Film Reviewer: DESTROYER (USA 2018) ***1/2

Destroyer Poster

A police detective reconnects with people from an undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace.


Karyn Kusama


Phil Hay (screenplay), Matt Manfredi (screenplay)

There is a new super hero in town.  But this is a super hero of a different kind – not a Marvel or DC super action figure hero but a female down to earth cop with the super power of survival.  

As the film opens, LAPD detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) arrives on the scene of a John Doe murder and informs the responding officers that she knows the victim’s identity.   The responding officers clearly dislikes her and unafraid to show their feelings.  She gives them the finger when they ask the identity.

At the police station, Erin receives a $100 bill stained from a dye pack in an unmarked envelope. Using a contact at the FBI, she confirms that the bill is from a bank robbery committed by a California gang many years prior that she and her former partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) were embedded in as undercover officers.  She tells her superiors that she believes the bill and the John Doe murder to be proof that the gang’s leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) is once again active.

Erin is forced to work her way through the remaining members of the gang in order to find Silas. She begins with Toby (James Jordan), who was arrested but is now gravely ill and living with his mother on compassionate release. She manually stimulates him in exchange for the location of Arturo (Zach Villa), a member of the gang who attempts to atone for his past crimes by offering pro bono legal services to immigrants.  Arturo provides Erin with the location of DiFranco (Bradley Whitford), a lawyer who launders the money from the original robbery and from whom Erin deduces that Silas is active again because the money from the heist is almost gone. After threatening him, DiFranco gives Erin the location of the next money hand-off, which is performed by Silas’ girlfriend Petra (Tatiana Maslany). Erin tracks Petra, eventually intervening in a bank robbery committed by Silas’ new gang, and kidnaps Petra.

But the beauty of all this is that there is more than meets the eye.

Via flashbacks throughout the film, it transpires that Erin and Chris developed a romantic relationship while undercover, with Erin eventually becoming pregnant with Chris’ child.  Nothing more will be revealed of the story but that it is a bit annoying at the start for the audience has to piece the puzzle of the story together.  But the work pays off.  The fragmented narrative works eventually.  One also needs to take time after the film has ended to piece everything together to see how the time line has worked.

Kidman is marvellous and the almost unrecognizable Erin who strives for redemption for an undercover operation gone all wrong.  She even stole the money.  Kidman was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance but lost out to Glenn Close.  The young Tatiana Naslany also proves herself a rising star.

The nitty gritty atmosphere of bars and rundown towns is effectively captured.  Director Kusama (GIRLFIGHT) again proves herself as a strong female presence in films.



Happy Birthday: Toby Kebbell

tobykebbell.jpgHappy Birthday actor Toby Kebbell

Born: July 9, 1982 in Pontefract, Yorkshire, England, UK

To play the role in the film RocknRolla (2008), written and directed by Guy Ritchie, Toby learned to play the piano and operate a semiautomatic. To get into the skin of a crack-addicted rocker, he abstained from food for three days and ate just a single meal a day for the next three weeks.



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Movie Review: Warcraft: The Beginning (2016)

warcraft.jpgWARCRAFT (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Duncan Jones

Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell

Review by Gilbert Seah

The phrase ‘based on a video game’ should scare serious movie goers from this CGI blockbuster extravaganza. Based on the Blizzard Entertainment Warcraft series which consisted of 5 core games, this film is actually based just on the first one. WARCRAFT is set in the human Kingdom of Azeroth, threatened by an Orc invasion before Azeroth was expanded into new continents of Kalimdor, Northrend and Pandaria, allowing the introduction of new characters like the Night Elves.

The story in nutshell involves humans fighting against the Orcs as they invade through a portal. The battle lasts from the start to the end of the film. There are several main characters, humans and good Orcs to distract audiences from a basically non-existent story.

The Orcs come from another world called Draenor to invade Azeroth. The warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel) fights for his king (Dominic Cooper) who relies on the suspicious Guardian, Medivh (Ben Foster) who has taken to the dark side, and is responsible for opening the dreaded portal. Meanwhile, the young warlock Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) lands a hand. The Orcs are led by an evil Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), that a good Orc chieftain recognizes should be stopped. The characters help to liven the video game movie up several notches.

The film is best watched in IMAX 3-D – forget the small extra cost. It is difficult not to get into the action on a film in 3-D IMAX. The special and video effects, production design by Gavin Bocquet) and costume design all look the more convincing. This is director Duncan Jones blockbuster directorial debut after making small films like MOON and SOURCE CODE.
I entered the screening with the lowest expectations after all the bad hype about the movie. But truthfully, WARCRAFT is not bad. It is better watching an expensive blockbuster that is difficult to make than a well reviewed low budget film with maybe just two characters. On has to give credit for effort put in.

WARCRAFT ends with the obvious set-up for a sequel. Judging from other critic reviews so far, WARCRAFT has been panned. But for video game fans, this might be the fun film summer has promised. The film has already made $45 million in China on opening day breaking all records for a weekday opening day. So it looks like a sequel will likely be in the making with Night Elves.

See WARCRAFT for what it is – guilty entertainment with super special CGI effects. And Remember – to see it in 3-D IMAX.