Sicario – Prisoners Part Deux

I spent a wonderful day at the movies last week. Sicario is currently playing in theaters.

Sicario

Sicario (2015) – Rated R

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”

I had heard a lot about director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners before seeing it. I had heard that it was complex, nuanced, and uncompromising among other good things. It was a pretty decent film and he did get several very good performances from his cast but I didn’t really find it hype-worthy. Basically, Villeneuve stepped a little outside of the Hollywood mold but definitely not far enough.

Later, I saw the Israeli film, Big Bad Wolves. It was everything that Prisoners should have been – uncompromising, thrilling, and thought-provoking. It is currently available on instant Netflix so go watch it now, but for goodness sakes turn off your devices and pay attention.

Emily Blunt plays FBI Agent Kate Macer. I loved her as the subversive lead in the generically titled Edge of Tomorrow (a full year before Charlize Theron pulled the same trick in Mad Max Fury Road). To digress for a moment, Edge of Tomorrow is such a generic title that not only did it do poorly at the box office but when it received a home release, they rebranded it as “Live. Die. Repeat.”. To this day, many people think that is the name of the film. After all, it is actually in larger print than the title.

Emily Blunt is just as good here. She has a wonderful ability to project toughness without having it hinder her acting. Josh Brolin plays, well, a Josh Brolin-esque government agent named Matt Graver. He is a good solid actor but lately his parts can pretty much be defined as “Texan…”. He is a Texan mountain climber in Everest. Here he is a mysterious Texan agent. Unfortunately, there is no stretching of his acting abilities.

Benicio del Toro is suitably enigmatic, charming, and menacing as Alejandro. He is another actor who can act quite well but is often cast in roles he can walk through. In Sicario, his character is given a complex backstory BUT since the story isn’t really about him, it is glossed over and mostly delivered, disappointingly, as exposition.

Herein lies the crux of Denis Villeneuve’s issues. He is a director with a lot of good ideas and able to get good performances out of actors BUT he lacks subtlety and nuance. He wants to make sure audiences get it so many things are delivered by expository dump. That said the opening sequence is a stunner. The rest of the film is quite good but definitely by-the-numbers as Agent Macer gradually realizes how in-over-her-head she is and what lengths both sides are willing to take.

 

Netflix Subtitled This n That – Big Bad Wolves Beyond Outrage

Big Bad Wolves and Beyond Outrage are currently available on instant Netflix. Yes, they both have subtitles but you are really missing out if you let that stop you.

Big Bad Wolves

 

Big Bad Wolves (2013) – Not rated

A vigilante cop joins forces with the father of a murder victim to interrogate the main suspect in a series of brutal child homicides.”

“Maniacs are afraid of maniacs.”

One Line Review: Big Bad Wolves is the movie Prisoners should have been.

Big Bad Wolves boasts a truly terrifying beginning that plays out over the credits without any dialogue. This is followed up with another brilliant sequence – an off-the-books interrogation with too many witnesses.

Any good discussion of this movie would spoil some of the surprises involved so I’ll keep this brief. Quentin Tarantino named this his film of the year for 2013 and ┬áit is not hard to see why. Every scene goes on just as long as it should except the final scene which is the only superfluous one in the whole movie.

Beyond Outrage

 

Beyond Outrage (2012) – Rated R

This sequel to the yakuza thriller Outrage depicts a brutal war between the Sanno and Hanabishi crime families, both now more powerful than ever.”

Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage (2010), a complicated tale of power in the yakuza, was an ActionFest winner. It was a very matter of fact tale of how things work in organized crime, with only bosses profiting while soldiers build in resentment. Events reach a very nice conclusion.

The sequel, Beyond Outrage, picks up five years later. The Sanno family has prospered. There is a bit of revisionist history as we learn that a character thought dead at the end of Outrage survived his stabbing. Other than that, events build organically from the few survivors of Outrage. It too builds to a very satisfying conclusion.

Beyond Outrage is a good Yakuza film but is likely to be a bit impenetrable unless you have seen Outrage, If you have seen Outrage then you know whether this film is for you.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 5/27/14

 

Action/Adventure: Machete Kills

Anime: Kill La Kill

First Night

Comedy: First Night, HairBrained, Old Goats

Dear Mr. Watterson

Documentary: Dear Mr. Watterson, The Hidden Hand, The Institute, Mile…Mile and a Half, Are All Men Pedophiles?, Birth of the Living Dead, God Loves Uganda, No Woman No Cry, Superheroes, Vitality, The Source Family,

Drama: Live at the Foxes Den, The Rocket

Faith: Doonby

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Angels in Stardust

Foreign: The Wrath of Vajra, The Jewish Cardinal, Paradise: Hope, Twice Born, Pulling Strings, Big Bad Wolves

Abandoned Mine

Horror: Abandoned Mine, An American Ghost Story, Buck Wild

Television: Still more TEDTalks and new episodes of Longmire

Thriller: Berlin Job, Brake, The Suspect