The Gentlemen

the gentlemenrating 4.0It was nice to finally get to a movie I really enjoyed after starting to weed my way through my backlog, through a variety of things I didn't get around, probably for one good reason or another. While the big budget flash of Rampage and my love of superhero films (plus my personal childhood investment in the mutant franchises) for The New Mutants managed to make those films much more enjoyable than even the well-made nihilistic indie horror films I seem to have an endless supply of, this is a film I had genuinely wanted to see in theaters, but never had the time. Then the pandemic prevented me from ever quite getting around to it for one reason or another.

Even after the long wait, this lived up to my hopes and expectations. I was already a Guy Ritchie fan, going back to before SnatchLock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels was a favorite of mine and Snatch was the bigger-budget brother of that film. Things took a weird turn with Revolver, and then Ritchie wandered off into the realm of big-budget studio films. While the Sherlock Holmes series is enjoyable, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was great and hugely overlooked, and I actually thought King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword was pretty fun despite the universal loathing everyone else seemed to feel, this was the return-to-form I'd been waiting for. His last truly caper-y crime film, RocknRolla, is 12 years in the past. He could have easily trod on, collecting money and directing big movies, but he didn't. I'm not sure if he loves this type of film as much as his fans do, but he dedicates himself entirely to it and has honed the concept to near perfection. It stands as a testament to him as a writer that all of his best movies were films he wrote.

The Gentlemen is probably more in line with RocknRolla in tone than his more comedic early capers like Snatch. This is a much more melancholy movie throughout, though it never crosses the line into Revolver territory. It's not somber, but it is serious. There's no wacky, over-the-top Hatchet Harrys or Bullet-Tooth Tonys; all the characters, even if they have some witty or humorous dialogue, feel much more grounded and real than the broad caricatures of twenty years ago. Not that either style is intrinsically better, but it gives the movie a deeper realism and a sad, dirty undercurrent that I'm not sure any of his crime films have really possessed before.

I remember from listening to the director's commentary on Snatch around two decades ago that the movie originally came in around four hours in length and was slowly whittled down, plotlines completely metamorphosing and being rewritten in the edit. I wonder what was lost in the making of this film. It comes in at just under two hours and feels very light for such a strong cast. Without any data to back it up, it feels like Charlie Hunnam and Hugh Grant get the majority of the screen time. Matthew McConaughey is, of course, the lead and the movie is about him, but it's not being told from his perspective. Michelle Dockery felt somewhat underused, but when I think back along the course of the film, any additions are really just padding out the story. And why not get the best actors you can for every single role? Colin Farrell also gets a fairly minor role in what is, surprisingly, his first outing with Richie.

It is fat-free, absolutely svelte, in its editing. No scene or detail is wasted. And, with a cast full of accomplished actors, it still manages to feel like the best roles they've ever played. While it's easy to enjoy Hugh Grant playing against type by not being a stammering British rom-com character or a period Austen lead, it feels like he's truly enjoying it. He's always seemed exceptionally self-effacing and embarrassed about his popular roles; it feels like he's reveling in playing a scumbag. Colin Farrell, as well, is given a strange sense of gravitas by the straightness of this role. He plays it perfectly well as a character essentially straight out of Snatch, but with no sense of comedy or irony. He is a real human... Though the boxers he's coaching are purely old-school absurd Ritchie.

It has the usual Ritchie twists and turns and fake-outs and resolutions. If anything, it plays a little too quickly and the end comes abruptly, but not without satisfaction. It may not be the quintessential Ritchie film by any standard, but it's one of his most solid, and the performances and plot make it one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences of a dour year. It's well worth it just to watch Charlie Hunnam and Hugh Grant playful go at each other, even if it leaves you wanting more.

Hopefully the next Ritchie crime epic comes much sooner than in 12 years, because the ability to craft enjoyment seemingly effortlessly feels ever more rare.


The New Mutants

the new mutantsrating 2.5I grew up on the X-Men. I read my first superhero comics in sixth grade; I traded a couple of Transformers comics I already had for Marvel Comics Presents #1 and an issue of Alpha Flight, both focusing on Wolverine. This is when Wolverine's popularity was starting to peak in the late 80s and he was my gateway into Marvel Comics and the X-Men. As such, I invested a lot of time into knowing about the X-Men and their related teams. The New Mutants were never a favorite or even of particular interest to me, but I was very familiar with them. This doesn't really feel like the New Mutants at all. On the surface, it might bear some similarity to the characters from the comics, but none of them feel like the genuine article.

The strangest part about this The New Mutants is that they chose to focus the film on Dani Moonstar, a mostly uninteresting character that could create illusions of people's desires and fears. Here they decide to make her powers literal (instead of illusory) and uncontrollable. She besieges the world around her with physical manifestations of people's darkest fears without even knowing she's using her powers or that she has them at all. Which I think is a pretty weak take on things, as well as on mutant powers. It's all an attempt by the director, Josh Boone, to try to make The New Mutants into a horror film. There were many early script drafts featuring Professor X and Storm and Colossus and was probably more interesting in some ways, but it eventually got pared down over time into more of a mystery thriller about teenagers in an asylum. Too much Blumhouse, not enough X-Men. Ultimately, the studio toned the terror down in a desire to make a it more of a "young adult" movie, perhaps pandering to the Hunger Games crowd instead, but testing and the popularity of the initial fright-focused trailer led them to change their minds yet again. There was to be reshoots as the movie was pushed back again and again. Horror would be amped back up from the initial cut, though I'm not sure those reshoots ever took place. Instead, Disney came along to buy 20th Century Fox, leading the whole things to stagnate until the sale was complete and Disney dumped the remaining slate of terrible X-Men-related properties. Dark Phoenix still managed to come out before this. New Mutants arrived to mostly empty theaters during a pandemic, the final result of obligations that clear the way for the X-Men to make a better appearance in the future MCU.

But this... It just doesn't work. While Boone turned in a relatively good-looking film and many of the actors are good in their roles or in other projects, it just feels like it's going through the motions. The plot feels mediocre and rote. There's no surprises. Not even anything to really enjoy about it. It's a blank, a void where creativity could have been applied but is missing.

As I said, Dani Moonstar isn't an interesting character at the best of times and was the wrong angle to take into a New Mutants film anyway. The lack of characters in the movie makes it feel very strange. Somehow we're to believe that a single person can run the entire building, overseeing "treatment", upkeep, feeding? It's not a movie that wants you to actually stop and think about the situation the characters are in. What few characters there are. I found myself looking at scenes with all of them in one room and thinking to myself "Where's the other characters in the group? Oh, yeah, there's only six people in this whole movie and here's five of them." It always felt like someone (or several someones) was missing to round out a scene or provide a counterpoint.

It's hard to care about most of them anyway: Sam is kind of a non-entity; Roberto is an asshole; Illyana is a bitch. You don't really believe it when they come together. Perhaps that's in part due to the fact that the director himself says A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was his primary inspiration for the film. That was a movie with big, dumb horror cliche personalities not doing a great job of meaningfully working together. Perhaps if only one or two characters had walked away from this film, it would have made more sense, but them somehow having some bond by the end of the movie just feels cheap and hollow. If you feel anything about it at all. You'd never believe they're going to form a superhero team after this.

The script is a big write-off with mediocre stakes, a dumb premise, a poor use of the characters, but I do credit the movie's attempts at a visual style. It looks good at times and the visual choices made in representing most of their powers look good, though Rahne looks goofy as Wolfsbane. They of course do the dumb thing of having her just turn into a normal wolf. The rest of the time she just kind of gets halfway there: hairy neck and ears, with long claws. It would have been nice for them to just have her turn all the way without her just being a literal animal. She's supposed to look like an old-school Wolf Man werewolf a lot of the time. Maybe they couldn't make it look good, maybe they just didn't want to cover up their actor's face. Either way, it didn't really work.

It'd be interesting to see some of them return to the roles again with a much better script, but that ship has sailed and I don't think we'll be seeing the New Mutants in the MCU anytime soon.


Rampage (2018)

rampagerating 2.0I thought I'd get a little ahead by watching two movies in the same day. Unfortunately, that second movie was Rampage. The script was so incredibly inept and so much sheer bullshit was thrown all over the screen that I can barely remember anything that happened in a meaningful or comprehensible way, especially a day later. The film seems to have drifted from my mind like some terrible fever dream.

By the rating appearing next to this review, you'll notice that I've rated it as below average, as opposed to just being direly awful, but that's just the mindless action and spectacle undercutting the truly sinister nature of this script. This is a 1 out of 5 script, if I've ever seen one. I know Dwayne Johnson does any number of films that aren't good and makes them work nonetheless, but I can't quite fathom why he made this one. Aside from the obvious fact that it's based on an 80s arcade game that most people forgot long ago, it was a mess outside of that flimsy premise. Call it anything you like and try to modify the nature of the plot and you still have these terrible, stereotypical characters that feel like they're out of a twenty-year-old disaster movie instead of something vaguely modern. Dwayne can pull off almost anything, so he remains basically unscathed, and Naomie Harris is too earnest and perhaps too good of an actor to look terrible in this, but Jeffery Dean Morgan comes out looking like shit and Malin Akerman exposed just about every flaw she has as an actress by taking her strongest qualities, her light personality and her genuine likablity, and abandoning them to play a cold bitch villain that probably should have been played by a waspy British actress with a resume full of scenery-chewing. Malin's a dead fish and Jeffery is a fucking clown and we feel bad for both of them, but glad that they got paid. Joe Manganiello mostly escapes none the worse for wear, probably because he dies early on. Which was the one real surprise of the movie. When you're introduced to the mercenary leader that's working for the corporate bad guys of the movie, you expect that he's the one that will be the true nemesis by the movie's end. But, nope, we're supposed to find Malin and her dunce brother to somehow be acceptable if not formidable opponents for our heroes.

The villains truly are something right out of Resident Evil. We're introduced in our very first scene to their experiment-gone-awry in the form of an astronaut/scientist attempting to escape from a burning space station. Marley Shelton hopefully got a good check to show up in this short scene. She's the lone survivor who's being denied access to the escape module by ground control (which seems unreasonable on its face) until she gathers experimental samples to bring back to earth. She manages to get the sample cannisters and get back to the escape pod before a giant rat gets to her, but not before the pod's glass is damaged and she burns up on reentry. Now, if you'll allow me a moment, some things are stated later on: for one, the villains need to collect the cannisters (and, later, samples of the infected creatures) because they apparently have no idea what the formula their scientists were testing contained, something they could have easily found out by bringing the cannisters back to earth before testing or, even, before launching them into space; second, they specifically designed their formula to make creatures grow to be gigantic, become super-aggressive, super-strong, super-agile, and possess any number of other random mutations, yet they seem surprised that the rat they tested it on became gigantic and destroyed their space station, something they're unhappy about the loss of. Who is such a formula for? In brainless dumbfuck fiction (like Resident Evil), there's always the ever-present boogeyman of "military applications" as the excuse for the proceedings, despite the fact that anyone with four brain cells to rub together knows that there's no feasible way an idea this dumb wouldn't manage to hugely backfire and kill everyone. The same is true here. They've developed a formula to basically create fucking kaiju and want to sell it to the military? What is the military going to do with a hard-to-deafeat and uncontrollable giant monster? They say the only reason they're testing in space to begin with is because they'd be thrown in jail if they tested it on earth (as if that's ever stopped any corporation from doing something). They know what they're doing is illegal. Who do they think is going to buy it? And that's just the first and most basic premise of the movie.

Dwayne plays our beefy former military, former anti-poaching UN gun-for-hire, now primatologist. (Because we all know that having a meaningful experience with an animal suddenly makes you qualified to work as a research scientist at a zoo.) He teaches gorillas sign language and basically raised the albino leader of the troop, George, from the time he was a baby, really fucking up the time scale of this movie, since George looks like he's at least 30 years old (for an unrealistic-looking CGI gorilla) and you can't imagine Dwayne having been in this job for decades.

We start out with the usual annoying cast of co-worker side characters. I greatly feared that these people were going to stick around for the whole movie, but they were promptly jettisoned when Naomie Harris showed up and the monkey escaped, much to my surprise and delight. (Jack Quaid has a type and it's very annoying, one of the reasons I didn't want to watch The Boys.) 

Anyway, after the expositional introductions, the cannisters (which we're told are engineered not to burn up on reentry) crash into the earth and all rupture in a very specific way so as to only release the contained pathogen when an animal is conveniently close to the capsule and sticking its face in to examine it. (This script had a minimum of four writers. Did I mention that? It took four people, bare minimum to make a script this terrible in the Year of Our Lord 2018.) George is infected. We find him the next day having encroached on the grizzly enclosure, where he's murdered the animal and grown in size substantially.

Disgraced former scientist for the bad guys, Naomie Harris, hears something about bits of the space station crashing into the zoo and, immediately knowing what's going on for no reason whatsoever, she ignores her job and rushes over to try to get her hands on the cannister. She claims she can help George and cure him, as she's the one who helped create the shit in the first place, but there's barely time to discuss it before the growing and enraged George tears his cage apart, Kool-Aid Man's his way through some walls, and escapes to the zoo parking lot, where the San Diego police are arriving to do what police do, which is mostly point guns at things. Mr. The Rock has gotten them to back off and almost has George momentarily calmed down when a black helicopter appears and someone in military gear starts shooting the giant gorilla full of tranq darts from an automatic rifle. Now, Joe Manganiello's crew of evil mercenaries had just been introduced in a previous scene and sent to Wyoming to kill a giant wolf to get a sample (so the bad guys can get the formula that they already had for some unknown reason), so I wondered why they were there. But it wasn't the mercenaries. (They're busy all being murdered by a giant flying wolf in one of the next scenes.) We're never told who the actual fuck it was, assumedly just magic Homeland Security helicopters that were there in seconds before anyone knew there was a problem. We sort of get that impression when, in the next scene, DHS has arrested Dwayne and Naomie and is sticking them on a military plane, something that probably couldn't be done, nor does it make any sense that it was. They didn't actually commit any kind of crime. DHS doesn't seem to have any use for them and they don't seem to be taking them anywhere specific; they just want to arrest them so there can be an action scene on the plane, leading to it crashing. Jeffery Dean Morgan is a nebulous government agent who doesn't really question them so much as mock and tease them, because he already knows more than anyone else in the movie, possibly because he read the script. That's the only justification I can think of. Dwayne advises against an angry infected ape on the plane, but Morgan condescends and knows better. He is immediately wrong, the monkey wakes up and trashes the plane, and the three name actors are the only survivors, parachuting away before the plane and ape crash.

You see, the Umbrella Corporation... I mean, Energyne heads, the Wyden siblings, engineered something else into their absurd do-anything genetic soup that their green mist turns anything it touches into: it also allows them to transmit a radio signal and enrage the giant monsters to come to them, with only one goal - to stop the nagging signal. This is what has awakened George on the plane. And now it's drawing all three infected monsters toward downtown Chicago. (Yes, three. There's a giant mutant alligator we'll see soon enough.) Up next from the Umbrella playbook, they're going to bring all the monsters to a heavily-populated city where they'll let the military do their dirty work, then they'll collect some samples of the formula they definitely should have but don't, even though they have an antidote stored in the building and supposedly have an outside server only they can access with all their evil plans and experiments on it. They are this arch and don't give a fuck about killing thousands of Chicago citizens, but had to do the experiment in space because they were worried about getting caught? The writers should be summarily executed, that's all I'm saying.

Now's the point where the military gets involved and our three name actors show up at the military field base, where it's the military's turn to not listen, know better, and try to arrest Dwayne and Naomie for no conceivable charges. As they're being taken away, Dwayne easily takes out two MPs after telling the MPs exactly what he's going to do to them. You see, he was Special Forces; he is a badass. They decide to take the medevac chopper that won't be missed and sneak off to Chicago to stop the monsters themselves. Jeffery Dean Morgan catches them immediately, because he's a government agent, making him roughly psychic. He knew exactly what they'd do and he approves. He gives them a radio or satphone or something. It's never clear and sorts of acts like both. They head out as the city turns into a CGI monster brawl. The military is completely ineffective. They can't manage the ape and wolf and, then, an even-larger alligator arrives. The military immediately turns all its attention to that instead, for no good reason, and they're absolutely fucked sideways. It would probalby help if their helicopters and planes wouldn't descend to about 30 feet off the ground to attack. Jets are using only guns and not missiles and attacking from meters out instead of miles; helicopters hover in place and shoot their cannons pointlessly at the creatures instead of their missiles until the monsters just reach up and easily tear them apart. Evasive maneuvers are for punk bitches, anyway.

The colonel in charge, Demetrius Grosse at a real career low, decides to drop a bomb that will annihilate half of Chicago, something a colonel can surely do, unilaterally, without any input from the Joint Chiefs or the President or the Pentagon... Whatever. He seems perfectly fine in probably killing tens of thousands of people because he begrudgingly called for an evacuation like a couple of hours before, so everyone should be out if they wanted to live or whatever.

Meanwhile, the Wydens are having everything in their company seized by the FBI, but they aren't being arrested or taken in for questioning or anything. The FBI only wants their hard drives and servers and then they jet right out of the movie again. But, like I said, secret server. Not that it even comes up again.

So, as mayhem is going on in the city, Dwayne and Naomie get to Energyne to find the cure and stop the creatures. Despite everything being taken by the FBI just to make it harder for them to find the cure in this scene, the just look in very obvious places and find it immediately. Naomie grabs three of the giant EpiPens full of counter-agent (that won't change the creatures back, but will eliminate the aggression, making it a very fucking mediocre solution to their terrible experimental product). But the Wydens are there... and they have a gun! Now, despite being able to take down two MPs with raised weapons, no problem, Dwayne lays down like a little bitch for a goofy rich kid in a suit because he sort of has a gun pointed at them. Then Malin grabs the gun from him, giving Dwayne the perfect opportunity to take them out, but he decides he's a pussy and lets her shoot him in the gut instead.

They take two of the three doses of "cure" (Naomie secreted one in her pocket) and drag Naomie to the roof, because they're going to make her recreate their missing formula from scratch and they need to get away via helicopter. There's a helipad on the roof, exactly where I thought Dwayne and Naomie should have landed their helicopter instead of in the street a few scenes earlier. The villains think it's a good idea to head to this roof and slowly board their waiting helicopter, despite this being the exact location of the giant antenna all the monsters are being drawn to. It seems like they should have left when they turned it on. No one in this fucking movie has a brain stem.

Dwayne, of course, comes to the rescue on the roof because the bullet "missed all the major organs", so he's fine. But the monsters are there and there's no escape from the roof. Malin pulls the gun on them again and is going to make Dwayne head out and draw the creatures' attention so they can make their escape. There's a tussle, the gun is kicked away, and Naomie sticks the cure into Malin's purse and pushes her out onto the roof, because she somehow knows that George is going to pick her up and eat her whole, despite the fact that he hasn't done that in the whole movie. But she makes a pun about Malin getting eaten, as she knows for sure it's about to happen moments later. Malin is eaten whole, with her purse, with the sort-of-antidote in that purse, still inside its EpiPen-like container. Then they decide that, somehow, it'll take effect on George and he'll be okay in maybe 10 minutes. What? It was an injector. He wasn't injected. How long would it take for him to digest even the plastic in the container, if it isn't protected by the leather purse? Isn't it much more likely that he's just pass it right through his body? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Fuck logic and reason of any kind.

Dwayne and Naomie escape off the roof in the tail-less mangled remains of the helicopter, keeping it just barely off the ground as the building falls over.

George comes to his senses. The alligator bites off the wolf's head, now that they're not all working together to stop the signal, because that's something the pathogen made them do. There's a big, destructive fight between the alligator and Dwayne and George. Naomie heads off and gets Jeffrey to stop the colonel from dropping the bomb on the city. You see, there's still people on the ground. As if this would somehow come as a surprise to the colonel, watching via drone and satellite footage back at HQ. Military and civilians still on the ground everywhere in the blast area? You don't say! Somehow it works, I guess, because the colonel sees that George is now on our side or something and he calls for the stealth bomber to abort, which flies by the city at roughly 1,500 feet off the ground, a real good height for a stealth bomber to drop a massive bomb from.

There's a fight. The monkey wins. He gives Dwayne the finger and then makes a fucking motion with his hands to ask if Dwayne is boning Naomie yet. I guess I should have mentioned that the movie is shockingly violent and profane for something that got away with a PG-13 rating. If this isn't an example of the MPAA having massive bias, I don't know what is. Just because it's an absurd yuk-fest with The Rock, I guess it gets a pass for the massive amount of not-bloodless death and destruction taking place throughout and a surprising amout of swearing for a once-pretty-conservative rating system.

I'm sure there's more detail and a lot more painfully awkward and incompetent writing that I missed or glossed over, because I'm trying to keep it to just three thousand words about this shit tornado. The movie constantly fails to have realistic physics, realistic characterizations, realistic motivations, believable people or places or actions or events. If it weren't for Dwayne Johnson and the mostly light-hearted destruction and mayhem, the movie would have been a lot worse and more painful. I mean, it'd probably be Tom Cruise's The Mummy. Though, sad to say, I think that still had a better script. What I'm saying is that it's probalby both better and worse than I'm saying, which averages out to what I gave it. Except the script. The script is a fucking failure.

Summary execution. I'm not saying we have to... Just think about it for a while. I think you'll come around to what I'm getting at.


The Predator

the predatorrating 2.5I'd love to watch a really good movie right about now. But, instead, I'm catching up on the past several years of things I've had sitting around, waiting to be watched, none of which piqued my interest enough to get watched before now. So, another day, another middling film. Not to say The Predator is bad. It's "pants on head" stupid, but it's fun. It may be one of the most blisteringly average things Shane Black and Fred Dekker have worked on, but it's still worth a watch.

Of course, there's many people out there who talk about how terrible the film is and how it ruined a storied franchise. For one thing, your nostalgia is causing you to severely overestimate how worthwhile the Predator films have been. (And if AvP didn't ruin the franchise for you, nothing will.) The first was fun, though I think people give it far too much credit because of the direct relationship to their childhood. I'd imagine that if you showed someone around the age of 20 all of the various Predator films, this one and the original wouldn't be too far apart. But people let their memories dictate how good they believe something actually is, qualitatively, forever. It should be noted, if you don't know me (a very low possibility if you're actually reading this site), that I don't remember anything; my mine erases itself every few years. It's very awkward to not remember most people you've met, remember anything about your childhood, teenage years, things you did with you friends, amusing anecdotes about things you did together, anything that makes you feel like you know people... Instead, I get to relive everything fresh after a few years and decide that something I liked five or ten years ago isn't that good anymore. There's a great comfort in the fact that things are only as good as you find them to be right now, mostly untainted by nostalgia of any kind. So I at least don't have to carry a torch for my childhood or the 80s or whatever terrible stuff is popular right now because someone remembers watching a VHS tape at a friend's sleepover or the first time their dad took them to an R-rated movie.

All that said, there's a lot more stuff in this movie, which means there's a lot more chances to come across as much dumber than the original Predator. I will give you that. The fact that they're spicing it up with Predator backstory and mythology could be a nice change of pace, but also it amplifies the hokiness of the proceedings. It's 15 pounds of goofy sci-fi bullshit in a 5-pound bag.

I will state that the cast is good. I'm sure that people will want to argue tirelessly about this, but it's not an arguable point. The movie is full of good actors, acting as they were obviously directed. Even Sterling K. Brown, chewing scenery like... well, a Shane Black villain. The complaint people are probably trying to make is that they didn't like the tone of the movie. That's a fair point. If you want Predator movies that are action-thrillers, this one isn't for you. There's touches of horror-level gore across this movie and death is much more widespread in this film, though some will still want to die on the practical effect hill regarding that. But, still, tension isn't really an aspect of the story. Unlike pretty much every other Predator film, it doesn't really feel like the Predators are hunting. It's more akin to a monster movie than Predator, following some lumbering beast wreaking havoc through a city... GodzillaCloverfield, etc. The stakes never feel high until everyone gets mowed down towards the end. Perhaps the monster aspect feels more obvious in direct relation to Fred Dekker (of Monster Squad and Night Of The Creeps fame) being a co-writer, not to mention the overall comedic tone of writer/director Shane Black (he also of The Monster Squad, as well as Lethal WeaponLast Action HeroIron Man 3, et al.). I'm sure most people's tonal problems come directly from Black and his penchant for wordy mayhem. And this film is much more Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Last Boy Scout than people probably expected or even desired out of a sci-fi actioner, much less Predator. I, myself, didn't mind. It was nice to have something just stupidly fun to watch for once, as opposed to the direly serious shit I've been watching, and I appreciated the jokes regarding the natures of the films themselves, such as the constant questioning of why it's called a "Predator" when it's more of a big-game hunter. Those clever moments aside, there's some weak fan-service references, and some vulgar insults attempting to pass as being humor. I mean, it's Shane Black; some of his films are more or less elevated depending on the project and style, but he is who he is.

So I can't really blame people that don't like the movie. It's goofy, it's often dumb, it's overwritten, there's too many things, many of which don't feel great: the focus on the child (not to mention trying to paint autism as some sort of evolutionary super power), the overly wacky squad, the schlocky Predator backstory, and the whole DNA-modification aspect. (Also, Predator dogs?) Really, it all overcomplicates a plot that didn't need to be... so much. And, yes, the ending setup is goofy, dumb, and a little self-referential.

Still, if you get past your bias towards a bunch of old, just-okay movies, it's an enjoyable if completely forgettable (and also sort of stupid) watch.


Guns Akimbo

guns akimborating 2.5There's something that immediately felt off about Guns Akimbo. It looked slick, in its way, while also feeling cheap and shoddy. Even before Jason Lei Howden attempted to bury his career (and this movie) with a Twitter meltdown, you had to wonder where he's going wrong. It felt like he's just cobbling together his idea of what a cool movie looks like from a bunch of other films. It had a cast full of strong actors who felt like they were wasted on the hokey material. The writing is pure amateur material, while the budget obviously isn't. If it weren't for the easily palatable action throughout and typically excellent performance by Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, it'd be very hard to recommend in any capacity.

From the beginning, I could tell that a lot of the movie's concept is heavily lifted from Wanted, a meek office drone with a domineering boss wasting their life in irrelevance, medicating themselves (I suppose to show how physically weak they've let themselves be), and bumbling through their first dangerous encounters with violent, beautiful women. (The slow-motion "flying keyboard keys" scene is even recreated in an early fight.) To spoil this mostly mediocre experience, I'll add that the movie even ends with the beautiful and dangerous woman sacrificing herself to get the male former-nebbish past a room full of enemies so they can reach the final fight. The final moments show the male lead, now hardened and confident, ready go mete out his justice all over the world. It's not the same movie, but it echoes loudly.

Not that it isn't lifting from a variety of sources. There's touches of different films and styles throughout. Gaudy neon Suicide Squad color schemes, self-indulgent fight scenes where Samara Weaving's ostensibly-untrained mental-ward-escapee Nix ninjas her way through the movie with an absurdly brutal efficiency that would put John Wick and Deadpool to shame (while being a poor man's Harley Quinn, spouting vulgar non-sequiturs in a way only an edgelord teenager would find entertaining), a view of internet culture and hacking that wouldn't be out of place on an episode of "NCIS", every scene featuring some terrible cover of a recognizable pop song (which are all apparently done poorly by 3TEETH, truly the worst things I've heard out of a band I already didn't like, especially to have to hear a shitty cover repeated more than once)... If you accept that the whole movie is an absurd, cartoonish, unbelievable gag that you can't be invested in on any intellectual level and can only enjoy for the adolescent sense of mayhem, it still feels very standard and unimpressive. The fact that it has relatively amusing moments, good actors mostly trying their best (Rhys Darby is amusing and Ned Dennehy chews through several movies' worth of scenery as the villain), and is watchable despite the stupidity and the completely by-the-numbers plot (down to the entirely predicatable "twist" and ending) makes it at least a passable and quick watch, though it's not going to rank on anyone's list of favorites unless they're a 14-year-old who hasn't seen any movies made in the past 20 years.