Tag Archives: Joel Edgerton

Red Sparrow (2017) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M Anderson

Red Sparrow Review

Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay by), Jason Matthews (based upon the book by)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts 

“Sparrows” of the title are young Russian men & women who are trained to use seduction and sex to snare potential enemies. One could cheekily assume “Red” also refers to the film’s copious amounts of torture, violence and bloodshed. Trailers made Red Sparrow look like another Atomic Blond or John Wick, but it isn’t as much gonzo fun as either of those, and not-so-much an action movie as it is an alternately intriguing and convoluted spy thriller.

Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, a ballerina who suffers a horrific leg injury during a performance. No longer able to dance, she has no way to make a living or care for her ailing mother. Her uncle, intelligence agent Ivan Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), takes advantage of her desperation by giving her the opportunity to join the Sparrow program and become a spy. Though repulsed by what she learns at “whore school” (her words), Dominika proves to be a natural and is promptly assigned to get close to American spy Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in order to discover the identity of a Russian mole he’s been working with.

Complications ensue, of course, thanks in-no-small-part to Ivan’s cold-blooded indifference to the constant peril in which he places his own niece. Not only does he consider her completely expendable, he also turns out to be one of those “pervy” uncles. This leads to a subplot in which Domikia decides to help Nate catch an American senator in the act of selling secrets to the same people she’s working for. 

A lot of this is pretty interesting, though patience is often required. Lawrence certainly gives her all (in more ways than one) for what one could consider a fairly bold performance. However, Dominika isn’t a terribly compelling character, going from zero to deadly seductress without allowing the viewer to get as invested in her initial predicament as we’d like. While it’s a given in a film like this that she’d eventually bump uglies with Nash, their relationship is never as compelling as the increasingly unnerving one between Dominika and her uncle.

Red Sparrow doesn’t have a lot of action per se, though there’s an abundance of sex and violence in equal measures. The early sparrow training scenes are lurid and border on exploitative, with Charlotte Rampling camping it up as a domineering headmistress. Dominika is raped, beaten and tortured early and often, but also dishes-out her own fair share of pleasure and pain. Storywise, the film is sometimes confusing and unnecessarily complicated. But just when our interest threatens to wane, we’re snapped back to attention with a major plot revelation or suspenseful set-piece. And even though the movie is probably a half-hour too long, it does serve-up one hell of a satisfying twist ending.

Though not undone by relatively flat characters, Red Sparrow could have benefited from developing them a bit more to justify its length (not to mention Lawrence’s uninhibited efforts). The story is occasionally all-over-the-place, but there are just enough captivating moments, exciting turns and hard-R nastiness to make the film worth checking out. 

Advertisements

Bright (2017) Movie Review by Chauncey Telese

BRIGHT

Director: David Ayer
Writer: Max Landis
Stars: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

On paper there’s a version of “Bright” that has a lot of promise. Will Smith is back in action mode, it’s being directed by David Ayer (“End of Watch”) and it’s blending the fantasy and cop genres. The only problem is that despite Netflix greenlighting the $90 billion dollar actioner and staying out of the way, “Bright” is an incoherent mess that wastes a ton of talent both in front of and behind the camera. It’s a failure on a variety of levels in some of the same ways that Smith and Layer’s last collaboration “Suicide Squad” was. The first problem with “Bright” is that its world building and mythology never feel organic. The whole concept of a bright is explained and it’s assumed to be common knowledge but it never feels like anything more than a story thread the audience has to keep track of. The graffiti around Los Angeles is meant to give the audience a window into the racial/special hierarchy but the story never really does anything with it.

The premise of “Bright” is that humans, orcs, elves, and other mythical creatures were at war 2,000 years ago and now all coexist. Magic wands exist but only a “bright” can touch it. A non-bright would otherwise explode. “Will Smith is Daryl Ward an LAPD cop with a ton of debt and a sick daughter. He is stuck with the LAPD’s first orc cop in Joel Edgerton’s Nick Jakoby. Jakoby is reviled by his fellow officers both because the hatred between the two species and Jakoby’s alleged choice of species over cop in an incident where Ward gets shot. The only function any of the other officers have is to tell Ward he needs to get rid of Jakoby. Ward is pressured into setting up Jakoby during a call to a murder call where a wand is discovered along with the only remaining survivor is an elf named Tikka (Noomi Rapace). Things go sideways fast as Ward and Jakoby are being hunted by a Mexican gang, the LAPD, the orc gang, and a cult that wants to bring about a dark lord.

The movie seems to be about Ward accepting Jakoby as his partner but the film never establishes why specifically Ward hates orcs. There’s a line comparing the human/orc hatred to the way Latinos are still viewed negatively because of the Alamo but that doesn’t quite cut it. In fact, for a film that tries to use genre to make a point about race relations both inside and outside the police department. “Zootopia” manages this feat but “Bright” falls utterly short of that goal especially when it actually depicts minority characters. It also isn’t clear if Ward is supposed to hate only orcs or if he’s just completely prejudice against all mythical creatures. Ward is a similar character to Smith’s character in “I Robot” except at least in the latter film, the character’s hatred of robots is grounded in something. Ward also has that weird tic that dragged Smith’s Deadshot in “Suicide Squad” where the audience can’t completely hate Ward because he has a daughter. Jakoby on the other hand is handled better. He is well meaning, a tad dim, but is completely adrift in the world. He’s hated by the orcs and humans alike and the film has moments where it explores that but it gets lost in between action scenes.

The motivations of the dark cult aren’t clear. Sure, it’s established they’re trying to use a magic wand to bring back a dark lord but there’s no explanation as to why. It’s easy to say, because evil, but that’s just lazy. In “Hellboy II” Prince Nuada had a clear motivation to want to raise the Golden Army. He despised that humanity banished all magical creatures and their greed caused them to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In “Bright” the whole dark lord plot gets lost in the shuffle and doesn’t come back until the end. The film loses a lot of threads actually and by the end it tries to reintroduce those threads but like one of Abe Simpson’s stories they don’t go anywhere.

Another baffling thing is that as capable an action director as David Ayer is, the action and effects look shoddy. Netflix made a big deal about the $90 million price tag but outside of the make-up and salaries it’s hard to see where that money went. Aside from showing the Los Angeles skylines the geography of the LA in “Bright” is as muddled as the mythology. Much like “Suicide Squad” it’s a pleasure to see Smith back in swagger mode but because the story around him is weak the swagger feels labored. Edgerton does a decent job of disappearing into his character and as the film goes on there is a fun buddy cop dynamic that almost develops between the two. Noomi Rapace is wasted here. Her character is merely a plot device and she ultimately gets nothing to do. There is a subplot involving two Magic task force agents, an elf and a human that goes nowhere except to signal another threat.

“Bright” was an opportunity for Netflix to signal that they are the place where action movies that aren’t a pre-existing IP or a remake of a classic can be made. Unfortunately, it feels like an example for studios to hold up as to why they don’t greenlight these kind of movies anymore. Netflix has already greenlit a sequel so by their voodoo metrics they consider “Bright” a success. The premise can be salvaged but it would require Netflix being more hands on.

It Comes At Night (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

IT COMES AT NIGHT

Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults (screenplay)
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo

I’ve never watched Krisha, the debut feature film from director Trey Edwards Shults. By all accounts, it was a sparkling debut that seemed to excel in creating real suspense and tension out of the mundaneness of a Thanksgiving dinner. In his second venture, It Comes At Night, he appears to be attempting that self same formula albeit this time in the more traditional horror genre.

And that’s my first issue with this film. It’s not actually a horror film. It’s not even close to being a horror film in fact. It’s more a psychological mystery film with some horror components added. Sure, it follows in the well trodden footsteps of similar set films that I’ve watched within the last couple of years. Such as Hush, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Green Room and The Witch. It has the same isolated, shut in, claustrophobic setting and a fairly small cast to boot, but it’s not on the same level of any of those films and it never really follows through with the promise of the opening scene or fifteen minutes for me.

That opening scene incidentally involves the brutal assassination of a feverishly ill looking, elderly man, afflicted with a mysterious illness. A man who’s then thrown into a shallow grave and burnt immediately. His identity as grandfather of the family is revealed during this time, and if nothing else, it certainly sets up the brutal nature of the world, the necessary rules put in place to continue an uneasy existence and the extreme behaviour that it seems to drive our survivors into committing.

No, It Comes At Night essentially revolves around two families forced to cohabitate for a common purpose. I.e. Strength in numbers and survival. It shirks the more conventional choice of the aforementioned ‘proper’ horrors and instead focuses on the deeply ingrained paranoia, mostly about what’s in the woods outside and also the thinly disguised animosity that grows between the two groups.

The first of which consists of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), Travis (Kelvin Harris Jnr) and a bedraggled looking family dog. They’re the actual residents of the property in which the film takes place and have taken a fondness for wearing gas masks, scrubbing themselves and boarding up every conceivable opening. The second is headed by Will (Christopher Abbott) who stumbles onto their land and into their house early on in proceedings. His hippy-esque wife Kim (Riley Keogh) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Faulkner) soon join the others, although not before some mild torture and an unexpected tense shootout with a lone bandit.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because it’s a short film and to do so would spoil it. I didn’t overly enjoy it myself, but I understand that films are deeply subjective and that’s no excuse to ruin it for others. All I’ll say is that tensions inevitably grow between the two, a problem only exacerbated by a strange, attic snooping Travis, who displayed mild signs of autism at best and severe PTS  from the stress of the isolation and/or loss of his grandfather at worst. Most of the film seemed to centre on his character; the strange, reoccurring dreams of red doors, blood pouring from mouths that he had night after night and his ingrained fear of catching the mysterious disease.

The impressive acting performances from Edgerton, Harris Jnr, Keogh and clever use of the deliberately compartmentalised house setting to ramp up claustrophobic tension are the two positives I took away from this film. Ultimately though, I felt it tried too hard to be clever and couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I think the prevailing theme here was to show the extremes humanity can be driven to by paranoia and/or extreme fear, which meant there was never any sign of an actual threat. The ending was a textbook, telegraphed twist and just felt bland and banal. A fairly average experience, all things considered.

Honestly, unless you’ve got nothing better to watch then I wouldn’t be recommending it.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Gift (2015) Movie Retro Review by Darrin Gauthier

THE GIFT.png

Director: Joel Edgerton
Writer: Joel Edgerton
Stars: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton

Plot:  A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 92%    Audience 75%
Why I watched it: The reviews were great, had a strong buzz and the trailer held some promise, plus I’m a big fan of Rebecca Hall.

Random Thoughts: I’m not the biggest Joel Edgerton fan, he can be bland at times and I must say this film is billed on a big reveal, what’s the dark secret and those kinds of films can often times be disappointing.  I was also very curious to see Jason Bateman is a serious role.

What I liked: The Gift is not a CGI feast, it’s a small film, it’s also an adult film this is a thriller not about teenagers but about adults and also about the choices we make.  It’s easy to call this film a slow burn because to be honest the film takes it’s time revealing things the other thing about the film is that it’s not huge on action or jump scares the film is character driven.  We have more characters but really the film is about the three leads and each one gets fleshed out.  Far too many times a script will short change character for action The Gift is almost all about the characters, who they are and what other people think they are.  The acting all the way around is solid, Jason Bateman is very good here and he uses his persona to get us to like him then he spins it on it’s head.  The Bateman character is that type of person who hides who he is, he wears a mask and if anyone tries to peak underneath he gets very upset.

Joel Edgerton as a director and actor walks a tightrope, the character he’s playing seems off, but the film hinges on him and he can’t show his hand, is he a bad guy, a stalker, a sad sack who’s been beaten down by life, is he just a lonely nerd looking for friends so he isn’t alone.  The big thing here is we aren’t really given the whole picture of who and why he is, we hear things but never the whole thing.  The movie asks some tough questions, who are we really, is the past ever really in the past, do people really just get over things.  The Gift isn’t a true thriller, it’s more of a mystery drama, Rebecca Hall’s character at first seems like she’s just playing the wife role but she’s the straw that stirs the drink, it’s her trying to find the truth and that lends her into asking maybe the biggest question in the film, do we ever truly know anyone or do they show us what they want us to see.

What I didn’t like: The film has nice mood but it could have been tighter, it’s not over long but the tension sometimes is a bit lax.  I wish they could have shown more of the Edgerton character, I get he has to be a mystery to keep the film going but in the end we don’t learn that much about him, we know happened to him but we really never learned what he’s like now, he’s the least fleshed out. The ending is a little vague and depending how you take it, well let’s just say it could be a little creepy.  I kind of wanted a stronger ending.

Final Thoughts: I liked it, it was a thoughtful film and really takes a look at people, the thing I took away from it was do people were take responsibility for what they do or do they blames others and interestingly enough it applies to all three characters.
Rating: 7/10