Tag Archives: Jason Statham

“The Fate of the Furious”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

As a car lover and a huge fan girl of the entire franchise, I set the bar almost unfairly high for “The Fate of the Furious.” As started with “Furious 7,” the films have been slowly evolving towards more of an action-packed cyber thriller than a classic parade of drool-worthy dream cars and engine-revving stunt driving.

So what does that mean for you? Well, it means newbies should have no trouble following along with the story or figuring out who’s who, but longtime fans aren’t ignored either. While there aren’t quite as many car-centric scenes as I’d like, the film remains true to its characters in the familial fashion for which the series is known. There are also plenty of fun throwback references to the old films and surprise cameos for die-hards too (you’ll know when they turn up based on the audience cheers and applause).

Initially I was very disappointed in the direction this film takes, fantasizing about how I wanted to grab director F. Gary Gray by the shoulders and shake him while hollering “less tech plot, more cars!” But as the story progressed, I realized something: if you just let go and embrace this movie as more of an action blockbuster than a gearhead race picture, all will be right with the world. If you are expecting heart-stopping stunt driving and racing throughout, you’ll find this installment to be a bit of a letdown. There are nearly as many bullets flying as there is rubber burning.

And that’s where the majority of the criticism I have for this film lies: it NEEDS MORE CARS. If you’re going to make a Fast and Furious movie, you need to have it packed with flashy driving scenes that employ actual stunt drivers. For example: one of the most creative and exciting scenes involves zombie cars that are obviously animated with CGI, which is a far cry from “Furious 7” where the production crew dropped actual vehicles from the cargo bay of a plane — but I’ll let it slide this time because the idea behind it is So. Freaking. COOL!

The car scenes unfortunately feel more like bookends than a fundamental core of the movie. It starts out with a spectacularly boisterous nitrous-fueled drag race through the streets of Havana and ends with a not-long-enough car chase across a frozen lake involving a hijacked Russian nuclear submarine, a million dollar neon orange Lamborghini Murcielago, and heat seeking missiles. Both scenes had me sitting up in my seat and whooping with glee, making me forget all of the plot filler that is stuffed in the middle. There are several truly amusing sequences sprinkled throughout though, from an entertaining as hell (yet oddly bloodless) prison riot to a baby-juggling fistfight on an airplane. What is truly incredible is that while it’s undeniably over the top, none of this feels THAT ridiculous.

The acting is mildly hammy but fun (with Michelle Rodriguez once again delivering the standout performance as Letty). The majority of the dialogue consists of musclehead rivals Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) hurling insults at each other while Tej (Ludacris) and everyone’s favorite alpha-male Roman (Tyrese Gibson) exchange their trademark barbs for comic relief. Dom (Vin Diesel) doesn’t have all that much to do in this installment and for the first half it’s the Statham and Johnson show. Charlize Theron is a welcome addition as cyberterrorist Cipher, and both Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel reprise their roles as government agent Mr. Nobody and hacker Ramsey. One new casting choice that rubbed me the wrong way was the addition of Scott Eastwood as agent Little Nobody who (obviously) is also an expert driver. He is likable enough, but it really, really felt like he was brought in as an attempt to replace Brian (Paul Walker). I just wish the series would address that Brian is gone for good and retire his character in an honest and respectful way. I know it hurts (I was crying like a blubbering baby after Walker’s untimely death), but Brian needs to be killed off.

The plot has a few trademark surprise revelations (which I won’t spoil here), including a twist that creates an opening for a beloved character come back in future installments (fingers crossed)! But don’t stick around after the movie ends, as there’s no post-credit sequence.

What anchors this franchise is the exceptional chemistry from its cast, who have an overwhelming sincerity and loyalty to their onscreen personas as well as to each other in real life. The fact that these guys all truly love each other (with the exception of Johnson and Diesel, who famously had a big fight on set) leaps off the screen. The films are thrilling but they are also all about family, and you can’t help but smile, buckle in, and hang on for the next ride.

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“Mechanic: Resurrection”

LOUISA:  2 STARS MATT: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I am one of Jason Statham‘s squealing fangirls, but even I wasn’t clamoring for a sequel to 2011’s “The Mechanic.” Apparently Hollywood assumed that society was starved out for another, so now we have “Mechanic: Resurrection,” a movie that could’ve been a lot of fun had more thought been put into the story.

Statham returns as killer fix-it man Arthur Bishop, and this time his life is in danger unless he assassinates a list of baddies (including an eccentric arms dealer played by Tommy Lee Jones) for an even bigger baddie (Sam Hazeldine). It’s an elementary, easy to follow plot, but the film actually gets bogged down with too much plot during its first 30 minutes. There’s a silly romantic subplot with Jessica Alba (miscast as the love interest), and most of the early scenes just peter out with mass insignificance. Thankfully, once what we all came to see (translation: the bloody, nonstop action) begins, the film takes off and doesn’t slow down. Too bad it starts far too late in the game.

The action sequences are over the top silly but are also, for the most part, still fun. Some of the better choreographed action bits involve a prison break, a glass-bottomed swimming pool, and a mass shootout on a yacht. There’s a bit too much shaky cam for my tastes, but it’s a surprise that most of the nausea-inducing filmmaking style isn’t used during the fight scenes. The filmmakers obviously made this movie as a cool excuse to travel the world and visit a bunch of gorgeous exotic locales (from Australia to Thailand to Cambodia and more).

“Mechanic: Resurrection” isn’t the type of movie that demands your full attention (it’s best suited as a rental): you could fold laundry, talk on the phone, even take a short nap and still not miss one important piece of the story.

And if you’re looking for a movie where the hunky Statham repeatedly removes his shirt and kicks ass, then you’ve come to the right place.

MATT SAYS:

“Mechanic: Resurrection” is a middling follow-up to 2011’s “The Mechanic“, which itself was a decent but entirely unremarkable movie that is easily confused with many of the other pictures in Jason Statham’s ouevre. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you — I am a big fan of his — but I would be hard-pressed to tell you what “The Mechanic” was about and how it was different from “Safe,” or “Parker,” or “Redemption,” or any of the other Statham vehicles that have been released over the last five or so years.

I say unremarkable, but that’s not entirely fair. There are a couple of inventive action sequences that involve Statham’s retired assassin-with-a-conscience, Arthur Bishop, killing some really bad guys in ways that I’ve never seen before. The highlight was clearly the sequence involving a cantilevered pool hanging over the edge of a high rise building, which they completely spoiled in the film’s trailer. Another scene featuring Bishop attacking his nemesis on a mega-yacht was mostly rote, except for Bishop’s methods for getting onto the moving ship.

Production values were good enough to get by. Statham was fun to watch as always. Jessica Alba was borderline unbelievable as Gina, Statham’s love interest. As a hard-to-kill arms dealer, Tommy Lee Jones did a decent job as an arms dealer who (remarkably for Jones) didn’t spend most of his time yelling every single one of his lines. Production-wise, director Dennis Gansel and cinematographer Daniel Gottschalk managed not to screw things up too badly and, for the most part, didn’t do too much quick-cutting and shaky cam work during the action sequences so I could actually tell what was happening most of the time.

When it comes to straight action films, moviegoers haven’t had much to choose from this summer. Given the slim pickings, it’s hard to be overly critical of this movie. When compared against the abysmal “Jason Bourne,” “Mechanic: Resurrection” looks like “The Godfather”. But then again, almost anything would look like a masterpiece compared to “Jason Bourne.”

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