A Fighting Season (2017): Surviving With Clayne Crawford (Review)

A008_C005_1204U7Written and directed by Oden Few Roberts  A Fighting Season stars Clayne Crawford (Lethal Weapon, Rectify) and Lew Temple (The Walking Dead, Wicked City) as Army recruiters post 9/11. The film is a harsh indictment on the system of an all volunteer military and surviving an unending war on terrorism and truth.

Roberts’ take on the system of recruitment after the hysteria of the 9/11 attacks, which saw all time high numbers of volunteers for all branches of the service, is one that is tinged with cynicism and includes a world weary warrior. Sgt. Mason (Crawford) is classified as a war hero. Wounded in action, the soldier has injuries that are much deeper than anyone knows. He is struggling to survive life outside the war zone.

The man tagged to work in a local recruiting office by Sgt. First Class Harris is suffering, apparently, from PTSD,  flashbacks of murdering an enemy in the field and some personal image problems. He dislikes the term hero and Harris, a strutting bible quoting wannabe, desperately tries to keep his numbers up while bullying everyone within his reach.

A Fighting Season looks harshly at the whole system of Army recruitment and paints a pretty unflattering picture of the men who prey on America’s youth to fill their numbers.  The pencil pushers in the office all participate in drunken pistol practice and respond to Harris’ bullying tactics and delusions of grandeur.

Crawford’s character, although flawed, is the most honorable man in this mix of soldiers whose only casualties are the naïve youth they target. While the rest focus on fear of the enemy and ignorance, Mason takes a different road. He is ultimately put in charge but the promotion is an empty one and his victory is, in the end, hollow.

A Fighting Season is less about the youngsters that the Army woo in an effort to fill boots on the ground and more about the people actually in military service who have served their country. Harris is a desk jockey who dreams of leaving “no man behind” while Mason has scars from his actual combat experience.

Harris is a straw soldier who has no real substance, a perfect example of the modern volunteer career military member. At one point in the movie, he bemoans the possible loss of his pension, medical benefits and GI Bill. Mason, who has taken and lost blood for his country never mentions any of these “vital” components of the “new” Army.

Roberts’ message shows that whatever the reason the Army promotes bonding as a family, not too dissimilar to the gang culture of picking one’s brothers and sisters. The Army also utilizes whatever technique works, whether it be bullying, sexual intimidation or lying to achieve their  recruitment numbers.

There are things in the film that jar. As a veteran, the sloppiness of the recruiters’ uniforms was annoying. (As was the propensity of every character in BDUs to call their sergeant “sir.” This simply does not happen, NCO’s are addressed by their rank.  “I work for a living” being the angry response from any sergeant called “sir.”)

These, and other, gaffes are forgivable however. Roberts shows, overall, how the Army struggled to fill positions after the initial furor of America’s first attack on the home front in 2001. It shows the anger, the uncertainty and the confusion faced by soldiers and the prospective entrants they court daily.

A Fighting Season is a 4 star film. It is available on VOD and is worth watching just for Crawford and Temple.  The message is clear and while it may leave the viewer with a slightly sour taste after viewing, the film does attempt to show the cynical  mechanizations behind those recruiting posters.

 

Lethal Weapon: As Good As It Getz – Leo (Review)

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Perhaps the biggest complaint about Lethal Weapon and “As Good As It Getz” is that they changed Leo’s occupation from CPA (certified public accountant) to a variation of Saul Goodman “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad.” Needless to say, it changed the flavour of the comedic interchange and while this Leo is still nebbish, he was not “Leo Getz.”

“Okay. Okay. They always f**k you at the drive-in…”

The episode was not just about Leo and his brush with death from a cartel eager to kill Karen Palmer (Riggs’ “sort of” romantic attachment) it was also about Palmer and Riggs (natch) and the Murtaugh family’s latest issue.

Trish quits her job at the law firm when, after being led to believe otherwise, someone else gets the promotion she thought was hers. Feeling under appreciated and undervalued, she leaves.

Roger is less than pleased at this development and it causes some friction. Not the same sort of friction that builds up between Karen Palmer, the grim and unflappable DEA agent and Martin Riggs. Their chemistry could have resulted in a lot of heat had Riggs done more than put on a new shirt.

Granted, the two make an excellent pair; each one with a separate agenda. Palmer finally noticing what Riggs has to offer and his sudden awareness of her kept things interesting and resulted in one of the best lines in the series thus far.

After leaping out of a crashing helicopter, both Palmer and Riggs fall through roof and land in a king, or queen, sized bed. As the two lay in the falling dust and rubble, Karen looks at Riggs and says:

“Well, I always figured you’d end up in bed with me.”

This after a great sequence that shows both the DEA agent and the homicide detective are on the same page. “Um, I’ve got a plan,” shouts Riggs. “No, I’ve got a plan,” Karen shouts back. Then in unison both reveal that they have the same plan, “We jump.”

Riggs is delighted. Moments later, the pair dive out of the falling chopper as Roger and Leo watch, mouths agape, at the crashing bird and the couple as they crash through the derelict hotel roof.

Just brilliant.

Despite the career change for Leo Getz (and it has to be said, major points off for lack of originality here chaps) and that Karen Palmer has taken the place of Lorna Cole (played by Rene Russo in the films) as a possible romantic interest for the grieving cop, this was a cracking episode.

There was machine-gun toting, and firing, villains, some comedy from Leo Getz, great interaction between Palmer and Riggs and Roger got to show Trish just how much he really supports his wife.

At the start Leo finalizes his deal with the DEA for his client and heads to the men’s room. The donut shop where they meet (he just arranged to have an amount of crullers as part payment) is suddenly filled with automatic weapon fire and the snitch, along with the DEA agent are shot to rag doll ribbons.

Leo escapes with his life, and his briefcase, and is later hunted down by Riggs, Murtaugh and Palmer. Throughout the episode the presumption is that the cartel want Getz dead. They do, in fact, take a few shots at him but it turns out that they are really after Palmer. She should have been at the donut shop meeting at the start of the episode.

The episode ends on a “Better Call Saul” type gag where Leo has put Trish’s image on his bus advertisement and neither she nor Roger are pleased about it.

Clearly Palmer is going to be a running storyline here. This is the second, or third time the DEA agent has shown up on the series. She and Riggs are “cute” together and it was touching how he suddenly regressed emotionally and hid rather than talking to his new “interest” before she left.

Roger congratulates his partner on being sane for once, compared to his usual modus operandi.

FOX and show creator Matthew Miller are killing it with this series. The small screen version of Lethal Weapon feels cinematic in its execution and look. The chemistry is spot on between all the players and this is one that should run and run and run. 

The only complaint was the move to make Leo Getz a lawyer, keeping outside the legal arena would have left that Saul Goodman vibe where it belongs; over on AMC.

Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays on FOX.

Cast:

Guest starring Thomas Lennon as Leo Getz and Hilarie Burton as Karen Palmer

Lethal Weapon: The Murtaugh File – Dr. Cahill (Review)

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Lethal Weapon “The Murtaugh File” had very little to do with Roger Murtaugh, although peripherally it did take a close look as his family. (It also relied upon the older more stable partner to take the “kill” shot later on.) This episode was all about Dr. Cahill, and it included her relationship with Riggs.

The show starts out with a motorcyclist being knocked off a cliff by a pickup truck. Roger and Trish learn that Riana has been lying to them and Riggs feels like Cahill is not listening to him.

As he talks to the doctor, she ends the session and puts his file back. Martin notices that there is a file with Roger’s name on it. Thus begins his interest in just why his partner was seeing the precinct shrink.  While this runs along side the primary storyline, the main plot deals with Cahill and a stalker who is “protecting” her.

With so much focus on Cahill, we learn a lot more about her character, thought process and her fearlessness in dealing with the criminal element. An outside psychiatrist is called in to go through her files and we also learn who she likes and dislikes, in terms of peers.

The motorcyclist who is murdered at the start of the show is Cahill’s boyfriend. His assailant’s vehicle, the murder weapon, is caught on a GoPro type camera on Sean’s helmet. The clues lead Roger and Martin to find out that Cahill has a stalker.

Suspects range from Brad, the doctor’s ex who refuses to sign over their house, to Dr. Levinson. As they work their way through the list, Cahill actually invites Martin on a date as bait.

Rigg’s plays along and they get a hit. One person who is not a suspect is Bailey’s new assistant Officer Montero. The young uniform cop turns out to be the man behind the murder of Sean and later the near death of Brad and he shoots Levinson in the back.

Montero also sets Levinson up as the killer by planting the doctor’s DNA on an envelope.  Along the way, Roger and Trish go through a struggle with Riana when they learn that she has not only been lying but also has a fake ID.

It turns out that their daughter is working as a club DJ and she needs the card to get into the gig.

Rigg’s learns that Roger hesitated to shoot a bad guy who had his then partner Avery held hostage. The incident “bled” over into his off duty relationship with Trish and he had to see Cahill to work things out.

By the end of the episode Cahill’s stalker is taken out by Roger, with a sniper rifle, and Riggs threatens to throw himself off the building if Cahill does not continue their sessions.

This was a brilliant episode. It featured an excellent Riggs moment when he saves Cahill’s ex-husband from being run over by a large truck. (Martin slides toward the prone man and the approaching vehicle and shoots the truck in the radiator.)

Most importantly, the episode managed to breath even more life into the “office shrink” making the character an even fuller three dimensional person and not the cardboard comic cutout that features in the films.

Letting Jordana Brewster and Clayne Crawford dance together, metaphorically, brought so much more to their professional relationship and friendship.

Next week sees the introduction of Matthew Miller‘s version of Leo Getz.  The teaser shows a much taller Getz but it looks like the show’s creator has pulled out all the stops, just as he has with the rest of the cast. 

Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays on FOX.

Cast:

Guest starring Johnny Sneed as Dr. Ronald Levinson, Adam Kaufman as Brad, Matthew Alan as Officer Montero and Lane Carlson as Sean Hawkins.

Lethal Weapon: The Seal is Broken – Confession (Review)

LETHAL WEAPON: Pictured L-R: Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans in the "Seal is Broken" episode of LETHAL WEAPON airing Wednesday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:01 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Darren Michaels/FOX

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. In Lethal Weapon “The Seal is Broken” it does help Riggs eventually. He “cheats” on his wife by getting blind drunk and sleeping with a female bartender. His guilt, after the fact, is staggering and Martin reaches a depth of misery not seen before.

Meanwhile, a man is cheating his wife is given an overdose of heroin. The body is found with the word “sinner” carved on its back.  A woman who smothered an elderly patient for her insurance is found buried alive. She also has the word “sinner” written near her grave.

The connection between the two, along with Martin’s all consuming guilt at cheating on his dead wife,  are their sins. Both are members of a church where Father Adams presides.

At the Murtaugh household, RJ has a new girlfriend who talks him out of going to Princeton and spending time in New Zealand.  Miranda’s father, Ronnie Delgado, tries to help his son-in-law and Riggs confesses to his partner Roger that he cheated on his wife.

Lethal Weapon, with its emphasis on Martin’s all too real misery at the loss of his wife and child, makes the pain felt by Riggs a truth that cannot be hidden behind false bravado and sophomoric humor. “The Seal is Broken” with its easily solved crime and poignant storyline shows just why this FOX series works so well.

Roger and Martin continue to bond and in one of the more amusing moments in the episode, Murtaugh actually confesses that he sees Riggs as a friend. (The gag here being that both men begin confessing a litany of things to one another once they enter the church confessional.

Martin finds a hidden microphone in the cubicle leaving Roger telling the empty side of the box how he feels. It is a funny moment that is capped off by Murtaugh’s shouting in church.

The murderer was not too hard to work out. While the explanation was sort of out in left field, the suspect had to be the guy that Riggs talks to about fish chowder at the start of the episode.

At the episode’s climatic chase, which culminates on the roof of an old apartment building, the killer goes to jump off the edge of the building. Rigg’s tries to grab the man and the railing gives out under his weight.

Martin holds on to the rail and Roger grabs his partner. Riggs tells him to let go and when Murtaugh refuses, Martin punches him in the face. The two men fall and land in a tree.

Earlier, when chasing down a suspect, Riggs flings Roger and the man who shot him with a nail gun through a tarpaulin.  All three land in a skip with nails in it. Murtaugh is understandably angry that Martin put his life at risk.

Regardless of Roger’s annoyance at Martin’s reckless actions, and his telling RJ to “go for it” in terms of New Zealand, he refuses to let his partner drop off the edge of the apartment building. Just as Roger told the empty side of the confessional, he now sees Martin as a friend and a member of his family.

Rigg’s tells his father-in-law that he cannot continue to be a part of his family. When Ronnie explains that Martin is family, the heartbroken and guilty cop replies that Miranda was Delgado’s family, “I,” Rigg’s tells Ronnie, “was just lucky for a while.”

This small screen version of Lethal Weapon, created by Matthew Miller, continues to be a breath of fresh air and is the best “cop/buddy movie” ever turned into a television series. 

Wayans and Crawford belong together and these two belong together.  The relationship between the detectives is moving along at a logical pace and Martin’s move to distance himself from his guardian angel, Ronnie, makes perfect sense.

Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays on FOX. Watch this one.

Cast:

Guest starring Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine as Father Adams, Rob Evors as Dale Reynolds, Tony Plana as Ronnie Delgado  and Scarlett Burke as the bartender.

Lethal Weapon: Brotherly Love – The Ring (Review)

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Lethal Weapon “Brotherly Love” is almost a play on words is also a tale of two sets of brothers. A pair of real ones and  a couple of brothers in blue; Riggs and Murtaugh. Last week’s episode “Lawmen” had Roger and Martin bonding even more as friends and partners.

“Brotherly Love” sees the bond tested when Roger has heart problems and asks Riggs to lie about it. Martin agrees but later Murtaugh implies that his partner lost the tow truck that tried to steal $2 million in cocaine from the impound lot. Things get a bit tense between the two as a result.

Martin is so concerned about Roger that he heads to investigate a suspect, one Dino Brant,  on his own. The ex-con pulls a gun on Riggs, mainly because he does not believe that Martin is a cop. Roger arrives in time to help calm the situation by getting the drop on Dino.

The episode has Dino covering for his brother Jerry and Riggs covering for his “brother” Roger. “Brotherly Love” also has its fair share of comic and awkward moments. Roger briefing his team on just how terrifying Trish can be and Rigg’s agreeing that he too is scared to death of “that tiny little lady.”

Other comic moments include  Scorsese’s observation that Riggs and Murtaugh are,  “Adorable.” Martin’s own observation that he and Roger are adorable and the two detective’s “playing” Monty to get the evidence ($2 million in cocaine) released to them.

“That’s how you win the war on drugs. Two big duffel bags full of cocaine. Now let’s go clean up this city.”

The awkwardness ensues at the “arraignment” where Trish takes Riggs apart on the stand. She also forces him to reveal that Roger had a “heart attack” while they were chasing the cocaine filled car.

Later, after Roger angrily confronts his partner for dropping him in it, Riggs replies that he was under oath. “What did you want me to do? Lie?”

Roger Jr. is made to feel awkward with the long running argument about the evidence against Dino. This crops up while they look at prospective first cars for the younger Murtaugh.

Riggs and Dr. Cahill actually have two awkward moments. She questions the scars on his fingers and knuckles, he explains that his wedding ring went down the disposal and he rescued it.

The session then goes to what Martin’s reaction would be if he lost the ring and that perhaps that would be a good thing. Riggs does not agree and leaves the session early. Later, he departs again before Cahill has finished. Each time he is less than pleased with the shrink.

Toward the end of the episode, when Roger and Martin work with Dino to save his brother Jerry, who Angelo has hostage, the car that contains Riggs is pushed into the bay. He loses the handcuff key. In order to save himself, Martin forces the cuff on his left wrist off.

The action takes his wedding ring off and he watches the thing sink into the depths of the water. Worried about his partner Riggs opts to let the ring go and heads to the surface. Murtaugh, who is concerned about Martin,  plunges into the bay.

At the very end of the episode, Roger learns that his heart is fine, but his pacemaker needs replacing. Martin buys a second hand ring to replace the one Miranda slipped on his finger when they got married. Trish and Roger also kiss and make up.

This episode of Lethal Weapon was chock-a-block with moments. The car chase at the start with a laughing Riggs cheerfully chasing the bad guy, while Photronique’s  Poppin Non Stop rips it up in the background was a brilliant start. Roger having a heart attack changed the whole thing immediately.

The brothers storylines were very busy and, overall, quite funny and touching. It was, however, the plot thread dealing with the ring that carried the most weight.

Show creator Matthew Miller has never allowed Miranda Riggs to fade into the background for long. The loss of Martin’s wedding ring, and his replacing it with a reasonable facsimile, means that he is not ready to “let go.”  It was a splendid moment.

Lethal Weapon continues to be the best “cop buddy movie” made into a television series. It airs Wednesdays on FOX. Do not miss out on a great show.

Cast:

Guest starring Chris Coy as Dino Brant, Luke O’Sullivan as Jerry Brant, George Sharperson as Monty and Jim Pirri as Angelo.