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Posts Tagged ‘Russell Crowe’

Lucas Hedges

“BOY ERASED”My rating: B 

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In real life, forgiveness is a virtue.

In cinema, it’s a handicap.

That may be why Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased,” based on Gerrard Conley’s memoir of undergoing gay conversion therapy as a teen, seems simultaneously important and a bit underwhelming.

The film (and, presumably, Conley’s book) doesn’t go looking for villainy in religious-backed efforts to pray the gay away. The movie is astonishingly open minded and open hearted.  The folk who operate conversion camps are given the benefit of the doubt; they appear sincere in their beliefs and seem to have the best interests of their young clients at heart.

They’re  misguided, sure. But not evil.

That sort of evenhandedness, while morally sound, is narratively problematic. Great drama needs great conflict, and “Boy Erased” soft-pedals issues of prejudice and persecution that might kick the film into dramatic high gear.

What we’re left with is a well-acted, insightful drama that is more mournful than pissed off.

Egerton’s picture (he wrote and directed) begins with college freshman Jared Eamons (a terrific Lucas Hedges) arriving at a big city conversion camp with his mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman, with the poofy blonde ‘do and vaguely out-there fashion sense of a tasteful Tammy Faye Bakker).

While his mom retreats to the hotel where the two will be sharing a suite for the next two weeks, Jared gets a walkthrough of the joint.  His wallet, cell phone and personal effects are placed in a box and locked away (it’s a bit like reporting to prison).  His journal, in which he scribbles notes for possible short stories, is confiscated (it will be returned to him with certain pages missing). He’s told that all outside reading materials, music, radio and TV are banned.

The man in charge, Victor (director Edgerton), approaches the young men and women in his custody with the sort of enthusiasm and concern exhibited by a good athletic coach. He’s totally upbeat about the possibility of these kids bringing themselves back to God.

Because it’s really not their fault, you see.  Not that they were born gay.  No, that’s a myth.  Rather, at some point in their developmental years these individuals had their psyches warped by someone — usually a family member —  who triggered their gayness.

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Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling

Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling

“THE NICE GUYS” My rating: C116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Moviegoers recognize that trailers are basically a form of publicly sanctioned lying. Filmmakers will do just about anything to make their next release come off as a gotta-see-it necessity.

Given this tendency toward fudging the facts, the trailer for “The Nice Guys” is brutally honest.

It makes the film look like a loser.  Which is exactly what it is.

Directed and co-written by Shane Black (with a writing assist from Anthony Bagarozzi), this action comedy wants to emulate the violent/comic nexus exemplified by the old Nick Nolte/Eddie Murphy pair-up “48 Hrs.”

With stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and a late 1970s disco-drenched atmosphere, “The Nice Guys” seems promising. But its thrills and laughs are modest at best.

Cop-turned-private eye Holland March (Gosling) meets muscle Jackson Healy (Crowe) when the latter is hired to break the former’s arm. Nothing personal — someone wants Holland to give up his search for a missing deb named Amelia (Margaret Qualley of HBO’s “The Leftovers”).

Despite this not-promising initial encounter, Holland and Jackson find themselves teaming up to locate the missing girl and uncover a vast criminal conspiracy.

They’re odd bedfellows. Jackson is a human fireplug with a slow burn and a calculating style. Holland is a boozy jerkoff who succeeds more by luck than perseverance.

Rounding out the team is Holland’s young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), a fearless young soul who provides the two grown men with a moral compass.

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Russell Crowe in

Russell Crowe in “The Water Diviner”…the war goes on

“THE WATER DIVINER” My rating: C 

 111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Russell Crowe’s acting is marked by fierce physicality and an equally intense  intelligence.

The Australian icon once again embraces those qualities in his feature directing debut, “The Water Diviner.” But the results are at best desultory.

Maybe Crowe bit off more than he could chew in tackling this  convoluted World War I yarn with epic ambitions.

He certainly should have been more discerning when it came to the muddled screenplay by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, which throws together big themes, cheesy romance and an approach heavy on flashbacks.

The film begins with the 1915 attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey by British and Australian forces.  After months of savage fighting and thousands of casualties, the invaders are repelled and retreat across the sea.

Cut to Australia several years later where farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe) battles drought by using dowsing rods to detect underground water. He appears to have a real talent — possible psychic — for knowing where to dig.

Joshua and his emotionally devastated wife (Jacqueline McKenzie) lost their three sons in one day of fighting on Gallipoli. With the death of his spouse, Joshua decides to honor her last wish — that her boys’ bodies be recovered and buried beside her.

It’s a tall order. It means traveling to Turkey, navigating (or defying) the red tape of the British occupation, getting to the battlefield (from which civilians are banned because of the live ordinance still littering the landscape) and somehow finding three skeletons among the thousands buried in mass graves.

If you think Joshua’s dowsing abilities will come in handy, you’re right.

But there’s a lot more to this overly-busy yarn.

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broken-city 1“BROKEN CITY” My rating: C (Opens wide on Jan. 18)

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Yawn.

Not even an A-list cast can do much with “Broken City,” this year’s indifferent released-in-January thriller from Mark Wahlberg.

Written by first-timer Brian Tucker and directed by Allen Hughes (half of the directing Hughes Brothers who gave us “From Hell” and the solid doc “American Pimp”), this overcomplicated mashup of film noir elements and Big Apple misdeeds never finds its voice or presents a story compelling enough to grab our interest.

Private eye Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) used to be a cop — until he shot to death a homeboy who raped and murderd the sister of Billy’s girlfriend. Billy beat the rap but at the insistence of NYC’s garroulous Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Police Commisioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) resigned from the force.

Now, years later,  Billy specializes in chasing cheating husbands.

Still, he’s surprised when  Hostetler offers him $50,000 to follow the Mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and prove she’s having an affair. Billy finds that New York’s First Lady is indeed hanging around with another man (Kyle Chandler, late of “Friday Night Lights”). Not just any man, but the campaign director of a city councilman who hopes to unseat Mayor Hostetler in a fiercely contested election. (more…)

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