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Everybody a badass.

I waited forever for this movie to come out. It looked like a lean, mean action movie with a cast so unlikely that it just had to be great. Finally, the wait was over and I got to sit down and watch Sabotage and see not only if its weird cast panned out, but if it deserved the mixed and generally underwhelmed reviews that it received.

Whether or not you’re going to go for this movie or just find it kind of bland and familiar depends a lot on what kind of audience you are. Being that I prize a commitment toward objectivity (as close as I can get anyway) when writing criticism, it may seem strange for me to say that. But the truth is that, from the kinds of objective criteria by which I’d judge a film, Sabotage is maybe a notch above solid and I’ll tell you all about that in a bit. On the other hand, though, your mileage with this movie is going to depend a lot more on subjective stuff like how realistic you like your bullet wounds or how easily you buy these actors, their roles, and their antics.

For me, it’s all pretty easy and fun to get into. There’s a nice mixture of throwback and new hotness in Sabotage. There’s a wetness and realism to the violence that some may not appreciate. I definitely did. Sabotage is about as solid an R action movie as it gets these days. But it also has some social commentary and a lot of wit in a script that could have been leaner and less considerate. It’s not quite a “smart” movie, but Sabotage‘s dialogue and unpredictability may surprise you. Then again, this is a David Ayer film (End of Watch, Training Day) so maybe it won’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Both of these guys are at the top of their game here.

End of Watch is a movie that probably shouldn’t work. Functioning as a piece of pro-Cop quasi-propaganda, it is a counter to the myriad corrupt cop movies, shows, etc that get made every year. Especially about the LAPD. More than this, it’s the style of the film that is a risk. Shot as a pseudo-found footage movie, not dissimilar from Chronicle but with even less internal justification, there’s tons of handheld and “shaky cam” in End of Watch which tends to get knee-jerk backlash from filmgoers. Finally, End of Watch has an unusual structure that overturns its action-movie feel and replaces it with the makings of a character-focused drama, one that spends a lot of time “between” the plotting. This seems like an approach that would strain the patience of people used to convention but turns out to be the film’s greatest strength aside from the charismatic central performances of Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena.

Somehow, End of Watch eclipses its own building blocks and snuck up on me. It’s one of the big surprises of 2012, almost entirely due to its candor and ability to kick expectations in the ass to deliver something heartfelt, gritty, and redefining for a genre as familiar as any. Read the rest of this entry »

Fuck yeah, Woody Harrelson!

I kinda feel like most people aren’t going to find Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), the subject of Rampart, as sympathetic as I do. Since he’s in every scene of the movie and the style and intention are very much in line with the “character study” mold, you’re kinda stuck with him anyway. Whether you’re able to sympathize with him or not is sort of the question the movie is asking. How it navigates his fucked up life, including his bizarre family dynamic, is part of what separates Rampart from a pile of similar “dirty cop self-destructs” movies/tv shows that we’ve all probably seen dozens of times by now. Making Rampart a character study is a wise move and Harrelson carries it all on his shoulders with aplomb and infusing the character with a lot of pathos and likability in spite of the inner darkness that very clear is present.

On the surface, you might say that if you like The Shield, Dark Blue, Street Kings, Bad Lieutenant and Port of Call New Orleans then you’ll see much that is familiar to you here, and you’ll likely enjoy Rampart. A person less familiar with these types of cop stories could really go either way but will probably engage better due to not being conversant in the sorts of shorthand all such stories employ. Read the rest of this entry »

Tatum is able to act against heavies and hold his own.

I don’t know if it’s Dino Montiel’s hidden talent as a director or something but he is helping Channing Tatum quietly put together a fairly respectable filmography in solid, unflashy films that usually feature strong supporting performances from great actors. In The Son of No One Tatum plays a secretive, quiet guy and that restraint makes his job a bit easier when he’s throwing down the acting with guys like Ray Liotta and Al Pacino. Of course, both those guys could do their roles in this movie without breaking  sweat. They are not the draws here, of course. Read the rest of this entry »

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