We review this week’s new cinema releases, including 2 GUNS and KICK-ASS 2
2 GUNS (USA/15A/109mins)
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Starring Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos, Fred Ward, Patrick Fischler, Robert John Burke.
THE PLOT: It quickly becomes a case of who’s zoomin’ who when new partners in crime Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) case out their latest job – a smalltown bank. Part of the attraction is the $3m belonging to Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Olmos). The same drug lord who just backed out of supplying our duo with a bucket or two of cocaine. Which was probably a good thing, given that the guys found themselves being interrogated by border customs on their way home. It was almost as if the cops knew Bobby and Stig should have the coke. And that’s because they did. We soon learn that Bobby is an undercover cop, out for evidence to convict Greco. And just to add a further twist to the tale, Stig is an undercover Naval Intelligence Officer, his superior (Marsden) keen to get his hands on the money for covert operations. But can anyone truly be trusted? Especially when the bank haul turns out to be $43m…
THE VERDICT: From its blaxploitation grooves to the standard-issue battered Camero and bickering banter, 2 Guns is one hilariously cliched and ludicrously-plotted buddy-buddy cop movie. It’s Lethal Weapon by way of Michael Bay, full of trailer-worthy visuals that make little or no sense, but offer the occasional joyful jolt.
What saves 2 GUNS from eternal damnation though is its leads, Washington slipping comfortably into one of his sugar-coated Shaft roles, whilst Wahlberg once again plays the malleable, amiable meathead who’s having trouble understanding, and adhering to, the rules. It makes for some nicely-played odd couple moments, but those ludicrous plot leaps just keep piling up. Run with them, and this is all silly, self-aware noir nonsense.
Review by Paul Byrne
KICK-ASS 2 (USA/UK/16/103mins)
Directed by Jeff Wadlow. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Faison, Garrett M. Brown, Lindy Booth, John Leguizamo, Iain Glen.
THE PLOT: The hardest part of being a young real-life superhero isn’t fighting scuzzy muggers and leather-clad supervillains – it’s getting permission from your parents to hit the streets. In your home-made costume. With your buddies. In their homemade costumes.
For 15-year-old Mindy McCreevy, raised by her ex-cop father to be a walking, talking, living killing machine, continuing her secret role as Hit Girl has become pretty much impossible. Her father’s dying wish was that she would do what his old partner, Detective Marcus Williams (Chestnut), tells her. And Marcus wants Cindy to have a normal childhood. Even if it means becoming the pet project of mean girl Brooke (Lee).
For her fellow teenage superhero, Kick-Ass (Johnson), after two years of laying low, he’s back on the streets, and hooking up with the Justice For Ever minor league, led by born again mafia hood Colonel Stars & Stripes (Carrey). Which is just as well, given that the poor little rich boy formerly known as Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) is hellbent on avenging his father’s death. Even if it means becoming a super-villain…
THE VERDICT: It’s a shame that Jim Carrey saw fit to run for cover in the light of the Sandy Hook shootings last December, distancing himself from his first good film in many a year. Going full Cage here as the battered would-be Colonel America, Carrey is finally funny again. And didn’t he know that he was making a cartoon? Had no-one shown him the mighty 2010 original?
Carrey’s negative tweets about the Itchy & Scratchy violence on display in Kick-Ass 2 was quickly downplayed/exploited by Universal, the studio behind the film, their executive VP of marketing stating a day later that the film was “irreverent, dark and often offensive”. Which is just what fans of the original wanted to hear.
As it turns out, like so many sequels before it, Kick-Ass 2 isn’t quite as kick-ass as its predecessor, but newbie writer/director Jeff Wadlow nonetheless provides enough blood, guts and belly-laughs to keep you smiling through all the growing pains of our protagonists. And, hey, a pony-tailed 15-year-old girl delivering R-rated swear words still delivers.
Review by Paul Byrne
KUMA (Austria/TBC/93 mins)
Directed by Umut Dag. Starring Begum Akkaya, Nihal Koldas
THE PLOT: Ayse (Begum Akkaya) is a young Turkish woman, brought to Vienna to serve as the second wife to a man whose wife is dying of cancer. The plan is for Ayse to eventually take over the household, but things do not always go according to plan.
Before anyone gets up in arms about the premise of this film it is worth remembering that having a kuma, or second wife, was once common practice for families such as the one that Ayse is brought into. As Westerners, we may have issues with the notion, but this is carefully mirrored in the film with the reactions of the Westernised Muslim family at the heart of the film.
Austrian-Kurdish director Umut Dag has created a film about issues that are obviously close to his heart, be it through personal experience or not, and the decision to cast Begum Akkaya as his leading actress was a stroke of genius. As Ayse, Akkaya is quiet and mysterious, but she is a person that people gravitate towards, which proves her making and her undoing.
THE VERDICT: The story focuses on the lies that are holding the family together. On the surface, Ayse is married to the son of the family, Hasan, and only a few people know the truth. The reasons for this lie are carefully unwound as the film goes on, adding layers of human drama to the film, and making quiet comment about the clash between old and new civilisations, religions and beliefs.
While the storm rages around her, Ayse remains still and steadfast. The children of the family don’t want her, but Fatma (Nihal Koldas) the mother of the family whose place Ayse will eventually take is accepting and understanding. That is, until the entire story is thrown into chaos and conventions and expectations are turned on their heads.
Once the story turns down an unexpected path, the film is free to examine social questions that the characters shy away from. Once again, Ayse is the centre of the maelstrom, and her presence is both the cause of, and the answer to the family’s problems (to paraphrase The Simpsons).
Umut Dag’s film takes up the mantle from such fantastic films as La Haine and Head On; films that examine the future of families who must evolve with their environments or die. Tensions finally explode in a wonderful scene where friends and enemies switch places and Koldas and Akkaya are the perfect foils for one another in their fierceness and stillness, respectively.
Kuma is a quiet, modest drama that examines the changes faced by a family when traditional values meet new ones. Umut Dag’s film is carefully observed, finely crafted and as complex as real life. Begum Akkaya gives a memorable performance in her first major role.
Review by Brogen Hayes
Directed by Klay Hall. Starring the voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric The Entertainer.
THE PLOT: Dusty (Dane Cook) is a crop dusting plane who dreams of glory, so he enters a famous aerial race. The trouble is though, Dusty has never trained or raced professionally, so he is going to need all the help he can get.
THE VERDICT: PLANES is not a bad film. It’s not. What it is, however, is derivative and thin. The story is so similar to that of CARS it is genuinely surprising; character tries to get out of a small town, but needs the help of a gruff and mysterious old timer in order to do it. Familiar, right? As the film goes on, it becomes clear just how thin the story is, and it seems the pace was bumped up to compensate for this, leaving the film feeling rather rushed.
The cast is made up of Dane Cook, Val Kilmer and Teri Hatcher but none of the voice performances are particularly outstanding – with the exception of John Cleese as Bulldog, a British plane who runs into trouble. Some have more experience than others, but every actor does admirably, and their performances come off as warm and genuine.
Director Klay Hall worked on King of the Hill for many years, and has since turned his hand to the successful Disney TINKERBELL movies. Perhaps this is why he was brought in, to help some of the TINKERBELL magic rub off on a franchise for boys? Whatever the reason, Hall does fine, but he cannot make up for Jeffrey M. Howard’s unoriginal script.
PLANES is not a film that adults and kids alike will love equally, what it is, however, is a film about a character believing in themselves and fighting for what they want to achieve. This is a great message for kids and, although anyone over the age of 8 years old may tire of the film quickly, there is definitely an audience out there, even if the parents will not enjoy this as much as CARS, or any other Pixar movie.
In all, PLANES is an inoffensive movie aimed at boys between 3 and 8 years old. While the film is unoriginal and rather thin, it does not try to be anything more than it is, and the littler men in the audience are sure to enjoy it.
Review by Brogen Hayes
CALL GIRL 140mins (Sweden/Norway/Finland/Ireland/IFI+/140mins)
Directed by Mikael Marcimain. Starring Sofia Karemyr, Simon J. Berger, Josefin Asplund, Permilla August, Anders Beckman, Sven Nordin, David Dencik, Hanna Ullerstam.
THE PLOT: Stockholm, 1976, and 14-year-old Iris (Karemyr) has run away from home 7 times in the last month, and she’s now running out of foster homes. So, her mum places her in the Alsandda Juvenile Home, where she’s soon joined by her cousin, Sonja (Asplund). The two girls are soon sneaking into the city at night, and when another resident of the home brings them along for a little private dancing, the two are introduced to high society madam Dagmar Glans (August). The latter immediately sees the value of two pretty, underage runaways, especially in the eyes of her wealthy, older clients. That some of these clients are high up in the government hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Glans’ operation is kept under constant surveillance.
THE VERDICT: Shades of Lukas Moodyson’s Lilya 4-Ever and Michael Caton-Jones’ Scandal (which dealt with the Profumo Affair), initially, given that this 1970s-set story of two underage girls who end up being playthings for some of Sweden’s most powerful politicians is based on truth, but the real reference point for this surprisingly subdued and sombre outing slowly becomes Thomas Alfredson’s recent big-screen adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, given that first-time director Mikael Marcimain was that film’s second unit director.
A Swedish film about an underage sex scandal set in a times when the line between groovy and grooming was often blurred could, of course, prove the archetypal arthouse movie, but any fears of playing to the rain mac brigade are soon dispersed by Marcimain’s methodical, naturalistic approach. These may be two young troubled girls looking for love and acceptance – and a daddy – in all the wrong places, and lead Karemyr may have that Abbie Cornish glint in her thighs, but Call Girl plays it closer to the heart. Which might just disappoint some, but, for the rest of us, this is a mellow, melancholy, menacing delight.
Review by Paul Byrne