Safe


Safe

Jason Statham intimidates Catherine Chan into liking his Facebook page.

(2012) Action (Lionsgate) Jason Statham, Robert John Burke, Chris Sarandon, Catherine Chan, Anson Mount, James Hong, Sandor Tecsy, Joseph Sikora, Igor Jijikine, Reggie Lee, James Colby, Matt O’Toole, Barry Bradford, Jay Giannone. Directed by Boaz Yakin

 

Redemption isn’t easy. It usually requires sacrifice and great risk. You aren’t just handed it; it has to be earned and the greater the transgression, generally the more difficult the redemption.

Luke Wright (Statham) has had what might generously be described as a checkered past. A special forces black ops guy with a set of skills that would make Rambo look like a Disney princess, he had been recruited by the New York City Police Department after 9/11 to help ferret out further terrorist attacks on the Big Apple and eliminate the threats. Permanently.

However he gradually became aware that great corruption had set in his team, led by Captain Wolf (Burke) and Luke blew the whistle. It really didn’t accomplish much other than to get him drummed out of the Force and business as usual resumed. Luke went on to fight in underground MMA fights; however when Luke was enjoined by the Russian mob to take a dive in his fight, the incompetent opponent got himself knocked out before Luke was supposed to take his fall and as a result, the mob murdered his wife and warned him that anyone he befriended would be killed. For several years, Luke lived on the streets alone and anyone who showed him kindness or even attention usually got themselves whacked.

He’d had enough and went to the subway meaning to throw himself in front of a train and finish the job the mob started. However, before he can end it all he sees a little Asian girl being stalked on the platform by the same mobsters who murdered his wife. Unable to stand idly by, he rescues the girl and puts a whole lot of Russian thugs in the morgue.

He discovers the girl’s name is Mei (Chan) and that she’s an orphan gifted with the ability to remember really anything she is told, including really long strings of numbers. She was taken from her home in China by triad boss Han Jiao (Wong) who has set Quan Chang (Lee) to babysit her. Han had recently returned to New York City to give Mei a very long string of numbers to memorize with the instructions that she would soon meet someone who would give her a second very long string of numbers to memorize.

It turns out that one set opens a safe holding $35 million. The other opens a safe that holds a disc containing information of all the Triad’s operations in New York. The Russians will give the contents of one for the contents of the other. The cops want all of it. Everyone’s gunning for this kid and Luke has put himself square in the middle of it.

The results are pretty much carnage; gunfights, martial arts beatdowns, car chases and lots of screaming in Russian, Mandarin and English (well, with a thick New York accent anyway). It’s all good, particularly if you love to see things blow up, things get shot and Jason Statham glowering.

Director Yakin isn’t noted for his action chops but he does a pretty good job here. Action movies need to be kinetic in every sense; the plot has to move along with the action and all things considered, this has a pretty good one. It isn’t anything you haven’t already seen before on either side of the equation – there are no stunts here that take your breath away nor is the plot or story much more than several action classics cobbled together.

Most of those action classics are from the ’70s when the movies tended to be anti-government. Safe harkens back to a day when The Man was literally out to get you and had his goon squads coming down on the innocent, laughing maniacally as they machine gunned innocent civilians. This is little different and only misses big afros, eight track tapes and headbands from those pictures. And maybe Curtis Mayfield on the soundtrack.

Still, Statham is as good at asskicking as any of the 70s heroes (Billy Jack, Shaft, Superfly and so on) and has the Clint Eastwood growl down to boot. The technical end is better as well – this is a pretty good looking film, with plenty of neon, glass breaking and blood spray. Action fans will get their money’s worth and for those who aren’t into action movies? Well, this is as good an introduction to the genre as any but if those sorts of movies aren’t your cup of tea, there isn’t enough else here to really make this worth your while.

REASONS TO GO: Jason Statham kicks ass (as usual). A nice throwback to 70s urban paranoia action flicks.

REASONS TO STAY: Nothing here that you haven’t seen before.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a whole lot of violence, particularly of the gunshot variety and a fair amount of cursing.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first movie in a three-film distribution deal between Lionsgate and IM Global, an international productions company that specializes in action films. Dredd and Protection being the other two films in the deal.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/14/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 54% positive reviews. Metacritic: 55/100. It’s safe to say the reviews have been pretty mixed.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Witness

CAR CHASE LOVERS: There are three distinct car chase scenes during the film.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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New Releases for the Week of April 27, 2012


April 27, 2012

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS

(Columbia) Starring the voices of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman, Jeremy Piven, David Tennant, Brian Blessed, Anton Yelchin, Brendan Gleeson. Directed by Peter Lord

The twisted minds at Aardman Animation, purveyors of the Wallace and Gromit cartoons as well as such features as Arthur Christmas, Chicken Run and Flushed Away take to the high seas for their latest feature. Here, a somewhat inept but enthusiastic Pirate Captain yearns the one prize that has eluded him over his career – the Pirate of the Year award. He must battle fierce rivals such as Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz but also Queen Victoria who wants to eradicate all pirates – forever! What’s a scurvy dog to do?

See the trailer, a featurette and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for mild action, rude humor and some language)

The Five-Year Engagement

(Universal) Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans. When a young couple gets engaged, the plans for their wedding take up all of their attention. So when she gets a job out of town, they decide to postpone, setting off a chain of events that keep their wedding being put off and put off until their relationship is threatened.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: R (for sexual content and language throughout)  

Footnote

(Sony Classics) Shlomo Bar Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Alisa Rosen, Alma Zak. A respected Talmudic scholar whose father is bitter at being cast in his son’s shadow and for having his own research passed over for years finally wins the Israel Award, one of the highest honors in the Israeli academic world. However the son discovers that the award was meant for him and not for his father but can’t bring himself to correct the mistake. So he plays along, discovering things about both his father and himself he’d never have guessed at.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, brief nudity, language and smoking)  

The Raven

(Relativity) John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson.  A literate young Baltimore detective discovers that a series of murders seem to have been inspired by the works of an up-and-coming young author – Edgar Allan Poe. The detective enlists the writer to try and get inside the mind of the killer but this only escalates the stakes as Poe’s love is deemed to be the killer’s next target.

See the trailer, interviews, promos, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for bloody violence and grisly images)

Safe

(Lionsgate) Jason Statham, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon, Catherine Chan. A disgraced detective whose meddling into the affairs of the Russian mob got his family killed and a stigma placed on him – that anyone he knows will be murdered by the mob – spies a young Asian girl being threatened by the mob and is moved to intervene. He discovers that the girl has a talent for memorizing long numbers and holds in her mind a number that not only the Russian mob but also the Chinese mob and the police want very badly. It will be up to protect her from the multitude of crooks and crooked cops out to get the two of them and achieve some kind of redemption.

See the trailer and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for strong violence throughout, and for language)

Tezz

(Eros Entertainment) Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Borman Irani, Phillip Martin Brown. A counter-terrorism expert and a desperate man are pitted against each other on a high speed train rocketing from Glasgow to London. Only one will succeed in their objectives and hundreds of lives hang in the balance.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: NR  

Four-Warned: April 2012


April 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. THE RAVEN (1.1)
2. CABIN IN THE WOODS (1.4)
3. SAFE (1.5)
4. THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE LADY (1.3)
2. WE HAVE A POPE (1.5)
3. MONSIEUR LAZHAR (1.6)
4. COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE (1.7)
TIE. MY WAY (1.7)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

APRIL 4, 2012

TITANIC 3D (Paramount) Genre: Romance. A ship goes down and a lot of people drown yadda yadda yadda. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.8 Another cash grab for those suckers who haven’t seen this in a theater or want to see it again.

APRIL 5, 2012

AIR RACERS 3D (3D Entertainment Distribution) Genre: Documentary. A look at the Reno National Championships Air Race, from its history to its most recent running.. Release Strategy: Limited (IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.2 Not my cup of tea.

APRIL 6, 2012

AMERICAN REUNION (Universal) Genre: Sex Comedy. The teens from American Pie are all grown up and return to town for a 15 year high school reunion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 Basically this franchise went off the rails after the first one; I wonder if this one will have any kind of entertainment value beyond watching grown-ups act like horny teens.
THE ASSAULT (Screen Media) Genre: True Life Drama. The story of the hijacking of the 1994 hijacking of Air France flight 8969 and the determined rescue attempt by the elite counter-terrorism unit of the French National Guard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks like the equivalent of our United 93.
ATM (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. Three co-workers leave a Christmas party to get cash from an ATM which turns into a struggle for survival. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A locked room thriller with a maniacal killer stalking three innocents – always up for that kind of goodness.
COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock’s loving and irreverent visit to San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 I’m geeking out over this already.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of style-obsessed college students take a new girl under their wings until a prospective suitor drives a wedge between all of them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Sort of a cross between a collegiate sex comedy and a dry martini.
THE HUNTER (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A ruthless mercenary hunting a Tasmanian tiger thought to be extinct bonds with a family that is terrorized by the creature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 The trailer was, sad to say, non-impressive to me.
KEYHOLE (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. A gangster enters his home with the body of a young girl and a bound and gagged teenage boy, protected by his gang which is in disarray, pursued by police and seeking his wife in a house that grows stranger by the moment. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 Film noir as filtered through the mind of avant garde Winnipeg-based director Guy Maddin.
PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (Film Fatale) Genre: Documentary. The filmmakers follow Half-a-Mill, a budding rap star from the mean streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn willing to do whatever it takes to achieve stardom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Nope. Not interested.
SURVIVING PROGRESS (First Run) Genre: Documentary. Is progress and technology a good thing for society? Release Strategy: New York City (expands April 20). RATING: 2.8 Based on the book A Short History of Progress.
WE HAVE A POPE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Comedy. The newly elected pope suffers from stage fright and must be seen by a psychiatrist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Look like another sweet, warm-hearted Italian comedy.
WE THE PARTY (Xlrator) Genre: Urban Comedy. Five kids in an ethnically diverse inner-city L.A. High School deal with the pressures of being a teen in the 21st century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Sort of like a Breakfast Club for Generation RFN.

APRIL 11, 2012

THE LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: True Life Drama. Aung San Suu Kyi fights for democracy and peace in Burma against the despotic regime there at the cost of her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most compelling stories of our time with one of the most compelling actresses (Michelle Yeoh) of our time starring in it.
POST-MORTEM (Kino Lorber) Genre: Dramedy. A coroner’s assistant trying to woo a stripper is caught up in the 1973 Chilean coup. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 The newest from the director of Tony Manero.

APRIL 12, 2012

THE EYE OF THE STORM (Sycamore) Genre: Drama. A dying old woman continues to pull the strings on her family even as they hold vigil at her deathbed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A deliciously arch Aussie drama based on the novel by Nobel Laureate Patrick White.

APRIL 13, 2012

BAD ASS (Goldwyn) Genre: Action. A decorated Vietnam vet who becomes a hero 40 years later protecting an elderly black man on a subway looks into the death of a friend that the police are ignoring. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Danny Trejo in the title role – talk about perfect casting!
BLUE LIKE JAZZ (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A young man brought up by evangelical Christians in Texas experiences culture shock when attending one of the most liberal colleges in the country in the Pacific Northwest. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks a little self-indulgent and arrogant to me – not bad things necessarily.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. A group of friends go to a remote cabin in the woods and bad things happen there. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 This is Josh Whedon, man. Anything can happen.
DEADLINE (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Mystery. An investigative journalist re-opens a case of a murdered African-American boy that was never properly investigated by the police. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Inspired by a true story, and reminds us that racism is still with us.
DETENTION (Goldwyn) Genre: Horror Comedy. A group of kids race to stop a serial killer terrorizing their high school – realizing that he is meant to save the world from destruction later. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like it could be an interesting mish-mash that has a healthy amount of self-parody.
HERE (Strand) Genre: Romance. A satellite engineer and an expatriate photographer impulsively decide to take a road trip across the more desolate landscapes of Armenia then must decide where they’re going to go from “here” – once they get there. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 This is a remake of a 1960 Korean film which is considered to be one of the best movies ever produced from that country.
HIT SO HARD (Well Go/Variance) Genre: Musical Documentary. Among the casualties of the grunge movement is Patty Schemel, former drummer of Hole – this is her story. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 A no-punches-pulled look at the effects of drug addiction and rampant out-of-control egos on art and music.
HOW TO GROW A BAND (International Film Circuit) Genre: Musical Documentary. Chris Thile of bluegrass stars Nickel Creek creates a new band that crosses genre lines; the formation of his new group is documented here with unprecedented access. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The music is flat-out amazing.
L!FE HAPPENS (PMK*BNC) Genre: Comedy. A woman who loves to party parties a little too hard and winds up pregnant; her lifestyle is turned on its head but she discovers that parenting has its own rewards. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Looks to be fairly cliche.
LATE BLOOMERS (Olive) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple approaching old age react to it in different ways. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Favorite line: “Getting old ain’t for sissies”.
LOCKOUT (FilmDistrict) Genre: Science Fiction. A crack ex-government agent about to be incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit is called into service to rescue the President’s daughter from an orbital maximum security prison that the prisoners have taken over. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Escape from New York much?
MONSIEUR LAZHAR (Music Box) Genre: Dramedy. A middle school class in Montreal is shaken by the death of their well-liked teacher; an Algerian immigrant volunteers to take over and is hired as a substitute, helping the students cope with their grief as they help him to cope with his own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Film and deservedly so.
THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) Genre: Allegedly a Comedy. Three orphans raised by nuns grow up to be Stooges. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 It just looks like a bad idea executed badly.
TOUCHBACK (Anchor Bay) Genre: Fantasy. A promising football player who is permanently injured on the winning touchdown of the high school championship gets a chance to do it all over again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A little bit like It’s a Wonderful Life only without the angels.
WOMAN, THOU ART LOOSED!: ON THE 7TH DAY (Codeblack) Genre: Thriller. When their young child is kidnapped, a couple are forced to confront their own pasts and secrets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The trailer looks pretty intense.

APRIL 16, 2012

OKI’S MOVIE (Jeonwonsa) Genre: Dramedy. A young woman hikes up a mountain twice a year apart, each time with a different boyfriend which gives her a different perspective both times. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has been on the festival circuit for two years.

APRIL 20, 2012

CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) Genre: Nature Documentary. A young chimpanzee is orphaned in the wild and taken under the wing of the tribe’s alpha male. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Should be one of the most accessible of the DisneyNature films.
DARLING COMPANION (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A distracted husband loses the family dog at their vacation home, prompting a search and rescue operation that will lead the remaining games on a journey of surprising depth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest and Sam Shepard head an awesome cast.
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS (International Film Circuit) Genre: Drama. The virtuoso son of an immigrant finds himself torn between the worlds of classical and pop music. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 A little bit Jazz Singer but the music sounds terrific.
FIGHTVILLE (MPI) Genre: Documentary. A group of young MMA fighters go all-out for their dream in a small town in Southern Louisiana. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Not sure now this stacks up against other TV shows of a similar nature.
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (IFC) Genre: Romance. The chronicle of the romance between Camille and Sullivan, which began during their childhoods. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 As with most French romance films very sensual and very profound.
JESUS HENRY CHRIST (EOne) Genre: Comedy. A prodigious youngster who was a Petri dish baby goes on a quest to find the sperm donor who helped create him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Includes the great Michael Sheen and Toni Collette in the cast; looks pretty good.
THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romance. A soldier picks up a photograph of a woman in the rubble and is saved by that act; after he is discharged he hunts for the woman in the photo to thank her and discovers that she has far more effect in his life than he first realized. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Yes, it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation; enjoy it for what it is.
MARLEY (Magnolia) Genre: Musical Documentary. The story of reggae icon Bob Marley whose music still is causing ripples in both the political and social landscape of the world. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 From Academy Award-winning documentarian Kevin Macdonald.
THE MOTH DIARIES (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A bereaved girl at an all-girl’s boarding school suspects that the glamorous new girl is a vampire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 This has been done before but with Mary Harron directing this could be quite interesting.
MY WAY (PMK*BNC) Genre: War. Bitter boyhood rivals find themselves fighting both against each other and for the same side during World War II. Release Strategy: Limited (Expands May 4). RATING: 1.7 Looks like some absolutely stunning war footage from the trailer.
PENUMBRA (IFC) Genre: Horror. On the day of a solar eclipse, a greedy Argentine businesswoman rents her decrepit family apartment to the wrong guy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very Roman Polanski-esque, particularly of his works from the 1960s.
THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) Genre: Urban Romance. A group of men are startled to find that the objects of their affections have read Steve Harvey’s bestselling book and now know all of their moves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.6 I can’t say as this looked terribly interesting from the preview.
TO THE ARCTIC 3D (Warner Brothers) Genre: Nature Documentary. Climate changes threaten the polar bear population in the Arctic. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX). RATING: 3.4 The last IMAX nature doc from Warners was unimpressive.

APRIL 25, 2012

PAYBACK (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. An essay by acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood on the nature of debt is examined in this documentary who uses it to help us understand the changing political and economic reality of our world. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.9 Atwood is one of the greatest minds of the past century; her perspective is one worth looking into.

APRIL 27, 2012

96 MINUTES (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Thriller. Four kids are caught in the maelstrom of a carjacking – not all of them are innocent and not all of them will survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Supposedly inspired by true events, the trailer looks like a run-of-the-mill thriller.
BERNIE (Millennium) Genre: Drama. A small Texas town is shocked when one of its most well-liked citizens is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Also a true story albeit more offbeat; terrific cast includes Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey.
CITIZEN GANGSTER (IFC) Genre: Crime Drama. A World War II veteran is reduced to robbing banks to get by but love and crime make for an explosive concoction. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 I’m still kinda wait-and-see based on the trailer.
ELLES (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. A young mother working as an investigative journalist for Elle magazine looking into student prostitution finds her perceptions of the world’s oldest profession changing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Provocative and eye-opening, might offend blue-noses with the portrayal of prostitutes as essentially pragmatic, strong women.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT (Universal) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Two people engaged to be married are forced by circumstances to continually push out their wedding date. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Jason Segel and Emily Blunt make an attractive couple.
HEADHUNTERS (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A Norwegian headhunter living beyond his means gets in way over his head when he tries to acquire a rare painting from a mercenary by any means necessary. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) Genre: Animated Feature. A somewhat befuddled pirate vies for the Pirate of the Year award with a crew that is more enthusiastic than competent. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.8 The newest animated feature from Aardman looks like a ton of fun.
THE RAVEN (Relativity) Genre: Thriller. A series of murders based on those found in a series of stories force police to call in the author who penned them – Edgar Allen Poe . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 You had me at John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe.
SAFE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A former MMA fighter who blew a rigged fight which caused the Russian mafia to decree that anyone who develops a relationship with him will be killed takes a young Chinese girl under his wing that might be the key to his redemption – or death. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Jason Statham is my favorite action star at the moment and this one looks like it could be one of his best.
SOUND OF MY VOICE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A husband-wife documentary filmmaking team infiltrate a cult leader’s inner circle with unforeseen results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks like it could be an early Oscar hopeful from the indie ranks.
WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE (Well Go USA) Genre: War. During World War II an uprising of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan threaten the invading Japanese hold on the island. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Actually looks really well-made with some pretty complex action sequences.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Lockout, The Lady, Monsieur Lazhar, Chimpanzee, The Lucky One, The Five-Year Engagement, Headhunters, Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Raven, Safe

The Dukes


The Dukes

The Dukes engage in a competition to see which one can hold his arms at his sides the longest.

(2007) Dramedy (CAVU) Robert Davi, Chazz Palminteri, Peter Bogdanovich, Frank D’Amico, Elya Baskin, Miriam Margolyes, Eloise DeJoria, Melora Hardin, Bruce Weitz, Joseph Campanella, Dominic Scott Kay, Elaine Hendrix, Alphonse Mouzon. Directed by Robert Davi

There are those in this life who seem forever doomed to be runners-up, also-rans and second-raters. It just seems as if no matter how hard they try, they never win the blue ribbon. They’re the sorts who get attendance awards in school, who are snubbed by all the girls except for the ones who can’t get dates, and who seem to have the knack for parlaying what talents they do have into mediocrity and obscurity.

The Dukes define this trait. A doo-wop band from the 60s, they got big just as the trend was on its way out and managed one minor hit to call their own before music passed them by. Still, they labor gamely on, led by their cockroach of a manger Lou (Bogdanovich), playing seedy dives and getting work in awful commercials in which they must dress as fruits and vegetables.

Still, Danny (Davi) is reasonably optimistic, despite a lifetime of letdowns. Then, when his ex-wife Diane (Hardin) gets his son’s teeth fixed by the orthodontist she’s dating, it seems like the last straw. He can’t even provide for his family like a man and little wonder since he and brother George (Palminteri) have resorted to working in their Aunt Vee’s (Margolyes) kitchen, slinging plates of pasta while dreaming of opening their own place.

When they get wind of a fortune in gold being kept in a dentist’s vault, they and fellow Dukes Murph (Baskin) and Armond (D’Amico) decide to pull off a heist, something that will solve all of their money problems. They enlist the aid of a professional (Weitz) to teach them what they need to know to pull off the job. Of course, given the track record of the Dukes they’re going to need a lot more than that.

Davi has made a living playing the heavy in films like Licence to Kill and The Goonies; this might come as a bit of a surprise for those who know him through those roles. Here he plays a somewhat lovable kind-hearted schlub who dreams of better days, but never quite gets there. As a director he doesn’t do anything that gets too far out of his comfort zone. He doesn’t take a lot of chances, but he does his job competently and to be honest that’s all you can ask for out of a first time director.

The always-reliable Palminteri excels as the chubby-chasing George. This isn’t anything too far out of Palminteri’s wheelhouse – he has always done well with quirky – and he reacts with a solid performance. He and Davi have some chemistry together too with that love-hate relationship that characterizes most brothers well-defined.

This isn’t the kind of movie that’s going to get you any particular insight nor is it going to stick around your memory far beyond the closing credits. Nonetheless, its nifty entertainment that won’t leave you terribly disappointed either. Sometimes that’s all you really need.

WHY RENT THIS: The movie has a sweet nature at its center.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: While sweet, the calories are ultimately empty ones.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief sexuality and a couple of drug references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Davi starred in, directed and wrote the script, which was inspired by a stint working in a 1977 TV movie Contract on Cherry Street with real-life 60s rock star Jay Black of Jay and the Americans.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $26,875 on an unreported production budget; the movie was a flop in its theatrical release.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Fast Five