Archive for the ‘2010s’ Tag

The Killer Elite (2011)   Leave a comment

killer elite poster

I put the year in the title so you wouldn’t think I was going to write about the 1975 Sam Peckinpah film and get unduly excited.  Nope.  This is not that.   Jason Statham stars as an international super secret mercenary on a mission to free his friend and mentor, Robert DeNiro from an exiled Arab sheik.  The sheik captured DeNiro as leverage to coax Statham, now retired (after nearly killing a child during a mission) to hit the men responsible for killing his sons.  They contact Statham in the boondocks somewhere rebuilding his childhood home and falling for his childhood friend.  Yup, that’s the premise.  Never been done before.  I know.   The crack team of Statham, Aden Young (Rectify), and some other guy plot to infiltrate the SAS (Elite British Navy Seal-like group) in order to discover the identities of the killers, kill them, and get DeNiro out of stir.  Of course, the men they’re assigned to kill are crack British troops so not only do they avoid getting killed rather well, but also our three don’t really want to kill them.   The Killer Elite boasts an impressive cast of leads.  Aside from Statham and Young, Clive Owen does his usual admirable job as the leader of a group of ex-SAS operatives bent on stopping Statham and his crew.  DeNiro soars above the rest of the cast in his few scenes however.  He has a terrific presence in this film and they give him a few fun bits.  That’s it though.  I liked seeing DeNiro in his few scenes, but I could have done without the rest of the film.  As simple as the plot seems, I found it hard to follow.  A lot of scenes started with ‘You know what to do.’-type dialogue. Apparently they did and felt no need to fill the audience in on any of it.  The actors just tailed each other, had lots of really nasty fights, said things like ‘This guy’s a pro.’ and other cool expository things like that so we’d all know how hard this mission was and be really impressed and stuff.  A sub-plot with a powerful shadow group of ex-mercenaries bent on controlling wars and oil and money and ponies (OK, not ponies) went absolutely nowhere.  Statham also had a girlfriend who they feared would be killed by bad guys so DeNiro watched her for a while and we got to see him and then that was over and we had to get back to the main part of the movie which was no fun.  Another sub-plot about another ex-SAS officer writing a book about the assassinations of the sheiks’ sons appeared quickly and went away just as fast.   According to imdb, this film is based on a true story and took place in 1980.  This surprised me completely after seeing it so I forced myself to watch the beginning again.  They do indeed state, in writing, “This is 1980.”  They must have known that no one would ever guess it by watching the movie.   The Killer Elite clocked in at one hour and 56 minutes.  It felt a lot longer. 

youtalkin

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Lonely Boy (2013)   Leave a comment

lonely boy

Franky has problems. For much of this film, we’re not entirely sure what those are. It doesn’t matter. We’re fascinated by Franky and achingly curious to learn what makes him tick. In Lonely Boy, the audiences watches as he navigates his everyday, troubled life.

Alev Aydin gives a sweet, nuanced performance which could have easily degenerated to caricature. The story, interspersed with lovely character parts played by veterans Mackenzie Astin, Jack Plotnick, Lynn Whitfield, and sweet and intense roles by newcomers Natalie Distler and Greg Vrotsos takes us through Franky’s day. He makes dinner, goes to the grocery store, visits his long suffering sister, and meets a girl.

I detest spoilers so I won’t give any more of the story away here. I can say that Lonely Boy is an independent film with high production values and direction by Dale Fabrigar that takes its time. It looks great and suffers from none of the awkwardness of some small films. Aydin, who also wrote the screenplay, plays Franky with subtlety and wit. It’s quirky and intense. Everything you want in an independent film. Look for Richard Riehle (Office Space) and Melora Walters (Boogie Nights) in terrific character roles.

lonely boy still

Bernie (2011)   Leave a comment

bernie poster

Bernie is based on the bizarre but true story of Bernie Tiede, a popular east Texas mortician whose friendship with the meanest woman in town leads to an unusual sort of tragedy.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly), on location in Carthage and other east Texas towns, Bernie uses a combination of feature and documentary style film making to great effect. Linklater intersperses scenes of Bernie leading the church choir or preparing a corpse for a funeral with those of his friends and neighbors telling stories about him and their views of the case.

Jack Black gives a layered performance as the title character and you see this gentle, charismatic man put through his paces by the needy and nasty Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Black also brings the necessary theatricality to the role without going too far. He makes you empathize with this sweet, friendly guy who wanted to help his neighbors and went a little too far.

MacLaine plays bitter, spoiled millionaire Marjorie Nugent and revels in it. She’s Ouiser Boudreaux, the character MacLaine played in Steel Magnolias, but cranked up a notch. Take away Ouiser’s friends, add some money-grubbing relatives, and a long, tedious marriage to the mix and you have Marjorie. Her cruelty and disregard for people has isolated her, but Bernie befriends her and soon the two are inseparable.

If the story ended there, it might make a sweet special on the Hallmark Channel, but it doesn’t and what happens next kept me transfixed. Some of those interviewed in the talking heads segments are Bernie’s real-life friends and neighbors, others, actors portraying them. Those character actors deserve praise because I couldn’t tell who was who. The realistic look and feel to the film come from the setting and the writing. Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth, a reporter who covered the trial and wrote a piece for the Texas Monthly about it in 1998. Entitled Midnight in the Garden of East Texas, the article delved into the backgrounds of the principals and the area and brought some publicity to this strange case.

I enjoyed the film’s semi-documentary style and Jack Black’s performance blew me away. He fit the role perfectly and communicated the eccentricities and goodness of his character without reducing him to caricature. MacLaine, as usual, shines as a thoroughly unlikable, but complex woman. The other stand out performance, given by Matthew McConaughey as District Attorney Danny Buck didn’t surprise me as much as it would have in 2011 since I’ve seen Mud, Killer Joe, and Magic Mike since then. Far from one-dimensional, McConaughey’s take on Buck as a headline grabbing prosecutor who also has respect for the law was thoughtful and fleshed out.

I enjoyed Bernie. It had all the reality a true crime lover craves combined with layered performances from its leads.  As Roger Ebert said in his review, “[Linklater’s] genius was to see Jack Black as Bernie Tiede.” I agree.

bernie

 

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