Once Upon a Time In Venice was pulpish, noirish, and funny with an incredible array of characters. I found it extremely entertaining. It wasn’t the best movie, it certainly had flaws, but I enjoyed it and that is what I base my ratings off of, how much I enjoyed the film.
Bruce Willis plays Steve Ford, the only licensed private investigator in the Venice (Los Angeles not Italy) and he gets himself mixed up in a lot of odd cases. His partner John (Thomas Middleditch) narrates us through the story as we see Steve track down a missing sister, only to sleep with her and incur the wrath of her overprotective brothers, who he escapes in a naked skateboarding scene… He meets a friend whose car was stolen and he tracks it back to a drug dealer named Spyder (Jason Momoa), who he steals it back from by crashing out of his garage. When he gets home he finds out that his sister’s house has been robbed, taking his niece’s X-Box, their television, and Steve’s dog Buddy who his niece takes care of after school. They were robbed by punks who needed money for drugs, which leads Steve back to Spyder who controls the drug trade in town. Now Steve has to apologize for wrecking Spyder’s garage, and what he feels was “his” car (even though it was stolen) in an attempt to get Buddy back. Spyder agrees, (Steve’s gift basket of muffins helped smooth the tensions between them) and he’ll give Steve the dog back, if he’ll retrieve a case of cocaine that was stolen from him by a hooker. Things don’t get any easier for Steve who is trying to buy back his parent’s house that he was forced to sell years ago to Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg) and help his best friend Dave (John Goodman) who is selling his surf shot to get through a tough divorce. Lou is in a bind too, because someone is painting pornographic graffiti on a building he owns that he’s trying to sell. So if Steve can catch the graffiti artist, he’ll get the house back, if he can find the drugs he’ll get his dog back, easy right?
When I first heard of this film, I thought it was trying to be a John Wick rip-off, action star Bruce Willis trying to get his dog back sounds a bit like action star Keannu Reeves trying to get revenge on the guys who killed his dog. Boy was I wrong, if this film was trying to cash in on any of the perceived similarities with John Wick, it did so totally with tongue in cheek.
I think what made Once Upon a Time In Venice work was the very clever script. The dialogue was snappy and natural, and really plays off the comedic talents of the lead, Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis is very funny, and has great comedic timing. I wouldn’t have thought that “tough guy” Jason Momoa would be as funny as he was either, but perhaps it was the juxtaposition of these tough actors playing these tough roles with a lighter twist that made it work. Having more seasoned comedic actors like Thomas Middleditch and John Goodman in the film also helps carry the story. Quite good, and quite entertaining, if you’re looking for a few good laughs, give it a try.
Bottom Line: Every time you thought a situation was resolved it just got more and more absurd! Every time things seemed sorted, a new character came in and twisted the plot into something more absurd than the last character did. I loved it.
The Wolverine…What else can you say, he’s the best he is at what he does; though that may have been in doubt after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, not so this time however with The Wolverine, as Hugh Jackman (and the Wolverine character) are back and handled almost perfectly. A nice solo story for arguably the most popular character of the X-Men.
I’m suffering from a major, major case of writers block these days, so this one will be rather short and sweet. There was lots of action, lots of stabbing, lots of claws, lots of swords, ninjas, samurais, mutants, conspiracies, Wolverine living as a hermit and vowing not to use his claws again, and then we see him dealing out his own brand of justice to some crooked hunters in the Yukon. We even get to see Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) again. Yes that last bit could be a minor spoiler, but it happens in the first few minutes so I think I’m safe with that reveal; I mean, how top secret can that be if she’s listed on the IMDb page?
We see a bit of Wolverine’s past as Logan is a POW in Japan at the end of WWII, who saves a frightened soldier from the fallout of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Back in the present, Logan is tracked down by the man he saved half a century ago, and brought to Japan to see him on his deathbed. Master Yashida is now the head of a billion dollar corporation but now he is dying. He wants to repay Logan for saving his life, by offering to end Logan’s pain by taking his healing power for himself to keep living, but also allowing Logan to age and die naturally. Logan turns him down at first but before he has a chance to reconsider the old man dies. At the funeral the Yakuza attack his granddaughter Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who is slated to take over the company rather than her father. Who could be behind the plot to kidnap her? This is a comic book movie so the plots aren’t always that tricky to figure out, but there were a few twists along the way for The Wolverine. Defending the young woman from those who would do her harm, Logan finds out that his healing power has been “turned off” and he is not healing. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, even using his claws, all these things are slowly, and painfully killing him. Eventually though things sort themselves out and Logan returns to form defending the weak, protecting the innocent, slashing bad guys left right and centre as he is once again “Wolverine”.
The acting was quite good, even though a lot of the cast had not really acted in a movie before. Jackman was excellent as always, and you can tell that he really enjoys his character and these X-Men movies. That enjoyment translates excellently to his performance and to the screen.
I really enjoyed this one, we got to see more of the character’s internal journey. Wolverine is a ronin, a samurai without a master; and he eventually accepts this, and accepts who his really is deep down. I am in the process of tracking down the unrated cut of the film, which was only available with the 3D Blu Ray version, and not just the regular Blu Ray. That’s a bit cheesy on the part of the studios, but even with the version I did see, there was a lot to like. Of course, there was a scene after the credits (well, part way through the credits), and this one leads directly into next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. There was also an alternate ending on the Blu Ray. Calling these scenes an “Alternate ending” is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not just talking about The Wolverine either, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that was very different from the actual broadcast ending. I’ve never seen one where the bad guy goes to jail instead of being killed in a shootout or the characters win the lottery and solve all their problems. No, the “alternate ending” is usually just a reworked version of the actual ending with a few minor things added or taken away. That is what happened in The Wolverine, but that’s okay. This one was so nerdily cool I enjoyed it. I won’t go into details, but click this if you want to see what it was all about.