Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Mechanic

This review is also posted over at OK.

I don’t have much solid proof, but I’m pretty sure Jason Statham is Batman. No, not the Batman in the movies, but a genuine Batman who has yet to be discovered by the media and runs about in a cape, fighting crime, stopping bad guys and rappelling from buildings just because.

After watching him in approximately 10,000 action movies over the past decade, there is no other possible conclusion to which a reasonable man can arrive. In The Mechanic – which is totally different than The Transporter because he beats up and kills millions of bad guys without getting into car chases rather than getting in them – Statham is at his best. Which is to say, he’s exactly the same as he always is. Batman, after all, isn’t big on variance. He’s got the same intensity whether he’s taking on a gang of thugs or brushing his teeth.

Providing pride to all those affected with male pattern baldness, Statham’s job, as always, is to run around and kill people for no discernable reason. In The Mechanic – which is totally different than Crank because he engages in death-defying stunts not because he’s controlled by criminals who command him to do so but because criminals pay him to do so – Statham treats the screen as though it’s asked him “please, sir, can you tear me a new @hole?” And Statham being a polite and proper British gentleman, is only too willing to comply.

The movie has about as much of a story and character motivation as the video game Pac-Man, but that’s OK. All you really need to know is Batman/Statham is the best ninja samurai black belt judo king in the world, he’s pissed, and this time it’s personal.

All right, all right, there’s a little bit more story than Pac-Man. After an early-film mix-up forces Statham to kill his wise old mentor, he’s forced to take that mentor’s son (Ben Foster), who looks like Statham’s more hairy Mini-Me under his wing. Statham’s course in contract killing is a bit more intense and hands-on than what you’ll find at the University of Phoenix’s comparable curriculum. Blasting security guards through double-sided mirrors, spelunking through innards of buildings and seducing 300-pound security guards in an attempt to slip them mickeys are all on the syllabi. And boy, son, do you learn your lessons well.

If you’re in need of a dumb action flick injection, The Mechanic – which is just like Death Race and The Expendables except for the fact that it doesn’t suck – will fix you but good.

Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland. Written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino, based on a story by Carlino. Directed by Simon West. 92 minutes. Rated R.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: The Green Hornet

This is posted at OK.

Dear Fat Seth Rogen, I miss you.

Your slimmer, clean-shaven doppelganger just isn’t the same. Sure, he’s still got the John Goodmanlike growl as the version of you who cracked me up in Superbad, Pineapple Express and Knocked Up, but he’s just not as endearing. He just doesn’t feel right, like a pair of new jeans that are starched so stiff it makes it tough to walk. You may be fresher and better, Skinny Seth Rogen, but you got no game.

I realized you had to banish your former self in order to play a realistic superhero, no doubt enduring a tough fitness and diet regimen that will add years to your life and improve the way you feel. But gosh damn it, Seth, it’s not about you, but me.

I used to laugh with you because you weren’t a movie star, you were just a guy. You may as well been the dude behind me in line at Subway or the kid behind the counter at Game Stop who tries to convince me to pre-order the next Call of Duty. You were mediocre, and all-too-easy to identify with. You were the fella who caught people off-guard, making them underestimate you with your studiously dopey ways before sucker-punching them with perfectly-delivered one-liners that you yourself wrote.

This Skinny Seth is more Shia LaBeouf than Game Stop kid. He plays a millionaire playboy who decides to become a vigilante when his disapproving dad dies and leaves him his media empire. Skinny Seth teams up with Kato (played by Jay Chou) and pines for his secretary (Cameron Diaz), dispatching masked enemies of the night with the efficiency of a Final Fight character.

Previous movies you wrote with school-buddy Evan Goldberg felt like drunken ramblings concocted at an after-after party during college, but your stuff in this superhero film du jour feels like it fell out of a workshop full of suits. Sure, you’ve got a few zingers that made me grin, but you also muddy things up with dopey expository soliloquies and copious car chases and retread-like action sequences. And the plot twist, that involves the conceit that a single newspaper in Los Angeles can dictate the false perception that the crime rate is down in the city, made me want to slam my head inside my Zack & Miri Blu-ray case.

Your action movie is OK, but Fat Seth, I don’t want OK from you. I can get OK from Shia. From you, I want spectacular.

I miss the younger, hungrier Seth Rogen. And I mean “hungrier” literally.

I’d like to think you’re still out there, somewhere, eating entire bags of Doritos in one sitting, inhaling bowls of pot and watching 1970s sitcoms in his underwear.

With sincere hopes that you Oprah up again,

Your Pal Phil

Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou and Cameron Diaz. Written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the George W. Trendle radio series. Directed by Michel Gondry. 119 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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