Sunday, December 8, 2013

Redemption

So, this was the final entry in this week's Stathamithon because I'm all out of Statham movies streaming on Netflix that aren't In The Name Of The King and I don't hate myself enough to ever watch another Uwe Boll movie. Redemption was actually a bit of a surprise - there was emotional intensity, which is something generally lacking from these sorts of revenge-y action flicks, and the movie actually had moments that were quite dark, and not even in the blown off limbs sort of way. It was a nice portrait of a problematic society (London, in particular) where immense wealth is sharply contrasted with terrible poverty, the two walking side by side but rarely interacting.
IMDB   Netflix   Amazon
But while the movie was pretty good, what I want to talk about is actually the Netflix description of the movie. Now, for anyone that has Netflix, it probably isn't new news that their descriptions aren't always on the money. But the one for Redemption was staggeringly, almost comically inaccurate. Reproduced for your convenience:
Back home after a harrowing tour in Afghanistan and haunted by his dark past, veteran Joey Jones takes on an assumed identity and tries to atone. But when his pregnant girlfriend is murdered, he must risk stepping into the light to get revenge.
The only portion of this description that is remotely accurate is that Statham plays a haunted veteran, but even that's a bit misleading. The movie starts with a sweeping overhead intro, a shot of, presumably Afghanistan with some vaguely garbled military-ish voice over. We know that something has gone terribly wrong, but not what. From there, the movie takes place entirely in London. We cut to a bedraggled, long haired (?!), homeless Statham and a homeless woman getting shaken down for.. drugs? He fights back and ends up having to make a run for it, and ultimately crawls through a skylight on a high-rise building to get away from his attackers. The apartment he crawls into turns out to belong to a very wealthy man on a nearly year-long vacation, and Statham's character takes up residence there in an attempt to pull his life together.

The movie really takes off from there, with Statham battling his demons in a sort of partnership with a nun who has some emotional baggage of her own. The homeless woman from the first 5 minutes isn't Statham's girlfriend, and she certainly isn't pregnant - while she's someone he initially cares about, her death is really just a plot device to present to him a choice: does he want to be a good man in the sense the nun wants him to be (as in, honest and merciful) or does he want to be good on his own terms (as in, righteously vengeful). The movie delves into questions of the impact of military service on the human psyche, and, as the title implies, if and how one can find redemption from past horrors, especially murder.

The movie is designed so that all the disparate plot lines are engineered to resolve on the same date, which feels more artificial than elegant, but the ending has a pleasant grim resonance that again has more emotional impact than I'd expect from the spectacularly inadequate description. The movie takes a little while to find its feet, but Statham and Agata Buzek, the nun, have a really lovely chemistry that makes the tragic elements of this movie shine.

IMDB's description...
 Homeless and on the run from a military court martial, a damaged ex-special forces soldier navigating London's criminal underworld seizes an opportunity to assume another man's identity -- transforming into an avenging angel in the process.
...is somewhat more accurate, but still, I would argue, inadequate, as it entirely ignores Buzek's role as a powerful shaping force in the movie, specifically of presenting the fragility and inadequacy (and, perhaps, necessity) of traditional morality in a morally bankrupt modern world.

"Better than it sounds!" isn't typically a resounding commendation, but for a movie that is tragically misrepresented almost everywhere (Amazon calls it a "high-octane action-thriller!"), I feel like it's worth saying. Expect a quieter, thinkier movie than you'd expect from Statham, and give it a good 20 minutes in to get started - things really start to pick up once Statham's character starts to pull himself together.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blitz (And Some Thoughts On Actor Name Action Movies)

I'm suffering from a particularly intense NaNo hangover this year, probably because I've been writing intensely nearly every day for about three months. I have a book and a half written now, but am feeling more than a little burnt out. On December 1, I peeked open my little eyes and looked out at the world and wasn't quite sure how I got here. I've had other stressors, too, like my ongoing battle with healthcare.gov, but for the last few days I haven't really known what to do with myself. I know I need a little time away from writing, but it felt like it had been so long, I found myself wondering - what do normal people do for fun? I feel like I'm in a sort of suspended state - a combination of malaise and maybe something akin to shock: Where am I? What's happening? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do now? Why don't I want to do anything?

IMDB    Netflix
I admit I've been self medicating with action movies and baking. Thoroughly cleaning the kitchen for the first time since probably October and baking something for fun was nearly as cathartic as getting to eat what I baked, and I find that action movies never fail to improve my mood. Coconut Oil Brownies in hand, I set on a quest to watch all the Jason Statham movies on Netflix that I hadn't already seen. First up was Safe, which was A Jason Statham movie - Statham playing an honorable killer, a plot that was more like a net loosely holding together action sequences and slightly too many characters, Nothing too unusual.

But last night I watched Blitz. I got a little teasing from Muscles on his way to bed for my Stathamithon, and went into the movie with the expectation of watching a lot of people get the tar beaten out of them for an hour and a half, and not really much more than that. But I actually ended up really enjoying the movie. Now, I'm not saying the movie is a masterpiece, or even that it's particularly noteworthy. But it was one of those great movie experiences where I magically recognize basically every actor in the entire movie including all the walk-ons an bit parts (Thanks, Lionsgate UK!), which is something I really enjoy, and the whole movie was very British which, again, something I really enjoy. I won't say it was like Snatch or Lock Stock, because it lacks the twisty elegance of Guy Ritchie's film making and storytelling, but it was much more like Statham's early work, which I appreciate.

But maybe my favorite part was watching the dynamic between Jason Statham and Aidan Gillen (henceforth: Littlefinger). I love Littlefinger in Game of Thrones but hadn't actually seen him in anything else (Dark Knight Rises doesn't count!), and it was cool to see him amp up the creepiness in this movie - and to see this lithe, svelte, intelligent-but-crazy guy pinned against Statham's brute force musclehead. I honestly wish the movie had given them a little more time to play against each other, but was really just pleased to see Statham across from something other than a musclier-head.

Statham is certainly one of those actors that you go to for consistency: you go into a Stathamn movie expecting to find Statham playing Statham in much the same way, I would argue, you go to see a Bruce Willis movie to see Bruce Willis play Bruce Willis, or a Jason Momoa movie/show to see him grunt and punch things, or a Karl Urban movie to watch him hack and shoot his way through a sf/f world. Muscles would go so far as to argue that none of them (especially Statham, who is actually an MMA guy apparently) are really actors at all, just stunt men with enough personality to carry a movie. And certainly that's part of the appeal for me: I like the down-on-his-luck badass-with-a-heart of-gold-character that Willis and Statham deliver with such consistency, and it's nice to be able to pick a movie and know more or less for sure what you're getting.

Even so, it's refreshing to get a little twist on the expected, and Blitz was a nice little surprise that, combined with a rather excellent brownie and a tall glass of milk, did wonders to lift my spirits and help drag me out of my post NaNo funk.