Mile 22 (2018) review

Rated: 2.5 / 5

So I’ve been curious to see this film after watching the trailer a while back.  I mean, an action film with Mark Whalberg, partnering once again with director Peter Berg, and putting Iko Kuwais of The Raid film in for good measure.  It’s something I had to see.  Unfortunately, it suffered from the one thing I hoped they wouldn’t fuck up that they did fuck up, capturing the martial arts segments.  They can’t go one full fucking second without doing a camera cut.  Didn’t they watch Mission Impossible Fallout?

There are only 3-4 martial arts scenes in this film, and it’s 2 too many.  The first martial arts segment, which you can catch a glimpse of in the trailer where he’s fighting while handcuffed to a hospital bed (or whatever you call that), it’s as good as the camerawork and long takes get, and it’s already subpar.  Iko Kuwais can fight.  I’ve seen him fucking fight, and any respectable action junkie should’ve seen him fucking fight by now.  But the director doesn’t know shit about choreographing well enough to make it look good.  Either that, or he thinks that fast cuts make a good fight scene.  That shit doesn’t even work with shootouts, and this film is just adequate with that as-is.  So the medical room fight is sub-par, but one can still understand what is going on, mostly.  Though that fight lasts way too fucking long (all of them do, honestly, save for the only other semi-decent bit during a car getaway where we see a glimpse of The Raid influence as he smashes a guy’s head through the car window and then rakes his neck along the bottom while glass is still sticking out, God that moment was great; hope they use it in The Raid 3 whenever that happens).  But it gets worse when there’s a fight in a cafe.  I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on for 90% of that sequence, and that’s not an exaggeration.  I was hoping other people were being too hard on the film by saying there were too many quick cuts and undecipherable action sequences, but that whole bit proved them right.

I give up, I can’t redeem this.

The piss-poor editing prevents this film from being as good as it should’ve been, and the action sequences tend to go on for longer than they should.  When it involves a shootout, the film isn’t half bad.  The quick cuts take this film down a peg or two.

As for the story and characters, they’re decent enough.  It’s nothing all that exceptional, it’s a typical “unofficial government organization does illegal stuff to get desired results” fair.  Whalberg’s character is the most interesting and self-aware, though he is a major asshole.

A face expression that says, “Fuck your mother.”

And, entering into spoiler territory…

First off, Ronda Rousey gets killed, and fucked up before getting killed.  Well that made my happiness meter go up a tinge.  But in all honesty, she’s not half bad in this movie, and it did kind of suck to see her get killed off.  But on the other hand, it’s difficult not to make some joke along the lines of, “I haven’t seen her this fucked up since she lost her last UFC fight.”

Second, the story may be a bit on the bare-bones side, but it attempts to add a little meat to it with the narrative interruptions by Marky-Mark off and on, pretty much giving away that he would survive at the end of it all, and that the mission wouldn’t be a complete success.  He talks about how, “Governments suck, but so does everyone, so what can you do?”  And the film basically ends on a note of, with these secret op games that the U.S. and many other foreign governments play, they all win some, they all lose some.  We lost today, but we’ll come after you tomorrow and win.  With a theme like that, given recent news development of how virtually all undercover CIA agents got killed in China after a data breach/leak/hack between 2010 and 2012, would’ve been more relevant if this took place in China as opposed to Indochina (but they were close, they just needed to remove the first 4 letters).  But that was never going to happen, considering 2 Chinese production companies helped finance the making of this film.  That seems to be happening a lot with many Hollywood films these days.

Third, the film somewhat subtly puts in this theme of everyone is an asshole.  Or I should say, there are 3 types of people in this world, dicks, pussies, and assholes.  The film primarily deals with the dicks and assholes who constantly fuck/shit on the pussies in one form or another (though it’s politically incorrect to say pussy now, guess it’s more of the norm to call them front holes; still sounds vulgar to me).  It is stated primarily by Whalberg’s character, who has no problem acting like a blatant asshole, and states that the U.S. government, and all other governments, are dicks who fuck the pussies and assholes they call citizens.  But there is a little more depth to it than that (but only a little).  There are those who are assholes who try to disguise the fact that they are assholes by trying to act polite in a “holier than thou” manner.  This is evident with Whalberg’s female partner who is having domestic troubles abroad, with an upcoming divorce and possibly being unable to see her daughter again.  And her husband rubs this in her face as much as he can, trying to act like he’s above her in spite of what she does, and stating that her cursing just proves his point.  Then it almost becomes comical (I say almost because shit like this hits so close to reality it can’t even be called satire anymore) by forcing this woman onto an app that censors/blocks any messaging she does that involves any sort of cursing.  And while this woman is a bit of a bitch, she is constantly under pressure and put in so many stressful situations that it becomes impossible to act proper so often.  And the husband is no better, just being a typical politically correct dick.  And then of course there’s those Indochina officials who also act “holier than thou,” but it’s all a facade considering what they actually do, and what is going on while they’re negotiating diplomatically.  Whalberg’s character can see through all the pretense, through the facade, through the bullshit, and just calls everyone out on it while making no attempt to disguise his own assholishness.

Aaaaaaaand front hole punch!

So yeah, there are a couple layers to this film, and it had potential.  But those layers aren’t utilized well enough to make the film any better than a solid B film.  And the terribly shot martial arts sequences bring it down closer to C range territory.  All in all, the movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either.  Disappointing, because it could’ve been better.

 

Patriots Day review

This poster is a lie.  It was released 2017!

Rated: 4/5

Decided to spend the Trump inauguration watching this film. Easier said than done apparently, since a lot of other people thought to do the same, making the film sold out for the first showing of the day. Forcing me to get tickets to the next showing, which was more expensive. Hope you readers appreciate the sacrifices I make to watch these films and do these reviews for you.

Anyway, I thought this was a better film than Deepwater Horizon, and it makes me more eagerly look forward to the next Peter Berg directed film. Should be noted he also wrote part of the screenplay, along with a few others including Paul Tamasy who wrote the screenplays for all the… Air Bud movies? What the hell?

That’s almost as weird as the fact that the show Family Guy predicted the Boston marathon bombings a month before it happened.

With the tasteless conspiracy jokes out of the way, let’s get to the actual movie itself. The whole movie is largely a procedural, basically being a docudrama in a similar vane (or is it vein?) as The Path to 9/11 and United 93, and I guess Peter Grif- I mean Peter Berg’s previous two films. When it comes to procedurals and films that pass themselves off as based on true stories and being played out as semi-documentaries, I tend to be more critical of them and do a bit of fact-checking, something I will unleash some anger upon in my next dual review. So upon checking the website historyvshollywood.com, the film does seem to be largely accurate. I mean it’s not completely accurate (they never are), they had to take some liberties for the sake of drama/tension and time compression.

For instance, Mark Wahlberg’s character is a combination of 3 police officers who each did separate things related to the marathon bombings as opposed to just 1 guy who got involved in just about everything. Fair enough, they did similar stuff in Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain.

The other little bit that was fictionalized is this romance angle between this young policeman and a college student. That didn’t really happen, and the director said to have done it to “help convey his appeal.” That’s one bit I think they could’ve done without. I tend to dislike movies that use the “romance angle” to make characters more appealing. It’s lazy and trite, and it occurs far too often in movies, especially Michael Mann films like Heat, with the exception being The Insider, which is probably his most solid film next to The Last of the Mohicans. The Insider is another great procedural film I can recommend. Probably the best film on whistleblowing before whistleblowing became as big as it was during the mid-2000s.

Anyway, all that aside, as far as I can tell, this film stays pretty close to the facts. The director interviewed several eyewitnesses and police officers, and even had a few on set to assure that everything was done as accurately as possible. And it felt authentic when I watched it. After I watched the film I went online to see some of the videos which discussed the event itself, and they felt faithfully recreated in the movie. For instance, the Chinese foreign student who got carjacked by the terrorists. Hearing him talk about the event. It seemed to match up perfectly with the film.

It’s one of the most tense moments in the movie, only topped by what follows. The big neighborhood shootout. When this scene goes down, the film’s intensity level reaches its peak. Two cops confront the two terrorists in the middle of a neighborhood street and all hell breaks loose. Gunfire going off on both sides. The cops eventually escalate it by bringing out the assault rifle, only for the bombers to escalate it even further by throwing explosives at them which just start decimating all the nearby vehicles the police are using for cover. It’s one of the most intense and well-shot shootout scenes I’ve seen since Hacksaw Ridge (though that’s hardly fair since that’s a war film; let’s say since Blackhat, say what you will about Michael Mann but he knows how to film a shootout). If nothing else, the movie is worth seeing just for this sequence alone.


Note: In the video above, it states that one of the terrorists puts all the groceries back before running out of the gas station store. He would bomb a marathon, shoot a cop, kidnap an Asian and hijack his car, but he wouldn’t steal groceries. A youtube commenter made a pretty damn funny remark to this:
“I think somewhere in the Quran it says it’s totally acceptable to kill infidels and beat your wife, but if you steal convenience store chips, you are committing a direct threat to God himself. It’s unforgivable.”

As for the rest of the film, it starts off with a buildup to the marathon bombing, shows the immediate aftermath, showcasing the gory details of legs and limbs blown off, helping those who are injured, and then largely stays focused on the FBI and their procedures for tracking down and finding these terrorists. A bit slow up until the race starts, but it becomes very difficult to stop watching once the bombings happen and the manhunt begins.

As for the message the film delivers, the message ends up being love. Love conquers all. Now, normally, I would be sighing, facepalming, and possibly even laughing at this for being as tacked on as the love message in Chocolate. But this movie actually manages to pull it off, by stating that love conquers hate, in that our love for each other, for out fellow neighbors and countrymen, can overcome the hatred others have for us. That the community coming together to help take down the bombers and help the victims recover from this traumatic experience is something more powerful and inspiring than hatred for them and wanting to tear them all down will ever be. It’s a message, a call, for the country to unite and understand how important we are to each other. And it does it in a way that doesn’t feel too tacked on or too political in its message.

So all in all, solid film. Highly recommended. Currently the best film of 2017, though granted 2017 is only getting started.

Deepwater Horizon Review

Rated: 3/5

I don’t have anything off the top of my head, so I’ll just type and babble and ramble and see what comes of it. The movie is a disaster film that isn’t as good as Dante’s Peak, but not as bad as Volcano or San Andreas (yeah, I didn’t care for the latter, the former can be so-bad-it’s-good at times).


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Uh, what is it about this movie that gives me so little to talk about? I mean, it has both Kurt Russell and Marky Mark in it, and Russell gets blown away while naked taking a shower. Shouldn’t this be A+ awesomeness? Well, for the first 3/4ths, it is. Edit: Let me rephrase that; the first 3/4ths ranged from B- to A- in quality. The family drama was adequate, with typical family introductions which thankfully didn’t get melodramatic, though I do wonder if that soda+honey experiment would happen like that; I may get around to finding a youtube video that shows this experiment, or trying it myself to be sure. The buildup was great, showing how things built up to going so wrong, the shortcuts taken by the higher ups for more profit, the barely functioning to not working at all computers, alarm systems, smoke alarms, among other things. Showing how some of the things work on the oil rig is interesting. But, like most disaster films, I have to wonder how accurate the film was to the real life thing?

From what I’ve gathered, it’s as accurate as can be with the information they have, for the most part.

Still, investigations complicate the simple picture told in Deepwater Horizon. In one scene, for instance, Vidrine concocts a convenient theory that would allow the drilling process to move faster. In reality, witnesses said, that theory was concocted by a Transocean employee.Source

So of course the villainize the BP execs more than is probably deserved, even though investigations concluded they bear the brunt of the responsibility for the incident, but so does Transocean, and other entities.

“The Deepwater Horizon movie is Hollywood’s take on a tragic and complex accident. It is not an accurate portrayal of the events that led to the accident, our people, or the character of our company. In fact, it ignores the conclusions reached by every official investigation: that the accident was the result of multiple errors made by a number of companies. Coming as it does six-and-a-half years after the accident, the movie also does not reflect who we are today, the lengths we’ve gone to restore the Gulf, the work we’ve done to become safer, and the trust we’ve earned back around the world.”Source


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But that’s Hollywood being Hollywood. Could it have been done better and with more depth and complexity? Probably, but that’s difficult to do when everything isn’t clear for multiple reasons.

We also found that several of the people who were involved in the real-life incident clearly had gag orders as a result of their settlement with BP; they told us they could not speak with us. The ones who did not have gag orders did speak to us. BP’s two main rig supervisors, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza (who were played by John Malkovich and Brad Leland), did not speak to us. But because their testimony from the congressional and coastguard hearings is on record, we were able to capture so much of their documented actions and conversations that we didn’t really need to speak to them. — Source

So like The Path to 9/11, another film that covered a controversial subject where very rich people had connections to such events, the film studio and director had to have lawyers around to make sure that things were as accurate as possible, because they would be under scrutiny and under the microscope of people who could do financial damage to them.

The legal processes were something else. Lionsgate, our studio, had a team of independent lawyers who would review every word in the script, constantly. It didn’t stop there: because I do a lot of improvisation, things change during the shoot. So in the final edits the lawyers were all over me; it was the first time in my career I have ever had to take mandatory edits from the studio. For example, we had a scene that might have suggested that workers were under pressure to say the rig was safe because BP managers wanted to move on to another oil well. It was 100% true and very well documented, but the lawyers were concerned it was making BP look too responsible for the blowout. So we had to back off. It was frustrating. — Source


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So I’ll give the film slack in that regard.

Anyway, back to the film itself. The characters are ok. Mark Wahlberg is strong, Kurt Russell is strong. Everyone else is mediocre at best. Not much else to say in that regard. Wahlberg plays a decent plain hero well enough, feeling like a typical oil rig guy familiar with the rig and everyone on it, Russell being the same except in a more hard-ass leadership role. Wahlberg has a great PTSD moment near the end of the film that, I have to admit, got me a bit emotional as well. But everyone else is just, meh.

But the action. Man, I was just waiting to see all hell break loose, and seeing things come closer and closer to that point was nail-biting. Bubbles bursting through the cracks, pressure gauges going up and up, the dread setting in.

And once the pressure becomes to great and it all breaks loose, it gets intense as hell. Explosion after explosion, things going wrong too fast for any normal person to keep up with. A fire from hell consuming the entire rig. And when the credits roll, you are left wondering how in the hell it is possible for only 11 people to have been killed from an incident like that. The fact that it didn’t turn into a massive slaughterhouse where 60-90% of everyone on the rig got mutilated is miraculous when you see the whole thing unfold. This is one of those incidents that, while there are plenty of practical effects that are used to this film’s credit (hell, they even built their own life-sized mock oil rig for the film, see source above), there is no way they could’ve pulled off the visuals without using CG, and what CG they did use is used effectively. CG is necessary for something like this. Because there aren’t just explosions going off at a high rate at a frightening speed, you also hear ricochets of metal and other parts just flying everywhere with each explosion. Poor Kurt Russell gets hundreds of glass shards embedded into him, all over his body.


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That’s fantastic and all, but it just seems as if it blows its load too early. And I’m not so sure if there is any other way to do it without being more “Hollywood” and less “realistic”, but after the inferno consumes the rig and a few minutes after some of the workers get a hold of themselves and start trying to evacuate, the film just wasn’t as strong. There were some moments, like the delayed attempt at cutting off the pipeline, to seeing how messed up the hallways have gotten, to restoring power to try and get a last minute attempt at control, which all seems futile at this point considering what’s going on all around them. I have a feeling I’ll appreciate it more on a rewatch.

But when all is said and done, it’s a solid enough “disaster film”. Not the strongest, not the weakest, just in the middle of the pack. There’s enough there for a good watch, but not enough for it to be held in high standard in the years to come.

Other source of interest:
Wired article, The true story behind the horror of Mark Wahlberg’s Deepwater Horizon