Category Archives: Action & Adventure

Gemini Man (2019) Movie Review By D.M Anderson

 

Gemini Man ReviewDirector: Ang Lee
Writers: David Benioff (screenplay), Billy Ray (screenplay)
Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen

Ultimately, Gemini Man might have been partially undone by its own trailer, which spills the beans that Will Smith is a retiring government assassin forced to square-off against his younger self, an equally-skilled clone developed by his own people. But even though I think this is a dish that would have been best-served cold, it’s also a pricey, high-concept action picture and one would be hard-pressed to create any kind of promotional campaign that didn’t tease the viewer with two Will Smiths.

The problem is the way the narrative actually unfolds. Henry Brogan (Smith) is betrayed by the DIA after learning his last kill was not the terrorist he was led to believe, but a scientist working for the DIA on a black-ops project called ‘Gemini,’ headed by its nefarious director, Clay Varris (Clive Owen). Varris sends his best assassin to track-down and kill Brogan. Up to this point, Gemini Man is a watchable-but-unremarkable thriller featuring solid performances by Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the latter of whom who is a tough, resourceful DIA agent originally assigned to keep an eye on him, but ends up a target herself.

Neither learns who’s actually hunting them until well-into the second act and is obviously intended to be the story’s big revelation. But since the audience is privy to all of this from the get-go, instead of being pleasantly surprised by the sudden plot twist, we spend the first hour waiting for Brogan to figure out what we already know. The remainder of the film plays itself out in predictable fashion and is certainly watchable, but I suspect viewers going into this completely cold would have a lot more fun with it.

Elsewhere, Gemini Man works best when director Ang Lee briefly returns to his comfort zone, which is exploring the internal conflict of both Brogan and “Junior,” the latter of whom is also played by Smith through motion capture and CGI. Speaking of which, the ballyhooed “de-aging” of Smith works about as well as it has in other recent films like The Irishman and Endgame: Not entirely convincing, but less of a distraction once we acclimate ourselves. The action itself ranges from exciting to ridiculous. A close-quarters fight in the catacombs of Budapest is impressive, but a CGI-heavy motorcycle chase earlier in the film plays more like a Grand Theft Auto mission. The climax itself has our protagonists surrounded by dozens of Gemini super-soldiers, yet they’re collectively worse shots than Imperial Stormtroopers and are little more than canon fodder.

But again, Gemini Man is ultimately more of a marketing mistake than a failure as a film. The characters and performances are enjoyable and even the action is kind-of fun, like an exciting video game. However, the overall narrative is hampered by waiting so long to reveal what we already know without really expanding on such an inherently intriguing concept any further.

Cold Blood Legacy (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Cold Blood Legacy Review

Director: Frédéric Petitjean
Writer: Frédéric Petitjean
Stars: Jean Reno, Sarah Lind, Joe Anderson

Jean Reno. The ever-calm actor is usually associated with roles such as a police detective, a gangster or an assassin. The quiet-looking Frenchman has a specific appearance that fits perfectly with such roles. Strange but true. I have only recently seen the film “Léon: The Professional“. Without a doubt the very best that Jean Reno has demonstrated on the silver screen. An experienced assassin who, as a loner, takes care of the little girl Mathilda and teaches her the tricks of the trade. A cult film “avant la lettre”. In “Cold Blood Legacy” Jean Reno plays a similar character. A professional and devious person who does his jobs in a well-argued manner. And with that, the most positive thing about this film is said.

“Cold Blood Legacy” is a straight-to-video film, which is already a hint as to what you can expect. Nothing good, I fear. Yes, Henry (Jean Reno) radiates authority and calmness. He carefully weighs each word he’s going to say. And he reads philosophical books thoroughly such as “The Art of War”. He also knows enough about injuries and how to treat them. And finally, he seems to be skilled in survival techniques. Survival techniques that are necessary when you live at an isolated winter spot far from civilisation and surrounded by unapproachable nature. In short, it’s once again a pleasure to see Jean Reno at work.

Unfortunately, Reno’s brilliant acting isn’t enough to make this film a success. The rest is abominably bad, to say the least. Not only is the story itself terribly boring and not interesting. Some interpretations are also ridiculously bad. The two police detectives Kappa (Joe Anderson) and Davies (Ihor Ciszkewycz) in particular, probably will win the Challenge Cup for “Most lousy characters”. Although this is more due to the script than the qualities of the actors themselves. David Gyasi’s character is also open to criticism. The purpose of his role in this film remained a mystery to me. But it’s primarily the story where it’s going wrong. It all isn’t really clear. And above all, it seems as if it’s a combination of storylines and impressions that have been crammed into one story in a confusing way.

Still some positive comments. Sarah Lind’s acting is convincing enough, even though she does that almost the entire film from a horizontal position. The interaction between her and Henry sometimes makes the film fascinating to watch. A psychological joust between two strangers with their own secrets. And as I said before, Henry proves that he’s an expert in the medical field. And apparently he’s an expert in the field of torture techniques as well. Furthermore, the film is peppered with beautiful nature images of this winter landscape. A wooden cabin surrounded by snowy peaks, pine trees and an immensely frozen lake. However, don’t expect any tension or gripping action scenes. The film is simply lifeless and boring. And at the end of the film, everything still remained unclear and blurry. The fact that I didn’t remember the next day what it was about, was a logical consequence. Hopefully, Jean Reno will shine again in a solid action thriller somewhere in the future.

Primal (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Primal Review

Director: Nick Powell
Writer: Richard Leder
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, LaMonica Garrett

Films where animals mess with the protagonists’ life. There are a lot of those movies. Only recently you could see in “Crawl” how alligators tried to outwit a father and daughter with their immense mouths full of razor-sharp, meat-tearing teeth. In “A quiet place” there were creatures with such a developed hearing that they can locate any human sound and quickly go there to tear the source of the noise to pieces. Birds, dogs, cats, crocodiles, tarantulas, grizzly bears, monkeys, ants, snakes, and sharks. An entire segment of the animal kingdom has already been used. This movie “Primal” immediately reminded me of a movie I saw years ago. Namely “Burning Bright“. In this last film, too, it was a tiger chasing two innocent people. Only it took place in a kind of Pippi-Longstocking-house. In “Primal”, on the other hand, it’s a cargo ship that serves as a hunting ground. And Nicolas Cage is also present. Maybe that’s why it’s worthwhile to give this film a chance.

Nicolas Cage. Man, I admire this actor enormously. He’s a phenomenon. I’m sure he’s aiming to reach a specific goal in his life. And that’s being able to announce on his deathbed that he broke the world record of “Actor with most appearances in feature films“. The man (known for his phenomenal roles in “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Joe“) did his utmost best in recent years. Every year he appeared in no fewer than six films. Of course, they aren’t all masterpieces. But La Cage seems to have an enormous endurance. I think he accepts every offer he gets. Apparently, his love for acting is infinite.

The crucial question you can ask yourself is of course: “Is this movie worth watching or is it completely rubbish?“. Well, the truth is actually somewhere in the middle. When Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage) embarks on board a container ship, together with a whole load of exotic animals, he soon notices that he’s not the only one with a unique, life-threatening specimen. Frank earns his living by catching exotic animals, which he then resells to the highest bidder. And the white jaguar (“white jag” as Frank repeatedly pronounces) is a lottery ticket for him. A million to one shot and the guarantee he’ll own some real estate in Pine Lake. And suddenly the American authorities show up with a highly dangerous mercenary (Kevin Durand) in chains, a battalion of soldiers armed to the teeth and a personal female doctor (Famke Janssen) to ensure that the mercenary survives the trip. It has something to do with a brain abnormality and atmospheric pressure. A side issue afterward. You can already guess what’s going to happen. Soon Frank realizes he has to use his hunting instincts to hunt both the white jaguar and the perilous Richard Loffler.

The film never really gets exciting. It looks more like a long version of playing “hide and seek”. The accompanying soldiers are systematically liquidated easily. That kind of looked ridiculous. Also, after a certain period, Dr. Ellen Taylor no longer had a real function. Famke Janssen restricts herself to some annoying protests about catching endangered species. She looks like a feministic environmental activist, who’s about to pull up a protest sign with slogans about animal rights. Even the jaguar only managed to convince in the opening scene. Afterward, the jaguar was nothing more than a sneaking shadow. Only the two characters Cage and Durand played, caused some excitement. Kevin Durand managed to play a psychopathic character convincingly. And Cage visibly had fun here. And to be honest, compared to “A score to settle“, “Kill Chain“, and “Running with the devil” (I shamelessly fell asleep while watching this last one), this Cage-B-film isn’t that bad. Are you a Nicolas Cage fan? Well, you can safely add it to your list of “Must See Cage-Movie”.

Furie (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Furie Review
Hai Phuong – Original Title

Directors: Le-Van Kiet, Van Kiet Le
Stars: Van Veronica Ngo, Mai Cát Vi, Thanh Nhien Phan

A tale of redemption and revenge, Furie focuses on Hai Phuong (Ngo), a mother who removed herself from the city night scene to raise her daughter in the village.  She takes up debt collecting as a job although frowned upon by the villagers and her daughter.  When her past comes back to haunt her, she finds herself having to save her kidnapped daughters life amidst an underground black market trade.

Violence ensues as Hai uses her martial arts skills to hunt down her child.  The story isn’t new (a la TAKEN) but the hits are brutal and the tale is told well.  There are some moments during the hunt where the dramatics were stretched a bit too long but just in time the action kicks in and kicks in great.  Furie is likely a one an done for most viewers but it’s worth it.
Enjoy.

Grade: A-

We Die Young (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

We Die Young Review

Director: Lior Geller
Writers: Lior Geller (screenplay), Lior Geller (story)
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, David Castañeda, Elijah Rodriguez

“When Rincon started doing his Shakespeare, you knew some poor bastard’s about to get smoked.”

“We Die Young” is not a typical Jean-Claude Van Damme film, where he can show off his trained body. In fact, in this film, the number of times Van Damme is demonstrating his fighting techniques, is almost nil. So don’t expect any splits. Actually, it’s kind of understandable because “The muscles of Brussels” isn’t the youngest anymore. And I can imagine that such efforts are no longer evident.

There’s one advantage. JcvD concentrates more on the acting part than on the more action-rich part. Films such as “Bloodsport” and “Kickboxer” from the 80s were immensely popular. And I admit that I also look back on that with pleasure. Unfortunately, this successful period was followed by a period with fewer successful films. Such as “Alien Uprising” (probably to please his daughter), “Dragon Eyes” and “Welcome to the Jungle“. After the umpteenth crap movie, my decision was made. Best I avoid JcvD films. Until recently. I couldn’t resist watching “The Bouncer” and was pleasantly surprised. Let me quote myself for a moment: “Just when you think that an icon such as Jean-Claude Van Damme is becoming a caricature of himself and in danger of sinking into oblivion, he surprises you with such a part as in this film. The “Muscles from Brussels” got under my skin with his integer and sensitive acting. ” I couldn’t have said it better.

Naturally, I gave “We die young” a chance. Solely to verify whether he could maintain the same level. And I readily admit that he has wonderfully succeeded in convincing me once again. This time he’s not a bouncer of nightclubs in a Brussels neighborhood, but a retired Afghanistan war veteran. A military past that has left traces in the form of PTSD and a set of damaged vocal cords. The latter issue also ensures that you won’t hear any sound out of Van Damme’s mouth. Daniel (Jean-Claude Van Damme) somehow ended up in a slum near Washington D.C. where Latinos (Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13) are in control. A run-down neighborhood where drug addiction is the source of income for this fully tattooed gang members.

Next to JcvD also David Castañeda left an impression. His performance as the gang leader and kingpin Rincon is quite impressive. Not only because of his threatening attitude, cruelty, and determination with which he leads his drug gang. But also because he also shows his soft side as guardian of Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) and Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny). And as the protective brother of his physically disabled sister Gabriela (Robyn Cara). The whole story revolves around Lucas who works for Rincon as a drug courier and preferably doesn’t want his younger brother to end up to be part of this gang. When a very important transaction goes wrong, also thanks to the interference of right-hand man Jester (Charlie MacGechan), it’s the start of a nerve-racking and rather action-rich part.

Again, don’t expect a typical Van Damme movie. In the end, it’s a rather gloomy film that shows how destructive and dangerous it is to live in a neighborhood controlled by drug gangs. Survival is more the right word because every mistake made, will be punished ruthlessly. This film shows the futureless life of young people there. The title is therefore applicable. Not many can enjoy a long and healthy life in these slums. Of course, you can ask a few questions about “We die young“. Why the hell has Daniel moved there? Was he looking for anonymity? Is he trying to forget about the past? What with his family? Or is he simply alone in this world? Forgotten by those who knew him? Or is it a convenient solution such that he can easily get the painkillers. Those that help him to get rid of delusions and visions? And what about his military skills? Because when it comes to defending, he looks like a klutz. All in all, “We die young” is a must see if you want to see Van Damme again. A fastpaced gangsta film that never bores.

Le Mans ‘66 (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Ford v Ferrari Review

Director: James Mangold
Writers: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth & Jason Keller
Stars: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe

This film, also known as Ford v Ferrari in some territories, follows the grudge match that got Ford into the racing game. After a business deal goes south, Henry Ford II vows to show Enzo Ferrari just how big a mistake he’s made by making the fastest racing car in the world.

Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby, a racecar driver benched before his time because of medical problems. He now makes custom sports cars for the rich, but he’s still struggling financially, so when a representative from Ford shows up at his door with a blank cheque and challenges him to build a car that can beat Ferrari, Shelby doesn’t take much convincing. But he needs a driver and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) is his top choice, but the suits at Ford don’t like Miles; he’s brash, opinionated and prone to losing his rag, but you know he’s going to end up driving eventually. Caitriona Balfe from the TV show Outlander stops her time-travelling long enough to play Miles’s long-suffering wife, Mollie. She doesn’t have a lot to do, but she gets a couple of memorable scenes and, along with Ken’s adoring son, Peter, paints a picture of the driver as a conflicted family man. He loves the adolescent thrill that racing gives him, but he knows it isn’t paying the bills and is about to jack it all in when Shelby shows up with an offer he can’t refuse.

The film recreates the late sixties flawlessly and seeing the Ferrari showroom is car-porn for any enthusiast. I’m not a car racing fan by any stretch of the imagination, and frankly the thought of driving in a twenty-four hour race would bore me to death, but this film still had me gripped from start to finish. Most of the 2hrs 32mins running time flies by at 200mph so I didn’t even notice it being that long.

It’s a David and Goliath story and the director makes no bones about who’s the baddie of the piece. During the final race, as Enzo Ferrari shouts orders to his pit team from the grandstand, I couldn’t help but think of Mussolini on that famous balcony screaming propaganda. Whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know, but it seems like an apt parallel.

The Ford team aren’t without their drawbacks too. The suits constantly interfere with the design and building of the car, instead of leaving it to the experts. Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) is the worst of these and is the kind of spineless, toadying yes-man that would make Wayland Smithers seem like a rebel in comparison.

If you’re a fan of fast cars and racing in general, I think you’ll probably have a great time, but even if – like me – your knowledge of cars starts and ends with how to drive one, there’s still a great tale of the underdog against the giant that everyone can relate to. I didn’t know how the big race turned out in ‘66 and I won’t spoil it here; suffice to say it’s bittersweet, but when you’re making a movie based on a true story, some things are set in stone. The final scene sees some terrific acting from Damon. I’ve rarely seen him better. You may even leave the cinema wiping your eyes.

The film isn’t setting the box-office alight at the time of writing, having made back a little over half of it’s $97M budget so far. I assume this is because most Americans have probably never heard of Le Mans (hence that alternate title) and are more interested in Nascar. The long runtime and niche subject matter mean it probably won’t be unseating Avengers: Endgame anytime soon, but I hope good word of mouth helps it to a respectable showing. It’s much better than your average Hollywood fare, and deserves to be seen on a big screen.