Film Review – Action

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Back in 2014, Matthew Vaughn and Taron Egerton effectively blew up the action comedy genre with Kingsman: The Secret Service with it’s effective chalk and cheese stylistic approach to the Spy genre. It successfully managed to leave a lasting impression, as Taron Egerton in his first role coupled with Colin Firth (rather brilliantly) made the Spy genre funny without being too cheesy.

It was only a matter of time before the sequel occurred due to the relative success of director Matthew Vaughn’s feature. And it had the early looks of trying to bigger and better than it’s predecessor. With the likes of Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum and Halle Berry joining the cast, the film looked like it was going to go whole hog with the action spy-genre.

However, Kingsman: The Golden Circle does enlist the same sort of formula held that made the film enjoyable, as a benevolent antagonist holds the world at ransom. This time it is in the form of Poppy (Julianne Moore) a woman living in isolation and running the most successful drug cartel in the world. She brings the Kingsman to their knees by managing to bomb every agents in spectacular fashion with the help of Charlie (Edward Holcroft) a failed Kingsman recruit.

This whirlwind opening sets up the film within around half hour, but considering the film is a lengthy 140 minutes, it does begin to falter it’s way through the next hour or so, as it builds to the eventual guns a-blazing climax. But that’s where the action and comedy come into the play to keep the film ticking over as it continues it’s building.

I found Kingsman: The Golden Circle troubling in parts though, mostly due to the throwaway nature that Matthew Vaughn used throughout the film towards it’s narrative. The lewd behaviour that the first instalment finished on does continue into this film, which really wasn’t necessary, but also the bit part references to The Secret Service instalment.

Vaughn managed to keep my attention for the large part of the 140 minutes, with the stylistic approach to the action sequences and incredibly imaginative scenes, including Harry getting his memory back. (however, we’re not going to talk about the whole Harry coming back thing – ridiculous) And of course, the film is layered with the fly tailored suits and the music that screams James Bond in places, but also the American ties for the Statesman scenes.

But, on the other hand, the film does have a terrible moral code that seeps into the film, which really loses my attention. With the echo of potential spoilers, I won’t discuss the narrative’s moral code too much, but believe me it’s horrendous. The narrative does take Merlin (Mark Strong) and Eggsy to America to meet with their sister organisation the Statesman, headed by agents named after alcohol, including Champagne (Jeff Bridges) and Tequila, (Channing Tatum) after enabling the Kingsman doomsday protocol.

The only reasoning behind their inclusion I can think of is the continuation of the chalk-and-cheese characterisations that occurred in the first instalment. Also the continuation of the stereotyped version of Americans from the South, that is incredibly overplayed. Vaughn seems to enjoy the continuation element of the Kingsman, echoing scenes throughout the film that are almost lifts from The Secret Service.

Many of the action sequences seem to echo the moves Eggsy used during his training and the toppling of Valentine’s plan. But probably the most iconic Manners Maketh Man, with Pedro Pascal’s Whiskey taking the role of Harry this time and armed with a whip, instead of a brolly.

This necessarily isn’t a bad thing, but not a good thing either. As it reminds one of the enjoyment taken from the first one as Kingsman: The Golden Circle begins to plod through the misshapen narrative and racing toward the climax that is relatively short-lived and quite frankly felt a bit rushed.

But that being said, I still laughed during the film, with Taron’s Scottish impression of Merlin’s “that was fucking spectacular” remaining hilarious even now. But it wasn’t just the comedy used throughout, as the film still showed that it had a beating heart rather than falling victim to the machine as it has emotions between the characters really shining through crowned by the relationship instilled by Eggsy and Princess Tilde.

With a bit of shaping up, Kingsman: The Golden Circle could’ve been great. Between the morally misshapen narrative and some decent editing the film could’ve proudly bore the heart it instils on it’s sleeve and seemed a much crispy film. But unfortunately the edit that was shown, just did not cut it for me.


American Assassin (2017)

How many times has a film had it’s protagonist suffer a life-altering event, for them to use that in their vengeance or as motivation. It’s seems to be a trademark for films involving spies, as the harrowed past is zeroed in on during their training montage.

And American Assassin does fall victim to this trope that has almost become a staple of these films. However due to the film being adapted from the original novels by Vince Flynn, I have no idea how faithful the film is to the books.

But American Assassin does feel incredibly poignant for the day and age we’re living in within the opening moments as Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is caught in an ambush by terrorists as they murder holiday goers. Amidst the chaos and merciless killings, Mitch’s fiancé is murdered with Mitch unable to save her.

Film, meet the harrowed past.

Rapp (as he goes by Rapp now) uses this as his motivation and begins training in vision to take down the terrorists that are responsible for the countless deaths. The film garnered an 18 rating by the BBFC, which I thought was odd considering IT was given a 15 rating. But the opening 10 minutes, it becomes clear with the merciless killing and the strong themes of terrorism and vengeance throughout.

My main issue with the film stemmed from the opening ten minutes, as although there is a lot to take in, I couldn’t find a connection with the character of Mitch. Part of this, I believe, comes down to the believability of what is actually on-screen. But also because of the montage, as he manages to successfully infiltrate a terrorist cell, but this is whilst taking up MMA and going rogue at firing ranges.

American Assassin does continue this trend as Michael Keaton’s Stan Hurley just rolls through the runtime and his character just isn’t believable at all. Rapp is enrolled in a black ops-training programme, headed by the aforementioned Stan Hurley, who is supposed to be a hard-nosed individual.

The narrative is a bit strange, because it’s built around the antagonist, but is largely washed over for the rushing into the grand finale of action. Strangely, it had depth, but it didn’t feel acted upon with the whole Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) character. Whereas the action scenes are intriguing, they are cut between far too quickly and sometimes feel like a mess as it ends up with Rapp and his assailant end up rolling around on the floor.

There are enjoyable sections to American Assassin but on a large scale it doesn’t work for me. I think the majority of this comes down to the acting that is on show. In glimpses, it’s okay, but for a large part there is no believability. I did mention that the opening is incredibly poignant for the time we’re currently living in, but it suddenly the vengeance is transferred from one character to another and never really delved into to what could’ve been an interesting story.

For the 110 minutes or so, the film’s narrative just bobs along. American Assassin is okay, but for sure there is nothing to be blown away by in the film. I did leave the film feeling like I haven’t enjoyed it, because it just decides to keep the framework for usual spy crime capers.

Passenger 57 (1992)

“Always bet on black”

I think Wesley Snipes is one of my heroes on film appearing in some of the greatest action flicks of the nineties. My favourite appearance of Snipes is probably in Demolition Man as the blonde-haired Simon Phoenix.

Hankering a craving for Wesley Snipes, I decided to check out one of his earlier ventures in Passenger 57, which is home to that memorable “always bet on black” quip. Where Ice Cube has perfected saying anything and can make it menacing, Wesley Snipes has perfected that demeanour about him that just smells of action hero.

Wesley Snipes is John Cutter, the all round bad-ass head of security for Atlantic International Airlines, but has a haunted past. He relives the night of his wife’s death during a convenience store robbery and in the true 90s action flick style, the flashback is coupled with a training montage as he punches a bag at a late hour.

He boards a flight to Los Angeles, after accepting a job offer from his friends, only to find the notorious Charles Rane (Bruce Payne) on-board after he is caught and sent to LA to stand trail. And this is where the fun happens, as he hijacks the plane with the help of his cronies and a youthful Liz Hurley.

And what’s the American badass to do but save the day?

But it isn’t without a few hiccups, as Rane is calculated every step of the way and unrelenting as he mows down passengers without remorse. In true nineties fashion, the antagonist is there to just be an antagonist and only given very loose motives. Rane just seems hell bent on causing havoc and being a general nuisance. In general though it works, because for the runtime of eighty minutes the depth of usual antagonists isn’t needed, as John Cutter is the regular action hero.

The action sequences are of course completely over the top, but also excellent as Cutter jumps over seats Kung Fu kicking his way down the airliner. And what is a nineties classic without an over the top explosion, especially as the stairlift explodes in Michael Bay-esque fashion.

And why is there always a set of golf clubs in the storage units of planes? But of course it’s brilliant whilst John Cutter wields a club to beat the crap out of a bad guy. Of course, John Cutter isn’t a shade on Simon Phoenix, but the Passenger 57 is still incredibly enjoyable.

If you need a film to pass the time and want to see Wesley Snipes kung-fu kicking his way through bad guys then Passenger 57 is your film. It’s of perfect length and it’s nothing like modern-day action films with their intricate narratives, but Passenger 57 doesn’t bother with an intricacies, but rather just action for the sake of action. Just don’t take the film too seriously.

Blast From The Past: Batman Returns (1992)

Before Christopher Nolan all but completed the Batman franchise with his reimagining of the legendary comic book figure, there was the gothic interpretation, with Tim Burton directing and Michael Keaton returning as the Caped Crusader, after the 1989 Batman film.

One of my local cinemas occasionally puts on films of yesteryear, usually cult classics, so I’ve started a new segment called ‘Blast From The Past’ and this is the first one I’ve caught. Batman Returns was probably my favourite Batman from the 90s, but all I remember was that featured the grotesque-looking Penguin villain.

I forgot how dark the opening is, as a young Cobblepot is born but discarded into a river on Christmas. Fast-forward 33 years, and there are rumours floating around, that a Penguin-Man has been sighted and living in the sewers. And in true Tim Burton style, the film is filled with gothic stylisation and shadows aplenty. From the opening scene with costumes the Cobblepots are wearing, to the tall shadowy buildings that surround Gotham City, Burton has really dressed the screen in his gothic imagining.

Michael Keaton continues his role as Batman and protecting Gotham City, but doesn’t actually show up until the Red Triangle Gang cause havoc during the annual turning on the Christmas tree lights, with a speech by Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). Shreck is kidnapped and blackmailed by The Penguin (Danny Devito) in the aftermath, to make sure he becomes an up-standing citizen of Gotham City after being cast away by his unknown parents.

The character of The Penguin reminds of Nolan’s interpretation of The Scarecrow, being a character that has a dark persona hidden by the public figure, especially as he discovers his true name of Oswald Cobblepot. Shreck in an effort to get his dodgy power planet authorised pushes Penguin to run for mayor so they can aid and abet each other. And Danny DeVito and Walken play these characters to perfection, as you become to dislike them as people and their slimy exterior.

And of course Tim Burton continues to dress the screen in dark colours throughout the 2 hours+ running time, otherwise would it even be a Tim Burton film? But some of the sequences included within Batman Returns are incredibly dark and strange. I mentioned the opening scene, where the child is abandoned to the sewers, but also Selina Kyle’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) transformation into Catwoman, but as Hello There transforms into the statement Hell Here is just brilliant imagery by the director.

Selina Kyle does becomes integral in this story, as she discovers why Shreck is a dodgy dealer when it comes to the power plant, but also the transformation becomes one of the key turning points in the struggle for Gotham City. And that’s what happens, you become wrapped up in this film and feels like you’ve been there for hours, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because of the enjoyment from watching a nostalgic classic on the silver screen.

That being said though, Tim Burton loves to drag out an ending doesn’t he? The climax of this film feels like it does drag on for a good half hour, but this is probably down to the three narrative interjections coming to a close. There are some cringey moments within Batman Returns from it’s one-liners, to the tight clothing of the Princess. But these issues do not necessarily overshadow the film as a whole.

The choreographed action sequences are what you would expect from the early nineties, but they are fun, especially the aerial efforts from the Red Triangle Gang. It was fun to see this film up on the big screen after all those years of not watching it, and it’s richness in texture and laced with the gothic imagery that Tim Burton just adores.

The film is not one of the classics, it’s fair to say. It’s just not. It hasn’t aged well at all. But it doesn’t matter, because the enjoyment trumps that completely. It’s two hours of over-egged performances from the star-studded cast, but it’s a fun way to spend two hours. And it’s not just Christian Bale that seems to be a moody Batman, Michael Keaton does his best at this as well.

6.9 Bats out of 11.

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

Spiderman: Homecoming marks the third incarnation of the character after Sony have finally allowed the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have their wicked way. Another sign that the MCU is showing no signs of releasing the stranglehold it currently holds over Hollywood.

I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed Sam Raimi’s imagining of Spiderman with Tobey Maguire at the helm and disliked Andrew Garfield’s take on the character in the rebooted follow-up. After his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland gets his own standalone adventure in the MCU canon.

Tom Holland’s casting does bring about the youth and innocence that the character of Spiderman was missing in the previous films, and the film itself accentuates this as he tries to harness his own powers for good. This is all but helped by his interactions with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Tony Stark. (Robert Downey Jr.) (yes, Ironman makes yet another appearance in a Marvel film, bore)

But rather than having Ironman as the knight in red armour coming to save the day, he takes on the mantle of the father figure mentoring Peter Parker and goads him into becoming the neighbourhood friendly spider. And that is where we find Tom Holland as Spiderman, some time has passed since the events of Civil War took place and he’s vying for the next superhero call-up.

That is until he stumbles onto the weapons being harnessed from Alien technology by The Vulture (Michael Keaton playing a different kind of Birdman) and his cronies. And suddenly (and unsurprisingly) Spiderman: Homecoming falls into the framework that has been used time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fair bit lighter than the previous Marvel ventures due to the youth, innocence and amateur-hour display from Peter Parker, but its does follow the pattern that is expected.

What has also become a staple for the Marvel Universe is the use of comedy throughout the film, and that is channelled through Ned (Jacob Batalon). Again it is a very over-egged choice of comedy, but for some reason with Spiderman: Homecoming it worked. Ned channelled the Michael Pena-esque Luis from Ant-Man, continually talking and just being hilarious with his quips.

Michael Keaton’s hard done-by Vulture character was really intriguing, especially with his backstory and how neatly the narrative fits in together. But he does rip and tears through everything Spiderman throws at him, but ultimately as it’s a Marvel films you know what is going to happen. Jon Watts did do a masterful job of building tension though between Keaton and Holland during that scene.

Spiderman: Homecoming is a largely enjoyable film in the cinema, but afterwards it becomes largely forgettable one as I’m struggling now to find memorable areas within the film. (aside from that tense scene with Keaton) What it boils down to is a coming-of-age story, especially with the Tony Stark father figure shooting him down. But the believability of this coming-of-age story weighs on Tom Holland’s shoulders. Which does work as he does struggle to find the right way to go about stopping the baddies and does mess up but it’s all with the hope of doing the right thing.

Jon Watts’ reimagining of Spiderman for the Marvel Universe was a fun way to spend the best part of two hours plus, but don’t forget the film itself is less than memorable after you’ve left the cinema. That tense scene between Michael Keaton and Tom Holland was absolute genius but is that the only take away I got? Yes, yes it is. If you’re a big fan of the overconsumption that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll probably take more away than I did, but nonetheless, it’s decent enough for a Spiderman film, definitely better than the Andrew Garfield lot.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After the 2011 reboot, War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment and the now-blossoming franchise is showcasing some of the finest effects in modern cinema today with Andy Serkis portraying Caesar throughout.

With Matt Reeves returning from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I was a tiny bit apprehensive, as the two-rebooted Planet of the Apes films, Matt Reeves’ was the weaker. Lo and behold, I am a sucker for a good action flick though.

Reeves’ does briefly catch up the viewer with a few choice sentences, reciting Rise, Dawn and War, whilst the mentioned battle-hardened veterans weave through the forest. Having war in the title of the film, I was anticipating some all-out action sequences, and this is what happens immediately. The soldiers that adorn the ‘monkey killer’ helmet quickly light up an outpost, but not before the apes show up and take out the army.

As Caesar has taken on the leader role on this, his status is still key as he walks amongst the apes and they all part almost as though he is a God. And this is where the advanced technology really comes into it’s own as Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar is brilliant.

And therein lies one of the greatest things about War for the Planet of the Apes is that the apes take the bulk of the emotion on show within this film. And it is tied in with some beautiful shots, as Lake and Blue Eyes reunite after a long time as the waterfall cascades down behind them.

Personally I think this device was really effective by Reeves’ as it shows the evolution of the apes over the humans. The first encounter between the apes and the humans, Caesar extends a compassionate olive branch in the hope of long-lasting peace, whereas Woody Harrelson’s Colonel is a very two-dimensional as a character. I don’t think that’s necessarily Woody Harrelson’s fault, more a device used by Matt Reeves.

It is now common that blockbusters are starting to use comic effect for one or two of their characters in their films and War for the Planet of the Apes fell victim to this trope. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work. That was clear emotion elicited by the new ‘bad ape’, but his comic trope kept pulling me out of the picture.

Aside from that, there was very little that caused grief with this film. I was a massive fan of the compassion and humanity that the Apes showed and that being directly contrasted by the humans inability to elicit any emotion. Their ability to communicate and come together for the sake of their race was key, whilst the humans carried on bringing about destruction of their own race.

Although for saying the title of the film is War for the Planet of the Apes. There isn’t a great deal of war sequences within. There is that glorious opening sequences, and the climatic battle, but other than that it seems as though the war is held within Caesar. Especially as he is tipped over the edge in the battle for apekind against humankind, when the Colonel embarks on some pretty shady business with Caesar’s family.

Considering Matt Reeves’ first attempt at the Apes franchise was less-than-memorable, War for the Planet of the Apes is considerably better. Probably better than the first rebooted film, but this will be significantly helped by the portrayal of the apes thanks to the advancements in technology, but also Andy Serkis’ performance. His ability to channel the humanity and compassion from the start and then seeing the hatred completely take over is astounding.

In a summer of blockbuster films, War for the Planets of the Apes is probably in amongst the top for the enjoyment taken out of the action sequences, but also for having that narrative structure to allow for the film to be carried over it’s two hour plus runtime. Maybe with some fine editing and the removal of the comic relief the film maybe could’ve been the best film out of the summer for me, but alas, this has not happened. For now, it’ll be interesting to see whats next in stall for the Apes franchise.

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Back in 2007, Michael Bay bought the robots in disguise to the silver screen in great fashion. I personally really enjoyed watching these metallic behemoths battle whilst the screen was bathed in a glossy finish during the first instalment. Fast-forward ten years and Michael Bay is still going with this franchise with his latest instalment of Transformers: The Last Knight.

Unfortunately, my enjoyment has been evaporating quickly as the franchise now trundles into into it’s fifth segment. Bay seems to be up to his old tricks with his fast-paced and sometimes unintelligible narrative as Mark Wahlberg returns as Cade Yeager, but after the events of Tranformers: Age of Extinction he is currently in hiding with Bumblebee and other familiar faces, including Grimlock, the dinosaur robot.

I’m unsure where they keep coming up with ideas for the Transformers franchise, but it is seemingly picking points in history and making it Transformer-y. 

This time? The legend of King Arthur. 

After Transformers: Age of Extinction, Transformers are being hunted by TRF, regardless of their factions. Bay does some show incredible feats of world building as he shows cities demolished and the derelict areas where Transformers are hunted. It’s in one of these broken cities that Cade is given a metallic talisman, which carries the same symbol as the Arthurian knights in the glorious action-packed opening segment.

All the while, there is a storyline involving an Earl of Folgan (Anthony Hopkins), keeper of the secret regarding the history of Transformers on Earth, but also a girl that finds herself without a home after her Transformer companion is killed by the TRF. And of course, much like the other four Transformers films, Bay jet sets the film across the world from London to the South Dakotan badlands and Cuba.

At this point, I was unsure which direction Michael Bay wanted the film to go with Anthony Hopkins jabbering away at Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock. Hopkins believably seemed as though he had a screw loose during this segment. This naturally bought about a few laughs, and his leprechaun butler Cogsworth. Bay’s choice of jokes was odd though as some landed but more missed. He often pointed at things throughout the film and directly laughed at them in cringeworthy fashion.

Transformers: The Last Knight doesn’t try and stray away from the framework that has already produced four films, as Michael Bay still includes earth-shatteringly loud action sequences but also having that attractive female for leering purposes. This time Laura Haddock takes on this role as Viviane.

I will say, I was enjoying Transformers: The Last Knight. That was until my popcorn ran out. The film is just mind-numbingly packed to the brim with action with abundance of slow-motion sequences and of course because it’s a bay film, explosions galore. However, as I mentioned, once the popcorn runs out, the patience does too. The film is shy of three hours, and it feels it every step of the way.

And the problems do not stop there. The narrative is just nonsense and often found myself at a loss with where the film was heading, especially with the whole Witwickian lore and how it somehow segwegged into the battle between Unicron and Cybertron. And it’s not often I notice, but the ratio was all over the place as the film jumps from one ratio to the next. Of course with action films, the performances are never going to be the centre of attention, but when the performances are dialled in with cameos thrown in for nostalgic reasons, it becomes a bit of a farce.

That being said, the action sequences were enjoyable as the Transformers punched and shot at each other, but this can’t carry a film for near enough three hours. Transformers: The Last Knight wasn’t certainly the worst film I’ve seen, but it definitely wasn’t the best. It was just complete, sometimes enjoyable, nonsense.