Entries in Thriller (29)

Friday
Feb242017

Split- review

 

“Split” (2017)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring James McAvoy,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Haley Lu Richardson

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated PG13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I held a glimmer of hope for the longest time and then that glimmer had faded.  M. Night Shyamalan was all but dead to me, like “Kevin Smith” dead to me.  After the amazing “The Sixth Sense”, the super underappreciated “Unbreakable”, and the flawed but still very good “Signs”, M. Night’s production value started going south and fast.  To this day, “The Last Airbender” is the only film I’ve given zero stars to, and I consider it the worst the film of all time that I have ever seen.  But then came 2015’s “The Visit”.  It had Shyamalan’s underlying social commentary and was used to be the underlining story propellant while the horror/mystery was the primary, making it a darn fine “B” genre movie.  

 

Shyamalan’s latest, “Split” is also of the “B” movie cloth and totally in a good way.  If you’re gonna do a “B” movie it’s imperative to have some “A” casting and Shyamalan has that with the talented James McAvoy.  Here as a man with 23 separate diagnosed split personalities, McAvoy is utterly tremendous.  Such separation from one personality to the next, it is a different fully realized persona but just under the hood of one actor.  “Split” starts off with one of McAvoy’s personalities abducting three teenagers; Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”), Haley Lu Richardson (“The Young Kieslowski”), and Jessica Sula.  Barricaded and held against their will, the three young ladies are promised that they are going to witness something special, the introduction of The Beast; the higher evolution of man which McAvoy astoundingly delivers.

Instead of split personalities being a disease, Shyamalan asks if it is rather man taking the next evolutionary step.  Not all the psychology mumbo jumbo jargon in the film plays out effectively and scenes with the girls on their own are not always that strong either, but every time McAvoy is on screen he has your full devotion. There is a twist at the end, and it’s not in the way you would think.  The twist has an ongoing development for Shyamalan fans, and as an early Shyamalan fan I am eager to see where this twist plays out.  

That’s two in a row for Shyamalan, I hope the streak continues.  

Jude 1:6

 

Thursday
Dec222016

Nocturnal Animals- review

 

“Nocturnal Animals” (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Former fashion designer turned director Tom Ford delivers a tantalizing yet chillingly bleak picture with his sophomore effort “Nocturnal Animals”.  

I found Tom Ford’s direction to carry the juxtaposition of being both beautifully sleek yet heavy-handed in a way that hammers it’s nails all the way in.  Ford uses three storylines interweaving in “Nocturnal Animals” that carries the feeling of getting lost in a good book where the dialogue jumps off the page, and that page gets closer to your face with each turn.      

After one of the more ‘sparkling’ opening credit sequences I have ever seen, we meet Susan Morrow, played by the absolutely crushing-it Amy Adams, an L.A. socialite art gallery owner who is unhappily married to her bronzed perfect husband played by Armie Hammer.  In the mail is a manuscript from her first husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who has titled it “Nocturnal Animals”, a pet name he would give her for her never sleeping ambitious ways.  

 

The next storyline we encounter is from Edwards’ pages he wrote.  There he tells the story of  a man named Tony, who is also poignantly played by Gyllenhaal, who with his wife and daughter included is terrorized by three hellions in the rural wastelands of West Texas.  After the horrendous interceding, Tony’s wife and daughter’s life are taken and Tony is slowly turned from his pacifist ways to man of vengeance with the helpful nudge of a grizzled justice-wanting detective brilliantly played by Michael Shannon.  

The third and final storyline is the courtship and demise of Susan and Edward's marriage nearly 20 years prior. Susan wanting nothing more than to not turn into her mother, played by Laura Linney with some gigantic Texas hair but crumbling to her fate and knowing that one day she will regret the horrible thing she has done to Edward.

The second storyline is obviously the most gripping and effective thematically, but while not perfectly, they all three mesh together with substance and something to say.  If it were up to me Adams doesn’t get the nod here because she gets it from “Arrival”, but Shannon does, as he turns in another solid quiet scene chewer.  Who needs praise is the Gyllenhaal’s unflashy performance, especially as Tony.  Tony’s grief is one that is suppressed until the pot boils over, and Gyllenhaal does a masterful job of boiling over at just the right time.  

Jeremiah 17:9

 

Monday
Jul112016

The Shallows- review

 

“The Shallows” (2016)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Blake Lively,  Óscar Jaenada,  Angelo Jose

Running Time 86 Minutes, PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Non-Stop”, and “Orphan” director Jaume Collet-Serra knows where his bread is buttered in his latest effort, “The Shallows”.  The socially above adequately looking Blake Lively is shown in circling cut takes stripping down only to get dressed back up in her tight rubber surf suit that one might imply is hot enough to give the sun a tan (not me, I’m married).  Subtly, Collet-Serra eventually puts her through enough peril in this shark infested thriller that bruises her up left and right making her not model ready… but she makes it work.

 

Lively plays Nancy, a recent med-school dropout still mourning the loss of her mother and memorializing her by going to her favorite off the map surf beach in Mexico.  Kudos to “The Shallows” taking a breath with just enough character development before it heads under water for the film’s thriller set piece.  When an MVP of Shark Week sinks its teeth into Nancy’s thigh it’s up to her dropout knowledge to MacGyver the day while she uses the rest of her smarts to outshark the shark.  

This is a pretty decent popcorn flick, on a minimal budget, with minimal plot, but sold with an above average use of well deserved tension.  Lively continues to show me that there is something there waiting to break out, maybe.  It’s not too deep of a film but “The Shallows” is worth visiting.

 

Sunday
Jan242016

The Boy- review

 

“The Boy” (2015)

Directed by William Brent Bell

Starring Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell

Running Time 97 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

An American girl, Gretta Evans (played by “The Walking Dead” vet Lauren Cohan), takes a nanny position in the country outskirts in an England mansion.  When the oddly Heelshire parents played by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle introduce Gretta to their son Braham, Gretta thinks it must be a joke.  Because young Braham is not a real boy but actually just a porcelain doll, but don’t tell his parents that.  Gretta is given a very specific set of rules to follow for her new little glass buddy.  Definitely disturbed by it, Gretta’s sympathy for the weathered old couple and more importantly, her want to get away from a man she has restraining order on back in the states, has her taking the job.

Eventually, little Braham seems to be responsible for things that can’t be explained around the house in a natural way.  If doll Braham is in some way ‘alive’, then it’s probably not for good reasons.  

A horror slash thriller genre ensues…. and one much better than I ever predicted.  

Here’s what works.

Only two weeks ago, “The Forest”, which tried to cash in on the usual horror New Year time slot, had a fellow mega hit tv actress in Natalie Dormer from “Game of Thrones”.  But unlike Dormer who looked overmatched by that film’s silly premise, Lauren Cohan elevates even sillier material, really ridiculous when you think about it, to actual compelling storytelling.  The main two reasons this film is watchable is because of Lauren Cohan’s acting and Stacy Menear’s excellent story and script.  “The Boy” isn’t so much a good movie but more of a really good story that’s acted out pretty darn decently.  Menear, whose unproduced script, “Mixtape, is on the prestigious Black List, really delivers a really excellent slow burn psychological thriller that actually works well in it’s PG-13 confines as it delivers evolving drama that doesn’t just rely on jump scares and cliches (cough.. “The Forest”...cough).

After the rough first half, which I’ll get into later, all the story’s beats somehow actually work out all right. Gretta’s burgeoning relationship with the Heelshire’s grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans) plays sweet and even though it’s obvious that Greta’s obsessive old flame Cole mostly serves the film to give some horror release in the third act, there is real weight that this abusive relationship gives to pushing the story along.

The ‘reveal’, which of course I won’t get into, works well, so well that it makes you want to go back and rewatch it so you can look for all the clues.  The reveal isn’t perfect execution (director’s fault), but in the end, it makes sense, and does what so many horror films don’t accomplish- moving the story forward.  

 

Here’s what doesn’t work.   

“The Boy” is overdirected.  At the helm is William Brent Bell, who definitely didn’t impress with the exorcism retread “The Devil Inside” a few years ago.  Bell has a way of adding too much with his cuts and zooms that don’t add to the story but just play superfluous.  An example would be cutting to taxidermied animal heads mounted on the wall which have absolutely nothing to do with the story.   Bell can’t help but put a steamy shower scene in the film, but he tries to justify it by thinking he can reinvent it as his camera moves way more than it should.  Bell’s film is saved over and over by Menear’s script.  As I said earlier, “The Boy” isn’t so much a good movie (Bell’s fault), but a really good story that’s acted pretty darn decently (Meear and Cohan’s praise).  

The film starts off bad.  The heroine, Greta Evans (played by “The Walking Dead’s vet Lauren Cohan), briefly wakes up from her nap and notices that her perv old man driver is checking her out through the rear view mirror.  This scene has no purpose, this perv driver never reenters the story, and if it was supposed to convey some foundation of uneasiness, then it failed.  From there, “The Boy” really takes a while to get it’s porcelain feet off the ground, in retrospect, it works but maybe not as efficiently as would be with a surer director in charge.  

Plot holes.  How did Gretta hear about this nanny position?  Craigslist?  I don’t think so.  The Heelshires make a point of it that they have to give the ok as she’s being interviewed on the spot when Gretta first arrives, pointing out that they that they’ve interviewed many before her.  So what would of happened if she didn’t get it?  Would she of just hopped back on a plane and quickly tried to find a new way to avoid Cole?  Just saying  
I was quite surprised I liked this film.  For the third time, “The Boy” is not a good film but I still think it’s worth a watch.    

I still think "this" is worth a watch.    

Proverbs 22:6

 

Tuesday
Aug252015

The Gift- review

 

“The Gift” (2015)

Directed by Joel Edgerton

Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton

Running Time 108 Minutes

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Psychological Thrillers” are often anything but; setting up the usual lovely couple who have their demons to work through, but a real villain pops up and after a few twists and turns to a third act of nothing more than cheap thrills to leave you feeling, well, cheap.  Well, Joel Edgerton says no to the easy way out by taking his script and making a very fine directorial debut by laying out a focused groundwork of creepiness and setting his film apart from the cliche by having a keen eye for the subtle so when the twist and turns do come, they absolutely do pay off.  “The Gift is a very good “psychological thriller.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are the well to do couple who are trying to make a fresh start just moving from Chicago to L.A.  The two are trying to move past a miscarriage and where Simon is more focused on ever moving up the corporate ladder, Robyn is a bit a more of a haunted soul doing her best to move on.  Things take motion when the two, while out shopping, run into a old schoolyard classmate of Simon’s named Gordo (Joel Edgerton).  Simon, having a hard time to placing him at first later shares to Robyn that everyone used to call him “Gordo the Weirdo”.  

 

Gordo tries to make friends with the two, popping in unannounced to their house with gifts of wine, help with the cable, and even filling up their empty pond with koi.  Eventually, the one-sided friendship is cut off by the untrusting Simon, but as drama would have it, that isn’t the last of Gordo, and it’s not the last of some very excellent slow peeling storytelling.    

Bateman does a wonderful job by using his everyman swarm turning it on it’s end making Simon a cocky unscrupulous gent with a past of his he’s tried long to forget.  Hall is even better as the broken Robyn who knows that Simon really does love her but sees a part of herself in the socially awkward Gordo.  And Edgerton, one of the better actors out there today really keeps us on our feet as Gordo. What are his motivations, and what will he do next?  The real star though is Edgerton for his ever unraveling screenplay work and that keen eye behind the camera.  Edgerton keeps the tension building throughout, and that’s not an easy thing to do, in result “The Gift” is a very scary, very thought provoking film.  And that is a gift us film goers don’t receive often.

And "this" is a gift us film goers don’t receive often.  

2 Corinthians 9:7

 

Wednesday
Feb042015

Black Sea- review

 

“Black Sea” (2015)

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn

Running Time 114 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

We know Jude Law’s character by his last name only, Robinson.  The film starts with a young pike giving him the pink slip from being a submarine pilot, the only job he’s ever really known, the same job that had his wife leave him with their child.  Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) puts a heavy focus on casualties of global economic shifting, leaving Robinson and his likes with nowhere to go but down.  A fellow friend at the pub lets Robinson in on a gig that with his skill set could set him free from debt and money troubles for the rest of his life.  

 

Backed by a mysterious investor, Robinson along with a half British and half Russian crew get a scrap heap submarine and illegally quest off the coast of Georgia for a sunken sub from World War 2 that Stalin filled with gold to get to Hitler as to bribe off an invasion from the Third Reich. Desperate men get feisty and dangerous when after Robinson lets it be known that every man earns equal share they realize their take will only increase with each perished member.  

I wish the story and men were as deep as their rusty sub but along with a commanding performance from Jude Law who sports an excellent brogue accent and Macdonald’s claustrophobic and doomed direction “Black Sea” is gold compared to some of the other 2015 January new release out there.

1 Timothy 6:9

 

Wednesday
Feb042015

The Boy Next Door- review

 

“The Boy Next Door” (2015)

Directed by Rob Cohen

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth

Running Time 91 Minutes, Rated R.

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is one of those films that would have been better if it would have been much worse.  Instead Jennifer Lopez’s latest film “The Boy Next Door” is nothing more than a lame duck Lifetime movie-of-the-week with a slightly better budget.  Maybe if director Rob Cohen, whose recent track record of “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “Alex Cross”, and now this film (which would make for a movie marathon from hell) would have embraced its low budget and upped its trashiness, then we could of had a decent guilty pleasure. Instead its an hour and a half of Jennifer Lopez reading her lines with her lips and apologizing to the audience with her eyes.

Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a high school literature teacher living with her fellow high school son Kevin (Ian Nelson) but not her husband (played by John Corbett) because he got the boot after he was caught cheating with his secretary.  The film gets its title when “Step Up” series veteran 27 year-old Ryan Guzman plays 19 year-old Noah who just moved in next door to take care of his elderly uncle and get a fresh start from a clouded past.  Noah makes friends with Kevin quickly and eventually more than friends with Claire.

  

On the night Claire and Noah get biblical, Claire has just gotten back from her first date in over 20 years, a disastrous date that has her drinking vino by herself until Noah invites her over.  Noah makes his move, she resists ever so slightly, and then there is a PG-13 sex scene in a rated R. thriller.  Claire makes it known immediately that this was just a huge mistake lead by her vulnerabilities and his muscled latin body.  The biggest flaw of the film, besides the casting of the annoying Kristin Chenoweth (yes, I know she’s talented but not here), is that Noah goes from being a good kid- who somehow gives Claire a 1st edition of Homer’s “Iliad” (stupidly remarkable since it was written around 750 B.C.), to going complete homicidal psychopath faster than you can say “Sleeping with the Enemy”/ ”Double Jeopardy”/ “Enough”/ (another movie marathon from hell). All honest character is gone and it doesn’t become that trashy kind of fun until the wack job ending that has some pretty spectacular low budget make-up gore work.  

“The Boy Next Door” is that neighbor you should go out of your way to ignore.

“This” is that neighbor you should go out of your way to ignore.    

Galatians 5:16 

Monday
Oct132014

Gone Girl- review

 

“Gone Girl” (2014)

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris

Running Time 149 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Finally, a David Fincher love story.

Pulpy, tantalizing, and electrically morose, David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is a dynamite viewing experience.  Right from the beginning, you feel the crispness and energy in every aspect of the film.  Not only Fincher’s direction, but Gillian Flynn’s sharp screenplay (adapted from her own novel), Jeff Cronenweth’s beautiful cinematography, Kirk Baxter’s seamless editing, and Oscar winner Trent Reznor accompanied by Atticus Ross’ usual dazzling synth strong score.  Not too mention the award caliber acting that Fincher has a way meticulously pulling out.

A chilling expose on modern marriage with the nastiest of insights and/or a deliciously trashy murder mystery whodunit, I say all the above as I was thoroughly transfixed.  Not having read the best selling book, I loved that I was kept on my toes not knowing and when the twists kept a coming, I kept a loving.  As for the twist, it’s hard to get into too much of the story without spoiling, so I’ll summarize short and sweetly.  Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home on his 5 year wedding anniversary to a roughed up living room and learning that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared.  A no nonsense detective played by Kim Dickens takes the case and in a scathingly spot way, the story becomes a national sensation that the 24 hour news networks sink their disgusting teeth into.  

 

Delving into the powerful evil force of marital resentment a chess match of deadly proportions is fought between Mr and Mrs. Dunne.  You might think the third act goes off the rails a bit, but I loved the mouth gaping escalation.  

Fincher cast Affleck because of his experience of his very public highs and lows, and it pays off wonderfully.  At times shallow, at times very flawed Affleck is still able to have you not write him off.  And now I pat myself on the back for knowing that Rosamund Pike would one day get that role that made her a star, and this is that role. Pike is on fire as the complicated other half who absolutely takes advantage of a dynamic role that is not often given to the female thespians.  Pike will no doubt earn a best actress Oscar nomination and I won’t be surprised if Affleck gets one himself.  My gut longshot Oscar pick of the year goes to long time stage actress Connie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margot whose character shows the strain of the whole national ordeal.  There will be no nod for this actor, but consider me guffawed by how surprisingly impressed I was by none other than Tyler Perry’s work as Nick’s slick high powered lawyer- I hope this will encourage more directors to cast his talents elsewhere.    

Fincher is at the top of his game and the genre as “Gone Girl” is a must watch.

 

Fincher is at the top of “this” game...

Amos 3:3

Tuesday
Sep302014

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones- review

 

“A Walk Amongst the Tombstones” (2014)

Directed by Scott Frank

Starring Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour

Running Time 113 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


What if I told you that Liam Neeson threatens someone over the phone, is that something you might be interested in?  Nobody makes you pee your pants from the other end of a call quite like Neeson, but if you think this is same character from his “Taken” series you’d be seriously mis-taken.  The 62 year-old action star takes his knocks and draws some blood but much like the superb “The Grey”, Neeson is able to overpower his latest film, “A Walk Amongst the Tombstones” negatives with his weathered insightful acting chops that help create a surprisingly interesting detective thriller.    

Neeson plays former detective and now private investigator Matthew Scudder, a character based off of Lawrence Block’s ongoing novel series that’s totals 18 now. Taking place in NYC of 1999, a setting I rather enjoyed, Scudder is persuaded to take up a case that involves drug traffickers loved ones being snatched and perversely killed by a team of two sick nutjobs played by David Harbour and Adam David Thompson.  Intermediately the film flashes back 8 years prior showing the case that took him off the force and giving up alcohol altogether.

    

Successful writer Scott Frank (“Get Shorty”, “Out of Sight”, “Minority Report”) takes the directors chair for only the second time and does a good job of not waivering from his dark approach.  This is a film that is not for the young, a rightfully grimy, even sadistic telling as Scudder follows the trail of sociopath serial killers.  There were moments that took me aback, especially when the villains take sight of a 12 year-old girl, but this tone pays off putting us in the perils that Scudder goes through.  Neeson plays this character with a no nonsense vigor that cuts through the silliness other films of this cloke might take direction to.  

“A Walk Amongst the Tombstones” is a film where you can see most of the events coming, but that didn’t stop Neeson and Frank kept my attention tout throughout.

Neeson and Frank kept my “this” tout throughout.

2 Kings 23:17

 

Sunday
Sep212014

The Drop- review

 

“The Drop” (2014)

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam

Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

Running Time 106 Minutes, Rated R,

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” scribe Dennis Lehane trades up his usual mean streets of the Boston underground crime scene locale for the mean streets of the N.Y.C. underground crime scene locale, Brooklyn to be more precise.  Adapted from Lehane’s 2009 short story “Animal Rescue”, “The Drop” is a “slow burn” crime thriller peppered with odd touches that grew on me the more time I gave it thought.

“Bullhead” director Michaël R. Roskam makes his American film debut with a mob film that goes against the grain by focusing not on the higher ups in the criminal underbelly but ‘has beens’ and ‘never was’.  Hardy is Bob Sanginowski, a bartender at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini’s last role) bar, that is only his bar in name, as Marv was muscled out by the Chechen mob.  The bar serves as a ‘drop bar’, which on any given night can be assigned to hold onto the mob’s money.

 

Tom Hardy proves once again that for my dollar he’s one of the top five actors I’d pay to see.  Hardy is more than impressive presenting many of this film’s oddities with his acting choices.  There’s almost a slowness to Bob, that combines a heightened sensitivity and threat of danger that few could pull off.  The loner Bob meets Noomi Rapace’s Nadia when he finds a young pitbull thrown away into the unknowing Nadia’s garbage can.  The two form a connection as they take care of the dog, but ominously this act of kindness brings Naomi’s ex-boyfriend Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts) across his path.  Schoenaerts is increasingly terrifying as a thug who spent time at a mental hospital and repeatedly brags about a local guy he claims to have murdered.  

When the bar is held up and $5,000 of the mob’s money is stolen, a chain of events take us to an end that earns its finale with well built tension.  The real joy is not the plot moving the story but well acted characters with dark atmosphere to spare.  That’s not to say Roskam couldn’t have used another edit or two, and Bob and Nadia’s burgeoning relationship isn’t as effective which might have been solved with a couple more scenes between the two.   “The Drop” is a sneaky film that when it settles,  it will get the drop on you.

a sneaky film that when it settles, it will get the “this” on you.  

Psalm 36:3 

 

Wednesday
May212014

Blue Ruin- review

 

“Blue Ruin” (2014)

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

Starring Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves

Running Time 90 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Revenge is a dish best served if you have some sort of clue to what you’re doing.

Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (“Murder Party”), “Blue Ruin” is the atmospheric revenge thriller that actually thrills by focusing the ineptitude of the untrained killer.   That inept killer is Dwight, a magnanimous performance from Macon Blair, of a scraggly haired vagrant who uses his beat up blue Pontiac car (from which the film’s title comes from) as a roof over his head at night.  With few words, Blair hauntingly brings home the point that Dwight has been long removed from the company of others simply just existing.

When Dwight is contacted by the local police and is told that the man convicted for his parents death has just released from prison, he gets the Pontiac running and heads down to his roots in Virginia to deliver his long dreamed up revenge.  Along the way, he scours for a gun and when he does find one, Saulnier’s dark humor seeps through as Dwight can’t unlock the stolen gun and ends up breaking it in the process. Dwight’s misgivings might be momentarily funny but always painfully truthful, highlighting that acts of violence on the whim are not as easy as we’ve seen onscreen a thousand times over.  

 

When Dwight does get his vengeance, and clumsily so, he makes his way to his estranged sister realizing during his confession to her of what he’s just done that he has now put her and her children in deadly danger.  The film examines the pointlessness of revenge and how the escalation of the act leaves everyone blind.  It’s too late for Dwight to debate on whether what he did was right or wrong, he must simply keep up with a family who likes to keep their business outside of the law and “in house”.  

Ridiculously tense while being jarring in it’s abrupt extreme violence, “Blue Ruin” grabs hold tight and doesn’t let go.  

“This” grabs hold tight and doesn’t let go.  

Romans 12:19

 

Monday
Nov042013

The Counselor- review

 

“The Counselor” (2013)

Directed by Ridley Scott 

Starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

An all timer with director Ridley Scott- check.  An all-star cast containing Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, and Javier Bardem’s crazy hair- check.  A screenplay from the acclaimed writer Cormac McCarthy who wrote one of my favorite films ever, “No Country for Old Men”- check.  A film that I can’t quantify as something of an arthouse genius that will be recognized much down the line akin to Scott’s “Bladerunner” or a dialogue gratuitous and suspense free criminally wasted opportunity- check.

“The Counselor” immerses itself deeply in the drug underworld with the rich and very, very rich.  Fassbender plays a character known only as The Counselor, an attorney who decides to take a one time shot at a huge payday drug trafficking with the help of a shady cheetah owner named Reiner (Javier Bardem).  Rounding out the muddy characters are Reiner’s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who gets the award for craziest sex scene of the year and a career middleman played by the wonderful character actor Brad Pitt.  Only Penelope Cruz plays the innocent who becomes tangled by association when she gets engaged to Fassbender’s Counselor.  

I enjoyed the lengthy speeches that waxed intellectually about the consequences of the morally flexible.  These indulgences don’t prove for a thrilling thriller, but I wasn’t dulled in McCarthy’s literal world.  I’ll revisit The Counselor in a few years, maybe I’ll have a better grasp on it then.

I’ll revisit The Counselor in a few years, maybe I’ll have a better grasp on “this” then.

Galatians 6:7

 

Monday
Jun242013

The Purge- review

 

The Purge (2013)

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Running Time 85 Minutes, Rated R.

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

The year is 2022,  America’s unemployment is down to 1%, and crime is also nearly non-existent.  How is this all accomplished just 9 years from todays date you ask?  Well, on one day a year for 12 hours everyone is allowed to commit any crime they want, including murder.  The Purge, as it’s called, is believed to be mankind’s release of all aggression and hate that builds up.

This “what if” premise might be one of the most far fetched and hardest to believe put on screen.  We’re supposed to partake in a reality where you could murder your mother if you wanted to because she never got you the right pair of sneakers when you were a kid and then 12 hours later your father would just have to grin and bear it.  I constantly found myself nitpicking the “in a world where...” mentality and just plain scoffing at writer/director James DeMonaco’s naivety to have to buy in.  

We watch The Purge unfold through the Sandin household.  The always resurgent Ethan Hawke plays father and husband James Sandin, a sucessful home security salesman who is just trying to get through the night with his wife Mary (Game of Throne’s Lena Headey), eldest daughter Zoe (Adelaide Kane) and younger son Charlie (Max Burkholder).  When young Charlie takes pity and gives a homeless man sanctity in their house after an attack from a group of the young privileged upper crust that’s lead by a decently creepy Rhys Wakefield, the Sandin family are threatened to release him or they too will be subject to attack.

James DeMonaco’s screenplay is so very much against the right; highlighting the moral crimes of the 1% by using this night to target the supposed overpopulated poverty stricken.  While DeMonaco aims for high falootin social commentary, The Purge plays out as nothing more than a home invasion horror flick, and a mediocre one at that.

and a mediocre “this” at that.    

Genesis 9:6

 

Monday
Mar252013

Olympus Has Fallen- review

 

“Olympus Has Fallen” (2013)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua 

Starring  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

Running Time 120 Minutes, Rated R

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

The glee I had during and after watching Olympus Has Fallen is fiercely palpable, and now all I want to do is sing it’s praises.   Olympus is a ridiculously entertaining film of the highest guilty pleasure order.  Training Day director Antoine Fuqua celebrates the ‘one man against all odds’ that the 80’s and 90’s R rated action flicks had in spades. Original-smarignal- Olympus Has Fallen is “Die Hard” in the White House, and it felt so good.  It’s like Under Siege and Air Force One had a baby, and that baby grew up on a steady diet of bullet laced dynamite and snarky catch phrases- yeah, it’s just like that.

Olympus opens with lead presidential bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) watching over the Commander in Chief Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), the first lady (Ashley Judd), and their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) on a family vacation at Camp David.  Tragedy strikes after a freak car accident on the icy roads leaves President Asher a widow and Connor without a mother.  Eighteen month’s later, Banning has been demoted to security of the Treasury Department when tragedy strikes again; this time in a terrorist attack.  

Led by a steely clean cut anti-american by the name of Chang (played by Rick Yune who basically did the same in Die Another Day) and a band of North Korean Rebels, American soil is not only attacked, but the White House is infiltrated and taken over.  Banning, in near proximity, is the only person to survive the ambush and sneak into the newly enemy occupied territory.  With radio contact to the U.S. war room that includes Morgan Freeman playing Speaker of the House Alan Trumbull and now acting president, Banning must save Pres. Asher and the other surviving detainees including fantastically over dramatic Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense and stop Chang and foreign baddies the only way he knows how- with pain.

Going into the movie, I wondered why the filmmakers went with a R rating instead of the all more public going inclusive and generally better money making PG-13.  It’s because they wanted to give me my man card back.  I not only got it back, but they gave me a spare for when I lose it watching Stephenie Meyer’s The Host next week. 

You can tell Fuqua has a love for the high adrenaline genre, getting just about every detail right which includes the ridiculous ones.  A man looking for redemption and getting it with the fate of national security on the line?!?!- yes please.  Saturated in good ol’ fashion patriotism (a slow motion shot of a falling bullet ridden American flag against the blood orange dusk sky is over the top marvelous).  Light on plot and highly implausible at that, Fuqua keeps his attention on the action, making for a very swift, incredibly tense, and surprisingly exciting thriller.  Oh, and did I mention that the climax’s outcome rests on a countdown timer?!?!- yes please.

Fuqua doesn’t let this become just an Expendables wannabe.  As implausible as it gets, the terrorist attack can’t help but elicit a 9/11 comparison, especially as the Washington Monument destruction falls on American civilians. The intensity of Fuqua’s direction never allows these scenes to turn into exploitation but gives us the “enough time has passed” courage to enjoy such popcorn fodder. Popcorn fodder to be repeated later this summer when Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx in White House Down.

I wish Olympus Has Fallen would have gotten the same budget as White House Down.  The CGI is definitely spotty, just being a notch above some video games, but what CGI lacked in effects Gerard Butler’s muscles didn’t. 

I was not a Gerard Butler fan, and then I saw him in this.  Taking a break from his droll romantic comedies, Butler kicks butt and takes names and then uses those names to call attention to those whom he plans to put a knife in their head.  Perfectly intense but at the same never letting a good line pass him by- “Lets play a game of F*#k off.  You go first”,  Butler’s Banning awesomely unleashes on the lead villain.   

I just want to follow Butler’s Mike Banning as he keeps getting into sticky situations and saves other things that have fallen, and then in 20 years after the series has totalled 6, I’ll lose interest when Mike is forced to chase after his son, a character who’s oddly just being introduced now after all those years, and Mike gets sadly turned into someone he’s not by a silly director with a silly script. Not that that would ever happen, right?

Not that “this” would ever happen, right?  

Psalms 122:7

 

Wednesday
Mar132013

Dead Man Down- review

“Dead Man Down” (2013)
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace
Running Time 110 Minutes, Rated R.
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Exciting trailer.  Dull film.  

I admit it, I was taken by the trailer.  Noir super cool stylish, admired actors brooding with supposed intense performances (Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, and Terrence Howard), R rated revenge action, and a reteaming of the original Girl and the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace and director Niels Arden Oplev.  

What’s delivered is quite the opposite.  Farrell and Rapace do their darndest to build chemistry but get engulfed by a ridiculous screenplay. With semi-passable but too infrequent action and most of the trailer shots not coming until the ending, Oplev does nothing more than add another weak R. rated entry to a thus far very disappointing early 2013.

Dead Man Down pulls us in with two very different intertwining storylines.  Story (A) has Colin Farrell playing the revenge seeking Victor, a mid-level henchmen to a higher up N.Y.C. boss played by Terrence Howard.  Howard and his cronies somehow don’t know Victor’s past identity and the travesties they’ve caused him.  Victor’s plan is so overly convoluted and pointlessly complicated that even F. Murray Abraham, who plays a family member in on the plan, asks what’s taking him so long.  

Story (B) has Victor’s neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) witness Victor in the act of murder and, subsequently, blackmail him to put a hit on the jerk who left her face heavily scarred from a drunk driving car accident.  Any chance of compelling romance is lost as the script bounces from Beatrice’s vengeance hysterics one moment and changes on a dime to her having to fight her low self-esteem towards the cutie Victor.  

When the unraveling of the mystery isn’t making you ask why, it’s B-movie-confusing-New York-underbelly scene is making you ask what.  I swear in one scene they put a handful of marbles in the mouth of B movie veteran Armand Assante that had him explaining something about the rules of being a gangster, or maybe he was going over his recipe for his prized family spinach dip, I have no idea.

In the end, I don’t know what the talented Dane Oplev was going for, but it sure didn’t equate to the trailer.

“this” sure didn’t equate to the trailer.

Romans 12:19 

Thursday
Feb072013

Side Effects- review

“Side Effects” (2013)
Directed by  Steven Soderbergh
Starring Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law
Running Time 106 Minutes, Rated R.
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

“Side Effects” is the first must-see film of 2013.  Watch it, take two pills, and then read this in the morning.

Steven Soderbergh has been killing it of late.  He rocked 2012 with Magic Mike and Haywire but out does both of those by nailing a top-notch psychological thriller that knocked me off my seat with “Side Effects”.  Accompanied by a chess master script from Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!), Soderbergh gives us one of those “this crazy crap could actually happen” tales that expertly sets you up and knocks you down over, and over again.  

Soderbergh’s visuals and shot selections float like butterflies and his twists and turns sting like a bees.  The famed director duped this viewer; framing figures in the shadows while leading me one way and gleefully bringing me somewhere Hitchcockian else.  In what could of played out sillier than a very special episode of Scrubs meets Law & Order SVU, Soderbergh brings a playfully devilish war, skimping on morals that scared the hell out of me and made me love it.

I’m not going to go too much into the plot as to keep this treasure spoil free.  Side Effects tackles many topics and isn’t afraid to do it in Soderbergh’s 3 outta 10 minority voice.  From a look at our pill popping culture, to what are the consequences and responsibilities of the doctors who prescribe them, to revenge, financial needs, paranoia, and much more.  All of this done to the fine tuned mastery of Soderbergh.

You can take my word for it and enjoy, or you can read on and I’ll give you a little to nosh on.  

“Side Effects” starts out with 20-something Emily (Rooney Mara) welcoming her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) from prison who did time for insider trading.  Even with her husband back and life getting on track, she falls prey to extreme anxiety and serious depression resulting in a suicide attempt.  Assigned to the care of psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Jude Law), Emily is allowed to not be put in a mental hospital if she’ll visit him regularly. Dr. Banks put her on a new drug, Ablixa, which results in her feeling better, being able to function properly, and even gives her a higher sex drive, even if she does develop a nasty sleepwalking habit as a side effect.  

From there a very unfortunate incident happens resulting in the question being asked: “If the patient is responsible for their actions when put on strong pharmaceutical drugs?” ---basically putting the system on trial.  

From there, all hell breaks loose and its a wonderful ride worth taking.
 
Besides Rooney Mara who uses her talents to, once again, show a cold and distant character, Soderbergh has his usuals in his leads.  He’s right to have a mancrush on Channing Tatum, and Tatum is beyond blessed getting to have a director that is stretching him dramatically leaps and bounds.  You might not think it from the trailers, but this is Jude Law’s film and his semi-sleazy exterior does all the more to have us every which way but loose.  

But it was Catherine Zeta-Jones who made me do a double take.  As Emily’s old psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert, Zeta-Jones looks like one of Robert Palmer’s addicted to love femmes with a bachelors in psychology.  It took about five seconds, but “Side Effects” became by far her most intriguing and best work.   

Steven Soderbergh says “Side Effects” will be his last directed film for quite some time to which I say boo, but if it is, then job well done sir.

Steven Soderbergh says “this” will be his last directed film for quite some time to which I say boo, but if it is, then job well done sir.

Proverbs 17:22

Saturday
Jan192013

Broken City- review

“Broken City” (2013)
Directed by Allen Hughes
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Running Time 109 Minutes, Rated R.
2.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

What “Broken City” does have is a solid cast.  Advertised as a corruption thriller that pits Mark Wahlberg versus Russell Crowe, the two are strong, with Crowe especially redeeming himself with scene chewing gusto after his much maligned performance in “Les Miserables.”  In addition, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, and Kyle Chandler earn their paycheck.  

What this cast isn’t supported with is a tight script from newcomer screenwriter Brian Tucker.  “Broken City” suffers from trying to be clever for it’s own good- squeezing in every mystery noir running through Tucker’s brain, while simultaneously not being intelligent enough to put its characters in believable situations.  This is a film that wants you guessing from moment one, but is so predictable that you have it figured out by moment two.    

The film opens with Wahlberg as NYC officer Billy Daggert standing over a young black man with a bullet between the eyes.  From there, the black community furiously protests about police brutality outside of the courthouse, but it’s not enough as Daggert walks when there’s not enough evidence for the case to go to trial.  Immediately, Mayor Hostetler, who looks like a store bought tan with legs and perfectly coiffed hair, played by Russell Crowe, invites Daggert to his office accompanied by the mysterious commissioner Fairbanks, played by the ever intimidating Jeffrey Wright.  The Mayor tells Daggert he’s going to have to take him off the force, but in his books, he’s a hero; that he won’t forget.

Cut to seven years later, Daggert is now a private dick, but still sweetheart enough that he doesn’t always make his clients pay up front; Tucker and director Allen Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, The Book of Eli) give us a money collection sequence that serves to inform us that Daggert ain’t so bad, and to introduce us to his sassy but naive blonde assistant Katy (lona Tal) for a couple of textbook noir tricks.  

With re-election looming in a week’s time against a do gooder opponent (Tucker makes SURE we know he is a good guy giving him a name like Jack Valliant *eye roll*), Hostetler saves Daggert from his financial woes by cutting him a big fat check to find out who his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is sleeping with. Catherine Zeta-Jones gives weight as the politician's wife who has to put on the happy face for the N.Y. cameras.  You know from the trailers that, of course, there is more than meets the eye than just an adultery scandal. When the eventual rock is unturned, I was unimpressed that this controversy would bring people to murder, and, worse, the journey to get there is such a convoluted mess.    

Along the way, Hughes, who’s unsuccessfully working for the first time without his brother Albert, wants us to see the underbelly of New York’s broken city through thin metaphors.  Daggert’s strained relationship with his young indie actress girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) is supposed to hit us with moral compromise.  All it does is create unintentional laughter as the relationship bizarrely ends, abruptly, after he views her film: what I believe Hughes believes a small indie film looks like, bad credits fonts and all, that contains a sexually explicit scene.  This scene gets our imperfect hero to get off the wagon, putting Daggert on a huge bender, only to end up instantly sober when he gets called to a very crucial crime scene.    

By the end, we don’t know which way is up or down. Getting us nowhere near being wowed by its supposed surprise ending, we leave our seats trying to put back together this broken film.

We leave our seats trying to put back together this broken “this”.

Galatians 6:8

Sunday
Sep302012

Looper- review

“Looper” (2012)
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Running Time 118 Minutes, Rated R.
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Where do I begin?  Better yet, when do I begin?  

“Looper” is smart-fi of the highest order.  Director and writer Rian Johnson has continued the science fiction movement that dares to combine big budget with big IQ in the vein that Christopher Nolan pulled off with “Inception”.  High fortunes for Joseph Gordon-Levitt; he’s worked under both directors.  

JGL first worked with Johnson in the superb “Brick”, the noir detective tale told in the high school setting showed a flair for high concept and escaping the traps of gimmicks.  In “Looper”, Johnson takes on the time travel genre that makes you keep your brain in high gear.  My intellect is suitable more for the time travel tales ala “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, but I’m very glad to have the opportunity to chew over Looper’s complexities and ability to dive head first into it’s paradox’s.  

In the film’s present of 2044, 30 years from then time travel will be invented but quickly outlawed, mostly used by the mob.  What a better way to get rid of somebody in a clean way then by sending him in the past to be assassinated.  Those assassins are known as loopers who know nothing about the hooded victims they quickly blast away.  The only time a looper knows anything about their victim is when they get a much higher payday of gold strapped to the hit’s back instead of silver, the b side of that is the victim is that same looper 30 years in the future; this is the mob making sure they close the loop.  You take yourself out, you get your proverbial gold watch and are instantly retired, left to enjoy the last 30 years of your life.  Needless to say, a pretty hard job for growth opportunity.  

Pretty wicked cool, right?!!!

JGL is Joe, a looper who does his job dutifully, but also wants more; learning french and dreaming of more with a stripper played by Piper Perabo.  Eventually Joe’s older self, played by Bruce Willis (who else!) comes back and when young Joe hesitates, old Joe knocks him out and goes on the run.

This is where is gets really complicated.  Paradox’s bounce off each other as fast as Johnson can keep up with it. Johnson’s script is incredibly smart and entertaining. The scenes of old Joe and young Joe same place will have you trying to piece the science together until your mind explodes, in a good way.  There are much heavier ideas than just time travel, as the film plays out, the: if you could go back and kill Hitler as a child? question puts both Joe’s on opposing sides of the discussion.   

Johnson specifically wrote “Looper” for JGL, and when Bruce Willis signed on, JGL used prosthetics and makeup to make the two actors look alike.  JGL also studied a lot of Willis’ film, mostly the noir “Sin City”.  It’s crazy how much JGL looks and acts like him, so much so that Johnson gives a little easter egg nod by putting JGL in Willis’ classic yet mandatory wife beater tee.

JGL does some fantastic acting, but it’s Willis’ Joe who has 30 extra years of character development to make us, the audience, battle with him in his tormenting “Terminator-like” dilemmas.  Emily Blunt shows up halfway through the film and also shines by supplying so much heart with her nice Kansas accented farm mother.  

I love the look of “Looper” with nifty sci-fi touches in a world that has more bleakness, more violence, and more mob bosses.  Johnson doesn’t have to verbally point out all the cool touches; old trucks have some sort of eco-friendly adaptor and solar panels are seen on many buildings, but Johnson never has a character let us know this or he never has his camera in an extra close up to pat himself on the back.  

Now, there are a few coincidences that are a little far fetched, and the science of Johnson’s time travel ultimately would collapse on itself if you took the time to think it over and read up on it; the storytelling choice of either using singular timeline or using multiverse timeline, but Johnson can’t help but get trapped into using both.  If he could figure out that dilemma, then maybe we could actually invent time travel. Until that happens, I’m not gonna hold it against him.

“Looper” is a wild action packed sci-fi ride that makes it so I can’t wait till the future when I get to see this film again.  

“This” is a wild action packed sci-fi ride

Luke 14:33 

Monday
Aug272012

Premium Rush- review

“Premium Rush” (2012)
Directed by David Koepp
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon
Running Time 91 Minutes, Rated PG-13
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Whizzing past traffic at breakneck speeds, dodging the law, and competing with with your fellow employees all for only 80 bucks a day, “Premium Rush” takes us into the world of N.Y.C. bike messengers.  Director, David Koepp, who’s a much better screenwriter than director, wants us to see this world as an action packed thrill ride with spokes.  The film’s tones change as fast the peddlers’ wheels go round, from action, to dark humor, to love story, to sentimental drama. “Premium Rush” comes across incredibly ridiculous and sadly unintentionally so.  

Joseph Gordon-Levitt breaks his film choice hot streak by playing Wilee, a biker who believes in the ride so much that his bike doesn’t have gears or brakes.  Wilee gets a premium rush route that takes him from his alma mater at Columbia (which shows us the over familiar storyline that others think he’s not living up to his potential) to Chinatown with a delivery of a ticket worth $50,000.  Michael Shannon literally cackles as the crooked Det. Monday who is trying to get that ticket off of Wilee’s hands to pay off his tremendous Pai Gow gambling debts.  

Monday’s chase with Wilee all around Manhattan is shot with a slick technical savvy, but also with the dulling repetitiveness of fast bikes that almost do or don’t get hit.  Koepp puts great effort into letting us in on the bustling streets of the Big Apple, but still makes such errors as having Wilee head downtown from 116th and Broadway and in the next shot be at 125th and Broadway (my NYC is coming out caused I lived three blocks from there).  

Worse than that, Koepp is trying to deliver too many packages.  A love story is topped on with actress Dania Ramirez that in flashbacks makes Gordon-Levitt come off smug rather than endearing.  Shannon’s Monday isn’t particularly bright, and you’re left wondering how he made it that long on the force with his pile of issues.  When Wilee finds out what’s at stake by delivering his package, the film should be so much more serious, but that tone is damaged as Koepp puts bicycle race between Wilee and a fellow co-worker in the midst of it all.  

Good performances go only so far here.  Gordon-Levitt performs plenty of tricks on two wheels and Shannon gets laughs, but in the end I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.  

“This” gets laughs but in the end I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.  

 

Monday
Feb132012

Safe House- review

 

“Safe House” (2012)
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
Running Time 115 Minutes, Rated R.
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
Of all the safe houses, in all the governments, why’d you have to walk into mine.  

Sure, it’s  cool that you’re a CIA government agent, but a lot of the shine wears off when all they let you do is babysit the safe house room.  For agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), he has nothing more to do than make sure that at his safe house the lights get turned off, and he locks the door behind him at the end of the day. That is of course until one day, (it is a movie, remember) when legend ex-agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) (who’s wanted for treason among other things) shows up detained to Matt’s safe house.  

The CIA agents have barely had any quality time waterboarding Tobin Frost before the safe house is ransacked with gun-toting baddies and isn’t that safe anymore.  Weston is able to escape the premise with Frost only to be engaged into a pretty decent car chase in the streets of Capetown.  With no other agents around, it’s up to Weston to secure Frost for the next 12 hours before help can arrive.  It doesn’t take long, and trailers tell you the same, for political corruption to abound and one of the higher ups, played by Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, and Sam Shepard, that Matt’s taking his orders from and somehow getting behind the cause of Frost’s villain status.

As far as Frost goes, Denzel Washington sinks his ‘better acting teeth than most’ into this role.  Frost is a master at head games, and Washington is a master at playing them.  In some ways Washington's performance grade is higher than the films.  Tobin Frost will not be remembered in the same breath as famous screen characters such as Hannibal Lector, not because Washington can’t perform to the level of Hopkins, but because the screenplay of “Safe House” can’t perform to that of “Silence of the Lambs”.  

Swedish director, Daniel Espinosa, uses the steam that 2010’s "Easy Money" built him and runs with it in “Safe House”.  “Safe House” may be nothing more than an old spin on the much used spy genre, but you can’t say Espinosa ever lets the film get boring.  Utilizing Capetown from it’s majestic futbol stadium to it’s beleaguered shanty filled slums, the action is taut and the acting on top of its game.  

Maybe it’s a little late after his last couple of duds, but Ryan Reynolds may have found the perfect dramatic action thriller fit.  His sarcasm funny bone is nowhere to be seen, and he’s plenty convincing as a agent newbie in way over his head.  He showed it in the widely missed “Buried” , and he shows it here too- the boys got some range.  

You can see the double-cross ending coming a kilometer away, and “Safe House” not so successfully tries to layer on the genres- Reynolds’ Matt trying to have love under the deceit of being a spy brings the films volume down before gunshots are heard again.  But all in all, I was entertained and a bit thrilled, and that’s a good thing.

“This” was entertained and a bit thrilled and that’s a good thing.