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Non-Review Review: Rambo – Last Blood

There’s something almost disappointingly pedestrian about Rambo: Last Blood.

The sequels to Rambo: First Blood have often struggled to live up to the original film, to capture the aspects of that early eighties action drama that elevated above so many of its contemporaries. Watched today, First Blood is a surprisingly sensitive piece that exists worlds apart from the gleeful revenge fantasies of Rambo: First Blood, Part II or Rambo III. It exists a world apart from superficially similar action movies like Missing in Action or P.O.W.: The Escape, a surprisingly meditative and reflective piece of work.

Parting shots.

It isn’t really a surprise that Last Blood strips out a lot of that meditation and reflection. Even the best of the sequels – the no-nonsense Rambo, from 2008 – was relatively straightforward in its ambitions and its methods. What is disappointing about Last Blood is how mundane its own ambitions and methods really are. The bulk of Last Blood is given over to a story that feels lifted from the most crass of the spiritual descendants of the original Rambo, with the eponymous Vietnam veteran embarking on a mission into the Mexico underworld to recover his surrogate daughter.

That said, Last Blood roars to life in its final act, recapturing some of the thrills that distinguish the series from so many of its imitators and successors. There’s a pulpy absurdist thrill to the film’s final act, which tries awkwardly to combine the wry commentary of the original film with the hyper-violence of the sequels. The result is a film that averages out to somewhere around “just about fine.”

Take a bow.

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Non-Review Review: Paradox

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

The obvious point of comparison for Paradox is Taken.

Of course, Taken is so archetypal an action film that it has become a stock point of comparison for any gritty action movie with a paternal protagonist. However, the similarities to Paradox are quite apparent. Both Paradox and Taken are the stories of fathers who discover that their daughters have been kidnapped while holidaying abroad, and who inevitably use their investigative skills (and their capacity for violence) in order to track down their lost loved one while venturing into a disturbing subculture that exists for the gratification of the rich and the privileged.

Paradox follows veteran Hong Kong police negotiator Lee Chung-Chi when his daughter is kidnapped in Thailand. It quickly becomes clear that the girl has been targeted by illegal organ dealers to provide a heart transplant for the corrupt local mayor, meaning that the father is caught in a desperate race against time to pull back the layers of corruption and indifference that serve to insulate those responsible. Along the way, he teams up with local police inspector Tsui Kit to crack the case.

However, much like the obvious comparison to Taken, the simple plot description does not do justice to the weirdness and tonal awkwardness of Paradox. It is perhaps most accurate to describe Paradox as a film quite like Taken, if Taken featured a scene in which one character dangles another off the roof by their penis.

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Watch! It’s Neeson Season!

To celebrate the release of Taken 2, the guys behind Silence! The Musical – a musical adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs – has released this rather brilliant musical compilation of Liam Neeson’s greatest moments. (Jon and Al Kaplan are also some of the best pop cultural musical minds out there – I adore 24: The Musical, a pitch-perfect musical adaptation of the second season of the show.) By the way, “Neeson season” totally needs to be a thing. Like between blockbuster season and Oscar season.

Anyway, enjoy.

Non-Review Review: Taken 2

Taken 2 doesn’t pack quite the wallop of its predecessor. The original was a fairly standard action movie, elevated by a relatively lean and focused story, driven by a surprisingly effective Liam Neeson. Neeson is back for Taken 2, and he remains the best thing about the sequel. However, the film lacks the focused intensity of its predecessor. Much like its protagonist, the first film was almost single-minded in pursuit of its goal. This time around, there’s a lot more grizzle on the bone. Most of that comes from the decision to expand the world around Bryan Mills. While the movie works efficiently when Mills is driving the plot, it suffers from its decision to saddle him with more of his family this time around, with both the movie and the character almost weighed down.

Okay, which bright spark thought this was a good idea?

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Non-Review Review: Unknown

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Unknown is not, despite what it may want you to believe, anything to do with Taken. I have a sense that audiences catching the film without that pre-existing expectation might enjoy it more than others, but I can’t help but feel the movie suffers by comparison to the earlier film in the “Liam Neeson as badass action hero” subgenre.

Taken for a ride?

Note: By its very nature, this review will involve the very slightest of spoilers. I will literally be discussing the first twenty or so minutes of the film, and I doubt it’s any more than you could discern from the trailers, but I figure it’s worth flagging with the spoiler-conscious out there.

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Non-Review Review: Taken

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

– Bryan Mills

Let’s face it, if the above quote doesn’t appeal to you then you probably aren’t the audience for this action flick.

It's a little like that. Okay, it's a lot like that.

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