Film Review: BLACK AND BLUE (USA 2019) ***

Black and Blue Poster
Trailer

A rookie police officer in New Orleans has to balance her identity as a black woman with her role as a police officer when she witnesses other police officers committing murder.

Director:

Deon Taylor

Black female rookie cop is wounded while witnessing a killing performed by corrupt cops in the police force.  Singularly, she escapes from being killed while exposing all the corruption in the process with the help of an unlikely helper.  Everyone in the story is corrupted including her partner.  

This is familiar action thriller territory done before, most notably in the acclaimed Anthony Fuqua’s TRAINING DAY.

BLACK AND BLUE is the kind of film critics, when reading of the plot shudder with an ‘ugh’ for having to go see the film and then review this re-cycled story.  The film has already got seriously mediocre reviews on the internet.  (Rotten Tomatoes awarded 60% approval at the time of writing.)

But wait.  The promo screening that I attended had the audience not only applauding at the end but a fellow critic sitting next to me clapping at one scene during the climax.  Though the film is far from perfect, BLACK AND BLUE is not all bad, and in fact quite enjoyable – all things considered.

NOPD (New Orleans) rookie Alicia West (Naomie Harris) captures the murder of a drug dealer on her camcorder she wears on her police vest. What is more disturbing is that the murder has been committed by her partner and a squad of dirty police officers (Frank Frillo as Malone, Reid Scott and Beau Knapp).  Unable to get help from her former community or the police department she is sworn to, West allies herself with a stranger named Milo aka Mouse (Tyrese Gibson) in an attempt to expose the murder while a local gang puts out a bounty on West’s life.

BLACK AND BLUE sufferers from many of the pitfalls of similar themed action thrillers.  These include overlong chases (West is chased for the longest time through backyards), continuity (Harris looks better even as the day goes on as her character set is supposed to be fatigued and terribly wounded), familiar situations (West solo against everyone else corrupt), typical Rap soundtrack among others.   West also cannot die – the excuse given being that she had served in Iraq.

Despite the film’s flaws, one has to credit the filmmakers for really trying to differentiate their work despite treading on familiar territory.  This is obvious from the very first scenes wth cop conflict.  The good and bad characters are also not black and white cardboard written figures.  Though West’s partner is corrupt, he has some heart as evident during the film’s final moments.  Naomie Harris is convincing enough in her role though the role requires her to show a bit of skin – as she has to patch up a gunshot would with (yes, believe it or not) glue.  Apparently, that is what they do in Iraq, the audience is told.

BLACK AND BLUE costs $12 million to make.  There are not a whole lot of African American films out there and BLACK AND BLUE is a welcome entry.  It has been projected to gross between $8- $11 million opening weekend which means BLACK AND BLUE will be at least a moderate box-office hit.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywKWQs3os3M

Film Review: POINT BLANK (USA 2019) ***

Point Blank Poster
To save his pregnant wife, an emergency room nurse teams up with an injured murder suspect in a race against time, rival criminals and renegade cops.

Director:

Joe Lynch

Writers:

Fred Cavayé (characters), Adam G. Simon (screenplay)

The Netflix original movie which opens this week is an action thriller not to be confused with the John Boorman 1967 classic crime-noir of the same title POINT BLANK that starred Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson.  1967 POINT BLANK was one of the most well reviewed films of the year, a very violent and unforgettable piece of art.  But the Netflix POINT BLANK written by Adam G. Simon and directed by Joe Lynch (who makes B-movies like the little heard MAYHEM) is a remake of 2010 French actionthriller Gaumont film directed by Fred Cavaye which most people would have not seen.  Actually, Lynch shows promise.  This one has a male nurse played by hunk Anthony Mackie whose pregnant wife (Teyonah Parris) is kidnapped by thugs – a sort of Netflix TAKEN.

The film begins with an apparent hit and murder of a D.A.   The apparent intruder (Frank Grillo) is hit by a car while escaping and ends up in hospital where the protagonist an emergency room male nurse, Paul (Anthony Mackie) is working.  The intruder’s brother (Christian Cooke)  kidnaps the male nurse’s pregnant wife in order for the intruder to be kept alive.

A few action setups are worthy of mention.  One is a fight while the two are on a conveyor going through an automatic car wash.  It sounds silly but it works.  The film contains a few well executed car chases, with good continuity.

Good too that the film offers a black actor well deserving of a leading white role in an action flick.  Anthony Mackie should attract a large African American audience as well.

The script also offers the kidnappers a bit of sympathy, a tactic seldom tried.  The script also pays homage to the homeless, with one scene where a homeless man helps out the hero. 

Lynch’s film is not without humour.   One has to love it when out of the blue, the film pays homage to LES SALAIRES DE LA PEUR (THE WAGES OF FEAR), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s suspense classic.  The thugs watch this movie when one of them say, “When I becomes a director, I want to make this kind of shit.”

The soundtrack is impressive (Music is by Mitch Lee) ranging from rap to yes, Motown.  ABC’s “The Look of Love” is played while the baby is delivered.

Two good performances to watch  – Anthony Mackie’s and Oscar Winner Marcia Gay Harden’s, the latter who steals the show.  To say more of her role would only spoil a plot twist.  The buddy buddy nurse/ bad guy interplay works well too.

“You think killing me would make any difference?  You have no idea how high this goes.” is the only defence the villain can use.  But there is a good rebuttal (not mentioned in the review).

POINT BLANK is an entertaining enough action thriller, slick, fast and occasionally cliched that should keep not too demanding Netflix viewers satisfied.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa-D9GbWEWw

TIFF 2018 Review: DONNYBROOK (USA 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Donnybrook Poster
Two men prepare to compete in a legendary bare-knuckle fight where the winner gets a $100,000 prize.

Director:

Tim Sutton

Writer:

Tim Sutton

FIGHT CLUB meets BILLY ELLIOT.
  Jamie Bell is all pumped up in the role of an ex-marine trying to get out of drugs.  Drugs are bad!  His wife is addicted and he has to escape the wrath of a meth cook/dealer.  The story eventually ends with the two men — the ex-marine, Earl who struggles to provide for his family and that violent drug dealer with an undefeated fighting record — competing in the Donnybrook, a legendary, bare-knuckle brawl with a cash prize of $100,000.  
 Sutton’s film is not perfect, choppy and paints an unflattering look of America – best envisioned by a woman singing of the U.S. National amidst having a drag of her cigarette.  It is an America of clandestine drug deals, shady motel rooms, alcohol-fuelled brawls, and abandoned dreams.  
The film depends largely on Bell, who thankfully is believable as a tough guy though not believable to be tough enough to fight his opponent.

Happy Birthday: Frank Grillo

frankgrilloHappy Birthay actor Frank Grillo

Born: Frank Anthony Grillo
June 8, 1965 in New York City, New York, USA

Married to: Wendy Moniz (28 October 2000 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

MOVIE POSTERTHE PURGE: ANARCHY
2014
dir. James DeMonaco

Stars:
Frank Grillo
Carmen Ejogo

MOVIE POSTERTHE GREY
dir. Joe Carnahan
Stars:
Liam Neeson
Dermot Mulroney

Edge of Darkness Movie PosterEdge of Darkness
dir. Martin Campbell
Stars
Mel Gibson
Ray Winstone
MOVIE POSTERCAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
2014
dir. Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

MOVIE POSTERWARRIOR
dir. Gavin O’Connor
Stars:
Tom Hardy
Nick Nolte

MY SOUL TO TAKEMY SOUL TO TAKE
dir. Wes Craven
Stars:
Max Thieriot
Emily Meade

MOVIE POSTEREND OF WATCH
2012
dir. David Ayer
Stars:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Michael Pena

MOVIE POSTERZERO DARK 30
2012
dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Stars:
Chris Pratt
Jessica Chastain

MOVIE POSTERTHE GANGSTER SQUAD
dir. Ruben Fleischer

Stars:
Sean Penn
Ryan Gosling

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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captain_america_civil_warCAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo

Reveiw by Gilbert Seah

Judging from the box-office successful but critically panned BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, audiences love to see their super heroes battle one another – never mind the reason, never mind who wins, and never mind anything else. In this latest Marvel superhero movie, there are lots more of the same. It is a dream come true for current action fans as there is a full 15 minute action fight scene during which two factions of super heroes battle it out with each other.

The film begins with establishing the reason for the formation of the two factions. It is a world disaster in which innocent people are killed in Nigeria following a criminal being pursued by the Avengers. As a result of the collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (the handsome hunk Luke Evans) and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

This is an AVENGERS film despite the Captain America title. Other Marvel heroes on display here include Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Winter Soldier of the film title (Sebastian Stan), Falcon from the IRONMAN films (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye with his arrows (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) the latter two providing most of the humour in the film. But the script by a multiple of writers includes many one-liners that only Marvel fans will find funny, or whoever is in the mood. But the one-liners are quite mediocre and no match compared to those found in other action films like the DIE HARD or TERMINATOR films.

So there is one faction led by Ironman with Spidey, Faclon and Spider and the other by Captain America, Winter soldier and Hawkeye. There is an extended fight scene between the two leaders as well but no one really comes out the outright victor. The heroes use their powers like Spidey his web, America his shield and Hawkeye his arrows.

The film running at almost two and a half hours is surprisingly short on both story and character development. The script contains lots of repetitions on the need to control the Avengers i.e. to substantiate the rivalry between the two groups. All this tends to be a tad boring after a while, not to mention that the matter is never resolved at the end and the film set up for a sequel.

Not much is demanded in the acting department for an action film of this nature except for the actors to look good. And they all look very bulked up or pretty as the case may be. This reviewer never liked Robert Downey Jr. as an actor (in Sherlock Holmes, IRONMAN and other films) or in person for his wise-cracking smart-ass attitude. So, the best line in the film delivered by Black Widow to him: “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one Goddamned second?” gave me a big smile.

CAPTAIN AMERICA is a film that would delight action Marvel fans, but those serious in their taste of cinema – might want to take all this with a pinch (or rather, heap) of salt.

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