Kate (2021): Solid Action But Needed to Develop the Themes and Characters Further

“Kate” is a 2021 action-thriller from Netflix that is enjoyable and flawed. It has amazing visuals, cinematography and soundtrack (given the director’s background in visual effects this makes sense) but the story and themes needed more work in order for the film to be good. Still I do recommend this as a rental.

The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and written by Umair Aleem.

The story follows Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when after killing a Yakuza boss which is promised to be her last job from her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson), finds she has is poisoned and has 24 hours to find the one responsible.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is neat as Kate has 24 hours to live and is up against the Yakuza so is playing against the odds. She also killed a boss who had a child named Ani who she ends up caring for giving the film elements of “Logan” and “Gunpowder Milkshake.”

The Action – The action is great. There are very few jump cuts and great use of vibrant colors to bring out the action sequences. There is also a good array of combat with guns, knives, swords and whatever weapons are around. It brings scenes to life quickly. The cinematography and action play into each other and keep the film from ever feeling slow.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has some great Japanese rock, incorporates synth and electronic and gives the film a dreamlike feel at times. It fits the tone of the fim well and captures the ticking clock feel of the premise. Nathan Barr did a fantastic job.

The Cinematography – Lyle Vincent’s cinematography is beautiful. Vibrant lights meet dark and illuminates the action and characters in compelling ways. It gives a surrealist feel to the characters and action which strengthens the film.

The Main Characters – I wish the main characters and their relationships are built around family and toxic dynamics versus and abuse versus being present and guiding your children. We see this in Ani and Kijima and Varrick and Kate which I’ll explore more below.

Ani and Kijima – Ani’s father is killed by Kate via Varrick who did it on orders from Kijima’s advisor Renji. Kijima speaks to Ani about Varrick’s using her and his own ego blinding him to ambition within the Yakuza. He helps Kate get revenge after and take out Renji to protect Ani. Ani rightfully feels abandoned by her family until Kijima who is her uncle and Kate, at this point all the family has left rescue her, reaffirming how they mean to her. Both Miku Martineau and Jun Kunimura do a good job as Ani and Kijima. I especially liked Kijima’s redemption and respect he forms for Kate.

Varrick and Kate – Harrleson’s Varrick is a creep who killed Kate’s parents it is implied and only cares about her as a weapon. He is why she was poisoned and she finds family in Kijima and Ani who she avenges when she finally kills Varrick when his gaslighting doesn’t work anymore. Mary Elizabeth Winstead again shows why she is an amazing action star and I’d love a Huntress show or movie since that is who she was in “Birds of Prey.”

The Cons:

Renji and Most of the Yakuza – The fight sequences with the Yakuza are fun but the majority of the people fought have nothing distinct about them. This film needed more mini-bosses for Kate to fight on her revenge quest. The “John Wick” films are one of the few action films that understand this.

Connection of the Plot Threads – We needed more setup for Renji and Varrick’s double cross. It isn’t set up at all and we are just told it. This was weak and hurt the film from being good.

Failure to Develop Themes – Colonialism is touched on as a theme by Kijima on what motivates Varrick but never developed. It is lip services and could have been more if we had got more interactions of Varrick’s plans and past. Abuse is touched upon too as Kate is a victim of Varrick and his organization but it is never directly called out or explored like the colonialist themes.

Critics hated this film but it worked enough for me to be fun and flawed. The characters work and the action, cinematography and soundtrack hold it all together. Again, this isn’t a good film but it is well worth watching on Netflix or renting if you like action films.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Flawed but enjoyable action film.

Wrath of Man (2021): Would Have Worked Better if the Film was Shorter

“Wrath of Man” is an enjoyable revenge thriller that never quite reaches good. This was a story that needed more focus on the characters and plot and having them flow together better, though the action does look great. When it comes to the action being great I’ve come to expect that from Guy Ritchie films and it is once again on display here.

The film was directed by Guy Ritchie who co-wrote the script with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies.

The story follows H (Jason Statham) when his past is slowly revealed after he stops the robbery of a cash truck.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of uncovering the past of a mysterious man who takes out a professional robbery of a cash truck is compelling. Sadly it wasn’t made the most of.

The Action – The action is great. From H’s rampages after his son’s death to the final showdown which is a shootout in the money depot. There are a lot of perspectives to track in that final action sequence and the film pulls it out.

The Final Act – The final act is the only time a lot of the characters get any development and for what scenes they have they are great. I cared about the people in the money depot and wish they’d been developed earlier in the film. This entire sequence is noting but consequence and nearly everyone dies. It reminded me of “Reservoir Dogs” that way.

Okay:

The Characters – The characters in this are okay but none of them are good. Why the villain becomes a sociopath after being an honorable veteran is never explained and his squad isn’t developed either. Same goes for the people in the money depot and even H only gets base development as being the head of a crime empire but we don’t know what they do beyond stealing from money trucks. The characters all needed more development in their motivations and backgrounds.

The Cons:

Length – Because characters weren’t developed this film could have been good as a 90 minute not a 2 hour film. There is a lot of time that just feels wasted and most of the work was clearly put into the final act. As a shorter film it could have worked though.

The Perspective Swaps – At one point we get the main villain’s perspective and also H’s backstory but it doesn’t go anywhere. We get scenes but not motivation beyond being told motivation. This film didn’t need the perspective swaps as in the end it just broke the focus of the narrative.

This was an enjoyable but flawed action film. If you want a cheap action rental and like Guy Ritchie films you’ll enjoy it, just know this isn’t one of his best and the script and characters needed more work. I still thought this film was fun though and Jason Statham feels understated in his performance, which helps the script problems somewhat.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021): Beautiful Style and Action But World Needed More Development

“Gunpowder Milkshake” is a good stylized action film that would have been great if the world had been developed more. There aren’t really any unique villains which is a shame given how unique and fantastic the heroes are. This is still worth checking out though and I’m curious what Navot Papushado will make next as his style is a lot of fun and he knows how to film good action.

The film was directed and co-written by Navot Papushado with the other writer being Ehud Lavski.

The story follows the assassin Sam (Karen Gillan) when a job goes south and she must protect the child of the man she killed named Emily (Chloe Coleman) as Sam is reunited with her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) and the sisterhood assassin organization her mother was once a part of.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – You have giant crime organizations, the secret Firm who controls everything and the Librarians a secret group of assassins and weapons sellers. This is such a fantastic introduction to a world that I’d like to spend more time in.

The Cinematography – The scene uses shadows and bright colors to give the world a unique and comic book feel. You can tell that this is a world of secret organizations and groups of assassin librarians as the colors and darkness capture the tone of the world so well. Michael Seresin did a great job on the cinematography.

The Action – The action is very stylized and brutal and looks amazing. The use of colors and how blood is a part of that with axes, swords and guns gives it a comic book feel that brings scenes to life. None of the action scenes are boring.

The Librarians / Sisterhood – The librarians / sisterhood are so much fun. You have Angela Bassett’s Anna May who doesn’t trust and has baggage with Scarlet, Michelle Yeoh’s Florence who is kind and the idealistic Madeleine played by Carla Gugino who loves the librarian part of the job and dies in the assault on the library by McAlister’s men. In the end they get revenge on McAlister and his organization and leave with Sam, Scarlet and Emily. I wish we had learned more about how their organization works as they are a cool idea but just need more development of what they’ve done and do and how they work as a group.

Sam and Scarlet – The core relationship is between Sam and Lena Headey’s Scarlet who is her mom. We learn her mom went underground because she went against the firm to kill her husband’s murder. She has lived with the regret since which leads to her helping protect the child Emily whose father Sam accidentally killed. They both become her surrogate parents with the Librarians / Sisterhood and seeing them all learn to open up and heal is powerful and worked. I wish we had more scenes with Sam and Scarlet.

The Cons:

Blocky Editing – Some of the editing ruins how flowing the pacing is and how much time has past isn’t always apparent. This is most apparent when the Boneheads show up to face Sam during the hostage exchange. It is unclear how quickly or when they showed up.

The Villains – For how awesome Sam and the Librarians are we don’t have any unique enemies or enemy leaders for them to face. The Firm is a bunch of old men and McAlister has nothing about him and his minions to make them unique. I wanted some unique villains like what we get in “James Bond” and “John Wick” as nearly everything else in this film worked. The Firm needed better minions than the Boneheads who just came off as dumb and incompetent.

Better editing and villains would have made this film great as the style of the film is unique, the core characters are great and I like the potential that exists in this unique world. If a sequel is ever made I will watch it as this film is still good and is one I recommend if you are looking for a solid action film.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Black Widow (2021): An Exploration of Trauma, Abuse, Healing and Liberation

“Black Widow” is a really good film I wish had been made sooner given the timeline the story takes place in within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Florence Pugh easily steals the show but the core cast is fantastic and make the film work as well as it does. Without getting into spoilers the action and main characters are great and I recommend this film.

The film was directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson.

The film follows Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) going into hiding after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” but pulled back into her old life when she learns the creator of the Black Widow program is still alive and works with her adopted sister and Black Widow Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to stop him.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of Natasha Romanoff bringing down the organization that turned her and so many into weapons is compelling. It works as a spy and espionage drama.

The Action – The action is great and there are some really fun fight sequences, especially whenever Taskmaster sows up. The fight sequence being a fight on a collapsing flying fortress.

Antonia / Taskmaster – Antonia is the daughter of General Dreykov, the creator of the Black Widow program who is nearly killed in a bomb Natasha used to try and kill the General. Her father then turns her into a cyborg assassin who is targeting Natasha through the film. In the end Natasha and Yelena free her as she like the other Black Widows was being mind controlled by her father.

Alexei / Red Guardian – David Harbour is so much in everything he is in. Here is the Russian super soldier who loves fighting more than anything else but finds himself imprisoned after he steals what was needed to perfect the Black Widow program. His arc is becoming the father he failed to be for Yelena and Natasha after they rescue him from prison.

The Main Black Widows – There are 3 main Black Widows and they drive the story. Melina who made the program and Natasha and Yelena being 2 who experienced different versions of the abuse and indoctrination into becoming Dreykov’s weapons.

Melina Vostokoff – Rachel Weisz plays the conflicted scientist and early version of the Black Widow program whose plan is what brings down Dreykov. She is a compelling character and I wanted to know more about her as we get glimpses of what she’s been through but never a full picture.

Natasha Romanoff – Natasha is a character pulled into her past and who faces it with strength. So much of her story is healing the bonds with her broken adopted family and helping to free others as she frees herself in turn. Scarlett Johansson does a good job and I hope someday we can see her mission in Budapest in some form. This is the story that defines what drives her and it captures that really well.

Yelena Belova – Florence Pugh is the best actor in this and steals every scene she is in. I can’t wait to see where Yelena’s story go and I liked how her actions drove the story. She is the one who got the family back together and saved her sisters. Pugh is amazing in every film I’ve seen her in and this is one of her best.

Facing Shared Trauma – Alexei, Melina, Natasha and Yelena become family in facing their shared trauma and seeking to write the wrongs of the Black Widow program. It is opening up and trusting they heal and it is powerfully done.

Freeing the Black Widows – The theme of freedom and liberation is core to the film as Yelena is driven to save her fellow sisters in the program which leads to freeing Alexei and in turn Melina and the rest of the Widows as they bring down the Red Room and end Dreykov’s abuse and oppression.

Okay:

The After-credits Scene – In the scene Contessa Valentina gives Yelena a new target, Clint Barton who she says is “responsible” for Natasha’s death. It is okay but it only works if you saw her recruit US Agent in “The Falcon and Winter Soldier.”

The Cons:

CGI Explosions – There are some scenes of running from explosions that look real bad. I find running or walking from explosions corny in general and it ruined some good action scenes.

General Dreykov – This villain is one note and is power for the sake of power. He has all this power but is just a cowardly creep. Easily one of the worst villains in the MCU. The Black Widows deserved a better enemy, Taskmaster was far more compelling.

I can’t wait to see Florence Pugh as the new Black Widow later on and I’m glad that Natasha Romanoff had a final sendoff, though this film should have been made and released when it took place after “Civil War.” This is really good action movie with a point and I appreciate what it sets up for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Nobody (2021): Amazing Action But Wanted More Character Development

“Nobody” is a great action film that doesn’t quite reach the levels of the first “John Wick” film. The film has a unique premise and fun characters, especially the main characters half-brother and father and even the villain is fun but there aren’t the consequences of the “John Wick” world which is why I’m not rating it as high. Same goes for style, the style of this film isn’t as unique as the colorful comic book aesthetic of “John Wick.” This is still worth checking out though and is easily the best action film I’ve seen so far this year.

The film was directed by Ilya Naishuller and written by Derek Kolstad.

The story follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) and his dull and sad surburban life until a home invasion pulls him back into the world he chose to leave behind, putting him in conflict with the Russian Mob boss Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action is great in this as it never drags and Hutch feels each hit. The only thing I can say against the action as it is beautifully filmed, is the villains aren’t effective. This is the only factor bringing the action down.

Yulian Kuznetsov – Yulian is a compelling villain as this dangerous mob boss who loves to sing and wants out of the business. He’s got personality and is a threat. Sadly his minions all suck so as interesting as he is, he is the only competent one out of all the baddies.

The Mansell Family – Hutch is a sweet family man and it is great seeing his relationship with his son develop over time to them having respect for each other, his wife and him reigniting their romance wen he finds confidence again and his daughter whose stolen cat bracelet is the inciting action for Hutch. We spend a lot of time to see how disconnected he is from his wife and son and it helps frame the lead up to the action really well as each day is a pattern of no communication, disconnect and boredom. His fight against Yulian and standing up for others is what changes all of that.

Harry Mansell – RZA is great as Hutch’s half-brother who first informs him of the danger Yulian poses and tries to help from a distance before finally showing up. We learn he is in hiding but never the why he is in hiding. I wanted more of this character as his interactions with Hutch were great.

David Mansell – Christopher Lloyd is awesome as Hutch’s retired FBI dad. For most of the film he appears old and out of it until the mob shows up and he kills them with a shotgun in his nursing home. He is the one who reminds Hutch how much he misses the old life and at the end there seems to be the implication he’s partially returned to it.

Hutch “Nobody” Mansell – Bob Odenkirk is fantastic actor and a great action star. He plays the disconnected family man to the badass really well. His whole arc is finding his confidence again and connecting to his family which he does over the course of the film. In the end he is pulled back into his life he left behind but we see that he’s found a way to square that life with his family life and finally has a semblance of balance again.

Okay:

The In-Laws – His father and brother-in-law own the metal fabrication company he works for and I wish they’d been developed more as his brother-in-law gives him a gun to protect his sister and his father-in-law just wants to retire. There is a base here that is fine, it just wasn’t developed.

The Cons:

Ineffective Villains – We get swarms of Russian gangsters but they are ineffective. They can’t even successfully capture Hutch. This is a problem that Wick didn’t have as those mobsters killed his dog and he was always isolated and even captured a few times.

His Half-Brother and Father’s Backstory – His dad being a former FBI agent and his half-brother going into hiding should have been explored more. These are interesting facts mentioned but nothing is done with it beyond them coming to defend Hutch against Yulian at the end.

This is a great film that does not need a sequel. Hutch’s story is complete and the world isn’t unique or compelling enough like “John Wick” to want to return to it. The core characters were great and the action was fantastic. This is a film well worth your time and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (2021): Solid Action But Plot and Characters Needed More Work

Without Remorse is a Tom Clancy book I haven’t read yet. Based on the premise and story here I might though, especially if it develops the characters in this better than the film. This is a film where the core performances and action are solid but the script and supporting characters needed more development to make the film good. This film is enjoyable though and I do recommend it as a rental.

The film was directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples.

The film follows John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) as he works to uncover a conspiracy of who is targetting him and his squad of former Navy SEALs.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action is great in this except for one sequence I’ll go into below. The tension is high and characters get hurt in fights. We also are given tight environments and situations are protagonists have to escape from. This and the squad in combat was solidly good through the film. It felt real and the action mostly mattered.

Secretary Clay – Guy Pearce plays the big bad who wants to united Americans against Russia by starting a war. He talks about how Americans are divided and that we haven’t been united since the Cold War. On paper this is good motivation but we never see this motive prior. He needed more development but was good because of Pearce’s performance.

Karen Greer – Karen Greer is John’s friend and squadmate who is looking out for him throughout the film. She has ambition but will always back him up in the end. Her helping John is what helps set the Russia mission in motion when he learns who killed his wife and unborn daughter. Jodie Turner-Smith does a great job and she’s the only memorable member of John’s squad.

John Kelly / John Clarke – Michael B. Jordan is fantastic as the ex-Navy SEAL out for revenge after a death squad kills his wife and unborn daughter. He plays the pain and rage so well as well as the focus and strength. You can see why he is leading the team and I was glad he succeeded and was able to save the rest of his squad in the mission in Russia.

The Cons:

The Rykov Reveal – Rykov says he and John are the same and that he is CIA but doesn’t elaborate. He only exists as a plot point to reveal the conspiracy when he killed John’s wife and unborn kid. He has all this setup as a villain and character and none of it is paid off in his motivations.

The Supporting Characters – Most of the characters in this are underdeveloped and flat. This applies to most of John’s squad as well as his wife and pastor. None of them get much development and the performances don’t elevate the material.

The Escape Sequence – The initial action against the snipers trying to start a war between Russia and the United States is good but when it is John against the Russian Police it goes on way too long and drags. In the end this lead to his escape feeling unbelievable and it took me out of the action.

This was an enjoyable rental that could have been more. There were interesting ideas here but the characters like Rykov, Secretary Clay and Ritter weren’t developed enough to make the film good. This film did illustrate how great Michael B. Jordan and Guy Pearce are as actors though as they did elevate this underdeveloped script to enjoyable. If you want a fun action movie this is worth a rent, just know these flaws going in.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021): A Solid Cast With a Premise Not Fully Realized

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) - IMDb

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” is an enjoyable film that though it has a great cast and interesting premise fails to be elevated in execution. It has been a while since I’ve seen Angelina Jolie in a film and she is a great action star. I wish she’d gotten a better film, as much as I enjoyed this one it has some obvious flaws in the pacing and the execution of the premise. I’d still recommend it though if you are looking for a fun rental, before I get into spoilers.

The film was directed by Taylor Sheridan who co-wrote the film with Charles Leavitt and Michael Koryta.

The film follows Hannah (Angelina Jolie) a smokejumper facing PTSD, who must protect Connor (Finn Little) who is being hunted by assassins for what his forensic accounting father knows, which is the information he now holds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action, when there is action is quite good. Whether it is facing the fire or facing the assassins, the action is brutal. You feel the stakes when the action finally gets rolling and it is really the times when the film shines at just how good it could have been.

The Cast – The cast is great. You have Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult who are doing their best with the script they are given. I wish they’d been given more as seeing them play off other characters and one another is a lot of fun.

Patrick and Jack – Aidan Gillen is Jack and Nicholas Hoult is Patrick and they have a fun dynamic as the assassins. Gillen’s character is always on edge about to snap while Jack is more collected and put together. This gives them a good / bad dynamic when they are trying to get information from people and even though they care only for the job they care about one another on some level, which made their dynamic fun to see.

Allison and Ethan – Allison and Ethan are survivalists and Medina Senghore does a good job as playing the pregnant wife defending herself and protecting her unborn child and trying to save her husband. Bernthal’s Ethan is one of the first characters we meet who is trying to help Hannah through her PTSD but we see his warmer side with his wife. In the end Ethan doesn’t survive his wounds from Patrick and Jack but he did have a good arc and I’m glad Allison survived.

Hannah and Connor – The main relationship that drives the story is Jolie’s Hannah and Little’s Connor. Their whole relationship is learning to trust and open up and I thought they did this pretty well. Hannah’s arc involves facing her guilt and later the flames to save herself and Connor from the assassins. Jolie is a fantastic action star and I wish she’d been given more to do as all her interactions are interesting but we only really learn about her when she is talking to Connor after the assassins kill his father.

The Cons:

Pacing – This is a movie that would have have been good at an hour and fifteen minutes. There is so much of this movie that drags and tries to set the scene but ends up doing nothing but make characters look incompetent or drag out action longer than it needs to be. This is the core thing that really killed the film and it doesn’t have a better script to solve it.

We Never Learn the Why – This is my script issue with the story besides how some of the assassins story is handled. We never learn about the information being protected, just that it is important. Given how many people get killed we are never shown or told why it is so important the villains are willing to go to this extreme. Fixing this issue would have helped the pacing.

Failing Assassins – The assassins have a great dynamic with one another but in the end are shown not to be the most competent. There are multiple occasions they could have killed who they had captured and they had said prior they would have to, “Kill anyone who sees their face.” But that never happens. Ethan only dies from wounds long after the fact and Allison is the one kicking their but. This killed so much of the tension as I never felt that Hannah and Connor were ever really in danger in the end.

This was a fun but very flawed film. Again, I’d say check it out if you are looking for a fun escape but don’t go in escaping more. This is a script that needed to answer some key questions it didn’t and it should have done a lot more to up the tension and fix the pacing. Fixing any of these factors could have elevated this to a good film. Still, seeing Angelina Jolie rock as an action star makes me look more forward to how she is going to do in the MCU’s “Eternals.”

Final Score: 7 / 10 Enjoyable but forgettable.

Army of the Dead (2021): Strong Core Cast That Uses the Premise Well

“Army of the Dead” is a good but flawed film. The beginning and ending stretch on way too long but when the core plot and premise are being explored with the amazing cast of characters the film is fantastic. This is a zombie film that does something new with zombies while also giving us a fun heist thriller. These elements play together beautifully especially with how Snyder shoots action to capture the scenes. Suffice to say if you like zombie films or heist films you will find something to enjoy here.

The film was directed by Zack Snyder who co-wrote the film with Shay Hatten and Joby Harold.

Casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) approaches Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to recruit a team to steal $200 million from his vault before the U.S. Military nukes Las Vegas for becoming zombie infested. Scott agrees to the job and recruits his team for the mission.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The whole idea of robbing a casino during a zombie apocalypse is amazing. Both those types of movies can be fun in the right hands and Snyder manages to capture what makes both of those types of movies fun. We are given a fun cast of characters and some amazing zombie actions and betrayals to keep the stakes high.

The Action – Zack Snyder knows how to do action and this film has so much fun with it. You get the slow action sequences and lots of different tactics at play from both the zombies and the heist team. This film is full of tension and that is largely due to how Snyder executes the action in this film.

Bly Tanaka – Hiroyuki Sanada is the man who puts Scott Ward up to the mission as he is a billionaire who knows about the millions in the safe but is also double-crossing the team as he sends his man Martin whose actions put the team at risk leading to their deaths. He is a fascinating villain and Sanada carries each scene he is in easily. The guy is amazing.

The Alphas and Zombies – This film does an interesting thing with zombies as we have one who escapes after the military convoy transporting it is destroyed. This Alpha zombie can create others like it capable of strategy and is even capable of recreation. They are a huge threat and it is fascinating seeing the society in action as the other “shambler” zombies seem to worship their leaders. They remain a consistent threat through the entire film and in the end we get a hint they may return.

Scott Ward’s Heist Team – The Heist Team is fantastic and mostly works. Standout characters are the sarcastic Tig Notaro playing Marianna Peters the pilot, Ana de la Reguera as the mechanic and second-in-command Maria Cruz, Nora Arnezeder as the “coyote,” Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe as the philosopher and warrior and and Matthias Schweigh√∂fer as Dieter the nerd and safe-cracker for the mission. Bautista is fantastic as Scott Ward too shows just how well he can play emotionally heavy scenes while also leaving room for his amazing co-stars. The team is what carries the film as the start is a bit slow as is the ending when everyone starts dying.

Okay:

The Ending – Vanderohe survives but finds he is bitten when he is leaving Utah on a private jet and Scott Ward’s daughter survives. I wish Vaherohe wasn’t bitten but it plays into if they want to make a sequel as now you have “Zombie World” or “Zombie Country” as the next film if it is taking the “28 Days Later” to “28 Weeks Later” later approach.

The Cons:

Martin – Tanaka’s man is obviously evil and has no subtle or redeeming qualities. He is bad from the get-go and our surprised our competent team didn’t do more to neutralize this guy before he put them all at risk. He does get his comeuppance though when the zombie tiger eats him at the end as he is escaping.

Pacing – The pacing is bad at the beginning and the end. The beginning could have been cut in half and still worked for what it was trying to do and takes way too long to get to the opening. Same goes for the end as it could have ended at a few scenes but Snyder keeps going.

Some of the Dialogue / The Opening – The dialogue is bad in this which doesn’t help the opening. You have a couple who just married in Vegas who cause the accident of the military convoy in a cringey way and the dialogue between the soldiers in that convoy is awful. We really don’t get competent dialogue until we are with Scott Ward and his team.

This was a good film that had the potential to be great if it had just tightened the pacing at the beginning and ending of the film. I also wish more characters had survived but this is a zombie film so I wasn’t really expecting that. If you are looking for a fun escape and want to see some great action as a fun cast of characters kills zombies while trying to rob a casino than chances are you will enjoy this film like I did. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Tenet (2020): A Thriller That Explores the Nature of Time

Tenet (2020) - IMDb

“Tenet” is a great film, but there is no way this film could have saved movie theaters and nor should it have. I wish more had been done in regards to studios waiting and helping theaters by having them as an option to stream films (support your local theatre by logging onto to their website, buy a virtual ticket and you can watch it from your home and still support them). That doesn’t have to do with the film though. This is a great science fiction film that made some compelling characters in a film that largely depends on the reveal of an idea. I won’t tell you anymore than that but if you are a Nolan fan and want some great sci. fi. concepts explored with amazing action, check this one out.

The film was directed and written by Christopher Nolan.

The story follows Protagonist (John David Washington) as he is pulled into the mysterious organization known as Tenet to stop World War III.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of stopping World War III through time manipulation is really cool. Especially in how this is explored, initially through the reveal of time inverted bullets and eventually traveling inverted through time and having to avoid meeting yourself and causing a paradox. It is so much fun and the slow buildup to reveal works great.

The Action – The action is absolutely fantastic. The action is the best it has been since “Inception” and we get fights and car chases mixed with forward and reverse action, and it still making sense and really good hand to hand combat and gunplay. At the core this is a spy film and it does that really well.

The Characters – The characters either work on a basic level or are compelling in how they are portrayed and their backstories revealed over the course of the film. Each of them are given a moment of empathy and also a time to establish their power. Nolan does nuance.

Andrei Sator – Kenneth Branagh plays the Russian mobster who is the main villain of the piece. He never stops being bad and someone you want to root for to be taken down but he does have a few moments that give him some complexity. He gained wealth from the very thing that is killing him and therefore wants to end the world. He also at one point loved his wife it seems but even that maybe an illusion as he does have the delusion of seeing the destruction of the world as becoming a God. I appreciate how difficult he was to beat as it took all of Tenet’s resources and best agents to finally stop him from activating the Algorithm that would destroy the world through inverting entropy.

Katherine Barton – Elizabeth Debicki does a wonderful job as the abused wife of Andrei Sator who is using everything at her disposal to resist or escape. Her drive is to protect her son and to get revenge and when she finally gets revenge and calls out her abusive spouse it is rewarding. She goes through so much in this film and seeing her claim justice is one of the strongest parts of the film.

Ives – Ives is one of the agents from the future and knows the most of what is going on. He initially comes off as driven and militant but over time we see his humanity too as rather than complete what they believe the mission to be (after the parts of the algorithm are hid, ending their lives). The implication is that he won’t ever find them and it makes sense when we learn more of what is going on. He was the one who at that point held the most information on the nature of Tenet. Aaron Taylor-Johnson elevated would is initially presented as a fairly forgettable character.

Neil – Robert Pattinson’s Neil is Protagonist’s ally and eventual friend over the course of the film. He knows the rules of time travel the most and embraces each moment willingly. In this he helps Protagonist rise to the role he will eventually become. Pattinson imbues him with empathy, cleverness and a sense of mystery which makes him a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see his Batman. In the end he tells Protagonist that Protagonist founded Tenet and was the one to recruit him when Protagonist is much older. Establishing that loop of time.

Protagonist – John David Washington makes a character who has no backstory beyond being a CIA agent a compelling protagonist. In this we see what drives him and his connection to Katherine humanizes his drive as that personal connection more closely connects him to Sator. Seeing him grow into the role of the Protagonist and with what he learns at the end, closes the loop. Honestly, I’d watch another film with him and what else happens in Tenet.

The Nature of Time – Time is a loop and each time you go back you don’t change things but become a part of what happened. This was really cool in how it was handled and it doesn’t really answer the point of choice or destiny just that the loop exists based on the actions of the people using inversion. This core exploration that drives the film kept intrigued beyond the character drama.

The Cons:

Initial Stilted Dialogue – Everyone is talking in code at the beginning and I get it, it is a CIA operation but it just came off as stilled as silly. So glad that after the opening they got away from this. After the dialogue isn’t stilted but the opening is somewhat long.

Overlong in Parts – The opening and the final battle could have been cut by 5 minutes and been stronger for it. Both go on a bit longer than they need to and I would have traded it for backstory for Protagonist or more time with Neil and Ives.

Sound Editing – There are times that the sound editing is off. The soundtrack will go almost too electronic and it ruins the flow of some scenes. The soundtrack was still great but the sound editing is a point against it and the overall film. When it should be used to elevate scenes sometimes it was working against them. It never reaches the standard of “The Dark Knight Trilogy” for amazing sound editing.

This is a great, flawed and favorite film. This film made me care about a character who isn’t given a backstory and does a great job with exploring the nature of time and making it work in a spy thriller. Seriously, this film might make my Top 5 films at the end of the year. The elements that make it great far outweigh the flaws of the film.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 The ending reveal and character arcs won the film for me.

Licence to Kill (1989): A Personal Bond Drama

Amazon.com: Licence to Kill James Bond Original Movie Poster Timothy Dalton  Talisa Soto roll: Posters & Prints

Timothy Dalton is such a great Bond. Honestly he might be my favorite in regards to what he brings to the role and character but I wouldn’t feel comfortable choosing a favorite until I’d rewatched all of them to give a proper assessment. Suffice to say, I enjoyed “Licence to Kill” though. This is a personal story and through it gives more depth to the world that Bond inhabits. I’ll get into more of what I mean in the review. If you like the Bond films, this one is well worth checking out though.

The film was directed by John Glen and written by Michael Wilson and Robert Broccoli.

The story follows Bond (Timothy Dalton) seeking revenge against the drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) after his gang murders his best friend Felix’s wife Della (Priscilla Barnes) and leaves Felix (David Hedison) mortally wounded. Bond goes rogue seeking revenge against him.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of Bond going rogue in order to get revenge is compelling. Bond having to depend on his mind and cleverness over his gadgets is Bond at his best and Dalton captures that driver and cleverness extremely well.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is intense and does a great job capturing the tension of scenes. Michael Kamen knows action and it helps the film as he captures what is at stake and uses the music to elevate the action and characters.

The Action – There are a lot of great action scenes in this, with my favorite being an underwater fight that leads to Bond hijacking a drug smuggling plane. None of the others reach that height as the other tends to drag on longer which takes away from how fun they are.

Franz Sanchez – Robert Davi does a good job at being a threatening drug lord. We see that he has some version of honor as he treats those right he believes he to be loyal. He is also super paranoid so easy for Bond to manipulate and his ego and bully nature keep him from being a great villain. He is good but the character doesn’t reveal anything about the CIA, MI6 or Bond in what he does, which is a shame.

Q – Q is like Bond’s dad in this as he shows up from out of nowhere and gives him the gadgets he needs to take down Sanchez. He is a lot of fun and I really liked how he was able to get under Bond’s skin both in a joking and friendly way. Desmond Llewelyn truly inhabits this role. I’m glad he got to play it for so long.

Lupe Lamora – Lupe is Sanchez’s girlfriend and the biggest factor in taking him down as it is her trying to escape that leads to Bond and Felix capturing him initially before one of their own betrays them. She is great in the role as she find subtle ways to fight back against Franz. She gets a happy ending too as she gets all of the Sanchez money once she takes him down. She rose from nothing and ends up a Queen. It is a pretty great arc. Talisa Soto did great.

Pam Bouvier – Carey Lowell’s CIA informant is a character who keeps helping out against Bond’s vendetta even when he doesn’t want it. Without her and Q’s help he would have died so I can see why she takes Bond’s open cheating so personally. This was a character who needed more backstory to be more though. She is extremely effective at combat and prepared for anything but we never get more exploration of how she ended up where she is.

James Bond and his Allies – Bond spends this film pushing people away to protect them but needing them in order to survive and succeed. It is a nice push and pull and the loss of his wife is mentioned as a reason behind his fear of loss. It is subtle but I liked how even as he clashed with his friends he still won because they ignored him and came through.

Bond’s Connection and Loss – Loss is what motivates Bond more than anything in this film. The loss of his wife, his friend and the friends he loses during the course of the film. The vendetta like that against SPECTRE is personal and it is neat how the film explores that in Bond’s actions.

The Cons:

Bond at his Cheatiest – Bond bounces between Lupe and Pam in front of them. This is Bond at his cheatiest and it is annoying, especially when you have Q making excuses for him to Pam. Just make up your mind Bond and stop being a dick.

Sanchez’s Endgame and lack of Colonial Critique – Sanchez was just after money and power and because of that it easy for Bond to take him down. These are simple aspects of Ego when him having men kicked out of the Contras means we could have got an amazing critique of Colonialism in South America. Instead Sanchez has no real depth beyond ego and the film fails to be elevated.

Overlong Ending Action – The ending action goes on for a long time. There is a fight in the factory, a cocaine truck chase with an airplane involved and a fist fight. The whole sequence could have been cut in half and the film would have been better for it for as cool as some scenes are we lose character because of it.

I really liked this film even though I think it could have easily deeper with another re-write (you are exploring drugs and the CIA in South America, this is rife for critique and depth) but overall it does hold up as a revenge film and an exploration of Bond and his motivation. If you like this Franchise, check it out. Timothy Dalton is truly underrated.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10