Dead Man Down

Dead Man DownDead_Man_Down_Theatrical_Poster

Now, when I saw that this film was a production of WWE Studios, I feared for the worst.  Some things just don’t seem like a good fit, and the pro wrestling circus mixing with major motion pictures seems like one of those combinations.  Just my opinion.  Anyway, much to my delight, “Dead Man Down” is a complete success!  My fears were misplaced and this film has me waiting to see what is next from this studio.

Dead Man Down” stars Colin Ferrell, Noomi Rapace, and Terence Howard.  Right from the start, this film was not what I had thought it would be. I thought this was an action film.  Turns out, it is much more of a drama with some action thrown in at the end.  The story is actually intriguing, and it draws you in easily.  The acting of Noomi Rapace and her character’s story really elevates the film into another realm of quality.  The end result of this combination of some fine acting and great storytelling was a film that will likely be completely overlooked by many.  I urge anybody that hasn’t seen it yet to give “Dead Man Down” and fair shake and just watch the 1st 30 minutes.

At first, I thought Colin Ferrell’s performance was a little stiff.  When I realized that was actually part of the story, it bothered me less, and intrigued me more.  I thought I figured the story of his character right away and I did.  However, the film could have ended there and I would not have thought the film was much of anything.  However, then there was the complexity of his neighbor (played by Rapace) and her story and how it gets entangled with Ferrell’s character.  THIS is what made the film so much more than what it could have been.  It wasn’t a curve ball so much as it was a really well-thought out – and might I say European-styled – plot that was executed very well.

A lot of crime stories ultimately boil down to a pissing contest between the good criminal (or the cop) and the bad criminal.  It’s a classic trap to fall into, and I fault no one.  Heck, I used to really enjoy those films, but that was when I was much younger.  Today though, my tastes have matured and I crave more from a story.  “Dead Man Down” delivered in this way and I could not have been more led astray by the trailer.  To sum it up nicely would be to say that this film had a story and wasn’t just flash/bang/the end.

It wasn’t an Oscar-quality drama, but it had a lot more meat than most action films.  So, if you’re in the mood for something bigger than most shlock-fests that are rolled out of Hollywood these days, “Dead Man Down” might actually deliver the goods for you.  That’s my feeling on it anyway.

…and this it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

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The Tourist

The TouristThe_Tourist_Poster

Johnny Depp is really quite the actor – and in “the Tourist” he doesn’t even rely of wacky costumes, strange accents, or Tim Burton.  Seriously, I was trying to remember a film of his before the Burton-era and the only one that came to mind was “the Ninth Gate” (I LOVE that movie!).  He’s just a likeable actor doing what he loves to do, but in “the Tourist”, Depp is playing a high school math teacher caught up in a game of mistaken identity.

Depp plays his character with a quirky innocence, but also somebody that has been burned out by life.  So – like many others of his ilk – he has turned to Europe for answers, or at least a vacation.  It is in Venice that he makes the acquaintance of Angelina Jolie’s character on a train.  What we know of her character is that she was romantically involved with this thief who stole billions and she has not seen him in years.  She is being watched by Interpol daily, as they hope the thief will get back in touch with her.  The thief dies indeed contact her.  He sends her a note and instructs her to go choose somebody on a train that looks like him and convince Interpol that it is in fact him.

Here’s what I have to say about Jolie: sweet Mother of Mercy, she is turning into a caricature of herself!  She’s supposed to be this model-like beauty.  Really?  The last time she looked really good was as Laura Croft in “Tomb Raider”.  Seriously!  Her arms are like twigs with scary musculature in her shoulders, her forehead looks plastic and her lips look like a fish any more.  Angie, what have you done to yourself?  Regardless of her beauty issues, there’s the fact that the casting is all kinds of wrong.  Jolie is not a model, doesn’t look like a model, and just didn’t have the exotic European flair for the fashions she was wearing in this film.  Worse still, the character called for someone with this mesmerizing sort of charisma that would draw you in.  Jolie did not have it in this film and it became clear to me that this hindered the entire movie.  Marion Cotillard would have been a better choice perhaps.  No matter though, because the major problem in “The Tourist” was the lack of chemistry between Depp and Jolie.  There was zero in the film when there should have been TONS.

Over all, the film lacks a very compelling story.  It is predictable and kind of lazy in its pacing.  The “twist” in the tale is not surprising and seems almost an after-thought.  The plot gets muddled along the way with the thief “repaying his debt”.  I don’t care for films that try to sucker you into believing the film will end in a stereotypical ending only to supposedly trick you into another.  I saw the end long before it arrived, both the sucker-ending and the “surprise” ending.  Even worse was the part where the Interpol agent that has hinted the thief for years suddenly “figures it out” at the VERY end.  It is SO cliché.

This one you can pass right over.  It lacks any action, sharp dialogue, chemistry between the leads, and compelling story.  Still, Depp is a fine actor and he shows it here.  This is not enough to save “the Tourist” though.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

Shutter Island

Shutter IslandShutterislandposter

Some trailers just look too appealing to pass up.  That’s the way I felt about “Shutter Island”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.  I Saw sumptuous visuals, and knew with the talent in the film that it had to be worthwhile.  The story seemed compelling enough.  A Federal Marshal is sent to investigate an escaped mental patient from an asylum for the criminally insane.  The supporting cast looked stellar: Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, and Michelle Williams.

The film isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.  The trailer made it appear as though this was a thriller with maybe a touch of a horror movie thrown in.  At no point in the movie was I scared witless, so you can forget the Horror elements.  The visuals are dream sequences which actually help the story move along.  Other than that though, these visuals are distracting to say the least.  Close-ups on light bulbs going on and off and a fascination with any fire effect in the film are just two of the many visuals that didn’t need to be in this movie at all.

The storyline becomes increasing complex as it moves along and although DiCaprio does a fine job with it, the material seemed flat and dull.  The Thriller aspects of the film get swept away by the over-indulgence on period costumes and the setting.  I do admit that the setting was perfect place for a thriller: an island for the criminally insane complete with an ancient graveyard, a derelict civil war fort, and a spooky lighthouse.  The story moves pretty quickly which is good, but perhaps it would have been better if they had just slowed it down just a bit.  They could have had much more interaction between DiCaprio’s character and the sinister warden (played wonderfully by Ted Levine).

The story reaches a point where you begin to get a little confused, but fortunately that doesn’t happen until the end.  The ending is very predictable, once you realize the kind of movie “Shutter Island” is.  That would be a psycho-thriller.  In other words, a lot of suspicion and doubt are spread around to keep you guessing, but I found this to be too shallow and not enough time was spent on this aspect of the film.  Once you catch on as a viewer, the ending is dull and very anti-climatic.

Shutter Island” isn’t a complete waste though.  The score for the film is eerie and delightful.  I found it a real shame that they didn’t build more suspense into the film with such great music on hand.  Don’t waste your time with this one unless you really want to see another DiCaprio/Scorsese project.  The ending is a letdown and the suspense is sub-par.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE