Den of Thieves

Den of Thieves

Den of Thieves is the latest action film from director Christian Gudegast starring Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), and O'Shea Jackson Jr. The film works as almost an exact retelling of Michael Mann's 1995 masterpiece, Heat. This time we get the more meathead version of that story but the outside framing is much the same.

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The Commuter

The Commuter

Liam Nesson is back in yet another action movie based on a type of conveyance. This time he finds himself on a daily commuter train being approached by a stranger to do the unthinkable for money. The former cop turned life insurance salesman must make a race against time to find out what his true mission is and save everyone on this train before things go "off the rails." - Pun very much intended.

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Wheelman

Wheelman

Frank Grillo (Captain America: Winter Soldier) stars as a man forced to be a getaway driver for criminals after owing the local mob for protection. Only known as "Wheelman" to the other criminals, he is caught between a rock and a hard place when forced to betray some bank robbers in the middle of a heist and steal their money. So begins a race against time to save his daughter, ex-wife, and his own life.

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Review: London Has Fallen

LondonHasFallen "Olympus Has Fallen" the 2013 surprise hit seemed to strike a chord with action movie fans with its fairly brutal gun violence and a lot of stabbings to the chest and facial area. The "sequel" continues that tradition with more headshots and knives to the face then you can shake a stick at.

The movie starts off with a drone strike on a terrorist compound. People die and we get a very simple setup for a revenge plot. We are then introduced to our protagonist Mike Bannon (Gerard Butler) who is still protecting his best friend President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and Vice President Trumble (Morgan Freeman) round out the important people in the movie. We learn Banning is about to have a baby and is thinking about quitting when suddenly the prime minister dies. The President has to attend the funeral and Banning cant quit just yet.

When they get to London, chaos ensues and this is what everyone came to see, right? The antagonists aren't screwing around. They pull off quite possibly, the most coordinated attack I've ever seen in movie history. They murder half the world’s leaders in the span of five minutes. They have rigged half of London to explode and it is absolutely ridiculous. While all this is going on Banning is tasked with protecting the president, double tapping everyone in sight and doesn't suffer so much as a scratch. You know what, I'm perfectly fine with it. From here on out, it’s just a roller coaster ride of people being shot and stabbed. Helicopters being shot at, cars being shot at, missiles being fired and, just a bunch of rapid fire clichéd tropes that just seem to work for this movie. The last 20 minutes doesn't do anything different but for some reason I enjoyed the hell out of it. He essentially takes out an entire terrorist organization like he's a goddamn super hero.

Now, the movie itself isn't exactly good. The dialog is dumb, the directing is average at best with way too many top down aerial shots. Another issue I had was the fact that every time a new person showed up on screen their name would pop up in the corner. You can't keep track of anyone nor do you really care who he or she is. It was an odd choice to say the least. Butler was having a blast playing his character again. Overall though it doesn't reinvent the wheel if you're looking for a fun action movie and know what you're getting into I would recommend it. If you enjoyed the first movie, there's no reason why you won't enjoy this one.

2 1/2 headshots out of 5

[easyreview title= "Review of London Has Fallen" cat1title="Terrence's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]

Review: John Wick

johnwick “It’s not what you did, son, that angers me so. It’s who you did it to.”

John Wick is the leanest, meanest action movie to come around in a decade, and delivers the kind of cinematic delight that it is not to be missed. Keanu Reeves provides the title performance in this revenge-driven thriller, and nearly every frame of the film is gritty, visceral, and violent; exactly what action movie fans have been missing. Look, lesson one, all movie villains everywhere: do not fuck with a man’s dog. Certainly don’t break into his house, assault him, and murder his new puppy right in front of him, before stealing his car. Especially when the man is grieving the loss of his wife to illness and the puppy was a final gift from her, a means of providing the man comfort during the most difficult time of his life. And REALLY think twice about it when the man you’re assaulting is an unstoppable killer; one with the kind of suddenly available free time he would need to murder you, and your entire family.

The man in question is John Wick, a retired mob assassin who possesses the kind of operational skills Liam Neeson wishes he had. In hushed tones, the Russians call him “The Boogeyman,” and describe him as the man you call when you want to kill the ACTUAL boogeyman.  He got out of the game on certain terms, and when those terms are violated by theft and assault, no one will stand in the way of his revenge.

What follows this delightful setup is an introduction to a secret society of criminals in which all business transactions are paid for in stamped gold coins, and the rules of conduct are followed to the letter or swift retribution follows. The movie quickly becomes a non-stop parade of awesome actors chewing up the scenery, with notable moments from Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo as cogs in the society’s machinery. Smaller roles are filled out by equally awesome faces that bring a smile when they pop up (Lance Reddick from Fringe / The Wire! Daniel Bernhardt from Bloodsport parts 2-9! The Allstate Insurance guy!) They all serve to either help John Wick on his path or stand in the way and get chewed up in a hail of gunfire. Everyone involved is clearly having a great time with the film, and former stuntmen-turned-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski make full use of the performances.

Keanu’s Wick is really the most understated character in the movie. Dressed all in black and with maybe 150 lines in the whole film, Reeves speaks mostly with his fists and his firearms. When he does speak his words are delivered with silent menace and unmistakable rage, and when he finally erupts with angry words from the heart it’s a cathartic release for the actor and the audience. Reeves is tremendous in the role and claims another character performance as iconic as Neo in The Matrix.

Action-wise, the movie sticks to realism both in gunplay and martial arts scenes. Reeves clearly trained hard with the guns in question, and nothing is faked on film. Scenes play out in long takes and Keanu’s reload-and-fire skills are on full display. I love the hard-hitting, Jason Bourne-style fighting that’s come to favor on screen as of late, and the directors have improved and refined it here. Punches, kicks and gunshots are delivered with palpable force and violence, causing breaks, blood and brain matter to erupt with regularity. The only misstep is an underwhelming final battle with Michael Nyqvist’s main bad guy, who can keep up with Keanu in chewing up scenery but isn’t so active in a fist fight. The film ends with a whimper instead of the bang it so desperately deserved.

Besides the final ten minutes, and both an underwhelming performance and character arc in Adrianne Palicki’s female assassin, John Wick is 101 minutes of elegant, ass-kicking entertainment.  Don’t be surprised if it gets a sequel or, at the very least, another character’s installment set in the rich world created here.

[easyreview title= "Review of John Wick" cat1title="Jack's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: The Equalizer

TheEqualizer Apparently the older you get, the more bad ass you become. At least that's what Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson are trying to prove. Between the two of them they've laid to waste countless numbers of dead bodies in the last 4 - 5 years of their careers. The body count doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon if Washington's new movie, The Equalizer, has anything to do with it. In his latest outing, Washington plays Robert McCall (maybe). An older gentleman who works at the local hardware store, has trouble sleeping at night and times everything he does with his trusty stop watch. A few of his co-workers are dying to find out what he did in the past but they just can't figure it out. When he's not at work, he's reading a book at the all night cafe talking to a woman of the night Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) and sipping some fire ass tea. One night his routine is interrupted when he sees his new found friend get tossed around a bit by some Russian dudes. After he visits her in the hospital and sees the aftermath of a particularly rough encounter, he's none to pleased. McCall is brought out of retirement to do what he does best.

Look, by now we all know that Washington is incredibly charming on screen and he does not disappoint at all in this roll. Granted he's Denzel playing Denzel but at this point in his career does he really need to do anything else? Needless to say, he pays the guys who did his friend wrong a visit, and proceeds to dispatch of them with the greatest of ease. Once he's gotten the first taste of blood he's had in what we can only speculate has been many years his mind is telling him no but his body is telling him yes; he's the conflicted hero. As much as he doesn't want to do it, he realizes that he can't help what he is. Meanwhile, the Russian mob gets wind of what has happened and send their number one cleanup guy Teddy (Marton Csokas). This guy is awesome and is an absolute perfect foil for Washington. One scene in particular had me clenching the arm of my seat. I honestly didn't know what was going to happen. He is easily one of the best villains I've seen on film in a long time. I call him the Russian Frank Underwood not only because he delivers his lines so perfectly but he also kind of looks like Kevin Spacey. Once he hits the scene, the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse. When he and Washington are on screen together, the tension goes through the roof and you really wish there was more of it.

The action sequences are highly entertaining. I mean it's Denzel Washington beating people up in very inventive ways. Who doesn't love that? Slow mo instances show that Washington turns into The Terminator when he gets into his zone. While others instances are there just to further his walk away from explosions legacy. The plot is nothing new and it delivers the same tropes that you've seen in the last 20 years of action cinema. However, there's just something about it that just clicks. Whether it's the fact that Denzel is just so damn good or the writing is solid especially for this type of movie or Antoine Fuqua, (who also directed Training Day) knows how to frame a shot, or Csokas is such a good villain. He really needs to be in more movies! It all just comes together to deliver a highly entertaining, slick slow burn action film that has an an incredibly ridiculous yet super satisfying ending that turns Washington's McCall into Jigsaw. It is far from perfect with some dead air in the middle but I really enjoyed this movie. Ain't nobody getting an Oscar for this one but if you like Denezel Washington just go see it.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Equalizer" cat1title="Terrence's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]

Review: Homefront

Homefront

As opening scenes go, I enjoy a bunch of rednecks getting a good ass kicking after an annoying confrontation at a gas station. That was the first of several clichés that are all too familiar with when we watch a movie set in the Deep South. This is a film where we get to familiarize ourselves with the culture of a small hidden town that makes their own rules, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is an ex DEA agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a biker gang and their meth ring. He succeeds for the most part, but their leader yells at him with red in his eyes, “You’re dead,” as he’s being taken away in handcuffs. Well, we know we’re not going to see the last of him. So after a successful mission, Phil hides out in the deep South where no one would ever suspect anything more than that he is just another hard working American…with a British accent. So a couple years pass and Phil now lives a peaceful life with his daughter Maddy and all is well, until the school bully decides to pick on his daughter one day at recess. This reveals some suspicious fighting skills that seem unusual for a 9 year old girl and gives the bully an ego check. Giving the movie credit, people actually seem to want to know how a 9 year old developed the fighting skills of a UFC flyweight.

Kate Bosworth plays Cassie, the bully's meth head of a mom, and her performance is disturbingly effective. She reacts with outrage to the altercation between Phil’s child and her own, demanding that the daughter receive disciplinary action for hurting her angel. The cops know the situation and believe that it is under control, but the mom does not want to give up that easily. After that Cassie and her husband antagonize Phil with hurtful words demanding respect, the dad takes it a step further and from then on we know where her daughter got those skills from. A key part in this film is the stylistic approach of the fighting techniques displayed. Jason Statham turns it into an art-form.

After a humiliating beat-down, we know that these people want justice. Cassie calls up her brother, Gator (James Franco,) to teach Phil a lesson. Gator is the psychotic small-town drug lord who cooks and supplies meth for all the citizens of the town and he makes damn sure that no one else does. While Gator plans his sister’s revenge, he digs up some dirt on Phil and realizes who he is. That is where the real trouble starts and establishes brand new motives. The concern from good old fashioned small town interrogation builds to something much bigger than that.

The plot was well executed and fast-paced and made for an intriguing storyline. The fighting scenes definitely make you clench your fists and jump up with a surge of adrenaline and scream, “Fuck yea!”

I was, however, a little disappointed in James Franco’s character. The way his character was built up wasn’t convincing, and his character arc should have been better developed. Honestly I didn’t feel as threatened by him as I should have been. The way they were talking him up, you would think he would be some form of the devil, but his presence was ineffective and we all knew that Phil would most likely humiliate him just as bad as any other man that comes his way. Homefront is an effective film with a punch that takes you for a ride. Jason Statham fans will be pleased, and if you’re looking for a decent beat-em-up action film with some entertaining performances, you could do worse.

[easyreview title= "Review of Homefront" cat1title="Brady's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]