Tag Archives: David Leitch

Deadpool 2 (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Deadpool 2

Director: David Leitch
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick 
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin

I think the burning question on most people’s minds heading in to see the sequel to the most successful R-rated comic book film of all-time was “how the hell can they improve upon the original?” The first Deadpool film was the definition of capturing lightning in a bottle. It had absolutely everything; breathtaking action, visceral violence, gold standard comedy, a hint of romance and an enthralling, if not simplistic origin story. It was a passion project for its leading star that spanned the better part of a decade and that genuine love for the character showed. 

So how the hell could they better or at least equal the ground breaking original? Well for starters, the promotion of Deadpool 2 had to be right and it ended up being a shining example of how to expertly build the anticipation for a film. We had Ryan Reynolds dressing up as Bob Ross in a scarily accurate homage, playing with action figures interspersed with real action and we even had a dance double pirouetting to the overtures of Celine Dion. It was hilarious, quirky, original and packed full of Wade’s unique blend of expletive ridden put downs. 

I don’t know if I’ve seen a better promotional run for a film in my lifetime. It was absolutely relentless, had a ridiculous reach and it succeeded in hyping everyone. More importantly, it showed audiences that everything they enjoyed about the original was back, but only this time on a bigger, more ambitious scale. Which is all well and good, but how many times have we seen a studio bluffing or double bluffing us by sticking entire scenes in trailers that aren’t in the film or giving us a highlights reel with the final product being a complete let down? 

We’ve seen it countless times before, but it’s certainly not the case here. Deadpool 2’s memorable moments from the trailers are very much in the film, there’s no Hulk on Wakanda double bluff here and they have the same punch in the theatre as they did in the trailer, whilst thankfully being intermixed with equally, if not more hilarious moments throughout. 

The plot remains fairly simplistic albeit on a more grandiose scale. Two years have passed since we last saw Wade and he’s living the dream staying with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), whilst hunting down criminals. A Deadpool film can’t be based on a foundation of happily ever after however. The original Deadpool proved that Wade is at his best when he’s got that fire of injustice in his belly. It’s the botched killing of a target which we see in a deranged, quickfire, early montage of death that brings the house of cards down on his fledgling new family life. 

Vanessa’s death is a bit of an emotional double edged sword. It sucks the life out of Wade initially, who unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide weeks later, but then it also drives him to protect and save the young mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison) from the clutches of Cable (Josh Brolin) after a series of tender afterlife interactions. The way the story was handled was actually one of my biggest positives. It flip flopped between the main story, choc full of comedy and action to real dark, introspective and emotional moments for Wade. Deadpool has always had that to an extent, it’s just that people tend to focus on the swearing, violence and great comedy. 

I’ll try not to give the entirety of the story away, because this review would turn into a plot synopsis and you can read that on Wikipedia if that’s your thing.

But needless to say, Cable is a very cool, time travelling, ‘villain’ with an array of equally cool weapons. I don’t even want to call him a villain because he isn’t. He’s a bit of tragic figure, who still carries his daughters charred teddy on his waist. Think of the Terminator with mostly good intentions mixed with the pure vengeance of Sicario’s Alejandro and you’ll get a perfect sense of his journey, motivations and character. Brolin was the perfect choice to play him, despite not being seven foot tall like the comic book iteration. He’s a great actor with oodles of presence. 

Firefist was a turbulent, tortured, abuse victim, struggling to harness his fiery powers and young Julian Dennison was surprisingly fantastic. He absolutely embodied all of those things and yet managed to be quite funny at times too. His story was like a crazy, mutant take on the often pondered moral ambiguity of going back in time to kill the baby Hitler. Is a mass murderer guilty of crimes he’s yet to commit? I don’t know, I’m no psychologist, but that’s one of the many interesting themes they explore regardless. One things for sure, his story and the way it weaves through Wade and Cables was enthralling. 

Wade acts like a deranged agony aunt towards the need, gnawing away at Cables conscience and doing everything to alter the future of a still uncorrupted Collins.

Now for X-Force. I said previously that there wasn’t much bluffing in the trailers, well I was double bluffing. That paragliding scene when the newly established group head towards the prison convoy and encounter mishap after mishap and a series of hilarious, grisly deaths was one of the best moments in the entire film. All but Domino die and that’s probably for the best because they were a bit naff. Domino (Zazie Beetz) was a surprisingly entertaining watch. A mutant with luck as her ability didn’t sound great and Wade ripped her countless times for it, but it was actually very handy and she’ll be a great addition to the new spin-off franchise. 

TJ Miller not returning as Weasel is a minor travesty because his chemistry with Reynolds and the hilarity he brings will be badly, badly missed. But he’s went totally off the rails and it’s unavoidable.  

Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, I briefly touched upon it earlier, but he really is the perfect guy to play the role. I wasn’t that big a fan of his prior to Deadpool because I wrongly assumed he was a smarmy, smart arse, but his portrayal of Wade in these two films really did open my eyes. He goes through the emotional wringer, displaying rare hints of humanity and sensitivity amongst all the witty wise cracking, usual antics and hilarity. Wade wouldn’t be anywhere near as likeable for me without Reynolds distinctive voice. I continue to enjoy his self awareness and the repentance he displays for his past career mistakes too. The end credit scenes take this to another level. 

I was concerned when Deadpool 2 was announced because the first film, much like Guardians of the Galaxy, though for totally different reasons, was close to perfection. It was a self contained story that I didn’t think could be bettered. The change of director and rumours of abandoning what made Deadpool so good didn’t allay my fears. I was wrong though. Way wrong. They made everything bigger, shinier, they added double the amount of characters, but more importantly they retained the spirit of the original. They also added Josh Brolin, who always improves a film. It had a bit of everything; humour, romance, sadness, violence, incredible visuals and a perfect score.

It was two hours of pure, unadulterated escapism and I highly recommend watching it. 

Rating: 5/5

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Atomic Blond (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

ATOMIC BLONDE

Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnston (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by)
Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

So when I discovered David Leitch, the man behind John Wick, had a new film out I was naturally intrigued and excited to give it a bash. I absolutely loved John Wick. Admittedly, that was a fairly superficial film too, but a star showing from Keanu Reeves, some insanely good action scenes and a good old fashioned tale of revenge turned what could have been an average affair into a modern cult classic. Atomic Blonde, Leitch’s latest creation, a spy thriller set in the 80s, ultimately falls flat on its face in the plot department. Despite sharing many positive characteristics with the aforementioned John Wick, it becomes needlessly convoluted, difficult to follow and was ultimately underwhelming as a result.

It’s set in 1989 Berlin, a city which at that stage is still very much divided, with murderous Russian KGB members running around with seeming immunity and killing anything that moves. Which is precisely how this film kicks off. MI6 agent, Paul Gascoigne gets himself caught and then executed in brutal fashion, which isn’t the best of news for British intelligence. Why? Well, because he was carrying a stolen list with the whereabouts of every intelligence asset they have. This of course sets alarm bells ringing and they almost immediately try to reclaim the precious item. They deploy the talents of Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), a top MI6 field agent who doesn’t mess around in her feverish attempts to resolve the situation. She teams up with the eccentric, ‘feral’ Berlin station chief, David Percival (James McAvoy), a schemer of a man who appears to have issues with authority, whilst having a propensity for lying.

Now, that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? If only it could’ve stayed that way. Everything that happens throughout the course of the film is told via an interrogation room with Lorraine reporting her escapades to her superiors. Chief of whom being Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman). What troubled me most is that it’s supposed to be a spy thriller and it never once had me on edge, excited for what was happening, nor was their many if any real spy elements within. James Bond female edition it’s not. The film closely follows Lorraine and her growing suspicions of Percival’s role in things. Her original mission of retrieving the list and assassinating ‘Satchel’, a double agent who’s being selling info to the Russians, soon becomes far too complicated and tedious. This isn’t helped with the introduction of Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a French undercover agent that rather bizarrely and needlessly becomes Broughton’s lover after a mere five or ten minutes on screen.

This film doesn’t do a good enough job of giving any of its characters a backstory or implanting a reasonable logic behind their actions. Broughton’s in particular falls foul of this idiocy. She’s supposed to be undercover but regularly saunters into clubs full of KGB members waiting to kill her. Like I said, she soon suspects Percival of being the leak, pretty much has her suspicions confirmed following an ambush and yet still works with him to try and smuggle Spyglass, a Stasi defector responsible for stealing the list, into West Berlin. This ends exactly as you’d expect and it makes zero sense from a logical perspective. It does lead to the best scene in the entire film however when both Lorraine and Spyglass end up cornered within a building, and she single handedly takes out half a dozen KGB members. That scene was beautifully handled, flowed seamlessly in what looked like one continuous shot and was just tremendous on the eyes.

Most of the choreography was spectacular, as you’d expect from the man that brought you John Wick and the visuals were incredible. I was born in 89 myself, so can’t really speak for what the 80s was like, but this film seems to capture the mood of that decade perfectly, with a fantastic soundtrack and zany, neon heavy visuals. That’s certainly one area of Atomic Blonde that I can’t criticise.

I also can’t really criticise the performances. Charlize Theron was superb as Broughton. She’s an excellent actress and as Mad Max showed, she’s more than capable of excelling in physically exerting, action roles. She’s becoming a bonafide action hero. Much of the film was fixated on her character, often uncomfortably close at times and she carried the film with ease. James McAvoy didn’t have as much screen time comparatively, but the time he did have was used relatively well and he was quite humorous with his frequent bursts of passive aggression and profanity fuelled rants. There was also some darkness in his character, especially towards the end that was excellently conveyed by the Scotsman. Anybody that’s seen Split will attest to how well he pulls that particular trait off. Boutella was fine. She didn’t have much to work with and did all right. John Goodman, likewise, did ok in a relative cameo role. Every other character, including the unmemorable villain Bremovych (Roland Møller), were sideshows.

Ultimately, the film was let down by poor character development and a less than compelling story, that became murky, overly convoluted and confusing in the middle. Leitch would’ve been much better served going down the trusted John Wick route with this one. I.e. Making it just an enjoyable, simplistic action flick with slick visuals and choreography. I felt like he got caught in between doing that whilst trying to get overly smart with the plot and it just didn’t work for me. It may prove to for others though, so by all means give it a shot. Indeed, it’s been getting very mixed reviews and it certainly wasn’t a complete disaster. There is positives in there, but it feels just a little hollow under the stylish visuals in the end.

Rating: 2.5/5

John Wick (2014) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

JOHN WICK

Directors: Chad Stahelski,  David Leitch (uncredited)
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, and Willem Dafoe.

Ex-hitman John Wick comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

The story follows Wick as the assassin returning to his old life by circumstances out of his control. John Wick was an exciting movie portraying him as a one man army who will stop at nothing until he seeks vengeance on those who have wronged him.

Keanu Reeves, despite having an impressive career, might not be the most dynamic actor. However, with great directing by Chad Stahelski and brilliant writing from Derek Kolstad, Reeves performs amazingly.

This is one of Reeves’ best roles since The Matrix as Mr ’The One’ Neo Anderson. He brings an air of confidence along with quiet yet forceful violence. Reeves displays good emotion and conviction as the character, and he also moves with certainty like a hitman would. Although it is predominantly action sequences, John Wick is also equipped with some emotional baggage. (Dog lovers will know what I mean by this)

The story is very straightforward and in the mould of films like The Equaliser or Taken. The main character is antagonised and has to make everything okay again. It’s that simple, but the trick is on the execution of the story. John Wick works well for a few reasons with the first being that this character is down Reeves street. There is a sadness Keanu Reeves brings to the film that works perfectly as you can’t help but cheer each time one of the bad guys is taken out. Viewers will also remember his devotion to his wife, which Reeves was able to project very well without words. He was sincerely in those touching scenes.

Michael Nyqvist is also excellent as Viggo Tarasov the Russian mobster and he too makes you believe his character. Willem Dafoe although used sparingly is also brilliant in his supporting role as Marcus, who is there for Wick as support after his wife passes.

One of the best things in this movie is the flair, fluidity and the clear focus and precision of the visuals (thanks to cinematographer Jonathan Sela) that are stunning and leave you gasping for more action. More ofter than not other movies employ a shaky camera or uncoordinated editing that ignore even the slightest of continuity that the eagle eyes out there notice. Credit to the movies editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir for the way the movie just flows particularly in those action sequences

Another important factor in what makes this movie so slick other than the visual and the editing is the way the sequences are choreographed. Keanu Reeves is no stranger to well executed action scenes in movies like Speed and The Matrix (remember he was part of the big thing back in 1999…..bullet time) Here the action is almost video game’esque but believable that reminded me of the scene in Kick-Ass with Hit Girl wearing night vision google and the execution is similar.

With the sequel being released in a few weeks time we wait with anticipation whether or not John Wick II will stand up against the original or perhaps surpass it. The movie has been out for 3 years now and if you haven’t seen it I recommend you do. Keanu Reeves is back with a bang.