September is always awkward in the cinema calendar, the summer blockbusters are winding down before Oscar contenders warm up for winter. But what we do have this September is action.
September is always awkward in the cinema calendar, the summer blockbusters are winding down before Oscar contenders warm up for winter. But what we do have this September is action. Films with explosions, boys.
Total Recall is a total remake of a classic Schwarzenegger film from 1990. It seems most films released these days are re-makes, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, book/comic adaptations, but this is really scraping the barrel.
There is very little in the new Total Recall that wasn’t done with more trashy panache in the original Arnie film or in any other sci-fi action epic (The Fifth Element is much better). The phone-inside-hand gismo and Obama dollars were quite cool but that can’t carry a whole film.
Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), he is not quite satisfied with his life, there is something missing. I’m not sure what that could be since he’s married to Kate Beckinsale and has a full-time job in an emerging engineering industry. Perhaps it’s because he lives in a place called The Colony (formally Australasia). That doesn’t bode well when the only other inhabitable place on earth is called The United Federation of Britain (UFB) and we all know how Britain treats colonies. It turns out Douglas is actually an awesome warrior rebel spy man but was captured and instead of being killed (as would be logical), he was memory-wiped.
This film should have been a buffed up come-back for Colin Farrell but he fails to give life to his character, and this was a role previously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Douglas doesn’t know who he is but that does not mean he shouldn’t have personality. Kate Beckinsale is hot but grumpy, pouty and scowls throughout. Jessica Biel is forgettable and I think Malcolm in the Middle’s Dad is the baddy (an American yet he is the president of Britain?).
Overall, Total Recall does nothing new and nothing well.
Again, this is a film which is treading well known territory: prohibition era bootleggers but it does try something different. Instead of the city boys of New York, Boston and Chicago with Tommy guns and mols, these Volstead defying criminals are hicks from the country brewing moonshine in the mountains.
Lawless stars Shia LaBeouf, one of my least favourite actors but the director plays on this by casting him as the pathetic youngest brother of the Bondurant boys, the meanest gang in Franklin, Virginia. Shia gets a hefty ass-kicking at one point, so even if you’re not keen on LaBeouf, don’t be put off. Tom Hardy is the oldest of the Bondurant boys, testing his hick American growl and granddad cardigans throughout. Hardy is still phenomenally muscled following The Dark Knight Rises which adds greatly to his intimidating presence in Lawless. For every bluster and shout of LaBeouf, Hardy wins us over with just a shrug.
Fans of Gary Oldman will love his small part as a big time gangster from Chicago, I wish there had been much more of him. Guy Pearce plays the Bondurant boys rival, but an over-excited make-up artist has hidden his eyebrows and given him creepy, oily, black hair with an unnaturally wide centre-parting. Guy Pearce doesn’t need such a heavy-handed ‘I am nasty’ appearance; it’s clichéd and Pearce is good enough without the melodrama.
Lawless is an enjoyable film that manages to avoid predictability but amongst the repertoire of classic prohibition-era, gangster films (Miller’s Crossing, Road to Perdition, The Untouchables, Once Upon a Time in America) Lawless does not belong.
The Bourne Legacy
I was holding my breath for this film. I love the original Bourne trilogy. They were a class of new, superbly acted, clever, gritty, plot-driven films. They have revolutionised the way action scenes are filmed and breathed new life into the classic conspiracy plot. We all love the idea of the American government breaking its own rules, violating human rights and going rogue; probably because it seems likely. So when I saw the trailer for The Bourne Legacy, although it seemed very respectful of the Bourne heritage, I didn’t want Matt Damon’s memory to be tarnished by a sloppy spin-off.
Well, Bourne lovers have no fear, although The Bourne Legacy isn’t quite as awesome as the original trilogy it is still a cut above most films. The plot interweaves with the original in a credible way as should be expected as it is written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the writer of the original trilogy’s screenplays. The formula of the film is very familiar; Jeremy Renner is set up as the next rogue agent to take down the system with the aide of the lovely Rachel Weisz. There is the requisite insane car chase through a busy city centre (Manila in the Philippines), free running on various rooftops, unstoppable assassins and moody over-worked CIA men in computer rooms doing lots of ‘tracking’. Annoyingly, just when the film gets in full swing, it ends. Maybe I was too engrossed to see the signs but The Bourne Legacy doesn’t just politely invite a sequel like The Bourne Identity did, it actually needs one to finish off what it started.
Don’t bother with The Bourne Legacy if you haven’t seen/didn’t like the other Bourne films.