FlixChatter Review: The Gunman (2015)

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Sean Penn has been out of the limelight for a few years, so in order to get people talking about him and promotes his new movie; he decided to tell some lame joke at the Oscars. Kudos to his PR team, after the so-called “offensive” joke, Penn is relevant in Hollywood again. Now it remains to be seen if his off color joke will get people to go see his new action picture.

The movie opens with a flashback to 2006, Jim Terrier (Penn) is a humanitarian working in Congo with his buddies Felix (Javier Bardem) and Cox (Mark Rylance). Terrier also has a girlfriend named Annie (Jasmine Trinka), she’s also part of his team of do-gooders. What she doesn’t know is that Jim, Felix and Cox are a bunch of assassins working undercover. They’ve been assigned to take out an important political figure that their boss wanted to get rid of. After he assassinated Congo’s Minister of Mines, Jim disappeared and told Felix to look after Annie.

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Fast forward to present day, Jim is still working as a do-gooder in Africa, but things got dicey when some armed men came after him, of course being a super assassin, he took them out easily. Alarmed after the attack, Jim sets out to London to see his old buddy Cox, who’s now working as a top executive at some big corporation. Jim suspects that their mission back in 2006 has been compromised and it’s the reason why he’s being targeted. Cox is skeptical but assured Jim that he’ll look into this matter. After a brief stay in London, Jim heads to Spain to see Felix, who’s now married to Annie. Things got messy when assassins showed up at Felix’s house and now Jim and Annie are on the run. The rest of the movie is about Jim trying to figure out who’s after him and keeping Annie safe. This being an action movie, there has to be some shootouts and explosions between the boring scenes. And that’s the problem with this movie, it’s so boring! There’s nothing interesting about the plot or any of the characters, by the time the true villain is finally revealed, we the audience already figured out before the hero did. Not only was the movie boring, it also took itself way too seriously.

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Not known for being in action pictures, Penn was actually decent as an action hero. It’s obvious he worked out for a long time to prepare for this role, because he can’t seem to keep his shirts on in a lot of scenes. He also looked good in fight scenes, particularly a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the climatic sequence. But again he seems to take the role too seriously and doesn’t look like he has any fun with it. Being that he’s also the producer and co-writer, he must’ve demanded that he’s on the screen 99% of the entire run of the movie. I’ve never seen Jasmine Trinka in anything before this movie and she was okay as the damsel in distress, but it’s kind of creepy seeing her as the leading lady to a man who’s old enough to be her father. Bardem pretty much phoned in his role since it’s nothing more than a cameo. Ray Windstone might be the only one who seems to get what the movie should be about and had a lot of fun with his sidekick role. Fans of Idris Elba will be disappointed, he didn’t show up until the last 20 minutes or so of the movie and he’s more like a cameo. Although for those who wants to see him as 007, the filmmakers did give a little wink by naming his character with initials JB.

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I don’t know how much control director Pierre Morel has during the production, but he was going for the 70s espionage thrillers mix in with the Jason Bourne flicks and the result was a disaster. The pacing was very slow, about 20 to 30 minutes should’ve been edited out. What’s worse was that he shot most of the action scenes in that shaky cam up close style that I can’t stand. I still don’t understand why some directors still uses this kind of style, what’s the point of making action movies if you’re not going to show the action? The only good action sequence was the bloody hand-to-hand combat between Penn and an assassin. I won’t even go into the script because it’s so generic that most people can figure out what’s going on.

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This could’ve been a good action thriller if it didn’t take itself too seriously because I think Penn was believable as the action hero. But it’s obvious he has hidden agenda by making this movie. By masking it as an action picture, he probably thought he could get the message out to a wider audience. Unfortunately though, the movie was poorly written and directed. With a better script and tighter editing, it could’ve been good.

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Have you seen The Gunman? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Run All Night (2015)

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Liam Neeson has struck gold with TAKEN and he’s been doing the same kind of movie since. It could be that he’s now being typecast or that he prefers the big paychecks; I’m thinking it’s a little bit of both. Whatever the case, he’s great as the action hero who can take down countless baddies and he would’ve been perfect as Jack Reacher. For many action stars in Hollywood, we kind of have to suspense of belief that they can beat down a bunch of bad guys, I don’t see Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or Matt Damon take down anyone in real life. But Neeson I can believe he can kick ass on the big screen and in real life.

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The film opens with a wounded Jimmy Conlon (Neeson), he’s been shot and then the film flashes back 16 hours earlier. Conlon is now at some bar in NYC and asking the bar owner Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) for a loan. Danny is the son of a powerful Irish mobster Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). We later learned that Conlon and Maguire are childhood friends and that Conlon is his hit man. Conlon also has a son named Mike (Joel Kinnaman) who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his involvement with the mob. Mike is a limo driver and on this night happens to be driving Danny’s drug dealing partners; he drops them off at Danny’s condo and waited outside. Danny owes his partners a lot of money and since he can’t pay them back, he decided to kill them. Mike witnessed the carnage and barely escaped when Danny went after him. If you’ve seen the trailer then you pretty much know the basic story set up, Jimmy came to his son rescue and killed Danny. This of course pissed of his old friend Shawn so he sends out his henchmen, including dirty cops, to take out Jimmy and his son. True to the title, both of them ran all night.

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Unlike his role as Bryan Mills in Taken, Neeson is more of a loser in this film. But he’s still kick a lot of butts and shoots tons of people. Basically he’s a poor man’s version of Bryan Mills. Harris took his role a bit too seriously but he’s effective as the villain. I’m still not sure I like Joel Kinnaman, he’s okay in last year’s Robocop remake and he’s okay here as the sidekick. There aren’t any other memorably performances in the film, although rapper Common showing up as the main antagonist was kind of weird and interesting. Also, there’s a nice cameo from a veteran actor whom I haven’t seen on the big screen for a long time, so keep an eye out for him.

The script by Brad Ingelby is pretty generic, there’s nothing that we haven’t seen in this kind of film before. In fact I think he must’ve watched some early 90s crime thrillers before he wrote this script, the film reminded me of State of Grace, Out for Justice and Heat. There’s even a scene where the two veteran actors Neeson and Harris facing one another in a restaurant just like the scene from Heat with De Niro and Pacino. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Neeson previously in Unknown and Non-Stop) did a good job of keeping the action moving fast and never lingered on useless scenes. He used some interesting transitions between each scenes, not sure if I’m a fan of the technique but it’s definitely interesting. He didn’t really include any over-the-top action sequences, but I did enjoy an action sequence set in the housing project. He also shot the movie on film, a rarity these days and I think it looks great.

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This isn’t a film that’s going to win any awards and don’t expect any originality. If you like seeing Liam Neeson kicking ass then you’ll enjoy this one. It reminded me of the 90s action thrillers and most importantly, I was never bored while watching it.

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Have you seen Run All Night? Well, what did you think?