Movie reviews: Raunchy mother-daughter comedy 'Snatched' earns its laughs
Published Friday, May 12, 2017 6:30AM EDT
SNATCHED: 3 ½ STARS
“Snatched” is a mother and daughter comedy. Sounds wholesome, right? Mom and daughter on holiday, but add in kidnapping, sex trafficking and manual tapeworm extraction and you have a raunchy comedy that plays like a cross between “Taken” and “Steel Magnolias.”
Amy Schumer is Emily Middleton, a sales clerk with no filter who over-shares with customers. On the eve of an Ecuadorian vacation her musician boyfriend (Randall Park) dumps her, leaving her with two plane tickets and a South American hotel with a king sized bed. Rather than cancel the trip Emily asks her divorced, retiree mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) to come along for the ride.
“Pack your bags,” Emily says, “we’re going to South America.”
“Everybody knows you need two years to plan a vacation,” says her cautious mom.
Linda is a worrywart, as uptight as Emily is free spirited. She’s the kind of person who triple locks her suburban doors and checks websites for nearby sex offenders.
To convince mom to come along for the ride Emily pulls the one card her mother can't refuse. "The trip is non-refundable."
In Ecuador, Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), a handsome English man who sweeps her off her feet. On a day trip he convinces Emily and Linda to take the scenic route back to the hotel only to stand by as the women are abducted. Their captor is Morgado (Óscar Jaenada), a notorious gangster who holds them for $100,000 ransom. One daring escape later they are off on their own in the Colombian jungle, trying to make it to the American consulate in Bogotá. On their trip they are aided by Roger Simmons (Christopher Meloni), an explorer who seems to have just stepped out of a 1950 adventure film and two friends from the resort, Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and Barb (Joan Cusack).
Back home Jeffrey Middleton (Ike Barinholtz), Linda’s agoraphobic son convinces a reluctant State Department official (Bashir Salahuddin) to get involved.
At its dirty little heart “Snatched” is a movie about the importance of family, specifically the bond between mother and daughter but it’s not all sweetness and light. The film is inhabited by comic creations that are grounded enough to prevent the movie from careening into farce, but not so grounded that they can’t surprise us.
In her first movie role in fifteen years Hawn reminds us of what a gifted comedienne she is, spouting lines like, “I tell you when dad left I thought I'd never have sex again… and I was right,” with pitch perfect comic timing.
Schumer’s self-depreciating humour—“The sex traders want beautiful women. Your poufy faces will protect you.”—is relatable but it is her more subtle character work that really shines here. Little things, like the way she tries to take the perfect selfie, tell us everything we need to know about the self-indulgent Emily without a line of dialogue.
Sykes, Cusack, Barinholtz and Meloni all bring the funny in a series of off kilter cameos.
“Snatched” isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute, it’s more a giggle followed by a laugh every few minutes but director Jonathan Levine (“Warm Bodies,” “The Night Before” and “50/50”) has a good grasp of the humour, action and mushy stuff, finding a pleasing balance between all three.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD: 2 ½ STARS
Terry Gilliam once told me a story about the making of his medieval epic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” He wanted Arthur, King of the Britons and his men to ride to the crest of a hill on horseback but couldn’t afford enough horses for everyone. Instead he put them on broomsticks with the clomp-clomp of the horses provided by trusty servant Patsy.
“You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together,” says a guard.
It is now the scene everyone remembers from the film but, Gilliam says, if he had the money he wouldn’t have had to use his imagination. Arthur would have been on horseback, no laughs, no memories.
I thought of this while watching “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” a big budget retelling of the Camelot myth written and directed by Guy Ritchie. It's a huge, no-expense-spared film with without an ounce of these vim and vigour that once gave guy Ritchie's movies like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” so much fun.
The story begins with a coup. King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), overthrown by his power mad brother Vortigern (Jude Law), is killed, his son Arthur a witness to the murder. The youngster escapes, shuttled off to the safety outside the castle. Raised in a brothel and unaware of his place as the “born King” Arthur grows up on Londinium’s scrappy streets as a pimp and practitioner of the ancient art of UFC battling.
Obsessed in finding and eliminating Arthur, Vortigern subjects every young male in the country to the Excalibur test. Only the “born King” can pull Pendragon’s magical sword Excalibur from the stone it is embedded in, and Vortigern wants to find him.
When it is Arthur’s turn to pull the sword no one is more surprised than he when Excalibur slides out of the stone like greased lightening. He is arrested and will soon be executed, thus cementing Vortigern’s power.
Escaping execution Arthur—with the help of his loyal followers and the anti- Vortigern Resistance—learns to harness the power of the sword and perhaps get revenge on his uncle.
I can only imagine the guy who made “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” would look at the excesses of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” with wonderment. All the Ritchie trademarks are present and accounted for. There’s the cool English accents, stylish (for the time) clothing, interesting use of music, tricky slow-motion editing plus loads of violence but there's also a giant kingdom crushing elephant.
And that's just the first five minutes. It is jam-packed but it’s not that interesting. It’s like Gilliam but with money. Instead of innovation we’re treated to a series of expensive set pieces that fill the screen but not our imaginations.
Ritchie takes some liberties with the story, but by-and-large that’s OK. People have been telling and re-telling the Arthurian legend for years. It could use a freshening up but like the “Sherlock Holmes” movies “King Arthur” is more a showcase for Ritchie’s stylistic flourishes then his storytelling ability.
“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” isn’t your father’s “Camelot.” It’s a Guy Ritchie’s “Camelot,” a male fantasy—if it weren’t for prostitutes and witchy women there’d be no women here at all—with plenty of bluster but not enough Gilliam.
THE WALL: 2 ½ STARS
Like claustrophobic survival movies “Devil” and “Buried,” the tense new film from “The Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman uses limited locations and characters to tell the story. “The Wall” is a back-to-basics thriller with just three actors, one is never seen, one barely moves while the third carries the day.
Set in 2007 Iraq, Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena) are soldiers on a desert stakeout. Eight dead soldiers litter the area. Their job is to determine cause of death—was it local militia or a highly trained sniper. Twenty hours in they taunt fate, exposing themselves.
Shots ring out leaving Matthews, wounded, laying in the open, Isaac nursing a leg wound behind a small brick wall. Pinned down by an enemy sniper, hours pass as Isaac, dehydrated and lightheaded, weighs his options. On the other end of his crackling radio receiver is Juba (voice of Laith Nakli), a poetry spouting Sunni sniper with deadly aim and a way with getting under Isaac’s skin.
“The Wall” is a movie that aims to get into the psyche of soldiers and how men of war deal with loss but for most of its running time is a symphony of misery as Issac grunts, howls and administers some grim self surgery. There are many compelling moments, mostly early on before the first time the thought, “How can this possibly stretch to ninety minutes?” passes through your head. Once it becomes a back and forth between the two men it loses some momentum. What could have been a sly way of discussing the merits, or lack thereof, of the Iraq war effort is, instead, a deep-as-a-lunch-tray look at the psychology of war.
Isaac is a guilt-ridden warrior, unable to return home because of the crushing remorse. Juba, based on a legendary Sunni sniper with at least 75 confirmed kills, is a caricature, a snarling serial killer with no real political agenda. Instead he plays cat-and-mouse, drawing the young soldier in—“I just want to have a conversation with you Isaac,” he coos.—before taunting him with over-the-top rhetoric like, “When this is over your skin will be cut from your face; your lying tongue cut from your mouth.”
It can be colourful and powerful but Taylor-Johnson, who was low-key effective in “Nocturnal Animals,” dials it up to eleven here, blowing snot and spit across the screen with every utterance.
“The Wall” is an interesting experiment. It’s a chance for Liman to return to the small-scale filmmaking that made his name—movies like “Swingers” and “Go”—but it feels like it may have better off as an hour long character study rather than a full blown feature film.
BON COP, BAD COP 2: 2 STARS
After an eleven-year the break emotional, brash French-Canadian cop David Bouchard (Patrick Huard) and cold, calculating Upper Canadian constable Martin Ward (Colm Feore) are back on the beat. Their original pairing, “Bon Cop, Bad Cop,” was a Two Solitudes parody that became one of the highest grossing Canadian films of all time. The new film changes their dynamic but keeps the corny cultural comedy.
In “Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2” when the odd couple meet again Bouchard is working undercover with a ring of car thieves. Ward raids their chop shop hoping to nab two crime bosses but instead is reintroduced to his old friend. The straight-laced Ontarian fake arrests Bouchard to maintain his cover and the two get reacquainted.
Bouchard is still a hot-headed provincial police officer for the Sûreté du Québec while Ward has moved up. Now an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Ward has increased responsibilities and a compelling personal reason to follow this case to its conclusion. After clandestine meetings at curling rinks the two grudgingly decide to work together again but soon discover the car theft ring may have links to terrorism.
What to call “Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2”? It’s a buddy flick, a slapstick comedy, an equal opportunity caricature of Canadian stereotypes and a family drama. It is all that and yet, somehow less than the sum of its parts.
It is at its best when Feore and Huard are on screen together. The two spark, sparring over temperament, culture and even hockey but the film gets bogged down in details. You know what made “Law & Order” great? You never knew much about the personal lives of the characters. It was always about the case and not the periphery. “Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2” could have taken a page from that playbook. The script—written by Huard—errs on the side of sentimentality and is cluttered with family turmoil and illness instead of trusting the chemistry between the two actors to carry the story.
“Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2” is billed as a Canadian comedy but for every line like, “That's not the best way to talk to a separatist with anger issues,” that connects with CanCon culture there are five that feel as though they were torn from the pages of any generic American cop story. The first film was ripe with clichés, but at least they were Canadian clichés.
Add to that a climatic action sequence that makes virtually no sense—instead of calling for back up they say things like, “We have no choice, no time to go for more help.” Do they not have cell phones in Quebec?—where they do everything in the most spectacularly hard way when easier and more obvious solutions are readily available. The action, and everything else, is played at a heightened level that plays into old fashioned stereotypes—small town Americans are dumb, Bouchard is playfully reckless and the single character of colour is a villain—that feels out dated and borderline offensive.
“Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2” leans toward the latter part of its title.
The Belko Experiment: 3 STARS
When James Gunn isn’t ripping up the box office with big budget “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies he occasionally let’s his freak flag fly by writing smaller, stranger movies like “The Belko Experiment.” A grisly look at human nature, it’s a riff on the bloody Japanese cult film “Battle Royale” with brains and plenty of brain splatter.
It's just another day at the office for Belko Industries workers. Housed in a monolithic building outside Bogotá, Columbia city limits, the non-profit company facilitates the hiring of American workers in South America. Today, like every day before, the workers answer phones, drink coffee, talk about their weekends and some even pass the time flirting.
It’s just like any other day except today new security at the front gate sent all the Columbian nationals home. Then an announcement came over the loudspeaker. “There are currently 80 of you in the building,” says a mysterious voice. “By the end of the day many of you will be dead. To survive you must follow instructions. First order: murder any two employees. Doesn't matter how, but there will be repercussions if there aren’t two bodies in half an hour.”
Some think it's a company wide psychological test, others drift into paranoia. The workers soon learn there’s no place to hide. Surveillance is everywhere and the mysterious voice seems to have tabs on what everyone is doing. With nowhere to hide, nowhere to run panic ensues and the bodies start to pile up.
When a second announcement instructs the workers to kill thirty of the remaining staff it is every man or woman for himself or herself.
Will anyone survive? Will whoever is in charge allow anyone to tell the story of what happened? Well they work together or will they kill one another?
If blood splatter is your thing “The Belko Experiment” may appeal to you. It’s a gory, brain bursting (literally) exercise in nihilism that masquerades as an unfettered social experiment. Which is not to say it isn’t entertaining. For much of its running time it is a compelling cat-and-mouse game but by the time everyone is slipping and sliding on blood soaked floors I was left hoping for a bit more satire or social commentary and a little less sadism and plasma.
Before “The Belko Experiment” becomes all about the blood ‘n brains it does feature some interesting human behaviour by the varied and noteworthy cast. “The Newsroom’s” John Gallagher Jr. is voice of reason Mike who stands in stark contrast to the bloodthirsty survivalists Barry Norris (Tony Goldwin) and Wendell Dukes (“Office Space’s” John C. McGinley). A study in how far people will go to stay alive, it doesn’t offer many surprising answers—here’s a shocker, people will do almost anything not to be killed—but at a lean 89 minutes it’s brutally entertaining.