Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doesn't anyone watch this show?

Survivor - Classic Blunders
I avoided Survivor with a vengeance when it first came out.  I clearly remember it because I quite enjoyed Mark Burnett's EcoChallenge series, but I completely didn't see the point of Survivor and as a rule, I detest reality game shows.  So while everyone was going on about Survivor and it swept the world as a cultural phenomenon, I steadfastly refused to watch it.  Then a funny thing happened in season 15:  They went to China.  Well, I just happened to have adopted my daughter from China two years prior, had an amazingly powerful and enriching experience, and thought I'd give the show a try just to see China again.  I came for China, but I stayed for the show.  I've subsequently watched every season as it aired and become completely hooked.  To the point that I recently went back and watched the first 14 seasons.  "Hi, my name's John and I have a problem..."

Having now slogged my way through all 26 Survivor seasons, I'd like to point out a few classic blunders of past Survivor players (the most famous of which is, of course, to never get involved in a land war in Asia) for any castaway wannabes out there.  Rather than do a writeup on each season (Or each individual episode!!  Writing material for the next 2 years!), this will save an awful lot of redundant commentary as I'm amazed how often history repeats itself on this show.

Learn how to make a fire.  How much planning does this one take?  Really?  It's been 30 years since I last used flint to make a fire, but you can be damned sure I'm going to practice once or twice before I hop on the plane.  You're going to be abandoned in the wilderness somewhere.  Perhaps you may want to do something crazy like drink water?  It continues to amaze how time and time again how most castaways can't make a fire.  With a flint.  Or hell, even with matches.  Sundra and Becky spent 90 minutes failing utterly to make a fire with flint.  So they give them both two books of matches and Sundra ran out of matches

And you know that big block of metal that the flint stick is attached to?  It's magnesium.  It burns really well when a spark hits it.  Scrape some off and save yourself a lot of time and effort.  That's what it's there for.  I'm also not sure I've seen anyone scrape the flint instead of just hacking at it with their machete.  I figured that out reasonably quickly.  When I was 9 years old.  For bonus points, figure out how to reliably make a fire without flint.  You know, the sort of thing humans figured out how to do 40,000+ years ago.

Spend five minutes researching your destination.  Yes, I know the castaways don't always know exactly where they're headed, but while you're waiting to board the plane, glance at the destination.  That'll narrow it down quite a bit.  Then do something crazy like Google "edible plants of Guatemala" and figure out what you can eat.  Instead of being silently laughed at by the production crew every time you walk by the goldmine of food growing nearby, you'll endear yourself to your tribemates forever if you can spot the tubers and sugar cane on day 2.

Get off your lazy ass.  It's remarkable how "duh" this one is, but oddly enough, your fellow castaways will not react well to working their asses off while you sit back and eat the food they make for you in the shelter you watched them build.  Sure, it's important to conserve your energy and not exert yourself too much, but that conservation won't mean much when you're booted on day 3 for being completely worthless around camp.

Hidden immunity idols make poor parting gifts.  If you have one and there's even the slightest remote chance that you think even a single person might vote for you, play it.  Lately they seem to recycle them immediately back in camp, so maybe you can be Russell and just constantly find them.  But for heaven's sake, don't be James and go home with two of them in your pocket.  Poor James.  I liked James.  He was nice.  He was cool.  My wife liked James for other reasons of course, but she more or less gave up on the season when James went out like that.

Keep.  Your.  Idol.  Secret.  Sure, there have been a handful of times when having an ally know you have an idol makes excellent strategic sense, but ultimately a single idol can't save the whole alliance.  One person is holding it and if someone else knows, they're going to want to benefit as well, or they're going to let someone know you have it and try to flush it out.  Which will either work and you get to hang around till next week when they vote your ass out again, or you go home with a lovely souvenir if you don't play it.  The idol doesn't make you invincible in the greater scope of the game and it doesn't get you automatically to the final 2 or 3.  It's a tool.  Keep it secret.  Keep it safe.  Use it.

Watch.  The.  Damn.  Show.  This might be the biggest "duh" of them all.  If you're getting on a show that's been running for thirteen years, you can probably pick up a couple of pointers by doing something crazy like watching an episode or three.  The social game is brutal and often really counter intuitive.  Well done Brenda for sacrificing time with your dad so everyone else can have time with their loved ones instead and finding Dawn's dentures so she isn't reduced to a quivering blob of jelly.  But guess what?  Now you're way too nice to people and a serious threat if you make it to the final.  Bye-bye.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I've come from nowhere, and I'm not shy to go back

As I was attempting to rank Statham's movies in terms of rewatchability, I was struck by the fact that I just plain don't care one way or the other about the majority of them.  They're just there.  With very few exceptions, Arnold's movies evoked a strong positive or negative emotional response.  Statham's movies on the other hand have already faded into memory, and I had to look up a few of them in IMDB just to remember what the hell War and Revolver were.  The average Statham movie just sits there staring blankly at you.  Almost encouraging you to change the channel and get on with life.  So before I lose the will to live, here is the rough breakout of the rewatchability of Statham's body of work:

The Italian Job
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
The Transporter

I did at least enjoy a few of them, and several of those were new to me. These movies are classics that I'll enjoy coming back to time and time again.  As with Arnold, each of these I would watch at anytime, anywhere.  I just wish there were more of them.

The Bank Job
The Expendables
The Expendables 2
Mean Machine
The Mechanic

These were all very fun and while I don't think I could watch them multiple times per year or anything, I find them all very watchable and entertaining.  Between this and the top tier, seven of the 11 movies are ones I'd never seen before.  That barely makes up for sitting through the rest of them, so happy thoughts... happy thoughts.  Sigh.

Death Race (2008)
Killer Elite
Transporter 2

It starts to get pretty grim at this level.  These are only barely rewatchable and I wouldn't rule out possibly seeing them again someday, but have no interest in actively seeking them out.  Honestly, anything below the top 2 tiers is more or less crap and doesn't really warrant categorization, but what the hell, let's keep going...

Crank: High Voltage
Ghosts of Mars
The One
Transporter 3

These are all very poor movies and, with one notable exception which requires its own category, among the worst movies I've seen period.  Either poorly executed, completely blah, actively irritating, or just plain ugh.  Don't watch these.  Please.  Don't.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Fuck you, Uwe Boll.  Fuck.  You.

Up next - Parker should be available on pay per view tomorrow so guess I'll try to fit that in if I can (how's that for enthusiasm?) and that will have me current on Statham.  I may try to crank through the Fast & the Furious movies before FF6 comes out on Friday.  Never have seen any of those, but interested in the first, fifth, and sixth ones at least. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We're trying to make a movie that's interesting

26 films, 2,621 minutes and 20,000+ words later... What do I take away from this little journey through the Collected Works of Jason Statham?  He's no Arnold.  That's intended both as a compliment and a warning:  Statham is a genuinely strong actor and a perfect example of what happens when you don't choose (or aren't offered) solid scripts with good directors.  He started out with much better acting chops than Arnold, and he seems to have no shortage of personality, but he seriously lacks Arnold's excellent business acumen and intelligent handling of his persona.  Arnold was always larger than life before getting into acting and grew leaps and bounds in ability afterward due to the constant challenges he placed upon himself.  If Arnold had gone the Conan the Destroyer-Red Sonja-Raw Deal-Red Heat path and not taken huge chances with The Terminator, Commando, Predator, and Twins, he might very well have had a career that would look awfully similar to Statham's.

Statham has some movies I adore (including several new personal favorites), only a handful of complete turkeys, and a whole lot of forgettable crap inbetween.  So if you pick a Statham movie at random, you're probably not going to come back for a second one, and that in turn makes you very likely to stay away from anything else he does unless he gets massive critical acclaim.  Which he never does.  He does thankfully have his niche and a legion of loyal fans, which I'm happy and unembarrassed to say includes me.  I will always be willing to try out another Statham movie, but I'm not very likely to do so in the theater.  That's a pretty marked contrast to the majority of the other actors I really enjoy where I get all twitchy if I can't arrange to see their new movie opening night.

Statham movies don't seem to quite scratch the same escapism itch that Arnold always did for me.  Outside of perhaps Crank, there really wasn't a single one of his movies that felt like he transported me to some other living, breathing world.  He is often over-the-top badass, but equally often under very generic and bland circumstances.  I have a lot of trouble reconciling the badassery with the largely forgettable movies.  I find Statham a wonderfully compelling and interesting actor, he just really hasn't done anything with it.  That string of groaners in the early 2010s very nearly did me in and made me give up. 

I like to imagine a world where Statham followed up The Transporter and The Italian Job with Crank, The Bank Job, and Safe and then went on to stratospheric heights from there.  Perhaps ultimately Statham best serves as a cautionary tale to the would-be actors out there:  Acting and stardom are a huge crapshoot.  You can have all the talent in the world, pour your heart and soul into your craft, get all the good breaks, but it won't guarantee your next film will be a success.  Statham has at least established himself well enough that he won't be hurting for work anytime soon.  I leave this saga somewhat disheartened at the promise of what could have been, but ever hopeful for The Big One for him that seems perpetually just around the corner.

What the hell's wrong with cereal?

The Expendables 2 (2012)
Wow, I somehow survived all of Statham's movies.  Just have to wait for Parker to come out on video next Tuesday and I'll be current.  Somehow I think that one is going to be a rent rather than a buy given the presence of J Lo.  I have nothing against J Lo, just have never cared for her in a movie and I've seen most of hers.

Anyway, back to Expendables 2.  Again.  Hasn't been all that long since I watched it, but it was still pretty fun.  Kept more of an eye on Statham this time around and he's really been reduced to a minor role here.  Have to give everyone screentime I guess, but at least we do get two kick-ass action sequences out of him and some decent buddy-buddy action with Stalone.  Still not too thrilled with Older Stalone's acting chops and that's somewhat of a scary thought given the low esteem I held for Younger Stalone's acting.  Thankfully there's plenty of other fun to be had here, so you can groan your way through Stalone's lines and get back to the Blowing Up of The Shit.

Statham is just fine, but it's oddly not as memorable a performance for me as the first one was.  Guess we got to spend a little more time with him then and here he doesn't get much to do.  Heck, Gale has more memorable dialogue than Statham, and he's only in the first 1/3rd of the movie.  That's at least made up for by the excellent knife fights and face-punchy/kicky.  Statham's putting in good effort on this one and he and Stalone have a pretty easy rapport, we just didn't get nearly enough of it.

None of that detracts from this still being a damn fun movie.  Sure, I'd like much less CG blood splatter and it would have been great if they could have at least bothered to try to match the CG palette to the live shots, but still enjoyable.  Very fun having Chuck and Arnold and Bruce back again and they at least gave them several satisfying scenes this time around.  I do hope the 3rd one doesn't try to cram too many people in, I like getting to spend time with the characters rather than just toss more and more at me.

Badassery Quotient - 9
I would go a full 10 given the body count, fun weaponry, excellent fight choreography, and fun one-liners, but I have to take off a point for adding in blood spatter after the fact.  Would have been a better movie without it.  So, lesson learned: It's okay to trip R down to PG, but you can't move PG up to R without quite a bit of reshooting.

Rewatchability - Sure
Twice in a few months is enough for me, but I'll certainly be coming back to this again.  It works better on the whole than the first, but does lose a little something in the process.  It's at least not pretending to be anything it's not and it is much more rewatchable than the majority of Statham's movies.

Up next - Er...  Um...  Pass?  I can't let Statham's poor choice of scripts do me in, so I do still want to try taking on another actor.  Just not sure who that should be.  Bruce Willis might prove an interesting choice since he's got some excellent work along with some real stinkers and I've never really bothered to look closely at his skill as an actor.  He was pretty awesome in Loopers, so it could be fun to see if that's a recent development and figure out what the hell happened between Die Hard and Loopers as he had some remarkably uneven performances in there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I didn't know a trachea could break

Safe (2012)
The random action movie gods must be smiling on me, because this here movie was damn fun!  Coming off the blah of the last two and seeing nothing promising about this one, I wasn't in the least bit excited, but from start to finish this is a well-paced, exciting movie with some excellent cinematography.  There is some dark, dark, nasty shit going on in this one, but it's pulled together into a cohesive narrative and just about every moment of this film works really well.

I was almost immediately hooked by Statham losing his wife and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl's story.  Particularly good work by the latter and by far one of the best jobs I've seen of a random child actor being asked to play along with some pretty freaky stuff.  This one couldn't be any different than Killer Elite in terms of who you should be rooting for.  There's Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl against, well, everyone.  I love that Statham was about to finally give up and jump in front of a train when he sees this little girl hiding and that gives him purpose.  That was pretty atypical for this sort of movie and means that he really has very little to lose other than the girl from that point forward.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out the several wonderful surprise moments here.  There were at least four or five times where something made me laugh out loud or say "no way!" because they usually don't play out that way.  Statham's wife is killed off camera and it's no trick, she's just gone.  He has Igor Jijikine (love that guy) held at gunpoint unarmed on the ground very early on in the movie and he just shoots him dead.  Yes!  That's what you're supposed to do, not have some sudden attack of conscience for the guys who just tried (and will try again) to kill you.  It's that moment when you mentally say "he should just shoot him and be done with it" and he actually does!  That sort of thing happened again and again and was so refreshing.  After the first couple of times, the film has pretty well established that it's not going to play true to form and you really don't know what's going to happen next. 

There are some really great bits of cinematography and editing as well.  Overall look and feel were fantastic and something that wouldn't have been out of place in an early Die Hard movie.  Great scene where the girl is being told the plan by her Chinese handlers in a perfectly normal seeming car ride when they're suddenly  and unexpectedly plowed into from the side.  Also loved the scene where Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl are trying to escape the police (and probably one of the other groups of bad guys... hard to keep track) and he backs up quickly and you see a guy in his rear view mirror as he runs him down and then the guy is next seen crashing onto the hood of the car to the pavement.  He then proceeds to immediately speed forward and runs the dude over again and we see him tumbling off the back through the rear view mirror again.  All in what sure looked like one take.

Badassery Quotient - 11
Really over-the-top violence, action, car chases, gunplay... you name it.  All really well executed with a great primal oomph to every scene.  Statham is early on established as badass by what he says and does, not some blah blah exposition.  This ranks right up there with The Transporter as one of my favorite roles of his.

Rewatchability - Yes please!
Soooooo refreshing to run into another personal favorite movie this late into the run.  No idea why I didn't hear more about this when it was released last year as it must have had pretty decent word of mouth.  It's not Oscar-caliber anything, but it's an excellent example of a classic Statham role and for a change, the director, story, cinematography, and supporting actors are all up to snuff.  One of the more well-rounded and enjoyable Statham movies and I would actively drag people to watch this, whether they know who Statham is or not. 

Up next - Expendables 2!  The end is nigh!  Yes, I just watched this a couple of months ago as an Arnold movie, but it'll be fun to watch again and I'll try to keep more of an eye on Statham and why he disappears for a good chunk of the middle of the film.  This will be the last film I have to watch until Parker comes out on home video next Tuesday.  I've officially survived the worst of it!

When will this be over?

Killer Elite (2011)
With Clive Owen and Robert De Niro on board in a period piece allegedly based on a true story, this should have been pretty fun and one of the higher quality Statham movies.  Alas, that is very much not the case.  I do very much enjoy a few of the fight sequences and the rare times that Clive and Statham are on screen together are pretty cool, but this a very meandering movie that could easily have been shortened by a third or more.  Given how much I like romances and the guy winning the girl and living happily ever after, I really could have done without every scene with Statham and Semi-Hot Random Australian Chick.  If I had to guess, those scenes are likely there to give us a hook into Statham's character and a reason to root for him, but there really isn't anyone to root for at all.

Unfortunately Statham's goal is to bump off a whole squad of SAS men, which he inevitably does, but that makes it mighty hard to give a big fist pump every time he does one of them in.  I actually quite enjoy ambiguity and movies where there aren't any clear-cut good or bad guys can be really interesting, but once again this really isn't the sort of movie that works well for him.  Statham's character is laid out well enough and his motivations are pretty clear, it's just really hard to get behind him and care.  He needs to be doing the Harrison Ford thing and hunting down everyone who ever wronged him or looked at him funny, not assassinating a bunch of people he's never met just because some geezer is holding his inept friend hostage. 

Speaking of his inept friend, really really didn't care for De Niro here.  This is smack dab in the middle of De Niro's dark ages where he's taking on really questionable movies.  Trying to play against type?  Keep an aging career going?  Drug debt to repay?  The reasons really don't matter, it's just sad when you see a great actor phoning it in like he does here.  Probably could have had more entertainment from a cardboard cut-out of De Niro than we get from his screen time.

Clive would have probably been more fun to watch if he weren't actively working against Statham and serving the Geezer's Circle Jerk Club, the closest we ever get to actual bad guys.  It was very much like watching a detective show where you're supposed to root against the detective figuring out the case.  Thankfully whenever Statham and Clive are on screen together (or chasing each other), there's excellent energy and some pretty fun action sequences, but it's really too little and much too late.  By that point, I've already mentally moved on to wondering which movie I get to watch next and hoping it will be better than this one.

Badassery Quotient - 7
There's some pretty fun spy shit and plenty of random gunfire, face-punchy, and car-chasey to be had and that's all the better.  Given how sedate the pace of the rest of the movie is, it feels more like the movie has the action version of Tourette's than any sort of well thought out screenplay.

Rewatchability - No Thanks
Yet another throw-away Statham movie.  Surprise, surprise.  It's not horrible, it's not great, it just sort of lies there and silently pleads for you to put it out of it's misery.  No real reason to recommend this to anyone or ever watch it again.  Hmmm...  That seems oddly familiar.  Perhaps in the future, I should just copy & paste in the "Rewatchability" paragraph from one of my other reviews to save time.

Up next - Safe.  Hey!  It's another Statham movie that came out in the theaters that I couldn't muster up enough interest to go see.  Wheee!  No interesting hook that I can see.  It's sad when the best hope you can muster is that the movie will be better than one you hope to never watch again.  Woot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do I look like I carry a pencil?

Blitz (2011)
UK crime dramas continue to fascinate me.  They're basically the same as the US ones, but with constant nuances that remind you you're watching Something Else.  Sometimes it's almost as if you're watching something in another language, depending on how much slang is being tossed around, but my Monty Python and classic Dr Who upbringing seem to help me cope with the accents well enough.  I do find it fun how serious it is when a bad guy has a gun and sorely wish it were that much of an unusual occurrence in the US. 

Unfortunately this particular UK crime drama is effectively an overlong episode of Law & Order with slightly better cinematography.  The plot certainly isn't out of place in your average TV crime drama and the movie strives for a level of seriousness that it just doesn't quite merit.  Full marks for effort though and if I look at it as a made-for-TV movie, it's perfectly fine.    Could have done without some of the miss-steps into melodrama land and they could have kept it much tighter time-wise.  I'm sure the police chief and girl cop were intended to give extra emotional punch when they're killed/threatened, but not really any reason to get that involved in them, so it's just wasted screentime.

Statham is quite fun as the highly-prone-to-violence cop and he plays pretty well off his partner for the most part.  Another excellent opening sequence to establish his badassery by letting him beat the crap out of 3 would-be car jackers.  Very nice fight sequences throughout and some great chase sequences as well.  Lots of fun gunplay and some decent one liners to round things out.  Unfortunately this type of role is just way to ordinary for Statham.  They do a damn fine job setting him up as a badass, it's just a fairly dull and lifeless movie to be a badass in.  Quite the contrast coming fresh off The Mechanic.

The supporting cast is pretty meh for the most part aside from the temp chief/partner.  Quite liked him and he and Statham have some good moments together, but they really blew it on the casting of the maniac.  Need someone vastly more menacing than Scrawny Masturbator Guy if you're going to have someone systematically kill a whole slew of cops.  Sure, he gets to kill plenty of people and it is admittedly nasty when he stomps on the one kids face and breaks his neck on the curb, but he seems almost bored while doing so.  Not sure if he was going for the tightly-controlled emotions thing or what, but during the film's climax when he's tailing Statham's car and checks his blind spot and signals for a dramatic lane change (I kid you not), it's sort of hard to feel terribly threatened by the guy. 

Badassery Quotient - Er...
Not really sure how to call this one.  He kicks plenty of people in the face, there's adequate gunplay, chase scenes aplenty, and oodles of menacing glares...  It's just in the midst of such a dreary and blah movie that it really diminishes the effect.

Rewatchability - Rarely
I could see watching this again for the buddy cop angle and there is some great action to be had, but it's pretty hard to keep your attention focused for the duration.  I wouldn't suggest people actively avoid it, but don't see any point in really recommending it to anyone.  Hmmm...  That seems to be my reaction to most of his films. 

Up next - Killer Elite.  Another excellent 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon connection via Robert DeNiro.  Also has Clive Owen who I usually quite like, but doesn't otherwise look at all promising.  Did this even come out in theaters?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You need companionship

The Mechanic (2011)
I recall this being a reasonably big release and had fully intended to see this one in the theater, but like so many other Statham movies, I managed to get distracted by something shiny and miss it.  Doesn't help matters much that his movies tend to only last 3-4 weeks in wide release, which is a pretty small window if you're not pumped up to see one opening weekend.  All in all a pretty serviceable action thriller albeit a little short on actual plot and writing and some of those other nuances that most films try to include.  Just enough touch of emotion to not be totally flat, but without tipping over into melodrama. 

Very nice to see Statham back in a role where he's uber-competent and it was a blast to kick back and just watch him do this thing.  They set him up very well from the opening and although there's very little depth to this character, I'm starting to prefer that in my favorite Statham roles.  The opening gambit is very reminiscent of The Transporter and great to establish the character without a bunch of exposition or people talking about how great he is.  Particularly liked the teaching angle for Statham and would love to see more of that in a future role.  He plays the part quite well and it gives some good comedy relief and badassery to have him show a noob how it's done.

Nice touch having Sutherland in the movie and bonus points for bumping him off pretty early.  They actually caught me off guard with that and was a good scene and handled very well.  While Sutherland's Angst-Ridden Black Sheep Son wasn't really the most compelling character, there was at least some good underlying tension throughout the movie while you're wondering when he's going to figure out who killed his dad.  The postscript comes a little out of left field, but I have to say I really liked it and sat there with a big silly grin on my face.  Always nice when a movie leaves you on a positive note, so well played on that count anyway.

Badassery Quotient - 10
Pretty much everything you'd ask for other than perhaps missing some good driving sequences.  Great physicality, lots and lots of menacing looks, and that over-arching sense of Statham doing exactly what he does best.  Plenty of awesome gun and knife play and all around fun.  Definitely his best role outside of Frank Martin or Handsome Rob and I really like him in this sort of role better than the tongue-in-cheek Expendables-type roles.

Rewatchability - Sure
I don't need to see it on heavy rotation or anything, but that was a very enjoyable film and one I'd feel very comfortable sharing with any Statham fan.  Granted, I'm probably the only self-declared Statham fan who hadn't already seen this, but still...  Better late than never.  Good stuff.

Up next - Blitz.  Not sure what to make of this.  Appears to be a UK-only release, but hey it's free on Netflix instant play, so I'll at least get my money's worth. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bring it, happy feet

The Expendables (2010)
Hasn't been long at all since I watched this last, but it continues to hold up well and is above all else fun.  This isn't a particularly well-crafted bit of filmmaking and I think Stallone was wise to take a backseat and not direct the second one.  He really doesn't get a great performance out of most of the cast, particularly himself.  Thankfully that's not really that big of a deal as everyone is obviously having fun and it's intended to be entirely tongue-in-cheek (I hope), so on the whole this movie works exactly as it should. 

It was helpful to watch this and focus mostly on Statham's performance as he's certainly one of the best things about this.  Sardonic Badass is a role he has down pat and is turning out to be the role I most enjoy from him.  He comes across really well here and brings some much-needed stability to the rest of the cast.  He steals the show with his down-in-the-dumps scenes about his girlfriend and his confrontation with her other boyfriend is fantastic.  Certainly my favorite role of his in the seven years since Handsome Rob. 

I know I'm prone to hating on him, and much of that is due to Iron Man 2, but I do have to call out Mickey Rourke again.  Goodness gracious but he's miscast here.  His scene recounting the horrors he's seen is actually quite well done and is about the only genuine bit of emoting by anyone in the entire movie, but it comes out of nowhere.  Really doesn't fit the rest of the tone and the movie doesn't earn the right to have a solemn moment like that.  Those sorts of scenes play far better in the sequel.  Every time I see this, Rourke continues to pull me right out of the movie.  I used to like him quite a bit, but man 2010 was not a good year for him:  Iron Man 2, 13, and expendables.  Must have been between agents.

Badassery Quotient - 10
I wouldn't have minded seeing a little more martial arts out of Statham, but that's more than made up for by the excellent gun and knife play throughout.  Great lines, great charisma, and about as much random violence as you reasonably can hope for in a movie.

Rewatchability - Sure
I think 3 times in 6 months is enough watching this for the moment, but it remains an enjoyable romp as long as you don't watch with too critical an eye.  Hopefully for #3 they can keep the gritty realism of this one with the acting and attempt at a story of the 2nd. 

Up next - The Mechanic!  This is probably the most promising of the Statham movies I've not yet seen.  I've enjoyed most of Simon West's other films, so hopefully this will at least be somewhat of a return to form for Statham.  At least he's not starring opposite J-Lo or anything crazy like that.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

He cannot continue

13 (2010)
Pretty much zero (or lower due to Mickey Rourke) expectations coming into this one and while it wasn't completely horrible, it didn't really have much going for it beyond the gimmick.  I've seen the Russian roulette gambling thing a couple of times in TV crime dramas and this was more or less on that level.  Quite a few name name brand actors in this one which at least lent a little bit of drama wondering if they were really going to kill off all the contestants.

I give them props for trying to give a drama angle by letting you get to know several of the characters and other gamblers, but they're so thinly written that you don't really have a chance to get involved in them.  Sure, Pasty Kid is sympathetic as the protagonist in over his head and, while I don't wish harm on him, I'm not particularly invested in whether he lives or not.  Couple that with some fairly lame supporting cast performances (looking at you, Rourke), and they really failed to capitalize on the inherent drama of the game itself. 

This movie at least did let me confirm that Michael Shannon really does suck as an actor.  I've not liked him in anything he's ever been in, but he was appallingly distracting in Premium Rush.  Had I have seen this first, I would have been better prepared for that.  Very disappointed to see he's cast as General Zod in Man of Steel.  Sure hope I'm wrong about him and they haven't squandered a pretty cool role on a complete tool of an actor.

As for Statham, this is yet another one where he at least showed up and was filmed.  That's really about all there is to note about his performance.  He's perfectly serviceable in his role, but brings nothing to it and is pretty much interchangeable with anyone else.  On top of that, his presence was actually a detractor from what I'm sure was intended as a surprise ending.  His brother (or someone, I couldn't really be bothered to keep track) gets killed in the final duel of the game and he's all distraught and runs out of there.  Unfortunately, we still have 20+ minutes to go and, knowing that he has a $3mil debt to a loan shark and thanks to the Celebrity Screentime Axiom, he has to show back up again to try to get Pasty Kid's money.

The Celebrity Screentime Axiom is one of the many things that ruins most 60 minute TV crime dramas:  The bigger the celebrity, the more screentime they're going to have.  So when the poor raped/murdered/tortured/teased girl's dad is Someone and they're seemingly only in the first few minutes of the show, then you know they'll either be or kill the rapist/killer/torturer/bully by the end of the show.  It's not a guarantee that they're the bad guy, but it's a dead lock that they'll be back for more screentime.  So it goes with Statham in this one.  His role seems done, but with him not dead and 30 minutes still to go, we're certain to see him again.  When he shows up to get the money back from Pasty Kid, it's completely expected and anticlimactic.  A big yawn and smack upside the head to the filmmakers.

Badassery Quotient - 2
Not a bit of standard Statham stuff here, but I'll give a couple of points for all the people getting shot in the head during the game and Statham at least handling a gun a couple of times during the film.

Rewatchability - No thanks
Another of those middle-of-the-road movies that I'm not sorry I watched, but see little point in watching again or recommending anyone else try.  It's not horrible, it's not great, it's just sort of there.  Which is the issue with a lot of Statham's movies.  Perhaps that's a big part of why I gave almost all of these a miss when they hit the theaters.  Just not quite enough reason to get butts in the seats.

Up next - The Expendables!  I've watched it pretty recently, but won't mind doing so again with an eye towards Statham himself if I can avoid being distracted by Stallone's neck.