Patriots Day

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman
Directed by: Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon”)
Written by: Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) Matt Cook (“Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (“RoboCop”)

Reliving real-life, recent historical events through the eyes of a single character in a film is the hallmark of the docudrama. Think Tom Hanks’ in “Sully” or, well, Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” These two lead characters are portrayed as rather ordinary people thrust into incredible drama, and as an audience we identify with them, we relate to the events through their eyes. So, what if they didn’t exist, made up to heighten the tension, to put the audience in the shoes of someone who was “there” without really being there? In “Patriots Day,” that’s Mark Wahlberg’s put-upon Boston police officer Tommy Saunders, a super cop who has the ear of the commissioner, the FBI, and the governor while also being on scene for every major development in the Boston Marathon bombing, from being at the finish line when the bombs go off to each step of the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. It’s a strange action movie cliché that somewhat mars an otherwise solid and high-tension retelling of the worst act of domestic terrorism (sadly, since eclipsed) since 9/11.

Everyone knows the story: on April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. After scouring security footage, two suspects dubbed “white hat” and “black hat” were identified, and the release of the photos sparked the duo, Chechen brothers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff, all spooky, clueless Millennial disaffectedness), to go on a crime spree on their way to Times Square. In the process they killed an MIT police officer (Jake Picking) while trying to steal his gun and carjacked and kidnapped a Chinese exchange student (Jimmy O. Yang) before engaging in an explosive-fueled shootout with police. Tamerlan is killed in the standoff after being run over by the fleeing Dzhokhar, who became the target of an unprecedented manhunt that shut Boston down and brushed the edge of martial law. He was ultimately located, hiding in a sailboat in a suburban backyard.

If you can look past Wahlberg’s fictional cop who never sleeps, director Peter Berg has put together a fantastic ensemble piece that never loosens the screws, even if along the way it ends up painting law enforcement as maybe a bit too infallible. One scene in particular, featuring Tamerlan’s American wife Katherine (Melissa Benoist) being interrogated—after we’re told explicitly she wasn’t read her Miranda rights—by a mysterious hijab-clad government agent (Khandi Alexander) who questions her commitment to Islam, comes closest to breaking that streak, though. The FBI special agent in charge (Kevin Bacon) and Boston police commissioner (John Goodman) look on in wonder as the extra-legal interrogation takes place, but the feeling we’re left with is this—and the virtual lockdown of Boston—is for the greater good. “Patriots Day” isn’t interested in questioning those ideas, but it could have been a much richer experience had it done so.

RoboCop

February 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton
Directed by: Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad”)
Written by: Joshua Zetumer (debut)

Question: is it fair to judge a remake/reboot by how it compares to the original film? After all, with the near-instant availability of pretty much every movie ever made via streaming or download, its easier than ever to to tick off essential film boxes on your personal movie watching checklist. Remakes don’t exist in a vacuum, especially remakes of beloved modern classics. If we’re being honest, remakes are at least partly banking on the movie-going public having at least a passing knowledge of the original film.

Answer: yeah, absolutely. And when it comes to the new remake of “RoboCop,” the comparison (probably not surprisingly) isn’t favorable.

Like the gory 1987 sci-fi satire, the modern “RoboCop” centers on Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). As an undercover cop, Murphy and his partner Lewis (Michael K. Williams) are made by a drug lord (Patrick Garrow) they’ve been investigating. After a shootout in a restaurant leaves Lewis hospitalized, the drug lord’s goons go after Murphy by detonating a car bomb in front of his home leaving Murphy comatose and paralyzed.

Meanwhile OmniCorp, a giant corporation responsible for producing robotic drones that keep the peace in war-torn Middle Eastern countries, desperately desires to bring its killbots to U.S. soil. Federal law prohibits robots from conducting law enforcement, however, due to the fact that the ‘bots aren’t capable of human decision-making, a law that is a frequent target of rage for outspoken talk show host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson). The promise of raking in billions of dollars in the American market leads CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) to a revelation: put a man inside a machine. After convincing Murphy’s wife (Abbie Cornish) the only way to save her dying husband is to hand him over to OmniCorp’s Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), RoboCop is born.

Whereas director Paul Verhoeven’s late-’80s “RoboCop” relished in satirizing hyper violence and corporate greed, Brazilian director Jose Padihla’s PG-13 “RoboCop” sets its sights on the ethical dilemma of drone warfare, only with a muddier, more somber tone. The crux of the too-long subplot about the repeal of legislation banning robot cops – what is this, “The Phantom Menace?”- deals with the notion that a man should be the one pulling the trigger seems to ignore the fact that, well, men pull the triggers on robot drone strikes today. The movie also takes too long to get to the RoboCopping, dispensing buckets of backstory that ultimately doesn’t pay off, taking nearly a full hour to show off Murphy’s new cybernetic construction we all came to see.

Speaking of Murphy, the remake lets him keep his humanity from his initial boot up as RoboCop, a decision that significantly blunts the character’s arc. Instead of memory wipes, this Alex Murphy is less of a soulless automaton and instead just gets hyper-focused and emotionless when his dopamine levels are dialed down.

And, in what is perhaps the film’s worst offense, Samuel L. Jackson’s gets to utter his trademark phrase—motherfucker—only to have it bleeped. Which, when you think about it, sums up the mistakes of a straight-faced, PG-13 remake of “RoboCop” better than anything else.