2 Guns

You’ll be happy to know that 2 Guns is as fun as it looks. If you haven’t seen it and are looking for a good, harmless action flick, this is what you’re looking for.

You’re going to like 2 Guns if you enjoyed:
Lethal Weapon
Beverly Hills Cop
White House Down
21 Jump Street

This flick is pretty violent. You’ll like it, though, if you are a fan of solid and not overly serious action movies. The plot is intricate enough to keep the interest and the acting is, of course from these two, charming.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released August 2, 2013

Written by Blake Masters, based on the graphic novels by Steven Grant

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur

Starring Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, James Marsters, and Fred Ward

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) are working together to get a lot of money into their grubby hands. What neither of them knows is that the other is an agent of the government. Bobby’s a DEA agent and Stig’s Special Forces. They join up to rob a bank, but when they end up with way more money than they expected, it becomes clear that they’ve bitten off more than either one can chew.

When Stig’s boss, Quince (Marsters), suddenly turns on Stig, Stig has to try to stay alive while going on the run. Then Bobby’s people turn on him and Stig and Bobby are forced to team up to try to keep away from what seems like four groups of baddies coming after them.

Critique

The dialogue of 2 Guns has been very well crafted to provide Washington and Wahlberg ample opportunity to play off each other and keep things entertaining. We want our buddy cop movies to provide lots of opportunities for the two people in question to be pushed apart by their dislike of each other but be forced to work together. This dynamic is very well crafted, making this movie all kinds of fun.

Added to the excellent dialogue and performances is a solid plot, weaving corrupt government agents, drug bosses, and our heroes into all kinds of plots and conflicts that keep the action moving along at a steady clip. The set pieces don’t try to outdo other action movies in their spectacularness, but instead they are clever and fun.

2 Guns is fine entertainment that action movie lovers will enjoy.

Content warnings: Plenty of explosive violence, salty language, and a scene of female nudity.

Writing: 4          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4.5

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Unstoppable

Unstoppable is, interestingly, a lot like the runaway train that the film centers on. It feels like it gets a slow start, but as it picks up speed, you can’t tear your eyes away from some great pacing and acting and by the end you are clutching your armrest.

It’s a mighty fine entertainment from Tony Scott.

Here’s a trailer:

Here are the deets:

Released November 12, 2010

Written by Mark Bomback (based on true events)

Directed by Tony Scott

Starring Rosario Dawson, Jessy Schram, Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Kevin Corrigan, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, and Lew Temple. Oh, and a really big train.

Rated PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

The story of Unstoppable is simple: a train hauling tons of toxic chemicals gets away from its rather careless conductor and picks up speed as it heads toward some seriously populated areas. It’s going to kill a lot of people unless two men can find their courage and stop the thing while bucking the orders of the train company’s head honcho and working for a no-nonsense supervisor.

The film opens with Will (Pine) starting his day. He apparently is on the outs with his lady, Darcy (Schram) and is in something of a funk. He appears to be related to a bigwig in the train company for which he works as a conductor. He is slated to work with rail veteran Frank (Washington), who has two grown daughters and is pretty philosophical about life. Will and Frank’s day goes just fine until they find out that they’re on a crash course with an out of control train.

Dewey (Suplee) is the nimrod that allowed the train to get out of control. Connie (Dawson) is the tough, no-nonsense, but desperate supervisor who has to figure out how to keep the train from killing people. She has to deal with railroad execs who are far more focused on the dollar (of course) than on practicalities and people. She also has to try to keep Will and Frank alive as they decide to do more than just avoid the train.

Solutions are come up with, tried out, discarded, and all leads to Frank and Will being faced with a decision that will test their grit and courage. The final twenty minutes are some of the tensest moments you will experience in a movie.

Critique

Tony Scott discards some of his usual tools, such as overly dramatic lighting and at times too-frenetic camera work. He still uses interesting angles and helps the viewer get into the movie from fascinating perspectives, but none of these are done for the purpose of art. They are done to enhance the tension of the film.

Unstoppable works so well because the two main characters are written with an eye to the tension that exists between a rookie and a veteran, where the rookie is somewhat entitled and too big for his britches. It also works well because it does not flag in its pace, it focuses on what people are doing about this train and the personal sacrifices involved, and it explores courage very effectively.

Despite some predictability and a few overly dramatized scenes, this is a good movie.

Be careful. Like The Fighter, this movie packs a totally unseen punch– unseen that is until you get hit. Unstoppable is a great date movie because it engages and delivers an emotional wallop that will leave any two people on a date with plenty to appreciate and talk about.

Content warnings: some language and some very tense situations and painful events.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5          Overall: 4.5

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The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is one of the best movies of 2010. It’s a solid post-apocalyptic story that is wonderfully acted, artfully shot, and remarkably well-written. It may also be one of Denzel Washington’s best performances to date.

Here’s a peek:

The deets:

Released January 15, 2010

Written by Gary Whitta

Directed by the Hughes brothers

Starring: Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Ray Stevenson

Rated R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

The world is a destroyed, hot, bleak, savage, regressed place and Eli (Washington) is a nomad heading toward the west coast of what was once the USA. He holds a copy of the Bible, potentially the only copy left. He subsists on any creature, barring humans, he can kill and cans of food, reading the Bible every night and hoping to find batteries to help him listen to music.

Eli is an accomplished warrior, wreaking matter-of-fact and brutal havoc on anyone who tries to hurt or stop him. But he is also kind and lives by principle, and it is his merciful heart that exacerbates some trouble he gets in when he arrives in a town run by Carnegie (Oldman). It’s hard to imagine what Carnegie did before the apocalypse, because he’s obviously very suited to megalomania. Carnegie sees a spark of something interesting when Eli passes through his bar and kills a bunch of people who are trying to bully him.

So Carnegie takes Eli in and we meet Carnegie’s significant other, Claudia (Beals)n and Claudia’s  daughter Solara (Kunis). Solara is foisted upon Eli to see if he wants her; he declines and Solara sees the sacred book. Now Carnegie, convinced that the book has the power to give him total power, wants it. But Eli knows that Carnegie is corrupt and vile.

We have a showdown as Eli, with Solara along for the ride, tries to escape from Carnegie’s men, led by Redridge (Stevenson), who carries a torch for Solara. The showdown is not the end of the film, because The Book of Eli is about much more than a wanderer who brings justice upon some bad guys. That’s pretty much any Clint Eastwood western.

The Book of Eli is more about what drives people to do what they do, what people are capable of when they’re devoted to a cause–rotten or noble. Watch for the ultimate reveal, then watch The Book of Eli again to see if the reveal makes sense.

It does.

Critique

The Book of Eli is an action film with a brain and some very smart and effective actors. The motivations of each character are powerfully visible and they make each character really interesting to watch.

The story arc is, on its face, fairly simple. Special wanderer making his way to a destination is waylaid by some baddies and wanderer has to bring down the fires of justice upon the baddies. As mentioned above,  this story is fleshed out by Eli’s need to get to a certain place while keep in his sacred book safe, but also while helping some other people out of a bad situation. And the reveal, again the reveal, makes the story of the film all the richer.

The setting is delightfully bleak, with most everything visible in shades of sepia and gray. Washington, Oldman, and Beals deliver deep performances that give us a peak into a past of pain and adjustment to the horrible modern conditions.

Finally, the direction takes its time to let scenes develop. This adds a gravity to the movie and helps we viewers become fully wrapped up in this world.

The Book of Eli is not your normal post-apocalyptic film, despite plenty of homage paid to Mad Max. This movie is a might strong exploration of what it is to be human and what survival and thriving really mean.

Content warnings: brutal and sometimes graphic violence, some language.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5          Overall: 4.5

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Saying Goodbye to Tony Scott

I can’t believe I just wrote that headline. Last night, my dear wife, knowing full well that her news would probably affect me strongly, told me about the headline she’d just seen. Stunned, totally disbelieving, I got online and confirmed the news.

Tony Scott, brother of my all-time favorite director Ridley Scott, had thrown himself off a bridge in LA, ending his own life.

I was dumbfounded. Flummoxed. How could this be?

I never met Tony Scott, but through his movies, I felt like I knew him a little. The scenes in Man on Fire where Denzel’s rage is allowed to develop and the light and the frenetic moments– these showed me that Tony Scott had a dramatic and decent heart. Fury is not pleasant; violence should not be glorified. Violence might be a necessity, because you do NOT do terrible things to sweet little girls, but it was not to be glorified.

In Crimson Tide, The Last Boy Scout, and Spy Game, stories about honor, duty, human decency, and determination are told. We also see a respect for sacrifice and a disdain for abuse of authority, hypocrisy, and dishonesty.

I adored Unstoppable. There’s a finely tuned ear that honed the dialogue and the rhythm of the exchanges between characters in that film. There’s an honor, a reverence, for heroism and self-sacrifice. There’s an honesty about people with flaws who find a reason to reach beyond themselves.

Then there’s The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3. I think this is one of Tony Scott’s finest films. Your every day schlub is set back on his heels, confused by sudden brutality, and has to find a way to cope with a maniac. The schlub is weak-kneed, constantly questioning whether he belongs in this situation, but when it comes down to helping people, he steps up.

Ridley Scott is my favorite director of all time. Tony Scott is my second favorite. (FYI, Peter Weir is #3.)

The world has lost a man with a great eye for light, a great head for action and rhythm, and a storyteller of the highest caliber. I don’t know why Tony Scott took his own life. I can’t begin to imagine what pain and/or illness moved him to such a drastic, heartbreaking, final, and tragic step. I send my love and prayers to his family and call upon film-lovers the world over to celebrate Tony Scott and his contributions to the world and the art of film by popping some corn, grabbing a cold beverage, and immersing yourselves in one of his films. Be drawn in by his leads’ heroism, the frenetic action, the character of light, and the sensitivity to sound and silence.

Celebrate him and let your love of his work carry his spirit to a happier place.

I invite all readers to share in the comments your favorite movie experience created by Tony Scott. Feel free to pass this post along; I’d love to bask in everyone’s appreciation of this remarkable artist.

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