Jason Bourne (2016)

107670

After rightfully dropping ‘The Bourne Legacy’ from my memory; I was anxious but well up for another Bourne outing once realising that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass would be united once again. This film then, is a slight drop in the honed in grittiness of the trilogy, but it’s still a damn well delivered action thriller.

Kicking off after Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) swimming away from Ultimatum, we find the troubled man in Greece trying to live off the grid. That is until a face from the past warns him of more secrets leading Bourne to hunt down answers pursued by the tactics of CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Admittedly I must say that even my excitement never wavered upon finding out this movie was in production, I did feel that maybe it wasn’t overly needed. I can confirm that now seeing this I still annoyingly feel that it wasn’t truly necessary. There’s an engaging story in there at times amongst the CIA charged drama but having Bourne finding out there’s more to his past feels quite rehashed.

That’s the only negative I majorly have with this movie though, the story is kind of the same and the convenience of having a third act sequence at a tech convention, for Bourne to just scoop some handy tools for tracking felt lazy, but apart from these sour notes I found myself really enjoying this spy feature. It has both action and technical logistics scenes in equal measure that make it more than just explosions and nonsense, the new faces are a treat to the JB world and you can’t hide the smile when the first shrill notes of Moby’s ‘Extreme Ways’ exits the speakers.

Greengrass is great in making these blockbuster movies feel dangerous and real. The grittiness is in effect and the frequent shaky cam gives an unstable edge to the look which works well in parallel to the quivering nature of truth and who to trust in the plot. Greengrass certainly knows how traverse the globe, shooting cities and their subsequent panics to make Bourne a capable hero against all the odds, thrown amongst riots, assassins and shady government figures; he is a man to root for.

Each big moment feels well handled and packs a suitable punch, mostly for being so damn tense. Firstly there’s Greece and a politically charged breakdown between civilians and police, London gets screen-time in a way not as good as the Waterloo station from Ultimatum but still stuffed with suspense as Bourne tries getting to someone. The gloss and glamour of Las Vegas gets to shine…and smash in a huge way for the final act and it may be Fast and Furious style carnage but it’s breakneck, unflinching and full of adrenaline from start to finish.

Matt Damon is back as Bourne and it’s nice to see him back, he is damn good at the part. Fit and silently firm Damon ensures that Jason is someone we keep on side with, but then it’s the other players in the game that add real spice to the proceedings. Julia Stiles returns and is great in a smaller role. Alicia Vikander keeps you guessing as she treads back and forth in your mind to if she’s good or not and she plays it well. Tommy Lee Jones is a fantastic addition as the stern man overseeing the plan to take down Bourne. Vincent Cassel is another welcome new member and gifts the film a strong asset that can rival the power of Jason himself.

Treadstone and 2002 Bourne may be gone but the Greengrass/Damon combo usher in Ironhand and a still resourceful Jason, to cast an iron hand on the franchise with plenty of solid moments.

7.5/10

Advertisements

Haywire (2012)

haywire-poster2

This thriller/action movie had me annoyingly disengaged for the majority of the run time. There is a genuine admiration to be had for the stunt work and actual fighting style used by MMA fighter Gina Carano, but apart from that I feel this was nowhere near as exciting or special as it could have been.

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a former Marine and after retrieving a hostage in Barcelona she gets an assignment to Dublin from director Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). There she meets up with MI6 agent Paul (Michael Fassbender) and after a shady night she realises she’s being wrapped up into a conspiracy.

It’s a film that feels like it has so much potential, from the talents of director Steven Soderbergh to the impressive acting list including Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton, there’s the action grittiness that usually works so well and a story about embroilment and pointing the finger but it only comes across as…average.

It would be hard not to compare this film to the Paul Greengrass splendour of the Bourne 2 and 3. This one appears like a female version of Jason Bourne but sadly is never quite as impacting or interesting. The action is alright but the attempts at the murky world of intelligence shrouding a person in blame and mystery doesn’t ignite in the same way as the JB trilogy.

Soderbergh does a neat job in utilising blends of fast paced shots with black and white moments, he gives each new location a suitable amount of breathing time and he ensures that the focus sticks with capable Mallory, but it never felt like he was breaking out of the action thriller formula and aside from him doing well in casting an actual subject for his lead and giving the movie some sleekness, this for me felt like a blah picture.

I do commend the way we see Carano kick ass and flip off walls, the brutal elements as she takes down a succession of men is cool to see but it nearly gets blinded by the stupid choice to have Mallory and Aaron just kiss, the awful deer in car moment and a drained sense of colour and blur to most of the movie. Even David Holmes’ music at most points sounds like it comes from a 60s/70s TV show and doesn’t feel right.

There’s a neat ending which feels very right and helps the film…but it’s at the ending. I don’t know, you just never feel tense or you don’t get nervous for the main character because she just gets seen as a strong fighter and nothing else. Everything is almost to easy for her, I feel from the other reviews I’ve seen of this feature that I’m firmly on my lonesome in having this viewpoint on the film but I didn’t really like it.

 

Gina Carano isn’t much of an actress but she more than makes up for it with her display of real hand to hand combat. There’s a cold tenacity in her eye, a furious touch to her look that helps Mallory feel driven. Michael Fassbender is brooding, handsome and dangerous as Paul. Ewan McGregor doesn’t get to do much outside of the typical director cliche mould, his motive transparent and Michael Douglas also fails to get much to do to pique the interest.

I admit there’s a cool level of muscle and style to this action number, but the pace, music and been there done that plot made me switch off multiple times.

4.5/10

 

The Accidental Spy (2001)

the-accidental-spy-movie-poster-2001-1020211190

Don’t let the oddly constructed poster above fool you, this isn’t a cheesy and American explosive spy movie however it might look. This film has darker threads in it for Chinese superstar Jackie Chan to cope with. It is a pretty bad plot but the action moments more than make up for it I feel.

Two groups are after a new powerful drug and of course the CIA, Asian police forces and undercover detectives are out to stop them get their hands on it. Jackie Chan in the version I watched plays Jackie Chan who is a fit sports goods salesman who happens to feel intuition about troubling circumstances leading him to save the day in the shopping centre gaining attention that he could be a valuable asset as a spy.

Ivy Ho writes this martial arts spy movie with a keen sense of the meatier more entertaining moments but the filler in between is short lived and rushed. The characters don’t really connect and the main reasoning of who Chan is feels lost or dumb or perhaps both. We don’t really get to see more of who the normal Chan is/was and we don’t have enough moments to grasp the spy mission he is going along on. This film could have done with more detail or even a longer runtime to let us understand more of the narrative and make it a better spy plot than just a below average one.

It’s almost as if the director didn’t want the spy genre overshadowing Jackie’s skills at action either. Teddy Chan neatly exposes us to more exhilarating fights but the pieces in between are glossed over in a drab way that don’t live up to Bond or Bourne genre tropes. Sure there’s the globe-trotting and shadowy figures that may or may not be who they say there are but that feels like less than the focus for the film which is a disappointment because having more of an engaging spy plot run through would have been different for Jackie and for us also.

An example of the rushed attempt at being a spy thriller is having Chan trying to find information. It views like a plain Mission Impossible montage as he tries discovering things and playing his dead father’s game. The introduction of Yong to proceedings also clouds up the plot as we’re meant to believe that Chan cares for or loves her but there’s never enough time to buy into that relationship.

The action is great entertainment though and does make the film watchable and enjoyable. Jackie Chan comments that Buster Keaton was an influence and that can truly be felt in the defibrillator response, what with his brilliant clowning movements after the shocks. The taxi fight sequence is energetic but short-lived which is annoying. Though the spectacle of Chan using objects around him is found in a longer scene for amusing visuals of him utilising bubble blowing defence moves or handy tools at his disposal in the Turkish bazaar. The film has a surprising dark touch with blood, deaths and terrorist threats, addiction also plays a part for Yong but the film still gives us the gleeful humour we expect from Jackie Chan flicks.

Jackie Chan himself is as good as usual, the dedication he gives to the stunts makes everything more real. Even a non-dangerous moment where he twirls up into clothed disguise is done in such a cool way by the actor. He has a cheeky smile that lights up almost every scene even if they’re not all as exciting as you’d expect. Vivian Hsu as the damaged Yong tries her best at being an interesting character but they don’t give her much to do so you don’t ever feel for her. Eric Tsang as the mysterious Manny has a good stab at being comedic and layered as a character cropping up from time to time and he does well though that spy angle as mentioned isn’t cared about as much as letting the action do the talking.

A rushed shot that bounces off the target of being a good spy movie but it slam dunks for Jackie and his always fantastic action persona. Watchable but not overly recommended.

5.5/10

The November Man (2014)

november_man_ver2

A vague Bond/Bourne spy type thriller here based on a series of ‘November Man’ novels by Bill Granger. It may not do anything spectacular to smash out of the genre and in fact typical settings and spy cliches are a major pitfall but on the whole I enjoyed this film, really I did. It’s quick on the most part, bloody, dark and shows Pierce Brosnan in a more rugged light.

5 years after an incident Montenegro, agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is retired and in Switzerland, though it isn’t long until some dramatic event calls him back into the game, where he blurs the line between good and bad confronting old partner David Mason (Luke Bracey) to track a missing female and uncover who was behind a bombing. Peter gains the help of case worker Alice (Olga Kurylenko) to try and jump in the lead in finding the missing woman.

It has its predicted twists and turns with the idea of never knowing who to trust and I like that, it’s never overbearing or so out there that the twists become laughable. Yes, high stake political players and dingy cities make for cliched thriller tropes but that’s surely to be expected in this kind of film…right? Well maybe you want it to do something slightly different to reinvent the thriller wheel but you take what you get, especially when this Roger Donaldson movie succeeds in creating tension and delivering on action.

The attempts at Jason Bourne like hand to hand may not be overly thrilling, the only times they try this sort of thing is with a few kicks or knees to a head or with an all too brief mano o mano combat scene between Peter and David. There’s a lot more visceral battle conclusions than I was anticipating, with brutal bloody head-shots and the like scattered amongst the film. Heck, even the very very end of the this movie has a moment such as this and I won’t lie, it made me jump!

There are a number of problems with the film, one annoyance for me was the inclusion of a character with great potential that came to nothing. An apparent trained and deadly female killer who had little screen time and did literally not much at all to demonstrate the awesome power she could have done. She either needed to have been seen more or not at all. After a brilliant fast paced opening twenty minutes or so the film begins to droop. Not a great thing as there aren’t many fast sequences amongst the slower feeling scenes to lift the film from this sag. It’s a little bit dumb and long with things being shown that don’t need to be either because they stretch the running time or we can see the outcome coming before it’s shown. None of the actors apart from Brosnan really get a grip to come out with a glean and bursts of slow motion feel a bit out of place in this kind of movie.

One of the biggest stand outs in this film is the talent of Pierce Brosnan who clearly utilises on his background as one of the James Bonds, he has that danger and charm mixed to perfection and elevates this more so as the ‘November Man’ making you question him as a good or bad guy. One scene in particular where he has the obligatory sitting at a table with valuable victim of enemy’s leads him to a surprising and angry outburst that Brosnan spits with appropriate venom. Olga Kurylenko has a few times to prove she’s not the helpless screaming female, especially when she gets into her more adult Hit-Girl get up but there are a lot of times that she’s there to be helped along by Brosnan’s Peter.

Like I said, I still enjoyed the film for all its faults. It has a suitable of tension, Brosnan is great and it never ever gets dull or boring in story. I can’t see it being a memorable film or doing very well as a series, if it does get the green light for further productions, but for a late night movie to provide some hard edged typical thriller fare, then you’re in the right place.

6/10