Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

Headhunters

I’d never heard of this movie, but after watching Sin Nombre, the fine folks at Netflix suggested I might like this one.

Headhunters is 2011 film coming from – of all places – Norway. Roger is a short, wealthy businessman who’s married to Diana – a tall model-type . But what Diana doesn’t know is that a) Roger is cheating on her and b) he’s not wildly rich from his job as a corporate headhunter, but rather from his side job as an art thief. He’s got a somewhat elaborate system where he replaces the art with a knockoff printed from a large-format printer and has a security guy as an accomplice.

I don’t want to give too much plot away, but the look, feel, and style of the movie reminded me a lot of other European filmed movies like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Bourne series.

The movie is much bloodier than I expected, but watching this movie reminded me why I hate a lot of mediocre American thrillers. A quote from Roger Ebert that really sums up my thoughts on the movie : “It entertains with story elements, in which the scares evolve from human behavior. Unlike too many thrillers that depend on stunts, special effects and the Queasy-Cam, this one devises a plot where it matters what happens. It’s not all kinetic energy.”

I know a lot of people are into movies and a lot of the same people are into sports, but nobody has developed a sabrmetric-style scoring system for movies. We all know that Albert Pujols is good at baseball, Kobe Bryant is pretty good at basketball, and Tom Brady knows how to toss the pigskin. In the same way, we all know that The Departed and the first 99.5% of No Country for Old Men are great movies. The key is finding and correctly identifying diamonds in the rough. For example, I would like to know that the value over replacement thriller (or VORT) for Headhunters of +25 or a wins above replacement foreign film (WARFF) of 2.7. Someone needs to make this happen.

Tangents aside, Headhunters is an extremely intense and well-made movie that is well worth your time. It’s currently available streaming on Netflix.

8.0

out of 10

28

11 2012

Sin Nombre

Available on Netflix

Sin Nombre is a movie I’d seen pop up on a few different “best of” lists a few years ago. The Film Vault – a great weekly movie podcast by Anderson Cowan (famous for getting yelled at by Adam Carolla on Loveline) and Bald Bryan Bishop (famous for getting yelled at by Adam Carolla on the Adam Carolla Show) – has recommended this film for quite some time.

Sin Nombre is a 2009 deburt film by American film director Cary Fukunaga about the Mexican Mara Salvatrucha gang. In the opening scenes, Mara gang member Casper is seen recruiting a young boy – Smiley – to join the gang. Lil Mago the heavily tattooed gang leader (and when I say heavily tattooed, I’m talking more tattoos than the starting 5 of any NBA team combined) introduces Smiley to the gang by, of course, beating the tar out of him for 13 seconds.

Casper and Smiley are sent to go after a rival gang, but instead Casper goes to visit his girlfriend. After getting caught lying, Casper and Smiley are punished and viewed as not loyal to the gang.

Simultaneously, Sayra along with her uncle and father are trying to illegally immigrate from Honduras to New Jersey for a better life. They are planning on taking riding aboard the tops of various trains until they can reach the Mexican-US border.

I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as possible, but this is an incredible movie. At only 90 minutes, it’s incredibly fast movie while still allowing characters time to breathe and develop on screen. The movie is very thought provoking on many levels. First, the gang-related violence makes this a very dark and, at times, bleak movie. The overall hopelessness and poverty also might make you second guess your thoughts on illegal immigrants coming to America.

Overall, it’s a fantastic film especially for a first time director. The performances from all of the main characters where incredibly gritty and realistic. It reminded me an incredible amount of the 2009 HBO documentary “Which Way Home” (also available on Netflix right now) that I really enjoyed, as well. If you are a fan of really good cinema (regardless of the fact that you are going to have to “read” the movie subtitles), I can’t recommend this movie highly enough.

9.5

out of 10

14

11 2012

Safe House

When I say the name Robert De Niro, it likely conjures images of the second Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or the handful of other great roles he’s played in the past. I’m guessing you aren’t thinking of any movie he’s made since 1995 (Casino or Heat). Basically, we’ve given him a pass for making a decade and a half of terrible movies. From the start of his career until Ronin in 1998, he’s got 38 certified fresh movies on Rotten Tomatoes vs 6 Rotten movies (that’s an .864 batting average for those of you scoring at home). Since 1998? 10 fresh movies, 23 rotten movies for a .303 batting average).

So why start a review of a movie not starring Robert De Niro with a bunch of Robert De Niro facts? Quite simply, I’m a little worried Denzel Washington is taking a trip down Robert De Niro lane. If you look at Denzel’s career from 1991-2001, he’s made a bunch movies that were both socially important – Malcolm X, Hurricane, Philadelphia – along with extremely entertaining – Crimson Tide, He Got Game (except for the last scene), Training Day – or profitable (Remember the Titans, Pelican Brief). Since 2002, he’s not made bad movies like De Niro. With the exception of American Gangster (which I thought was a wee bit overrated) and Inside Man, he’s just made a bunch of really average movies.

Coming into seeing Safe House, I was quite excited to see this movie. The trailer looked pretty solid and although I hadn’t read any reviews (I’ve been reading less and less movie reviews lately), the buzz I’d heard around the movie was mostly positive.

A half hour into this movie, I was all in. Ryan Reynolds is someone I’ve liked in the past (Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, Van Wilder) and Denzel is always pretty solid (usually in a role that involves him playing a different version of “Denzel.”) Initially, this movie struck me as a good knockoff of The Bourne Identity.

Then, I fell asleep. Figuratively (not literally, unfortunately). The second half of the movie just completely lacked any punch and imagination whatsoever. The story became somewhat stale and predictable. The last half hour of the movie turned into almost forced movie watching.

It was really unfortunate because I think they had 85% of what it takes to make a really good movie. They had a solid cast, a quality action-filled opening sequence, and a really good trailer. It just felt like somewhere in the middle third of the movie, there was a chance to make the movie unique and interest, but they took the safe and predictable road instead.

Overall, I’d say you can skip this one.

5.0

out of 10

21

08 2012