• The Chase (1994)

    "The Chase" is a highly entertaining action-comedy b-movie that offers a fast-paced story inspired by the Stockholm Syndrome. It also exposes a cynical satire of yellow journalism, the vice of the rich and famous and disorganized, overtly sensational police work in the United States of America. This flick surprises with a vivid rock soundtrack, solid actors and actresses like Charlie Sheen and Ray Wise and a few stunning cameo appearances by pop culture icons from Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to adult movie actor and director Ron Jeremy. In addition to this, the numerous action sequences and a purposely over-the-top love scene spice this movie up until the explosive and satisfying ending.

    All these diverting elements pardon for a few low budget special effects, somewhat superficial dialogues, a couple of laughable plot holes and a predictable story line with ridiculously flat characters apart of the surprisingly convincing leading roles. Even two decades after its original release, this movie is still absolutely entertaining and fully enjoyable despite its obvious flaws if you switch your brains off for ninety minutes of power. In addition to this, the movie perfectly represents the cinematic stereotypes of the nineties such as explosive action sequences hiding vapid plots, charismatic anti-heroes who fight their desperate fates and lots of colourful clothes and haircuts, enthusiastic, juvenile and at times silly rock and pop songs and numerous flashy cars, merchandise articles and television shows that almost evoke nostalgic feelings nowadays. 

    In the end, you will adore this film if you are looking for a memorable diversified action-comedy flick that represents all the shameful yet entertaining pop culture elements of the nineties. If you are looking for an innovating and profound film, forget it but you will have to admit that the movie is good for what it is. 

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  • 007 Spectre

    ''Spectre'' is an entirely entertaining above average action- thriller but only an average part of the famous James Bond franchise that I know by heart. While I enjoyed watching this movie at the cinema, I still felt somewhat disappointed and won't revisit this film anytime soon.

    The main problem of the movie is that it tries to arrange an odd mixture of the more recent films characterized by a more fragile main character, more personal plots and a sinister atmosphere on one side and the reintroduction of antiquated gadgets, classic characters from the seventies and the waffling of the usual trademark sentences on the other side. Instead of being an intriguing mixture of both styles, ''Spectre'' feels directionless, odd and surprisingly predictable.

    This has to do with an extremely weak story line. While the first hour of the movie is promising and builds up a mysterious tension around the main villain, the last ninety minutes fall flat from any point of view. The movie rehashes all the old stereotypes that aren't credible anymore in a contemporary setting. The love story between James Bond and Madeleine Swann isn't credible and feels forced. The main villain makes the most stupid mistakes such as torturing his victim instead of killing it at several moments. Even exploding watches and flame-spitting cars are back and add some unintentional slapstick humour to a film that starts in a serious manner. The problems don't stop there. Many parts of the movie are directly copied from several previous films of the franchise. The fighting scene on the train is a cheap copy of ''From Russia with Love'' for example. The character of Mr. Hinx is a cheap copy of Jaws from ''The Spy Who Loved Me'' and ''Moonraker''. These elements lack so much originality that they can't just be excused as simple tributes to the past.

    The acting of the movie is also rather underwhelming. It's Daniel Craig's least emotional performance of James Bond as he feels somewhat shallow and like a hollow shell of his former self. I was severely disappointed by the underused talent of the outstanding Christoph Waltz who is one of the best contemporary actors around the world but limited to a predictable character and a very short screen time. Monica Belluci's role is even completely unnecessary since she only has about five minutes of screen time, ten lines of dialogue and her role seems just to be a weak pretext for showing off some skin.

    Obviously, there are still several positive elements. Léa Seydoux is a confident, smart and tough incarnation of a Bond girl that contrasts the more traditional characters in the movie. Ralph Fiennes as M is convincing as a cold, loyal and serious boss. The geeky reinterpretation of Q portrayed by Ben Whishaw reaches a new high quality peak as well.

    The action sequences of the movie might not be original but they are definitely stunning. The chase scene in Austria is bombastic, breathtaking and well-edited. The costumes and settings of the movie are diversified but always appropriate. The soundtrack is on the same elegant level as the previous ''Skyfall''. 

    Some elements of the plot are truly promising, especially in the first hour of the movie. The longer the movie gets, the more ridiculous the story becomes and especially the closing scene is really weak in my opinion.

    In the end, ''Spectre'' is a slightly below average James Bond movie. Die-hard fans of the franchise should go to the cinema while anyone else can simply wait for a release on DVD/Blu-ray. You will probably be entertained while you're watching this movie but in the long run, it's a rather exchangeable film that you will soon forget.
     

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  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

     

    On an objective level, both critics and fans don't seem to know what a good movie is anymore. "Mad Max: Fury Road" may be filled with nearly two hours of breathtaking non-stop action sequences and a couple of great special effects, settings or locations and some solid camera and light techniques in the few calmer moments.

    The problem is that there is literally nothing more than this in this reboot of another legendary series. There are no real intrigues going on and creativity is literally non- existent. There are almost no dialogues and the few that are there are quite weak. There are no surprising elements or twists and therefor no tension whatsoever in the whole flick. The plot is so shallow that even the increasingly bad "Fast and Furious" feel like intellectual masterpieces if compared to this laughable excuse of a story.

    One gets introduced to an epic number of characters but none of them has any real depth. The biggest problem is the uncharismatic main actor Tom Hardy and his shallow character that doesn't create any antipathy or sympathy among viewers. I rarely cared less about a leading character in any movie than here. Another problem are the numerous villains that aren't fleshed out either. It feels as if the characters of the bad guys were randomly borrowed from some of the trashiest action flicks of the seventies and eighties. Sometimes, they appear pretty much out of nowhere and die as randomly a few minutes later. The only actress who did a decent job and managed to add some depth to its character is Academy Award winner Charlize Theron. I feel sad for her to be acting in such a disastrous movie.

     

    Even two hours of non-stop action end up feeling boring and stretched if there are no truly stunning scenes or any degree of virtuosity in the high amount of exaggerated explosions and endless gunfights. Even as a homage to the original series or a worthless movie to switch your brains off and have some fun, this movie has nearly no merits. Apart of the few objective positive elements which are basically due to the impertinent budget and some obvious inspirations from the original cult movies and which barely justify my extremely generous rating, this film is extremely overrated and not recommendable for anyone.

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  • John Wick (2014)

    "John Wick" is another fast-paced and graphic revenge movie with some entertaining action and black humour, a fitting soundtrack and the usual stereotypical characters from the Russian mafia. When it comes to gripping revenge flicks, you should rather watch South Korean movies like the intense "The Man from Nowhere" which is twice as good as this film, "I Saw the Devil" which is probably one of the most brutal movies ever made, the emotionally heart-breaking "Blood Island", as well as the philosophical trilogy around "Sympathy for Mister Vengeance", "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance" if you are looking for some originality, depth and character development. "John Wick" is only a hollow entertainment for genre fans. If I wasn't a fan of this kind of movies, my rating would be much lower than it is.

    The story is simple. John Wick was a hit-man working for the organized crime in New York City. He retired from his job and started a new life when he met the love of his life. Roughly four years later, John Wick loses his wife to cancer. He receives a posthumous gift from her in form of a puppy with a letter from his wife saying that she is gone and that John Wick should cope with her demise by loving the dog. Coincidentally, he encounters the son of his old boss who doesn't know him. The young Russian mafioso wants to purchase John Wick's vintage '69 Mustang but the grieving man refuses. A few hours later, the Russian mafioso breaks into John Wick's house without any problems as there seems to be no alarm system at all. With a few friends, the young criminal kills John Wick's beloved puppy, steals his car and is bright enough to take off his hood to show his face so John Wick surely knows who he is. The victim survives and goes on to kill around eighty criminals in the next ninety minutes of the movie. Of course, killing the naive culprit is not enough, he also kills his partners, colleagues, bodyguards, his old boss and a few guys in a church. In the end, everybody but John Wick is dead and he goes to the next veterinary hospital, walks off with a new dog and goes home as if nothing ever happened.

    This story is so bad that it could have been written by a twelve-year old. First of all, there are too many coincidences concerning the encounter with the Russian criminals who want to steel John Wick's car. In the entire movie, everybody is talking about John Wick's incredible reputation and everybody knows him wherever he goes but the son of the most influent criminal is the only one who has never heard of him. It's not credible that a smart hit-man doesn't have any alarm system to protect his home. One can understand that the killing of the puppy his wife gave to him really hurts John Wick but taking this event to justify eighty or more murders is not credible at all. In the entire movie, there is no police or anything despite all the shootings in downtown New York City. All of John Wick's enemies are extremely stupid, unexperienced and wooden. Even thirty men in one building can't manage to fight him. I could go on for hours as this movie is filled with so many coincidences, plot holes and unrealistic scenes that it's amusing. If you tell me know that the story doesn't matter in a revenge action movie, just watch any of the movies mentioned in the introduction that prove that even the grisliest revenge thriller can have some depth. Even "The Raid" franchise is more realistic and has better plots. "John Wick" rather feels like a simplistic ego-shooter for video game consoles than an actual movie. I must though admit that the last Splinter Cell games had better story lines than this film.

    Another thing that feels out of place is the fact that fifty-year old Keanu Reeves is playing the unbeatable hit-man. The fighting scenes are somewhat wooden but he still manages to fight off his enemies because their acting is even slower. On the other side, Keanu Reeves also has a certain charisma to fit this role. Fifty-nine year old Willem Dafoe as veteran hit-man who has to kill John Wick is also a questionable choice in my opinion. Still, he is a respectable actor and has charisma. The most annoying thing is the fact that the evil guys are Russians again but that they are portrayed by actors from all around the world like England, Sweden and even Switzerland - except Russia. One can feel that these are wannabe Hollywood Russians and not real Russians.

    You may now ask yourself why I still gave a favourable rating to this flick. It's actually simple. This movie never gets boring. The action scenes are sometimes wooden but most of them are just shootings so it doesn't really matter. These scenes are well directed and include no annoying shaky cameras or overloaded special effects. The settings of the movie are well chosen and vary from dirty chop shops over elegant bath houses to Orthodox churches. There are a few memorable lines in this film as in many other action movies. Some graphic content is related to some dark and dry humour which made the whole thing easier to digest. I actually liked this combination of contradictory extremes and had to laugh quite a few times during the movie. The soundtrack of the movie is also enjoyable and fitting. For genre fans, there are enough entertaining and well-executed elements to enjoy this movie despite its obvious flaws.

     

    If you are looking for some fast-paced and superficial entertainment to switch your brains off, you will like "John Wick". If you are actually looking for a good movie that has more to offer than stylish violence, go for the movies mentioned in the introduction.

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  • The Expandables 3

     

    The third part of The Expandables is another explosive action movie with interesting cameo appearances by cult actors such as Harrison Ford, Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bunch of old action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson as well as a younger generation of action stars such as Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey.

    The most interesting actors in the movie are Antonio Banderas who plays the clown and comes around with a few amusing slapstick gags, Wesley Snipes who plays in a very emotional and almost schizophrenic manner where he quickly turns from being ridiculous to menacing and back again and Mel Gibson who portrays a clever, cold-hearted and unpredictable villain.

    Some other actors have less screen time than usual and can't always convince. I would have liked to see more of Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham. Instead, the new movie introduces a younger team of Expandables but these new actors like Kelsey Grammar, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey simply don't have the charisma and talent of the old generation and feel rather exchangeable. The idea to reinvent the franchise and feature a younger cast was promising but the final result is below expectations. There are far more charismatic action stars like the younger John Cena, Tony Jaa, Li Bingbing and Iko Uwais or even the older Josh Brolin, Mark Dacascos, Liam Neeson and Keanu Reeves for example but these issues have already been discussed before. 

    The story of this movie isn't as generic as the one of the first movie but not as diversified and dramatic as the plot of the second movie. I feel that the story is overall too similar to the second film who remains the best of the franchise to really come close to it. The Expandables 3 is still an entertaining action blockbuster but clearly the weakest of the three movies.

    On the positive side, the locations in the movie have become more exotic and beautiful and take place in different parts of the United States of America, Russia and Somalia among others. The setting, camera, sound and special effects are top notch. On the negative side, I'm aware of the fact that this movie isn't supposed to be realistic at all but some scenes felt so forced and unreal that it was unintentionally hilarious like the part when the motorboat in the port of Mogadishu managed to perfectly jump upon the back of a driving truck. This wasn't the case in the first two instalments in my opinion.

     

    In the end, this is a good movie if you feel like switching your brains off, getting a fast-paced entertainment and seeing many famous actors in the same movie. While the film is still solid, it's definitely the weakest release of the franchise and the seven out of ten points I'm giving here are maybe a little bit generous. Still, action movie fans can't obviously get around this movie as there are way too many gripping action sequences and cool actors around.

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