Tag Archives: jason statham

Review: ‘Spy’

Spy movies don’t get much sillier than Spy, which nonetheless proves to be far more entertaining than its generic title might suggest.

Melissa McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, a 10-year veteran of the CIA who is happy to work in an underground bunker feeding information to field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Mild-mannered and self-effacing, Susan nurses a crush on the dashing and highly-regarded Fine, but things go wrong on a mission and Fine ends up dead.

Susan is shattered, yet she doesn’t hesitate to volunteer herself to help track down Eastern European criminal Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who killed Fine, plans to sell a nuclear device, and also claims to know the secret identities of all the top CIA agents. Her crusty boss Crocker (Allison Janney) reluctantly agrees to send Susan to Europe because her identity has not been compromised, but hot-tempered field agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) is infuriated and quits in protest.

Once Susan is in Europe, her gangly friend Nancy (Miranda Hart) becomes the voice in her ear. But Ford shows up on the scene, redefining “loose cannon” and threatening to upset the agency’s plans, and Susan soon ignores Crocker’s orders to restrict herself to ‘tracking and reporting.’ Events quickly spiral out of control, leading to a series of escalating adventures across Europe that reveal Susan to be far more capable than even she might have imagined.

One of the great delights of Spy is that writer/director Paul Feig is well-aware of the conventions of espionage movies. The James Bond series is clearly a primary source for parody — especially in an early sequence when Susan finds that the the gadgets offered to her are quite limited — but Feig easily draws from a host of other spy thrillers in concocting his characters and plot twists.

The action sequences are nothing special, but this is the rare spy movie where the characters are far more entertaining to watch. McCarthy’s performance as Susan Cooper is superb; she navigates the agent’s blossoming personality with great precision and dexterity, and Feig has written the role with subtlety and grace.

Jason Statham stands out among the supporting players; he’s playing a stereotypical, swaggering stud who’s more than a bit dense, all traits that the actor nails, along with acing an early, very long speech that is blistering with profanities and dementedly funny. Miranda Hart supplies plenty of laughs with her comic timing as Susan’s best friend, while Peter Serafinowicz contributes a charming turn as a highly stereotypical Italian agent.

Because it begins with an extremely ridiculous setup, Spy establishes itself as a comedy that should not be taken seriously. Between the one-liners and the broad physical gags, however, the movie nicely articulates positive messages about empowerment for everyone and the rightful place of women in traditionally male working environments.

Beyond that, Spy is jam-packed with as much humor as can possibly fit within its running time, making this one of the more entertaining adventures of the year.

The film opens wide throughout Dallas on Friday, June 5.

Review: ‘The Expendables 3’ Suggests That Too Many Action Stars Spoil the Broth

'The Expendables 3'
‘The Expendables 3’

I’m sorry, but as I was watching The Expendables 3, I kept thinking, ‘This is the guy they hired to direct the remake of The Raid?’

Patrick Hughes previously made the well-regarded horror thriller Red Hill, which I haven’t seen yet, but between those positive notices and the notion that he would be helming the remake of one of the best action movies in years, I was intensely curious to see what he would make of the third installment in this modern series that is dominated by lead actor, co-writer, and director Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone established the series’ tone with the first installment, which he re-wrote and directed. The idea of a franchise that is built on the idea of older mercenaries who are past their prime, yet still fully capable of kicking butt and not bothering to take names — mostly because they are often played by former action stars — is immensely appealing worldwide, as demonstrated by box office receipts for the first two movies in the series. Both films tapped more into nostalgia for the 1980s than creativity, yet got by on their vim and vigor, resulting in experiences that were agreeable, even as they were inarguably inferior to the best action thrillers of the 80s, 90s, 00s, or the present day.

Having handed over the directorial reins to Simon West for the first sequel, it makes sense that a newer director be given the opportunity to show his action filmmaking credentials. And while three or four individual shots outside of the action sequences are clever and/or memorable, the fighting and running and jumping and shooting and knifing and blowing stuff up scenes look … just like every other crappy action movie of the modern era, snipped by credited film editors Sean Albertson and Paul Harb into a dizzying, unholy, messy, dispiriting hash.

As always with these kind of situations, on a movie with an incredible 19 producers credited, I’m not sure who is ultimately responsible for what emerges on screen. I just know it’s not very pretty to watch.

Between the action sequences, the drama, such as it is, plays out. Stallone is credited with the story, and receives screenplay credit along with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. The basic idea is that Barney Ross (Stallone), the leader of the Expendables, decides to dissolve the group after he learns that the group’s co-founder Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is still alive. Years before, Stonebranks was presumed dead, but he survived and has become an extremely wealth and extremely evil arms dealer.

When Gibson is given something to do, he’s as electrifying and/or as funny as possible, proving himself a worthy opponent for Stallone. Unfortunately, much of the non-action storytelling is given over to the silly idea that Barney Ross would ditch his old buddies because he thinks taking down Stonebanks will be a life or death mission, and he wants to protect his friends. Evidently, he’s forgotten that they are mercenaries and therefore are perfectly happy to risk their lives for money.

Eventually, of course, the old Expendables — Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Wesley Snipes — and the new Expendables — Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, and Kellan Lutz — insult each other before teaming up in action sequences that are dreary in their routine execution and almost entirely indecipherable. Antonio Banderas shows up to provide some comic spark, as does Kelsey Grammer for some reason, and if you’ve avoided the marketing entirely, other veteran action stars pop up for “surprise” cameos that mostly just extend the running time.

Buffeted by more computer-aided effects than before, The Expendables 3 is ambitious for reasons that are not readily apparent, beyond the fact that every hero in the movie is a mercenary who’s willing to work for no money in order to kill someone that (practically) none of them know. For a dumb series that I’ve enjoyed in the past, the third installment proves to be a big letdown.

The film opens wide in theaters throughout Dallas and Ft. Worth on Friday, August 15.

Review: ‘Homefront,’ An Action Exercise That’s Stronger Than It Looks

Jason Statham in 'Homefront'
Jason Statham in ‘Homefront’

Jason Statham is a movie star in the classic mold: He has established a steady screen personality as a heroic tough guy, and he rarely deviates from it, no matter what role he is playing.

Because Statham sticks to the action-movie genre in which he excels, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. While it’s true that he doesn’t make bad movies good, neither does he make good movies bad; he is a dependable brand, and occasionally he leads an above-average production that is enlivened by his presence.

Homefront definitely benefits from Statham’s starring performance as a former DEA agent turned full-time family man. Sylvester Stallone’s screenplay, based on a 2005 novel by Chuck Logan, starts the plot a-ticking in its first scene, as Statham’s “Phil Broker” is unfairly blamed by a motorcycle gang boss for the death of his son. Disgusted by the DEA’s failure to follow protocol, Broker quits and moves with his daughter — aged 9, about to turn 10 — to his late wife’s hometown in the Louisiana bayou.

The girl, named Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), turns the tables on a full-bodied young bully, raising the ire of the kid’s parents, especially his drug-adled mother (Kate Bosworth). She goads her husband into picking a fight with Broker, which doesn’t end well for the sallow fellow, and so dear old mom goes running to her brother Gator. And then the fun really begins, because Gator is played by James Franco, and his character is definitely not a standard-issue ‘B-movie’ villain.

Gator is introduced smashing a teenager’s leg with a bat, but that doesn’t represent his usual modus operandi. Gather, recognizing that he’s not really an intimidating physical presence among adults, prefers to use his brain to out-think his opponents, which has allowed him to become a big fish in a small pond. So when he sniffs around Broker’s house and discovers why he’s living under an assumed name, he devises a clever plan that he thinks will make him a big-time player in the state.

Statham provides the steady anchor here, while the smart plot twists, unusual character developments, and ace performances by the supporting cast really make the movie hop.

Director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Runaway Jury) keeps the momentum going, though his action sequences are the usual blizzard of quick shots and whiplash camera moves that define 21st century “action” movies. Still, there’s the pleasure of Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder as dirty, disreputable women, Rachelle Lefevre as a concerned schoolteacher and possible romantic interest, Clancy Brown as the town’s good/bad sheriff, and James Franco, who works hard to play it straight as the chief bad guy.

The pleasures of Homefront may be minor, but they are by no means incidental to the strength of the movie. It’s an action exercise that’s stronger than it looks.

Homefront opens wide throughout Dallas and Ft. Worth on Wednesday, November 27.

‘The Mechanic’: Tuning Up the 70s for the 10s

The Mechanic
Jason Statham demands that you attend 'The Mechanic.' (CBS Films)

And I was just getting accustomed to the 00s. Nothing reminds me that I’m living in a different century than comparing Charles Bronson to Jason Statham. The good thing about the remake of ‘The Mechanic,’ which opens wide across the Metroplex today, is that Statham and his co-star Ben Foster have what I call “grizzled charm.”

“You might think that remaking a deadpan 70s original with an unabashed comic action sensibility from the 80s would be enough desecration for most people.

The Mechanic, which opens wide in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. tomorrow, goes a couple of steps further by layering on 90s-style psychological justification for the characters and a nebulous post-9/11 amoral morality. Surprise! It works (kinda, sorta). The end product — and it is just that, after all, product engineered by and for a mass audience — is briskly entertaining, an unapologetic, violent R-rated movie that skates by on the grizzled charm of Jason Statham and Ben Foster.”

You can read my entire review at Twitch.