15 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

July 24, 2018

AMERICAN ANIMALS

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April 23, 2018

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — CANNES 2017

You_were_never_really_hereIf only I had never really seen this atrocity of a movie I’d feel much better. That does it; I’m giving up on Lynne Ramsay for good. I loathed Ramsay’s last film “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (2011). Still, I was willing to give her latest effort a chance. Big mistake. I thought it possible that Ramsay had grown as a filmmaker. The complete opposite appears to be the case.

Ramsey steals a dozen little tropes from movies like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Taxi Driver” to piece together a baloney narrative that hangs together like wet seaweed on the beach. Some people might call it experimental, and I can see why. You certainly feel like a guinea pig being experimented on while watching this awful movie. Ramsey based her self-penned screenplay on Jonathan Ames’s novel, but you’d never guess that this movie had any formal underpinnings.

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Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a hit man/cop killer who rescues underage girls from sex traffickers. A New York politician hires Joe to rescue his pubescent daughter. So topical, you think. Wrong. Ramsay treats the issue with such cavalier sloppiness that she trivializes sex trafficking into something so fake that it's no wonder so many people don't believe such a thing even exists. Judging from this film, it doesn't.

If revenge fantasy is your thing, Michael Winners 1974 “Death Wish” did it meaner and with real heart from the great Charles Bronson. Joaquin Phoenix just looks like he needs a good long nap. Joe suffers from delusions, so not everything we see is for real. Joe is a white dude sociopath whose chosen weapon is a hammer. If I never see Joaquin Phoenix with his shirt off, it will be too soon. 

Joaquin

If this set-up sounds like something you want or need to see for some imagined reason, just know that there is an underwater scene that is a very close copy of a similar scene in “The Shape of Water.” You could always stream “You Were Never Really Here” and turn it into a drinking game where you have to drink a shot every time you see a reference to another movie. The influences here are much more accessible (read lazy) than the arcane ones you find in a Tarantino movie. Then again Quentin Tarantino is a real filmmaker; Lynne Ramsey isn’t.

Rated R. 89 mins. (D-) Zero stars — out of five / no halves

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

December 04, 2013

AMERICAN HUSTLE

American HustleA Sloppy Con
Good Delivery — Bad Form

If awards were handed out for the sloppiest movies, “American Hustle” would be a dead ringer for such a booby prize. This damn thing is all over the place. It can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy, a period crime drama or a music video. Dueling voiceover narration — between Christian Bale and Amy Adams — finally ceases after an eternity, and the film segues into something resembling a movie only to flit away a in series of music sequence montages that make you pine for the glory days of MTV.

The good news is that the film’s acting ensemble is as committed as they can be. When those actors happen to include Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper, it’s sufficient cause to head out to the nearest cinema with the knowledge that you’re there for the performances but not the format. The players are great but the rules of the game don’t apply.
Conspicuously cribbing from Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” director/co-screenwriter David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) creates a hodgepodge caper movie (an exaggeratedly fictionalized account of a real-life ‘70s era sting operation involving the FBI) that falls apart so many times that there’s nothing left by the time the third act closes.

Anyone familiar with the term “Abscam” remembers the decades-old FBI political-corruption probe that used the obvious moniker as a phony business front to entrap nearly 20 political figures — including a U.S. senator, House Representatives, New Jersey state officials, Philadelphia City Council members, and a handful of attorneys.

Drycleaning and art-forgery businessman Irving Rosenfeld (played by a paunchy Bale) has one of the worst comb-overs you’ve ever seen. It takes him many minutes in front of a mirror to stick a patch of black toupee on his pate before carefully spraying down the hair he pulls across the top of his head at an unnatural angle. The unsightly disguise gives Irving the confidence he needs to go out in the world and rip off investors dumb enough to believe that the $5,000 they give him will be returned tenfold. There’s one born every minute.

Irving wastes no time charming the pants off Edith [not-her-real-name] (Adams), a redhead looker with a British accent who is just as devious as Irving. It takes awhile before Edith discovers that Irving is married to a tacky woman named Rosalyn (Lawrence), but by then the romantically-attracted Edith has already signed on to participate in Irving’s con games.

Irving calls his arms-length wife Rosalyn a “Picasso of passive aggression” for good reason. Jennifer Lawrence steals the movie whenever she’s onscreen — which is saying something considering the caliber of actors she shares it with. A couple of scenes in particular provide the movie with two of its high points — one involving a microwave oven, and another in which Rosalyn’s crocodile tears leave Irving, and the audience, speechless.

Irving’s and Lady Edith’s con games aren’t as polished as they imagine. An eventful run-in with undercover FBI agent Richie DiMasso (Cooper) leaves the felonious couple with an option of spending many years in the pokey, or participating in four sting operations that will wipe their record clean. Unfortunately for Irving and Edith, DiMasso doesn’t really know how to count to four.

For all of its awkward narrative tics, “American Hustle” is more than a little entertaining, but it comes no where near living up to the hype surrounding it. “Goodfellas” — “American Hustle” ain't.

Rated R. 129 mins. (B-) Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

 



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