CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

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expendables 3 posterHere’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of THE EXPENDABLES 3, up now at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A heavily fortified movie theater, surrounded by armed guards, military vehicles, and tanks.  A helicopter lands out front, and MICHAEL ARRUDA steps from the copter followed by four young people, most likely in their twenties.  They approach the theater just as a man dressed in military fatigues steps from the building to confront them.)

DICTATOR:  Hey, Arruda, it’s about time you showed up.  But you’re a little late.  Your buddy L.L. SOARES is our prisoner.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You can have him.  I didn’t come for L.L. I came to see a movie.

DICTATOR: So did he, and look where that got him!  You’ll never get by me, Arruda!

MA:  We’ll see about that.  I’ve brought some help.

DICTATOR (looks at the young people behind MA):  Who are they?  Your kindergarten class?

MA:  Meet the new team.  The next generation of Cinema Knife Fighters.

(Camera pans quickly over the four young faces, just as a missile zooms in and explodes, reducing them to a puff of smoke.)

MA:  Or not.

You know, if the new team in today’s movie had met the same fate, I would have liked it better.

DICTATOR:  Huh?  Listen, Arruda, enough talking!  Take a look around you, at our defenses.  They’re impenetrable.

MA:  Really?  Because I have looked them over, and frankly, I’m not impressed.  In fact, I give your defenses 0 knives.

DICTATOR (huffs):  Really?  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how hard I worked on this?

MA:  It’s obviously all CGI.  Very fake looking.  Nobody you have with you has anything worthwhile to say.  Sorry, but it’s all very boring.

DICTATOR:  Dammit!  I need to find me a better writer!

MA:  And L.L. obviously made it inside, too, didn’t he?  Where is he?

DICTATOR:  He’s inside watching another movie. Damn you guys!  (Stomps off in a hissy fit.)

MA:  Okay, now that that’s over with, we can get on with today’s review.  Welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m Michael Arruda, and today I’m reviewing THE EXPENDABLES 3, the latest movie in Sylvester Stallone’s all-star action series.  I’m doing this one solo because my buddy L.L. Soares is inside this theater watching another movie which he’ll be reviewing for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT this weekend as well.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the third film in THE EXPENDABLES series, a series which chronicles the adventures of The Expendables, a group of ruthless soldiers and assassins who are called on by the U.S. government to handle its dirtiest jobs.

In this film, the leader of the group Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) discovers that his one-time friend-turned villain Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man he thought he had killed, is still alive.  Ross wants Stonebanks dead, but he’s informed by his new operator Drummer (Harrison Ford) that they want Stonebanks alive to stand trial.

Seeing Stonebanks as a formidable opponent, Ross decides that his team is too old to handle him, and so he tells his team, which includes Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) that he’s retiring the group.  They balk at this of course, but Ross makes his intentions clear:  they’re done.

Ross then hooks up with an old friend Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) who he employs to help him find a new team, a group of younger fighters, in effect the next generation of The Expendables.  And so they compile a group of newbies which includes Thorn (Glen Powell), Mars (Victor Ortiz), Luna (Ronda Rousey), and Smilee (Kellan Lutz).

Seriously?  I found this plot point very difficult to believe.  Why in the world would Ross want to go to battle with these infants instead of Jason Statham and friends is beyond me?  There’s just no comparison, and calling these guys “old” based upon the way they look in the movie is ridiculous.  They still look as bad-ass as ever.

Anyway, Stonebanks quickly makes mincemeat out of this diaper-clad team, which means it’s up to Jason Statham and his buddies to help Stallone get his newbies out of this mess.  Of course, Stonebanks has an entire army at his disposal, and so even more help is needed, which is why Drummer also brings in Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Yin Yang (Jet Li) to help out.

Plus there’s Galgo (Antonio Banderas) who throughout the film has been desperate to join Ross’ team, and finally gets his chance when Ross needs all the help he can get.  This all leads to the testosterone filled conclusion where Ross and his Expendables battle Stonebanks and his entire army.

This might have been fun if it all wasn’t so stupid.

(MA enters the lobby of the movie theater, surrounded by all sorts of military action:  machine gun fire, grenade explosions, hand-to- hand combat.)

MA (looks at camera):  I guess it all fits in with the theme of today’s movie.  Excuse me while I order some popcorn.  (To cinema worker).  I’ll have a small popcorn with butter, please.

CINEMA WORKER:  Sure.  (As he turns to make popcorn, machine gun fire riddles the area, and he slumps to the ground.)

MA: Hmm.  I’ll just come back for that later.  Back to the review.

By far, THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the worst film in the series.  I liked the first THE EXPENDABLES (2010) well enough, and I really enjoyed the sequel THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) which had a better plot and gave all the veteran action stars quality screen time with good action scenes and some memorable lines, and the climactic battle between Stallone and  Jean-Claude Van Damme was a keeper.  I really felt like I got my money’s worth.

Not so with this installment.

First of all, there’s something very sloppy about the direction.  Director Patrick Hughes gives us a flat opening segment where Stallone and his team rescue Wesley Snipes from his imprisonment on a moving armored train.  The action here is sloppily handled.  The camera fails to get in close and seems to cover things from a distance, and it also cuts away from characters when they’re speaking, and so it was difficult to catch what people were saying.

Then, once the rescue is completed, it cuts to the main title THE EXPENDABLES 3, flashed on the screen for about a millisecond and then it’s back to the movie.  It was just a weird opening, a precursor for all that was going to follow.

Director Hughes also doesn’t give his action stars flashy or memorable first appearances.  Stallone is first seen in the opening segment flying a helicopter in loud surroundings in which you can’t hear what he’s saying.  I don’t think I understood anything Stallone said in this entire segment.  Schwarzenegger’s grand entrance has him casually strolling up behind Stallone in a hospital and speaking softly to him.  How’s that for compelling drama?

The screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rotherberger, and Katrin Benedikt tells a mediocre story that doesn’t always makes sense, and features unimpressive dialogue and very little if any character development.  The story of Ross assembling a new team of youngsters to take on an old enemy makes little sense when his old team is still so menacing.

And while Mel Gibson does make for a decent villain, at least in terms of his performance, the character Gibson plays, Stonebanks, is never shown being villainous.  Why is he such a bad ass?  We hear characters like Ross and Drummer saying what a bad guy he is, but we never see him do anything.  What’s his agenda?  He sells arms to dictators and other undesirables, and we do see him do this in one scene, but do really we need The Expendables to take him out?

Just once, I’d like to see a plot worthy of The Expendables team.  These guys are supposed to be sent in to handle the jobs that the CIA and U.S. military want no part of, yet in all three films, we haven’t really seen them on these kinds of missions.

The dialogue is also subpar.  You’ve got Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Snipes, and Ford, guys who can really chew up the scenery, and yet there’s hardly a memorable line among them.

(Schwarzenegger enters the lobby and makes quick work of several enemy soldiers, cracking their heads and breaking their limbs with ease.)

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Next time silence your cell phones.  (to MA)  I work part-time as cinema security.  If you make noise in the theater, you answer to me.  (Checks his smart phone.)  Someone is texting in theater three.  I’ll be back.  (Exits)

MA:  That’s the Arnold I wanted to see.

Only Mel Gibson as the villain Stonebanks gets lines worthy of his pedigree, yet he has nothing much to do other than taunt Stallone and his buddies.  In fact, there are several scenes of Stonebanks buying art, walking up a staircase, entering a building, where that’s all he does.  I mean, these scenes don’t lead to anything else.  Stonebanks is a villain with too much time on his hands, and THE EXPENDABLES 3 is an action movie in need of a crisper script and tighter direction.

Now, if you’re like me, you see an EXPENDABLES movie because you want to see Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger and their friends on screen kicking butt and churning out one-liners.  You don’t see it because you want to watch a bunch of newbies take over.  I’m sorry, but I didn’t buy a ticket to THE EXPENDABLES:  THE NEXT GENERATON, and so I had little interest in scenes of Stallone compiling his new team, while his old team, Statham and company, sit home with nothing to do, and yes we actually see scenes of these guys at home twiddling their thumbs bored.  We don’t even get to see them try their hands at new jobs— I want to see Dolph Lundgren try to work in a department store, for example.  Realistically speaking, you’d think these guys would sign on with someone else.  I mean, Stallone’s Ross can’t be the only game in town.

And the newbies don’t have a chance. They’re each introduced in quick brief scenes, and then as the film goes on we hardly get to know them, which was fine with me since I didn’t care about them, but you know what?  I might have changed my mind had I actually gotten to know them and had the writing been better.

Sadly, THE EXPENDABLES 3 plays like the third film in a series, old and tired.

Speaking of which, one of the themes running through this movie is that Stallone and his buddies are getting too old for this sort of thing, and the sad part is in this movie some of them did look old.  For the first time in this series, I found it difficult to believe that Stallone and Schwarzenegger could do the things they were doing.  They looked a little long in the tooth.  Harrison Ford looked like he could barely walk.  In the film’s climax Ford is flying a helicopter performing all these stunts.  Yeah, right.  The only stunt he seemed capable of performing was crashing.

I like Sylvester Stallone, and when he’s on screen, I liked him here.  The trouble is the dialogue is so bad, that his character Ross just isn’t that enjoyable this time around.

Of the original team, Jason Statham fares the best, because he still looks the part, like he could single-handedly take out a mob of assassins, but his screen time is diminished here.

Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger begins to show his age in this movie, and his one-liners are pretty much nonexistent.  Looking even older than both Stallone and Schwarzenegger is Harrison Ford, who was filling in for Bruce Willis who left this movie over a contract dispute.  Ford plays a different character, but like Willis, he’s the guy who hires The Expendables.  I missed Willis’ shady persona.  Ford seemed like an aged Jack Ryan.

(Harrison Ford enters.)

FORD:  Did you just call me old?

MA:  I said you looked old in the movie.

FORD:  I ought to kick your ass.

MA:  I’d settle for an autograph.

FORD:  Autograph?  After you just insulted me in my own theater?

MA:  Your theater?  Are you working cinema security too?

FORD:  No, I run this place.  I’m the manager!

MA:  That’s a role I could see you playing.

FORD:  You call me old again I’m sending Schwarzenegger after you!

(Ford exits.)

MA:  I guess he’s getting sensitive in his old a— eh hem.  Moving right along.

Wesley Snipes isn’t bad, and he’s in a bunch of scenes, but like the rest of the cast he definitely would have benefitted from a better script.  Dolph Lundgren doesn’t need a good script as he just can stand there and look menacing, which he does again here to great effect.  Randy Couture also fares pretty well, but Terry Crews’ screen time is greatly reduced.  Kelsey Grammer lumbers through a throwaway role as Bonaparte, the man who assembles Stallone’s new team.

Mel Gibson gets the best lines in the movie, and he chews up the scenery as the main baddie, although sadly, he’s not given much to do other than get in Stallone’s face and tell him all the awful things he’s going to do to him.  But the thing is, when Gibson says all these menacing lines, he’s damned believable.  If only his character Stonebanks had been worthy of his performance.

Antonio Banderas as Galgo is supposed to be the comic relief in the movie.  The running gag is that no one wants Galgo on their team because he never stops talking, but this is hardly funny.  Banderas seems to be having a great time throughout, but it’s such a strange role, I just never got it.  It would have made more sense had the character been one of the newbies. Why would Ross be interested in an older agent who obviously couldn’t make it on a team when he was shunning his own proven team of veterans?  Banderas’ goofy personality just doesn’t fit in with the tone of the rest of the movie.

The newbies were so underdeveloped they’re hardly worth mentioning.  Kellan Lutz [from the TWILIGHT movies and THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014)] probably made the biggest impression as Smilee, the man who sees himself as Ross’ possible successor.  Glen Powell as Thorn and Victor Ortiz as Mars are pretty much interchangeable and they do very little.  Ronda Rousey stands out as Luna, since she’s the only woman on the team, and she’s certainly an eye full, but when even she doesn’t make much of an impression, that tells you how weak this movie is.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 also features a completely ludicrous third act.  When the cavalry arrives to rescue Stallone’s captured newbies, they find themselves taking on an entire army, which Mel Gibson’s Stonebanks has at his disposal.  And so we’re supposed to believe that this small group can outgun and outlast an army?  I don’t think so.

And unlike in THE EXPENDABLES 2 which featured a climactic bout between Stallone and Van Damme that was worth the price of admission on its own, the climactic showdown here between Stallone and Gibson is somewhat of a dud.  I expected much, much more.

This is also the first movie in the series to be rated PG-13, as the first two were rated R, which means people in this movie get to be shot, blown up, and beaten without shedding a single drop of blood.  Some may argue that this is a step up from fake looking CGI blood.

Yet, in spite of all these problems, it’s difficult for me to hate a movie featuring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Wesley Snipes, and so no I didn’t hate this one.  These guys can still entertain, even in a bad movie, and THE EXPENDABLES 3, sorry to say, is a bad movie.   It’s lifted by its star power, which is the only reason I’m giving this one more than one knife.

I give it a lackluster two knives.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to see another movie.

(A grenade lands at his feet.)

Or not.

(There is a huge explosion, and when the dust clears, MA is still standing there.)

MA: This is one time I’m happy about a fake looking CGI effect.

(MA exits into the movie theater.)

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

—END—

42 Tells Important Story

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42-poster

Movie Review:  42 (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

As a baseball fan, I was excited to see 42 (2013), the biography pic on the life of the great Jackie Robinson.  In a way, this one plays like a baseball game.  There are moments of poignancy and high drama, excitement, and most certainly angst and pain, but it moves with the pace of a knuckleball (that’s a slow pitch for those of you who aren’t baseball fans).

 At times, I felt like a right fielder standing in the outfield without much to do.

 In the spring of 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decides that he is going to hire a black baseball player to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Of course, in racially charged America of the 1940s, this decision doesn’t sit well with his subordinates, but since he’s the boss, he’s going to make it happen.

He’s asked why on several occasions, and he gives more than one satisfactory answer.  First and foremost, it’s about money.  He wants to win a World Series, and he knows the black players playing baseball in the segregated black baseball leagues are full of talent and they can help his team win it all.  He also believes that times are changing, and he wants baseball to get with the program and move beyond its racist roots.  Lastly, he cites a time when he had the opportunity to sign a black player in the past, and he blew it.  He didn’t have the guts to do it then, and he has felt wrong about it ever since.  Now is the time for Rickey to make amends.

 Rickey decides upon Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to be this historic black player.  Rickey likes Robinson’s style of play, and he also likes his feisty attitude.  He believes Robinson has what it takes to battle his way through what is sure to be a ferociously volatile situation.

 Upon their first meeting, Rickey pulls no punches and tells Robinson exactly the way it is, that he’s going to have to take all that is dished out and more.  Rickey tells Robinson he has to possess the courage not to fight back, and to let his abilities on the field do the talking.  The better he plays, the more support he will gain from the fans.

Robinson agrees, and upon signing a contract with the Dodger’s minor league affiliate, quickly marries his sweetheart Rachel (Nicole Beharie).  As expected, Robinson plays phenomenal baseball on the field and by 1947 joins the major league club, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to become the first black major league baseball player.  Also as expected, Robinson receives death threats, has to endure racial slurs by fans and opposing teams and managers, gets booed regularly, and isn’t even supported by his own teammates.

 But with Rickey urging him on, pushing him through the painful moments, telling him to keep playing baseball, Robinson persists, fights through all the adversity, and the rest as they say is history.

 I liked 42 a lot, even though it plays like a glossy Hollywood movie.  This film works best when dealing with its horrifyingly ugly moments of racism and inhumanity, and it’s these scenes that power 42 along. 

 The baseball scenes are decent, but surprisingly, there are not a lot of them.  Every time Jackie Robinson takes the field in the movie, the film instantly gains energy.  Watching him wreak havoc on the base paths, swiping bases with ease, hitting homeruns, making sensational catches in the field, makes for exciting cinema. 

 Considerable time is spent on Robinson’s relationship with his wife Rachel.  Granted, the film shows them to be an admirable couple, but their story is simply not as interesting as what’s happening on the field.

The story is told by newspaper reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) whose struggles to overcome racism in the press corps mirror Robinson’s own.  However, Smith isn’t a very interesting character.

42 soars when Jackie Robinson is on the screen, either when he’s dazzling the crowd on the field or fighting racists off it.  Harrison Ford’s dynamic Branch Rickey also adds strong support.  But whenever these two aren’t seen battling the racist forces against them, the film sags and plays like something you’d watch on the Biography channel.

Chadwick Boseman delivers a solid and courageous performance as Jackie Robinson.  His is a study in self-control.  When he’s forced to stand on the baseball field and listen to the horrible racial slurs yelled at him, and he knows he can’t say or do anything in retaliation, it’s so very painful to endure, and Boseman brings this pain to life.

 He reminded me a lot of a young Denzel Washington, and I could easily have seen Denzel playing this role in his younger days.  Boseman is also believable as a baseball player, as he has the athletic build for it.

 It was incredibly fun watching Harrison Ford play Branch Rickey in this movie, and I have to admit it might have been my favorite performance here.  Ford has never looked worse than he does in this movie, but that’s a good thing!  He looks old and grizzled, as he should.  Ford really brings Rickey to life, and he makes his motives for supporting Jackie Robinson believable.  He’s also blessed with the best lines in the movie.

Nicole Beharie is beautiful as Rachel Robinson, and she makes Rachel a very likable character.  However, the majority of Rachel’s scenes are away from all the turmoil, which sadly removes her from most of the drama.

Christopher Meloni from TV’s LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and TRUE BLOOD adds fine support as manager Leo Durocher, who gets himself kicked out of major league baseball because he’s having an adulterous affair, on the eve of Robinson’s debut, forcing the Dodgers to start the season without a manager.

Durocher is replaced by Burt Shotton, played by Max Gail, who for us old guys, we remember as Maxwell Gail from the 1970s TV comedy BARNEY MILLER on which Gail was a regular.

Alan Tudyk wins the award for best scene stealing performance for his work as opposing manager Ben Chapman.  The scene where he hurls racial slurs at Robinson’s head like 100 mile per hour fastballs is the most uncomfortable scene in the movie.

 42 was written and directed by Brian Helgeland.  Helgeland has only directed a handful of movies, but he has a ton of writing credits, including having written the screenplays for A NIGHTMARE ON  ELM STREET 4 (1988), L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997), and MYSTIC RIVER (2003) to name just a few.  Some of the movies he’s written I’ve really liked, and some others not so much.

His script here for 42 is okay.  The angst-ridden scenes of racial turmoil are excellent.  They are the best part of the movie.  The baseball scenes are also very good.  But when the movie focuses on background drama – Jackie’s marriage, the birth of his son, how his teammates deal with all that’s going on, and so forth- it slumps a bit.

 The movie also could have used some humor.  There’s a funny scene where one of Robinson’s teammates tries to convince him that it’s okay to shower with the other guys, and it does a lot to ease the tension.  More scenes like this would have helped.

 I liked 42 very much. It tells an important story in American history, and it’s a story that is bigger than the game of baseball.   

That being said, to use a baseball analogy, 42 doesn’t swing for the fences.  It’s not trying to hit a homerun.  Instead, like Jackie Robinson, it seems content to get to first base, and then steal its way around the diamond, one base at a time, until it slides home.

 —END—