Tag Archives: action movies

Extraction

Happy weekend, everyone! Shall we celebrate with Netflix’s new action flick starring Chris Hemsworth? Let’s discuss.

The plot, such as it is, can be summed up in only one word, which they’ve helpfully made the title: extraction. Picture this: two rival drug lords, one imprisoned and ruthless, the other not currently imprisoned and also super ruthless. The unimprisoned one kidnaps the imprisoned one’s kid, even though the imprisoned drug lord seems not to be the most doting or devoted of fathers, but it’s the principle of the thing, and he’s pissed. Pissed enough to take it out on his own people, threatening to execute their children if they fail to retrieve his. His henchman is a little more fond of his kids, so he goes straight to the best in the biz, Australian Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a fearless black market mercenary.

Rake drops into India like it ain’t no thing, yoinks the kid (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) out of the evil clutches of his kidnappers, but then has the nearly insurmountable task of navigating an incredibly dense city teeming with an underworld of weapons dealers and traffickers where good guys, if there are any, are indistinguishable from the baddies. Also: Tyler Rake is a sad and broken man, so he may not be as motivated to stay alive as you’d normally like your rescuer to be.

Sean thought this movie was “not very good” and I thought it was “definitely an action movie.” It should be said that Sean generally likes action movies and I’m a little harder to impress. Evidence you’ll need to decipher whether this particular action movie is for you:

1. Hemsworth is only shirtless once, from behind

2. great close combat scenes, very slice and dicey

3. no time wasted on “story” or “character” or “reality”

4. 12 minute long single-take action sequence that really satisfies the bloodlust

5. based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Ande Parks and the Russo brothers

6. the violence is graphic, aimless, and relentless, and often perpetrated by (and against!) children

7. feels a bit like a first person shooter game

8. the stunts are pretty spectacular

9. if you squint hard enough, an assault rifle sorta looks like Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer)

10. doubles as psa for road safety

Altered Carbon: Resleeved

First let me say that although there’s a lot of Altered Carbon sprayed across various media these days, this is my first brush with it. Anthony Mackie stars in a Netflix series and though this is not that, it does involve the character he plays, Takeshi Kovacs.

What you need to know is that “people” are no longer defined by the bodies they inhabit. Flesh is just a sleeve you slip on and off, discarding it when it’s no longer useful, carrying on via your digital conscience uploaded to a “stack” and potentially immortal if treated right.

In this animated Netflix film, Takeshi is hired to do a job, so his stack is uploaded into the body of a soldier, a body so ripped and primed for combat that his head looks tiny compared to the breadth of his shoulders. Takeshi (voiced by Ray Chase) must protect a tattoo artist while investigating the death of a yakuza boss. Holly (Brittany Cox), the young tattoo artist (to clarify: the flesh sleeve she inhabits appears to be that of a tween, but her consciousness is many times that), is fighting for her life. As the yakuza tattooist, she’s in charge of an integral part of each boss’s death ritual and the succession of the next boss. Takeshi has only the help of CTAC agent Gena (Elizabeth Maxwell), whose motives may not align exactly with his own.

Right away, you’ll notice the anime style is unique, with the characters popping and almost glowing compared to the duller backgrounds. The film’s story is fairly simple, and while it does serve as a bridge between season 1 and 2 of the live-action series, it can also be taken as a stand-alone film. While this Kovacs isn’t quite as brooding or as witty as Mackie’s, the action is just as bloody. Kovacs and Gena team up seemingly every 5-10 minutes against enhanced ninjas. In fact, at one point I realized that this felt like I was watching an intense video game walkthrough. All that was missing was some sort of coin reward for K.O.s. Which means it’s a visual treat with some truly impressive (and numerous) action sequences, but the character development is a little lacking. If you’re coming into this with background you’ve gleaned from watching the series, you’ll might find it all the more rewarding. If you’re a newbie like me, you might just feel sufficiently motivated to take on the series – especially now that everyone’s got some serious quarantine and chill time on their hands.

 

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Babe: Pig in the City

Since I snuck Babe: Pig in the City onto our recent Quarantine top ten list I figured I should re-watch it, and in the process, have Jay watch it for the first time. That was a mistake. I had forgotten that the tone of Babe: Pig in the City is startlingly dark for a kids’ movie, and in particular there are several scenes of dogs in distress. As you may know, we lost our little Gertie recently so the last thing we need right now is a scene where a dog goes to heaven!

Assuming you are not grieving a little puppy right now, Babe: Pig in the City remains a really incredible movie. Following directly from the events of Babe, Farmer Hoggett is installing a water pump when tragedy strikes. Bedridden from his injuries, it’s up to Mrs. Hoggett to keep the farm afloat as the bank comes calling. Being a champion sheep-pig, Babe has plenty of offers to appear at state fairs for generous appearance fees, and off Mrs. Hoggett and Babe go to take advantage of Babe’s new celebrity. Unfortunately, the two get hung up in security and miss their connecting flight, and then get separated on their layover in the city while waiting to head home. With all that trouble, how will they possibly find a way to save the farm?

As I said, the subject matter in Babe: Pig in the City is very dire at times, but through it all Babe never loses his sunny disposition. In turn, his good nature charms everyone he comes in contact with, and helps them be better animals (because naturally, Babe only talks to animals not people, though he does understand human speech perfectly). With the ground rules having been well-established in Babe, Pig in the City is free to jump right into frenetic chase scenes, and wastes no time in doing so. In that respect, the non-stop action in Babe: Pig in the City evokes director and co-writer George Miller’s other big franchise, Mad Max.

Babe: Pig in the City is not quite the masterwork that Fury Road is, but it’s a great film in its own right, and a worthy addition to Miller’s catalogue that towers over all but the best kids fare (as well as most “grown-up” action films).

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Old Bosley (Patrick Stewart) out, new Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) in; turns out, Bosley wasn’t a name, it was a rank.

Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Elena (Naomi Scott) are fellow Angels and kind of frenemies but not only are they going to need to get along for this next mission, they’ll also be training a newbie on the fly as mild-mannered, law-abiding layperson Jane (Ella Balinska) gets swept up into the fray.

Jane is a systems engineer who blows the whistle on a piece of tech that sounds revolutionary and life-changing but also dangerous and possibly weaponized. So of course the Angels are called upon to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, and believe me, several grubby, evil little hands are doing the “gimme gimme” gesture in its direction. The Angels are willing to risk their lives to save us all, but they more they uncover the more their own agency seems compromised and nobody knows who to trust.

The movie got off to a rocky start for me because it was a little too “girl power!” And obviously I’m all about strong, capable women but let’s just show rather than tell. We don’t always need banners and slogans. But the movie seemed to get that stuff out of the way pretty early on, and then we hurtle through action sequences like it’s against the law to slow down.

The movie isn’t as bad as you likely heard from early reviews, but it never quite manages to be all that you want it to be either. If you’re remaking this particular movie in 2019, maybe make it subversive? Maybe challenge the status quo? Definitely justify its existence by updating some of the more dated concepts and definitely, definitely have fun with it. That’s its biggest problem: a lack of identity. It’s never really sure where on the spectrum of action movies it wants to fall and it never dazzles us with any distinguishing features. When the Angels’ closets are revealed, containing a to-die-for wardrobe, heavy weaponry, and a plethora of beautiful bobbles and accessories all hiding James Bond-type gadgets, there’s no zeal. I wanted pageantry. I wanted at least as much fun as the boys in the Kingsman movies, combined with the snappy chemistry between Melissa McCarthy and Miranda Hart in Spy.

Kirsten Stewart appears to enjoy showing off but otherwise there’s little fizz on the screen. It feels like work for them, and indeed I admit that I don’t appear to be having fun at my job either, and it would also make for a rather boring movie. But if you’re bothering to make this a movie, then I want glamour and I want fun. I want you to either embrace the silliness and really go for it, or I want you to skewer the concept and serve it on a silver platter with so much garnish I don’t know what to do with it. I do not want you to take the well-traveled, extremely trampled middle path of been there, done that.

Killer Elite

As Killer Elite begins, assassin Danny Brice (Jason Statham) decides to hang up his gun. But clearly, it’s not so easy for an assassin to retire, because before long Danny’s best friend Hunter (Robert DeNiro) has been kidnapped by a sheik, held hostage until Danny takes revenge for a murder committed by British secret agents. Danny doesn’t a1140135_killer_elite_3rgue much and sets out to joylessly kill the four British agents on the revenge list.  As the agents start dying, retired superagent Spike (Clive Owen) catches on to Danny’s mission and inserts himself in the middle of the action.

The main problem with Killer Elite is that it’s a showdown between anti-heroes who are either trying to kill or save other anti-heroes. I simply had no idea who to root for. It’s not Jason Statham, who so easily falls into this revenge plot imposed on him by the sheik, who brings no personality at all to this role, and whose dead eyes confirm regret in ever getting involved with this movie. It’s not Clive Owen, who somehow is even less charismatic than dead-eyed Statham. It’s not Robert DeNiro, who is totally forgotten during all but the opening and closing scenes. There’s a huge empty void at the centre of this movie that no one even attempts to fill.

The void is all the more glaring because the action scenes are almost as flat as the characters. They’re not terribly executed but since Killer Elite has nothing else to offer, the fights needed to be great to compensate for everything else that’s lacking. And they’re not. At best they’re a slight change of pace from a mundane story that you’ll be too bored to care about, and at worst they increase the viewer’s boredom by being as lifeless as Statham’s dead eyes.

 

10 Minutes Gone

Sometimes even our “Sucks Ass” rating seems too generous. This is one of those times.

MV5BYTcwNjNkOGMtNmQ1MS00NzdmLWJmNDAtOWU4ZTFhZDgyODRiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,962_AL_Frank (Michael Chiklis) is the safe-cracking heart of a crew looking for a big score in Cincinnati, that will pay the crew $500,000. The opening credits make clear that Frank and his brother have spent a lot of time planning the heist using army men. Their crew is working for Rex (Bruce Willis), a big shot in a suit who’s overseeing the job from an empty floor in an office building. It’s supposed to be easy money but of course things go wrong. Frank gets knocked out during the chaos, and wakes up next to his brother’s dead body. The box they stole is also gone, and Frank is left to figure out who double-crossed them to keep the whole $500k for themselves.

You may remember a bad idea from a few years ago called MoviePass. The initial pitch was that for a set monthly fee you could see as many movies as you wanted. One small flaw in the scheme was that no movie theatres were participating, and in fact they actively spoke out against it. MoviePass pressed on anyway. The result was that MoviePass was buying tickets at full price from the theatre and giving them away for almost nothing (MoviePass’ monthly subscription fee was equal to one regular price ticket).

So after a while of giving away tickets while misleading their investors about their chances of making a profit (which were literally zero), MoviePass found itself millions and millions of dollars in debt. Not even changing the terms repeatedly without notice solved the problems caused by MoviePass’ horrible business model.

Most would have given up at that point, but not MoviePass. Its ace in the hole? Making its own movies and giving away tickets to them! 10 Minutes Gone was one of MoviePass’ first films, and it also happens to be the last.  That’s because MoviePass is now dead and gone, and it’s probably best if we agree to bury 10 Minutes Gone alongside it. Everything about this movie is awful. It is an abomination. It was probably MoviePass’ worst idea. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Remember when the Fast & Furious gang were street racers who dabbled in highway robbery? Because the franchise’s writers seem to have totally forgotten. The street races are long gone, replaced with international espionage, world-devastating weapons, and an ever-growing cast of action heroes.

Two of those additional action heroes, Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), are now spinning off from the main storyline and saving the world without any help from the rest of the franchise’s former street racers. This time, Idris Elba plays the unstoppable cyborg bad guy who’s racing against Hobbs and Shaw to track down a supervirus that Shaw’s superspy sister (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with. Luckily, the supervirus takes 72 hours to take effect, giving Hobbs and Shaw a chance to find a way to extract it…if only they could put aside their differences and find a way to work together.

Of course Hobbs and Shaw will find a way to work together, but it takes longer than you’d expect. Probably because Vin Diesel isn’t around to remind everyone that they’re family.  That’s Hobbs & Shaw in a nutshell: a very competent (though brainless) action movie that more than anything will make you miss Diesel and the rest of his Fast & Furious family.

No matter how many explosions or dune buggies are involved in a showdown with the villain’s helicopter, Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t measure up to the other instalments in this franchise. At best, it’s a teaser trailer for Fast & Furious 9, but the energy that went into Hobbs & Shaw probably would have been better spent on something involving the whole crew. Because when it comes to big, dumb action films, bigger is better, and that’s a lesson I thought this franchise had learned a long time ago.