Tuesday’s Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

blogger, blogging, cops, dark comedy, film, film blogger, film blogging, film reviews, films, fucking awesome, fucking beautiful, fucking weird, Oscars, review, reviewing, reviews

3d932a1d00cc057ddd9e7210ea7a29085_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Sunday night was the annual BAFTA film awards and it was the usual mixture of glitz, glamour, and massively unnecessary shade. Now, obviously, as a sane young woman I am a massive fan of the whole Times Up and #metoo movement. However, there was a lot of over-the-top bitchiness that appears to have come out of the ceremony. The first, regarding the Kate Middleton’s dress is insane. Surely, as a royal, she wouldn’t have been allowed to make any outright statement by wearing a black dress. She did, however, get pretty damn close to the colour women were wearing in solidarity to the movement, so I think we know where she stands. Number 2, Salma Hayek. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I read about her introduction to the Best Actor category and I’m still dumbfounded by it. I don’t really see what her point was. She went in knowing she was going to present an award to a man yet decided to make a pointless and ineffective protest about men whilst doing it. It wasn’t a powerful message and, if anything, damaged the movement by making it seem like women are standing up against men in general. It adds to all the talk of “witch hunts” and, quite frankly, was a dick move in relation to the winner. Gary Oldman deserved his moment to win an award that was and always has been gender specific. Natalie Portman had a great point at the Golden Globes when she bitched about the all male Best Director category; Salma Hayek looked like a fucking idiot to be protesting a man winning a male only award.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Mindhorn (2017)

cops, films, fucking creepy, fucking funny, fucking ridiculous, fucking weird, parody, reviews, Steve Coogan, the mighty boosh

I guess I’ve always had a bit of a weird sense of humour but, as I get older, it’s becoming more and more obvious to m that people are just nodding politely whenever I’m trying to be funny. Years ago, my twin sister prepared me to meet her boyfriend for the first time by uttering the phrase “don’t be weird”. There’s nothing quite like sisterly love, eh? So, yeah, you could say I’m a bit strange at times. I blame television. Okay, I blame the television I grew up watching. I was a huge fan of weird British comedies like Spaced, The Adam and Joe Show, Alan PartridgeThe League of Gentlemen, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Peep Show, and, most importantly for the purposes of this post, The Mighty Boosh. Now, and I feel super fucking old having to write this, it’s been 10 years since the final episode of the show aired and the pair have gone on to other things. Noel Fielding has entered the murky, innuendo filled world of baking shows whilst Julian Barratt has done bits and bobs in films, television, and theatre. Maybe its just his Northern charm but I have always absolutely adored Julian Barratt. I knew plenty of girls around my age who were major fans of Vince Noir’s face. Personally, I was always a bit in love with Howard Moon. So, when Mindhorn was announced I was beyond excited. Of course, being as useless as always, I never got round to watching it… until now.

From what I can recall, Bruce Mindhorn first made an appearance in The Mighty Boosh radio show as a poet taking part in a talent competition. Clearly, since then, he’s gone through a bit of an identity crisis and rebranded himself as the greatest law enforcer on the Isle of Man. Detective Bruce Mindhorn, gifted with a cybernetic eye that could see the truth, was the star of a hit 1980s tv cop show played by actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt). Caught up in the wave of popularity that came with his role in the show, Richard left the Isle of Man to make it in Hollywood. Cut to 25 years later and Richard is a shadow of the man he once was but, thanks to a handy murder, he is about to be given an opportunity to turn his life around. A young girl’s body has been found and the deluded prime suspect is demanding to speak to Detective Mindhorn. Can Richard get back into character and help the police capture their man? Or will his quest for fame hinder the investigation?

Written by and starring Barratt and Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn isn’t exactly what you’d call cutting edge. We’ve seen the basic premise of a washed-up former star getting one last chance for redemption countless times. The plot is hardly a stretch but it does provide some fun. It introduces us to the weird, slightly awkward and occasionally laugh out loud funny world of Richard Thorncroft and, despite being incredibly similar, it’s still ever so slightly better than 2013’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. A great deal of the humour comes thick and fast in the opening scenes where we learn the history of Bruce Mindhorn and the people associated with the show. The spoofs on classics like Bergerac and Six Million Dollar Man are spectacular and you can well believe, now more than ever, that a show that insane would have been broadcast. Throughout the film there are hints as the same kind of zany humour that filled all 3 series of The Mighty Boosh but, kind of, more rooted in reality. I’m not going to pretend the jokes hit every single time but there is enough comedic energy to keep driving the meagre plot forward.

What absolutely helps is that all of the actors tackle their roles with aplomb. Julian Barratt’s clearly doesn’t give a shit about anything but making people laugh. Up for anything, his portrayal of Throncroft is both hilarious and strangely touching. The obvious narrative wouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does if you didn’t, despite everything, actually give a shit about this guy. As he slowly realises what an arse he’s been, you’ll find all of that initial annoyance fading away. His co-writer is on less solid ground as Thorncroft’s ex-stuntman, Clive, thanks to a Dutch accent that is only marginally better than the one last heard in Austin Powers: Goldmember but you’ve got to give him props for happily walking around the Isle of Man topless and wearing denim short shorts. Russell Tovey puts every effort into his role as The Kestrel, the deluded young man who the police are chasing and holds his fair share of the laughs. Steve Coogan pops his head up as Thorncroft’s ex-costar who found insane fame thanks to a spin-off from the original show. It’s hardly Coogan’s best or most memorable work but it sure beats anything he did in the early 2000s (*cough* The Parole Officer *cough*).

Which, ultimately, is fine. Mindhorn is an uneven and kind of mediocre comedy that will appeal to fans of Barratt and those who miss the glory days of 70s cop shows. It is, in a way, a warning to the idea of nostalgia and fandoms that never quite finds its voice enough to relay its message. What is does, for the most part, is manage to be funny. Not as much as it would have liked but, you know, God loves a trier. And yes, it does have the whiff of a 30 minute TV episode that has been stretched out for the big screen but, aside from a few plot strands that do nowhere, it’s super easy to mask the smell. Mindhorn won’t be for everyone, I realise, but, after dismal big screen appearances from both Alan Partridge and David Brent in recent years, Barratt has managed to move his brand of comedy to film. Yes, this is very different from a Mighty Boosh movie but, maybe, that’s why it works as well as it does. This film isn’t trying to be fresh or relevant. It just wants to make you laugh and, goddammit, it occasionally will do.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (2017)

boring, cops, films, fucking awful, fucking weird, meh, murder, Netflix, reviews

This week there was Cannes controversy when audiences booed the film Okja during its screening at the festival. It comes within a week where the French film festival has condemned the online streaming service despite 2 of its current titles being included in this year’s line-up. It all started when Cannes changed its rules to only allow entries from films that have been shown in French cinemas. This year’s jury president, director Pedro Almodóvar, made a statement proclaiming that nothing can stand in for the real experience of watching a film in the cinema and said that it would be a huge mistake to award the Palme D’Or to a film that audiences watched at home. Netflix has changed the way in which we are all digesting film and television but Hollywood is still trying to catch up. There are some bigger issues at play here, including French laws, but it should open a debate on what counts as a film. Netflix is loved by certain creatives because it gives them more freedom and room to create. However, it can sometimes come across as the company who make the films nobody else would bother to make. Especially with it’s comedies. There have been numerous times when trailers have caught my attention only for the final product to be really underwhelming. So when I first saw the trailer for Jeff Garlin’s Handsome I was in two minds about it. Surely it wouldn’t be as wonderful as the trailer was making it seem?

Handsome is the third feature film from comic Jeff Garlin, . The trailer set up Garlin’s classic deadpan delivery and the ability to keep his poker face in the midst of absolute absurdity. In the film, Garlin plays Detective Gene Handsome as he investigates the murder of his new neighbour babysitter. The day after Gene first meets the young woman in question he is faced with her chopped up remains on the front lawn of famous actor Talbert Bacom (Stephen Weber). Considering this films calls itself “a Netflix mystery movie” it isn’t so caught up on an investigation narrative. It’s more like a selection of sketched set in Los Angeles that are interspersed with talk of murder and lies. This is fine in itself but it doesn’t really push an audience into staying glued to the screen. The narrative plods along never quite committing itself to be anything specific.

Although, there are a handful of great moments within Handsome but it’s unfortunate that all of these moments are separate from the plot. This film is at it’s best when Detective Handsome is going about his daily business or having quiet interactions away from work. There is a lovely moment when he discusses hopes and dreams for the future with his neighbour. It’s a sincere and moving scene that could easily have been the basis for a much more entertaining film. Intersperse some deep and meaningful moments like this with a few scenes of Handsome giving too much attention to his dog and we’d be on the right track.

Instead, we have a film that paradoxically manages to be both too long and too short. The story develops too slowly to keep your attention but ends so quickly that you don’t really have time to realise what’s happened. There are plenty of absurd moments and outrageous comedy but the actual laughs are few and far between. There are plenty of running jokes that are just uncomfortable and never really land. Like the cheap jokes about Gene’s super horny partner, Fleur Scozzari (Natasha Lyonne), and the super awkward and unfunny moment when his superior officer (Amy Sedaris) sexually harasses him at the office.

I get what Garlin was trying to aim for with this film. There was potential for a murder mystery that was more laidback and sedate. A cop drama that was wholly uninterested in the cop or drama part . This could have been a super quirky, interesting and character driven affair. Instead it has neither enough characters, enough quirk or enough interest to keep you occupied. Every choice made about this film just seems off slightly. I don’t mind the lack of narrative in a film but Handsome needed something else to make up for it. If all of it’s attempted jokes had landed then it would have been fine but most of them are weak. It needed more identity and more confidence in itself. Instead it’s just another in an increasing line of forgettable Netflix original comedy films.

TBT: Lethal Weapon (1987)

30 years, anniversary, buddy cop, cops, Mel Gibson, Shane Black, TBT

Everyone knows the score when it comes to buddy cop movies. We’ll be introduced to two police officers and will quickly discover that, unfortunately yet hilariously, the pair are polar opposites of each other. No matter where the difference comes from it will create tension as the pair try to come together to bring down the bad guy. It feels like we’ve seen the set-up in every fucking way possible by this point. It’s a timeless classic that writers will continue to come back to. And who should we blame for this? Well, the idea of the odd couple is an incredibly old one but it was the 80s and 90s that really saw the whole buddy cop thing take off. As we all know, one of the greatest uses of the formula comes in a film that just so happens to be celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. It’s also a fucking classic film that I really just wanted to excuse to see after watching The Nice Guys. After all, there’s no such thing as too much Shane Black.

On Tuesday I discussed the fact that, for whatever reason, I can’t seem to distinguish between Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson in my head. I know I’m not a big fan of one of them but always forget which one it is. I think the confusion comes from my love of 80s movies. After all, Mel Gibson is the star of some of my favourite action films so I guess I assume he’s the one I love. He isn’t. He’s just the kind of crazy, anti-Semitic guy who rants about everything these days. Yet, once upon a time, he was the unhinged super cop grieving for his dead wife. Along with Danny Glover and thanks to a sharp script from Shane Black, Mel Gibson has become forever linked with the buddy cop genre. 1987’s Lethal Weapon quickly became the template for modern examples of these types of films and was the first in a long line of great scripts from Black. It’s an important movie in film history but, more importantly, it’s also a really good one.

Even though I’ve never been completely comfortable with the opening. Now I’m not talking about the death of a young woman as she falls from her top floor hotel balcony. No, I’m talking about the moment when Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is surprised by his family whilst he’s taking a bath. It’s so fucking weird. I get that it’s his birthday and they want to celebrate but give the man some privacy. Who wants their kids to sing happy birthday as their dad’s dick is on full show? What kind of kid would be okay with that scenario? It’s never sat right with me and it will always make me cringe.

Still, the moments passes and we quickly learn that Murtaugh is nearing retirement age and is looking for a quiet life. Obviously, that all changes when he’s partnered with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) who, rumour has it, is either crazy or hoping to get sick pay by acting crazy. You see, Riggs has seen shit. He was an expert marksmen during the Vietnam War and is still haunted by his past. To top it all off, his beloved wife has died meaning he’s living alone in an RV. He’s got something of a death wish but fails to finish the job himself. It gives Mel Gibson plenty of chances to stare wildly into people’s eyes and there are several weird and ugly close-ups of his unblinking, crazy expressions. So, why, I hear you ask, is this unhinged man allowed to continue working in law enforcement? Well, he’s just that good a detective, goddammit.

The pair take on the case of the dead girl and discover that the apparent suicide is actually something much darker. The find themselves running from drugs barons and blonde henchmen. Really, the plot isn’t really important. It’s just a generic reason for getting the pair into situations where they must shoot or fight there way out. There’s very little actual detective work but plenty of kidnappings, shoot outs, and terrible martial arts to make up for that. The thing that really matters with Lethal Weapon is Shane Black’s script. He, once again, created a strong and sharp premise that includes plenty of great back and forth between the main pair. It became the staple for the film’s to follow in its footsteps and pushed Black along the path to greatness. There’s action a plenty but this film is also funny and tender. It’s the kind of thing that, in the wrong hands, would just come across as absurd and stupid but, for some reason, it comes together. There is enough energy and drive from all corners that you can’t help but get swept away in the excitement. It’s a fucking classic.

TBT – Hot Fuzz (2007)

buddy comedy, cops, Edgar Wright, fucking funny, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, TBT

So, the keen eyed amongst you will realise that last week I missed my TBT post for the first time in absolutely ages. The reason? I couldn’t think of anything to write about and I didn’t want to write anything shit just for the sake of it. This schedule has been really good for me in terms of planning and time keeping but there are times when the rigidity just doesn’t give me any room to breathe. So I decided to skip a week. In fact, I’ve been pondering getting rid of the whole thing entirely. I mean who really wants to read my review of a film that has been out for so long that pretty much everyone has had their say about it? Especially whilst I desperately try and tie it into my other posts that week. So we’ll see how long this goes on for. Until then I’ve actually got a topic for this week so I’ll get on with it.

On Tuesday I once again bemoaned the state of Simon Pegg’s career and his ability to agree to appear in any old shit. This, in itself, isn’t too big a problem because the man has to work. I get that. I’ve worked for in a job that hasn’t ever really given me any professional enjoyment. I understand the woe of having to sell your soul in exchange for a pay check. The thing that makes Pegg’s back catalogue so hard to bear is the fact that he’s been responsible for some of the greatest British films over the past twenty years. His Cornetto trilogy, written with Edgar Wright, are incredibly popular and are the perfect big screen follow-ups to sitcom Spaced.

Arguably, it is Hot Fuzz, the middle film, that is the best. Pegg and Wright wanted to explore the idea of a British version of the Hollywood buddy cop genre and they managed to create a film that was almost perfect. Pegg plays Nicholas Angel London’s top cop who is sent to a sleepy village of Sanford after he starts making the rest of London’s police look incompetent. He partners up with naive Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and the pair uncover a mysterious plot that is leading to the deaths of some of village’s most prominent residents. Danny gets his first real glimpse of police work whilst Nicholas learns to ditch the rule book and embrace the kind of theatrics seen in most action movies.

At the heart of the village is the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance who go to great lengths to keep the peace and ensure the village remains picture perfect. However, Nicholas starts to suspect that one of its members, Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), is responsible for the deaths to cover up a secret property deal. Nicholas must use every trick in the book to convince his boss Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent) that he’s telling the truth and get the rest of the village’s inept force to help him track down the killer.

Hot Fuzz does great things with its location and the tropes traditionally found in big budget cop movies. It references several of Hollywood’s biggest action films and plays with the genre amongst the sleepy British setting. It offers both a satirical glimpse and a charming celebration of all things action and gives it a delightfully fresh British twist. I mean I can’t imagine Bruce Willis taking part in a high speed chase whilst having a lost swan in his possession, can you? The end result is biting, incredibly funny and hugely entertaining.

Thanks is no small part to the chemistry between Pegg and Frost. The pair have, as we all know, been friends for years and this is never more evident than this film. They are so utterly comfortable with each other that they don’t mind letting the other dominate when need be. They have a great understanding of how they work together and how they can make something funny. Their relationship on screen here is much more convincing than in Shaun of the Dead and is more heartfelt than in the dire At World’s End. This is vintange Frost/Pegg bromance and it’s great to watch.

Hot Fuzz boasts an incredible British cast including several drool worthy names. Jim Broadbent and Timothy Dalton stand out amongst the crowd and are joined by the equally captivating Edward Woodward, Paul Freeman and Billie Whitelaw to name but a few. The talent on show is fantastic and they all work with the material wonderfully. My only gripe with Hot Fuzz, if I had to admit to one, is that it’s a little self-indulgent. Something only highlighted by its cast. It allows itself a bit too much room for error and ends up missing a few of its marks. There are jokes a plenty and, inevitably, not all of them land in quite the right way. Still, it barely matters. No matter how many times I watch this film I still feel as elated and satisfied as the first time.

TBT – Righteous Kill (2008)

cops, fucking awful, Robert DeNiro, TBT, thriller

There was no part of my that was at all interested in watching Righteous Kills but my friend at university had been in London whilst the premier took place. She came back with blurry snaps of Fiddy Cent and Al Pacino telling me how much she wanted to see it. For some reason I agreed. Just like Forsaken had more attention than it perhaps deserved because it brought together two great actors, Righteous Kill was talked about because two acting greats would finally share screen time together. Yes, 2008 was the year that finally saw Robert DeNiro acting alongside the rapper Fiddy Cent. Oh and some shit about him finally sharing some real screen time with Al Pacino since they briefly crossed paths in Heat. It was supposed to be the greatest film event of all time. I mean these two could read a bus timetable and make it seem like the best thing you’ve ever heard. So how could Pacino and DeNiro working together not equal success and quality?

In Righteous Kill Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino play partners, Turk and Rooster, in the police force. Both are Detectives with many years experience who have both grown tired of watching guilty men get away with their crimes. When criminals start turning up having been shot by the mysterious Poetry Boy killer they both have to wonder how much of a problem it really is. Until a couple of younger cops (John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) start to suspect that Turk (DeNiro) is guilty of the crimes. Will Rooster (Al Pacino) be able to convince them of his partner’s innocence or will he have to accept that the man he thought he knew is a cold-blooded killer?

I’m going to be straight up with you here: I hated this film the first time I saw it and I felt no better about it the second time. Righteous Kill attempts to survive based solely on the meeting of two great actors. Yes, there is some joy to be had in watching Pacino and DeNiro acting alongside each other but that soon wears off. Then you can’t help but notice that the script is exactly the kind of shitty thriller that was constantly being churned out in the 80s and 90s. It’s chock full of clichés and is just generic. It ticks a lot of crime thriller boxes but offers nothing in the way of excitement or suspense. Director Jon Avnet clearly has no idea what do with the story or his two lead actors and the plot bumbles on to its awkward twist ending.

Let’s talk about that “twist” ending for a second. Not only it is a completely fucking stupid way to end the film but it is also cheap, unoriginal and completely see through. Anyone who watches this and doesn’t instantly see what’s going to happen 100 minutes later is obviously too fucking naive to function in modern society. Every decision about this film was made in order to pull of this impressive trick but it’s just not worth it. Everything that makes even the worst crime drama palatable are sacrificed for something so utterly mindless and unnecessary. Where is the mystery and suspense? There are some questionable narrative and editing decisions that had to be made in order to pull off the world’s least surprising twist. It’s just fucking insane.

The film thinks its better than it is partly because of the aforementioned ending and the questions it hoped to raise and partly because it somehow managed to bag two of Hollywood’s greatest actors. There is a problem with that though: the two heavyweights are completely wasted. The script is so boring and badly written that the pair just become SNL parodies of themselves. For lack of any juicy material DeNiro’s classic acting face just goes insane. I’ve never seen his eyes look thinner than they do for the majority of this films run time. I’m shocked he didn’t walk into more things on set it would have been that difficult for him to see.

Righteous Kill thinks it is telling an intelligent and thought-provoking story about morality and law enforcement. Unfortunately, the story cannot sustain the weight of it’s own self-righteous belief that is has something to say that is worth listening to. It’s hard work to make it through and the film is hardly long. Righteous Kill poses less questions than it wants and is nowhere near as complex as writer Russell Gewirtz clearly hoped. The film is just disappointing in all areas. Plus, it wants to constantly remind us that Robert DeNiro is drowning in pussy. I’d somehow managed to forget the aged DeNiro sex scene but there it is. In fact, I actually think the thing that pissed me off the most about this film is the romance between DeNiro’s character and his colleague played by Carla Gugino. There is 28 year age difference between DeNiro and Gugino and Bobby was 65 when the film came out. Now no offence to dear old Bob but that’s more difficult to swallow than any aspect of the shitty narrative.

R.I.P.D (2013)

buddy comedy, CGI, comedy, cops, cowboy, fucking awful, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, review, Ryan Reynolds, terrible

It’s really difficult to like Ryan Reynolds these days. I’m sure that there’s a good actor in there somewhere but he just keeps agreeing to star in shitty films. Just take a look at some of his past credentials (The Green Lantern, The Change-Up, The Proposal, Just Friends, The Amityville Horror remake) and it’s a sorry list of bland blockbusters and insipid romantic-comedies. Certainly, it’s a huge change from his early days when his presence would be a welcome addition to any cast-list. These days it’s starting to look as though his two major talents seem to be his rock-hard abs and his ability to get blonde women to marry him. Surely there’s got to be something fantastic hidden away and he’s just waiting for the right film to come along? Unfortunately, that film was never going to be R.I.P.D. Yes, number 3 in this week’s surprise buddy-cop season. Upon release in the US it was universally panned by critics and even given the title of worst film of the year… even with a full 4 months worth of terrible films still to come. So of course I had to check this out for myself. It surely can’t be that bad… can it?

I can imagine just how the first pitch for the R.I.P.D script must have gone: “Well it’s like the type of film you’d get when you mix Men in Blackwith Ghostbusters starring that cowboy from the remake of True Grit, and the Green Lantern… oh and it’s based on a comic book.” You can see why it was snapped up. The world was crying out for a film focusing on the Rest in Peace Department: a supernatural law enforcement agency that hunts down those pesky deceased souls who just aren’t ready to call it quits yet.

It is the unfortunate Boston detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) who finds himself as the newest member of the secret group when he is killed on duty. I say on duty but he is actually killed by his despicable partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), after Nick gets cold-feet about the pair helping themselves to stolen gold. Rather than finding himself in whatever afterlife awaits him, Nick is recruited by Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), given a special Deado killing gun and introduced to his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). Roy is straight out of the Wild West and a bit of a lone wolf. He reluctantly accepts his new partner and delights at throwing the rookie in at the deep-end. Which is where find themselves in possession of evidence pointing to a plot to bring utter chaos to the living world.
Instead of being a refreshing new take on the Men in Black format, R.I.P.Dis haphazard and certainly not breaking new ground. It’s the same old story that has been churned out in Hollywood time and time again: grizzled veteran cop meets cocky rookie in an utterly bewildering computer-generated world. The flimsy plot serves as a means to move the story forward but few of the characters or narrative components are given any time to develop beyond their basic function. It serves as nothing more than a means to hold together the various CGI sequences that are constantly being thrust in our faces.
A fact that would be less of a problem if the CGI was actually well-crafted. CGI has come a long way in recent years but R.I.P.D sets the entire area back at least 20 years. If it weren’t for the lead actors you could easily believe that this was an example of the plasticky creatures seen in films throughout the late 90s. Despite having a reportedly large budget, the effects just lack the polish of modern CGI and the longer sequences move at great speed in order to cover up these inadequacies. The downside is of course that everything just becomes so confusing and frantic that an audience will be unlikely to follow, let alone appreciate, any of the unfolding mischief.
Everything about this film just screams laziness. The script is littered with bland humour, awkward character interactions and general weirdness. When it comes down to it, R.I.P.D has only two real things going for it: Bridges and Parker are both fun to watch and do the best that they can with the material they are offered. She gives an interesting spin to the prim and proper manger figure and is the perfect foil to Bridges’ over-the-top Roy, who is pretty much an undead version of Rooster Cogburn. Bridges once again does his best cocky cowboy impression but whilst constantly being under threat of getting upstaged by his eyebrows and facial hair. He’s generally the most interesting character on screen (although that isn’t exactly a compliment in this crowd) and puts considerably more energy into the script than it really deserves. Constantly punctuating the lacklustre action with his physical comedy and comic timing, Bridges ensures that this film doesn’t fall on its face in the first 10 minutes.
Certainly it wouldn’t be able to hold itself up on the strength of Reynolds’ performance. He never really finds his place on screen and finds himself being consistently overshadowed, whether that’s by the much-more talented Bridges and Parker or the shocking CGI. Despite being the necessary plot-point that introduces the audience to the R.I.P.D, this film would have been much better off without Nick moaning about his death and mooning over his widow.  He has almost no personality and none of the stand-out material that Roy gets to play with. Kevin Bacon’s dismal villain aside, Nick is the most forgettable character in the entire movie… a huge triumph for both Reynolds and the writers considering just how long he is on screen for.
Overall, R.I.P.D. is a weak example of the action/comedy genre and will never stand-up against previous releases. It never finds high ground and offers a limp and rarely funny script, underdeveloped characters and awful visuals. Not even the energetic attempts of Jeff Bridges can breathe life into this film but, with the help of Mary-Louise Parker, he does offer some glimmers of joys to help you keep going. Whilst this may not be the “worst film of 2013”, it certainly isn’t making up for Hollywood’s recent filmic misfortunes. 

The Other Guys (2010)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Stevenson, review, Steve Coogan, Will Ferrell

These days I find myself drawn to Mark Wahlberg films. I’m not entirely sure when it happened but Marky Mark became one of the more reliable actors around. So much so that I find myself desperate to watch Pain and Gain and 2 Guns every time I see the trailers. I may prefer the rap career of Hollywood favourite Will Smith but there can be no denying that Marky’s talent lies outside of hip-hop. He’s a talented actor and, most surprisingly, an incredibly funny performer. His role in Ted was a revelation so I started my mission to work my way through his filmography. If I’m not careful he’ll become one of my favourite actors and once that happens I will certainly have to start re-evaluating my life.

The Other Guys is another spoof of the classic buddy-cop film with Wahlberg and Will Ferrell taking their position as the title characters. Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg ) are police officers who find themselves overlooked next to a pair of superstar detectives, played wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. They find themselves paired up thanks to their past professional mistakes and are stuck filling out their co-worker’s paperwork. That is until they accidentally stumble into the middle of a huge financial scam, with Steve Coogan’s corrupt businessman at its centre.

As with every movie of this type, The Other Guys struggles to find a balance between comedy and the cinematic tropes of the genre at its foundation. Just how much adrenaline-pumping explosions and shoot-outs do you need in a comedy crime caper? Unfortunately, The Other Guys doesn’t quite get it right. McKay and cinematographer Oliver Wood (what happened to the Quidditch career?) push the action sequences as hard as they can and make sure everything is as in-your-face as possible. The focus should be the characters but there is always too much of a focus on the genre that everything just gets muddled and feels too big for the film-makers.

Writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy stretch the already thin narrative just a little too far and they never quite manage to control it. There is too much confusion surrounding the flimsy stock market scam and subsequent armed robbery and kidnap that the main plotline just becomes a runaway train that blasts its way through some of the better moments. Thankfully The Other Guys has a saving grace in its central relationship and there are just enough stand-out moments throughout. These snippets occur when the bizarre characters get a chance to bounce off one another and distract us from the derivative plot.

For one thing, Ferrell and Wahlberg are a comedy super team here. Whilst Ferrell is still as funny as we have come to expect, it is refreshing to see him working the more straight-man role (albeit with a dark secret past hidden just below the surface). This also means he has some room to move within his performance. Rather than playing a character at 100% coarse, The Other Guys allows him to mix things up a little. He works well against Wahlberg’s brash and hot-headed Terry who is living with the frustration of being saddled with an inept partner and dull duties. He is full of anger and is the perfect foil to Ferrell’s reserved Allen. As with similar films, the humour is primarily based upon their conflicting way of life and their overall chemistry.

The pair is aided along their way by a wonderful and hilarious supporting cast. Michael Keaton is a comic highpoint here as the outrageous police captain who can be relied upon to provide a TLC quotation for every occasion. Likewise, Eva Mendes once again proves to be a funny performer and completely throws herself into some of the more ridiculous moments. However, it is the brief appearance of Jackson and Johnson in the opening scenes that really stood out for me. These moments are an outrageous but excellent parody of every over-the-top police action films. Whilst on screen for only a brief time, they are the stars of some of the funniest moments.

The most disappointing star is Steve Coogan, the man responsible for one of the all-time greatest comic characters, Alan Partridge. Suffering from being involved in such a forgettable and insignificant plot-line, Coogan just gets lost in the chaos. He has a few throw-away lines that might garner a titter but it just feels like he’s simply along for the ride.

A feeling that will only grow as the film progresses towards its finale. There are moments of true hilarity but this has the overall feel of one long sketch show broken up by a farcical crime plot. The funniest moments are the random tangents and the banter between our leading pair. The actual narrative is just consequential. Still, The Other Guys is a film that is primarily concerned with making its audience laugh and there is no denying that it does that. If only it had been less interested in the other side of the coin and veered off the Michael Bay path of film-making.

The Heat (2013)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Melissa McCarthy, review, Sandra Bullock, women

It was the Bridesmaidscombo of Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig that really put the former on Hollywood’s radar. She is slowly making a name for herself as a reliably funny performer despite not always receiving the type of material she deserves (see IdentityThief). Here the two reunite for the film that was, for a long time, known as ‘The Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy’. In Snakes on a Plane style part of me wishes they had kept this at the title but alas, The Heat is what we were left with. As with his last film, Feig was on a mission to make a female-centric comedy that both men and women would enjoy. To prove that women are just as funny and downright silly as men. It worked with his first film, which was incredibly popular with both critics and audiences alike. Can he and McCarthy work their female-centric magic in the world of cops and robbers? 

The Heat doesn’t exactly break any boundaries in terms of plot and the script, written by Katie Dippold of Parks and Recreation, sets out a pretty simple premise in order to introduce the pair. At its bare bones it’s the standard buddy cop narrative but with more jokes about vaginas and spinsterhood. Sandra Bullock plays the career-driven FBI agent, Sarah Ashburn, whose desire to succeed is alienating her from her colleagues. Much like the career-driven and socially awkward FBI agent that Bullock played in the Miss Congeniality films in fact. With the promise of a prestigious promotion, Ashburn finds herself investigating a drugs baron working out of Boston. It doesn’t take long before she is stepping on the toes of local detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) and her never-ending mission to clean up her streets. Unsurprisingly, the pair soon discovers that their only chance of cracking the case is to combine their individual skills.

It’s really not difficult to see how this will pan out from here. The by-the-book Ashburn and the anything goes Mullins clash throughout the investigation. Whether that’s about how they dress, how they deal with suspects or their romantic lives. It is their differences that keep the plot plodding along until the inevitable turning point in their relationship occurs. This happens, unsurprisingly, during a night of heavy drinking when they ladies discover that under the surface the two are just passionate about their jobs. It is a scene which only goes to highlight the wonderful chemistry between the pair which gives their banter a pleasingly natural and improvised feel to it.
I think it’s safe to say that in the hands of different actresses this film would have flopped instantly. Both Bullock and McCarthy are capable of being incredibly funny and have no concerns about looking too silly. They throw themselves into every aspect of their parts and are incredibly successful. It would be easy to dismiss this as an ‘it’s all been done’ situation but, thanks to Feig and his two leads, you end up caring about the main characters. This is even more of a testament to the actresses when you consider that, at their core, the pair of law enforcers are essentially just dicks. It’s easy to see why they are so alienated from their co-workers. Ashburn brags about her superior skills and delights in humiliating her colleagues at any opportunity. Likewise, Mullins is loud, brash and turns to threats and profanity if she ever feels cornered. In lesser hands it would be easy to end up turning against these characters but, thanks to the incredibly likeable leads and Feig’s direction, the audience are with them every step of the way.
Feig may believe in his characters but he has some problems with keeping the film going. Just as he did in Bridesmaids, the director has a slight problem with pacing; some scenes keep going for much longer than they need to, some jokes are stretched out to beyond their limit, and there are moments which just distract from the main action. For example, the stand-out bar scene where Mullins and Ashburn drink themselves into a mutual understanding may be one of the funnier scenes but it is hard to escape the idea that it sort of outstays its welcome. At the same time, Dippold’s script often attempts to turn its simply narrative into something grander and attempts to pull off the kind of twist ending expected by a much better film. As it happens, the final reveal of the identity of the drugs lord is just unnecessarily confusing and feels sillier than any of McCarthy’s physical comedy… which, now I think about it, is probably a fitting revelation.
After all, at its heart, The Heat is an incredibly funny film. In fact, if it ain’t funny it’s more than likely that The Heat just isn’t interested. Every scene, even the weakest ones, contains something that will get you chuckling. Despite an arguably weak narrative, Dippold’s script if full of fantastic jokes and amazing physical comedy perfectly tailored to the women at its centre. It is impossible not to get caught up in the sheer energy and heart that everyone is bringing to the production. 

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

buddy comedy, Christmas, cops, review, Robert Downey Jr, Shane Black

Whilst attempting to compile my list of essential Christmas viewing I wrestled with my choices more than my barely read blog really deserved. One of the films that nearly made the grade was this offering from Shane Black. It is another of those films, along with his other offering Lethal Weapon, that stand on the periphery of Christmas films and films that are merely set during the festive season. I ultimately decided that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang didn’t quite count as essential viewing over the holidays but that it deserved some recognition on this site.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangstars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a small-time thief who gets mistaken for an aspiring actor and whisked off to the bright lights of Hollywood. In order to research his new role Harry is paired with  private investigator “Gay” Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer) but soon gets himself, and his childhood crush Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), mixed up in crime plot to rival any Hollywood film. Once the bodies start turning up there is simply no stopping them creating more problems for the hapless Harry.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, like Ronseal, does exactly what it says on the tin. The title is the film’s first in-joke and offers the audience a clear sign of exactly what they are in for. It references the working title of the fourth outing for super spy James Bond, Thunderball, and also the phrase critic Pauline Kael picked out as a description of the thrill-seeking and shallow attitude that she felt had infected cinema. Black’s film is a response to both Kael’s criticism and the trigger-happy excitement associated with 007. We are witnessing a film that embraces its shallow, violent nature whilst remaining sarcastic and self-aware enough to show that it has some depth.
The narrative takes the formula that Black helped reinforce in the 80s and beats it senseless. The bloody and delirious remains are a blend of typical detective and action plots whilst serving as a parody of pulp detective novels. It is smart and funny and Black clearly had fun putting together the twisting storylines. It is an homage to film noir set in the bright lights of the modern and superficial LA scene. The script is full of in-jokes, self-awareness and Black’s own scathing criticism of his own industry.
This is one of the main reasons that certain critics have had such a problem with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Black makes all of the right moves but can’t help but point out that he’s doing it for his own devices. Whilst you are watching, you can’t help but feel that Black is sat beside you constantly elbowing you in the ribs and repeatedly whispering “do you get it?” There are moments when the entire film almost collapses under the weight of its own arrogance. Although, I would have to say that Black’s skill as a writer prevent this from happening. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is trashy, witty and clever and I think it has every right to point it out through Harry’s narrative.
The plot, whilst not completely nonsensical, is convoluted. The action is dragged out by the discovery of another body or a piece of vital new information. It is full of those classic moments when our heroes escape momentarily only to be captured once again. It is difficult to keep track of everything you’re supposed to remember and what’s just there to put you off. Ultimately, though, that’s the point. The plot is really a secondary feature. Concentrate on it too and you miss out on the more important matters. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is, above all else, a buddy movie and it is the great dialogue and wonderful performances that really make this film something special. The chemistry between the three main actors is terrific. Val Kilmer triumphs as the openly gay but hard-nosed PI and produces one of his funniest performances. Robert Downey Jr. is able to bring a tender and emotional slant to his smart-alecky one-liners and self-referential narration. Harry is at times idiotic and naïve but you just can’t help but like him and admire his witty and sarcastic dialogue. Without these two at the helm, this film wouldn’t work. The chemistry and the emotional centre provide a soft counterpoint to the self-importance of the script.
Shane Black tried to be clever with a formula that he and other writers had started to wear out and, luckily for him, he has the skill to make it work and breathe new life into these oft seen scenarios. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is an exciting and fast-paced look back to the works of Raymond Chandler but with a postmodern attitude. It is a dark comedy with a sarcastic and brash side. The story takes so many turns along the way that keeping up with everything can prove difficult but that is not enough to detract from everything that Black does get right.