BLONDE. purple


Robbery, assault and battery.

(2021) Crime Drama (1091) Julian Moore-Cook, Ellie Bindman, Adam J. Bernard, Jennifer Lee Moon, Jessica Murrain, Roger Ajogbe, Andy Chaplin, Joe Gallina, Nicholas Grey, Daniel Jordan, Jennifer Lee Moon, Emily Swain, Richard Sandling, Jess Radomska, Stella Taylor, Oliver Silver, Al Gregg, David Ngara-O’Dwyer, Ryan Molloy, Martin Smith, Thomasin Lockwood. Directed by Marcus Flemmings

When things are going well, everybody tends to be generous and kindly. It is when things are exploding in our face that our true characters tend to emerge. Nothing explodes in the face quite like a bank robbery gone sideways.

And that is exactly what’s happened to Wyatt (Moore-Cook), a man who requires an immediate infusion of cash that is talked into doing something he’s never done before – rob a bank. His more experienced partner, Nath (Bernard), has been shot and taken to the hospital. Wyatt is left with a teenage girl Maddison (Bindman) as a hostage and a hostage negotiator (Gray) who might be the least suited for the job in the history of law enforcement.

In the two hours or so of the film’s run time, we get to meet these characters and others in their orbit. We find out that other members of the crew, like the hot-tempered Ant (Sandling), dropped out of the heist before it even began. We meet femme fatale Saida (Moon). And through it all, we see how Wyatt got into a situation that is so far over his head that it might as well be Mt. Everest.

Flemmings, whose last film Six Rounds (which Bernard starred in) showed immense promise, improves on that film here. The dialogue is far better, a quantum leap in fact. There is a noir-ish quality to it that is tantalizing. His eye for casting talented unknowns continues, as Moore-Cook and Bindman both shine. Bernard, who continues to impress, is a scene-stealer in a supporting role that you won’t soon forget. He’s an actor with the presence to carry franchise-level pictures, mark my words.

The drawback here is in the pacing and the editing. The film bounces around with a cornucopia of flashbacks which from time to time interrupt the momentum the film is building. This sort of thing can be frustrating to a viewer and as a critic, I tend to advocate simple storytelling devices to young filmmakers. Too many flashbacks can spoil a film like too much salt can spoil an entrée. Also, the movie is set in America, but the cast is British and it was filmed there. While I get the sense that Flemmings was trying to make a comment on American racial relations (a prologue Montage shows incendiary moments in American racial tension, from the Civil Rights era right up through the marches of Black Lives Matter), but there are too many English accents to make the movie believable as American-set. However, there is a killer soundtrack of classic R&B and retro-soul that is absolutely perfect for the film’s atmosphere.

In general, though, this is a movie that has a good deal going for it. Flemmings’ movies tend to be intelligent and thought-provoking which is a commodity that should be encouraged in any filmmaker. The good news is that this movie isn’t a step backwards for Flemmings; he’s moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if his next movie made a serious impact on the independent movie scene. No pressure, right?

REASONS TO SEE: The soundtrack is essential.
REASONS TO AVOID: The edit could have been a bit tighter (loses steam when it bounces around to various elements).
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In addition to being a film director, the London-born Flemmings has also been a fashion photographer.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/14/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dog Day Afternoon
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
Set!

Baby Driver


Baby and Debora want their Big Mac meals right NOW!!!

(2017) Action Comedy (TriStar) Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Elza Gonzalez, Micah Howard, Morgan Brown, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Morse Diggs, Flea, CJ Jones, Paul Williams, Big Boi, Killer Mike, Lance Palmer, Sky Ferreira, Lanny Joon, Hudson Meek, Brogan Hall, Richard Marcos Taylor, Viviana Chavez, Hal Whiteside, Brigitte Kali. Directed by Edgar Wright

 

This has been a really good year for quirky action movies and this one is one of the best of the year. British director Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) channels Tarantino through a Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack filter and turns in an absolute gem.

Baby (Elgort) is a getaway driver par excellence. Due to a childhood accident, he suffers from tinnitus – a ringing of the ear that can sometimes be distracting. To combat this, he wears an iPod and ear buds to drown out the white noise with classic rock and roll from such diverse groups as The Damned, Golden Earring, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and T-Rex.

He works for a criminal named Doc (Spacey) who robs banks, although he doesn’t actually do the robbing himself; he puts together the master pan and assembles the crews. The only common denominator is Baby who he considers his “good luck charm” and who besides owes Doc a debt which he pays for with each job. Baby has one more job to go before the debt is paid but Doc doesn’t really want to let him go.

The trouble is from Doc’s standpoint is that Baby has found himself a girlfriend, Debora (James) who waitresses at the diner he frequents. The two are eager to get the heck out of Dodge (or at least Atlanta) and drive west and never stop but Doc has Baby sucked in. Still, Baby has his own plans and he might just be able to outthink the brilliant Doc if he gets a few breaks going his way.

The action sequences which were done practically and without CGI are flat-out amazing. Some of the best car chase sequences since Bullitt populate this film. The backstory and mythology of the piece is riveting and Wright populates this world with a cast of characters that would do the aforementioned Tarantino proud. The dialogue as you would expect from an Edgar Wright film is smart and occasionally brilliant.

Elgort who has not impressed me particularly to this point does so here. He’s done a lot of teen heartthrob films and he is completely wasted in them; this is the kind of movie he was born to do and he makes the most of it. The rest of the cast is uniformly at the top of their games, with Hamm and Foxx particularly noteworthy.

Since allegations of sexual misconduct came out against Spacey a few weeks ago, there are likely many who will want to boycott the film because of his presence in it and yes, he plays a very critical role and takes up a good deal of screen time. I won’t begin to excuse his performance or advise for or against boycotting this film because of it but I will say that while he shows off the best of his abilities here, I can understand why people will want to give this film a miss because of his presence. Again, I won’t judge anyone’s moral compass other than to say that the rest of the cast and crew who made this one of the year’s best movies may deserve your support in this case but again, it is understandable if you choose to withhold it. Nevertheless this is one of the year’s best films.

REASONS TO GO: The action sequences are second to none. Elgort gives the best performance of his career to date and has real chemistry with James. The backstory is not only credible but entertaining. The soundtrack is spot on.
REASONS TO STAY: It’s quite possible that the film is too hip for its own good. The presence of the disgraced Spacey may make it a moral choice whether to support this film or not.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence and profanity throughout the film.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: CJ Jones, who plays Joseph (a deaf character) is himself deaf.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/17/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 86/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Logan Lucky
FINAL RATING: 8.5/10
NEXT:
Mr. Roosevelt

Flypaper (2011)


Patrick Dempsey auditions for a TV cop show role.

Patrick Dempsey auditions for a TV cop show role.

(2011) Comedy (IFC) Patrick Dempsey, Ashley Judd, Tim Blake Nelson, Mekhi Phifer, Matt Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, John Ventimiglia, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Curtis Armstrong, Rob Huebel, Adrian Martinez, Natalia Safran, Octavia Spencer, Eddie Matthews, Rob Boltin, James DuMont, Judy Durning, Joseph Nemmers, Monica Acosta, Kasey Emas. Directed by Rob Minkoff

Greed is a big motivator. It attracts us like a magpie to shiny things. We want more, we want it all. Well, that’s true for some of us anyway.

It’s closing time at a bank which is about to receive a major security software update. Once the doors are closed the bank will be locked down for the night, its security systems offline. The employees are getting ready to go home when a trio of armed bandits come in through the back. They’re well-armed and professional.

As if things weren’t bad enough, a couple more robbers come in through the front door – two bumblers named Peanut Butter (Nelson) and Jelly (Vince). They aren’t affiliated with the other gang – they’re just there to take down the ATMs. Still, you can’t have two gangs in the same bank without a gunfight and that’s precisely what happens. An innocent bystander gets shot and killed in the crossfire, further raising the stakes.

Locked in the bank now, the last customer of the bank, a compulsive man named Tripp (Dempsey) suggests that both gangs can have what they want. An uneasy truce is negotiated between PB&J and their rivals (Phifer, Ventimiglia, Ryan). Tripp and the remaining bank employees – obsequious manager Blythe (Tambor), the creepy security guard (Martinez) and tellers Kaitlin (Judd) and her sassy colleague Madge (Spencer) are herded upstairs and told to wait in a conference room.

But Tripp, the obsessive sort that he is, can’t let go of the nagging thought that there’s someone else pulling the strings. Too many coincidences. So he decides to investigate. That can be a very dangerous thing when amidst trigger-happy thugs who take their place on the FBI’s most wanted list quite seriously.

Minkoff is best-known for directing The Lion King and Stuart Little. He hasn’t done a lot of non-family films and he went after a script penned by the co-writers of The Hangover. This isn’t on par with any of those films except for maybe Stuart Little.

It’s not for lack of effort. Dempsey is one of the most engaging actors today. It’s incomprehensible that he isn’t an A-list star by this point but most of his romantic comedies have done solid but not spectacular business. Here he shows some real skill. His character is full of tics that could easily have overwhelmed the film but Dempsey wisely plays them down and let’s his character serve the story rather than the other way around.

Judd is a usually reliable actress who has been flying under the radar of late. She does a credible job here but she really doesn’t have much to work with. She does have a bit of a romantic subplot with Dempsey’s character but it really doesn’t burn up the screen nor prove to be anything more than a brief distraction.

Nelson and Vince make a good team as Peanut Butter and Jelly, with a kind of earthy bumpkin charm to the both of them. They make an ideal counterpoint to the other three who are straight men with an edge. Phifer deserves better.

There are some real funny moments but not enough of them for my taste. The twists and turns are pretty predictable to the moviegoer with even below average intelligence and the characters other than Tripp aren’t particularly well-drawn. Still, it has its own innate charm and that can’t be discounted. You can seek this out if you’d like to but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time looking for it.

WHY RENT THIS: Dempsey should be a bigger star than he is. Some funny moments.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Not enough funny moments. The twists are pretty predictable.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some violence, a fair amount of bad language and some sexuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Tripp’s medication, Depakene, is a mood stabilizer normally prescribed for Bipolar disorder patients, implying that is what Tripp is suffering from.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are some one-on-one interviews with members of the cast and crew.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $3.1M on an unreported production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dog Day Afternoon

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

NEXT: The Godfather