Tag Archives: Jared Leto

The Outsider (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers


The Outsider Review

Director: Martin Zandvliet
Writer: Andrew Baldwin
Stars: Jared Leto, Tadanobu Asano, Kippei Shîna

“When you dishonor your boss and you want to show remorse, you give your finger. It’s called otoshimae. I see you’ve got all your fingers.”

Even though I don’t have any affinity with Japanese culture as such and mostly ignore Asian films, I couldn’t resist giving “The Outsider” a chance. Not only because of the fact that Jared Leto is playing in it (a colorful actor who reminds me of Johnny Depp and because of his role as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” can join the club of quirky Hollywood actors), but also because of the central theme of the Yakuza families. I wondered if this could be another successful Netflix original.

I don’t know much about Japanese culture. Only the term Yakuza is known to me. You can see it as the Japanese version of the Italian Mafia. The only difference with their Italian counterparts is that the Yakuza members are an epitome of inner calmness and adopt an intimidating attitude by using ice-cold, angry looks and a threatening, non-loud tone during their conversations. Quite different from the Italian mafia members, who usually want to make an impression by shouting and intense gesticulating while making their point, after which a rival gets a concrete pedestal and they dump him in some Italian river. So I prepared myself for a Japanese-colored “Godfather“-like movie.

The first thing you could criticize is the pace of the film. “The Outsider” is extremely slow at times, indeed. But doesn’t that suite the entire Japan concept? After all, members of the Yakuza families themselves use a certain pace in their conversations by using impressive silences between sentences. On the one hand to show respect. On the other hand maybe also to increase the impact of used words. Have you ever seen a Geisha passing by? They aren’t exactly a paragon of speed. And to be honest, if this movie had lasted an extra hour, I wouldn’t have minded that either. And that’s because of the other positivities you can find in “The Outsider”.

First of all, I thought the acting of the entire cast was marvelous on all fronts. The mix of authentic Japanese who speak their own language for most of the film instead of constantly using broken, bad-sounding English and the acting of Jared Leto was simply stunning. How Nick Lowell ended up in an Osaka prison, remained a mystery to me. He’s the only English-speaking prisoner and is surrounded by mainly Yakuza gang members. Rescuing the Yakuza Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from a perilous, life-threatening situation gives him a ticket to freedom. And that’s when he chooses to gradually integrate into the Yakuza family. Not an easy task since the members of this Yakuza family aren’t really hospitable and are rather resentful towards white strangers (a Gaijin). However, I wonder if, in reality, a Westerner would get a chance to be included in such a Yakuza-family. I doubt it.

The used cinematography in “The Outsider” was also generally sublime. Maybe a little too dark at certain moments, such as the prison scenes, for example. But in general, the setting in this post-war Japan is really impressive. A mysterious metropolis with dark, narrow alleys, clubs where Sumo wrestlers compete and smoky night clubs. The only thing that tries to break through this darkness is the sometimes bright neon lights.

Expect some violent scenes too. You can’t do without it in a gangster movie, I guess. There are quite a few victims. Lots of gunshots and knives carving around. Even a self-mutilation scene where a few fingers are sacrificed isn’t missing.

My limited knowledge of Asian film material and Japanese customs made sure everything came across as fairly authentic to me. Others, who immersed themselves in this matter, may have noticed imperfections. And perhaps the content has all been done before. I even read somewhere that there was a lot of fuss about casting Jared Leto. And the term “whitewashing” came up. Didn’t we have the same discussion about Matt Damon’s contribution to “The Great Wall“? By the way, I thought Jared Leto was suitable for this role as the silent (probably because he doesn’t speak the language), cold-blooded and emotionless Nick. He reminded me a bit of Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin“. Only the speed with which he was accepted in the Shiromatsu Yakuza clan, seemed greatly exaggerated. And the emotional relationship between Nick and Miyu (Shioli Kutsuna) felt like a mandatory item.

But just as I scoured the internet for information about “The Zodiac Killer” after watching the movie “Zodiac,” I couldn’t resist consulting Wikipedia about the Yakuza phenomenon. That means this film also left an impression. If slow crime movies about the Mafia interest you, and this in a Japanese environment, then I can definitely recommend this movie to you.

Panic Room (2002) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Panic Room Review

Director: David Fincher
Writer: David Koepp
Stars: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto

It’s hard to believe anyone other than Jodie Foster in the leading role of Meg Altman in the film Panic Room. For almost 2 hours of this Crime Drama Thriller it is Foster who carries the film and some might say a difficult film to keep the suspense up and intensity in what is set in a house in New York with a handful of cast members. Before production the role of Altman was Nicole Kidmans until she found out she was expecting the arrival of her daughter, Sarah. Nevertheless, Kidman would still “appear” in the film in another role, although a cameo as the voice of Meg Altman’s ex husbands girlfriend on the phone. Panic Room is about a divorced woman Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her diabetic daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) who take refuge in their newly purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. Only trouble is, the fortune is in the Panic Room.

Jodie Foster is terrific as the mother Meg. Her primary goal isn’t to protect the house that she and her Daughter have just moved into. Her goal is to keep Sarah safe and suffering from diabetes adds to the complications that I spoke of in Koepps writing. Foster and Stewart do a great job as Mother and Daughter and you must remember that Stewart was only 11 or 12 at the time and shows a great level of maturity in her character portrayal and as an actor up alongside the veteran actor of Jodie Foster holds her own. I like the way that both are strong and focused (particularly Foster) in this plot. There are elements of fear that would come naturally to this scenario but Foster manages to portray Altman as a focused individual and in particular when she requires the cell phone and her daughters medical needs. Foster also portays the character as broken and hurt after her separation from her ex husband. You see this early on in the film where Foster appears distant, distracted by the situation of her relationship.

Junior (Leto), Burnham (Whitaker) and Raoul (Yoakam) as the villains word for me. I like the fact that all three men all have the same goal but how they go about succeeding shows the audience that all three have different approaches and characteristics. Leto’s Junior is the organiser who is a little impatient but will push to get the job done to an extent. Burnham is the technical expertise and helped build the panic rooms in his previous line of work and know the houses structure and outline. Burnam’s intentions are evident from the beginning, he means no harm and only wants the rewards in the most painless way possible. It’s also clear to see that originally from Burnham’s reaction in the arrival of the third member Raoul that the job was between him and Junior and somewhere down the line Raoul has been invited into the job by Junior. Leto as many know is one of the most famous method actors out there at the moment. Here I don’t really see that at this point in his career. His portrayal of Junior is erratic at times and petulant when push comes to shove. Whitaker is the calming presence amongst the chaos. The imposing towering stature of the man is the mirror opposite of his nature, Whitaker’s portrayal is a methodical and reasonable villain that he does well. Yoakam is possibly the biggest surprise of the three. His portrayal of Raoul in the beginning is mysterious and quiet, wearing a ski mask to disguise himself. It’s at the midway point in the film that we see the turn in his character and Yoakam’s performance is the one that stands out to me as he goes from quiet and sneaky to a nasty piece of work and reveals his intentions towards Meg and Sarah.

As far as David Fincher films go, Panic Room probably isn’t one of his best. That’s not to say it isn’t a good film. I mean it just isn’t up to the standards or as iconic as his previous films Fight Club or Seven (Se7en) I love a film that is set in an isolated environment and good writing and dialogue are relied on and in David Koepp we get exactly that. Koepp’s career as a writer is without question a success story in it’s own right. Films like Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way and Mission: Impossible along with a few more have Koepp’s mark all over it. In Panic Room the writer invents realistic scenarios to keep the suspense going and lets be honest you need this in a film set in a house where one party wants to remain safe in the Panic Room whereas the other party want into the Panic Room for their rewards. Sounds like a bit of a stalemate unless there are obstacles in the way. Fincher’s style in this film is the first time I saw that keyhole camera effect where the camera can go through bannisters on the stairs and into the wall cavities etc and at times I felt like the Director had a new toy that he couldn’t put down and for the first 30 minutes or so it became a little annoying. Forgetting that, the look of this old house and the lighting is also one of the movies themes and tones. It’s old, but not creepy. There is a lot of darkness and grey throughout the film and also deliberate out of focus shots that add to mystery and suspense.

Overall Panic Room is an enjoyable and suspenseful experience. Foster and Whitaker are equally brilliant from different perspectives and the supporting cast (albeit small) in Stewart, Yoakam and Leto leave us with memorable characters. David Fincher’s direction created a suspenseful yet somber toned film using rather dull colours and themes creating an isolated feel to the environment these characters found themselves in. It is not Fincher’s best movie by far, but it is a pretty decent film. Recommend.

Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh


Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie 

So I decided to finally watch Suicide Squad the other day. It’s honking critic reviews and widespread criticisms of averageness from just about anyone who’d seen it had put me off going to the cinema during its release or even watching upon its arrival to blu-ray. Being in the midst of a comic book movie watching splurge however, freshly coming off the back of both the Wonder Woman and Spider-Man releases, I decided to take the plunge and give it a bash. Before I delve deeper, I’ll start off by saying that shock horror! It’s not a classic, nor is it in the class of the aforementioned films. Having said that though, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would either.

If you’ve not watched the film yet or perhaps haven’t even heard of the premise behind the name Suicide Squad then I’ll briefly summarise. They’re essentially a group of anti-heroes in captivity that are forced to work together in a series of missions with their impending death at the hands of an explosive implanted into their heads supplying them with a strong motivation to work together.

The unofficial leader in this iteration is Deadshot (Will Smith), a master marksman as the name implies with a chequered hitman past. Then you’ve got Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the bat shit crazy, sidekick and love interest of Mr. J; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a man with trust issues that likes to rob banks and throw a boomerang about; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a introspective Hispanic chap with the nifty ability to wield fire; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a brooding, ferocious loner who’s appearance resembles a reptile (hence the name) and finally Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a samurai wielding, ninja like superheroine. There’s also Slipknot, but he dies so early that he’s an irrelevance.

Now that’s out the way, I’ll get onto the actual film itself. I didn’t really care for the story here. It was pretty uninspiring, not the most engaging, lacked a proper villain or threat of any kind and it took far too long to introduce the characters. I’d say the opening thirty or forty minutes or so was dedicated to sequentially introducing each of the Suicide Squad members, which is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, with it essentially being an origin film, chocked full of new characters, it was a necessary evil. I get that and I actually quite enjoyed the little short story, montages that played for each of them. It did do a reasonable job of showing what each was about. They were too damn long though and the story definitely suffered as a result.

And whilst we’re talking about the story, what the hell was that villain all about? The Enchantress? Sorry, nah. She did nothing and I mean nothing throughout the entire film. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) were more impactful in that regard. The former as the leader of the secret government agency tasked with keeping the group in check and the latter a sadistic guard.

It was basically a prolonged introduction followed by a series of interconnected action sequences that seemed to play out across ten blocks worth of the city. To makes matters worse, they criminally underused the Joker character. I’m actually scratching my head in bemusement as to why he was even in it. His character had no rhyme or reason for being near the film, no place in the plot, made even less impact than the terrible Enchantress, seemed to serve solely as a twisted romantic side thread and plot device to delve back into Harley Quinn’s story. I wasn’t even that impressed by Leto’s portrayal either. He’s a cracking, extremely talented actor, but it did nothing for me. It’s a tough act following on from Heath Ledger though and he had little to work off, at least in those scenes that made the final cut, so I’ll try not to be too harsh.

Margot Robbie however was incredible. She’s had a fantastic few years and seems tailor made for the role. Despite being given one liners that would make Arnie cringe, she still managed to overcome it with the standout performance. There was the perfect balance of a sultry, seductress and charming craziness, with genuine funny moments flung in for good measure. I can understand why DC are looking to cash in on thag particular hype train.

Another performance that impressed was Will Smith’s. He managed to come across as a anti-hero badass for the most part, but also brought real humanity to the character. They tried this with a couple of the others too, in particular El Diablo, but Deadshot’s backstory with his daughter and the whole struggle to maintain their relationship was the best developed out with those previously mentioned Harley Quinn flashbacks. That was another disappointing aspect of the film for me. Barring Deadshot and Quinn, there wasn’t much focus on the other members. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang barely got a mention following the opening ‘reels’ and Katana got one line about her dead husbands soul being trapped in the sword.

This is one area that I feel DC really need to improve upon. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. There were far too many new characters being introduced that really should have been given standalone films prior to this being released. That would’ve freed up more running time for a better plot.

It’s funny because reading this back, it honestly comes across like I hated this film, but I genuinely didn’t. It’s not THAT bad a film. It’s a good bit of fun, harmless, escapism with some interesting (and not so) personalities brought together. The action for the most part was excellent, the soundtrack worked well, was extremely enjoyable and visually it was a complete delight on the eyes. Special shoutout to Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag who was another positive. I’m enjoying his involvement in House of Cards just now and was pleased to see him giving a good account of himself here. That said, the forced romantic sub-plot with him and June Moone (the woman possessed with the Enchantress) at best lacked chemistry, wasn’t very believable and at worst was completely unnecessary.

So my final thoughts on this then. Would I recommend it to anybody else yet to see it? Hmm… depends on whether you can get a good quality video on YouTube with most of Harley Quinn’s scenes or not. No seriously, kidding aside, it’s worth a watch despite the onslaught of negativity that’s plagued it. It’s a deeply flawed film, but there’s still enough positives buried within to recommend giving it at least one viewing.

Rating: 2.5/5