Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hollywood Action Scorecard

It's clunky and all over the place narratively, but I enjoyed Contraband.  The set-up is as cliched as hell (a young punk fucks up and his brother-in-law has to square it with a local sleazeball) and director Baltasar Kormakur rips off Michael Mann's Heat wholesale, but the pulpy plotting got to me and I succumbed to the double-crossing carnage.

Walberg plays the kind brother-in-law and gets to shoot and maim and bulldoze his way through Panama City as he attempts to import a load of fake dollars into the US. It just keeps piling on the jeopardy and bloodshed until there's very little left, and for this reason, I'd recommend it.

Stephen Soderberg's Haywire feels more like an expensive cinematic experiment than a fully fledged action movie, but that's not a bad thing.

The most interesting material involves shrewd sound mixing and the use of David Holmes' music in a number of suspense scenarios.

The action sequences are fresh because they are shot and cut very cleanly, and we get to appreciate star Gina Carano's stellar fighting prowess.

The film did not stick with me after I'd seen it, but I appreciated its virtues and creative smarts.

When Joe Carnahan's The Grey begins, it feels like a remake of Frank Marshall's Alive, a terrific movie by the way.  When the doomed plane crashes with Liam Neeson on board, the survivors don't eat each other --  wolves eat them instead.

The bloody narrative builds towards Neeson having a face-off with the mother of all manhunters. As expected, those who survived the plane crash have less luck surviving in the chilly wilderness and are torn limb from limb by gnashing teeth and ripping claws. Wisely, Carnahan turns his flick into something more than just a contemporary version of William Girdler's Day of the Animals. The film takes a crack at being an existential thriller and pretty much succeeds, the result being it is richer and more layered than expected.

Neeson, Hollywood's latest action hero,  plays a flawed fella who isn't afraid to admit that he's scared. Naturally, he's the last man standing, so it's up to him to risk it all to save his frozen skin.

The Grey's final minute provides no cathartic pleasure, but it will incite debate.


  1. Looking forward to all of these to some degree. Love this line Phantom "It just keeps piling on the jeopardy and bloodshed until there's very little left, and for this reason, I'd recommend it." What more do you need for a recommendation?

  2. Seeing The Grey next week and looking forward to it. I really like ALIVE too, that movie has stood the test of time. Seeing it on the big screen on it's first run I was blown away by the crash sequence. Definitely set the benchmark there. Love these kind of realistic man against nature survival thrillers. Other recent faves of mine in the genre: FROZEN and THE REEF...