Hunter Killer

hunter2Gerard Butler’s finest gift is appearing in daft tosh such as this and yet acting as if he’s in some classic serious arthouse flick. Its as if winking to the audience like Arnie always did is beneath him- no small feat considering the lines of dialogue he delivers and the preposterous plots of the films he so frequently stars in (and produces, no less).

And we have a winner here- 31 producer credits listed to this film! I thought the 23 I noticed last week while watching Final Score would take some beating but I was obviously mistaken. There’s a few films I could name with less actors than the number of producers for this one (there’s just something that feels wrong when the number of producers outnumbers the cast).

The sets are magnificent though- it’s clear the production design was a huge undertaking and the submarine sets really are quite convincing (although I’m not sure about all those flat panel screens, it wouldn’t surprise me if that turned out accurate). It would appear that the production tried to cement the film in some sort of physical reality before launching into its crazy Tom Clancy-on-steroids plot.

Anyway, not much else I can mention regards this nonsense, except that perhaps someone should reign in Gary Oldman before he does himself an injury chewing up the scenery with his ludicrous over-acting. He’s much better than this kind of film, and he knows it, but he should keep it to himself instead of hamming it up onscreen. Just take the paycheque Gary and don’t draw attention to yourself.

Sadly, I should think this was likely one of the very last films that Michael Nyqvist made before his death in 2017. It was quite a jolt seeing him appear onscreen, and it’s quite a good, albeit subdued performance. Pity he and Gary couldn’t have had a scene together- that would have been nuts.

Miscellanea

nyqistI noted with some sadness last week the passing of Michael Nyqvist, the actor who starred in the film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I rewatched the films awhile ago and  they remain very impressive. Nyqvist, like his Dragon Tattoo co-star Noomi Rapace, went on to some success in Hollywood, notably a fine turn in MI: Ghost Protocol and another in John Wick- in both films he demonstrated a flair for playing villains, which still surprises me considering the down-to-Earth heroism of his part in the Tattoo films. He clearly had some considerable range and I’m sure he had great roles/films ahead of him. He was only 56, which is awfully sad. You just never know, do you? 56. Seems so unfair.

norm1And of course, also last week came the news of the passing of film critic/BBC presenter Barry Norman. Beyond these shores his name likely means little, but to us in the UK -and particularly those of us who grew up in the pre-Sky era and the internet- Barry’s name is held with much affection. He presented the BBC ‘Film…’ series for something like 26 years, and his opinions held considerable weight before the internet came along and flooded us with inferior amateur film criticism (cough). Although I would often be at odds with him whenever he looked down on my favourite blockbusters I always wanted to know what he thought. I recall he was having a break from the show in 1982 when Blade Runner was released, so I never got to see what he thought of it- perhaps that’s just as well.

Barry Norman was to films what Sir Patrick Moore was to astronomy. You don’t realise, until you look back, for how many years we grew up with these people in such programmes, how big a part of our lives they managed to be. I don’t think presenters will ever be associated with such long-running programmes like that ever again, television was wholly different back then when we only had three and later four channels. I used to love that ‘Film…‘ music, and hearing Norman’s voice as he introduced the show and told us the films that would be reviews. Good memories.

Since I’ve just mentioned my favourite movie yet again in this blog… (hey, here’s a drinking game- read my blog and take a drink every time I mention Blade Runner…) ahem, anyway, while you’re still sober, regards Blade Runner, I guess everyone has seen the latest trailer for Blade Runner 2049 and this subsequent behind the scenes featurette. It still looks pretty promising. But thank goodness the film is a sequel and not Blade Runner 2018 or something. Prequels are just too much trouble.  The news that the original directors of the new Han Solo movie that Lucasfilm is making have departed/been sacked, and that the competent hack Ron Howard- oh the horror!- has been brought on board for reshoots, has had me thinking about prequels in general. They don’t really work, do they? Case in point the Alien prequels that Ridley is making. While I don’t hate them as much as some Alien fans do, they clearly add little to the franchise other than spoiling the Lovecraftian mysteries of the original. I fear this new Han Solo movie might do the same for Star Wars. After all, what’s the point? We know who the Corellian smuggler is as soon as we see him in Star Wars, we don’t need to know about his adventures as a young man or how he ended up working for Jabba the Hut etc etc.

Nobody mention Space Jockeys, please…

How tempting it might have been -and for all I know, might yet be- to make a prequel film to Blade Runner detailing Batty and his fellow replicants breakout from an Offworld colony and journey to Earth that led to the original film. Imagine some other actor playing Batty. The pointless plot leading to the inevitable landing near LA and dovetailing into Leon getting a job at the Tyrell pyramid. It almost makes me hope the new film is a flop so no further Blade Runner films are made. Heaven help us if ever the words ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘franchise’ get linked together. Becoming a franchise never really did Alien any good at all.

Much preferred it when films were singular with no prequel/sequel attached. These days you can’t get a blockbuster greenlit, it seems, without a prequel or sequel already set-up. But certainly prequels do seem particularly problematic, and rarely seem to work (I guess Rogue One springs to mind as one of the better ones).

Actually, whilst waxing lyrical on all things Blade Runner as is my wont, a belated note about the film celebrating its 35th anniversary last week. Well, its American anniversary. Far as I’m concerned, it’s 35 years old when we reach September, which is when it reached old blighty. Funny, to think how long it took for films to cross the pond back then (E.T. actually took longer, not released here until December, much to the pleasure of VHS pirates). I first saw Blade Runner on a Saturday afternoon, and I believe it was on the 11th September, to be precise. That’s when it hits 35 in my book. 35 years though. That’s rather scary.

brquadukI was never at all keen on this UK poster for the film. It’s got four Tyrell pyramids for one thing, shockingly inaccurate, but I did always love that headline banner, “A chilling, bold, mesmerizing, futuristic detective thriller”… yeah, that always summed up the film for me. Visually it is such an awful (literal) cut and paste job. The film, of course, was already dead in the water at that point in September, having utterly flopped Stateside. Thinking about it, I guess such long, drawn-out international releases just heightened the pain for film-makers on the receiving end of such failure. Did they bother with a London premier with any of the cast or crew or was it just dumped out there, I wonder? I just imagine a sour-faced Ridley in tuxedo struggling to break into a smile in-front of the press, or the studio deciding to cut its losses and not bother flying Harrison out.

Anyway, apologies again for my lax posting on this blog of late. Just gone through a very busy period at work (actually, I’m still likely stuck in the middle of it) and it’s left me little enough time to do anything at all at home.  I’m afraid this summer is passing me by. I didn’t even have time to write a post regards the anniversary of us losing our pet dog Ben a year ago last week- yeah, it’s been a year already. A very sad weekend, was that. Its dawned on me that I really haven’t yet processed it yet, losing him. I know that sounds bizarre, after all this time, but I really didn’t handle it at all well, when it happened, all the trauma and stress of his illness and everything, and I think I’ve really just avoided dealing with it, over all these months. Losing our first dog Barney was pretty awful but I managed to grieve and deal with it, but Ben? No. I really haven’t, and the anniversary just made me realise it.

But life goes on, even if it seems it’s passing me by of late. Can’t seem to get around to watching many movies.  Anyway, maybe I’ll manage a few of these miscellanea posts in lieu of proper reviews for awhile. I’m still here!

 

 

 

John Wick (2014)

jwickJohn Wick. Hell of an action movie. Don’t know what the body-count in this one is but it’s got to be up there. If you want a high-octane action flick with some astonishingly well-choreographed stunts/fight sequences, this one fits the bell admirably.Its this years Taken (although a better film than Taken, to be sure), John Wick also reminds me a great deal of Payback, Brian Helgeland’s noir thriller that starred Mel Gibson as a bitter criminal seeking revenge on his back-stabbing partners in crime (indeed it shares a similar plot and modern-noir swagger- if you liked Payback you’ll likely love John Wick).

Sure, one could take issues with some of the twists of the plot, and how realistic it is for one guy to take on a Russian crime-bosses army of thugs in a city seemingly bereft of a police force, but that’s not the point with films like this. Its an action romp with a plot that simply serves to pile on the mayhem. And what mayhem it is, a welcome antidote to the toy-town violence of something like The Expendables 3, here its an adult violence, brutal and graphic and with consequences, more like that of The Raid films (indeed it could be said that with The Raid films, Dredd, Mad Max:Fury Road and John Wick the modern action film is enjoying something of a resurgence of late). Thankfully like those films, the film is brisk and doesn’t over-complicate things. Keeping it simple seems to be the modern action film, and it doesn’t hurt to hark back to the golden age of the 1970s in style and sensibility.

Keanu Reeves does well as the titular character. In truth the part suits him well; he doesn’t have to emote very much but he does have a sympathetic streak and shows some vulnerability to his character that helps the audience empathise with what might otherwise have been a heartless one-dimensional cold-bloodied killer. Reeves handles the physicality of the role -its stunts etc- very well indeed, as might be expected from his Matrix films. It took me most of the film to finally recognise Michael Nyqvist from the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films- you know how it is when you recognise the face but can’t quite place it (although he has aged some to be fair)- well, Nyqvist bugged me for most of the film. He’s very, very good here as the mafia boss whose son has wronged his ex-hitman John Wick, so good he nearly steals the show. Alfie Allen is great as the bad-to-the-bone son Iosef whose over-confidence threatens to bring down his fathers empire, and there are also lovely turns by Willem Dafoe and Lance Reddick (a favourite from the good old Fringe tv-series days)- it’s a great cast.

Beyond all the violence and the blood, there is a lovely mythology to this film, a shared history between the characters, almost as if we are watching film two of a trilogy- sly references and reminiscences between them slipped into the dialogue. Nothing is over-explained, just threads left hanging there- background characters like a cop that knows Wick and turns a blind eye to some bodies,or the leader of a clean-up squad always keen on more business, or Ian McShane’s excellent cameo as the proprietor of a hotel whose guests, assassins all, are strictly under pains to behave (or else). There is a lovely sense of logic to it and humour. I’d prefer the film to be left as it is, but I’m sadly confident that its success will gestate inferior sequels that will dilute it (seems to be how the film industry works these days); I’d prefer to have it left as it is and for the threads to just stay open to the imagination. Why spoil it with more movies?

It is what it is. Leave your brain at the door and enjoy one of the better action films of the last few years. Some people will be horrified by John Wick and question its violence, its politics and gender-roles but that’s not the point of films like this (at least until it is ripped apart by film theorists in twenty years time). Its just a cool action movie. Expect no more and you’ll be pleasantly entertained.