Tag: toby kebbell

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.

Destroyer


Destroyer (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★

Whenever the camera goes for a close-up—and the picture is fond of this technique—all I could see was the makeup plastered on Nicole Kidman’s face. It is a shame because “Destroyer,” a crime-drama about a detective so guilt-ridden by what happened seventeen years prior when she was still a green undercover cop, is a work that grips the audience by the throat and never lets go. Kidman fits the role wonderfully, capable of delivering a spectrum of emotions within a span of seconds. The moments when we are forced to look at Detective Bell’s face are supposed to be strongest—appropriate because it is also a character-driven drama. And yet these moments turn out to be the weakest. I am flabbergasted that no one spoke up when it comes to the ineffectiveness of the cosmetics designed to depict age.

An argument can be made that without the incredibly distracting makeup, it would have further elevated Kidman’s already ace performance. The thing about heavy cosmetics is that, when used wisely, it is capable of heightening a sense of realism. It is far from the case here. In this film, there are two strands: Bell, along with her ill-fated partner Chris (Sebastian Stan), as she infiltrates a gang led by a man named Silas (Toby Kebbell) and Bell as an angry alcoholic whose purpose is reignited when Silas resurfaces almost two decades after a bank robbery.

In the former, Kidman is provided minimal makeup and the little ticks and smirks communicate paragraphs—a good choice because the flashbacks tend to rely on succinct impressions. In a way, the lead performer, along with the sharp writing by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, must fill in the gaps between what we know will happen and the trauma that follows the character like a curse. There is a huge gap between this lively woman who is excited for her career and the walking scarecrow that scowls and makes her co-workers feel uncomfortable. With the latter situation, Kidman is essentially given a mask and it does her no favor. In fact, it serves as a barrier between the character and the audience—problematic because Bell is already a figure of few words.

The tightly constructed plot is well-paced as Bell follows clues that may lead to Silas. Seeing former partners-in-crime (Tatiana Maslany, James Jordan, Zach Villa) and forcing them to provide information is an act of exorcising the past; each succeeding person is more difficult to deal with that the last. Bursts of violence are expected, but they remain powerful when delivered. Credit to director Karyn Kusama for presenting violence in a matter-of-fact manner. Not for one second is it glamorized. Violence looks painful, it is loud, people get hurt or die. Those lucky enough to walk away from it remain touched by it nonetheless.

The heart of the picture is the shattered relationship between Bell and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn), who is dating a man in his mid-twenties (Beau Knapp). There is a diner scene in which the girl recalls a painful memory and Bell is touched because at least Shelby remembers something between them other than their protracted fights. It is the single honest moment between a child and her mother—during most of their interactions, one is usually disconnected. It is the moment when we realize Bell’s gravest mistake: in pursing the past, she has forgotten to live in the present. Shelby is almost grown and she regards Bell as her biological mother but not the mother who was there to console, to give advice, to be there when it really mattered. Here is a portrait of a woman who feels so hollow, she might as well be dead.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Three Persian princes (Jake Gyllenhaal, Richard Coyle, Toby Kebbell) invaded a holy city protected by a princess named Tamina (Gemma Arterton) because their royal intelligence led them to believe that the city provided weapons to Persia’s enemies. In truth, the false information was created and spread because someone wanted a special dagger that had the ability to turn back time. Based on the video game of the same name, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” directed by Mike Newell, plays out like a typical video game: the main character Dastan (Gyllenhaal) was heroic and had a heart of gold, he met villains-turned-friends (Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint) along the way, and the identity of the big bad was eventually dramatically revealed even though we could see it coming from a mile away. But prior to watching the film, I decided to have an open mind and not take it too seriously. Surprisingly enough, I quite enjoyed it because its energy reminded me of Stephen Sommers’ action-adventure “The Mummy” although not as funny and creative with the action sequences. I thought the film worked best when it showcased the fighting scenes such as when Dastan would try to evade the enemies by jumping from one roof to another à la Jason Bourne in Paul Greengrass’ “The Bourne Ultimatum” only with more sweat and sand. However, I have to admit that the bickering between Dastan and Tamina did get under my last nerves. I knew that they were going to end up in each others’ arms eventually so I kept wondering when they would actually be useful together in order to finally drive the story forward. Perhaps Arterton was to blame because although she was beautiful on the outside, the way she played her character lacked charm. I thought she could have played her character with more cheekiness and far less self-righteousness. I didn’t understand why Dastan would fall in love with her because she acted like a spoiled brat for the majority of the time. When she wasn’t, she acted like a common damsel-in-distress. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” ticks all the boxes in terms of what makes a good and entertaining action flick. I especially liked the visual effects toward the end when Dastan and the princess went under the holy city and danger was literally found in each step. However, I wish the filmmakers would’ve challenged themselves more (or, more importantly, challenged us more) by toning down certain evil looks by characters that had murky allegiances so that it would have been less predictable.

Dead Man’s Shoes


Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
★★ / ★★★★

Vengeance was in the air when Richard (Paddy Considine) returned home from the military after he learned that his mentally challenged brother (Toby Kebbell) had been bullied by local drug addicts and dealers (led by Gary Stretch). I love revenge movies but I felt as though this picture somewhat glorified the drugs and the violence. It’s not that I didn’t connect with Richard. I certainly did because if my brother was victimized, as scary as it is to admit, I probably would have done the same thing–maybe even worse. We watch the main character terrorize the drug dealers by breaking into their homes and leaving little warnings on the walls or on their bodies. And then we cut to scenes in black-and-white that showed us why the criminals deserved to be punished. It was heavy-handed and I wasn’t convinced that Shane Meadows, the director, embedded enough complexity in the material to go beyond threat-and-kill formula. As the body count began to rise, I kept waiting for the film to change the formula and infuse real human characteristics in its characters. It would have been more interesting if we saw a part of ourselves in the people who were about to be killed. Instead, none of them personally felt like they deserved what was coming to them. They kept running away, making fun of each other like they weren’t in deep trouble, and putting themselves in vulnerable situations such as drinking in the middle of the night until they passed out when they knew all too well that the person who wanted them dead could easily break into their homes. Their lack of logic made me feel like they were caricatures and when they did die, they made no big impact in my viewing experience. I simply thought, “Okay, so who’s next?” Toward the end, we were given a chance to feel Richard’s pain and his desperation to achieve some sort of redemption but it ultimately felt forced. Despite the anger and sadness in his eyes, I felt like there was a wall between me and his convictions. I felt no catharsis and I felt sorry for everyone involved in the madness. What “Dead Man’s Shoes” needed was complexity in who the characters really were under the façade they showed the world and laser-like focus in terms of exploring varying levels of responsibility and remorse. Although I must say the film’s best quality was its gritty realism. Either the actors were really good or there were some improvised material thrown in. It made me believe that the events that transpired could happen at just about anywhere.