Movie reviews: 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' succeeds due to chemistry between actors
Published Friday, August 18, 2017 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 18, 2017 7:57AM EDT
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD: 3 STARS
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” mixes and matches all the usual action movie flourishes—exotic locations, violence, jokes and romance—but succeeds because of the match between its leads, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
Reynolds is Michael Bryce, former executive protection hot shot. He was a man who handled security for the world’s richest and most dangerous people until one of his clients didn't make it home alive. Losing his AAA status affected him personally and professionally. “I don't really do high-value anymore,” he says. “These days I'm more in the coked out attorney business.”
Jackson is contract killer Darius Kincaid. With hundreds of notches on his belt, he is one of the world’s most deadly killers but makes a deal with Interpol to testify at The Hague against a former Belorussian dictator (Gary Oldman) in exchange for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) from a Dutch prison. Trouble is, there’s a leak at Interpol and the transport, led by Interpol agent and Bryce’s ex Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), is attacked.
Kinciad and Roussel escape, but to sidestep any more leaks and get to The Hague they realize they must bring in someone, "completely out of the loop." Enter Bryce, who takes the gig because he wants his elite status back. “You're not good at anything except keeping people alive,” says Roussel.
Cue the bullets, explosions and one-liners.
They say casting is everything and in the case of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” it’s hard to disagree. The story is a clichénado, a swirling mish mash of countdown clocks, car crashes and a hitman with a conscience that feels like we’ve seen it before and better in other movies. Then there’s a romantic subplot—apparently, without love, all the killing and mayhem have no meaning—that gets in the way of the fun stuff.
What changes things up is some clever casting. Reynolds’s crack-comic timing and Jackson’s swagger are well-tested commodities that reap benefits here. Add to that Selma Hayek’s foul mouthed but funny Sonia and Oldham’s scowling dictator and you have an all-star cast that transforms the so-so material.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a silly but entertaining movie. It works when it shouldn’t and just when your attention starts to wander it draws you back in. A philosophical twist—Who is more wicked? He who kills evil m******f*****s or he who protects them?—doesn’t go anywhere but the final shot before the credits marries romance and ultra-violence in a way that made me forgive the film’s previous transgressions.
LOGAN LUCKY: 3 ½ STARS
Director Steven Soderbergh’s biggest box office came courtesy of the glossy “Ocean’s Eleven” series. His new film sees him revisit similar territory but don’t expect a carbon copy of his biggest hits. “Logan Lucky” is a down-home “Ocean's Eleven” where some good old boys plan a robbery, but the slickness of the franchise films has been left in the vault.
Channing Tatum is Jimmy Logan, former quarterback and homecoming king, whose glory days are in the rear-view mirror. Divorced but devoted to his daughter. He’s now a West Virginia miner laid off from his job of filling in sinkholes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, home of one of the biggest NASCAR races on the circuit.
His brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender and Iraq War vet whose hand was blown off by an IED, chalks up the job loss to a family curse. The Unlucky Logans have a history of misfortune, one that Jimmy hopes to turn around.
Enlisting his sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and the Bang Brothers, the bleach blonde Joe (Daniel Craig), Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid), he comes up with an elaborate plan to rob the vault at the Speedway on the busiest weekend of the year.
“Logan Lucky” is a carefully plotted caper flick—although some of the elements of the labyrinthine heist are a little too perfect, relying too much on movie coincidences to be believable—but it’s a loose film with an indie feel. The stars are big but this isn’t a big film. Unlike the sleek “Ocean’s” films, the style of “Logan Lucky” suits its subject. It feels like handmade, blue-collar filmmaking.
Soderbergh’s looseness trickles down to the actors. Tatum and Craig seem to be having the best time, as Driver amps up the sincerity as the younger brother so desperate to live up to big bro’s legacy that he enlisted in the army. Once again (after “American Honey) Keough proves she is a formidable actor and not just Elvis Presley’s granddaughter while “Family Guy’s” Seth MacFarlane is suitably smarmy as the owner of a power drink company. Their combined efforts keeps things grounded even when as the caper grows more and more outrageous.
“Logan Lucky” feels like a throwback to the 90s indie scene that made Soderbergh an in-demand filmmaker in the first place. From the Tarantino-esque script—the pop culture references and “Game of Thrones” riffs—to the eye level characters, it’s a welcome return.
INGRID GOES WEST: 4 STARS
Recently an article titled, “My Instagram’s Perfect, My Real Life is Not,” described the author’s myriad of professional and personal problems. It’s a laundry list of millennial angst framed by a line that appears midway through the story. Everything in her real life was going wrong, but, she says, “you wouldn’t know any of this if you were to look at my social media presence.”
It’s not an uncommon story. In 200 years from now aliens, who will only understand the world through dead Instagram accounts, will believe that everyone lived perfect, #blessed lives filled with the wonders of avocado toast and gorgeous sunsets. Carefully curated Instagram pages, and a woman who loves them, are at the heart of “Ingrid Goes West,” a new film starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen.
Plaza plays Ingrid, a lonely New Yorker who befriends people on Instagram only to get upset when they don't let her into their lives. “Lame and basic,” Ingrid goes so far as to show up, uninvited, to a "friend’s" wedding with a can of mace. Insta-blocked after that event, she fixates on Taylor Sloane (Olsen), a Californian social media star with a seemingly perfect life. With inherited money from her late mother’s estate, Ingrid, as the title tells us, goes west in search of the perfect life she sees on her phone everyday.
With a fat bank account and plenty of nerve—Ingrid kidnaps Taylor’s dog so she can return him and insinuate herself into her life—she becomes friends with the InstaStar and her artist husband (Russell Wyatt). At first everything is hunky dory.
“You're so funny. You're so awesome. You're the greatest person I have ever met,” gushes Taylor after knowing Ingrid for only a day. Soon, though, Ingrid is exposed to be a possessive sociopath—a single white female for the Internet age—who gets jealous when Taylor hangs out or worse, is photographed with other people, and even her own brother.
“Ingrid Goes West” has the makings of either a comedy or psychological thriller but mostly plays like a cautionary tale. A portrait of a woman who buys into the InstaMyth of an effortlessly curated life, it’s a withering comment on the real stories behind social media’s hashtagged pictures. “Likes” do not equal love.
At the heart of this is Plaza, an actor unafraid to plumb the depths of desperation in her characters. Unlikeable in almost every way, Ingrid is as deep as a lunch tray and yet, because Plaza plays her as a human and not simply a caricature, she remains compelling.
Olsen, whose famous twin sisters were proto-Instagram stars, embodies the kind of superficial social media maven who thinks nothing of asking—with a perfect vocal fry—a stranger to lay on the ground to take the perfect “candid” shot of her fabulous life. She’s the neo-American Dream, a perfectly fluffy confection with a dark heart and a permanent spot on the guest list for every hot club in town.
On the sidelines, but still memorable is O'Shea Jackson as Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed landlord Dan. He isn’t given much to do—he spends more time reading comics than cruising Instagram—but is a likeable and charming presence.
“Ingrid Goes West” essays the phony baloney world of social media but does so with grace and depth, exposing the disconnect many people feel in a digital world.
GOOD TIME: 3 ½ STARS
With “Good Time,” Robert Pattinson may finally have put a stake through the heart of his most famous character. The man formerly known as “Twilight’s” sexy vampire sheds Edward Cullen’s glittery to play the reckless brother of an imprisoned man. The former heartthrob has taken creative risks before in his work with David Cronenberg but with the gritty “Good Time,” he has finally found the kind of critical reaction his ex co-star Kristen Stewart has been basking in for years since their franchise flew off into the night.
The action in “Good Time” stems from two brothers, Nik and Constantine Nikas, played by co-director Ben Safdie and Pattinson respectively. They live with their grandmother, but fledgling criminal Connie’s main job is looking out for Nik who struggles with a learning disability. “It’s just you and me,” Connie says. “I’m your friend. Alright?”
The ill-advised bank robbery goes south when a paint bomb hiding in the cash explodes covering them in red dye and landing Nik in jail. Connie plots to raise the $10,000 bail needed to spring his brother out of Rikers Island hospital. “I’ve got to get him out of there before something bad happens,” says Connie. “He could get killed in there.” As the night grows longer, Connie’s situation becomes complicated and dangerous.
Co-directors Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie are not action directors. They shoot in tight close ups, building tension instead with a propulsive electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never (a.k.a. Daniel Lopatin) mixed with tightly edited visuals. The result is anxiety inducing, occasionally darkly funny and unrelentingly grim. There is an “After Hours” vibe to “Good Time”—the action takes place in one evening escalating with every passing moment—but it’s violent and intense, the opposite of a feel good movie.
Pattinson embodies every scuzzy synapse of Connie. Nonviolent, kind hearted even—“You’ve got to change this. I don't want to see them justify this,” he says after watching TV shows where police violently take down a suspect. But dangerous Connie is compelling because of his desperation. As the situation spirals out-of-control Connie, driven by need to protect his brother, makes mistake after mistake.
You can practically smell his cigarette breath and sweat in a career high that really captures the late night desperation of a man on a mission.
Also strong in a role that amounts to little more than an extended cameo, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Connie’s girlfriend, an hysterical woman just a step or two away from the reality of the situation. In her brief time on screen, she makes an impression, adding to the story’s chaotic feel.
“Good Time” is the movie equivalent of a panic attack, nasty around the edges and rattling to the brain.