Maria – review (Netflix)

     Maria (Cristina Reyes) was a top assassin for Ricardo De la Vega’s (Freddie Webb) Black Rose crime syndicate, under the name of Lily. Seven years before she had told Kaleb (Germaine De Leon) a fellow assassin, son of De la Vega and her lover, that she wants to stop killing people. Kaleb tells her that he will speak to his father after one last job. 

     During the job, Lilly/Maria goes into the location and kills everyone, ending up in a bedroom with a mother and child cowering in fear. Kaleb, who is with her, orders her to kill them. She refuses and shoots him in the leg. The family put a hit on her. 

    Mr Greg (Ronnie Lazaro), the man who trained Lily/Maria and most of the elite assassins, helps her to fake her own death and disappear. Seven years later, Lily, having left that life behind and living now as Maria, has a family, a husband, Bert (Guji Lorenzana) and daughter, Min-Min (Johanna Rish Tongcua). 

     Bert is a supporter of Governor Villanueva (Johnny Revilla), a man he believes will bring an end to the Black Rose syndicates criminal activities. De la Vega, who had supported the governor during his campaign, is not happy and wants the governor dead. He tells Kaleb and his brother, Victor (KC Montero), to kill the governor. Victor and Kaleb do not see eye to eye. 

    Victor feels that their father favours Kaleb, whereas he believes that Kaleb is a liability to the family business. Whilst planning total out the governor, Kaleb spots Lily/Maria. He decides that he has to find her and sends men to get her. When some men try to come for her whilst she is out shopping, she is forced to kill them and realises that her past has caught up with her. 

    Lily/Maria rushes home and tells a confused Bert that they have to leave. min-Min begins to cry seeing her mother so distressed. There is a knock at the door and Kaleb and his henchmen have found them. Lily/Maria kills half of them, but Kaleb grabs Bert and demands she surrender. Lilly/Maria stops fighting. Min-Min goes running toward Bert and Kaleb kills her. That causes both Lily/Maria and Bert to fly into rages and the fighting starts again. Bert gets killed.

    Lily/Maria puts a couple bullets into Kaleb, knocking him to the ground, him wearing a bulletproof jacket, his men drag him from the house, retreating. A distraught Lily/Maria leaves the scene, going back to Mr Greg. Mr Greg, as the man who is known by everyone, has an agreement with the Black Rose and they will not attack him. He tells Lily/Maria that she should disappear and not take revenge. 

    Lily, insisting on being called Maria, states that is not an option. Kaleb sends Miru (Jennifer Lee) to get Maria. Maria attacks the Black Rose drug business as she goes looking for Kaleb. She then goes to a nightclub where she fights with Miru and kills her. She goes to the club manager (Ronnie Liang) to find out where Kaleb is. He gives her a mobile phone. She kills him when he insults her. 

   Kaleb calls her. They are to meet at the docks to finish their feud. Victor is told by their father to help him. Victor plans to kill everybody, including Kaleb. Maria goes to the docks and kills Kaleb’s men. Victor’s men try to kill Kaleb and the rest of his crew, but Mr Greg starts to kill them from a sniper position. 

   Victor retreats leaving only Maria and Kaleb for the final battle. She kills Kaleb. De la Vega tells Victor to avenge his brother. The end. 

   Another day, another Netflix offering and, in keeping with the standards they seem to have set for films, they have Maria, a Filipino film of dubious quality. Maria is not good, it is watchable for the some of the fight scenes – though having recently watched John Wick 3: Parabellum, it is hard to be impressed – the story is convoluted and messy and the acting is uneven. 

    Reyes as the lead character Maria is quite good and believable in the action scenes, as are Lorenzana as Bert and Tongcua as little Min-Min. The main villains, however, are awful. The terrible script does not help, though I suspect that as it is in three languages – English, Filipino and  Llocano – that may have contributed to the unevenness. Does not help the acting though. Germaine De Leon is particularly teak like as Kaleb, and KC Montero’s Victor is not much better. Freddie Webb as De la Vega makes the two sons look like Tony award-winning thespians, so woeful is his, not at all intimidating, performance as the boss of the Black Rose family. 

      The close of the film pointed towards a sequel, with the obvious revenge of the De la Vega’s story set up with the killing of Kaleb. Hopefully, they can find better writers, Pedring Lopez, Yz Carbonell and Rex Lopez having written this effort. It is directed by Pedring. Pedring is also credited with having come up with the story, or he watched John Wick and thought he would replace John Wick with a girl and set it in, his home, the Philippines.

    The directing is quite good even if, in parts, very derivative of better films. At ninety minutes long, Maria is not a long film but it does take nearly half its runtime to get into its stride, with the first half of the film filled up with unfinished ideas, torturings to show how bad the bad guys are and wooden deliveries. 

   Maria is not unwatchable, but I cannot, in good faith, recommend it either. It is not good. 


John Wick 3: Parabellum – review

    John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, picks up where the previous film left off. In John Wick Chapter 2 the world of the assassins inhabited by Wick was expanded. Though Wick was a legend in that murky world, he was still required to adhere to a code. He feels honour bound to break that code by a blood oath and is excommunicated by the High Table. 

    We see Wick running through the streets of a rain-soaked New York. He heads to the library where he has some items he needs to retrieve. It is five forty and at six the order for is excommunication comes into effect. With a bounty of fourteen million dollars on his head, Wick is a target for every killer in New York. 

    He is attacked even before the bounty comes into effect by Ernest (Boban Marjanovic), an assassin who reasons that as they are so close to the bounty’s deadline, it does not matter. Wick kills him. Ernest stabs Wick during the altercation and Wick has to seek medical help from the Doctor (Randall Duk Kim).

   The Doctor is reluctant to treat him, as there are only five minutes until his bounty is in effect, Wick persuades him to patch him up. The excommunication comes into effect whilst the doctor is stitching. Wick is forced to finish the stitches himself. 

    Wick is now a live target for every assassin in New York and there are many. He needs to get to The Director (Anjelica Huston), a severe Belarusian woman who runs a ballet school as well as commanding a cabal of eastern European gangsters. Fighting his way across New York, he gets to see the Director. He asks her to grant him passage to Casablanca. 

    After initially refusing, she gets him to Casablanca. In Casablanca, he goes to see Sofia (Halle Berry), who is the boss of the Casablancan branch of the Continental, a worldwide organisation of hotels that are safe havens for assassins.

   She is not especially glad to see him but owes him a blood oath and so reluctantly helps him. He wants to see the Elder (Said Taghmaoui), boss of the High Table. Sofia takes him to see Berrada (Jerome Flynn). Berrada tells Wick how he might get to see the Elder. In exchange for the information, he wants Sofia to give him one of her dogs. She refuses. He shoots the dog. Sofia does not take it well and she and Wick are forced to fight their way out of Berrada’s fortress. 

   Back in New York, the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) has turned up at the Continental. She informs the manager, Winston (Ian McShane) that he has seven days to leave as, due to his co-operation with Wick, his position has been revoked. Winston understands.

   The Adjudicator goes to see Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). He is also told he has seven days to resign his position. King is not so conciliatory. Wick is in the desert searching for the Elder, after a day of walking, he collapses, unconscious with dehydration and battle wounds. He is found by the Elder’s people and taken to him. 

   The Elder asks what he wants, Wick tells him that he is prepared to pay a penance to live. The Elder tells him that he can return to the fold if he kills Winston. 

   The Adjudicator goes to see another elite assassin, Zero (Mark Dacascos). He is to help track down Wick, plus some other task. His crew storm the Director’s theatre, killing many of her men, so as the Adjudicator can see her. She is made to pay penance, for assisting Wick, by being stabbed through both hands. The Adjudicator visits Bowery King again and has Zero punish him with seven cuts, leaving him lying injured on the roof. 

   Wick returns to New York and is protected by some of Zero’s men, only to be later attacked by them. He gets to the Continental where assassins are still forbidden from operating. He goes to see Winston. Winston knows he has been sent to kill him but persuades him that he has another option. 

The Adjudicator realises that Winston is not going to give up the Continental. She strips the hotel of protection and calls in more assassins. They go to war with Wick, who is helped by the hotel concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick). 

   The Adjudicator, realising that Winston will not relinquish the hotel, comes to an accord. She asks him what is he going to do about Wick. Winston shoots him and Wick falls off of the roof. 

When the Adjudicator is leaving, she notices that Wick has disappeared. 

    Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas), right-hand man to Bowery King, finds Wick and brings him to King. King asks if Wick is ready to wage war on the High Table. Wick says he is. The end. 

    The third film in the Wick series sees even more of an expansion on the world that Wick and his ilk inhabit. Directed again by Chad Stahelski, John Wick 3: Parabellum is a stuntman’s wet dream.  Stahelski, a stuntman himself and director on the first two instalments of the series, really brings an eye for action to films. 

   The first John Wick film, with its simple story and clear, non-political premise, was a breath of fresh air to the action genre, with the close combat fight choreography and gunplay. The second film introduced the mythology of the assassins’ world and the politics and code under which it operated, expanding on the first outing. The third film adheres to the code laid down in the second film, with the human elements; the friendships that Wick has built up over the years and the favours he has accrued, being what allow him to avoid certain death. 

   Visually, the film is stunning. The colours are neon bright and pin sharp, especially when set in New York. The film just looks magnificent and stylish, like an extremely violent Bond film. At over two hours, the pacing is relentless, picking up from the final scene of the second film, Wick is fighting for his life with fist, knives and guns for most of the runtime, a breathless ballet of violence.  

    The script by David Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams, with the story by Kolstad, is a boy’s own work of fiction. It is non-stop action, with the few conversations that take place only serving to move on to the next action set piece. That is not to say there is no story or that the story is secondary, it just that, in the case of the Wick films, the story is there to serve the action and not the other way around. 

    John Wick 3: Parabellum gives nods to Enter The Dragon, Heat, and possibly every Chinese martial arts film ever made. It sets a standard for action films that is not only hard to match but will be very hard to surpass. 

   It is rare that a trilogy produces three great films, you might have two very good films and one great one or, more often than not, one film of the films are great and the other two are sold on the strength of that hit. 

   That is not the case with the Wick films, each not necessarily better than its predecessor but definitely more ambitious. John Wick 3: Parabellum is a brilliant addition to the Wick cannon. If you enjoyed the first two, you will love the third instalment. 



Peppermint – a review (Prime)

    It was as far back as Luc Besson’s 1990 Nikita where the popularity for a lone wolf, female assassin/vigilante/superspy probably begun. There had been female action films and television before that. The seventies had Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson, in Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones respectively. 

   Those two movies were part of the blaxploitation explosion of the seventies and, outside of the black community and film buffs, are probably not as well known as the likes of Nikita and, more recently, Atomic Blonde. 

   The niche genre has been popular and lucrative with the likes of 2010’s Angelina Jolie starrer Salt, 2014’s Lucy, another Luc Besson effort starring Scarlett Johansson, and even 2011’s Hanna with Saoirse Ronan. Some of the films have been popular enough to have spin-off television shows; Nikita, Hanna, the female-led actioner being even more popular on television. 

   A film I watched recently on Amazon Prime, a departure from my normal Netflix obsession, was Peppermint starring Jennifer Garner. Better known for the poorly received and executed, early Marvel character film, Elektra, Garner probably got the Elektra gig on the back of her starring role in Alias.

    The J. J. Abrams show ran for five seasons, with Garner playing Sydney Bristow, a woman recruited straight out of college to be a super spy. In the strangely named Peppermint, Garner is Riley North, a widowed mother. When her husband, Chris (Jeff Hephner), is offered a chance to make a lot of money by stealing money from the local drug dealer, he declines.

    Unfortunately, the dealer, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), finds out that Micky (Chris Johnson) plans to steal from him. He also believes Chris is in on the job. He tortures and kills Micky. Cortez (Ian Casselberry) is watching Chris. He tells Garcia that he knows where he is. Garcia says to kill him. 

    Cortez and his crew shoot Chris and their daughter, Carly (Cailey Fleming) as they drive by. Riley, who lagged behind because she was buying a gift for the daughter, watches as they get killed. She is grazed by a bullet as she runs to toward them.

After spending a month in a coma, she awakens and tells detective Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) that she knows who killed her family. Carmichael’s partner, detective Moises Beltran (John Ortiz), warns him about getting involved with any case related to Garcia.

    They apprehend three of the gunmen and Riley identifies them. Riley is visited at her home by Henderson (Michael Mosley), the lawyer for Garcia’s men. He offers to pay her off. She refuses. At the court case, aided by Judge Stevens (Jeff Harlan), Henderson gets the men acquitted. Riley is furious and gets arrested for contempt of court. She escapes and disappears.

    Five years later she returns to LA and Garcia’s men start dying. She kills the gunmen, the judge, lawyer and goes after the drug houses. Detectives Carmichael and Ortiz find out she is back in LA and contact FBI agent, Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) who had been searching for her some years before. 

     They find out she has acquired a lot of military weapons and race to find her. Garcia also knows who she is after as well, needing to kill her as he is getting pressure from the Cartel drug lords. Riley continues to kill Garcia’s crew and then comes for him. He escapes and turns the tables on her, going to where she lives, amongst the vagrants and street kids, to find her.

    Riley returns to her patch and begins killing his men, even though she is hopelessly outnumbered. She sees that detective Gallagher is a crooked cop. Garcia threatens to kill one of the street kids in order to flush her out. Riley comes forward. Garcia beats her up but is prevented by killing her when the police turn up in numbers. 

    Garcia kills Gallagher and runs. Riley catches up with him and kills him and disappears. Beltran finds her by her family’s graves. She is arrested. Beltran visits her in the hospital where she is recovering, handcuffed to the bed, still under arrest. He gives her a key to the cuffs. The end. 

    Peppermint is an entertaining film, with Garner demonstrating her action chops once again. At one hundred minutes runtime, the film hurtles along at a good pace, Garner a strong enough lead in a revenge thriller by numbers. Written by Chad St. John, the script is serviceable, hitting all the necessary beats and allowing for directorial flourishes. 

    Directed by Pierre Morel, the film looks good and the action sequences are well executed. With the story very much following the old school Chinese kung fu film formula – ‘I trained for five long years to avenge my family!’ – Peppermint is Jennifer Garner’s film. You believe that she would and could become a determined, killing machine in the mode of Linda Hunt’s Sarah Connor. 

    Attractive enough for movies, whilst also being androgynous enough to sell the violence of some of the roles she has been in, Garner is the sole reason to watch this film. That is not to say that the other actors are bad, far from it. It is just that, except maybe Juan Pablo Raba’s Garcia, the rest of the characters are not particularly interesting and are mostly there to die or advance the plot. 

   Peppermint – still have no idea why it called that – is a good enough action film. Not as good as Atomic Blonde, but way better than Tomb Raider. Worth a look.  


Polar – a review

     If you were to take John Wick film and splice it with Kill Bill 2, the bloodier of the two-parter, and it was directed by a Guy Richie protege, who hadn’t quite got the grasp of subtlety, you would get something close to Polar, the Netflix film starring Mads Mikkelsen, last seen opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange, in the MCU’s Doctor Strange, and Vanessa Hudgens, moving away from her Disney roots.

    Duncan Vizla (Mikkelsen) is a retiring assassin for the Damocles corporation. He is trying to get his affairs in order before his retirement in two weeks. He speaks to Vivian (Katheryn Winnick), right hand to the head of the corporation, Blut (Matt Lucas), to find out who killed Michael Green (Johnny Knoxville), a recently retired assassin. 

   Vivian tells him it was a hit by some Russians and that the corporation wants him to kill the people. Vizla declines. Vivian says they will double the payment. He still declines. Vivian tells Blut. Blut tells her that she needs to get him on board. 

   Blut is planning to sell the business but Vizla’s retirement could put a spanner in the works as they have to give him a retirement payout, unless he dies, in which case it goes to the company. Vivian persuades Vizla to take the job. 

   Vizla, suspicious of the job, does the job without telling Vivian. Whilst doing the job, he finds out he had been set up and was the intended victim. He calls Vivian and asks if she knows anything about the hit on him. She says she does not. Vivian tells Blut, who sends the crew that killed Green – Hilde (Fei Ren), Sindy (Ruby O Fee), Karl (Robert Maillet), Facundo (Anthony Grant) and Alexei (Josh Cruddas) – to kill Vizla’s. 

    Vizla has disappeared to a remote cottage in Montana, Triple Oak. Up in Triple Oak, every time Vizla falls asleep he suffers a nightmare from a previous job. In a cabin opposite lives a single woman, Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), a wildlife photographer. Camille is quiet, haunted. They become friendly.

   After killing their way through possible leads, the assassins find out Vizla is in Triple Oak and head down to Montana. After a little surveillance, they find him and follow him back to his cabin. Sindy pretends to be broken down and Vizla picks her up and takes her back to the cabin. 

    She keeps him occupied as Karl, Hilde and Facundo plan an assault. It does not go to plan and Vizla kills them all. Alexei, meanwhile, has executed plan B and kidnapped Camille. Vizla goes after him. Blut is furious after finding out that Vizla has killed all the other assassins, especially Hilde, who was his lover.

    Vizla goes to see Porter (Richard Dreyfuss) an old assassin acquaintance. Unfortunately, he is double-crossed and ends up in Blut’s clutches. Blut tortures him for days, planning to kill him. Vizla escapes and goes on a killing spree. He goes to another friend, Jazmin (Ayisha Issa), who patches him up and supplies him with weapons. 

     Vizla returns to the mansion where he was being held and after killing another small battalion of Blut’s men, kills Blut and rescues Camille. Camille, who had been pumped full of heroin whilst captive, is nursed back to health by Vizla. She pulls a gun on him and tells him that she sees his face whenever she closes her eyes, as he killed her whole family. 

    Vizla tells her to shoot him, she cannot. She asks if he could find the people who ordered the hit on her father, he tells her maybe. They form an uneasy alliance. The end.

    Directed by Jonas Ãkerlund, Polar is an entertaining if slightly uneven film. Mikkelsen, Hudgens and Winnick and Lucas are good in their respective roles. Mikkelsen is especially good as the stoic Duncan Vizla. Hudgens, in a somewhat heavier role, less pretty, is good if a little underused, her character showing glimpses of some dark past, which we do not find out about until, frustratingly, the last minutes of the film. 

   Matt Lucas, far better known for comedy, is a fine actor in serious roles and is, in part, good in Polar. Unfortunately, the way the film is directed, some of it seems done for comedy effect, whilst other parts are fully R rated. Instead of letting the natural comedy of the script, by Jayson Rothwell based off of the graphic novel of the same name by Victor Santos, come to the fore. 

   The assassin group or clan is a well-worn trope in comics and movies. From Bond films to the brilliant John Wick series and the Kill Bill films to The Hand in Frank Miller’s Daredevil Elektra sags run, the secret assassin organisation has always been a great story device. 

    In Polar, however, the assassin organisation is not used particularly well, with the group of young assassins a bit cartoonish and over the top, adding to the feel of the film not quite knowing whether it is a comedic thriller or a straight-up drama. 

    Polar is not a perfect film, but it is watchable and, in the action scenes, highly entertaining. There are some gratuitous bloody scenes, which the more squeamish might balk at, but overall, it is an enjoyable one hundred minutes to waste on Netflix. 


The Hard Way – (a hard watch) a review

    I blame EA sports. The FIFA 19 game to be precise. Feeling a bit under the weather and so decided to go full chill mode for Sunday. Watch some Brooklyn Nine Nine – brilliant comedy – play FIFA, play on easy so as not to detract too much from the programme. 

   I decided I didn’t want to watch all of the Nine Nine’s episodes. Save some of that good stuff for later. I’ll watch a film instead. Didn’t want anything too taxing or melancholy – so I picked The Hard Way. Not the Michael J. Fox/James Woods early nineties comedy. No, that would have been enjoyable.

    Instead, I watched the risible Michael Jai White revenge flick of the same name. Not only is it truly terrible on every level – writing, acting, and direction – it is also a complete waste of just over ninety minutes. That is unless, like me, you are going to write a review on the abomination. Though I am not sure that is a good enough reason to watch it. 

   Anyhoo, the story, such that it is, meets Michael Jai White as John Payne – yes, he is called Payne – a New York bar owner and ex-special ops – of course he is – as he hands out a beatdown on a couple of gangsters who come to his bar and try to strong-arm him into selling.  

     If you think that these gangster types would form any strand of the story, you would be wrong. They are simply shoehorned into the film so as to demonstrate Jai White’s impressive martial arts ability. It’s kind of his thing. They are never seen or mentioned again.

   For those who may not know, Michael Jai White is a highly accomplished martial artist. As in ass-whoopingly good. He has made a whole slew of these sort of low budget actioners, though he is probably best known for roles in Arrow and his great blaxploitation film spoof, Black Dynamite, as well as playing the lead in Spawn, a very early Marvel effort. Because of his high competence, the fight scenes are well choreographed and executed.

   Unfortunately, I must get back to the…story. The film opens with a confusing foot pursuit set in Romania. Luke Goss’ Mason and his partner Daniel Onuoha’s Charlie, who also happens to be John’s brother. They are running after George Remme’s Joe Vig. In the pursuit, Joe shoots Charlie, mortally wounding him. As he is dying he tells Mason a supposedly cryptic message to give to John.

    The only reason the message remains cryptic is that it has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the film.  When John hears about his brother’s death, he flies out to Romania to find out what has happened. 

    In Romania, he meets up with one of his old special forces buddy, Randy Couture’s Briggs, who is in charge of some vague European Taskforce and is also – this really is not a spoiler if you have a brain – the elusive kingpin villain, Toro. There are various strands of plots about god knows what. A bit of spousal abuse, human trafficking, prostitution and maybe drugs, it is all a complete muddle.

     Joe Vig is pushed – poorly and hamfistedly – as the chief protagonist, a mean and sadistic killer, who seemingly enjoys killing. Remme’s is actually one of the few actors to put in a credible performance, even with a truly awful script to work from.

Vig as the villain is meant to be a red herring, but it is so haphazardly crafted and the script so lacking in subtlety, it never works. There is some nonsense about five million euros and John’s brother’s widow, Madelina Anea as Lacy Love – I have no idea where they got these names from –  being an unwitting moll to the elusive  – not really – Toro.

There is a silly, thrill-free standoff in the final act and John giving the millions to his sister-in-law in the wrap-up. John and Mason have a bit of quippy conversation and the film, thankfully, ends.

    Aside from the fight scenes, which are good but not John Wick good, there is nothing to recommend this film. The acting is uniformly appalling, the story, by Thomas J. Churchill and Keoni Waxman, is unnecessarily complex nonsense.

Waxman is also on directing duties and has some twenty-four credits for directing on his IMDB page. One can only hope they are not all as lacklustre as this. 

   The Hard Way is a hard watch, so save yourself the agony and give it a miss.



The Hitman’s Bodyguard – a review

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds in a pretty formulaic buddy-buddy action movie. At just under two hours long – a tad on the lengthy side – it is, nonetheless, an enjoyable waste of a couple of hours.
Reynolds is Michael Bryce, a bodyguard who is at the top of his profession. He has a beautiful girlfriend, Amelia Roussel – an underused and underwritten Elodie Yung, better known for her turn as Elektra in the Netflix Daredevil series – who is also an Interpol agent. Michael’s business is ruined when a high profile client is killed moments before he successfully completes the protection detail.
Two years later Michael, his reputation in tatters and his relationship over, is doing smaller lower profile jobs – a cameo from Richard E. Grant as a nervous, pill popping lawyer, is suitably amusing as Reynolds’ Michael tries to maintain the previously high standard of service that saw him rise to the top of his profession, even as his demeanour betrays the fact that he could not care less about the job.
Elsewhere, back in the past, we see the President/Dictator of Belarus, Vladislav Dukhovich – Gary Oldman covering the bills with one of his stock-in-trade villain performances – killing some poor teacher’s wife and child, because he had the temerity to speak out against the oppressive regime. Back in the present, the same teacher is in the Hauge, giving evidence against Dukhovich as he is tried as a war criminal.
The evidence, unfortunately, is not sufficient as there is no physical proof. Samuel L. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, a clinical Assassin whom Interpol have in their possession. He has the necessary evidence needed to put Dukhovich away, but will only testify if his wife – an extremely fiery and foul-mouthed Salma Hayek – is released and cleared of all charges.
With a deal in place, rookie field agent Roussel is tasked with escorting Kincaid to the Hauge trial. When the security motorcade is ambushed by Dukhovich’s men, Roussel realises that Interpol has been compromised and reluctantly calls her ex-boyfriend, Bryce.

Initially, Bryce refuses to help, but when Roussel tells him she can get his life back on track, he agrees to help. He has reservations once more when he finds out it is Kincaid, a man who has tried to kill him multiple times.
As mentioned above, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an enjoyable film that springs absolutely no surprises whatsoever. Jackson is on cranked-up-to-eleven, full muthafucka spitting form, playing a hitman who happens to have a supreme talent for killing, a talent that has got him handsomely paid, whilst embracing all of life’s riches, good and bad. Reynolds’ good guy caught in a bad situation face is in full effect also.
When the two leads are together on screen the film sparkles, with them playing perfectly off of one another. Every other aspect of the film is as one would expect. There is gun play, fighting, a villainous master plan, a villainous rant, really weak female characters – even though there are quite a few prominent female roles – and chase scenes. An action comedy by numbers.
As I alluded to earlier, the film is on the long side at just under two hours. There are several chase scenes that would have been better served by a more ruthless editor, especially one Bond-esque waterway scene. There was also a surprising amount of CGI, with a lot of the leads scenes noticeably studio shot.
Having recently been spoilt by the glorious cinematography and colour in Dunkirk and Atomic Blonde, the visuals of The Hitman’s Bodyguard were comparatively lacklustre, even looking fuzzy at times.
Minor film geekery aside, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an entertaining romp, with enough pace to not flag too much and the stars doing what the best ones do, raising a mediocre film to a good one.

Atomic Meh – a review

Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron and featuring James McAvoy, Toby Jones and John Goodman is the directorial effort – a full debut if you will allow – of David Leitch. Leitch, an actor, stuntman, writer and producer, came to prominence as one of the co-directors on the brilliant Keanu Reeves starrer, John Wick. With its simple premise and brisk execution, John Wick was one of the best action films to come out in the last few years.
One of the reasons for its success was given as the expertise of its two directors in stunt work and action set piece coordination. This expertise is evident in Atomic Blonde. Every fight scene, almost as impressive as John Wick, is fluid and kinetic, the sound design implemented perfectly for every punch, kick, knee and bullet. There is one fight sequence towards the end of the film that is so gratifyingly violent it is almost worth the admission price on its own.
The statuesque Theron is perfectly cast as Lorraine Broughton – not the greatest spy name – an MI6 operative sent into cold war Germany, in nineteen eighty-nine, to retrieve a list that contains a list of all the undercover operatives in Europe. The situation is complicated by fractious East/West relations as the Berlin wall is seen as the symbol of oppression that it was and some other nonsense wherein the operative who had the list was an old flame of Lorraine. Lorraine is told her contact in Berlin is David Percival (McAvoy) an agent who has been undercover for some time in Berlin.
Cards on the table, I must admit I did not love this film. It was by no means terrible or even bad. It was just okay. The biggest problem is the convoluted story. The ‘missing list’ story has been done so many times it is becoming its own sub-genre! It was done fantastically in Skyfall and to great comedic effect in Spy. In Atomic Blonde, the list is seen as so vital that every covert agency and nefarious group in the world wants it. I, however, didn’t care.
A spy ‘thriller’, punctuated with some great action scenes, Atomic Blonde is unnecessarily complex in the story with one never sure if any character is who they purport to be. It also utilises a, in my opinion, detrimental style in the telling of the story, with a beat up looking Lorraine recalling the events in a debriefing meeting, post mission. The story is shown in flashback, interspersed with tension free moments of her being questioned in the present.
As far as I can see, the title of the film only serves as reference to Theron’s stylistic nod to eighties Debbie Harry and – a little misguidedly – her explosive fighting style. I say it’s misguided because – and I cannot emphasise this enough – it is not an action film. There is too much Tinker, Tailor and not enough Die Hard for it to be a true action film, which is a pity because, as I alluded to earlier, the fight scenes are truly spectacular.
With the talent on show the acting is, of course, top class. McAvoy as the caddish Percival is probably the standout alongside Theron’s Lorraine, though I feel Sofia Boutella as the callow French spy Delphine Lasalle is very good, she is not served by an underwritten character. The story also suffers from – especially in the first hour – pedestrian pacing, the constant back and forth really slowing things down.
Roland Moller, who plays the chief antagonist, Aleksander Bremovych, is basically asked to deliver a clichéd villain’s performance, with his introduction, by – believe me this not much of a spoiler – killing a quivering youth with a skateboard, is so heavily signposted it fails to elicit any real impact. After his show of Alpha maleness, he is barely seen for the rest of the film.
Technically Atomic Blonde is very good. So uninspired by the story unfolding on the screen was I that I was able to appreciate the deliberate silver-whiteness of the colour palette, aiding the eighties feel of the film. Though I liked the sound design in general, I did not love the soundtrack. Having said that, Theron’s Lorraine using George Michael as a sound suppressant in one fight scene was inspired.
Atomic Blonde is not the worse way to spend two hours and I would even say the fight scenes are worth the admission price, but if you were hoping for an engaging story and action flick, Atomic Blonde misses the mark.