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Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller

“21 BRIDGES” My rating: C (Opens wide on Nov. 22)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

To the extent that it delivers a series of adrenaline-stoked action sequences and a ridiculously high body count, Brian Kirk’s “21 Bridges” should satisfy audiences looking for a thrill.

And that’s about it.

Not even the presence of the versatile  Chadwick Baseman (whose roles range from Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall to the Black Panther) and the eerily transforming Sienna Miller can elevate this piece above “mehhh” status.

The first half of Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay (and by far the better half) is a manhunt told from the points of view of two couples — a pair of crooks on the run  and a pair of cops on their heels.

In the opening sequence a couple of well-armed thugs, Michael and Ray (Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch) hit a posh New York City restaurant late at night after closing.  They’ve been told there’s 30 kilos of cocaine hidden in the eatery; they are perplexed to discover it’s more like 300 kilos, way more than they can carry out.

To further complicate matters,  a bunch of cops show up.  Maybe they are looking for a late-night snack.  In any case, there’s a gun battle that leaves eight of New York’s finest headed to the morgue.  The perps take off running.

Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch

The filmmakers at least try for plausible back stories.  Michael and Ray are ex-military; Ray is by far the more ruthless of the two, but Kitsch gives him just enough charisma to keep us interested.  Michael basically finds himself in over his head.

On the other side of the coin are detectives Andre Davis (Boseman) and Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller, almost unrecognizable with no makeup), thrown together to manage a city-wide manhunt for the cop killers.

Again, an attempt is made to provide some depth to the characters.  Davis is himself the son of a slain cop who regularly faces Internal Affairs hearings for his marksmanship (eight fatal shootings in as many years); he maintains he never fires first. Burns is a single mom with a Brooklyn accent.

To keep the crooks from leaving town, Davis imposes a 1 a.m.-to-sunup closure of all 21 bridges leading into and out of Manhattan Island.  He’s got five hours before the quarantine will be lifted and rush hour begins. (Thus the movie’s title…though once the roads are blocked the film never returns to them. Another title would have been “21 Body Bags.”)

An already perplexing case is made even more unmanageable by the dead officers’ revenge-minded colleagues (J.K. Simmons plays their precinct chief). These cops have a bad habit of killing witnesses before Davis can interview them.

In the film’s second half it dawns on Davis that there may be more to this case than meets the eye…we’re talking corruption in high places. (And you can only imagine the paperwork demanded of our hero after personally killing a dozen people.)

“21 Bridges” has been well made.  The acting is OK. The shots of NYC at night are sometimes eerily atmospheric.

On the whole, though, the film is more blah than bad. Instantly forgettable.

| Robert W. Butler

Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis

“JOJO RABBIT” My rating: C+r (Now showing)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Jojo Rabbit” is one of those movies more satisfying in principle than in practice.

The latest from Kiwi auteur Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and, of course, TV’s “Flight of the Conchords”) is nothing if not timely.

Waititi’s subject is right-wing political fanaticism — German Naziism, to be precise — and his methodology is that of off-the-wall satire.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

The title character is 10-year-old Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis) — Jojo for short.  Jojo lives in Germany in the latter stages of World War II.  His father has gone off to fight for the Fuehrer in Italy…at least that’s the story his mom, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), is sticking to.

Jojo is himself a worshipper of Hitler and all things Nazi. (Those uniforms! That invigorating aura of invincibility and racial superiority!) In fact, his adoring  imagination has conjured up a make-believe best friend…none other than Adolf himself (Waititi), who loves hanging out with Jojo and exudes childish enthusiasms and questionable advice.

Some of the film’s funniest material is front loaded…early on Jojo and his fat pal Yorki (Archie Yates) spend a weekend at a Hitler Youth camp where they are subjected to lectures on racial purity, practice lobbing grenades and gaze in gape-mouthed admiration at their chief instructor, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), a one-eyed combat veteran rarely seen without his two flunkies, Finkel (Alfie Allen) and Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson).

The whole thing is like a Boy Scout rally with live ammunition.  Except that Jojo collapses when ordered to snap a bunny’s neck with his bare hands to prove his willingness to slay the enemies of the Reich. Apparently Jojo’s love of manly posing won’t be enough to make him a good National Socialist.

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Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa; Robert DeNiro as Frank Sheeran

“THE IRISHMAN” My rating: B (Now at the Alamo Drafthouse, Screenland Armour and Standees)

209 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated “The Irishman” is a good movie.

Not a great one.

It’s been described as the filmmaker’s ultimate gangster epic, yet it feels less like a conventional celebration of tough-guy ethos than a slow (3 1/2 hour’s worth), mournful meditation on sins unacknowledged and unforgiven.

In fact, Scorsese seems to have gone out of his way to avoid the sort of eye-catching set pieces (like the long nightclub tracking shot from “GoodFellas”) that marked many of his earlier efforts. “The Irishman” is almost ploddingly straightforward.

Steve Zaillian’s screenplay follows the title character, real-life contract killer Frank Sheehan (Robert DeNiro), from his early days as a truck driver with a taste for theft  to his residency in an old folk’s home.

(Now seems a good time to comment on the much-ballyhooed CG “youthening” of the actors…it’s so good you don’t even think about it. No waxy skin tones or blurry edges — damn near flawless.)

The bulk of the movie, set in the ’50s and ’60s, chronicles Frank’s association with the Teamsters  and his friendship with union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who in a phone call introduces himself to Frank with the statement: “I heard you paint houses.”  That’s code for acting as a hired assassin, a role Frank will perform for Hoffa and others for a quarter century.

The film centers on a long 1975 car trip in which Sheehan and his mentor, crime family boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), and their wives drive from Philadelphia to Detroit, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.  At various stages in the journey Frank’s memory is jogged to recall past exploits. He doesn’t realize until late in the trip that Russell has another agenda — the assassination of Jimmy Hoffa who, after serving a four-year sentence in federal prison, is now upsetting the apple cart by attempting to reclaim the presidency of the Teamsters Union.

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Antonio Banderas

“PAIN & GLORY” My rating: B+

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The dominant aural element of Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain & Glory” is a solo oboe exuding gentle melancholy.

It’s the perfect soundtrack for one of this director’s best films, a semi-autobiographical (just how autobiographical will no doubt be debated at length) attempt to capture the limits of one man’s existence.

It’s not a busy film, nor is it particularly amusing or sensational in the ways that once made Almodovar the bad boy of Spanish cinema. “Pain and Glory” starts slowly and quietly builds in intensity until it delivers an overwhelmingly emotional experience.

Antonio Banderas,  the hunky sex object of Almodovar’s earlier efforts, stars as Salvador, a sixtysomething filmmaker who hasn’t had a new project in years.  We first meet him underwater in a swimming pool…turns out that floating  is one of the few things that relieves his physical and spiritual maladies.

In an animated sequence Salvador outlines his various infirmities, which range from fused vertebrae to migraines, digestive issues, outbreaks of tendonitis and, naturally enough, depression. All this has left him a virtual recluse; on most days he sees only his devoted secretary/Girl Friday Mercedes (Nora Navas).

“Pain & Glory” unfolds simultaneously in the present and in the past.

In the here and now Salvador learns that one of his films — made more than 30 years earlier — has been restored and is being given a special screening at the national cinematheque.  This results in a reunion between the director and the film’s leading man, Alberto (Asier Etxeandia). The two had a falling out and haven’t spoken in three decades.

They tentatively reignite their friendship; perhaps even more important to Salvador, Alberto turns him on to heroin, the only drug he hasn’t tried to cope with his almost constant pain.

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Emilia Clarke

“LAST CHRISTMAS” My rating: C-

102 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Despite my general hatred of seasonally-themed romantic comedies (like chugging a gallon of eggnog), there were reasons to think “Last Christmas” might be different.

For starters, it was written by Emma Thompson (who in addition to being a great actress gave us the screenplays for “Sense and Sensibility,” “Nanny McPhee” and “Bridget Jones’ Baby”) and directed by Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame.

Surely those two could provide just enough edge to make all that good cheer palatable.

If only.

“Last Christmas,” which purportedly was inspired by the George Michael song of the same name, is an unbearable mess, too dour to be truly funny and too silly to work dramatically.

Most of the film is a too-quirky dramady that botches just about everything it attempts; in its final stages the script delivers a plot twist that has been so poorly set up that it hardly makes a dent in the audience ennui.

Kate (Emilia Clark) is a mess.  Though she considers herself an aspiring singer, she works in a year-round Christmas store in London where she is required to suit up as an elf — even in the summer.  Her off hours are devoted to boozing and sleeping with cute strangers.  At odds with her parents, she lives out of a suitcase, crashing on the couches of friends whose patience is wearing thin.

We’re supposed to find her charming in an offbeat way; mostly she’s just irritating.

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Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson

“THE LIGHTHOUSE” My rating: B

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” we don’t so much watch a couple of men go crazy as experience that craziness with them.

The film has been beautifully photographed, but beware…it is disconcerting, perplexing  and alienating. Eggers, who burst upon the scene a couple of years back with “The Witch,”  is less interested in solving mysteries than in creating visual and aural conundrums. We’re expected to come up with our own answers.

At the turn of the last century two men — the salty old Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and the much younger Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) — take up their duties at a lighthouse on a remote island somewhere off the American coast. They are to be relieved in four weeks.

There’s friction from the start.  The experienced and dictatorial Thomas gives his newcomer partner the lousiest housekeeping jobs: cleaning out the cistern, emptying overflowing chamber pots, whitewashing the lighthouse while dangling in a harness, stoking the furnace that creates the steam to power the deafening foghorn. The old man claims the light itself as his special concern;  Ephraim is steer clear of the tower unless specifically ordered to climb those winding stairs.

This is bad enough. But Thomas is an irritating old coot, a monumental farter and snorer who insists on telling boring tall tales of sea life in a Long John Silver voice.

Ephraim has his own issues. He refuses to drink with Thomas…it seems likely that he is an alcoholic whose misbehavior on the mainland has led to a self-imposed exile.

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Roy Cohn

“WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?”  My rating: B

97 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Disbarred attorney and right wing political fixer Roy Cohn was such a creepy  character (those sociopathic hooded eyes) that liberals may be forgiven for wanting to forget all about him.

They do so at their own risk.

Matt Tyrnaer’s “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” is, in most regards, a conventional bio doc.

It follows Cohn’s life and career from boyhood (his parents assuaged their own unhappiness by treating him as a little prince) and his first real brush with corruption (at age 15 he used a bribe to get a teacher out of a traffic ticket) to his death from AIDS at age 59 in 1987.

The film covers all the high (or low) points you’d expect:

  • Prosecuting the Rosenbergs and personally lobbying the judge to ensure a death sentence.
  • Serving as counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his infamous Red Scare campaigns.
  • Playing a major role in Army-McCarthy hearings (Coen tried to blackmail the U.S. Army to gain preferential treatment for PFC David Shine, a friend and colleague with whom he was infatuated).
  • His Machiavellian law practice, frequently on behalf of the corrupt and  powerful, including organized crime bosses like John Gotti. (Cohn’s motto:  “I don’t care what the law is. I want to know who the judge is.”)

But it is in the film’s final third that things get monstrously topical.  For here Tyrnaer’s examines Cohn’s mentoring of young Donald Trump, for whom Cohn cut numerous illegal deals that would pave the way to the erecting of Trump Tower.  Donald Trump who may not have been much of a scholar but apparently he remembered everything he heard and saw in Cohn’s presence and has been exploiting it ever since.

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