FlixChatter Review – The Harder They Fall (2021)

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For many decades, the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and parts of the 90s, the western genre has been stable at the box office. Like what we’re seeing in today’s comic book-based films. The genre hasn’t been as popular within the last 20 years or so, there’s been some decent western that would pop-once in a while; the most recent successful one was Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED. Now we have a new western from musician-turned-filmmaker Jeymes Samuel aka The Bullits and the film is a sleek and fun homage to the spaghetti westerns of the 60s.

As the film opens, a mysterious stranger arrives at a home of a preacher when he, his wife and son are about to have a meal. The stranger proceeds to kill the preacher and his wife. He left the son alive but scarred the boy by carving the symbol of a cross into his forehead. Years later, that same boy has grown up to be a well-known outlaw named Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) who robs other bank robbers. Love has also been hunting down people involved in the murder of his parents. The main culprit he’s after is Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), a ruthless criminal and killer. Buck who is supposedly serving a life sentence in Yuma prison but is soon freed by a gang led by the sociopathic Trudy Smith (Regina King) and the very sneaky sharpshooter Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield). 

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Meanwhile, Nat’s gang has robbed a shipment of gold that originally belonged to Rufus, who needs the money to run the town of Redwood City. Rufus wants to create some sort of utopia for black people, but he wants it to be under his complete control and if anyone objects, he’ll kill them. Upon learning about Rufus’ escape, Nat teams up with Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo), the lawman who originally captured Rufus, his ex-lover Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz) a saloon operator and singer, Cuffee (Danielle Deadwyler) a tough as nail saloon guard, sharpshooter Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler), a young gunman eager to prove his superior speed with a pistol. Their plan is to head to Redwood City and take down Rufus and his gang for good.

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The screenplay is credited to Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin, it’s nothing new when it comes to the western storyline. Just like many other western films, its main theme here is revenge. Both writers tried to create an epic storyline but came up a bit short. For one, the lack of character development of the main characters was a big letdown. They wanted to just throw the audience right into the story and didn’t really give many details on either the hero or main villain.

Elba’s Buck is supposed to be this mythical villain since many characters in the film always refer to him as the devil. I’m assuming that Samual wanted this character to be like Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes in Leone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. But we don’t know much about him except that he’s pure evil. Majors’ Nat Love is kind of a Robin Hood character but again, we just assume that he became that way because of what happened to him when he’s little boy. This lack of characters development really hurt the climatic confrontation between the two men when there’s a big revelation. Thankfully, the three female supporting characters were more well defined.

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Samuel really wanted to show that he’s a fan of the old westerns, so many of the visual elements were burrowed from Leone’s films and the bloody climatic shootout was reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah’s bloodbath climax of THE WILD BUNCH. The opening dinner scene was taken directly from the opening of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. I don’t have problem with filmmakers that “burrowed” from other filmmakers from the past. As long that they can inject some of their own style into the film and I thought Samuel did come up with some of his own visual flares.

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Speaking of visual, the cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. is some of the best I’ve seen this year. The film was shot digitally on Panavision cameras and film grains were added in post-production to give the film that rustic filmic look. Since he’s musician, Samuel also composed the film and it’s a spectacular soundtrack. The theme is combination of modern hip hop mix in with Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western.

The performances by the actors were great all around. As mentioned earlier, it’s a shame that the main hero and villain just didn’t have much development. Jonathan Majors is on the roll after his excellent turn in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Hopefully, he’ll cast in more heroic action role, he’s great in action scenes. I’m a fan of Idris Elba and it’s a shame that he didn’t have much to do in this film except to look evil. I thought the two main female characters were much more well defined and their confrontation in the climax was so brutal and absolute blast to watch. Regina King looked like she has a great time playing a nasty villain.

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While it’s disappointing that the main characters were undeveloped, I’m still happy to have seen this film. We don’t get to see a western with mostly black actors that often and it’s great that Netflix was willing to make it happen. I’m quite sure that most major studios wouldn’t have greenlit this script unless there’s a white character that’s involved in the story, and of course that character will have to be played by a super star actor. The film is a lot of fun with excellent cinematography and killer soundtrack. If you’re a fan of the western genre, then this is a no brainer.

4/5 stars

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So have you seen Netflix’s The Harder They Fall? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – KATE (2021)

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Female super assassins seem to be a hot genre within the last year or so. Netflix has produced some well-known ones, including The Old Guard and Gun Powder Milkshake. In theaters, there were films like Ava and The Protégé. Joining the club is the newest assassin and her name is Kate.

In Osaka, Japan, Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a highly trained assassin who accepts a new mission from her handler/mentor Varrick (Woody Harrelson). Her target is a mysterious figure in the Yakuza gang. Varrick also ordered Kate to take out the target’s teenager daughter named Ani (Miku Martineau). Unwilling to kill the child, Kate barely escapes the retaliation from Yakuza henchmen. Trying to regroup, Kate travels back to her home base in Tokyo and meets a stranger (Michiel Huisman) in a bar, enjoying a night of sex before she’s back to business.

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On the next day, things didn’t go well for Kate, she passed out during a new mission and woke up in a hospital. The doctor told her that she’s been poisoned and have 24 hours to live. Escaping the hospital with special shots to keep her alert, Kate embarks on a mission to reach Kijima (Jun Kunimura), the yakuza boss who wants her dead, inadvertently teaming with Ani in the process.

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Screenwriter Umair Aleem borrowed a lot of elements from films like John Wick and D.O.A. The plot is simple, Kate needs to find antidote to the poison in her body and take revenge on those she thinks is responsible for her predicament. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan decided to shoot the film in sort of Japanese Anime style. In the spirit of the John Wick films, he also included some very intense action sequences, including a brutal fight scene where Kate must take on several Yakuza henchmen at a clubhouse and a nifty shootout in an alley way.

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This film has a very dark look to it, I’m not sure what cinematographer Lyle Vincent was going for here but there were scenes where I thought there’s something wrong with my display. It’s so dark that I was having hard time seeing what’s on the screen and I watched this on my 4K television with Dolby Vision. I had to stop the movie and switch on another movie just to make sure there’s nothing wrong with my TV.

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I’ve always liked Mary Elizabeth Winstead and it’s nice to see her as lead in an action film. She has the physical built that make her a believable action hero and she’s good here. Her character starts out as cold-blooded killer but became sort of a mother figure to the young Ani. Their relationship got complicated once Ani learned that she’s the target of Kate. This is the first time I’ve seen Miku Martineau and I can’t say her performance impressed me that much. We’re supposed to have sympathy for her, but the character became kind of annoying and slowed the pace of the film down. Harrelson has a smaller role in the film, and I think most people can figure out what his motivations are before our hero does.

While Kate isn’t something new and it’s not perfect, it’s still enjoyable and if you’re in the mood for a decent action film, then this one will satisfy your appetite.

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FlixChatter Review – SWEET GIRL(2021)

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Jason Momoa is trying to establish himself as the next big action star in Hollywood but apart from his role as Aquaman in the DCEU, he hasn’t found much success. After appearing in several TV series early in his career, he landed a big title role in the remake of Conan the Barbarian, but that film was a colossal failure and tainted his rise to action stardom. He’s back on the screen again with an action movie that will end up on my list of one the worst films of the year.

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Ray Cooper (Momoa) and his wife Amanda (Adria Arjona) are living a simple life and raising their young daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced). One day, Amanda became sick and a doctor notified Ray that she has cancer. Hoping to save her with an experimental drug, the doctor assured Ray that Amanda will be one of the first cancer patients to be able to take the medicine. But suddenly the CEO of the drug company BioPrime, Simon (Justin Bartha), decided to pull the drug off the market. Once Amanda passed, Ray aimed his rage at Simon and his giant pharmaceutical company. Months later, a journalist who’s investigating BioPrime contacted Ray and wants to partner up and take down the evil company. Once Ray met up with the journalist, he was attacked by a hitman named Amos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). Badly injured, Ray and Rachel must leave town and try to stay alive and keep ahead from the assassins that’s been sent to eliminate them both.

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The screenplay is credited to Gregg Hurwitz and Phillip Eisner. They sort of hit you over the head too much with the theme of an average person trying to survive in our current healthcare system here in the States. Since this is supposed to be an action thriller, the film is basically a long chase. That would’ve been okay with me since I was along for the ride but about a third into the film, the writers decided to include one the most ridiculous plot twist I’ve ever seen. I not going to reveal what that twist is but any credibility the film has up until then, it went right out the window after that scene was revealed.

I’ve seen my shares of ridiculousness in action films, and I can tolerate many of them. I accepted the fact that Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt can hang from airplane/helicopter and escape from explosions without breaking any bones in his body. Or Jason Bourne was involved in so many car clashes and yet he’s still able to walk away from those dangerous scenarios without a scratch. But those films were set in an alternate reality of action pictures, this film tried to make us believe it’s set in the real world and it’s so serious about it, too.

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Director Brian Andrew Mendoza didn’t really do much to elevate the script for the screen. He and his cinematographer shot a lackluster looking film. Mendoza also seems to be stuck living the 2000s since he shot the action scenes with the terrible shaky cam and up-close style that was popular in that decade.

Momoa really poured in heart and soul into this silly movie, and I guess it’s the only reason that I didn’t give this film a zero rating. He tried to be an everyman type of action hero, but it’s hard to believe that someone who stands 6’4 and builds like an actual superhero can be an average person. But at least he tried. This is the first time I’ve seen Merced on the screen, and she played the annoying teenager to perfection. Garcia-Rulfo is pretty good as the relentless hitman that’s pursuing our heroes. I was hoping for good mano-a-mano fight between him and Ray for the climax, but that scenario never happened because of the stupid twist.

I know Netflix has churned out many bad action films throughout the years, heck I’ve seen quite a bit of them. But this one might be the worse one yet. I would highly recommend you avoid this film at all costs.

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FlixChatter Review – THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

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Back in 2016, Warner Bros. was trying to catch up to Disney/Marvel’s superhero films by creating the DCEU and Suicide Squad was one of the many films they scheduled to be part of that canon. When the film hit theaters in summer of 2016, it was a financial success, but met with terrible reviews by critics and most DC fans dismissed it. Now five years later, the DCEU is in kind of a mess. So, Warner Bros. decided to bring in writer/director James Gunn for a redo of the same film. Ignoring the previous version, Gunn aimed for livelier take on the lesser villains in the DC world by including graphic violence, vulgar language and stay as true to its comic book form as much as possible.

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Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) represents American interests around the globe, and she’s being tasked by her bosses to take control of a South American Island called Corto Maltese (fans of Tim Burton’s Batman will recognize that name) from the military leaders that overthrew the country. There’s a prison structure known as Jotunheim, which contains the mysterious “Project Starfish” and Waller doesn’t want Corto Maltese’s newly named president Luna (Juan Diego Botto) and his right hand man General Mateo Suarez (Joaquín Cosio) to take control of it. 

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To do this, Waller restarts the Task Force X program and assembled a new Suicide Squad for action, including T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Savant (Michael Rooker), Javelin (Flula Borg), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Weasel, a grotesque creature ready to hit the beaches of Corto Maltese and take the island. The leader of the group is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). Once they landed on the shores of Corto Maltese, Flag and his retag of would-be heroes were attacked. Unbeknownst to Flag, Waller sent another group of Suicide Squad that consist of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) to another part of the island and Flag’s team was a decoy. Waller directed Bloodsport and his team to find The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who can provide access to Jotunheim. But the team struggles to work together, finding egos clashing and violent tendencies getting in the way of any plans and turning Corto Maltese into a war zone.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the film is full of graphic violence, foul language and probably the most comic book-ish looking of any DC or Marvel films that I’ve seen. The plot is generic, but he was able to give enough screen time of each of the characters for the audience to care about and some of the dialogs were hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this much watching a movie. Gunn and his cinematographer Henry Braham decided to shoot the film with Red IMAX certified cameras, and it looks spectacular.

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I enjoyed all the performances by the actors. Robbie looked like she had a great time playing Harley Quinn again. I love the bickering between Elba’s Bloodsport and Cena’s Peacemaker; the two alpha males always tried to better one another. Dastmalchian appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows as a minor character, but he got a lot of screen time here and his Polka-Dot Man is kind of sympathetic character. Melchior has some good moments with Bloodsport, who became a father figure to her. And the gag throughout the film about Bloodsport’s fear of rats is hilarious to me. As with many superhero or action films, the villains were pretty weak here. I think they should’ve made Capaldi’s The Thinker into a more sinister character and have him be the main villain. He didn’t really have much to do and by time we find out what Project Starfish was about, he’s out of the picture.

I don’t know where things are when it comes to the DCEU but if they decided to make another Suicide Squad or Justice League film, I want Gunn to be the man in charge. I had a lot of fun with this film and hopefully we get to see more hard R-rated super hero films like this in the future. 

4/5 stars

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So have you seen THE SUICIDE SQUAD? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

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The John Wick films has started a new trend in Hollywood action films. Gone are the awful shaky cam, fast editing and up-close shots during action scenes. Now we get to see careful and well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat and shootout scenes. I definitely prefer this new style of action sequences since I can’t stand the shaky cam/fast editing style of the 2000s. The downside of this new trend is that many the recent action films seem to look the same and it gets kind of boring when most action films start to imitate one another. The newest John Wick clone is called Gunpowder Milkshake from Netflix.

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Sam (Karen Gillan) is a super assassin working for an underworld organization called The Firm. On her new mission, her boss Nathan (Paul Giamatti) tasked her with retrieving money that was stolen from The Firm by an ex-employee. But the mission goes awry when she shoots the ex-employee, discovering that he needs the money to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) from some nasty men. Making things even more complicated is that on her previous mission, Sam accidentally killed the only son of The Firm’s competitor, McAlester (Ralph Ineson). McAlester wants Sam’s head and orders his men to hunt her down. So, to avoid a full out war with another powerful firm, Nathan decided to betray Sam and let McAlester and his men take her out.

Of course, Sam won’t go down without a fight since she decided to take Emily under her wings and will need help from her mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who abandon her when she was very young. Also, along for the ride are Scarlet’s old friends Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Mathilde (Carla Gugino). Now the women must use all of their skills to defend themselves against the army of McAlester’s men and also aiming to take down The Firm.

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The script is credited to Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado, the latter also directed the picture. The story is pretty straightforward, sprinkle in some female empowerment theme and a little bit of parent and child reconciliation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in other action films, but I did think they should’ve beefed up the villain role. We get a little bit of sense that McAlester is a nasty individual, but we don’t really get to see his true nature. Papushado decided to give the film a comic book style and included some fun action sequences including a car chase in parking ramp and fight/shootout scene in a clinic. Since it’s a John Wick clone, the action scenes were quite brutal, so you’ll see heads gets blown off and limps gets torn apart.

I enjoyed all the performances by the main veteran actors but the one really standout performance belongs to the young and adorable Chloe Coleman. She’s the only innocence person in the entire film and the good guys will do everything to protect her. Gillan whose 5’11 frame is very believable as an action hero and she looked to have a fun time here beating up several men and shoots them in the head. The more senior ladies also looked like they had a great time doing complex fight scenes and shootouts. While he might be on the screen for only a few minutes, Giamatti was also good the caring father figure type but also a business man who has to protect The Firm at all cost. The only disappointment here is Ineson, he’s supposed to be this over-the-top villain but he’s hardly in the movie and by the time he gets to do his evil speech to our hero, it wasn’t that impressive.

Overall, this is a fun action film that will remind you of the John Wick films. If you like those films then you’ll have good time with this one.

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FlixChatter Review – INFINITE (2021)

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The last time Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up was for underwhelmed action thriller SHOOTER back in 2007. Now they’re back together and hoping to start a new sci-fi/action adventure for Paramount Pictures.

Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has been living a tough life, he couldn’t hold a steady job because of his illness. He keeps seeing visions of people in the past that he doesn’t know and was told by doctors that he’s suffer from schizophrenic. Needing medications to calm down his visions, he decided to build a samurai sword for a local drug dealer in exchange for the meds. Unfortunately, the deal went south and Evan was arrested by the cops. While waiting in an interrogation room, a man named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) came in and starts questioning Evan about his past lives. Not knowing what’s going on and suddenly his life is in danger, came to his rescue is Mora (Sophie Cookson).

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After evading Bathurst and his men, Mora took Evan to a hidden place called The Hub. This is where Evan learns about his past lives and the ongoing war between the two rival groups of reincarnated, the Believers and Nihilists. The Believers wants to preserve lives on earth, while the Nihilists, along with its leader Bathurst, wants to destroy every living thing on this planet. Bathurst wants a dooms day device called The Egg and he believes Evan knows where that device is located. Once Evan learned about his past lives and self-defense skills, he must save the world and take down the baddies.

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The script is written by Ian Shorr and Todd Stein and it is loosely based on a book named The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. I’ve never heard of the book before, so I don’t know how faithful the script is to the book. Reincarnation has been explored in other films, but I don’t think it’s been incorporated into a big budget action picture until now. While the story is kind of interesting and silly at times, it never tried to be original. The structure of the script is very similar to The Matrix, basically Evan and Mora are Neo and Trinity. Tasked with bringing the script to the screen is director Antoine Fuqua. The film has a sleek production design and globe-trotting locations thanks to its big budget. Although, I thought some of the visual effects looked a bit amateurish. Just like the script, Fuqua didn’t do much to elevate the visual side, for the action scenes, he borrowed a lot of elements from The Matrix, Fast & Furious series and the big showdown between Evan and Bathurst looks very similar to the climactic scene from James Bond: Die Another Day.

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When it comes to performances, Wahlberg was a total miscast here as the lead. His character was supposed to be this fish out of the water type but it’s kind of strange watching a man in his 50s just learning about his “purpose”. Chris Evans was originally cast as the hero but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Evans probably would’ve been a better choice here. Cookson didn’t do much either as the second lead, I thought her acting was sort of strange, she always had this smirking look on her face in every scene. Dylan O’Brien also has a small supporting role and was featured in the big opening action scene. The only main cast member that looked to have a good time was Ejiofor, whose villainous role was the only best thing in the film. He stole every scene he’s in and outshone the hero Wahlberg.

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Despite the flaws in this film, I did enjoy it for what it was. A silly action adventure that has some cool and thrilling action scenes. It didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes this type of genre ,but if you have Paramount + then I think it’s worth a watch. I probably would’ve been mad had I paid like $20 to see it in theater though. 

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So have you seen INFINITE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – WITHOUT REMORSE (2021)

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The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.

Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.

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A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated.  When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.

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Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.

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Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.

Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.

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Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.

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So have you seen WITHOUT REMORSE? Well, what did you think?