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Non-Review Review: Die Hard

I know it’s a bit cliché at this point, but Die Hard really is my family’s ultimate Christmas movie. The season hasn’t truly started (or, if we’re delayed, truly ended) until all of us have sat down on the couch and indulged in the seasonal spectacular. Even if you don’t quite buy into the “Die Hard as Christmas movie” argument, it’s still impressive how tall John McTiernan’s action movie stands when compared to the bulk of eighties action films. Like Nakatomi Plaza itself, it towers over the competition – and it’s not because it does anything especially or novel or innovative in a genre that has always been fairly conservative. Instead, I’d argue, Die Hard succeeds because it executes all the conventional action movie beats exceedingly well, and because it doesn’t treat any of its plot points as necessary items on a check list.

Jump-starting Bruce Willis' action career...

Jump-starting Bruce Willis’ action career…

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Non-Review Review: End of Watch

For its first two thirds, End of Watch is a rather novel examination of the routine of the boys in blue who patrol X-13, the most notorious district within Los Angeles’ notorious South Central. Centring on two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, it offers a portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department that feels almost novel. Rather than centring on the city’s infamous racial tensions, or the allegations of corruption within the force, End of Watch offers a candid and insightful examination of what an average day on the beat might look like, helped along by natural interplay between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

The movie runs into problems with its third act, when it opts to abandon its naturalistic, almost documentary, approach to these officers and their world, forcing a climactic confrontation that never really feels like it entirely belongs.

Arresting drama…

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Non-Review Review: Rampart

Rampart features a powerhouse central performance from Woody Harrelson as corrupt Los Angeles Police Officer Dave Brown. Harrelson manages to take a character who should be (and is) reprehensible, and yet manages to imbue him with the faintest sense of tragedy. However, the problem is the movie that takes place around Brown. Brown’s story is an inherently tragic one, a relic of a by-gone era trapped in his own self-destructive pattern. He’s not dynamic or proactive, and so reacts to the world around him. While director Oren Moverman populates the film with any number of iconic and recognisable character actors, the film can’t help but feel a lot too sterile, a little too inert. We’ve seen this story before, and while Harrelson’s performance is compelling, the film around him is not.

He’s got this police thing working gangbusters for him…

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