THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (2017) – Simple-Minded Movie Has No Business Being This Funny

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hitman's_bodyguard_poster

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (2017),  a new action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, reminded me a lot of the buddy comedies from the 1980s.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Films that paired the likes of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and even James Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s slick, violent, and hopelessly forced and stupid, yet that didn’t stop me from laughing.

A lot.

I had no business liking this movie as much as I did.

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is one of the most sought-after bodyguards on the planet, but that all changes in the opening sequence in the movie when his client is shot dead by an unseen assassin in front of Michael’s eyes.  Two years later Michael is down on his luck, unable to restore his reputation as one of the world’s best bodyguards.  However, that’s about to change.

A deadly Russian official Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is on trial, and the key witness is hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).  While en route to the international court, the motorcade transporting Kincaid is ambushed by one of Vlad’s hit squads, and while there is lots of death and destruction, Kincaid and the young woman in charge of his security detail, Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) escape.

Amelia suspects someone on the inside is working for Vlad, and so she turns to an outsider for help, and that would be Michael, who just happens to be her ex-boyfriend. It’s Michael’s big chance to redeem himself, to get Kincaid to court on time, as the judge has given the lawyers until 5:00 to produce their star witness.  All they have to do is survive the efforts of Vlad’s seemingly infinite supply of henchmen and assassins.

And, oh yeah, Michael and Kincaid have a past, and they hate each other.  But they put aside their differences to work together, even bonding to the point where they give each other relationship advice.

As I said, this one’s a throwback to the 80s buddy movies, where it’s all about action, swearing, and silly comedy.  The only thing missing is the obligatory nude scene. Other than this, it’s all there: guns, explosions, car chases, heroes who can’t miss and villains who can’t shoot straight.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD tells as stupid a story as they come, yet it somehow works. It’s that rare example of a story that really isn’t believable, and yet the comedy works and works well.  I can’t deny that I laughed quite a bit during this movie, more than I expected to, and as a result, I liked the whole movie more than I expected, as well.

For starters, director Patrick Hughes does a nice job at the helm.  Hughes directed THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014), which was probably my least favorite film of that Sylvester Stallone action series, a series that for the most part I’ve liked a lot.  I enjoyed THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD more than THE EXPENDABLES 3, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was in addition to the comedy, the film also does not skimp on the action.

There are some fun car chases, and one fight scene in particular between Michael and a Russian hitman that is almost as good as the memorable fight sequence in ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) from several weeks back.  While the story itself is not very believable, the action scenes are.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson also share decent chemistry here.  Reynolds plays the straight man to Jackson’s over-the-top unstoppable hitman, and while I prefer Reynolds as the raunchy foul-mouthed superhero Deadpool, he’s still very good here as the bodyguard who knows he’s still the best.

While I’ve always enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson, for me, his performances are often hit or miss.  His performance here as hitman Darius Kincaid is more of a hit.  I certainly enjoyed him more here than in the last couple of films I saw him in.  His role earlier this year as military man Preston Packard in KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) never rose above the cliché, and in last year’s THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) his sympathetic George Washington Williams, while being one of the more enjoyable characters in an otherwise flat movie, was simply okay and far too reserved to make much of an impact.

Here as Darius Kincaid, Jackson lets loose.  He seems to be having an awfully good time, and he’s terribly funny.  Sure, most of the humor stems from Jackson hurling F-bombs, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious, and Jackson is so good at capturing this type of persona.

Gary Oldman can play villains in his sleep, and his performance here as Vladislav Dukhovich is nothing we haven’t seen him do before, but like Jackson, he’s so good at it. Any film that has Oldman in the cast is going to benefit from his performance, and HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is no exception.

Elodie Yung, who played Electra in Season 2 of the Netflix TV show DAREDEVIL (2016) and who is currently reprising the role in the new Netflix Marvel show THE DEFENDERS (2017) is decent here as security agent Amelia Roussel.  She’s completely removed from the comedy and appears only in the straight action scenes in this one, and as a result she’s not in the best parts of the movie.

On the other hand, Salma Hayek has a field day as Darius’ imprisoned wife Sonia.  While all her scenes take place in her prison cell, she, like Jackson, lets loose and lets the F-bombs fly, in a funny spirited performance, a far cry from her reserved dramatic performance in BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017) earlier this year.

The cast is excellent, and this is a good thing since the screenplay by Tom O’Connor is about as sharp as a butter knife.  The story is farfetched and simple, the characters cliché, and the humor driven by four letter words.  Yet, in this case, it somehow all works.  Again, I laughed a lot during this movie.

But the main reason for the success behind THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is the presence of stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.  I’m not the biggest Ryan Reynolds fan, as other than DEADPOOL (2016) I haven’t really enjoyed his movies all that much.  But he strikes the right balance here between likable guy and down on his luck bodyguard, and he makes Michael someone the audience can easily root for.

Paired with Samuel L. Jackson’s over the top larger than life unstoppable Darius Kincaid, the two actors chew up the scenery and keep things entertaining throughout.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is a movie where the sum of its parts is better than the whole, and that’s a good thing because in this case the “whole” is pretty lame-brained.

The “parts” however, are a hoot.

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Kevin Costner Is Criminally Entertaining in CRIMINAL (2016)

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When I think of Kevin Costner,  the word “bad-ass” isn’t what comes to mind.

That might change after watching CRIMINAL (2016), the new thriller starring  Costner as a death row inmate who through untested experimental surgery is given the memories of a dead CIA agent.

Why?  Because the agent died before completing his mission, and in order for his superiors to learn the vital information he took with him to his grave, they need to ressurect his memory.  Enter Kevin Costner.

When the movie opens, CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is being chased by the bad guys, and he doesn’t make it, which is very bad for the good guys, because Pope was bringing in a computer hacker who had gained control of the U.S. military’s missile launch system.  Pope’s boss, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) recruits Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) to perform experimental surgery on Pope to transfer Pope’s memories into the brain of another man.

Franks chooses Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a death row inmate and career criminal, because Jericho has a rare brain condition as a result of a childhood brain injury which makes him a perfect candidate for the surgery.  Trouble is, the same injury has also made Jericho an unstoppable unfeeling brutal criminal who doesn’t know right form wrong, doesn’t feel emotion or pain, and basically is Michael Myers without the mask.  Well, almost.

Franks performs the surgery, but Jericho escapes, and now armed with Pope’s CIA agent knowledge and skills, sets out to steal the money that Pope was going to use to bring in the computer hacker.  But when Jericho visits Pope’s wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and his young daughter, he begins to relive happy memories from Pope’s past and suddenly he’s experiencing emotions, something he had never been able to do before, which changes his outlook on life.

Meanwhile, the hacker is still out there, CIA boss Quaker Wells is going nuts because every move he makes seems to be the wrong one, and the main baddie in the movie, terrorist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla) is intent on using Jericho to lead him to the hacker so he can gain control of the U.S. military’s missile launch codes and blow up the world.

And he’ll succeed, unless Jericho, the relentlessly brutal career criminal who’s now armed with CIA agent skills, making him more dangerous than ever, can stop him.  And he wants to stop him for the simple reason that Xavier has irked him.  As Jericho says early in the movie, “You hurt me.  I’ll hurt you worse.”  Well, Xavier put the hurt on him, and for Jericho, that’s enough.

I went into CRIMINAL not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a very entertaining movie, and the biggest reason for this is Kevin Costner.

For me, it’s usually hit or miss with Costner.  Sometimes I enjoy him, and other times not so much.  For example, his recent action thriller 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014) I thought was meh, and he didn’t really do all that much for me in that movie.  Yet, he was terrific in last year’s MCFARLAND, USA. (2015), and I also enjoyed him in the two thrillers THE NEW DAUGHTER (2009) and MR. BROOKS (2007).  Of course, Costner’s career goes way back to THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) and was followed by a career of hits [DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)] and misses [WATERWORLD (1995)].

Costner knocks it out of the park here in CRIMINAL.  I haven’t seen Coster this good in years.  Part of the fun is it’s a role Costner doesn’t usually play.  As Jericho Stewart, he’s in-your-face abrasive, rough, crude, and incredibly entertaining.  His gritty yet realistic performance is reminsicent of the work of Tom Hardy, who also could have easily played this guy.

kevin costner criminal

Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner) takes aim at an enemy in CRIMINAL (2016).

Costner is also supported by a fine cast.  While neither Gary Oldman nor Tommy Lee Jones really stand out or do anything we haven’t seen them do before, they are both very good and their presence certainly helps the movie.  As does Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman herself!) as Pope’s beautiful wife Jill.  Gadot is not in the movie a whole lot, but when she is, it gets that much better.

Jordi Molla is meh as main baddie Xavier Heimdahl.  I’ve seen better villains, and I’ve seen worse.  Likewise, Michael Pitt as hacker Jan Stroop aka “The Dutchman” is also simply okay.

Better than these two are the other women in the cast.  Alice Eve makes her mark in a brief bit as CIA Agent Marta Lynch who for a time is Quaker Wells’ go-to person before she meets an untimely demise.  Even better than Eve is Antje Traue as Elsa Mueller, Xavier’s top assassin.  Traue gives the second best performance in the movie, behind Costner’s, and I really enjoyed her work as Elsa, who was one of the better characters in the movie.  Then again, maybe I just have a thing for sexy assassins.

And while it was nice to see Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope, his performance was more of an afterthought, since he’s only in the movie for a few minutes.

CRIMINAL also has a really good script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg.  It’s chock full of good lines, mostly spoken by Kevin Costner, and the idea behind the story, transferring one man’s memories into another, was pretty interesting.

I couldn’t help but think of FRANKENSTEIN while watching this movie.  The memory transplant, the brain surgery, the fact that Costner’s Jericho behaves like the Frankenstein Monster, especially how he doesn’t feel emotion and goes about scaring people and beating them senseless every chance he gets.  Plus Tommy Lee Jones’ character is named Dr. Franks, which immediately made my Hammer Films brain think of Peter Cushing’s Dr. Franck at the end of THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958).

That whole part of the story is really interesting and compeletely worked for me, mostly because Costner’s performance brings Jericho to life.

The other part of the story, the stealing of military secrets and wanting to blow things up, didn’t work as well.  That was all standard action movie fare and offered nothing new.

Director Ariel Vromen does a nice job, especially with the pacing.  This one flew by.   The action scenes were all decent, although none of them were all that spectacular.

By far, the best part of CRIMINAL and the main reason to see this one is Kevin Costner’s completely satisfying performance against type as rough, tough, unstoppable and often insane Jericho Stewart.

It’s Costner’s most entertaining role in years.

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THE HORROR JAR: PLANET OF THE APES movies

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Roddy McDowall as Caesar in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

Roddy McDowall as Caesar in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

THE HORROR JAR: PLANET OF THE APES Movies By Michael Arruda

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature various lists of odds and ends pertaining to horror movies, or in today’s case, science fiction movies. Yep, we’re stretching the boundaries a bit today, venturing off into the world of science fiction as we look at the PLANET OF THE APES series.

The latest APES movie, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), the second in the re-booted series, opens in theaters this weekend, June 11, 2014. Here’s a look at all the APES films so far:

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle.

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Make-up by John Chambers

Taylor: Charlton Heston

Cornelius: Roddy McDowall

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Zaius: Maurice Evans

Nova: Linda Harrison

Academy Award Winner for John Chambers for Outstanding Make-up Achievement

Running Time: 112 minutes

Classic science fiction movie, one of the best science fiction films of all time. Superior script by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, with many memorable lines. Oscar-winning ape make-up by John Chambers. Famous twist ending is not in the novel by Pierre Boulle, which actually makes this film a rarity in that it’s better than its source material.

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

 

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Directed by Ted Post

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Leonard Rosenman

Make-up by John Chambers

Brent: James Franciscus

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Zaius: Maurice Evans

Nova: Linda Harrison

Ursus: James Gregory

Taylor: Charlton Heston

Running Time: 95 minutes

First APES sequel is not as good as the original, but still makes for a highly entertaining movie. The only film in the original five film series not to star Roddy McDowall.

 

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)

Directed by Don Taylor

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Make-up by John Chambers

Cornelius: Roddy McDowall

Zira: Kim Hunter

Dr. Lewis Dixon: Bradford Dillman

Dr. Stephanie Branton: Natalie Trundy

Dr. Otto Hasslein: Eric Braeden

Armando: Ricardo Montalban

Running Time: 98 minutes

Apes escape from the future using Charlton Heston’s spaceship from the original movie and travel back in time to 1973 and find themselves in the United States, where they’re treated like celebrities at first until they’re deemed a threat to humankind.

 

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by Paul Dehn

Music by Tom Scott

Make-up by John Chambers

Caesar: Roddy McDowall

Breck: Don Murray

Lisa: Natalie Trundy

MacDonald: Hari Rhodes

Kolp: Severn Darden

Armando: Ricardo Montalban

Running Time: 88 minutes

Baby Caesar is all grown up and leads the apes in a revolution against the slave-driving humans in the 1990s.

 

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington

Music by Leonard Rosenman

Make-up by John Chambers

Caesar: Roddy McDowall

General Aldo: Claude Akins

Lisa: Natalie Trundy

Governor Kolp: Severn Darden

Virgil: Paul Williams

MacDonald: Austin Stoker

Running Time: 93 minutes

Final film in the original APES series finds Caesar leading both apes and humans on a path towards peaceful co-existence, which is easier said than done because both militant gorillas and vengeful humans have other plans.

 

PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal

Music by Danny Elfman

Make-up by Rick Baker

Captain Leo Davidson: Mark Wahlberg

Thade: Tim Roth

Ari: Helena Bonham Carter

Running Time: 119 minutes

Awful, awful remake. Nuff said.

 

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Music by Patrick Doyle

Caesar: Andy Serkis

Will Rodman: James Franco

Charles Rodman: John Lithgow

John Landon: Brian Cox

Running Time: 105 minutes

Much better than the dreadful 2001 Tim Burton remake, but not as good as the original series. This film is more a remake of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES as it follows the story of Caesar as he leads the apes in a rebellion against humans. Andy Serkis, fresh off his turns as Gollum in the LORD OF THE RINGS series and as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG (2005), makes for a memorable Caesar. Well done, but lacks the imaginative spirit of the original movies.

 

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

Directed by Matt Reeves

Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback

Music by Michael Giacchino

Caesar: Andy Serkis

Malcolm: Jason Clarke

Dreyfus: Gary Oldman

Running Time: 130 minutes

Directed by one of the most talented genre directors working today, Matt Reeves, the man who directed CLOVERFIELD (2008) and LET ME IN (2010). Andy Serkis returns as Caesar in another remarkable performance. Another exquisitely made poignant genre film by director Reeves. Excellent movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

WORST MOVIES OF 2013

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THE LONE RANGER made my Top Ten List as one of the worst films of 2013.

THE LONE RANGER made my Top Ten List as one of the worst films of 2013.

WORST MOVIES OF 2013

By

Michael Arruda

Here’s my list for the Top 10 Worst Films that I saw in 2013.  For a more detailed list, and to find out what fellow author and movie critic L.L. Soares had to say about his worse movies of the year, be sure to check out our comprehensive WORST OF 2013 column coming soon at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT at cinemaknifefight.com, the web site that features new and exciting movie content every day!  Well, almost every day, anyway.

And be sure to check out my BEST MOVIES OF 2013 list right here on this blog, to be posted just before New Year’s.

So, here they are, the Worst Movies of 2013:

First, before we get to my Top 10 List, here are a few movies that made it as Honorable Mentions.  They didn’t make my Top 10 list for the worst films of the year, but they were pretty bad nonetheless.

Honorable Mentions:

THE COUNSELOR – what are the characters in this movie talking about???

THE PURGE – ugly horror movie with a premise that doesn’t make much sense.

PARANOIA – Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman are wasted in a trite tale about corporate greed and spying.

Okay, now on to the Top 10.  Here are my picks for the Top 10 Worst Films that I saw in 2013:

10. THE CALL  – dreadful thriller with Halle Berry as a 911 operator who bungles an emergency call which leads to the caller being murdered.  Somehow, we’re to believe that Berry kept her job, and that sometime later, she actually gets another call from another victim being chased by the same killer as before!  Now, that’s believable!  And of course, this being a movie, Berry eventually gets out from behind her desk and into the field to take on the killer herself and save the day.  She should have stayed behind her desk and saved the movie instead.

9. THE LONE RANGER – this one should have been called TONTO, because Johnny Depp chews up the scenery and steals the show as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick Tonto.  How would you feel seeing a film called BATMAN and the best thing in it was Robin?

Armie Hammer is forgettable as the Lone Ranger, which isn’t totally his fault as writers Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio don’t help him at all, writing a script that forgets to keep him relevant and pretty much makes a joke of the character.

A real mess of a movie.

8. THE WORLD’S END – Simon Pegg’s unfunny tale of a group of friends returning to the town of their youth to go bar hopping together one last time, to finish a journey they had started way back when, and oh yeah, they discover the town has been taken over by aliens from outer space.

This movie has its followers, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I found the humor off, and Pegg’s character completely unlikable and unsympathetic.  THE WORLD’S END couldn’t end fast enough for me.

7. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD – A good day to stay home from the movies.  Nuff said.  The latest in the Bruce Willis DIE HARD series is old and tired.

6. G. I. JOE RETALIATION – Bruce Willis again, although it’s really not his fault that this movie stinks. After all, he’s barely in it.  The lead role here goes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  The worst part of these G.I. JOE movies is they have absolutely nothing to do with the G. I. Joe toys from yesteryear.  They also don’t have anything resembling a story.

5. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D – How bad is this one?  Well, look at it this way:  TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D was probably the least suspenseful horror movie of the year, this from a film featuring Leatherface, who’s reduced to being an overweight slow-moving killer who is so incredibly not scary in this movie it’s not even funny!

My favorite plot point in this one:  granny shows her love to her long lost granddaughter by leaving her a house with a homicidal maniac living in the basement!  And she leaves instructions that if her granddaughter shows Leatherface some love and affection, he’ll do right by her.  Yeah, right.  Good one!  Nice going, granny!  I wish you were my grandmother!

 

4. PAIN AND GAIN – Michael Bay’s attempt to make a tongue-in-cheek thriller about a group of bone-headed simpletons led by Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson who decide to make money by involving themselves in a kidnapping scheme.  This one was so idiotic I just couldn’t get past the stupidity of it all.  Its humor was lost on me.

I just couldn’t get into a movie that had at its center characters who were committing serious violent crimes and who were complete amateurs, and as a result, botched everything they attempted, and at a very high price for those who got in their way.

This cross between THE THREE STOOGES and BONNIE AND CLYDE just didn’t work for me.  For me, it was PAIN AND MORE PAIN.

3. YOU’RE NEXT – this horror movie got off to a terrific start but then completely fell apart as it was undone by a series of very unbelievable plot points that got worse as the movie went along. Its premise of a family being attacked in their own home starts off visceral and scary, but as soon as the explanations begin to unfold, as to why this seemingly random attack happened, the movie falls apart.

In short, this one must have been scripted by Dr. Evil, because when you find out the elaborate plan these folks had in store for this family, it would have been simpler and far more effective to simply have shot them dead.  The outlandish plan they concocted is embarrassingly laughable.

2.  SCARY MOVIE 5 – This movie is so bad I’m in complete disbelief that it didn’t make it as #1 on my list.  This supposed spoof of horror movies is so incredibly unfunny it amazes me that someone actually wrote it.  People’s home videos are more entertaining than this nonsense.  When the height of humor uses Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan poking fun at their own personal problems, you know you’re in for a long 90 minutes.

The basic problem with this movie and others like it is that it confuses stupid with funny.  Just because something is stupid doesn’t make it funny, especially considering that most humor is incredibly intelligent.

Okay, here it is, my pick for the worst movie of 2013:

1. GROWN UPS 2  – Now, I didn’t actually review this one (thankfully!) but I caught it this past summer at the drive-in on a summer vacation with my sons.  Just how bad is this one?  I didn’t laugh once.  Not even once.  This one played like Adam Sandler compiled all the unused footage from the first GROWN UPS movie and then edited together into this movie.

No story, no laughs, no continuity.  To even call this a movie is an insult.  When the funniest guy in the film is Shaquille O’Neal as a policeman, you know you’re in trouble.

The worst comedy I’ve seen in many, many years.

Okay, that wraps up my picks for the Worst Movies of 2013.  Next week I’ll post my picks for the Best Movies of 2013.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

PARANOIA (2013) Wastes Fine Cast With Poorly Executed Story

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PARANOIA-PosterMovie Review:  PARANOIA (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

A better title for PARANOIA (2013), the new thriller starring young hunk Liam Hemsworth and old favorites Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, might be POTENTIAL, or perhaps PERIPHERAL.

That’s because there’s a lot of potential here but the story never gets to the heart of the matter, instead choosing to remain on the sidelines where things are never as interesting.  It’s a movie where the sum of its parts is better than the whole.

PARANOIA tells the story of twenty-something Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) who’s trying to make it in the world but is disillusioned by the trend of the past decade, where it seems the older generation is holding all the cards and his generation just can’t seem to catch a break.  Not only is Adam struggling to take care of himself, but he’s also caring for his retired dad Frank (Richard Dreyfuss) who’s suffering from emphysema and needs in-home medical care.  Matters are made more complicated when their health insurance cuts their coverage.

Adam works for a high tech software company, and his “break” comes when his employer, the unscrupulous Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) catches him spending company money on a very expensive night on the town.  Rather than press charges, Wyatt offers Adam a deal.  He wants Adam to infiltrate and spy on his former mentor and chief competitor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) so they can steal his trade secrets.  Adam knows this is illegal, but he’s driven by his need to pay his dad’s medical bills and his desire get ahead, and so he says yes to the deal.  Of course, it beats going to jail, so he doesn’t really have much of a choice, does he?

So Wyatt and his staff provide Adam with special training, and when Adam meets Goddard he’s able to impress the tycoon and get a high level position almost immediately.  Along the way, he woos the beautiful and ambitious Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), who also works for Goddard.  In fact, part of the plan is for Adam to steal Emma’s security clearance in the company and use it to get the information Wyatt needs.  Some boyfriend!

Of course, this is a thriller, and Goddard is no fool, and so things don’t go as planned.  Suddenly, Adam finds himself in the middle of a power struggle that could cost him and those he loves their lives.

PARANOIA is done in by a weak story that never goes for the throat nor gives us enough details to make it a winner.  The screenplay by Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy is based on a novel by Joseph Finder, and I would guess that the novel is better than the movie.  There is a lot going on here, and it’s the kind of story that could be told very easily in novel form.  In a movie, or at least in this movie, it’s all rather rushed and glossed over.

For example, Adam infiltrates Goddard’s empire so easily it’s ridiculous.  One brief meeting followed by a successful proposal and suddenly Adam has the keys to the company.  I didn’t find this believable at all.

The love story between Adam and Emma doesn’t really work either.  While they do share some nice onscreen chemistry, Adam totally uses Emma and really takes advantage of her, and yet later, we’re supposed to believe that she’s still interested in him?  Really?  He stole information from her that he used to rob their boss.  We’re not talking ignoring phone calls here.  I just didn’t buy it.

Harrison Ford’s Jock Goddard and Gary Oldman’s Nicholas Wyatt are both very interesting characters.  I wanted to know more about them and wished the movie had spent more time developing them.  The potential is there for Goddard to be a nasty villain.  Wyatt is developed a little bit more, but ultimately he comes off as a foolish loser rather than the suave genius that he seems to be at the outset.

A thrilling triangle between Goddard, Wyatt, and Adam never really happens, and that’s because the characters aren’t fleshed out to the point where we understand them completely and believe in them.  The characters just go through the motions, and as a result, the story never rises to an exciting level.

PARANOIA does have a strong cast, but they’re stuck in a story that doesn’t do them any favors.  Still, it’s the cast that keeps the movie from being a total turkey.

Liam Hemsworth is actually quite good as Adam and makes for a solid lead.  I bought into his character’s motivations, and I believed them.

I also liked Harrison Ford a lot as Jock Goddard.  Goddard is a decent villain, and I like the fact that Ford is playing roles lately that seem to be outside his comfort zone.  His performance here in PARANOIA follows upon the heels of his excellent work as Branch Rickey in 42 (2013).

Gary Oldman is also watchable as Nicholas Wyatt, although ultimately his character isn’t as smart as he’s first made out to be.  Oldman fared much better in the DARK KNIGHT trilogy as Commissioner Gordon.

Amber Heard, who I remember being the best part of the Nicholas Cage actioner DRIVE ANGRY (2011) is excellent once again here, although she’s stuck in a rather thankless role.  Her Emma Jennings should be up to the task of fending off Hemsworth’s Adam, but instead she’s reduced sadly to being simply the love interest.  She’s stunningly gorgeous, and I hope she gets better roles in the future.

Richard Dreyfuss as Adam’s dad Frank gets to enjoy a couple of fine moments, but Josh Holloway (Sawyer from TV’s LOST) is lost in a throwaway role as FBI agent Gamble.  He’s about as integral to the story as that guy sitting in the background at the dinner table.  A shame.

Director Robert Luketic adds little in the way of cinematic vision with this one.  The story starts out fairly interesting and remains mildly so throughout, but things never get as down and dirty as they should, and as a result it’s not a very effective thriller.  It plays more like a tepid drama.

The title PARANOIA refers to the paranoia of the main players, Wyatt and Goddard, who are supposed to be paranoid out of necessity, in that they can’t trust anyone in order to stay on top, but strangely, this plot point is only touched upon peripherally and is hardly used at all. Very strange considering the movie is called PARANOIA.

PARANOIA has a nice cast, and they all do their jobs well, but it’s not enough to make this one worth your while.

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