Tag: maggie grace

The Hurricane Heist


The Hurricane Heist (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★

There’s something freeing about action films that commit to an idea so completely that they risk being labeled dumb, nonsensical, pointless, or all of the above. “The Hurricane Heist,” directed by Rob Cohen, is one of those movies. It presents a simple premise and everything around it is cheesy popcorn—and might say mindless—entertainment. One must be in the right mood and mindset to appreciate this kind of movie because an argument can be made it is a one-note joke throughout.

The plot revolves around bad guys who wish to steal six hundred million dollars from the U.S. Treasury as a massive hurricane rages on outside. Not only does the natural disaster serve as a distraction, should the government become aware of what they are up to, sending soldiers to the facility would not be an easy task. The “old money” is meant to be shredded anyway so it is only logical, at least to the bandits, that they take and make use of the cash. Naturally, there are already rogue agents inside the facility. All would have gone according to plan if it weren’t for the pesky Special Agent Casey Corbyn (Maggie Grace); the exposition reminds us several times that she always does the right thing. She is smart, cautious, and resourceful. The thieves’ ringleader, Perkins (Ralph Ineson), has a habit of underestimating her, and the allies she acquires along the way, despite his team members dropping off like flies.

You know a movie doesn’t care about how it comes across as long as it knows it is providing entertainment when the actors who are supposed to underline the heart of the picture play their American characters—brothers from American south (Toby Kebbell, Ryan Kwanten)—with variants of Australian and English accents. (The brothers, one who runs a repair business and the other a weatherman, lost their father in 1992 as Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped through the south.) While initially distracting and amusing, particularly when the brothers reconnect after from what it seems to be several years of not seeing each other in person, eventually we forget about how they pronounce certain words. The action pieces get so big and so busy that words no longer matter.

And here comes the physics-defying stunts. For example, there is an amazing black, tank-like, Batmobile-looking rig (à la “Batman Begins”) that has these drills underneath that could pierce through the surface of the road. Doing so would tether the vehicle in place. Should it get hit with an amazing amount of force, it would be able to withstand it with minimal wear and tear. Its passengers would feel shaken for a few seconds but suffer no broken bones. Not even bruises, it seems, because they are able to run around with ease and get thrown about (more stunts!) in every imaginable way. It is a wonderful ad to a fictitious vehicle. Truly, they have fun with the idea.

And then there is the hurricane. It makes the movie “Twister” (underrated) look like a documentary. While the monstrous mix of wind, rain, thunderstorms, and occasional livestock does not look particularly first-rate, it is so exaggerated to the point where it looks genuinely threatening. Seeing bad guys getting sucked into its vortex is pretty fun. (The screaming remains audible despite the barrage of sounds.) And then there is science-talk about the eye of the hurricane and its edges. I don’t think it is possible for a cyclone to go around 600 miles per hour in the first place. And yet some buildings remain intact, more or less. Clearly, the movie is meant to be unbelievable. I cannot deny I had a good time.

About Alex


About Alex (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Having received news that their friend, Alex (Jason Ritter), had attempted suicide, a formerly tight-knit group of friends from college decide to take a weekend and spend time with him—possibly even learn why he felt compelled to take his life. But Alex’ friends have their own set of problems and being under one roof might not be a good idea.

Written and directed by Jesse Zwick, “About Alex” is a meandering drama, highly frustrating in its style and execution, devoid of any real feelings or insight about friendships and human relationships. With its ironic title—the movie is not at all about Alex but about his so-called friends—the movie is largely a waste of time and I felt disappointed that otherwise good performers have chosen to partake in the film because the material is neither interesting nor does it offer characters that are challenging to play.

The characters are supposed to be in their late-twenties and it comes across so forced that most of them are already so jaded. To me, none of them has overcome true hardship. They are a bunch of complainers. Particularly prickly—and a bit of a prick—is Josh (Max Greenfield), a poseur who thinks that he is too smart and too good for things like social media. His tirades are a bore because the screenplay does not provide an equally forceful character that directly challenges his ideals.

The secret pregnancy regarding Siri (Maggie Grace) and Ben (Nate Parker) is a tired cliché. An interracial couple, I wanted to learn about them as separate individuals as well as partners but the material never dares to touch upon a subject that is worth a real discussion. The picture is a drama and about personal struggles, after all. Instead, we get a inanities like Ben experiencing writer’s block and Siri wanting to take a pregnancy test.

Exchanges between the characters are flat and uninteresting. There is supposed to be conflict simmering just underneath the pleasantries but the actors often have to raise their voices in order to make a point. This means that the script lacks the subtlety to genuinely engage. It is as if the film were taking place inside the mind of a teenager with an average intelligence, has little to no understanding about human psychology and complexities of relationships of people who are almost thirty.

There is nothing wrong with telling a story about narcissistic personalities clashing under one roof. However, there is a way to tell such a story so that the audience understands why each person is worth knowing further. Here, we are provided surface characteristics, the very basic qualities that may make up a person, but not the dirty details that force us to pay attention and feel encouraged to peel through the layers.

Taken 2


Taken 2 (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After putting their dead in the ground, the enraged father of one of the deceased Albanians, Murad (Rade Serbedzija), bows to get revenge on Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former CIA operative who killed everyone who got in his way to rescue her daughter after she was kidnapped in Paris. When their mother-daughter-new beau trip to China is cancelled, Mills invites his Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Kim (Maggie Grace), his ex-wife and daughter, respectively, to join him in Istanbul. He works there for three days and, if they want, they can drop by and spend time together. And they do. However, sightseeing is set aside when the angry Albanians execute their plan to take Mills.

Although “Taken 2,” written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, is somewhat passable as an action-thriller, the technical elements utilized are not enough to save an otherwise very unambitious picture. There is enough material here to make a solid fifteen- to twenty-minute short film, but expanding it to a ninety-minute work means a lot of padding. Furthermore, a lot of the violence that transpire in Turkey’s largest city are weak, disposable, and unmemorable. There is a lack of energy behind scenes that should be exciting.

The set-up is cheesy and slow. While Neeson does a fairly good job playing a father who yearns to connect with his daughter on a deeper and a man who wants to be supportive of his former wife, the script is written superficially. Words that should communicate Mills missing his former life with his family come off silly at times. It is apparent that what we are seeing and hearing is the calm before the storm. Either the first act needed to be written more intelligently and with subtlety or it needed to have been eliminated completely and allowed the picture to start the moment the family are together in Istanbul. Why bother with introductory scenes when the approach is akin to sleepwalking?

The chase scenes are conventional, from cars slowly making their way through crowded streets to a desperate pursuit on the rooftops. No matter how nicely the would-be heart-pounding scenes are edited and put together, there is no masking the fact that there is barely energy coming from behind the camera. It feels like the same action sequence is shot about three times, but the director, Olivier Megaton, fails to hone in on what should be shown, how it should be approached, and when to break patterns in order to keep us on our feet. It is not that enjoyable to watch.

I appreciated the risk involving the daughter playing a key role in the action. At least for a while, it breaks the rhythm of Mills always having to be the one rescuing everybody. Though it is nice that Kim is capable of following instructions given by her dad, I would like to have seen her make more mistakes and less scenes of her jumping from one building to the next. Yes, adrenaline can help to overcome a person’s typical physical limitations. However, in this case, Kim’s mistakes would have been more interesting to watch than Kim looking like a trained government agent. Since the material leans toward the latter route, the picture lacks a down-to-earth human element.

“Taken 2” gets so stagnant at times that I caught myself noticing how tall Neeson is compared to the extras (and then snickering to myself afterwards). It should have been the complete opposite: a memorable thrill–or at least an element of surprise–every other minute that the holes in the plot end up unnoticeable because we are in the moment and at the same time wondering what else it has in store for us.

Lockout


Lockout (2012)
★ / ★★★★

When Snow (Guy Pearce) was charged with first degree murder, he was sentenced to serve time in M.S. One, a maximum security prison in space where the inmates were cryogenically frozen in order to minimize incidents. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace), currently on a mission to make sure that the prisoners were being treated fairly, became trapped inside the space station when all the captives were woken from their slumber, caused a riot, and demanded to be set free. In turn, authorities informed Snow that if he alone could rescue Emilie, he would be pardoned of the crime he didn’t commit. Directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, although “Lockout” showed promise with its template involving a clear-cut rescue mission, it quickly turned into an action film devoid of fun and thrill. It seemed like the only thing it had going for it was Snow’s sarcastic remarks. Each jab was like an open sore ripe for the picking; a possibility that perhaps Snow didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. Everything and everyone was suffocatingly serious, almost robotic, that a glimmer of a genuine human personality was not only welcome, it felt critical to the survival of our interest in the film. Still, aside from Snow’s wit and endurance to take punches, we knew nothing about him. He was fun only on the outside which made the eventual romantic connection between Snow and Emilie very unconvincing and desperate. For someone who was supposed to be worldly, Emilie was incredibly annoying. Her self-righteousness made me question if she really was worth saving. I disliked her so much, I wished halfway through that Snow would realize what a pain she was and force her to drag her own weight. It seemed like every time they had an option to get out, she found a way to sabotage his hard work. I found no reason for him to be attracted to her aside from her looks. Furthermore, the action sequences were limp. The motorcycle chase scene on land looked very much like video game released ten years ago, its blurriness and lack of lighting were utilized as so-called techniques to hide its lack of pixelation. I actually snickered to myself because it was all supposed to be moody and futuristic. I didn’t buy it one bit. The battles that took place in space also lacked a proper level of believability. When crafts exploded and missiles sped through one another, loud booms and swishing noises could be heard. I could have ignored that space was a vacuum if it had had several interesting things to offer. But since I was so fatigued from the passive script and lack of originality, I was more sensitive of its shortcomings. Based on the screenplay by Stephen St. Leger, James Mather, and Luc Besson, “Lockout” presented very little substance and even less energy. The tattooed prisoners, obviously the villains, might as well have been target practice in a shooting range. Most of them did nothing, said nothing, thereby amounted to nothing. There were supposed to be almost five hundred prisoners in the facility. I think I only saw about fifty walking about. The rest of them probably remained asleep in the realization that the movie was not worth their attentions.

Taken


Taken (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★

The best thing about this movie was its intensity. From start to finish my heart was racing like crazy because I knew that something bad was always bound to happen. Liam Neeson stars as an ex-CIA agent father who embarks on a mission in Paris to rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) from the hands of slave traders. I can see why this became a sleeper hit: it had a lot of genuine thrills, exciting action sequences, and a plot that was easy to understand. Aside from the obvious rescue mission, this was a story of revenge in its purest form, supported by the fact that Neeson’s character did not take any prisoner. This was essentially a very “guy” movie because the lead character had a one-track mind and would do anything–even hurt innocents–to get to his daughter. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from audiences that it did not make any sense that a “regular guy” suddenly turned into a Jason Bourne (from the “Bourne” series). I am happy to say that those people simply did not pay attention because in the exposition of the picture, it was discussed that Neeson’s character was once a part of the CIA. I feel that this criticism needs to be addressed because, as a person who waited to see this film on DVD, such comments implanted a seed in my head that the movie was going to be unbelievably atrocious. It was far from ridiculous because active agents who go on assassination missions do exist and, as we very well know (unless one is so deluded or lives in a bubble), slave trade exists as well. Lastly, I have to commend Neeson for essentially carrying this entire movie. Not only was I convinced that he was a dangerous man, but I was convinced that he was a father who really loved his daughter more than anybody in the world, including himself, even if his gestures were not quite appreciated given the amount of thought and effort that was put into them. (He’s very detailed-oriented.) Directed by Pierre Morel, “Taken” is a must-see movie for fans of secret agent films and those who love great suspense mixed with good action sequences.