Sicario: Taut, Tense and Tortured (Review)

Thrumming, strident and evocative of the “train” sound emitted by the surrounding native contingent in the 1964 film Zulu, or a rhythmic overbalanced bass emanating from a woofer one step from shaking itself to death, Sicario begins with a soundtrack guaranteed to elevate the viewer’s adrenaline levels.

Emily Blunt as Kate Macer

Thrumming, strident and evocative of the “train” sound emitted by the surrounding native contingent  in the 1964 film Zuluor a rhythmic overbalanced bass emanating from a woofer one step from shaking itself to death, Sicario begins with a soundtrack guaranteed to elevate the viewer’s adrenaline levels.  This foreboding score begins the film as two definitions of the title appear onscreen. One; being a zealot (a killer who hunted down invaders of their homeland), the other;  meaning hitman. The Denis Villeneuve film is, fittingly enough, about both.

The film’s score, by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Foxcatcher, Prisoners) sets the tone and the pace of the feature from frame one. It manages to dictate the action, the feelings of impending doom and confusion (felt by the movie’s protagonist FBI agent Kate Macer, played brilliantly by Brit actress Emily Blunt) as well as the feeling that everything is one half-step away from stampeding out of control.

Sicario stars Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.  Playing Macer’s professional partner Reggie Wayne is another Brit actor Daniel Kaluuya. Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice, Fargo) and Victor Garber (The Flash, Power) have impressive cameos in this film about drug cartels and the struggle to control them. The Walking Dead actorJon Bernthal has tiny cameo as a crooked cop.

The film, written by Taylor Sheridan (His first project as author versus actor.)  begins with a raid on a house in the suburban setting of Chandler, Arizona.  Macer is a kidnap specialist who, with her partner and a team of agents, invades a tract house. Entering, by the device of ramming a vehicle through a wall, the team discover a multitude of dead bodies secreted in the sheetrock walls.

Other agents are going through a storage shed behind the house when they discover it has been rigged to explode. Macer, Wayne and their boss David Jennings (Garber) are injured by the blast and flying debris. After the raid and the discovery of all those bodies, Macer is recruited by “DoD advisor Matt Graver (Brolin) and his shadowy colleague Alejandro (Del Toro). Wayne is not wanted, but tags along anyway to keep an eye on his partner.

Macer is talked into volunteering for a dangerous and vague mission to get the men responsible for the explosion in Chandler and the house of dead bodies.  Sicario follows her descent into the madness of a CIA operation and a father and husband bent on revenge.

The film is harsh, unrelenting and visceral in its depiction of cartel activity and the task force’s foray into “enemy territory.”  The viewer feels as helplessly caught up in events as the two FBI agents Kate and Reggie. The audience share her feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated and enraged by the events and Reggie’s concern.

Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) delivers on a level that feels almost guttural in its texture and his use of Jóhannsson to blend and escalate his story is pure genius.  Between the soundtrack and the events unfolding on screen the tension is almost palpable as is the threat.  The tone of the movie is one of a tautness  that nearly screams with a tortured cry of  rage  and confusion from its beleaguered heroine.

Emily Blunt has proven yet again, that a slender and fragile looking English rose can convince as a tough as nails FBI warrior woman who gives as good as she gets.  (Blunt showed off considerable talents in the arena of being a tough customer in both Loopers; “I will cut you the F**k in half” and Edge of Tomorrow; “Bloody hell, it’s the Full Metal Bitch!” and Sicario brings her “action” skills full circle as the American FBI agent in over her head.)

Josh Brolin plays the type of character he specializes in; a real-feeling protagonist who is sitting square in the middle of the fence. A man who is not afraid to create chaos if the end result is order.

Benicio Del Toro is brilliant as the taciturn and scary agent  of Graver’s (Brolin) chaos.  A disturbing mixture of thinly covered pathos tinged with a  deadly air that permeates every scene he is in.  His interactions with Blunt’s character are full of regret and sadness, she reminds him, he says,  of his daughter, which speaks volumes of the FBI agent’s naivety in this new world of cartels and the death they deliver.

Sicario is a powerhouse film that does not have a satisfactory or even clear cut ending. Ambiguity and a sense of confusion are present even after the end credits roll.  The final result is that we the audience have stepped fully into the shoes of Macer and identify with her completely.

This is a full 5 out of 5 stars film.  Tight to the point of screaming;  the plot, the performances and the action all follow that thrumming driving score.  Watch this film and prepare to be wound up like a Swiss precision watch.  Cracking entertainment that should not be missed.

 

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Rodriguez Rocks it (Video)

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Rodriguez Rocks it (Video)

The long awaited Sin City sequel A Dame to Kill For is a pretty satisfying follow up to the original and Robert Rodriguez rocks it without a doubt. Frank Miller’s dark graphic novel never looked so good. In terms of appearance that much is very true. The 3D aspect makes it feel as though the film is being viewed from within.

Richard Donner Says Goonies Two in the Works

Richard Donner Says Goonies Two in the Works

The 1985 Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner hit The Goonies looks like it will have its long awaited sequel with Goonies “Two” in the works, at least according to Donner it is. The story about a group of “misfit” kids, written by Spielberg and Chris Columbus, who are on a quest for pirate treasure that can solve all their monetary problems was a “mega-hit” for both Donner and the E.T. director.

Oldboy Spike Lee Remake of Chan-wook Park Classic Film a Letdown (Review)

Oldboy Spike Lee Remake of Chan-wook Park Classic Film a Letdown (Review)

In 2003 Chan-wook Park released his second in the “vengeance trilogy” Oldboy to overall positive reviews and it became a cult favorite as well as an almost instant classic film and Spike Lee opted to remake the film in 2013 with an end result that is a letdown to say the least. As the film is due for release on Blu-ray March 4 this year, it seems appropriate to take a look at both films and see why Lee’s vision doesn’t really work and why Park’s satisfies all the parts that the new film cannot reach. Being kind, it can be said that in terms of casting; Lee hit pay dirt. In this respect he matches Park’s cast very well…

Jonah Hex (2010) Under-viewed, Under-Loved

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I finally got to see this film last night and I will say upfront that, despite having “toe-thumb” and plastically enhanced Megan Fox in it, I kind of liked it. Of course there was a slim chance that I would as it has three of my favourite actors in it; Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and Michael Fassbender.

I was actually surprised to find that I did like it. The film has been almost universally panned from its release. I am not sure if that is because of die hard fans of the original comic not liking it, or something else. Admittedly the film is a bit choppy in the continuity of story department, but, the prosthetic on Brolin’s face that helped to transform him into Hex was brilliant.

The story, which is based on the DC Comics of the same name, deals with civil war soldier Jonah Hex who refuses a direct order from his commanding officer Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) that results in his (Turnbull’s) son’s death. As punishment, Turnbull, makes Jonah watch his family die in front of him and gets branded on the right side of his face with Turnbull’s branding iron (QT).

Jonah is nursed back to health by a Crow Native American Indian tribe and his time spent in the world of the dead leaves him with the power to make the dead talk. He searches for Turnbull and finds out that he has died. He then becomes a bounty hunter, punishing the guilty. While doing this job a bounty is put on his head. Meanwhile, we find out that Turnbull is not dead, he’s just gone homicidally mad and is planning to start and finish his own brand of civil war.

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Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex.

I thought all the actors, even Megan Fox as Lilah, did a great job. Their performances sold me on this western/fantasy/action film and I never once felt like I was not enjoying it. This may have something to do with the fact that, apart from the title, I’ve never read the comic. Because of this I did not go into the film expecting anything. I just watched it and rather enjoyed this farfetched fantasy take on the civil war story.

I decided to take a chance on the film when I saw it on sale in my local Tesco Extra Store for £3 (about 5 bucks American) and felt that at such a low price I wouldn’t be out very much if I didn’t like it. But since I did enjoy it, it’s now a bargain. The film looked great, the CG and the scenes leapt out at you and the film looked like a western; a big selling point for me if it’s meant to be a western, cross genre or not.

The really big surprise was that I liked Megan Fox’s character. As a rule there has only been one other film where I really liked her performance and that  was Jennifer’s Body the 2009 horror film. She really doesn’t do much for me, especially after finding out about her plastic overhaul. *Not to mention those “toe-thumbs,” shudder.*

I’d have to say that this fantasy “oater” is a good popcorn munching film of the”mindlessly entertaining” sort. So I’d have to give the film a 4 out of 5 stars for managing to make Megan Fox look good in a film. Of course having Brolin, Malkovich, and Fassbender gives it an extra star as well.

Megan Fox as Lilah.
Megan Fox as Lilah.