Tag: sam worthington

Fractured


Fractured (2019)
★★ / ★★★★

Is there something deeply sinister going on in the country hospital or is the man who claims that his wife and daughter had been kidnapped by the hospital staff simply exhibiting psychosis? Brad Anderson’s “Fractured” offers a familiar premise and is almost immediately elevated by a sympathetic lead performance. But with an ending so uninspired, maddening, and predictable, one is left to wonder whether the journey is worth it by the time end credits appear.

The picture’s strongest quality is its patient build-up. As it lays down the foundation of Ray’s relationship with his wife and young daughter, we empathize with the man who feels that his family is slipping away. He is desperate to keep things together since a prior loss of a loved one continues to haunt him. Ray, played with convincing vulnerability and desperation by Sam Worthington, is a former alcoholic. We meet him having an argument with Joanne (Lily Rabe) in the car while on their way back home from Thanksgiving celebration. Worthington and Rabe share solid chemistry as a married couple on the verge of divorce. Words are used like daggers but the moments of silence, too, are just as sharp. The opening scene, rooted in drama, hints at a better than average thriller.

From the way scenes are shot, especially once the family of three set foot at the questionable hospital, viewers are jolted into paying attention. Notice the fond use of close-ups. Nearly every hospital staff encountered is a source of suspicion, from clerks at the front desk who must deal with patients who are tired of waiting, security personnel who walk down the halls with pride, to doctors who come across little too friendly. The camera is used as a magnifying glass to reveal possible secrets. Are they all in on it? Only a few of them? Is there something going on in the first place? Nearly each face is memorable and so there is a good possibility we will meet them again under a more confrontational context. No one enjoys being accused as a liar.

The work introduces the possibility that Ray might be an unreliable protagonist. This is when the film falters because it falls into the usual trappings of fast cuts, hallucinatory and discombobulated imagery, and irksome sound effects. There is an elegant way to create a character we are supposed to distrust without using cheap and tired tricks from terrible movies.

It requires, for instance, an astute screenplay so in love with dialogue and of the human condition that it becomes a challenge to discern among truth, lies, and half-truths. For a movie in which the lead character is deathly afraid to lose his family, reductive dialogue becomes more prevalent the deeper we get into the story. More interested in delivering immediate sensations, it might have elevated the work had a more cerebral approach been chosen from time to time. In thrillers, tricks must be changed once in a while or else their effects may likely suffer from diminishing returns—as they do here.

The ending did not work for me at all—nor so I think would it work for anybody who possesses more than three brain cells. I got the impression that screenwriter Alan B. McElroy wishes so badly to deliver a twist or haunting ending that it does not matter whether it actually fits the story being told. Due to the nature of the denouement, no catharsis that feels exactly right is provided. The payoff is unsatisfying. We feel cheated of our time.

Sabotage


Sabotage (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

It appears as though Breacher (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team of DEA agents (Mireille Enos, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Mark Schlegel) have succeeded in stealing ten million dollars from the Rios-Garza cartel without the American government knowing. But when they go underground to retrieve the money that very night, someone has beaten them to it. Soon, members of Breacher’s team begin to meet gruesome deaths, from being run over by a train to being nailed to the ceiling. An investigator (Olivia Williams) is assigned to investigate the murders.

The writing by Skip Woods and David Ayer prevents what could have been a highly entertaining action film—boasting a talented cast of tough guys (and gal)—from truly taking off. When characters speak, especially Breacher expressing how much his team means to him, there is not an iota of a believable moment or feeling. It is like listening to tires screeching, a test of patience and endurance.

An attempt is made to make the lead character more interesting and sympathetic. The backstory involving the kidnapping of his wife and son is tragic but never delved into completely. Connecting the dots is a challenge—and a pointless exercise—because the victims are either shown or mentioned only during the first scene and toward the end when explanation is required in order to move the plot forward. Thus, a rhythm behind the revelations is not established. Events occur out of convenience rather than that of natural progression.

Breacher’s team is unruly and unpleasant—which is a positive quality in a movie like this. Since the material does not have enough time to turn every character into a believable person we might encounter in the streets, at least they are not boring to be around. There is a roughness or ruggedness to most of them and the quieter ones do stand out because of the way they look or carry themselves. In other words, Breacher’s team is tough in different ways. If the writers had found a way to get us to care more about them, the picture might have worked on another level.

The action scenes are loud and gruesome at times. It seems as though just about everyone prefers to use big guns and so the combination of sounds following the pressing of the trigger amps up the tension. There are moments, however, when it reverts to clichés like a person being able to outrun a rain of bullets while moving rather slowly. Such scenes needed to be reedited to make it appear as though the situation was unfolding very quickly and one mistake could mean game over.

“Sabotage,” directed by David Ayer, is elevated by Williams because she is convincing as a tough and dirty-talking cop. I imagined her getting along perfectly with Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala from “End of Watch”—also directed by Ayer. It is a good decision to cast Williams because she exudes intelligence without even trying. At first glance, I expected her to play a character with an uptight nature and so when she starts cracking jokes and trying to make tough-sounding phrases work, I appreciated her sense of humor—a quality that the film does not offer very often.

Cake


Cake (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★

Claire (Jennifer Aniston) lost her young son in a car accident and she has since suffered from chronic physical pain. Most days, she is on drugs and that makes her quite unpleasant, to say the least, to be around. When Claire learns that a member of her chronic pain support group named Nina (Anna Kendrick) committed suicide, she goes on a mission to learn more about the tragedy.

Based on the screenplay by Patrick Tobin and directed by Daniel Barnz, “Cake” is an undercooked drama but it is uplifted for the most part by Aniston’s wry performance. Although the material does make some fresh decisions like not forging a romantic relationship between Claire and Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington), it requires more detail to become a truly engaging drama. Why is it that we do not learn a bit more about the man (William H. Macy) directly involved in the death of Claire’s son?

The first thirty minutes of the picture is independent drama at its best. It makes us wonder about Claire’s intentions, how her mind works, whether she is capable of empathy even if she is suffering a great deal. Is the reason why she is so curious about Nina the fact that the recently deceased had the courage that Claire simply does not have? Is Claire actually jealous that someone else achieved what she has fantasized about since the car accident? These are very interesting questions that are not easy to bring up and tackle directly, but this film does it with pride, respect, and class. It is true that Claire may not be the most likable character, but these questions feel right for this story—her story. I wanted to know more.

It is most disappointing then that the material begins to repeat itself just before the halfway mark. The bottom line is that the scenes which occur only in Claire’s mind or dreams communicate a mental anguish which then contribute to more physical pain. The script hammers the viewer over the head with this idea which is most unnecessary.

It is unfortunate because the supporting characters are interesting. Silvana (Adriana Barraza) is Claire’s helper and friend. A standout scene involves a trip to Tijuana and Silvana is spotted by friends from the past. Here, we get to observe Silvana and Claire’s relationship at its rawest—that even though Claire may treat Silvana like a maid at times, deep down, Claire considers Silvana to be a good friend. Another character I wanted to know more about is Claire’s ex-husband (Chris Messina). There is a sadness about him as well but the screenplay does not explore this avenue.

To create an effective drama, the details must be present and alive. It is most curious then that “Cake” often seems reluctant to dig deeply into its characters and their circumstances. Claire is grieving but grief never not isolated. Because Claire is miserable, sometimes she lashes out and this is why it is worth getting to know those around her. Claire’s story could easily have been two and a half hours long and it would likely have been much more engaging.

Texas Killing Fields


Texas Killing Fields (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), homicide detectives, one local-based, the other from the city, respectively, are assigned to investigate kidnappings and murders of teen girls in rural Texas. Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain), a homicide detective from Texas City and Souder’s ex-wife, asks for their help because their murders seem to be related.

Inspired by a true story, “Texas Killing Fields,” written by Don Ferrarone and directed by Ami Canaan Mann, strips away all the glamour from what we expect of movies when it comes to the way cops track down serial killers. First, there is a lot of dirty work being portrayed like Stall having to slap around potential witnesses for the sake of information that might lead to the identity of the killer. Her officers look on like it is standard procedure. Heigh relies on someone from a telephone company to track down a cell phone signal without proper authorization. Meanwhile, Souder is unable to see beyond stereotypes which tinges his supposedly objective judgment.

Second, there is something visceral about the look and feel of the film. When a killer attacks and abducts his victim, it is shot sans fancy camera somersaults but every bit of horror is captured. By just allowing us to see what happens without music playing in the background, I felt that the events unfolding before our eyes can happen at any small town.

Lastly, the sense of place contributes to the increasing tension surrounding the mystery. A lot of people the detectives interact with are either poor white families or poor black families. Despite the racial difference, their deeply-rooted commonality is the belief that if they keep secrets from the cops, it is the great equalizer for being underrepresented and misrepresented. Yet the filmmakers find a way, subtle ways, to communicate that not all of the residents are bad or unwilling to cooperate. Sometimes they might be very bad but they are more than willing to go down to the police station for an interview.

However, I wished the film had given us more information about Souder, Heigh, and Stall. While each has a distinct personality and ways of accomplishing goals, I felt as though the material does not go deeply enough into what really makes them tick. A lot of time is dedicated to juvenile Ann (Chloë Grace Moretz), who lives with her drug-addicted mother (Sheryl Lee), brother (James Hébert), and mother’s boyfriend (Stephen Graham), getting into all sorts of trouble with the police. While Ann is an important character because she fits the description of the type of girl the killer tends to abduct, I was much more interested when the camera follows the detectives and we watch what they do to find answers.

For the most part, “Texas Killing Fields” sets a good example of how more crime movies should strive to be. It is able to deliver the necessary darkness in its story without having to result to showing us every bit violence that we become inured or desensitized.

Last Night


Last Night (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington), a married couple, attended a party but it didn’t go so well. When they got back to their apartment, because of a look Joanna caught across the room, she accused Michael of cheating with his beautiful co-worker named Laura (Eva Mendes). Michael insisted that absolutely nothing happened. The situation wasn’t alleviated by the fact that Michael had to leave on a business trip with Laura the next day. Meanwhile, Joanna bumped into Alex (Guillaume Canet), a former flame from two years ago when Joanna and Michael took a break from their relationship. “Last Night,” earnestly written and directed by Massy Tadjedin, could have been more involving if it had strived to make its protagonists less like caricatures and more like characters capable of defying our expectations. Joanna was written as nagging and paranoid while Michael was stoic and single-minded. We were supposed to relate to these characters but we were given too few reasons to do so. Joanna and Michael were each assigned a box and were not allowed to step out of it which made the experience lacking in flavor and color. One way or another we’ve felt some sort of physical attraction to another person despite being in a serious relationship. However, I found the whole charade both sexist and insulting. The impression I got was cheating equated to physical intimacy with another person. But we all know cheating isn’t just physical. In dramatic pictures, this film being a good example, it’s a problem when we are smarter than what we are watching because we end up feeling less involved or less connected to the characters who are supposedly going through a grueling trial. In any case, physical intimacy, not emotional entanglement, was at the material’s forefront because each scene thrived on questions like “Will she kiss him?” and “Will he have sex with her?” While such questions were legitimate, the physical aspect alone was only half of the equation. I wanted it to compel us to ask questions like what was going on in Joanna’s brain when Alex placed his hand so sensually on her leg, one of the many perfect opportunities for the the writer-director to playe with the film’s tone which was too dour, verging on soporific. When Alex invited Joanna to his room and revealed a second later that he was simply joking, I would have loved to have seen the disappointment in Joanna’s eyes when she learned that the possible attraction that she detected from him turned out to be false. Maybe she ought to have said a joke in return because in reality there are times when pain is nicely wrapped in jest. But the camera failed to make a personal connection with her reactions. We were left to observe at the distance. Furthermore, there was a lack of flow in cutting from one scene to another. Just when a scene reached a climax, the tension was disturbed because we were forced to look at another less interesting scene. Sometimes allowing the camera to linger, even if the conversation had gone stale, could highlight what was really going on underneath shaky formalities and confessions long overdue. “Last Night” felt superficial and at times sitcom-like in its view or treatment of infidelity. While beautifully shot, especially scenes that took place outside at night, its inside felt hollow.

The Debt


The Debt (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

In 1965, three Mossad agents, Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), Stephan Gold (Marton Csokas), and David Peretz (Sam Worthington), were assigned to abduct Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), also known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, and send the captive, with the help of other spies, to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Vogel, although a certified doctor, was a proud member of the Nazi party. One of his sick experiments involved attempting to change children’s eye colors which inevitably blinded them. In 1997, Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) stumbled upon critical information surrounding their last assignment and he felt it was his duty to inform his former partners. David (Ciarán Hinds) jumped in front of a truck. Rachel (Helen Mirren) stood trembling in her shoes. The information must not be made public. What really happened during their last mission? Directed by John Madden, “The Debt” contained a number of juicy secrets shared among the characters, whether it be about the kidnapping in East Berlin, how they felt toward one another as government agents as well as people who occupied one apartment for a considerable amount of time, and the great lengths they were willing to go for the minute details of past to remain comfortably in the shadows. Unfortunately, the writing and direction seemed largely disconnected. As a result, the picture felt and looked as if it was performing a juggling act and was rather inept at it. For example, when Mirren’s character was about to do something that could potentially change the game or reveal certain pieces of the puzzle that would make the lightbulbs in our heads to go off, I caught myself looking closely at the screen and getting excited for what was about to happen. But the film failed to deliver the promise by suddenly cutting to the past. I understood what the filmmakers were trying to do. After all, unfinished business was a recurring theme. Jumping between two vastly different times and places could have a big dramatic impact if the past was as interesting as what was about to happen in the present. But it wasn’t. I felt almost cheated that the tease led to a dead end–at least for the time being. The past involved a little bit of romance, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of action. Though it was clear what the trio were trying to accomplish, and some of the scenes were quite well-done, especially the ones set in the doctor’s office, I was more interested in how the older Rachel and Stephan tried to extricate themselves away from the mess they created for themselves. The thing is, when we know we did something bad, we’re more concerned about the consequences than the actual bad thing we did. There’s something so primal about the fear of getting caught. That’s what “The Debt,” based on the screenplay by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Peter Straughan, seemed to miss completely so the emotional peaks were seldom. Although the details of the “bad thing” needed to be addressed, the film should not have been mired in it.

Clash of the Titans


Clash of the Titans (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Perseus (Sam Worthington), a demi-god who was unaware that Zeus (Liam Neeson) was his father, decided to take revenge on Hades (Ralph Fiennes) for killing the family that raised him. On a bigger scope, the gods were upset with man because they stopped praying (it’s the source of their power); man was upset with the gods because their quality of life was not as great as it used to be. Both sides could not seem to understand where the other was coming from so the two sides waged war. I think this remake generated a great load of negative reviews because a lot of fans of the 1981 version couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accept the changes that this updated version had to offer. It’s completely understandable because we all have our fond memories of certain older movies but those who choose to compare the 2010 to the 1981 version, half the time, are not completely objective. Furthermore, half of the objective reviews had a problem with this movie’s interpretation of the gods–who they were, their motivations, their powers. A lot of questions such as, “Why change this?” or, “Why change that?” quickly get tiresome so I ask, “Why not?” From my share of films involving Greek mythology, none of them 100% follow how the gods were like from the original source. Therefore, I think it was unfair that this specific movie received negative reviews for being inaccurate. For me, it was simple: I saw “Clash of the Titans” from an fantasy-action-adventure perspective and pretended I had no knowledge of who the gods were or how they were supposed to act. From that angle, I thought it worked because the action sequences were exciting (I loved the scene with the giant scorpions), the CGI was well-done even though there were times when it was obvious that the filmmakers used a green screen, and I had fun with how seriously it took itself because there were a handful of unintentionally funny moments. I also liked the fact that this did not follow the overrated film “300” in terms casting men with buldging muscles and constantly (and painfully) showcasing hypermasculinity. It was nice that I don’t have to look at fake abs and men constantly having to prove their manhood by yelling at each other. In other words, it was more focused on trying to tell a story despite the oversimplification of the politics between god and man. Directed by Louis Leterrier, “Clash of the Titans” was no doubt in need of more heart and complexity, especially Worthington’s character, but I do not believe it is as egregious as everyone claims it to be. If one leaves nostalgia out the door, one can see some potential here. Although I would have loved to have seen the Kraken for more than three minutes.