By Jack Dignan
It's been 14 years since Matt Damon first appeared on screens as the super-spy Jason Bourne, and it's been 9 years since his last appearance as the character in The Bourne Ultimatum, which was undoubtably the high point of the trilogy. Fans were begging for Damon to return, but it looked like it wasn't going to happen, especially since Universal tried to kickstart the franchise again with Jeremy Renner back in 2012. It didn't get the most positive of responses, and so, not too long ago, a new Bourne movie came into development, and this weekend sees its release. Ignoring the terrible title, Jason Bourne is back, and his latest mission is a lot of fun.
Bourne has been off the grid for a number of years now, and in that time he's managed to remember all the memories he lost before the events of the first film. He knows his past, his choices and what got him here, and he's not awfully happy with what's been going on. But there's something about his past that he doesn't know about, and this something is discovered by former ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). With Bourne after answers, he comes out of hiding, and this puts him in the CIA's spotlight. Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) are put in charge of either taking Bourne in, or, if he isn't compliant, taking him down.
Jason Bourne is without a doubt one of Matt Damon's most well known characters. The Bourne films, over the 14 year history, have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, and in each installment, Damon's performance just continues to get better and better. With Jason Bourne, he's fantastic. I don't think he cracks a smile once in the entire film, and his dialogue is certainly limited, but he nails the action and the dramatics, and he feels like a damaged man looking for information. Thanks to his stella performance, Bourne's persona is abundantly clear and bounces off of the screen.
The character of Bourne has always been fascinating, and now that he's gotten his memory back, anything goes. The first three films are brilliant, and part of that was seeing Bourne interact with people without having any memory of who he once was. Seeing him put together the pieces of the puzzle was rather entertaining, and while that whole mystery is behind him, he's just as badass as ever. One of my biggest issues with the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, was that they spent too much time focusing on the CIA than on Bourne, and for the first twenty minutes it seemed like they were going to do the same thing here. Thankfully, once Bourne got to do something, and finally speak, this film kicked it up a notch and Bourne was well and truly back.
Also in lead roles are Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones. Both characters, while familiar, had me invested in their stories. Neither of them screamed with originality, but whenever they were on screen, I was hooked, especially with Vikander's character. Aside from Damon, Vikander was the best thing about this film. The problem with Jones' character is that, for a lot of his screen time, he's interacting with a character played by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed's character added very little to the plot, and while I like him as an actor, his character bored me, and whenever he was on screen I was begging for them to return to Bourne's story.
That being said, when it does get back to Bourne, it's pretty much non-stop thrills. Full of action and tense street chases, Jason Bourne is an exhilarating ride. Paul Greengrass once again uses his famous shaky cam, and while it's effective in some cases, others it is not, making the action occasionally incomprehensible. Still, for the most part, the action is insane, particularly a chase sequence towards the end that's just off the charts cool. I had a blast with this movie, and this is mostly thanks to the action, which is a big step up compared to the previous films.
To sum up, Jason Bourne finally sees the return of the iconic Matt Damon character and to brilliant results. It's an action packed thrill ride with fantastic performances from the leads, especially Damon and Vikander. The plot could use some work, especially a sub-plot involving Jones, but other than that, this film is quality entertainment.
By Jack Dignan
You're not afraid of the dark, are you? Oh, you are? Damn, well that is rather unfortunate as David F. Sandberg's debut feature film, Lights Out, certainly won't help you overcome your fear. In fact, there's about a 100% chance that it will make it worse. Right from the opening scene, this feels like something fresh and original. If any of you have seen the short film that this is based on, you'll know just how freaky things can get. It's a thoroughly original and rather frightening short that evokes relentless nightmares, and the feature adaptation will probably end up doing the same thing.
From producer James Wan, director of Insidious and The Conjuring, comes a film that will make you wish the sun never went down. We follow the story of Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), not too long after the death of her step-father (Billy Burke). Her mother (Maria Bello) has, for a long time, been a little bit... odd, to say the least. When things in her life get rough, she starts to talk to herself, or at least that's what appears to be going on. Her son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), starts to see a mysterious woman appearing in their house, but only when all the lights are off, meaning their mum may not be talking to herself after all.
Creepy and original, Lights Out is a horror film that works. While The Conjuring 2 remains the scariest movie of the year, and even one of the scariest of all time, Lights Out is another solid entry into the horror genre, utilising its original concept in a genre flooded with clichés. There are plenty of jump scares, but unlike a lot of modern horror movies, the jump scares are earned, thanks to the relentless tension built up beforehand. There's not a single false scare in this movie, and there are some pretty interesting ways in which this concept is explored. Dark and horrifying, yes, but certainly interesting.
Everybody, in some way, shape or form, is afraid of the dark. Whether it's mild or severe, there's no point in denying it. In fact, I saw a post on Tumblr the other day that went "nobody is actually afraid of the dark. We're afraid we're not alone in the dark." This statement hit me hard. Why? Because it's true, and Lights Out is a film that very cleverly plays on that fear. No matter what time of the day it is, if you're in the dark, you're not safe, and right from the opening scene this is made very apparent. It's a short and to the point horror film, only 80 minutes in length, and every minute is useful to the film.
It's not just that it's creepy, either, but that it's smart. The characters in this film are smart, developed characters who I cared about. Even the boyfriend character, played by Alexander DiPersia, had a lot to do that propelled the plot forward. They're smart characters who, for once, make reasonable decisions. Something scary happens and they get the hell out of there. They don't go exploring, slowly walking forwards and asking 'who's there?' They know who's there, and they act wisely. In a genre where every character makes stupid decisions, having smart characters felt rather refreshing.
While the whole gimmick of the film does get a tad overused from time to time, there's no denying that it's something fresh. The 'antagonist' of the film (let's just go with that to avoid spoilers) is seen in almost every scene. It's not hidden, and while this is very effective and rather shocking early on, it does wear out after a while. When it remains a black, walking figure, it's horrifying, but when seen as its true self, it looks very generic. Don't get me wrong, it still creeped the hell out of me, but it's much more effective when hidden in the dark.
I will be honest, I was worried this film was just going to be a series of scares with no real backbone. I was worried it was going to be constantly repeating itself, feeling like a series of short films. It didn't. There's an actual story to be told here, and while some of the ways in which they reveal this story feel incredibly clunky, and some of the performances during these scenes are rather generic, it's interesting enough to work, even if the ending does fall flat a little bit, but a concept as cool as this one does need to run out of steam after a while. It's almost inevitable.
To sum up, Lights Out is clever, fresh and terrifying new horror movie from first time director, David F. Sandberg. The storytelling can be rather clunky, but the story itself is incredibly interesting, full of shockingly smart characters making very intelligent decisions. It's a fun and original film that you should definitely check out.
3 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
While many franchises fail to live on for more than a few years, Star Trek is one of the few franchises that just refuses to stop, and that is most definitely a good thing. The franchise turns 50 this year, its legacy spanning throughout books, films, shows and games, and it doesn't seem to be stopping, with a fourth film in the rebooted series recently confirmed and a new TV show airing next year. The last two reboots were, in my opinion, fantastic, and with a new director at the helm, Star Trek Beyond, the thirteenth feature film, has a lot going for it. The first trailer had me convinced that this film was going to bomb, but recent marketing changed my mind about that, and now, after having seen the film, I can safely say it blew away all expectations I had for it.
Picking up three years into a five year journey, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is still commanding the Starship Enterprise, along with the help of his very large crew, most notably consisting of Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and a few others. When voyaging through space, the Enterprise is attacked by an alien known as Krall (Idris Elba), who takes Kirk's crew captive and destroys his ship, forcing everybody to evacuate onto a nearby planet. It's up to Kirk and the few crew members not yet captured to find out what Krall wants, put a stop to it and save his crew, but this may not be as easy as it sounds.
While it didn't bother me, many Star Trek fans, or Trekkies, weren't too fond of how the last two films didn't necessarily feel like the classic Star Trek they know and love, and that's understandable. It was a revamped, action packed reboot of a classic series, and it worked. Star Trek Beyond, however, should prove a much more rewarding watch for those disappointed by J.J. Abrams' handling of the franchise. This new installment is a perfect mix of the old and new, definitely feeling like something right out of the original series, all while maintaining the fun and excitement of this new series.
Right from the get go, this film is a tonne of fun. With a plot that constantly moves forward, and characters with investing stories to be told, Star Trek Beyond never has a dull moment. It's explosive, fast and completely riveting, all the way up until the closing credits. It may not be as action heavy as the last two films, but it's certainly a lot more character driven, and these are some wonderful characters to be stuck with for two hours. Not all of them are given an awful lot to do, especially the ones being held prisoner, but they all get their moment in the spotlight.
The two most noteworthy new additions are Idris Elba, who plays this film's antagonist, and Sofia Boutella, the Kingsman star who lends a helping hand as a new alien hero. Krall, the villain, has a very intimidating presence, and his design is certainly that of an antagonist, and while Idris Elba gives a brilliant and menacing performance, and his actions sure are terrible, I didn't buy into his motives. They were explained way too late for me to really care, and even when they were, only one aspect of it really gripped me.
As for Jaylah, she's yet another well designed alien who certainly knows how to kick ass. She's fun and developed, even if some of her dialogue can feel a little clunky at times and she just so happens to miraculously speak English for no reason whatsoever. Her character interacts with a lot of primary crew members, and she fits right in, adding to the story and helping to further it along, excluding the film's third act where she kind of disappears for a little while, just watching as everything unfolds before her. But that happens with a lot of the characters, as this third act, while not necessarily personal, really focuses in on the dynamic between Krall and Kirk.
Stepping into the directors seat this time around is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the seven Fast & Furious movies, as well as a couple of episodes of True Detective Season 2. While his filmography is certainly a mixed bag, he proves himself worthy of handling a Star Trek film, as it's a very well directed visual treat. The effects are great and the cinematography, at times, is pretty damn good. With a director yet to be announced for the fourth Star Trek film, if we were to see Lin return, I would definitely not complain.
To sum up, Star Trek Beyond is a fast paced, exciting, character driven mix of the new franchise and the old. It's entertaining right from the opening scene, all the way until the closing credits, and while the villain's motives could use a little work, this latest installment in a 50 year old franchise went up and beyond all expectations that had been set.
By Jack Dignan
It's one of the most talked about and unnecessarily controversial remakes of all time. Ghostbusters (or is it Ghostbusters: Answer The Call? Both titles are shown in the film) is back for a new generation, and it brought with it a lot of scepticism. In fact, it's the single most disliked trailer on all of YouTube, so that's impressive. Sort of. Fans, including myself, were ready to hate this movie, and for a number of reasons. Personally, I thought it looked like a terrible cash grab, but many were ready to hate it over the fact that women were in the leads. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But as it turns out, this new Ghostbusters isn't all that bad.
The first character we're introduced to in Ghostbusters is Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a scientist ashamed of her history with investigating paranormal activity. But her shame soon goes away after she discovers a ghost with her childhood friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her scientist partner, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Together, they form the Ghostbusters, hoping to capture ghosts all around New York City. It doesn't go well, but after getting a case from Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), they soon realise that all of their cases thus far are connected, and there may just be someone who's amplifying the ghost activity and setting them free.
The 1984 Ghostbusters is a classic. It's not only one of the funniest, most original comedies of all time, but it's clever. The cast are fantastic, creating some iconic characters. So this new Ghostbusters movie has a lot to live up to, and how does it go? Well, it's funny, so there's that. That's all I really wanted out of this movie. Nostalgia and fun, and it delivers on both. Comparisons to the original and how that film did a lot of things better are unavoidable, but as a standalone movie, it's... fine. It's not fantastic, but it was entertaining.
The plot, as simple as it is, moves along at a fairly quick pace, and because of that, I was never really bored. Even the scenes that fell flat were never boring. I was interested in what was going on, even if all of it is formulaic and predictable. It's fun to see all these very talented cast members do their thing, and all four of the Ghostbusters have some great chemistry, resulting in plenty of chuckle-worthy moments throughout. The only character that provided big gut-busting laughs was Chris Hemsworth, his first appearance especially. He steals the show.
The problem is, none of the characters are all that interesting. Like I said, the characters from the original are iconic, and the actors are all brilliant in their roles. With this new Ghostbusters, none of the characters are too memorable, and at times, they were mostly annoying. I was preparing for Kate McKinnon to be my favourite character in the whole movie, but she ended up being the complete opposite. She was annoying as hell, every line that came out of her mouth a joke that felt oh so incredibly forced. She does have one extremely cool moment towards the end, but that's about it.
Melissa McCarthy plays... Melissa McCarthy. She's fine in the role, but there's nothing new here. She's been typecast once again, but her character had no depth whatsoever. She was there, she said some funny lines, and that's it. The same can be said for Leslie Jones, who's the most stereotypical character in the whole film. She's funny, sure, but once again, the character just doesn't work. These feel like characters you'd find on Saturday Night Live, and if you've ever seen that show, you know that's not a good thing when you're trying to establish a new movie franchise.
The only character in this film who I thought had some depth was Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert. Again, super clichéd character, but compared to everyone else, she was outstanding, although that's not really saying much. Her humour is hit and miss, but her character actually felt like a real human with real emotion, even if it is a character you've seen a hundred or so times before. The real stand out here, however, is Chris Hemsworth, whose first appearance is the single funniest scene in the entire film.
Paul Feig as a director can make some seriously funny movies, most famously Bridesmaids. His last two film, Spy, didn't do an awful lot for me, and so I was hesitant when he was announced as the director of this new Ghostbusters. While the content is far less mature than he's used to, he does prove to be a worthy director to helm this new film, limiting himself to just two sex jokes, both of which are blink and you'll miss it moments. He knows this film is for a different audience than he's used to, and he does an admirable job at it.
Full of cameos and callbacks, it's a film that tries to stand on its own, but can't resist relying on the original for help. It tries so hard to establish itself as a unique and original take on Ghostbusters, rebooting it rather than remaking it, but it follows a very familiar structure and references the original films way too many times. Plus, it didn't really help when the villain is absolutely atrocious, especially when compared to the antagonist of the original movie. If a sequel is to be made, however, the villain they've semi set up will hopefully be a major step up from whoever the hell was the villain of this film.
To sum up, Ghostbusters is a fun new take on the classic franchise with some seriously funny cast members. The problem is, it struggles to stand on its own, has the most stereotypical characters you can possibly imagine and features a tonne of really idiotic moments or callbacks. But hey, if one were to be made in the coming years, I ain't afraid of no sequel.
By Jack Dignan
"You... are Tarzan," says Samuel L. Jackson's character in his first encounter with Alexander Skarsgård's Tarzan, not too far into the movie. While that may technically be true, Tarzan he is not. Not anymore, at least. The man we all once knew as Tarzan now goes by the name of John Clayton, and this film tells a story of his that we have not yet seen. It's a story set 10 years after the events we all know and love, but with all the spirit of the original. Is it an adventure worth going? Most critics seem to be saying no, but if you're a fan of the characters, or even the actors, I'd humbly disagree.
The Legend of Tarzan begins in London, John Clayton/Tarzan living a happy, peaceful life with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), the wildness of the jungle well and truly behind him. They've settled down, despite having somewhat of a celebrity status throughout the city. But John is approached by a Civil War soldier, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), to help guide him through the jungle he once called home to investigate claims of slavery. While this investigation is going down, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is on the hunt for Tarzan, hoping that his efforts are to be rewarded with diamonds.
David Yates, director of the last four Harry Potter films and forthcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, adapts Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic Tarzan stories into a dark and realistic tale of nature, slavery and a man brought up in the jungle. While the main chunk of the film takes place 10 years later, the film intercuts between Tarzan's origins, showing his discovery, upbringing and first encounters with Jane. It's an interesting and visually pleasing adaptation of the classic stories, and does go to show that this age-old story is far from dead.
But the thing is, this film isn't meant to be about the flashbacks. That isn't the focus. This is a new story, and does this new story work? For the most part, yes. It's a little bit slow to begin with, but once it gets rolling, I was enthralled. Exciting and action packed, it's a story that's slightly predictable, but a lot of fun. It may be dark and gritty, but there's still plenty of joy and emotion, mixed together with some well placed humour that just puts the overall cherry on top.
In terms of performances, they're excellent. When the rather negative reviews came out for this film, I was honesty surprised. The film features a heavily talented cast, featuring the likes of Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, amongst many others. They are three actors who I will watch in quite literally any movie, and seeing them all share screen time was extremely exciting. All are great, but it's Samuel L. Jackson who really makes this movie. That man can turn any script, no matter how mediocre, and turn it into an Oscar-worthy performance.
Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan isn't quite as impressive, though. I liked him in the role and he does a very good job, and there's no doubt that he physically looks like the part, but he wasn't super interesting. Maybe it's the way he's character is written, or maybe he needed to express an emotion other than brooding, but no matter what the reason is, I didn't feel nearly as invested in him as a character than I did the others, and that's rather disappointing seeings as how he's the title character. Don't get me wrong, he is still good, but I wanted him to be just a tad more interesting.
As one would expect with a live action adaptation of Tarzan, the film is very CGI heavy. With Tarzan swinging around on vines and interacting with a great deal of savage creatures, there's no way that could be done practically. There was going to be a lot of CGI, and the CGI in this movie varies from being absolutely amazing, particularly with the apes, to down right terrible, with a lot of the green screen and vine swinging. It's all over the place in terms of quality, and while the scope of the jungle is rather huge, the budget for the visuals fails to meet the demand.
To sum up, The Legend of Tarzan is a dark and realistic new adventure in Tarzan's story, and as it turns out, it's a story worth telling. With some fantastic performances from its a-list cast and some rather brilliant visuals (and some not so brilliant ones), The Legend of Tarzan is a fun adventure.
By Jack Dignan
I love going into movies knowing as little about it as possible, and that's exactly what I did with Sing Street. I knew it had been playing in festivals, including this year's Sydney Film Festival, but I never saw it. I didn't know who was in it, nor who directed it (that turned out to be John Carney, the man behind Once and Begin Again). But, I'd heard good things, so of course I was going to watch it. Right from the opening scene, which features our protagonist Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) singing along to his parents arguing, it suddenly hit me that this wasn't going to be a clichéd teen musical movie. It was going to be something different, and what it was was utterly brilliant.
Sing Street is the story of Cosmo, a young teen living in Dublin, Ireland. His parents, played by Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy, are having both marriage problems and money problems, and because of this, Cosmo is sent to a local religious school. He doesn't fit in, but soon, he meets a young model named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who he's instantly falling for. He asks Raphina if she would be interested in being in his band's first music video. Once she actually says yes, Cosmo realises he needs to start a band. Pronto.
I will admit, there are some familiar concepts throughout this movie. Concepts we've seen a handful of times before. But I really didn't care. If a familiar concept is executed well, it can lead to tremendous results. Sing Street's basic plot is essentially a boy starting a band to impress a girl. It's nothing special. But the thing is, Sing Street is directed by John Carney, so no matter how unremarkable the plot is, it's going to be one incredibly delightful film, and that it is.
The term 'crowd pleasing' gets used a lot, and I have used it from time to time. While I'm sure I've never used that term when I didn't mean it, not a single one of them have been nearly as crowd pleasing as Sing Street is. I am about 97% sure that Sing Street is one of the most loveable, joyous and entertaining movies I have ever seen. It's not perfect, no movie is, but in terms of pure entertainment and joy that's been radiated off the screen, this can't be beat. Once the credits begun, I realised I hadn't stopped smiling the entire time.
Amped up with vigorous energy and catchy tunes, Sing Street will have you cheering for joy from start to finish. It's a quirky independent movie that hits all the right beats, resulting in a film that's literally impossible not to adore. With great and relatable characters, most of whom have a surprising amount of character depth, I never wanted this movie to end. It's both funny and heartbreaking, and there's a prom scene (technically there's two) that may be one of my favourite moments of 2016.
Movies are rarely realistic. It's a well known fact. Everybody can agree on it, and while there are certain moments in a great deal of movies that really push the realm of believability, having non-realistic movies is never a bad thing. With Sing Street, there are some things that happen that would never happen in real life, especially in the third act. But, this doesn't affect the film in the slightest. In fact, it made me wish that life was more like this movie. Everything is perfect and happy in an imperfect and depressing way, and it plays out just how every person on earth would want life to play out. It's brilliant.
To sum up, describing Sing Street as a crowd pleasing and delightful movie is severely understating it. It's a movie that is impossible not to love, full of depth, loveable characters, humour, catchy tunes and promising performances from relatively unknown actors. If you're after a smile, definitely check this one out.
4 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
Just as I thought 2016 was going to be a great year overall for horror... I mean, we got the Conjuring 2 already! And that was incredible. Don't Breathe and the Woods both look great, and I'll be perfectly honest with you, I don't think the new Ouiji movie looks completely shit. Well, I just saw the third Purge film, The Purge: Election Year. It just may be my least favorite film this year thus far, which is a damn shame, as I was actually looking forward to this film.
As you should know by now, in these movies, the purge is a 12 hour event once a year where all crime is legal, without any consequences. 18 years ago, presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) witnessed her family brutally murdered during the purge. She now vows to become president and terminate the purge once and for all. Because of this, the political figures who run the purge decide that the purge is the perfect night to take her out and save the annual tradition. The Purge: Anarchy protagonist Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) just happens to be her head secret service member, and it's his job to save her from the "Purgers" who are after her. Damn, I am sick of writing the word "purge" and we're two paragraphs in.
This film is idiotic, goofy, under-cooked, over-ambitious and borderline offensive murder porn. I don't like the first movie, it has decent acting but it wasted a genuinely intriguing premise. Fortunately, the second film's plot took more advantage of the premise and was more enjoyable, despite poor acting and no real sense of logic. This film doesn't even care or try to elevate from the last film. It truly feels like it exists purely to make money, because these films are cheap and a lot of people go to see them. Even after a hopeful ending, it manages to set up a fourth film in literally the final ten seconds of the film with a line of dialogue that feels as if it was added a week before the film was released.
I've seen some people appreciate the fact that this film mirrors some political issues currently taking place in the United States, but no. The political aspect of this film's plot was purely for marketing purposes, as all the political shit was one note and woefully unbelievable. If you want to scare me, convince me this can be real, don't make the political figures in this film cartoon characters. And in a time where gun violence is causing so much distress and horror in the real world, it was slightly uncomfortable watching a movie shamelessly glorify it. The script, overall, is the dumbest thing ever. It's full of coincidences and plot holes that aren't even the slightest shred of coherent. One minute the nazi, kkk, confederate, stock bad guys are trying to blow away their target with a 50 cal. and the next they are trying to take her alive so other people can kill her. I am positive they didn't even begin to try.
As I mentioned, if you want to scare me, convince me it's real. How can I put this.... THIS FILM IS NOT SCARY! This film's idea of horror is sudden jump scares and sudden graphic violence. The violence in this film is so tired. It's gory and gross and by the time the 100th blood splatter happens you'll wonder if this is a new Saw movie. Most of the violence is utterly pointless, too. See, the main character, Charlie, is so against the purge and violence, yet every single protagonist in this film blows holes in people left and right, and Charlie seems okay with it, up until the final action set piece, of course. There's a scene where a protagonist runs over like five girls than blows each of there faces off with point blank shot gun blasts... what a hero.
I was never bored while watching the film, it moves along at a decent pace, so I never was tempted to walk out, Any other positives I can come up with is that I was consistently laughing. This film has some of the most laughable dialogue I have ever witnessed, and it doesn't help when there's some absolutely awful performances. Another bright spot, which is a legitimate bright spot, is the two lead performances. Both Elizabeth Mitchell and Frank Grillo, Grillo in particular, seem like they are in another, far better film. This film simply doesn't deserve them.
The Purge: Election Year is by far the worst Purge film and may just be my least favorite movie of the year. It's stupid, poorly written, poorly acted (for the most part), glorifies violence and it's as un-scary as a horror film can be. I'm sure they're going to make a fourth film, and if this was any good maybe I would be excited, but no. The only purging that will happen with this franchise in the future is the purging of my attendance from this mess. And Frank Grillo, you're too talented for this, please stop making these.
1 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
"Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson," says the poster for Central Intelligence, obviously referring to the film's two stars, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. These two actors are insanely talented, even if Kevin Hart does annoy me in a lot of the films he's in. Most will disagree with me there. However, I am a big fan of Dwayne Johnson, and so seeing him in this had me both excited and hesitant. But the advertising looked good so I was on board. And the final product was definitely worthwhile. Kevin Hart should only be allowed to be in movies with Dwayne Johnson because this film may just be his best work to date. Maybe.
Central Intelligence begins twenty years in the past. Calvin (Kevin Hart) is the most popular guy in school, adored by everyone, and Robby (Dwayne Johnson) is the fat kid everybody picks on. Fast forward to the present day and Calvin is a nobody, working every day at his accountant job. Just before his high school reunion, Calvin is approached by Robby, now referred to as Bob, and the two start to catch up. Bob, now super muscular, it turns out, is in the CIA, and his actions bring Calvin into his plan. What that plan is? Well, I might save that piece of information for the movie. It's a bit spoiler-y.
Armed with unicorn shirts and constant optimism, Dwayne Johnson gives a performance unlike any he's given before. His character is so unlike his previous roles that it's just hysterical. He's no longer the tough 'give a one liner' type of guy. He's the bullied high school kid with some strange interests and a loveable personality. His character goes on a strong emotional arc in the film and the payoff is extremely rewarding, resulting in a scene so ridiculous that it works, and featuring one of my favourite cameos from the entire film.
Kevin Hart, on the other hand, plays pretty much the exact character you would expect him to. He's the normal, loud and depressed middle age man who's life hasn't turned out how he hoped. Sound familiar? Exactly. Not only have you seen Kevin Hart play that character before in films like Get Hard, but you've seen that character on screen in so many other films. Granted, it does work in the scheme of things, allowing this buddy cop movie to work its magic and further the plot. Plus, Kevin Hart actually made me laugh quite hard. I didn't see that coming.
Despite plenty of unfunny "Kevin Hart is small" jokes, this film is extremely funny. The laughs aren't always consistent, but when they hit, they hit hard, The real problem is that this film is way too serious and convoluted for its own good. The plot attempts to be unpredictable and dramatic, and while this does make it an interesting watch, there are times where the drama overtakes the comedy, allowing the laughs to take a back seat while some more serious events unfold.
Surprisingly though, no matter how hard it can get to follow at times, the film is fast, to the point and when the action is going down, it's actually pretty well done, full of Dwayne Johnson's action star talent and Kevin Hart's loud comedy. They don't always work well on their own, but when put together in an action scene, it works to perfection. There are two stand out action sequences, one in an office building early one and one towards the finale, and both are a lot of fun. As is this whole movie, flaws and all.
To sum up, Central Intelligence is a convoluted and occasionally clichéd movie with more than a few hit and miss jokes, but for the most part, the film works, especially thanks to its talented stars. It's a fun, hilarious and surprisingly well made movie with a lot of heart. And Hart. I guess.