January 16, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” In this third entry of the franchise, those song lyrics are what we are asking cocky and aging Miami detective Mike Lowery (Will Smith). An old case comes back to haunt him and a scorned lover comes back to hunt him, and he may or may not have his old reliable partner Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) by his side.

It’s been 25 years since director Michael Bay introduced us to ‘Bayhem’ with his first feature film, BAD BOYS. It took another 8 years for the sequel BAD BOYS II, and now 17 years later, we get this long-anticipated third film. Only instead of Michael Bay (who is listed as a producer and makes a cameo), Belgian directors (and former film school buddies) Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah are directing. Fans of the franchise need not be worried, as the two expected and necessary elements are present: partner banter and Bayhem action.

Detective Mike Lowery (Smith) is an old school bull with a badge, and Detective Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) is simply ready to ride off into the sunset of retirement as Pop-Pop with family, including his new grandbaby. Also back for his third run with the bad boys is stressed out Captain Howard played by Joe Pantoliano and the ever-present Pepto Bismol.

Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) is sprung from jail in Mexico by her son Armando (Jacob Scipio). Mother and son have two missions: take back their drug cartel, and take revenge on those responsible for her arrest and the death of Isabel’s husband. Oh yeah, Isabel is part-witch and a former lover of rookie cop Mike Lowery. What a tangled web … and that’s without including another surprise twist. Their revenge checklist includes many Miami dignitaries … and a vow to make Lowery the last to die.

There is another surprise near the beginning of the film, and that motivates Lowery to get involved to help solve the string of murders – not yet aware that he’s on the list. Of course Detective Burnett is drawn out of retirement and they are forced to work with a new Special Forces team called AMMO. Surprisingly, neither of the ‘Ms” stand for Millennial, and instead it’s Advanced Miami Metro Operations. The team is led by Rita (Paolo Nunez), another former Lowery lover, and includes badass Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), hulky computer whiz Dom (Alexander Ludwig), and wise-cracking Rafe (Charles Melton) as a verbal sparring partner for Lowery.

What follows is car chases, shootouts, fancy weapons, drones, and helicopters. And lots of one-liners at stressful moments. Lawrence is especially effective with the banter, and fans will be happiest when he and Smith are jabbing back and forth. This time, much of their grief towards each other focuses on mortality and growing old. The partners are close, but their life philosophies vary greatly. Of course we do get the fiery finale, and this one involves a helicopter and a stunning hotel that’s been left in ruins.

Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan (originally slated to direct) wrote the script, and for the most part stays true to what the fans want – banter and action – while making note of the 17 years that have passed for these bad boys, “Ride together. Die together” always seemed like an absurd phrase for two cops, but the partner dynamics are in full force here, even though this movie (as well as the other two) are closer to live action cartoons than an actual police thriller. The end credits scene sets us up for BB4, and if they wait another 17 years, I calculate Will Smith will be 68 years old. Instead of a Porsche, he’ll be driving a Buick.

watch the trailer:


January 29, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. This is certainly not the typical lame, formulaic action movie that we have come to expect most every January. Director Joe Carnahan teamed with Ian MacKenzie Jeffers to write a strong script based on Jeffers’ original short story. With a touch of spirituality mixed with an excruciatingly intense story of survival, this film is more of an emotional experience than one might expect based on the trailer.  It’s not just Man vs Nature.  It’s also Man vs. Himself.

The film opens as Ottway (Liam Neeson) is composing a letter (and narrating) to his beloved wife (Anne Openshaw). At first we aren’t sure of their story, only that this was a painful loss for him and he is washing away his sins with an apparent final letter. We later learn more through flashbacks as she is the “happy place” into which he retreats in moments of stress … and there is certainly no shortage of those! We also learn that Ottway is a hired sharpshooter to protect the roughnecks on assignment in the Alaska oilfields. We see him in action as he quickly and precisely nails a charging wolf.

 After the first spiritual interruption at a key moment for Ottway, we next see him and a group of the workers boarding a plane to escape the storm. The plane crashes, killing most onboard and stranding the small group of survivors in a barren, frozen wasteland of Alaskan wilderness. If only that were their biggest problem. As if no food or water, and sub-freezing temperatures during a blizzard weren’t quite challenging enough, they are being systematically hunted by a pack of ferocious wolves. Ottway’s experience and personality lead him to the position of group leader as they look for a way out.

There have been many fine survival movies including The Edge (Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins), Deliverance, and The Thing. We even get a wise-crack about the movie Alive, where the plane crash survivors stooped to cannibalism. While I am a fan of all of those movies, none are as full of tension and intensity as this one is, from beginning to end. What really sets this one apart from many is not the action scenes, but the character development. We actually see the character of these men evolve as their plight worsens. Watch for the similarities between man and beast as Diaz (Frank Grillo) challenges Ottway.  Also observe Ottway’s transformation as he goes all out to fight for life.

 The other supporting cast members include Dallas Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, but the strength of this movie stems from the script and the casting of Liam Neeson. Supposedly Bradley Cooper was originally cast, and later replaced by Mr. Neeson. It’s probably safe to say that my comments would not be as favorable if that change had not occurred. Kudos to director Carnahan who gave us another very intense film called Narc. Since then, he has only delivered shallow works like The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces. Here he pays so much attention to detail … like a wolf paw print in the snow as it slowly fills with blood. Don’t be scared away thinking this is just another macho action film. It is much more and, at times, even a very quiet and deep piece of filmmaking … that will leave you exhausted!

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are up for an intense story of survival that shows how hard some will fight to keep on living.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are a member of one of the protesting groups who believe the film portrays wolves in an unfair manner.  If that’s you, I recommend Never Cry Wolf instead (very good movie that shows wolves in a more positive light)

watch the trailer:

THE A-TEAM (2010)

June 13, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness. Plenty of hating going on by the real film critics for this update of the 80’s TV series. What I saw was a fun, over-the-top action film designed to explode with entertainment value. There are plenty of things that prevent this from being a great movie, but nothing that prevents it from being a good ol’ time at the local cinema.

Writer/Director Joe Carnahan makes some of the same mistakes he made in Smokin’ Aces, but overall, he lets the bigger than life characters control the film … well, except when the sometimes-ridiculous action sequences take over. His casting choices are interesting: Liam Neeson as Hannibal (originally played by George Peppard), Bradley Cooper as pretty boy charmer “Face” (Dirk Benedict on the series), District 9 actor Sharlto Copley as scene-stealing daredevil Murdock (was Dwight Schultz) and UFC bad boy Quinton “Rampage” Jackson replacing the iconic Mr. T as B.A. Baracus.

Neeson handles the Hannibal role with an all-knowing smirk, a Cuban cigar and the knowledge that he is mostly the straight man here. Cooper relishes the chance to remove his shirt and flash his dimples and blue eyes. Copley provides much hope for his acting future since he pretty much takes over the screen in all of his scenes. Jackson, on the other hand, really should consider going back to the UFC world – his acting skills are responsible for some of the weakest moments in the film.

I purposefully chose “some of the weakest moments” so as to make a real point in regards to the deflater of the film. The deflater is the one who causes the film to go flat (the air from the balloon) every time he/she is on screen. Without question, the A-Team deflater is Jessica Biel. Apparently straight from the Elizabeth Berkley school of acting, Biel continues to land gigs because producers find her attractive. The attribute of “attractiveness” is only effective for photographs if not teamed with some type of acting ability. When Ms. Biel holds a gun, emotes or reads a line, the viewer feels nothing but letdown. Despite the carnage reaped by the boys, she out-kills them with her screen time.

The good news is that there are some really funny lines and moments despite the fantastical nature of the action sequences. Also Carnahan and co-writer Brian Bloom (who also plays bad guy Pike) have done an admirable job of paying tribute to the original series. Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz have cameos and a brief scene post-credits. Mr. T reportedly rejected a chance to appear and, of course, George Peppard passed many years ago. We even get a tribute (albeit a quick one) to the A-Team van … and it’s nice to hear the familiar sounds of the theme song and series opening.