Zeroes And Ones: What Happens When One Successful Film Goes To Your Head

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Honestly the plot was fairly indecipherable, so I will just say a commentary on covid, the war on terror and the relationship between brothers?

I really enjoyed The King Of New York however everything else that Abel Ferrara has done since has left me cold, this is no exception.

So the big and obvious issue here is after watching it I have no idea what this film is supposed to be about, that is a pretty big red flag. It seems like scenes are just randomly stitched together with a throwaway artsy scene crammed in-between for good measure, all leading to nowhere of course. Trying to follow the narrative of this film will simply leave you with a headache. To me it seems like Ferrara is just trading on the goodwill he has from earlier projects to make films like this which most likely won’t jive with a lot of those watching it.

The best thing about this film is the performance from Ethan Hawke who is really going for it. Hawke plays two brothers; both are quite different so Hawke has to deliver two distinct performances which he does with gusto. Hawke, much like Dafoe in Ferrara’s other recent work is the saving grace.

Overall, this film is a confused mess that clearly thinks of itself as far better than it actually is.

Pros.

Hawke

A few interesting visuals 

Cons.

There is no narrative

It feels pretentious

Pacing issues galore

It is not as insightful as it again thinks it is and is instead dull

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Dangerous: Lacking The Charm Of His Father

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A dangerous young man, played by Scott Eastward, goes on a killing spree after the death of his brother.

I just want to preface this piece by stating nice and clearly that you can like someone as an actor in films without condoning their real life actions, yes I am talking about Mel Gibson, I thought that was a fairly self-explanatory concept but some out there think it makes one a hypocrite- ah well.

I think Scott Eastward is going to struggle to ever be anything even remotely close to what his dad was/is in the action genre. He does not have his dad’s charisma in any way and frankly I just don’t think he is a good actor, he seems ill-suited to any role he is cast in, but hey nepotism so he keeps getting work.

On the whole I thought this was an incredibly cheesy, not in a good way, and generic action film. All of the characters have the depth of a shallow puddle and felt entirely made out of cliches, with Famke Janssen probably getting it the worst: nearly every line that comes out of her mouth is groan worthy here.

 The one redeeming factor of the film is the performance from Mel Gibson who is being wonderfully odd and either intentionally or unintentionally hilarious. The film picks up whenever he comes back on screen.

Overall, this one is destined for the bottom of the bargain bin.

Pros.

Mel Gibson being strange

It is short

Cons.

Eastwood

It is generic

The dialogue is generally terrible

It is dull

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The Uninvited: Stop Hating The Perceived Homewrecker, She’s Not Done Anything

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a young woman, played by Emily Browning, who has recently come out of a mental institution returning home again. However, after she arrives she becomes more and more concerned about her father’s new girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Banks, who she begins to believe is plotting against her.

I will admit the twist with this one got me; I was not expecting it. I enjoyed that the film took the cliched trope of the evil home invader and flipped it on its head. Furthermore, I thought that Banks, rather than Browning was in fact the star of the show, as she gave off a real sense of menace and stole every scene she was in.

I thought Browning was okay, but her performance did nothing to elevate the character or the role, and she just became a very generic protagonist.

Something that I thought was odd about the film was the way in which the supernatural elements early on clashed with the thriller aspects of the rest of the film. It seemed this film could not decide what it wanted to be so tried to go for both, which hurt it as the initial supernatural stuff jars against what comes later, though I suppose could actually be read as an early clue.

Overall, an interesting thriller film with a solid twist that is let down by its choice of leading lady.

Pros.

Banks

The twist

Good tension

Cons.

Browning

The supernatural elements

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Copshop: Balloons Make A Great Shield To Mask Your Identity

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A fixer, Frank Grillo, and a hitman, Gerard Butler, find themselves locked together in a police station, with a rookie police officer, Alexis Louder, trying to figure out what is going on and why everyone wants the fixer dead.

Very much like with Joe Carnahan’s other work this film is very stylised, moreover it benefits from being this way: having a very distinctive visual pleat that draws on grindhouse and exploitation elements whilst keeping things fresh.

Surprisingly following Carnahan’s Boss Level, I find Frank Grillo not in best shape here. I understand the script wants us to view Grillo’s character as an unfeeling cold escape artist, but the film does not do enough to set that up, rather it just makes leaps in character development that just assume the audience is already viewing the character that way, which they most likely aren’t.

It is because of this that Butler really becomes the star of the show and manages to outperform Grillo seizing the lime light and the potential sequel. The only threat to Butler in this regard is Toby Huss, as the secondary hitman sent in to clean up Butler’s characters mistakes. Huss steals the show and has sone of the most memorable lines of dialogue I have heard in a long time, I know the film kills him off but if they do do a sequel he needs to come back in some way. Maybe a twin brother.

The crime thriller elements were engaging if a little generic at times, however they were elevated by the quirky personality of the film and some of the more out there comedic moments that strangely not only land but work.

Overall, the style and the humour elevate what could otherwise be a by the numbers thriller.

Pros.

Huss

Butler

The personality

Cons.

A generic plot

A few issues with character development  

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The Block Island Sound: Aliens Or Just A Deeply Pretentious Writer?

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Something is going wrong in the ocean that is leading to fishermen losing their minds and attacking those around them.

I thought this film had some interesting ideas but that ultimately its slow pace and pretentious ending brought it plummeting back down to Earth. I liked the polysemic reading of what the threat was, it was never entirely clear and for the most part was left up to your interpretation. Even the ending that did to a degree say what was going on we are still never clearly shown anything so the answers still remain mysterious.

The threat and tension of the film come when the characters have black outs and act in strange and often violent ways. I thought that this was a concept that the film played with well and developed to an interesting degree. Though maybe there is a degree of othering happening with regards to how this film is presenting mental health. If read as there are no aliens or whatever is going on and the characters are simply suffering from a mental illness then the way the film presents it becomes quite insulting.

Furthermore, the biggest issue this film suffers with is pacing. As we approached the hour mark I was done with it, I had had my fun and was ready to move on with my evening, I thought the film was about to end, then it kept going. Honestly the pacing in this film has you turning off after about the first hour as it builds and builds and builds to what looks like an ending but no its just a midway point, then then rest of the film is dragged on.

Finally, the ending in which it seems the whole film is some sort of eco message is beyond pretentious but that is low hanging fruit so I won’t go after that.

Overall, a mixed bag but not one that can keep you invested for the runtime.

Pros.

An interesting concept

Good tension

The mystery

Cons.

The ending

The pacing

The mental health connotations

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Mayday: Really Has It Come To This

0.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A hotel worker, Grace Van Pattern, escapes her hellish life and travels to a different realm where she joins up with a band of other woman who live on a submarine during war time.

This film was poorly done, honestly it made me angry. In many ways this film is like Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, as in a character escaping into possible fantasy to deal with trauma, in many ways this film owes Snyder a debt.

What I disliked about this film is its morality. To not put too fine a point on it Van Pattern’s Ana is targeted and abused by men in her hotel work, this then translates to when she joins the band she has no issue killing men indiscriminately. Yes, the group of women that Ana joins up with lure in and kill men for the sake of it, not because they have done anything to them, in most cases, but just to prove that they shouldn’t be messed with. The film does show Ana eventually realise that what these women are doing is wrong, but it spends a long time before that justifying and also hero worshipping them.

Riddle me this dear reader, would a film that saw a group of men randomly killing women that for parts in its early run paints them as righteous in what they were doing even be allowed to be made? No, and for good reason. Yet here it is fine? That doesn’t make sense to me. I understand the need for strong feminist films that have powerful upfront themes and ideas, but I don’t think this is the way.

Honestly the bleakness and then the iffy justification makes this film unwatchable as far as I am concerned.

Overall, despite an interesting concept this film feels morally dubious and harmful.

Pros.

An initially interesting concept

Cons.

The mortality

Justifying the killers behaviour

It is bleak and hard to watch

It feels harmful to the discourse

The ending  

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Intrusion: Are Netflix Even Trying Anymore

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a couple in the aftermath of a home invasion, focusing on how it affected each personally.

My, my we are back to the boring era of Netflix thrillers. This film was so dull and hard to get through. Indeed many times I almost turned it off. I found there to be nothing new about this film during its runtime and everything it said or was trying to say had been said better elsewhere.

The emotional impact it was trying to put across again feel puddle deep. The film seems to think it is a lot deeper and more intelligent in its observations than it actually is, try as it might it can’t seem to come up with anything interesting or fresh to say.

Furthermore, the acting was also very mediocre. Normally I find Logan Marshall-Green can do no wrong, but he was just given nothing to work with here and it really shows in his performance, in truth his character is little more than a cliché. Freida Pinto’s lead is likewise uninspired, her character reads as a discount version of various other better written characters over the years which is a shame as Pinto is a very good performer normally.

Overall, uninspired.

Pros.

It is watchable

It is short

Cons.

It is dull

It is predictable

The performances are weak

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My Son: James McAvoy Doesn’t Need A Script

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A man, James McAvoy, goes on the hunt for answers after his son goes missing. Based on the French film Mon garcon.

My, my this is a bleak film. This is certainly one that you will need to watch something happy after to wash away that sense of despair and hopelessness.

I enjoyed my time with this film, maybe enjoyed is the wrong word. McAvoy was magnificent here truly. Rumour has it that for the shooting of this film McAvoy did not have any lines and instead just responded to the other characters on screen, if this is true it is a testament to McAvoy’s skills as a performer as you truly believe him as this manic, panicked father who would move heaven and earth to see his son home safely.

I found the final reveal, which I won’t spoil here, to be chilling and frightening in a very real way which stayed with me for days after watching it. I think what makes the reveal so impactful is the truth of it and how that kind of thing probably does happen in our world under our noses.

Overall, not a film for everyone the subject matter and the reveal will make this one hard to watch for some but if you do find yourself watching it you will be rewarded with a masterclass in acting from McAvoy.

Pros.

McAvoy

The ending

The reveal

The tension

Cons.

The bleakness

Clare Foy should have been given more to do   

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The Card Counter: Scorsese Was Too Busy Watching Marvel Films To Help This Film Be Good

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

William Tell, Oscar Isaac, is a man fresh out of prison. In a past life he had been a torture specialist in the armed services and now he counts cards and is a fairly successful gambler.

That premise drips with promise, couple that with the fact that Martin Scorsese himself has taken a minute from attacking superhero movies to be involved with this film and you have me intrigued. However, sadly despite all that seems to be in this film’s favour it ends up as a classic case of style over substance.

Oscar Isaac does his best and tries to give the character an air of mystery, but it just doesn’t come together. Fundamentally this film is ruined on a script and plot level early on. You don’t care about the characters or their journey because they don’t really seem to have one. There is some back ground noise about Isaac’s character killing his former torture instructor but that feels as though it has come from nowhere.

Furthermore, the supporting cast also help to hold back any potential this film could have had, with Miles Teller wannabe Tye Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish impeding the film at every turn. Haddish is painfully miscast and then given nothing to do. I don’t buy her in a serious dramatic role, and her romance with Isaac’s lead is painful to watch. Sheridan on the otherhand is a nothingburger and fails to start.

Overall, I find it surprising that a film with this premise, with Scorsese’s involvement and Isaac in the lead could be this much of a disappointment- yet here we are.

Pros.

Isaac is trying

Aesthetically this film is interesting

Cons.

Haddish

Sheridan

It is hollow      

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The Guilty: Jake Gyllenhaal’s Best?

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A police officer, Jake Gyllenhaal, facing criminal charges finds himself in the middle of an abduction case as he is stuck behind a desk, all he can do is talk to the victim over the phone and try and resolve the situation.

This film is brilliant and possibly one of Gyllenhaal’s best. The journey this film takes you on whilst for the most part just showing you a man at a desk taking calls is truly magnificent. The emotions this film is packing will certainly take you through the wringer.

Gyllenhaal is electric in this role his character is volatile and damaged and you see every minute of it. From the inhaler scenes in the toilet, the fits of rage throughout, to the vomiting scene and acceptance again in the toilet. Gyllenhaal is able to really flex his muscles as an actor and give a layered striking performance.

I thought the mystery was also very strong, there is a twist three quarters of the way through, which I won’t spoil, but one that recontextualises the film in the most heart-breaking way so be prepared for that as it will hit you like a ton of bricks.

Overall, a terrific thriller film and one of Netflix’s best.

Pros.

Gyllenhaal

The ending

The twist

The emotions

Cons.

A slow start

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