Run All Night from the Gunman

Yay! After not going to the movies for weeks, I’ve seen four movies in three days. I got to see the delightful revival of Rear Window with my wife, Cinderella with my girls, and a day by myself with Run All Night and The Gunman.

Yay for the return of the R-rated action thriller! It’s not that PG or PG-13 is bad but it often seems like PG-13 films are shoehorned into a tight box. The filmmakers are either constrained by how much they can put in or have to cut out to maintain that rating.

Run All Night

 

Run All Night (2015) – Rated R

Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.”

You wouldn’t know it from any of the trailers but Liam Neeson starts the movie as a burned out, alcoholic loser. The trailers, of course, highlight Neeson as a tough guy, just like every other one of his movies. The problem with the trailers is that they are fairly indistinguishable from each other.

Run All Night is not great but is miles better than the crapfest that was Taken 3. It is also better than The Gunman. It is very story involved a la The Grey and Walk Among the Tombstones but the script doesn’t quite measure up. Still there is an enjoyable time to be had.

The Gunman

 

The Gunman (2015) – Rated R

A sniper on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

Way back in 2004, Pierre Morel made his directorial debut with the outrageous District B13. District 13 brought parkour to the big screen and the stunts were incredible. It is still an enjoyable romp and is available on instant Netflix so go watch it! It was remade in 2014 as Brick Mansions but skip that very dumbed down and shaky cammed version.

In 2008, Morel followed District 13 up with the original Taken. This was yet another wonderful action film and reinvented Liam Neeson as an action star. After that was the amusing but deeply flawed From Paris With Love. It failed to reignite Travolta’s career.

The Gunman is Morel’s fourth feature film in the directors seat. This one seems tailor-made to reinvent Sean Penn as an action star, though that does not work. Since Penn is restrained by Morel, Morel allows Javier Bardem to egregiously overact. Our love interest is Annie, played by Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.

Supporting them are Ray Winstone as Terrier (Penn)’s friend, Stanley and Idris Elba as an enigmatic Interpol agent named DuPont. The only other actor of note is Mark Rylance as Cox.

Unfortunately there is no real artistry on display here. The Gunman is just fine if you need an action fix but not anything more. It all seems a paint-by-numbers globetrotting, professional seeks revenge for betrayal setup. The cast is good but not well used. Elba only has a few minutes of screen time. Somebody get that man a good role.

The Counselor

The Counselor is currently in theaters

The Counselor

 

The Counselor (2013) – Rated R

A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

Are you really that cold?” – “The truth has no temperature.

One Line Review: Go see The Counselor for the incredible dialogue or avoid it for the rampant misogyny..

I love Ridley Scott. Many of his films are groudbreaking examples of their genre. Alien was a great horror movie that not only spawned five sequels and a prequel but also changed the way films were made. Blade Runner has yet to be equaled. Black Hawk Down is easily the best movie about modern warfare (post-World War II) ever made. Thelma & Louise is one of the best of sadly only a few female buddy movies. Gladiator is a beautiful film about ancient Rome with terrific battle sequences. Yet each of these movies have almost nothing in common with each other.

Even his misfires are provoking. Kingdom of Heaven is fantastic if you watch the director’s cut. Prometheus is gorgeous if flawed from having to shoehorn in the Alien mythos and a few other things. Ridley Scott brings Michael Fassbender over from his virtuoso performance in Prometheus.

It goes without saying that Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy is a fantastic writer. Both Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have previously appeared in McCarthy adaptations (No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses respectively). McCarthy’s writing is very dark and dense, not making popularity easy. The Counselor is the first script he has written for a movie.

That script is the best reason for recommending this movie. McCarthy’s dialogue is fantastic, weaving in archaic terms (donnybrook) with clever turns of phrase and tonal shifts. The entire script is a morass of moral ambiguity. The plot revolves around a drug deal gone bad in which most of the characters are involved in some way and that’s it.

There are so many things to applaud about McCarthy’s script. We are dropped right in the middle of the story with little to no exposition. You have to pay attention just to keep up with what’s going on. He does follow the gun on the mantelpiece drama rule as two early exposition statements ultimately bear fruit. Our protagonist is only ever referred to as Counselor.

Thankfully Ridley Scott has lined up a fantastic cast. Michael Fassbender is the titular Counselor, a lawyer involved in a drug deal presumably in part to finance a huge diamond engagement ring for his fiancee. Laura, the fiancee is played by Penelope Cruz and is arguably the only ‘good’ character in the film. Javier Bardem (Reiner) and Brad Pitt (Westray) play associates in the drug deal. Cameron Diaz is Malkina, Reiner’s girlfriend.

We never meet the heads of the cartel who set up the deal though many associates make an appearance. There are a few niggling problems with the script in the form of questions that you will have after the film is over, I’m not sure whether that was McCarthy’s intent or if some scenes got chopped, though I will say that McCarthy practices an economy of exposition.

Lots of guest stars pop-up throughout the movie. An uncredited John Leguizamo and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) conduct some business. Ruben Blades does some wonderful pontificating. Goran Visnjic appears as a banker. Rosie Perez has a juicy minor role as Ruth. All of the actors handle their roles and the rather eclectic dialogue well except Cameron Diaz. On the other hand it is hard to tell whether she dropped the ball or her role is simply horrible.

While I love McCarthy’s plotting, morality, and dialogue, I have to say that a lot of it comes off as misogynistic or filled with 12-year-old-boy syndrome. Also his characters pontificate endlessly, which is reasonable for one or two characters but not for all. That said, I am very much looking forward to what he does next.

People Watch: Look for beautiful Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones) in a brief but vital role.