\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Wrath of Man

Wrath of Man is the latest film directed by Guy Ritchie.  Jason Statham stars as the man nicknamed “H,” a security guard for an armored truck company.  In the film’s opening sequence, we see a group of armed men attack and rob one of the company’s trucks, leaving two guards and one bystander dead.  As the story unfolds, we see that this crew is continuing to target the company’s trucks, but the mysterious “H” seems up for the challenge…

I was immediately taken by Guy Ritchie’s first two films: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.  I still love those films even today; I rewatch them every few years and always enjoy them.  For two decades I’ve been waiting for Mr. Ritchie to make a film that can equal either of them.  For the most part I’ve been disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed some of Mr. Ritchie’s adventures in big-budget, mass-audience entertainment — I think Sherlock Holmes is his most successful film of that type — but I’ve been longing for years for him to make another great, gritty, funny crime film.  I thought Mr. Ritchie’s 2020 film, The Gentlemen, was his best film in years and very enjoyable (even with its flaws).  I was excited to see Mr. Ritchie’s latest film, Wrath of Man, but for the most part, I thought this film was a dud.

I wish it were otherwise, but I found very little of interest to me in the film.  There’s a lot of well-staged action and violence, so if you like that sort of thing, you’ll find that to enjoy.  But I felt the film was high on juvenile cuss-words and violence but low on witty dialogue or anything resembling character development.  There’s a dark, grim, dour vibe to the whole undertaking that I didn’t find that engaging.

In specific, I found the first 20-or-so minutes of the film to be terribly off-putting.  I was not engaged by the macho tough guys on screen or their juvenile name-calling, and the nihilistic violence was not my cup of tea.  Also, I found the the brooding soundtrack to be extremely oppressive.  I actually thought the film got more interesting in its second half, but I almost stopped watching after that first twenty-to-thirty minutes.  (Honestly, if Guy Ritchie’s name hadn’t been on this film, I might have.)

I think Jason Statham has terrific movie-star presence, and he can be a very entertaining leading man.  I loved him in Lock, Stock and Snatch.  I’ve particularly enjoyed when he’s been allowed to show some humor on screen, such as in his role in the Melissa McCarthy film Spy.  I was excited to see him … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Parker (2013)

I’ve had a fun time watching the many films based on Donald E. Westlake (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark)’s Parker Character.  I really enjoyed 1967’s Point Blank (click here for my review) and 1968’s The Split (click here for my review).  I thought 1973’s The Outfit was a step down, though I did still enjoy the film.  (Click here for my review.)  I thought 1983’s Slayground was a dud.  (Click here for my review.)  I enjoyed the 2006 Director’s Cut of Payback (which was released theatrically in 1999), though wow, was it dark!  (Click here for my review.)  And now we’ve arrived at 2013’s Parker, starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.

I remember seeing trailers for this film when it came out, but I ignored them because Parker looked like yet another generic Jason Statham action vehicle.  I actually quite like Mr. Statham as an actor!  I thought he was a hoot in Guy Ritchie’s early films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and he is hilarious in Paul Feig’s 2015 film Spy.  But I haven’t been interested by the many bland-looking action films he’s been putting out for the past decade or so.  Similarly, I know Jennifer Lopez can be a terrific actor.  I think she’s spectacular in Out of Sight, for instance.  I just haven’t been interested in most of the films she’s been in lately.  So while I skipped Parker back in 2013, I was curious to give the film a chance now.  They actually let the filmmakers use the Parker name!  Did that give reason to hope the film had merit??

Parker is adapted from the novel Flashfire.  Jason Statham stars as Parker.  When the film opens, he’s working with a crew in a heist, robbing a state fair.  As usual in these Parker stories, he winds up double-crossed and left for dead.  But he survives, and sets to hunting down his former crew to get revenge.  He tracks them down to Palm Beach, Florida, where they’re working on their next big job.  While undercover, Parker’s path crosses with Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a smart, capable real estate agent who is desperate to get out of her unfortunate situation.  (She’s heavily in-debt and stuck living with her mother.)  Leslie figures out that the under-cover Parker isn’t the wealthy Texan he claims to be, and the two work together to take down Parker’s former crew and get away with the loot.

Parker isn’t bad.  It’s better than I expected.  The cast is strong, and there are some well-executed sequences.  But it’s also not as good as it could have/should have been.  The … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

At this rate, I want Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy to never stop making movies together.

Ms. McCarthy killed in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, and then she stepped up into a co-starring role in Mr. Feig’s follow-up film, The Heat.  In Spy, Ms. McCarthy and writer/director Feig reunite for a third film together, and once again the collaboration proves to be absolutely golden.

Spy.02.cropped

Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper.  She’s the CIA operative who, from her desk at Langley, serves as the voice in the ear of suave, handsome, James Bond-esque super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  But when Fine is killed on a mission to recover a rogue nuclear bomb, Susan finds herself thrust into the field, forced to go undercover to befriend the woman who killed Fine, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) in an attempt to locate the bomb before it can be sold to terrorists.

For a long time, Paul Feig (who created Freaks and Geeks and ran the show along with Judd Apatow) felt like something of a secret to comedy fans.  So it’s been a delight to see him achieve big-time success these past few years since Bridesmaids.  I hope this run continues for him for a long time!!!  (I am NOT excited by the idea of a Ghostbusters sequel/remake, but if anyone can make that interesting, it’s Paul Feig, so I am at least curious to see what he’s cooking up.)  There is some sort of magic when he collaborates with Melissa McCarthy.  Mr. Feig seems to know exactly how to use her, crafting characters for her that play right to her best comedic strengths.

What’s great about McCarthy in this role is that Susan Cooper isn’t a bumbling idiot.  She’s smart and loyal and tough.  This isn’t the story of a dour housewife transforming into a super-spy, which would have been the predictable route to go in a movie like this.  I was impressed that Paul Feig (who wrote the film in addition to directing) chose to tell a different story.  When we first meet Susan, we can already see her great qualities.  It’s Fine and her superiors at the CIA who don’t see them.  What happens in the film is that Susan is finally given an opportunity to show what she’s really capable of.  I love that.

Ms. McCarthy is so, so funny.  She’s equally as adept at physical comedy (there is a close-quarters fight in a dirty kitchen that is absolutely magnificent) and verbal comedy (in the early scenes when she’s just sitting at a desk and talking into Fine’s ear, she is still hilarious).  She and the film do fall back on a few familiar tricks — at one point, when … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

EZ Viewing IV: Star Wars & Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

October 27th, 2009
,

The first two films shown at EZ Viewing IV (my annual movie marathon) were: Star Wars: A New Hope — The Adywan Fan-Edit and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

What is the Adywan Fan-Edit of Star Wars?  It is, bar none, the very best version of the first Star Wars film (I refuse to refer to it as Episode IV) that I have ever seen.  FAR better than the DVD version released by Lucasfilm in 2004, and far better than ANY of the other versions that have been released on DVD/VHS/or any other home-media format.  I wrote a lengthy piece about this fan-edit last year — click here for all the details of this amazing fan-edit.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels — Director Guy Ritchie has had a hand in some sub-par films recently (although his latest project, Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., looks promising), but we shouldn’t let that cloud the greatness of his debut feature.

Four friends Eddie (Nick Moran), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), Tom (Jason Flemyng, seen most recently in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Bacon (Jason Statham, who these days is a big action star in films like The Transporter) find themselves deeply in debt to East End gang-boss Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) after losing a fixed card game.Rather than lose any fingers to his menacing enforcer (Vinnie Jones), they concoct a scheme to steal the money from another group of thieves who are themselves planning to rob a small drug-dealing operation.Things don’t go well, of course, and events quickly spiral completely out of control.

I still remember the first time I saw this film.I was blown away (and still am, to this day) by the deftness with which Ritchie juggled an enormously complex plot filled with scores of bizarre characters whose stories would weave in and out of one another.Most of all, I was dazzled by the wonderful, rat-a-tat dialogue which was so funny and so distinct.The word-play comes fast and furious, and the cockney slang that all the characters breathlessly spew out gives the film a flavor all its own.

In his review from 1999, Roger Ebert described this film as “Tarantino crossed with the Marx Brothers.” That’s a wonderful description, and pretty accurately assesses the way the film combines a noir-ish crime-caper plot with a madcap sense of humor and whimsy. This film is a riot.

Check back tomorrow for more EZ Viewing IV fun!  (Click here for my thoughts on A Mighty Wind.)

[continued]