between The Aviator (1985) and Survivorman. I’m in!” Based on the book Walk Well My Brother by Farley Mowat and directed by Charles Martin Smith, The Snow Walker tells the story of Charlie Halliday, an arctic bush pilot who delivers supplies to tribes of the Canadian North. When he is bribed to take a sick Inuit girl to a hospital in Yellowknife, disasters strikes and they are forced to rely on each to survive.

The story is set in 1953, and in my opinion, they couldn’t have gotten two better leads then Barry Pepper and Annabella Piugattuk. Barry, a native Canadian with both the accent and classic good looks pulls off the arrogant, former WWII pilot. Annabella is equally good as Kanaalaq, and was picked over 100 other Inuit ladies (six of whom were flown in for auditions). Apart from being a cutie (even with her character having tuberculosis), she’s as authentic as you can get. She grew up in a town of 1600 called Nunavut, her first language was Inuktitut, and she can hunt, fish and make clothing out of caribou hides.

There were many elements to the story that I was extremely pleased to see – for one, they didn’t have to fight or escape a polar bear attack. You can just imagine that that would make the Hollywood producers salivate. What happened to them was much more realistic. Secondly, as good-looking as the main stars are, it never (spoiler alert) becomes romantic. Lastly, the ending. I will not spoil that.

There are several other reasons to watch this movie:

  1. Michael Bublé the crooner-singing sensation makes a cameo as fellow pilot named Hap.
  2. Jon Gries! Best known as Uncle Rico in Jared Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite (2004).  Though he may be seen to be a real prick in this film, he plays a real person… a bit of a pessimist, but ultimately a pragmatist.

Am I the only person that instantly sees Jon Gries and quotes,

How much you wanna bet I can throw a football over them mountains?

If you want to see a superb survival film, and unlike The Revenant, is rated PG… THIS is the one to see!

My biggest gripe… they don’t make it on bluray.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Trailer:

___________________________________________________________________________________________

*Every 3rd picture on my Instagram account will be a new movie review! See it there first by following me at @ChenCenter

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

THE PROFESSIONAL :: ACTION :: 052

Posted in Action, Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2018 by joycereview

Léon: The Professional (1994)

When a friend requested that I review Luc Besson’s The Professional, I was overjoyed. That meant that I would need to watch it again.

One thing that jumps out at me whenever I hear this writer-director’s name is that he’s a lover of strong women – maybe even moreso than James Cameron. Think about it – La Femme Nikita, young Mathilda in this film, Lucy and the key to the universe, The Fifth Element’s Leeloo.

The Professional is the screen debut of a Natalie Portman, who plays an abused 12 year old kid whose life gets changed forever when she runs into Italian hitman Léon. When her family gets killed, she pleads with Léon to teach her to “clean” – in other words, kill, to get revenge.

Besson gets it right at every turn, especially when setting up the opening! The movie opens with bird’s eye view of NYC, pans over Central Park, then a non-stop street view that finally turns into Tony’s Restaurant in Little Italy where Léon is given a job. Seconds later, we see just how “professional” The Professional really is!

Where this deviates from “perfection” are in several, somewhat trivial places. For one, it makes me question his professionalism when he wears his sunglasses inside (perhaps he doesn’t have to see) and no gloves. You telling me he’s been doing this for years, just killed half a dozen people in the first job alone – leaving fingerprints everywhere (especially on the telephone) and hasn’t been caught yet?

A man cannot live on milk alone.

While it makes the film memorable, Léon, and later, Léon and Mathilda, drink A LOT of milk – which has less to do with looking healthy and more about the strange thought of a gas on the job. I would not propose a full glass of milk before OR after exercise. Just sayin’.

Gary Oldman’s character Stansfield, is one of the creepiest of all-time. But it is a bit of a stretch to have someone like him working for Internal Affairs, popping Librium pills (IMDB), and weakly justifying himself when he “flies off the handles.” But that stretch of the imagination aside, his improvisational scenes were he literally “sniffs out” Mathilda’s father, talks about his love of Beethoven, and exclaims “Everyone!!!!” – just brilliant.

I also have to add that, although I own and watch the International Cut of the film, I prefer the American version where the awkward sexual tension is taken out. At one point in the movie, they get kicked out of an apartment because Mathilda lies to the manager that Léon is not her father, but rather, her lover. As young as Mathilda looks and IS it should be off-pudding everywhere in the world – not just the U.S. Thanks Mathilda, you just made your only guardian a sex offender too… and either he’ll get caught, forced to run or kill an innocent man. Obviously they flee the scene – somehow.

All-in-all, Léon The Professional is an amazing movie, great pacing, tremendous chemistry and well acted. One Easter Egg I’ll leave you with is this… the idea of Léon came to Luc Besson in writing/filming La Femme Nikita. A Cleaner, dressed in a long coat, glasses and a wool cap (played by Jean Reno) fixes a botched job. Besson wanted to expand this character and thus, we have this movie, except that he’s now an Italian with a non-Italian name.

I could be wrong. How popular is Léon as an Italian name?

How did you like the film? What would you rate it? Let me know!

__________________________________________________________________

Trailer:

__________________________________________________________________

Remember, follow me on instagram @chencenter for the 1st posting of each review. A new film review every third picture.

SaveSaveSaveSave

JUSTICE LEAGUE :: ACTION :: 051

Posted in Action, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/10/2018 by joycereview

Justice League (2017)

Usually when people see a review for a film that gets 3 out of a possible 10, and is one with a Hollywood budget of $300 million, they immediately ask, “How can this be”?

For one, it starts with the tagline, “You can’t save the world alone.” Obviously they are trying to build a team that rivals the numbers of the Avengers, however, the tagline should be…

“You can’t save the world without Superman.”

I don’t want to hate on Zack Snyder because he DID give us Dawn of the Dead, 300 and The Watchmen but ever-since that point his movies were made with an overuse of CGI, and a desire to appeal to studio executives and kids obsessed with constant action. Please let it be known that I don’t fault Zack Snyder entirely as I do notice the occasional spark of genius.

What I’d really like to know is whose fault it was to CGI Superman’s face at the beginning and ending clips of the film? Fake and unforgivable. I heard from somewhere that Henry Cavill had to keep a mustache for another project, and for those two scenes, they simply CG-ed it out, quite unsuccessfully.

The scourge of this story rests largely on the fact that the villain is a CGI-generated alien invader named Steppenwolf. Though Aquaman is interesting, there is no time to get the audience to understand and form attachments with the characters the same way that Marvel did with the Avengers. It all felt rushed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of Barry Allen (aka The Flash) as he added the much needed levity to the film. Even though this was almost a “copy and paste” team introduction (see Spiderman’s intro into the Avengers) his presence made viewing the Justice League bearable. Way to go Ezra Miller!

There were many things that went wrong with this movie and it rightfully won an award for the Golden Schmoes’ Best Disappointment of the Year (IMDB). It would be hard for me to believe that anyone above the age of 20 (just picking a number) would vote this any higher than a 5… because it just isn’t made for an adult audience in my opinion.

But enough of me… what did you think? Did you have a favorite part? Who’s your favorite character and why?

* Slight Spoiler *
When Superman returns from the dead, there’s a momentary, psychotic episode whereby he takes on the Justice League single-handed and wipes the floor with them! My favorite part of this is as The Flash is trying to encircle Superman, and Superman is grappling and restraining the others, his eyes are tracking him, slowly. This made for an eerie yet humorous moment and a great display of just how incredible Superman’s powers are.

I sit here and wonder… will villains always be computer-generated and must directors continually try to top the other films with more fighting, greater explosions, and extra carnage? I pine for the Donner/Lester Superman I and II – the villains Lex Luther and General Zod.

___________________________________________________________

Trailer:

___________________________________________________________

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

MAN OF STEEL, STEALS MY CHILDHOOD :: ACTION :: 44

Posted in Action, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/18/2013 by joycereview

3--clawsmanofsteelMAN OF STEEL.  REVIEW 043

It’s been over 3 years since I’ve reviewed a film.  After seeing Zack Snyder‘s remodeling of the Man of Steel, and the dismantling of a personal childhood hero, I felt compelled to get back into the game; at least one more time.

I think most of us thought the trailer was phenomenal. Am I right?  And sensationally reviewed or not, I was going to sit in that theater and watch Superman fly into space, back into our lives and consciousness again.

Now, I don’t consider myself very resistant to change – but as I sat in that theater, I could feel my body cringe and the lightness in my heart sadden (similar to the feeling I had with George Lucas’ changes in Star Wars).

I needed to face some facts.  The viewing audiences are not the same as they were, nor are the studio executives and movie critics of Hollywood.  Critics don’t want to stand against a film, obviously because there is more exposure and more money in promotion.  Directors are becoming fixated on smoke & mirrors (CGI), diluting the story and disrupting the pace in order to keep viewers stimulated.  What they miss (when they follow this formula) is that people go to the theater to be “moved” (as James Lipton once put it).  Man of Steel, although superbly cast, is over-stimulating, devoid of humor, and re-invents Kal-El as a confused and somewhat immature orphan.

MY QUICK OVERVIEW

“I think it’s safe to say that Christopher Reeve still holds the mantle, that simplicity is best, and that 2-hours of special effects and blowing stuff up doesn’t amount to one General Zod being flung into a big Coca-Cola sign.”

THE BEGINNING (No ‘real’ Spoilers)

The malaise began immediately – no John Williams music*, no traditional Superman opening – instead, we go straight to Kal-El’s birth (and labor is just as just as painful on Krypton as it is on Earth).  Was that a spoiler?  I apologize if it was.

After Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son to planet Earth, we meet a seemingly steriod-laden ‘Clark Kent’ (Henry Cavill) [who actually didn’t go by that name in order to hide his identity] as he helps man a fishing vessel.  I was confused to see that there were no ‘crystals’ to speak of on Krypton or in Superman’s possession, and a mode of Kryptonian transportation is a flying komodo dragon (very ‘Avatar’ of Synder/Goyer/Nolan).

THE CHARACTERS

general zod man of steel-1One of the saving graces of this film is due to the fact that it is star-studded, with each actor delivering a great performance.  It is a bit concerning, however, that the 13 year old Clark exhibits more emotion and depth than the main star.  But with that aside, Laurence Fishburne makes an excellent Perry White, Amy Adams Lois Lane, Diane Lane Martha Kent, Kevin Costner Jonathan Kent, and the list goes on.

Being a fan of the strong women in films, I greatly enjoyed Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) who plays the Kryptonian ‘right hand’ of General Zod (Michael Shannon).  But if you’re going to have General Zod and play on the banishment into the Phantom Zone, then why not have Ursa and Non (from Superman & Superman II)?  If you’re going to have Perry White and Lois Lane, why no Jimmy Olsen?  Did Snyder/Goyer/Nolan want the movie devoid of any comic relief (apart from the unneeded ‘measuring dicks’ remark from Lois Lane)?

THE SENSE OF URGENCY

superman helicopter sceneA strong element that I feel should be attached to any action film is a sense of urgency, suspense, or of possible death.  In Superman you had the intense helicopter scene where Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is tangling from a seat belt.  In Superman II, you had 3 super villains hell-bent on provoking Superman through the destruction and killing of Metropolis citizens.  Superman had to change the battlefield, he had to use brain over brawn in order to save lives.  In Superman Returns, the ‘Man of Steel’ saves Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) yet again, this time in a Boeing-Space Shuttle Launch catastrophe – not to mention, 2 near drownings, a Kryptonite shiv stuck in his side by Lex Luthor (Keven Spacey), and Superman’s death/’resurrection’.

CHEMISTRY

Iron Man has Pepper Potts, Spiderman has Mary Jane Watson, and Superman has Lois Lane.  Love, whether guys like it in their films or not, is a potent ingredient when it comes to film.  On-Screen chemistry is a hard thing to pull off in a lot of cases.  Some have it and some don’t.  However, in Man of Steel, there wasn’t enough time and attention to the Superman-Lois Lane story to feel that love was even possible.  But maybe ‘Love’ wasn’t what the director and writers were going for?

As someone who dabbles in script-writing himself, I don’t think we should simply ‘forgive’ Goyer/Nolan for this problem and I don’t think the audience should overlook the importance of this connection.  You must remember, Nolan played the same trick on us with the last Batman movie.  How did Catwoman go from unobtainable, pesky thief to finally locking lips with Batman in the end?  Shouldn’t Bruce Wayne find that odd or suspect?  Again, I suppose a kiss at the end of the movie is all studios think we want out of two attractive actors.

DIRECTION

Both Richard Donner and Bryan Singer are directors who care deeply for story.  They go to great lengths to make sure that their actors understand the characters of the film and the tone, mood and intensity at which they want their actors to play their respective parts.  To be fair, there is so much that goes on behind-the-scenes between directors, producers and studios that criticisms are merely opinions on the final product; nothing more.  Why was there nearly 45 minutes of non-stop action in the third act of Man of Steel?  Was it because they wanted to show us something new (which they did not) as far as visual effects, or did they do it to cover weaknesses to the story?

STORY-TELLING

The integral component to any movie is story.  Ideas, themes, scenes can be amazingly brilliant – but if there is little-to-no originality, if it’s un-relatable, and/or has no consistency, the film may be doomed to fail.  The way for audiences to relate to Superman is through Clark Kent.  Yes, Snyder/Goyer/Nolan gave us flashbacks of young Kent being bullied, and learning that he was an alien – and maybe the placement was decent (given the pace of the film) – but it wasn’t enough for the audience (in my opinion) to understand how these feelings changed his constitution, challenged and helped to form his sense of right and wrong.

When it comes to original, forward-thinking ideas, I thought the movie was shallow.  Krypton had a Matrix-like incubation chamber, villians that climbed after Superman using The Hulk method, and I already mentioned the flying dragons of Avatar.  In Superman II, Mario Puzo‘s story had Superman outsmarting the General Zod and his entourage by reversing the direction of his radiation chamber, deceiving both the villians and the audience at the same time.  I won’t spoil it for those that see Man of Steel, but let me just say that General Zod meets his end not-so-spectacularly. It left both my wife and I looking at each other going, “huh!? well,… alrighty then.”  On thing it certainly reminded me of was Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises and the seemingly obvious way at which he ‘permanently dispatched’ Bane.  Any warrior knows to go to his enemies’ weakness, and Bane clearly had a breathing problem (sorry if that was a spoiler, but the Dark Knight’s been out for a year!).

MUSIC*

I can’t believe I forgot about the music [I’m a fitting this in several days later].  While John Williams’ epic tracks continue to be what people hum when they think of Superman, Hans Zimmer didn’t do a bad job at all.  Hans has a great understanding of rhythm, pace, and mood and thereby, creates a superb soundtrack to a less-than-mediocre movie.  The sound is bold and original and would definitely be something I’d listen to at home.  My only criticism is that I wish it had a small resonation, an echo, of Williams’ theme(s).  I don’t believe, especially when it comes to Superman, that to incorporate the old with the new (in this situation) would be “taking the easy road” or plagiarism, but of a musical collaboration.

A QUICK ASIDE

Singer ComicbookMovieComI have even more respect for Bryan Singer’s vision, Superman Returns (2006).  Some of the reasons why people didn’t like Singer’s version is are: too close to Donner/Lester’s version, Brandon Routh’s portray was too like Christopher Reeve, it was too heavy with the the love triangle and with the Christ mythology/symbology.  As Singer explained to Ed Gross (2011. ComicBookmovie.Com),

…I am very much in love with the Donner picture, and for me the journey was exciting because I got the chance to reprise those images and explore it. When you’re fascinated by something and you love it, part of making the movie is trying to please everyone and make a successful movie, but part of it is an experimental kind of thing.”

In Singer’s version, there is a sense of peril, urgency, and you truly felt for the characters involved – partly because they are extensions of the characters we know and love.  The Boeing/Space shuttle scene that reintroduces Superman to the world was genius, nail-biting, unique and nostalgic.  A good example (Superman) of this

“I hope this hasn’t put any of you off flying.  Statistically speaking…”

Great nod to the original.  It was almost as if Mr. Reeve was mouthing the words.  It sure felt good to hear those words again.

FINAL WORD

It will do me some good to get some time and distance from this film.  It might seem silly to some, but writing has always been a cathartic and certainly stress-relieving experience for me.  It’s a difficult thing for any director to tackle – especially trying to live up the the expectations of the 8 year-old inside me.  But on the other hand, I don’t feel like I was asking too much.  What I got from Man of Steel was mind-numbing action with only glimpses of greatness thrown in here and there (i.e. the touching scene w/ Mr. Kent and young clark, the school bus scene); all of which were in the opening trailer.  I will have to come to terms with this I know… because I share Bryan Singer’s thought (as he said to the Voices of Krypton), that my idea of a great Superman film “would simply be a reboot” of Donner’s (/Puzo’s) visions with “balls-to-the-wall” action sequences*

Of course, done the right way!

by: MICHAEL JOYCE

Also of: CombativeCorner.Com, OutFoxxed.Com & YourTherapy.Info

MOVIE DETAILS

WARNER BROS.  2006

PG-13.  TIME: 2 HOURS 28 MIN.

ACTION/ADVENTURE/FANTASY

PLEASE OFFER YOUR THOUGHTS OF THE FILM BELOW

SaveSave

THE HURT LOCKER :: ACTION :: 036

Posted in Action, Drama, Thriller, War with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 02/09/2010 by joycereview

What looks like a sandbox and smells like poop?

Give up?  Answer: The Hurt Locker.

But like sandboxes and pooping… The Hurt Locker can be a little bit of fun.

If you think about it, sand is fun to build stuff with, but in essence, there’s nothing grand about it; it’s just tiny rocks.  And pooping…let’s face it, is sometimes an inconvenience, but at the very least, gives you a well-deserved break from your job, day-to-day stessors, and like all us typical Americans, overeating.  The Hurt Locker is fun at points, but there’s nothing too deep about it.

And in comparison to pooping – a  break from your daily “duties” , but might be a bit of “a waste” [look at that! A double pun!].  Watcher beware.

THE BEAR ESSENTIALS

US Army Sergeant First Class Will James (Jeremy Renner) joins Bravo Company in Iraq, having only a month or so left till they are relieved.  Sgt. James is a bomb disposal expert sent to replace former Bravo leader Sgt. Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce).  Sgt. James’ “cowboy approach” to bomb disposal clashes poorly with squad members Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty ); whose main objective it to return home in one piece.

Don’t be fooled by my ‘poop’ simile, The Hurt Locker, is brilliant in several ways.  One particular example of brilliance lies within the character of SFC Will James, who (somehow) operates the battlefield with a searing focus.  He resembles Tom Sizemore’s character in Black Hawk Down*; someone not overly concern with death, but of getting the job done, by whatever means possible.  The role of “The Bomb Specialist,” in his huge, protective suit resembles an astronaut exploring a foreign planet.  This image is one that cinematically paints an atmosphere of isolation and danger, and portrays Sgt. James as a heroic figure on a perilous mission.  From this, one can easily tell that the director has a flair for the artistic [she actually spent 2 years at the San Francisco Art Institute as a painter].

The second dose of “the spectacular” comes in the overall “vibe” of the film.  Director Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Point Break) gives us a glimpse of Iraq without the politics; a battle on simple terms – Man vs. his fear of death.  The bombs that they are there to defuse are the very similar the the bombs they carry with themselves day-to-day through the war… either you adapt/disconnect the wiring, or you eventually detonate.

Where this movie fails (in this reviewer’s opinion) is mainly in Bigelow’s artistic styling, lack of supporting details and character traits.

Bigelow (the ex-wife of “Action film great” James Cameron) is fair, not great, as an action director.  Artistic action, such as Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, masterfully conveys depth and is clearly, poetry in motion.  Ridley Scott (Gladiator, G.I. Jane), on the other hand, is a veteran director whose directorial wizardry gives the eyes the full extent of light and motion, without overload.  Bigelow performs nicely with scenes involving tention, but nothing beyond what one might catch in an episode of 24.

At one point in the film, while under enemy fire, the camera fixates – in slow motion – on a bullet shell as it discharges from the sniper rifle, spins in the air and bounces on the desert sand.  The next shot, showed both the sniper and spotter, as the spotter looks through his binoculars and utters, “You got him [the bad-guy].”  With the consistently mounting tension of the scene, most viewers would be clamoring  for the result… for the bloody aftermath of that final shot… Bigelow just handed us a heaping handful of failure.   Word verification of a kill?  Only?  (Sheesh!)

Finally, (and there are certainly more concerns that reduced this film to a 6) I don’t understand the point of many of these bomb defusings.  I wouldn’t think a deserted road of sand and rubble merits a soldier’s life.  Certainly the main character wants to MacGyverishly defuse a record number of bombs in his extraordinary career, but don’t they have “bomb containment boxes/chambers”?  Why risk life and limb over such a small thing?  Why not walk up to the bomb, plant some c4 explosives on top of “the threat” and detonate (after clearing the area of bystanders/civilians of course)?  Never any explanation from the film.  Also, why the cumbersome and stuffy protective suit?  Either way, suit or naked, you’re as good as dead if you cut the wrong wire.   At least if you’re naked you would have a better chance of running to safety.

In conclusion… not a total dud, wonderful at parts, but not “explosive” enough for me.  Only 2 hrs. and 7 minutes, but felt like 3.

Let us hear what you thought!

* * *

*Kathryn Bigelow is noted for casting Tom Sizemore (i.e. Point Break, Strange Days).  I didn’t know this when I made the comparison to Sgt. Will James and Tom Sizemore’s character in Black Hawk Down.  This connection was made after noticing this little bit of trivia at IMDB.com.  Must have been used as character model (at least in some capacity).