Film Review: American Hustle

Film Review: American Hustle

“American Hustle,” the latest from Director David O. Russell, is loosely based on the true story of an FBI sting operation advised by a convicted con artist. With its extremely talented ensemble cast, Russell creates a colorful period piece with great characters and excellent art direction. [Read more…]

Review: The Bourne Legacy

Review: The Bourne Legacy

I’m a huge fan of the ‘Bourne’ series. The first film set the tone, the second two solidified its unique style into an excellent modern action film. The everyman transformed into a super soldier, an expert operative running from the corrupt government organization that created him.

The Bourne Supremacy for all intents and purposes closed the book on Jason Bourne, but, just like any successful franchise, the powers that be, and the fans want more. So how do you make a Bourne movie without Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon? You tell the story of one of the other members of the top secret Government organization that created these super soldiers.

This outing is written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the previous films, and stars Jeremy Renner, who is quickly on his way of becoming a household name and action star in his own right.

The film opens with Aaron Cross (Renner), hiking over a mountain in a training assignment. With Operation Treadstone and Operation Blackbriar public and a potential embarrassment thanks to what happened in the previous films, the powers that be decide that Operation Outcome, the latest in the Department of Defense black ops program needs to be reevaluated. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is brought in to assess the situations, and determines that terminating the program is the best decision. Which results in assassinations and literal termination of all those involved in the program. Caught in the middle is research scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), as well as Aaron Cross, who manages to survive a drone strike.

We learn that Operation Outcome operatives are required to take a pill that gives them the intelligence and strength that we’ve seen in the other films. The subjects are reliant on these “chems,” and the consequences of not having them are disastrous (or so we’re told). The way to counteract the reliance on the pills, is to be “viraled off,” which makes them not have to take the pill. Which is why Cross makes his way to find Shearing.

The film differs in that Cross lacks some of the baggage that Jason Bourne suffered from. It seems that at this stage of the project, they’ve maintained better control of their operatives, and that making them reliant on the “chems” is what keeps them in control.

The film, while maintaining the double crossing and high tech style of the previous films, definitely

doesn’t look anything like any of the other Bourne movies. Greengrass’ fly on the wall, almost documentary style of filming the action is replaced with a far more traditional style of cinematography. The action is standard, nothing stands out as far as set pieces. While I don’t feel like they phoned this one in, everything just kind of feels like business as usual. As far as character development, the main characters connection wasn’t as tight or as believable as the previous films, and Cross feels much more one-dimensional than Bourne.

‘Legacy’ maintains its mystery up until the last act, that’s where things really start to fall apart. The finale action scene just doesn’t feel like it holds up to the standard thats been set for the series, and its ending isn’t satisfactory. Movies are free to leave openings for sequels, but this felt far too unresolved.

All-in-all, its a decent action movie, but we’ve come to expect far more from the Bourne series. Let’s hope like the first trilogy, this one sorts itself out the second time. If there is one.

Review: The Town

Review: The Town

The Boston crime movie has become a genre of its own, the past few years have seen ‘Mystic River,’ ‘The Departed,’ and Affleck’s own ‘Gone Baby Gone.’ ‘The Town,’ is another excellent addition to the genre, and shows Affleck becoming increasingly more comfortable in the directors chair.

Sam Fuller once said that a movie has to “grab you from the balls” right in the beginning, that is exactly how this movie starts. The opening heist sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It’s fast, violent, and extremely planned out. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is the leader of the group, which is made up by his childhood friends. His closest friend is James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) a frightening individual that reminds me of Joe Pesci’s characters in Goodfellas and Casino. Emotional, short fuse, and extremely violent.

During this first heist, Jem takes the bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage, letting her go once they have shaken their tail. Claire, is interviewed by FBI agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), and returns home, clearly disturbed by her experience. To ensure their security, Jem had taken Claire’s license during the robbery, only to find out like them, she also lives in Charlestown. Jem thinks it’d be agood idea to pay her a visit to scare her enough to not do anything. Doug, clearly not trusting his friends judgment, takes the task away from him.

Now things get complicated, after a conversation at a laundermat while Doug is following Claire. The two start spending time together, Doug clearly feeling something for her. However, the situation is complicated, because though he cares for her, he’s the reason she’s in such an emotional state.

‘The Town,’ has some excellent heist and escape scenes, and some great shot and edited shoot outs. The tension in the dialogue, and the fear of Claire finding out who Doug really is puts you at the edge of your seat. Jeremy Renner is excellent, and Blake Lively transforms to a character so far from her previous roles, its hard to picture her as anyone else. ‘The Town’s’ script is really tight and well written, having not read the source material I’m not sure how closely they stuck to it. However, in an interview with NPR, Chuck Hogan, author of ‘Prince of Thieves,’ says he’s very happy with the adaptation.

Also, for a Boston film, the locations seem fresh, and they picked some iconic locales in the city, especially the films finale. Affleck certainly went out of his way to use Fenway Park in a completely different way then anyone else ever has. The films final shootout has the potential to be one of those iconic heist thriller scenes you’ll see in an awards show montage some day.

The film had a few parts that bothered me, specifically the way it concludes (but I won’t get into it here). But other then that, ‘The Town,’ is Boston Crime films at its best, and should not be missed. I can’t wait to see Affleck’s next film, and I’m definitely curious to see how it does come Oscar season.

Film Review: The Hurt Locker

Film Review: The Hurt Locker

And you thought your job sucked.  Telling the story of an explosive ordinance disposal unit stationed in Iraq in 2004, Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is a tense, nerve-wracking, exciting action/drama that keeps you riveted to the screen.

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