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Free Fire – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Free Fire35

Usually the climax of an action film is the shootout, in Free Fire, the entire movie was the shootout!  In 1970s Boston, two sets of criminals arrange a gun deal, but one of the henchmen (Harry) recognizes one of the other henchmen (Stevo) from a bar fight the night before because the latter assaulted the former’s cousin.  Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), Stevo (Sam Riley), Frank (Michael Smiley), Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy) are the buyers and Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), Harry (Jack Reynor) are the sellers.  Just when things are almost settled between the two sides someone pulls a gun and shoots someone.  Though they are initially split by geography and loose loyalties, it soon becomes a deadly game of “everyone for themselves” as everyone grabs a weapon.

Set entirely in one place (an abandoned factory/warehouse) the story is a bit claustrophobic, but I think it was saved by the characters and the cleverness of the dialogue.  While the action was completely over the top, I found it to actually be fairly realistic.  Even though they seemed to have an endless supply of bullets, our bad guys (because they are all terrible people who you can’t really root for)  do have to stop and reload.  Every one of them got shot at some point: a bullet in the arm, a shot in the leg, one man gets grazed in the head exposing his brain; and while it may be gruesome, the violence wasn’t glorified.   I also appreciated that the bad guys were not really good shots, it’s difficult to shoot and hit your target especially when you’re a target yourself, and have been hit yourself as well.

Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) pretty much stole the show, but Michael Smiley (Luther) came really close too.  I loved the dialogue he had with Armie Hammer, almost as much as I loved the back and forths between Copley and Brie Larson.  There wasn’t really a whole lot of a message or purpose or complexity to the movie which is fine, it was pretty much just a black comedy thriller about two groups of trigger happy criminals trying to survive by killing the other guys.  It was fun, and that’s all it needed to be.  I think it’s safe to say this film was a bit of an experiment, so the runtime of 91 minutes was perfect.  I don’t think the film would have worked if it was any longer.

Bottom Line: It’s a good thing there’s no honour among thieves, because if the gun deal went down smoothly, Free Fire would have been an awfully short film…


Broken – DVD Review 3.5/5 stars

Product Details3.5 Stars

I’d been meaning to try this one for a while and finally got around to it.  I have to say it was a good film with excellent acting and casting.  Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Denis Lawson, Rory Kinnear, Robert Emms and especially Eloise Laurence.  Rather a large cast but everything fit together quite nicely actually.  Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is a 12 year old girl living with her father and brother on a London cul-de-sac where the lives of her family and their neighbours all tragically intersect.  There’s Bob Oswald (Rory Kinnear), the father who attacks the mentally challenged son (Rick played by Robert Emms) of his neighbour (Denis Lawson) because his daughter (falsely) accuses him of raping her when she can’t explain to her father why he found a condom in the toilet.  There’s Mr. and Mrs. Buckley who are dealing with raising their handicapped son who happens to befriend Skunk (whose name is really Emily).  There’s Mike (Cillian Murphy), Skunk’s teacher who can’t commit to Vera, his girlfriend of four years who happens to be Skunk’s family’s housekeeper.  And finally there’s Archie (Tim Roth), Skunk’s dad and an attorney, dealing with raising his two children in the middle of all this.

Nowhere is more deadly than the quiet English countryside, so it’s not surprising that violence and tragedy erupt in the close confines of this story but Broken also gives us a very real portrayal of normal life.  Skunk deals with school bullies (who happen to be the other daughters of the violent Mr. Oswald).  She gets a “boyfriend”.  She and her family play Uno, and her brother wrestles her and attaches clothespins to her face.  She pesters her father relentlessly for a new cellphone.  All very real things which made the film quite enjoyable to watch.  Nothing was really forced as the humour and drama naturally occurred and offset each other perfectly.  My only complaint with the DVD was that there were no subtitles and sorry but some of the accents were a bit thick and so am I, so there were some bits of dialogue I missed.

Bottom Line: Though Roth and Murphy are the “big names” in this one, Eloise Laurence was really the star and did a great job.  Also, how come the YouTube trailer has subtitles (though they’re in French) and my DVD didn’t?  I can’t win some nights!

Red Lights

Product Details4.5 Stars

When Simon Silver, a famous blind psychic (Robert De Niro), comes out of retirement years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away, veteran paranormal researchers Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Dr. Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are set to investigate.  The pair work in a university Parapsychology Department debunking fraudulent claims of psychic phenomena.

Well, I certainly enjoyed this one!  An amazing thriller; and not so much a “horror” thriller, but a nice, well thought out, taut psychological thriller.  For the first time in quite a while, I found another one of those gems where I liked virtually everything about the movie.  My only criticism would have to be that it ran a little long, but that may also have been because I started watching late after another long day at work.  This was a great tale from writer-director Rodrigo Cortés, check this one out, and pay attention.  There is a clue dropped early on that I loved, partially because I picked up on it, and partially because the way it played out was very similar to a story idea I’ve had kicking around in my head for quite some time.

The cast was simply the best I could imagine for this film.  Sigourney Weaver was fantastic, and ironically I had re-watched Ghostbusters back around Hallowe’en, and seeing her as a serious sort of Venkman was quite nice.  Through the film, we learn why her character is so dedicated to her work, and explore her views not only on the supernatural but also belief systems (her own and those of others) in a modern world.  Weaver gives instant credibility to Matheson, and you believe her to be an expert.  Cillian Murphy was perfectly cast as her younger associate professor bringing a great deal passion and seriousness to the role.  The excellent chemistry between Weaver and Murphy was evident from their opening scene, where they visit a creepy old house to observe a seance, using all their scientific tools to get to the truth.  Robert De Niro was captivating as Simon Silver, a role I’m having a bit of a hard time categorizing.  He was clearly the antagonist of the piece, but he wasn’t really a stereotypical “bad guy”, or was he?  If he’s a charlatan, I guess he is; but if he is a real psychic, wrongly accused of being a fraud, how do we view him now?  This was a role that only a great actor could manage to play successfully, and fortunately Red Lights got De Niro.  For quite a while now I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the acting ability of Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of “the Olsen Twins”, who, let’s face it, they’re phenomenally successful, but they weren’t great actresses.  Elizabeth Olsen however, is quite a good actress, and she was a very good fit for this film, and with this cast.  To top things off, we also get Toby Jones, who I’m glad to say I’ve noticed popping up more and more recently.

I was initially drawn to the film by the trailer, the story looked very good, and of course the cast was top notch as I’ve said.  I will also admit I found it an excellent excuse to watch Elizabeth Olsen for the first time and get to see why she was getting so much praise.  Praise that I find well placed.  Horror is not really my thing, so I was a little leery, but this was such a well done film; with great pieces of suspense, drama and even a fair bit of dark humour; I’m very glad to have watched it.

In Time

Product Details2 Stars

Another film crossed of the list.  In Time was another one I’ve been meaning to watch for a while, and have finally gotten around to.  Judging by the paltry number of stars I’ve doled out, I probably could have waited longer.

In the future; at least we assume it is the future…a lot of the technology didn’t look like it’s advanced much past the present day though; anyway in the future, people have been genetically re-engineered, and at birth are given a year to live, that commences once they turn 25 years old.  Everyone stops aging at 25, and live out whatever time they have.  Now “time” is the currency, and a glowing green set of LEDs counts down your life on your wrist for all to see.  A coffee costs three minutes, people are paid for their jobs literally “by the hour”, and when your minutes run out, you die.  It is said that barring something unforeseen, the rich could live forever.  One rich man heads to the ghetto with a century to spend, and the unforeseen happens.  He is about to be mugged, and a mugging can be fatal.  Enter Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who saves the mugging victim from a gang of hoodlums, and brings him to safety for the night.  The two discuss the currency of time, with the rich man revealing he is 105 and tired of life.  He tells Salas how “for a few to be immortal, many must die”.  Your mind can be spent, even if your body’s not. People want to die, and need to die.  The government needs people to die too, by raising taxes in the poorer zones, they ensure that the population stays under control.  When he awakes Salas finds the man has given him his time, and quietly left to die.  Salas runs to the man, but arrives too late to give him some time and extend his life.  Though Salas has to decide how to live with the extra time he has been given, the Time Keepers; who are essentially police, and led by Cillian Murphy;  think he must have stolen the time and begin their pursuit.  Salas heads to the ritzy capital, finds a mysterious, rich girl with daddy issues played by Amanda Seyfried.

I haven’t seen a good science fiction flick in a while, the last one I really enjoyed (off the top of my head) I think was Moon; and In Time was no Moon.  I was pretty disappointed by this one.  What started out as a great idea, slowly degraded into a very poorly acted, “futuristic” version of Bonnie and Clyde.

I don’t know who besides Timberlake himself thought he should have been nominated for an Oscar in Social Network; but in this film, he was just did not deliver.  The sudden about face in Salas’ character was poorly done, and made his “Robin Hood” act very unbelievable. He seemed bored, and had a hard time conveying any range of emotion.  Amanda Seyfried was nice eye candy, but again, really, did not deliver, and had very poor chemistry with her leading man.  The actor playing her father, Vincent Kartheiser, was an abysmal casting choice.  I cringed every time he had a scene.  If he was placed in a paper bag in this film…well you know how the saying goes.  None of the characters are developed enough; and it’s difficult to get a sense of who these people, from opposite worlds, really are.  The only actor I really enjoyed in this film was Cillian Murphy.  He fit.  An excellent performance from one actor though, cannot save the cast.

As I touched on earlier, you really did couldn’t tell if we were supposed to be in the future or not.  There was not a lot of “future technology” on display, aside from the “time currency” devices.  The cars were a lot of vintage 1970’s models with updated lighting and electric sounding motors.  I will admit that the cars were pretty cool looking; and the chases scenes were among the few high points in the film.  Also please note, that my appreciation for the cars in the film have nothing to do with the fact that I drive a ’77 Ford Granada….though my car is awesome.

I think one of the key problems with In Time was Andrew Niccol who was writer, director and producer.  He had a great idea, but may not have been able to distance himself enough to see it through to what is should have, could have, and would have been.  I found myself several times checking how much time was left in the movie, which is never a good sign.  A film that I had such high hopes for could not even hold my attention for the full hour and forty-nine minutes.  There were moments in this film that were truly enjoyable, but they were few and far between, and certainly not at the very unbelievable climax, which I think was a giant plot hole or continuity error that they glossed over to finish the film.  Sad to say it, but I was very disappointed with In Time.

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