Tag: colin farrell

Seven Psychopaths


Seven Psychopaths (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Billy (Sam Rockwell) is in the “dog-borrowing” business. He observes from afar, steals the dog, and once a big reward is posted by a desperate owner, Billy’s partner, Hans (Christopher Walken), returns the canine. It is a scam that works… until Billy ends up stealing a Shih Tzu owned by an irascible gangster (Woody Harrelson). Charlie is out for blood and will do absolutely anything to get his dog back. Caught in the middle is Marty (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter with a drinking problem. His most recent project is writing a script titled “Seven Psychopaths.” The problem: he has nothing else written down except the title. But it seems that the events about to unfold is the perfect panacea for his writer’s block.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, “Seven Psychopaths” may have borrowed elements from tough guy flicks, stories of unsuspecting writers in need of stimulation suddenly being thrusted into ridiculous adventures, and typical bromances in forgettable comedies, but it puts all of these elements into a blender, loony ingredients are added, and shaken once more to create a rather original material that works for itself despite its occasional distracting self-awareness and criticisms of its own inspirations.

Most enjoyable is the fact that the story is willing to go in many directions. While the main strand involves the kidnapping of the Shih Tzu, what makes the material memorable are the colorful imaginings and retrospectives. Many supporting characters enter and egress but they never feel disposable even though a lot of them are killed. They are consistently given something important to do or funny quip to say so it is thrilling when a new face is introduced. The attention is not in the violence or deaths but in our curiosities of how someone might alter the course of the game.

Its off-beat sense of humor is coupled with good performances. Walken does his usual slithery menace but it works given his character’s history. The scene that tickled me most is one that takes place in a hospital where the gangster and the dognapper finally face each other. It is given appropriate beats to solidify the tension. The reward is small compared to the larger surprises later on but it makes a lasting impact. What is a surprise, however, is Farrell deciding to play Marty straight. As the picture goes on, it is increasingly clear that Marty must almost be a blank canvas, somewhat bland with sporadic quirks, in order for us to be absorbed in the more flamboyant personalities.

There are few movies that come out within a span of a year where the audience can feel a filmmaker’s love and passion for his or her work. “Seven Psychopaths” is one of them. It is in the dialogue, the images, and silences that separate a flicker from a full-blown flame. The number of things it wishes to address matches the quantity of its twists and turns. Although there are some problems with its pacing as it reaches the climax, I guess one can consider it a part of its own funky groove.

The Beguiled


The Beguiled (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

Sofia Coppola’s period drama “The Beguiled,” based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan, is such a beautiful-looking film that its images likens that of looking into a memory from a hundred years ago. From the exquisite details of handmade dresses, curious paintings hanging on walls, to the manner in which only natural light is used even when there is no daylight, it offers a transportive experience as the tension boils from underneath a seemingly straightforward plot involving a badly wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) being taken in by a seminary led by Miss Farnworth (Nicole Kidman).

This is not a movie for viewers who expect fast-paced unfolding of the material, but it is exactly for audiences who appreciate details both in what is shown or merely insinuated. It is most concerned with human interactions and flaws: how female characters interact before and after a man is in their living space, what they are willing to do in order to garner the attention of a stranger, how they change themselves just to be regarded a certain way by someone who they do not even know. This is a film about attraction, how blinding it is—not necessarily romantic attraction but that of lust and how the energy around us is transformed by something or someone we want so badly. Although set in the Civil War era, the subject is timeless.

There are solid performances across the board. The females in the seminary vary in age. Notice how each of them has a specific strategy when it comes to getting the attention of the opposite sex. For example, Amy (Oona Laurence), about thirteen or fourteen, uses sweetness and friendship to get on Corporal McBurney’s good side. On the other hand, Alicia (Elle Fanning), about sixteen or seventeen, uses her feminine wiles, her body, her eyes, to lure the attention of a man easily twice her age. And then there is Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), possibly in her thirties, who doesn’t even bother to pretend to be anyone else. Meanwhile, Miss Farnsworth’s strategy (Kidman) is apparent disinterest in the man but she reminds everyone, not only the stranger in their midst, that she has the most power in their home. Laurence, Fanning, Dunst, and Kidman approach their characters with curiosity, grace, and, when necessary, danger.

The picture can be criticized for its lack of fluctuation in delivering emotions. Some may call it downright tedious or boring. I believe its rather monotonous look and feeling is done on purpose because these are characters who are essentially dead. Yes, they are alive physically but they have been hidden from society for so long, away from their friends and loved ones, that they could only refer to the life outside as if they would be stuck forever in a never-ending war. Take special notice of the very last shot. These women and children are prisoners by choice. In a way, this is a horror film underneath dramatic layers.

“The Beguiled” is a product of a precise vision and it can be enjoyed with the right mindset. The picture is not about action but inaction. What are these people saying to one another during moments of silence, how they hold their faces down when should be looking up, the discrepancies between what they choose to express versus what they wish to express? Clearly, the work is, but not exclusively, for deep thinkers.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

As expected by those familiar with writers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, the former directing the picture, the film demands its viewers to squint through the fog of allegories and metaphors in order to ascertain what the material is possibly about. Or, perhaps more importantly, what it is saying about ourselves based on the deformed reflection of its characters, how they are treated, what ends up happening to them. For what it’s worth, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” may be frustrating to sit through at times, but I admired that it assumes the audiences are learned, cultured, and curious rather than ignorant, stupid, or incapable like numerous generic and unambitious works lean toward.

Those without or having only a limited knowledge of Greek mythology need not be dissuaded from taking a peek into the strange world offered here. Because despite the detached photography, cold interactions amongst characters, and schizoid manner of delivering lines of dialogue, there are enough pieces presented so that a casual viewer may get a feel of what the story is about. In my case, I thought it was about a man who has failed to take a moral responsibility in his career. And due to this failure, one he thought he got away with, it is demanded again that he take responsibility… but this time his home life becomes involved. Will he take responsibility now?

Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman play Steven and Anna, a cardiothoracic surgeon and ophthalmologist, respectively. It is interesting that while other works demand that the married couple evoke chemistry, it is the complete opposite here. They must not fit due to the bizarre language, both spoken and non-spoken, and the off-key rhythm of the material. It is almost as if we must feel as though the spouses are forced together in their palatial home filled with luxurious but empty decorations. Farrell and Kidman share no romantic chemistry and it is most appropriate. Notice when their characters are supposed to be at their most passionate. There are instances when when the fighting or having sex comes across as somewhat comedic, ludicrous. Strong emotions are expressed with a certain flatness.

There is a breakout performer in this strange but intriguing passion project and that is Barry Keoghan who plays Martin, the sixteen-year-old whose father had died on Steven’s operating table. Less perceptive performers might have played the character as overtly menacing. Keoghan decides to go on the opposite direction and downplays it. His seemingly innocuous physicality oozes an implied threat, a recurring pestilence. The rage of this character is found in those unforgiving eyes as he stares down the person that he believes to be at fault for him no longer having a father.

Drenched in idiosyncrasies, it goes without saying that “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is for select audiences only. In nearly every scene, there is an eccentric detail worth noticing. For instance, during Martin and Steven’s early interactions, it appears as though they are connecting because they are able to talk about the superficial details of their lives. But notice where the camera is placed. It is capturing the back of their heads. Or it is looking up at them from a lower angle, a technique often utilized in horror films before a jump scare. Those who choose to dive into this work should be open and prepared to take notice of details like these for an enriched experience. Do not bother otherwise.

The Lobster


The Lobster (2015)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Viewers with a palate for the bizarre are certain to embrace “The Lobster,” intelligently written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, and yet the piece is not simply for those with an acquired taste because the roots of the humor, curiosities, ironies, and social commentaries are near universal. For instance, all of us have been in a situation where we find ourselves being the only single person in a group of couples, at times even being the subject of conversation (and judgment) as to why we do not yet have a special someone and simply settle down. The picture is packed with a wicked sense of absurdist and satirical humor.

Our protagonist is named David (Colin Farrell), a man informed by his wife that she is leaving him because she has fallen in love with someone else. According to their society, unpaired adults must go to a hotel where they must find a mate within forty-five days. Failure to do so would compel those in charge to turn those without a partner into an animal of his or her choice. A person can gain more days to stay in the hotel by participating in The Hunt—which involves going into the woods, hunting, and tranquilizing escaped single people so they can be turned into animals for their failure to abide by societal rules.

Part of the humor is the carefully modulated performances. It is interesting that just about all characters speak in a robotic tone and feeling and yet none of them are ever boring. On the contrary, each performer’s interpretation of a schizoid-like personality fascinates especially during longer takes where every word uttered, limb moved, and blinking of the eyes must be well-timed or the gamble falls into itself. Or worse—turns into a parody of itself. Notice that every person David meets does not have a name. They are merely referred to as “Nosebleed Woman,” “Loner Leader,” “Hotel Manager,” “Lisping Man,” and the like. They are defined by these names. A case can also be made that their names define them.

We look into a strange world and the writers provide specifics with glee. Particularly compelling is how we come to learn about the lifestyle in the hotel. There is only one lifestyle and everybody is expected to submit to the rules or be punished severely. For example, in order for singles to become more motivated to pair up, masturbation is not allowed at all times. Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) gets caught and the punishment clearly does not fit the so-called felony. As he cries out, begging for the pain to stop, those in the room—his friends, acquaintances, neighbors—simply look down and go about their day. This is a microcosm of our society. I loved and admired its savage angle.

Those with a more ordinary taste will unjustly label the film as pretentious. I have come across numerous pieces of work that fall under this category and “The Lobster,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is absolutely not one of them. The correct word is challenging, perhaps even ambitious, because it engages us by inspiring us to think a little bit about what is shown on screen. The metaphors, symbolisms, and ironies are not at all difficult to figure out. Still, sometimes material offers answers, other times it does not. A delicious example of the latter is the superb final scene. The film ends right where it should. It is a litmus test of how we define love and whether or not we believe in the old adage that love conquers all. After all, does it, really?

Total Recall


Total Recall (2012)
★ / ★★★★

A recurring dream involving being chased by the authorities alongside a woman he believes he never met has prevented Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker, from getting proper sleep over the past couple of weeks. Feeling depressed, he thinks that a treatment at Rekall, a company that can program memories into a person’s brain, can help him get over the nightmares if he is given an exciting or happy memory. A routine procedure prior to the treatment, however, triggers a repressed memory in unsuspecting Douglas. It turns out that he is a spy so specialized and dangerous that he is able to take down ten armed men, assigned to capture him alive, in under thirty seconds.

Inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” credit must be given to “Total Recall,” directed by Len Wiseman, for deciding not to make a carbon copy of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 film. Instead, it opts for a more straightforward approach by focusing on delivering the action and spending less time on philosophical musings about which reality is real and which is constructed by machines. However, despite this, the film lacks drama, suspense, and memorable characters in order for the material to rise above the standard and have its own identity.

The dialogue is so flat that each time it takes a breather from the action sequences, I felt like I was watching the actors rehearsing a scene. There are moments when the performers try to compensate by overacting to little or no avail. Since there is no dimension to what they are saying, not once did I believe that there is something critical at stake. There are talks about terrorist organizations, struggle for equality, and worldwide domination–rather, what is left of it considering an international chemical warfare rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. But the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback fails to incorporate these struggles in a thought-provoking, insightful, or entertaining way.

I enjoyed the special and visual effects. The futuristic cities are inspired by Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” in that there is a menudo of cultures plastered on neon-colored billboards as well as ethnically diverse crowds going about their businesses. I was at awe on how select buildings can possibly stand because they seem to lack support from the ground up. The best chase scenes involve Douglas running on rooftops, through skyscrapers, and inside houses. The editing matches the character’s desperation to survive so it is exciting to watch unfold, at least initially. Eventually, the chases suffer from diminishing returns because the same formula is adopted and the results are more or less the same.

“Total Recall” feels twice as long than it actually is. Although, as a remake, it takes some liberties to detach from the expected, it seems reluctant to really experiment and go wild. I enjoyed watching Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, as Douglas’ wife and partner in crime, respectively, for their physicality. I believed that their characters are not women to be messed with because they are capable of handling themselves. Their fight scene stands out but I wished there had been more chances for the two of them to release their anger onto one another. Such would not have boosted the film’s quality per se but it might have been more fun.

Saving Mr. Banks


Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), author of the book “Mary Poppins,” is advised to close a deal with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) because she is running out of money. Though the writer realizes the difficulty of her financial situation, the story is really important to her so she cannot let go. If she does sign over her rights to Disney, it means two things: the film will be a musical and it will contain animation. She finds the idea repulsive. She believes songs and dancing penguins will take away the necessary gravity from her original work.

“Saving Mr. Banks,” written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, is as light as a feather. Although Thompson and Hanks are entertaining as a pair, the picture is not an effective comedy-drama because the dramatic elements are so syrupy to the point of indigestion. The film is divided into two time points: the novelist’s visit to Los Angeles in 1961 and her childhood in 1906 when she learns her father’s addiction to alcohol (Colin Farrell). The former, the comedy, is a joy while the latter, the drama, is bereft of energy. A lopsided picture results.

Thompson finds the right tone to make an entertaining character. Though she creates a very uptight Travers, not once does she come off mean-spirited. In fact, we can understand where she is coming from because handing over what is important to us to someone else who we fear is not as passionate or invested is often difficult. Interestingly, even though she is supposed to be the main character of the movie, most of us will find ourselves on the side of Disney and his artists without realizing why. Such is the power of branding and legacy in action.

The screenplay allowing Travers to be surrounded by merry characters is a good source of comedy. Every time she criticizes a proposed direction, an accompanying reaction shot is shown at the right time. Also, it lingers just enough to showcase their frustration, shock, or embarrassment. It becomes clear quite quickly that Travers’ approach is a dictatorship rather than a partnership. And yet when the tone shifts just a little, especially during the scenes between the writer and her driver (Paul Giamatti), it feels just right. The sensitive moments are earned.

Flashbacks to Australia ’61 are a bore. The sentimentality is just too much. Put the overwhelmed mother (Ruth Wilson—miscast and the character underwritten), alcoholic father, and a daughter’s innocence (Annie Rose Buckley) being crushed into the mix, there is a lack of uplift within the time period to balance the sad moments. At one point, a character chooses to commit suicide. I was shocked—not in a good way. What if children who love Robert Stevenson’s “Mary Poppins” end up seeing this? How is that appropriate? In my opinion, if a serious subject like suicide is brought up, it should at least be acknowledged or explained later.

Another problem, though somewhat of a lesser degree, is that I never felt as though Disney ever liked his punctilious collaborator. His gestures to convince Travers to sign the paperwork feel hollow. I suppose deals are made in real life without people having to like each other or to meet in person, but it feels a bit off here. One gets the impression that a more realistic layer is tacked on late into script development.

The Way Back


The Way Back (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Janusz (Jim Sturgess) was suspected of being a spy against the Russian government during World War II but there was a lack of evidence against him. When his wife was captured and tortured, she felt she had no other choice but to tell lies in order to survive. As a result, Janusz was sent to a Siberian labor camp for twenty years. Inside, he met seven others (Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Potocean, Mark Strong, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Gustaf Skarsgård) who where willing to escape and traverse thousands of miles through Siberia, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalayas. Based on the book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” by Slavomir Rawicz, there was no denying that what the POW had been through was unimaginable, but I wasn’t convinced that the film matched the greatness of the material they had a chance to work with. It was expected that Sturgess, Harris, and Farrell’s characters were given a solid amount of screen time. We learned about where they came from and what was important to them. However, I kept wondering about the other men. Since the spotlight was rarely on them, we only knew them through surface characteristics. For instance, the tall one liked to cook and draw, the young one had night blindness, the other was a comedian. It may sound disrespectful but such is a consequence of filmmakers focusing on which celebrities ought to receive more screen time than others instead of focusing on the drive of each man. Given that it was over two hours long, there was no excuse for a lack of character development. Furthermore, as a whole, the entire journey felt depressing instead of inspiring. While not all of them made it to the very end, I believe what should have been highlighted was their bravery by standing up against a government that wrongly accused them of crimes and taking their lives to survive in the wilderness. The only time when I felt the movie had some sort of pulse was when the runaways met the young Irena (Saoirse Ronan). Ronan’s acting was dynamic. The way her body language and facial expressions changed from one emotion to the next, especially while interacting with the veteran Harris, felt effortless and I quickly became enthralled and fascinated by Irena. But the picture, inevitably, had to go back to the long walk to India. I was consistently disappointed due to its lack of attention in truly immersing our senses with each environment. Instead of taking the meditative path and not merely relying on music to nudge us that what we were seeing was visually majestic, it treated the disparate environs as cheap obstacles. I might as well have been playing “Super Mario” on Wii and it would have been far more engaging. Once the obstacle had been surmounted, it was onto the next challenge and the next death. Directed by Peter Weir, the manner in which “The Way Back” unfolded felt like the its characters were walking in circles. Considering its story involved a great journey across the world, it ended up going nowhere.