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Non-Review Review: Den of Thieves

Heat was not the first cops and robbers film to parallel the opposite sides playing for control of the board, suggesting lives on a collision course inside a gritty crime epic.

However, Heat did it better than most. Heat inspired an entire generation of film fans, and arguably an entire subgenre of heist movie. Los Angeles had always lent itself to operatic crime sagas, with triumph and tragedy playing off against one another in the City of Angels, but Heat redefined the game. The movie developed a style of storytelling, both in terms of actual technical craft and in terms of storytelling construction.

Mann of Today.

Success breeds imitation, and there have been far too many crime films inspired by Michael Mann’s classic, to the point that many film fans were disappointed to discover that Mann himself had not adhered to the template in making Public Enemies. Almost every year, there seems to be another example of a movie constructed in the image of Heat, from Takers to The Town. The quality varies from film to film, as does the level of innovation and inspiration.

Den of Thieves is rather brazen in how much it takes from Heat, lifting both the crime classic’s cinematic language and even direct scenes. The result is a lukewarm reHeat of an exquisite meal, something to which the movie cheekily alludes towards the end of its climactic heist when one character literally serves up days-old leftovers. It isn’t anywhere near as filling or satisfying as the original meal, but it can satisfy a craving.

You definitely feel the Heat around the corner.

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Non-Review Review: Olympus Has Fallen

It’s easy to see why Die Hard is such a popular action movie template. It’s a formula that is very hard to do wrong. Sure, you might end up with a clumsy and disjointed mess of movie, but the format of man trying to save hostages in a base under siege is so straight-forward that it’s almost always an effective vehicle for an action film. Olympus Has Fallen takes that familiar movie outline and rigidly adheres to it. After all, once you’ve figured out the formula, all you have to do is plug in a few variables and a movie practically makes itself. As compared to a boat or a train or in a stadium, Olympus Has Fallen at least has ambition. It’s Die Hard in a White House.

It’s a clumsily constructed film, one that doesn’t excel at anything and fumbles at quite a few things. However, there’s only so far you can screw up a formula and Olympus Has Fallen winds up being a watchable, if very far from exceptional, mid-tier action film.

"Look, this is what happens when terrorists attack while Bruce Willis is on holiday..."

“Look, this is what happens when terrorists attack while Bruce Willis is on holiday…”

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Non-Review Review: Coriolanus

I’m a big fan of Shakespeare adaptations, if done right. The proper cast and crew can serve to make the Bard easily accessible to modern audiences, allowing people unfamiliar with the tragedy in question to follow along with the work remarkably easily. Ralph Fiennes has assembled such a cast and crew for his directorial debut, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Although not universally regarded as one of the truly great Shakespearean tragedies, it does have the epic scale and grand drama of some of the writer’s best work. T.S. Elliot would consider it to be, along with Anthony and Cleopatra, to be Shakespeare’s finest tragic play. I think that Fiennes adaptation makes a plausible argument for a long overdue reappraisal of the work. At the very least, it does an excellent job bringing it to a modern audience.

Roman around…

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Non-Review Review: Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen is an interesting movie. It’s a well-made thriller that seems to have some underlining arguments about the justice system and civil liberties, even if it tends to get a bit muddled towards the end. However, director F. Gary Gray knows how to handle tension, and has two very strong leading actors, which helps carrying an intriguing premise through some of the difficulties it has with its own moral philosophy.

Naked guns?

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Non-Review Review: How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon is, at its core, the story of a boy and his dog. Except his dog happens to be a dragon. It is a well-cast, well-made and well-written little film that actually manages to have a lot more emotional depth than the majority of Dreamworks films, even if it doesn’t quite approach the wonderful sophistication that Pixar manage to produce about once a year. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s fun – a wonderfully crafted piece of family entertainment.

An all-time high for Dreamworks?

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Putting the “Man” in Romance: Deconstructing The “Gerard Butler” Romantic Comedies

I had the misfortune of watching The Bounty Hunter last week. It was horrible, really. In fairness, I tend to have a problem with the conventional romantic comedy as it’s mass produced and shipped out to cinemas at least once a month like clockwork. A string of movies which are based on the principle that all men and women (whether they know it or not) want to settle down and get married, argue over stupid things about three quarters of the way through the film and get together again in time for the end credits. Not only are the morals of such films highly dubious, the delivery is generally just excruciating. However, something has changed within the genre in the past couple of years… and not necessarily for the better. I’ll let The Guardian sum up my position:  

I realise it’s high time we refreshed the tired tics and tropes of the kissy-kissy no-boys-allowed modern women’s picture, I just didn’t think the solution would be to take the suppressed homoeroticism of the punchy-punchy male buddy flick then slather it over the vaguely virginal values associated with most Sandra Bullock and Amanda Bynes movies.  

That about sums it up nicely, don’t you think?  

The figure on the left indicates where good ideas come from... the figure on the right indicates where most romantic comedy ideas come from... by the way, he has his back to us...

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Non-Review Review: The Bounty Hunter

It’s a movie which stars Gerard Butler as a bounty hunter. It should at least feature infinitely greater amounts of gratuitous violence, even if it was always going to be just this boring.

If you want to get revenge on a partner, you can take them to jail... or you can make them watch The Bounty Hunter...

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