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Posts Tagged ‘Noah Taylor’

Left to right: Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley

“FREE FIRE”  My rating: C+

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A dozen tough guys stewing in their own testosterone. A van packed with illegal weapons.  A briefcase full of cash. A closed environment from which there is no easy escape.

What could go wrong?

A streamlined 90 minutes of pumped-up bullet blasting (literally) and wienie waving (metaphorically), “Free Fire” is the latest from Brit action auteur Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”), but its origins are pure Quentin Tarantino, with special nods to “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight.”

In an abandoned umbrella factory in Boston an arms deal is taking place.

Chris (Cillian Murphy) has crossed the pond to buy automatic weapons for the IRA (the time is the mid-‘70s, judging by the dreadful fashions, hairstyles and absence of cell phones).

He’s backed by the grimly efficient hitman Frank (Wheatley regular Michael Smiley), Frank’s screwup brother-in-law Stevo (Sam Riley), and Stevo’s worthless running buddy, Bernie (Enzo Cilenti).

Selling the weapons is Rhodesian gun runner Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a world-class sleazebag whose smarmy mouth keeps writing checks his fists cannot cash.  Good thing his seemingly civilized partner Martin (Babou Ceesay) is there to keep Vernon in check.

Vernon has his own goon squad on hand:  The mountainously hairy Jimmy (Mark Monero) and the wizened Gordon (Noah Taylor).

Supervising the transaction are the two middlemen who set up the deal.  Ord (Armie Hammer) is a superslick dude in a turtleneck and blazer who oozes post-modern irony; Justine (Brie Larson) is a cool beauty sharp enough to verbally emasculate chauvinists like Vernon but willing to use her seductive skills to get what she wants. (more…)

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Jesse Eisenberg and...Jesse Eisenberg in "Double"

Jesse Eisenberg and…Jesse Eisenberg in “The Double”

“THE DOUBLE” My rating: C+ (Opening July 4 at the Screenland Crown Center)

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R)

 

Though it is based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, one could be forgiven for thinking “The Double” is an adaptation of Franz Kafka.

Richard Ayoade’s film gives us a hapless protagonist trapped in a web of illogical but rigid social and political rules. This poor schlub finds himself living in a nightmare from which he cannot awaken.

The problem is that for me dramatizations of Kafka never really work.  They may be well acted, imaginatively mounted, and they may deal with important human issues. But what seems subversive and insightful on the printed page always comes off as a bit silly and, worse, boring when brought to the screen. Kafka-ish yarns are always about an Everyman…and Everymen aren’t all that interesting.

Once in a blue moon a director takes a Kafkaesque situation and makes it both funny and compelling — Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” for example.

“The Double” works about half the time, thanks to its depiction of a glum alternative world and a bravura double performance from Jesse Eisenberg. But it can’t quite make it over the hump.

Eisenberg is best known for playing dweebs in films like “Zombieland” and “Wonderland” and — let’s face it — “The Social Network.” Here gets to play not only a disaffected dweeb but also his lookalike tormentor. Two characters that are polar opposites.

And, yes, the kid can act. He’s so good here I wish I liked the movie more.

Simon (Eisenberg) lives in a grungy, ill-lit metropolis in which technology seems to have peaked around 1935.  He’s employed by some sort of government agency ruled by the Colonel (James Fox), a paternalistic Big Brotherish figure in a white uniform. Exactly what this agency does is never made clear, but it must be important since it has a high degree of security. When he leaves his ID at home, Simon has a hard time convincing anyone at work that he’s been coming there for years.  He’s that forgettable.

Our man yearns for success but is totally lacking in the qualities that might bring it. He’s got no self-assurance, creativity, or charisma.

(more…)

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Craig Roberts in "Submarine"

“SUBMARINE” My rating: C+  (Now at the Glenwood at Red Bridge)

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

JD Salinger never allowed a movie to be made of his classic novel The Catcher in the Rye, and I now think I know why.

It’s because his adolescent protagonist Holden Caulfield — so funny, entertaining and idiosyncratic on the written page — would be borderline intolerable in the flesh-and-blood world of film.

I base this on my reaction to “Submarine,” an adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s novel about a Welsh teenager in the ‘80s. Dunthorne’s Oliver Tate is self-absorbed, judgmental and maddening in all the ways a young person can be, but while he’s fun to encounter on the written page, in the darkness of the movie house he’s an infuriating and irritating wad of mopey misery.

As played by young Craig Roberts, Oliver isn’t much fun to be around, despite the cinema tricks thrown at him by director Richard Ayoade.

For example, early on our furtively angry hero imagines what it would be like if he were to die. He envisions — and we witness — TV news reports of the mass outpouring of grief, of candle-bearing classmates, of spontaneous shrines to his memory that spring up on street corners, of platitudinous eulogies.  (more…)

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