Category Archives: Crime Drama

This was on My Netflix My List: Rage!

Every February DVD Critics Corner takes a look at the movies that have been taking up space in the My List section of our Netflix page.

They could be movies that barely made it to the local multiplex. Or, movies that became “Direct to DVD” gems just waiting to be noticed.

Or movies that are so terrible Redbox kiosks are getting physically sick just having these movies inside them. You be the judge!

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RAGE (2014)

Director: Paco Cabezas

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Rachel Nichols, Peter Stormare, Max Ryan, Michael McGrady and Danny Glover

Plot: A reformed criminal gets his old crew back together to beat the crap out of the bad guys who killed his daughter. What a great Dad.

Rating: Not rated, but there’s enough gunplay, stabbing, and fisticuffs for either an R rating or a really good Irish wake.

 Nicholas Cage. A man with one of the most interesting careers in showbiz. He’s starred in critically acclaimed dramas, Coen brothers comedies, and action blockbusters. His name has appeared over he titles of quirky indie films and mediocre comic book movies. He’s won an Oscar and has been nominated for a Razzie.

To put it another way, Nicholas Cage’s career has had more ups and downs than Courtney Love off her meds riding The Cyclone at Coney Island.

I will say one thing for the Nickster; he does manage to keep busy. Unfortunately it seems that many of the movies he’s appeared in recently are the “direct to DVD” variety, which may help pay the bills (and I’ve heard that Mr. Cage has had trouble paying his bills) but they don’t get you many rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

Which brings us to Rage, a 2014 crime drama which is not much of a drama and has very little crime. But it is filmed in scenic Mobile, Alabama. So there you go. I have no idea what that means either.

Paul McGuire (Cage) is a well respected Mobile Alabama construction magnate. He’s wealthy, connected, and a loving husband to wife Vanessa (Nichols) and daughter Caitlin (Aubrey Peeples). He was also a former thief and brutal thug who worked for the local Irish crime boss O’Connell (Stormare) when he was a teen – who loved to dispatch his foes with a rather large knife.

Hey, we all have some things in our past we want to forget about. I was in the Webelos for a week!

Paul’s normal life comes to a screeching halt when Caitlin is violently kidnapped from her home by masked gunmen while she was entertaining friends. When the local detective St. John (Danny Glover, way too old for this shit) has no leads and Caitlin’s lifeless body is recovered a few days later, Paul grabs his trusty knife, assembles his old crime buddies Kane (Ryan) and Danny  (McGrady) and heads out for a little justice – Irish mob in Alabama style!

Paul suspects the local Russian mob killed Caitlin in retaliation for a robbery young Paul committed a while back that left one mobster dead and Paul and his crew very rich. Paul used that money to buy his freedom from the mob, which apparently harder to get out of than a gym membership.

O’Connell warns Paul that picking off Russian mobsters will lead to an all out war that be very bad for both mobs and lots of innocent bystanders. But since Mobile appears completely empty except for bad guys during the entire film thinning out the mob population might be a good idea.

Rage has fits and spurts of violence and Paul and his crew trash a few Russian mob joints and beat a few mobsters for clues to the identities of Caitlin’s killer, which cheeses off the head Russian mobster Chernov (Pasha D. Lynchnikoff) who now wants to break the mob truce with O’Connell to kill Paul.

Seriously, who knew Mobile Alabama was such a hotbed of Irish and Russian mob activity? Lynard Skynard never mentioned this in their song. Sweet Home Alabama indeed.

With all the buildup Rage reaches a not very exciting climax when Caitlin’s killer is revealed. I’m not going to ruin the plot twist for you, but let’s just say that fewer Russian and Irish mobsters wouldn’t have died if Paul let Detective St. John investigate things thoroughly before he got all stabby.  As the movie ends poor Paul is left to contemplate his mistakes as his enemies close in for the kill. I guess his construction business is up for grabs.

Rage is not a very good movie, but it taught me a few things – Mobile Alabama is pretty quiet except for all the mobsters, carrying a big ass knife in a shoulder holster is not only practical but pretty bad ass, and Nicholas Cage deserves so much better.

How about a sequel to The Rock?

Con Air?

Guarding Tess?

No, not Guarding Tess. That movie said all it had to say.

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Home Is Where The Kicking Is!

homefront-movie-review-jason-stathamHOMEFRONT (2013

Directed by: Gary Fleder

Starring: Jason Statham, Izabela Vidovic, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Clancy Brown, James Franco

Plot: An ex-DEA guy moves to a quiet town with his daughter and runs afoul of some meth dealing rednecks and killer bikers who are just dying to get their asses kicked because the ex-DEA guy is Jason Statham!

Rating: R for bad language, a little sex, meth cooking, and a glorious amount of kicking and punching!

I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I don’t know much about it. I know they celebrate Mardi Gras, shiny beads are valued currency, and vomiting in the streets is encouraged.

New Orleans is in Louisiana, another place I know very little about except from what I’ve learned from the various movies I have seen.  According to action/thriller type movies Louisiana is one giant swamp. Seriously, the swamp is everywhere! Also, just about everyone in Louisiana lives along the swamp in a decrepit old shack with a rickety porch. Rich people live in giant mansions or plantations that are pretty but still in a swamp, so they’re “swamp pretty.” Oh, and there are alligators everywhere, because in the opening credits of every movie set in Louisiana they have a shot of a giant gator slithering into a murky swamp.  But the most important thing I’ve learned about Louisiana from the movies is that the people who live there are vicious bunch of greasy loons who don’t own shirts with sleeves that really hate you and want to kill you.

And I thought New Jersey was unpleasant in spots.

Okay, I’m sure the real life Louisiana is a wonderful place. But movie Louisiana is a rough and terrifying place, especially if you’re Jason Statham and you just moved into town with your daughter like in the movie Homefront.  I mean, how can you hope your kid will make honor roll this year if murderous meth addicted rednecks want to kill you? It’s the worry of every modern day parent I’m sure.

Undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) has infiltrated a biker gang that is about to make a meth deal so huge Walter White would flip his pork pie hat. But since this is a movie, Broker’s cover is blown and the deal goes to heck, leading to a massive gun battle which kills several cops and bikers and leaves Broker with a death mark on his head by the gang’s leader Danny T (Chuck Zito) who really hates going to jail when his drug deals go wrong.

Two years later, Broker (now a widower) has moved to a small Louisiana town with his cute daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovoc) hoping to put the violent DEA years behind him and have a life that doesn’t involve pretending to be a greasy biker.  Their awesome Daddy-Daughter time is short lived when Maddy kicks the crap out of a bully one day in the schoolyard.

The bully’s Mom Cassie (Kate Bosworth), the queen of the greasy meth addicts demands revenge, and when her equally greasy husband nearly gets his spleen handed to him when he picks a fight with Broker, Cassie calls upon her brother Gator Bodine (James Franco) to bring to bring balance to their white trash world by killing the brooding stranger and his pretty daughter.

It turns out Gator is also the local meth dealer who has the sheriff in his pocket and evil on his mind.  When Broker easily dispatches two of Gator’s thugs at a gas station (seriously, would you take a swing at a a brooding bald guy with a “I love beating people to death” bumper sticker on his truck?), Gator breaks into Broker’s house and discovers files that reveal Broker’s secret undercover past.

With his newfound information, Gator contacts his girlfriend/meth business partner Sheryl (Winona Ryder, seriously) who happens to know the biker gang that Broker infiltrated years before because she used to be a meth addicted biker whore before she became a meth addicted drug dealer. Hey, everyone chases success in his or her own way.

Sheryl informs Danny T she knows where his old buddy Broker is hiding, hoping to leverage this info into a mega south eastern drug distribution deal for her and Gator’s meth business. But wouldn’t ya know it, dangerous meth dealing bikers just can’t be trusted, and Danny T dispatches a hit squad led by the sadistically greasy Cyrus (Frank Grillo) to kill Broker, Maddy, and probably Sheryl and Gator if they don’t go along with the plan.

It’s a home invasion of the hillbilly kind as the evil bikers attack Broker’s house with more firepower than your average Marine platoon. But since the home belongs to action hero extraordinaire Jason Statham, a man who kicks the crap out of more people before breakfast than you do before a million breakfasts, you know little Maddy is going to have a safe place to call home when the smoke clears.

Hopefully the house is still standing.

Homefront is by no means an original movie – there have been lots of films featuring a hero up against bad guys who run the town – but the final five minutes of the movie are well worth the rental, particularly if you’re not a fan of the sometimes off putting James Franco. I won’t spoil it for you, but Jason Statham does to Franco what millions of people wanted to do to him after his dreadful co-hosting of the Oscars in 2011.

Thanks Jason. We owe ya one.

 

Vengeance Is Mine, Saith Stallone!

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BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013) Director: Walter Hill Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa Rating: R for bullets to the head, punches to the face, cursing from the mouth, and bleeding on the floor. 

Ya gotta give it up for Sylvester Stallone. For a movie star who is old enough to retire and spend his days telling kids to get off his lawn, he looks like a man half his age in the thriller Bullet to the Head. 

I bet he works out. He probably eats healthy too. I could work out and eat healthy, but if I cut back on the junk food, several snack cake companies would have to lay off thousands of employees. I cannot have that on my conscience. Would you like a Twinkie?

Anyhoo, in Bullet to the Head, super ripped sexagenarian Sly plays James “Bobo” Bonomo, a hitman who like most movie hitmen only kills guys who really deserve to be killed. As the film opens, Bobo and his young partner Louis (Jon Seda) whack a coked up jackass in a swanky hotel suite. Bobo spares the life of the hooker who witnesses the killing because as I said before he is the good kind of hired killer.

As Bobo and Louis enjoy a post homicide drink at a crowded New Orleans bar, a big dude named Keegan (Jason Momoa) stabs Louis to death, which really pisses off Bobo and puts a serious damper on ladies night at the bar.

Meanwhile, Washington D.C. Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) arrives in New Orleans looking for his rogue partner only to find out he was the coked up jackass that Bobo and Louis killed. Turns out Kwon’s dead partner wanted to blackmail a powerful New Orleans businessman named Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is actually a crime boss determined to buy up half of New Orleans and build nice shiny New Orleans condos.

Oh, did I mention this movie takes place in New Orleans?

Kwon figures the murder of his partner and the death of Louis are connected, and because he’s an amazing detective with a smartphone, he tracks down Bobo and offers to team up with him find out who is behind the killings. A cop and a surly criminal working together? How kooky can this get?

Bullet to the Head isn’t exactly a adrenaline filled actioner with exciting gun battles and elaborately choreographed fight scenes. But there are lots of scenes with Bobo and Kwon driving from place to place to interrogate people.

Thrill as Bobo and Kwon drive to a bath house and interrogate a criminal who has information!

Gasp as Bobo and Kwon kidnap Morel’s sleazy lawyer (Christian Slater) and drive him to a hide out and interrogate him for more information!

Shriek as Bobo and Kwon drive over to meet Bobo’s daughter Lisa (Sara Shahi) at her house and use her computer to look up something!

My heart can’t take another parking scene!

Okay, things pick up at the end of the movie when the crazy big dude Keegan kidnaps Lisa to get a flash drive Bobo and Kwon have which contains evidence that will put Morel in jail for a long time. Bobo and Keegan face off in an ax wielding fight to the death as Kwon wanders around a warehouse and records Morel saying incriminating things with his smartphone. Kwon really knows how to work his smartphone. I bet he knows how to attach photos from different apps to the same e-mail!

I don’t now how to do that.  I wish I did.

Bullet to the Head is kinda boring and a bit of a letdown compared to most of Stallone’s filmography.

But it is better than Get Carter. And Driven. And Assassins. And Daylight. And The Specialist. And Demolition Man.

This could take a while, so thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Stop Or My Mom will Shoot! And Oscar. And Over the Top. and friggin Rhinestone. Oh God, I hate Rhinestone…

Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Assassin!

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ALEX CROSS (2012) Director: Rob Cohen Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno Rating: PG-13 for violence, gunplay, torture, and a ridiculous amount of General Motors product placement. 

Readers of mystery novels have probably heard of Alex Cross. For those of you who don’t know who he is, let me sprinkle some knowledge fertilizer on your mind grapes.

Created by prodigious author James Patterson, Alex Cross is a homicide cop/forensic psychologist who has battled bad guys and psychos in over a dozen novels. Like Sherlock Holmes, Cross is a master of deductive reasoning, so he can tell what you had for breakfast by the way you walk and knows how tall a killer is by looking at a crime scene photo. He must be a blast at parties!

Thanks to Hollywood (The movie makin’ folks!), the character Alex Cross has been in two movies, Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001). In both  movies, Cross was played by veteran actor and narrator of everything Morgan Freeman.

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Hello. I’m Morgan Freeman. I can read aloud the owners manual for a John Deere X700 Lawn Tractor and it will be amazing.

Since there are so many Alex Cross books to draw material from, it was inevitable that Hollywood (The movie makin’ folks, remember?) would make another film about the cunning detective. Since Morgan Freeman was probably busy narrating something at the time, they chose another actor to take over the role.

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This guy.

Relax everyone.  Tyler Perry left the wig and dress at home to play hard nosed detective Alex Cross in Alex Cross, which is a shame because it would have been a real hoot watching Madea put the smackdown on the brutal assassin/serial killer who is making Cross’ life and the lives of everyone around him a complete nightmare.

But since the movie makin’ folks never take my advice, we have to settle for regular old non dress wearing Tyler Perry in Alex Cross.

Fine.

As the film opens, Alex Cross (Perry) is loving life as a top Detective in sunny Detroit. And why not? He’s got a beautiful wife, two great kids, and a supportive Mom.  But before things turn into the best Insurance commercial ever, Cross and his partner Kane (Edward Burns) are called to a crime scene where the victim has been brutally tortured and the killer has left behind a clue in a chalk drawing done in the style of the late great Pablo Picasso. Cross deduces from the clue who the next victim is, and because he is a brilliant movie detective, dubs the killer “Picasso”, because “murder/torture guy” doesn’t have the right ring to it and is probably a character in another Alex Cross book.

And so begins a cat and mouse game between Cross and Picasso, a psychotic assassin who is targeting French Industrialist Giles Mercier (Jean Reno)and will stop at nothing to get him.

Picasso is played by Matthew Fox (that Lost series) who according to production notes went on a strict exercise and diet program to play the super ripped bad guy. Since Fox plays Picasso as a bug eyed lunatic who walks around like a coiled cobra ready to strike, it’s obvious he was half out of his mind from hunger while filming. I bet the poor guy had to be physically restrained from charging the snack table between takes.

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Is that a… jelly doughnut?

Things get messy in the second half of the movie when Picasso, who has a huge problem with nosy cops who want to stop him from maiming and killing, begins targeting Cross’ family for maiming and killing. Will Cross keep it together long enough to stop Picasso, or will he put the law in his back pocket and take out this maniac his own way?

And no, he doesn’t dress up as Madea and put the smackdown on the killer like I wanted him to because as I said before the movie makin’ folks don’t take my advice!

They don’t return my e-mails either. Thanks a lot, stupid court order!

Alex Cross isn’t a particularly exciting or original crime thriller type movie. Matter of fact, it’s not very good at all.

But, if you’re home one night with your best pals and are looking for a good time, pop Alex Cross into the DVD player, pass out the shot glasses, and play the Alex Cross General Motors Product Placement Drinking Game!

Do a shot every time a GM vehicle (Cadillac, GMC, Chevy, etc) appears on screen.

Do a shot when a logo of a GM vehicle appears  on screen.

Do a shot when the characters actually discuss the OnStar navigation system – available on many GM vehicles – during a freaking car chase!

Do a shot when the name of a GM vehicle is mentioned in a song playing in the background in a scene!

If you’re still conscious when the end credits roll, you are my hero.

There’s Always Room for J-Lo!

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PARKER (2013) Director: Taylor Hackford Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte Rating: R for violence, bad language, lots of fake blood, and a few shots of Lopez in her undies.

If you’ve read this blog before (and you have my deepest sympathies) you know that as far as I am concerned professional thief is one of the greatest jobs you can have in a movie. You get to wear disguises (depending on the job), your co-workers are known as your “crew,” which is a very cool, and best of all there’s lots of great stuff for you to take because movies are full of stuff!

But as the title character of the crime thriller Parker finds out, professional burglary isn’t all fun and games. There’s betrayal, murder, and worst of all, you might wind up in Florida!

FLORIDA!

You can count me out right there, Mister!

Super thief extraordinaire Parker has just pulled off a daring robbery with a crew if guys he’s never worked with before. They seem like decent fellows, until their leader Melander (Michael Chiklis) makes Parker an offer he can’t refuse: use the money they just stole to finance their next job (a jewelry heist that’s worth millions) or die. When Parker turns down their offer because he’s got a thing that week and his new partners are treacherous dicks, he’s shot and left for dead on the side of the road.

Not to worry DVD viewers! You see, Parker is played by indestructible action star Jason Statham, a man who’s basically Wolverine minus the claws and Elvis haircut, so you know something as trivial as a gunshot won’t stop him from getting even.

Determined to get his money back and put a world of hurt on Melander, Parker gets some info from his mentor Hurley (Nick Nolte ) that leads him to New Orleans, where he beats up some guys and finds out Melander and company are going to pull off their big heist in Palm Beach, Florida. Against Hurley’s warnings to let things be and lay low for a while with his best gal Claire (Emma Booth), Parker heads to Palm Beach to double cross the guys who double crossed him, and maybe ride a jet ski or play some golf.

Pretending to be a rich oil man from Texas, Parker dons a Yosemite Sam sized cowby hat and hooks up with Leslie Rodgers (THE Jennifer Lopez), a debt ridden real estate agent desperate for commission to show him some rental properties around Palm Beach.  Parker is hoping Leslie will lead him to the house Melander is using to plan his robbery, and Leslie is hoping Parker is single and has a thing for broke, divorced gals who live with their Mothers.  But Parker has no time for love because not only has Melander found out that Parker is alive, but through some mob connections has dispatched a ruthless hit-man to take out Parker, Claire, their neighbors, the kid who delivers their paper every morning, Parker’s fifth grade teacher, Claire’s cat Mr. Whiskers…you get the idea.

Parker finds his former crew’s hideout and discovers Melander’s plans to steal $50 million in jewels from a huge auction taking place in a few days. But before Parker can let his inner Statham run loose, Leslie informs Parker she knows he’s not a rich Texan (maybe it was his English accent) and demands a cut of whatever Parker steals from Melander. Oh, and the hit-man shows up too, which is just dandy because Parker doesn’t have enough shit going on in his life!

As Melander’s crew steals the diamonds, Parker sets his revenge plan in motion, and things get really messy in some rented house in Palm Beach. I seriously doubt Melander is going to get his cleaning deposit back.

Parker isn’t wall to wall butt kicking compared to some of Jason Statham’s previous action epics, but the Sta-man does put the smackdown on some baddies from time to time, and the story has enough going on to keep you interested.  Mega superstar Jennifer Lopez does a pretty good job in a minor role, and as I mentioned she does get to show off her trademark booty, which is fine if you’re into trademarked body parts like the aforementioned booty.

It’s just…

Look, the movie could have used a bit more kicking. It’s what Statham does. It’s his thing!

Just saying.

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin!

Jack Reacher

JACK REACHER (2012) Director: Christopher McQuarrie Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, and Robert Duvall Rating: PG-13 for hand to hand violence, gun to gun violence, car to car violence, but no bad language, this is PG-13 after all!

Five people are brutally gunned down by a sniper in Pittsburgh, PA. The Police follow a trail of clues that lead to a former Army Sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora). With overwhelming evidence stacked up against Barr, District Attorney Rodin  (Richard Jenkins) believes he has an open and shut case. Even Barr’s defense lawyer Helen Rodin (who is daughter of the D.A.) doubts she can do anything to save her client from death row.

But the frightened Barr knows he has only one chance to clear his name, so he makes one request: “Get Jack Reacher.”

Who is Jack Reacher?

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Hey. It’s Jack Reacher. I’m coming over to beat the crap out of you. Is 9:30 okay?

Jack Reacher, as played by some guy named Tom Cruise, is one of those action movie characters you don’t want coming after you. A former military police officer, Reacher is Sherlock Holmes, Jason Bourne, and Keyser Soze rolled into one 5 foot tall package.

Just kidding. Tom Cruise is ginormous.

Honorably discharged from the Army, Reacher wanders around the country helping people who need help and kicking the asses of people who need their asses kicked.  Since he had a previous run in with Barr back in their Army days, Reacher knows Barr is capable of such a terrible crime, but like any good movie detective he has a feeling in his well sculpted six pack abs that something isn’t right. Since she has nothing to lose and apparently doesn’t know any other detective in Pittsburgh, Helen (Rosamund Pike and her cleavage)decides to let the mysterious drifter who is really good at beating people investigate the crime and help her clear her client’s name.

Jack Reacher  moves along at a decent pace as Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher slowly begins to unravel the conspiracy surrounding the sniper killings; a conspiracy that involves crooked cops, evil thugs who drive sweet muscle cars, and a mysterious German guy (Werner Herzog) who really enjoys giving speeches to people before killing them.  Veteran actor Robert Duvall  shows up towards the end of the film to provide Reacher with key evidence and plot exposition in that awesomely folksy Robert Duvall southern drawl that makes any regular old movie so much better. Seriously, if Robert Duvall was in the Twilight movies, I would have been camped out in front of the theater with the rest of the Twihards.

Because I hate Twilight and have never seen every Twilight movie seven times and don’t have a Team Edward tramp stamp. And now it’s awkward.

Anyhoo, Jack Reacher is a pretty good crime thriller with a satisfying conclusion that happens to feature superstar Tom Cruise.

On the DVD Critics Corner Tom Cruise Movie Scale (pat. pend), it’s not as Tom Cruise-y as Oblivion, the Mission Impossible movies or Knight and Day, but it is more Tom Cruise-y than The Last Samurai and Collateral.

I know what you’re thinking…what about Vanilla Sky? 

Dude. The less you think about Vanilla Sky the better.

Trust me.

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster!

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GANGSTER SQUAD (2013) Director: Ruben Fleisher Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn Rating: R for Gunfire, explosions, cussing, and Sean Penn chewing the heck out of the scenery.

I’ve never been to Los Angeles, but from what I’ve learned from years of reading, L.A. is a wonderful utopia overflowing with beautiful people, fabulous sights and sounds, and nonstop fun and excitement. Los Angeles is also the home of showbiz, where hard working, intelligent men and women create sheer magic in the form of the highly entertaining and thought provoking films and TV shows we watch and enjoy every day!

But there was a time not very long ago when gun toting gangsters ruled the city of angels, turning the streets into warzones and the warzones into battlefields. So who ya gonna call to clean things up make L.A. safe for decent, honest movie stars?

Gangster Squad!

In 1949, Mickey Cohen’s mob controls L.A. with an iron fist. Anyone who gets in Cohen’s way is brutally eliminated in ways that would make Leatherface lose his lunch.  Mickey Cohen is played by master thespian Sean Penn, who gets into character by putting on a fake nose and copying Robert DeNiro’s performance in The Untouchables. 

Beleaguered LAPD Chief Parker (Nick Nolte in a brief non crazy cameo) knows the only way to battle Cohen’s gang is to be as ruthless as Cohen is, so he asks straight arrow police detective John “Sarge” O’Mara (Josh Brolin and his lantern jaw) to put together a gang of his own to beat bad guys first and ask questions later.

Sarge hand picks a band of rogue cops who each bring their own special talents to the Gangster Squad:

Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), a world weary cop who likes dames as much as he likes being handsome.

Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), an “old timer” who wears an old timey cowboy hat carries an old timey six shooter.

Ramirez (Michael Pena), a young Mexican cop and Kennard’s protege.

Harris (Anthony Mackie), a tough beat cop who is really good with a knife.

Keeler (Giovani Ribisi), an expert on electronics and surveillance.

Sarge’s gangbusters put the hurt on Cohen’s criminal empire, busting up their gambling parlors and intercepting dope shipments. This enrages Cohen who like every mob kingpin has a huge problem with nosy cops who want him to stop robbing and murdering innocent people.  And the less Cohen knows about handsome Wooters diddling his girlfriend Grace (Emma Stone) the better. Never date a mob kingpin’s girlfriend! That’s like the number one rule of dating! The Match.com website has a whole page about it!

Things build to a tense climax when Cohen goes after the families of O’Mara’s crusaders, and O’Mara answers back with an all out assault on Cohen and his army at the landmark Park Plaza Hotel, where gangsters check in but they don’t check out!

The events of Gangster Squad have been depicted in other (sometimes better) movies, so the whole flick has a been there done that kind of feel. But if watching a bunch of attractive A-list stars wearing period costumes and firing machine guns at Sean Penn is what you’re into, you can’t go wrong with renting this movie and spending an evening with Sarge and his Gangster Squad.

You can go very wrong with firing machine guns at Sean Penn in real life. That will only make him mad.  Have you seen what he does to people who only want to shoot his picture? Not pretty.

I Kick, Therefore I Am!

SAFE (2012) Director: Boaz Yakin Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, James Hong, Robert John Burke, Chris Sarandon Rating: R for bad language, graphic violence, and just the right amount of kicking. 

Ever since the 2002 flick The Transporter, Jason Statham has become one of the biggest action stars in the movie world. How did Jason become so gosh darn popular?

Is it his rugged looks? His accent? His intense, brooding acting style?

Nope. It’s the kicking. The man is just aces at kicking people! And to the satisfaction of fans everywhere Statham has starred in several movies that have showcased his amazing kicking powers.

Except the Bank Job, which was painfully devoid of any kicking whatsoever. It must have been hard for Jason to act in such a non-kicking movie :

Director – Okay Jason, in this scene you are telling your friends about a bank heist…

Jason Statham – Yeah, and then I kick both of them in the head.

Director – No Jason, you don’t kick them, you’re just talking.

Jason Statham – Right. So I punch that guy and…

Director – No Jason. In this scene you’re planning the heist…

Jason Statham – And then I kick them?

Director – Okay, Let’s take lunch everyone!

Lucky for us, the movie in todays review is chock full of Statham doing what he does best: introducing bad guys to his two best friends, Gordon Rightfoot and Lisa “Left Foot” Lopez.

I’m not sure if Jason Statham has names for his feet, but I’m guessing he does.

In Safe Statham plays Luke Wright, a poor New Yorker who’s having such a terrible year, even the Mets make fun of him.

When Luke’s victory in the ultimate fighting arena costs a vicious Russian mob kingpin lots of money, he writes a strongly worded letter to Luke voicing his displeasure with the outcome of the fight. Just kidding! Russian mob thugs take revenge by killing Luke’s wife and forcing him to live the rest of his life with killers looking over his shoulder, ready to off anyone he makes more than casual conversation with.

Basically the Russian mob is like the psychotic ex-boyfriend from one of those Lifetime  TV movies.

Meanwhile, adorable little Chinese girl Mei (Catherine Chan) is having an especially craptacular year of her own. Held prisoner by the Chinese Triad gang because of her talent for remembering every number she sees, Mei is forced by the Triad’s boss (James Hong) to memorize a special sequence of numbers that the Russian Mob wants to get their hands on. When the Russkies attack Mei’s guards, she escapes the ambush and runs into one of the safest places in New York City: the subway!

As Luke contemplates stepping in front of an oncoming train, he spots Mei running from the same Russian jerks who have made his life hell for the past 12 months, and decides moping is for losers and kicking bad guys is for winners! Luke grabs Mei and the two are off and running with the Triads, the Russian mob, and an bunch of corrupt cops on their trail, all of whom want little Mei alive and big Luke deader than sequel plans for The Love Guru

Think Luke is in over his manly bald head? Not to worry, folks. It turns out Luke isn’t just a disgraced cage fighter turned homeless drifter. He’s an ex-NYPD special ops guy who years earlier waged a secret war against the city’s most notorious creeps and scumbags; and I’m not talking about the guys in Ed Hardy shirts who wear too much Axe bodyspray. The evil and corrupt Mayor (Chris Sarandon), who was Luke’s boss in the old days is not too happy that his former personal assassin is back and turning lower Manhattan into Dodge City, thus ruining his plans to be even more evil and corrupt.

I’m not going to give away any more details of the story, but if you think for a minute that Statham is going to let a helpless little girl fall into the hands of bloodthirsty gangsters, then you my friend do not believe in the power of positive kicking!

Safe is like a deluxe 40 oz. Whitman’s Sampler, but instead of chocolate it’s packed with a delicious assortment of car chases, gun battles, throat punches, head butts, groin smashes, and of course kicking. Lots and lots of kicking.

Jason Statham should be proud of all the kicking he did in this movie.

God knows I am.

Worst Neighbors EVER!

THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2012)  Director: Gareth Evans  Starring: Iko Uwaris, Joe Taslim, Piere Gruno, Ray Saheptapy  Rating: Unrated, but lots of graphic violence with guns and kung fu fighting. 

I’m in a sharing kind of mood today. So before we begin this review, let me tell you a little something about myself.

For 15 years I lived in New York City in a neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. The apartment building I called home for that time was a decent place to live.  There was heat in the winter, cool breezes in the summer, and the Wi-Fi signals were easy to steal. My neighbors kept to themselves and weren’t a nuisance, except for the guy on the second floor who smoked more marijuana than the entire Rastafarian nation. There was no elevator and my apartment was on the fifth floor, but I loved climbing all of those stairs every day, and the years of exercise made my thighs rock hard and buttocks taut but supple.

I’ve shared too much. And now it’s awkward.

Anyhoo, my time in a big city apartment building was generally pleasant and relatively uneventful, which is not the case for the poor blokes living in the Jakarta high rise featured in The Raid: Redemption. 

Imagine you’re trying to get to the basement to do a load of laundry when a all of a sudden a bloody war breaks out in the hallway between a heavily armed drug cartel and an invading SWAT team. Bullets are flying, people are dying, and you just know if you don’t get to the dryer fast enough some impatient jerk is going to dump your nice clean clothes on the floor. It’s always something, isn’t it?

The Raid: Redemption opens with an elite SWAT team preparing to assault a rundown apartment building. Their mission: capture vicious crime boss Tama (Ray Sahetapy) who is holed up inside and take out his drug lab, which is probably a violation of his lease agreement.

Newbie SWAT team member Rama (Iko Uwaris) is concerned about the raid because he’s a good cop. His superiors Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) aren’t concerned because they checked off the “I’m a careless jerk who will get men killed” box on the police officer application form.

Rama’s fears are proven correct when the team is ambushed about three seconds into the raid by Tama’s machine gun toting thugs, who basically control the building. Tama promises free rent for life to anyone who wipes out the last remaining cops, which is a good deal because I saw on House Hunters International  that decent apartments in downtown Jakarta controlled by a drug kingpin are very hard to come by.

It’s up to Rama and the handful of survivors to fight their way to safety. Luckily Rama has a few tricks up his sleeve, like an advanced degree in Pencak Silat, which is an Indonesian martial art, and not an appetizer at Panda Express. Soon Rama is kicking the heck out of every machete wielding creep he encounters. The bad guys also know a little Pencak Silat, but in keeping with the tradition of highly choreographed martial arts movies, they attack our hero one at a time so he can dispatch them in spectacular fashion.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The Raid:Redemption is a slickly filmed action extravaganza with some kick ass ass kicking. Seriously, there is lots of kicking in this movie. If I wasn’t 100% sure I’d dislocate my groin, I’d give it two kicks way up. Watch it with someone you want to kick as soon as possible.

Oh I almost forgot: this movie is in Indonesian with subtitles, so there will be some reading involved. And don’t be so darn stubborn – put on your reading glasses! That’s why you bought them!

I Am The Wahlberg

CONTRABAND (2012) Director: Baltaser Kormakur Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsdale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster Rating: R  for violence, cussing, and bad Cajun accents

As I have pointed out in previous reviews, movie criminals have it a pretty sweet life. There’s lots of money, plenty of excitement, and best of all there’s always a chance for advancement when someone dies or gets arrested!

But… the biggest problem with being a top notch criminal in crime movies is that you can’t simply walk away from that life; you are forever locked into that world whether you like it or not. As our hero in Contraband learns, the crime world is like a gym membership: you pretty much have to die to make a clean break.

In Contraband, rapper turned underwear model turned A-list actor Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a working class New Orleans lug with a steady job, a hot wife (Kate Beckinsdale, who seems resigned to a career of playing the hot wife or hot girlfriend when not killing vampires in the Underworld movies), and two kids who play soccer and love their Mom and Dad.

But before Contraband turns into a Chevy commercial, things get ugly when Chris’ idiot brother-in-law Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets in deep trouble with a vicious drug dealer named Briggs who’s a little peeved at Andy for tossing his shipment of dope overboard during a smuggling operation gone wrong.

Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi at his twitchy, oily best) demands immediate repayment for his drowned drugs. Since Andy is an idiot, Chris offers to raise cash for the shipment by returning to his smuggling career and pulling off one more lucrative caper.

Chris plans to sneak a ton of phony cash from a counterfeiter in Panama aboard a cargo ship bound for New Orleans. Unfortunately, the ship is captained by a first class hard-ass (J.K. Simmons) who hates Chris with a white hot passion, even though he will begrudgingly admit to his friends that “Good Vibrations” is a catchy tune.

Oh wait, that’s me.

Anyway, Chris and his cohorts get into all kinds of mischief in Panama when their deal goes south and Chris has to improvise a solution before his boat sets sail. Meanwhile, Chris’ wife is having some troubles of her own back home, as Briggs shows up from time to time to terrorize her with his big gun and ridiculous Cajun accent.

Hold on a second, maybe Chris’ former partner in crime Sebastian can help! But since he’s played by Ben Foster, who’s made a career playing scuzzballs who can’t be trusted, I’m going to advise you not to create the “I love Sebastian” Facebook page until you’ve seen the whole movie.

Things don’t look good for our hero! It’s all up to Chrissy Chris and his funky bunch to outwit the bad guys and get his stolen goods past customs agents  and set things right!

And that is my last Mark Wahlberg/rapper joke ever. I promise.

Contraband is one of those movies where everything is gritty. The bad guys are gritty, the sets are gritty, the violence is gritty, and the film itself looks like it was dipped in something gritty. But if like gritty things, and want to learn a thing or two about the exciting world of smuggling, then sneak a copy of Contraband past customs and go to town.

Note: DVD Critics Corner does not condone the theft or smuggling of DVD movies. Just watch them on one of those Bit Torrent websites like everyone else does.