Category Archives: 2010s

Suburbicon (2017)

*. This movie has to rate way up there on the “what were they thinking?” index.
*. It has a lot, really almost everything, going for it. The cast is solid, with Matt Damon and Julianne Moore backed up by a collection of wonderful character. Noah Jupe turns in a great child performance in a lead part with almost no lines. The production and design are nearly flawless (I’d only mark them down for a really lousy hospital set in the early going). The photography is beautiful. George Clooney does a professional turn directing.
*. But then there’s the script. Or really two scripts. It doesn’t just feel like two stories unhappily stitched together, it is two scripts unhappily stitched together. One was a typical Coen Brothers black-comedy crime thriller which had been sitting around for twenty years, the other a historical drama about a black family that faced racism in the Levittown community they moved into in the 1950s.
*. What do these two stories have to do with each other? Nothing. Even thematically or tonally: nothing. Critics were mystified. Not only were the stories unrelated, they were scarcely connected in terms of the plot. They didn’t even belong in the same movie. So: what were they thinking?
*. I can’t answer that question. But in terms of pacing and structure it throws the entire film out of whack.
*. Sticking with the main (white family) plot, what we get is the usual Coen Brothers tale of mistakes leading to misunderstandings leading to bloody ironies. Matt Damon plays William Macy playing Gardner Lodge, who is involved in a sordid (and wildly improbable) scheme to get rid of his wife and run away with her sister. Of course things go wrong, since the scheme is so complicated it has no chance of success. The usual violent chaos results.
*. Even by itself I can’t say this would have been terribly interesting, especially given the slow first act. Also, the idea that the suburban America of the Leave It to Beaver era was actually a facade (see what horrors lurk in the basement!), with Suburbicon itself being a Potemkin village, is such a cliché that it should have been retired twenty or thirty years ago.
*. No point in saying anything more. I was bored and mystified. Perhaps with so much attention to detail and the actual craft of filmmaking nobody noticed or was able to take a step back and realize that the project as a whole was so incoherent. That’s the best I can do in coming up with an explanation.

Advertisements

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

*. This is almost a guilty pleasure. Which means I like it a lot more than I know I should. I can’t say I like it enough to make it a true guilty pleasure though.
*. The story picks up right where Kingsman: The Secret Service left off. And by that I mean that it’s non-stop video game action stuffed into a whacko plot that is vulgar, juvenile, violent, and stupid but also endearingly surreal. Poppy’s ’50s Americana-style jungle hideout is just one of the crazy locations that I really enjoyed. But it’s when we see inside the sports stadium and its giant warehousing of cages that I really started to like the movie. It’s all so wildly over-the-top you have to give in.
*. The cast is filled with surprising supporting characters, and I think most of them work pretty well. Elton John is fine, but I think he was given a bit too much to do seeing as he isn’t an actor. Halle Barry, on the other hand, is underused. Unless they were just saving her for the next film in the series.
*. Julianne Moore’s Poppy seems to have divided people. I thought she was an original creation that fit the psychadelic-psychotic tone of the proceedings well. Director Matthew Vaughn wanted a “Martha Stewart on crack . . . a kooky, sweet, Stepford Wives-style villain,” and he got it.
*. My heart initially sank a little when I saw the running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes. And the original cut was apparently an hour and 20 minutes longer!
*. I think they could have cut even more, as there are some bits that don’t work, like the use of the “Take Me Home, Country Roads” song. But this is a movie that’s all about taking everything too far and being too much. Its virtues and its vices are excess. And when it’s over . . . pfft.

The Monster (2016)

*. We begin with an epigraph taken from some generic fairy tale. This suits, since as far as stories go it doesn’t get much simpler than this. I mean, even the title is generic.
*. So, mother and daughter are driving through the forest in a rainstorm when they’re in an accident. A monster proceeds to stalk them. Add in a couple of other elements that hardly count as twists: conflict between the two leads (mom is an alcoholic) and a pair of rescue fails (tow truck and ambulance drivers). Mother makes grand self-sacrificing gesture. Little girl shows pluck and resiliency in destroying the monster.
*. You’ll notice I didn’t bother with the spoiler alert. Because really, there’s nothing to this story to spoil. You should be able to tell where all this is going after the first few minutes. There are no surprises.
*. Nor is there anything very scary going on. Writer-director Bryan Bertino also wrote and directed The Strangers, another conventional horror flick that didn’t have any scares in it. I’m not sure what attracts him to the genre. He sets himself a difficult challenge here — making a movie largely bound to a single restricted set — but does nothing to exploit it for suspense or the usual claustrophobic thrills.
*. “No one very much takes this road anymore.” You don’t say. Tow truck companies and ambulance dispatchers also do a shit job of checking in with their employees. This road seems to be a black hole for people and for information.
*. Points for not having a CGI creature. Yes, he looks like a guy in a rubber monster suit, topped off with an immobile head (does his mouth even open?), but at least he isn’t another cartoon.
*. Seeing as the girl’s name is Lizzy, I wonder why her mom has a “Martina” tattoo. Or maybe Zoe Kazan has a Martina tatoo and they just didn’t bother covering it up.
*. Such a simple fairy tale invites being interpreted as a metaphor. This is another movie where the real monster is in fact a bad mother. Think The Babadook. The threatened family has long been a horror staple, but now it is threatened from within, representing a generation’s anxiety over its childraising competence. So Lizzy is the adult in the family, and really the best/only thing her mother can do for her is to just get out of the way.
*. This would all be well enough, and The Monster a decent B-picture, but for the ending. Not only is Kathy a bad mother, she is a total idiot. Her “plan” for escaping the monster is jaw-droppingly stupid. Even as the expression of a death wish it doesn’t hold much water, since it would have doomed Lizzy as well. Then Lizzy’s own plan has no business working but for the strange passivity the monster has toward her, and its even stranger flammability. I mean, it’s slimy, and wet, but is it also covered in oil? That’s the only way I can see it turning into a fireball like that.
*. It’s still not a bad movie. Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine are both pretty good, though their interactions become repetitive because the script doesn’t really know what to do with them once their basic dynamic has been introduced. On their way to a better movie, however, their car broke down.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

*. I wasn’t paying much attention when I decided to take a chance on this one. Directed by David Leitch. The name didn’t ring a bell, but then the DVD box says that he directed (co-directed, actually) John Wick. Oh, shit.
*. I don’t mean to knock Leitch. He got his start, I believe, as a stunt man and he’s certainly capable of doing a great fight scene. But I didn’t like John Wick (though I did like the sequel, not directed by Leitch) so I didn’t have much hope for this one.
*. It should have been much better. I’d rather watch Charlize Theron for a couple of hours over Keanu Reeves for any amount of time. The action scenes are almost exclusively martial arts and fisticuffs instead of first-person-shooter video game nonsense. But aside from that . . .
*. Well, the fights are good. Theron makes good use of a power cord in one, and then there’s a prolonged tussel in a stairwell and adjacent apartments that’s wonderfully done up to make it look like it’s all a single take (which it isn’t). But, um, aside from that . . .
*. I can think of few other action films where I cared less about the plot. I mean I cared so little I didn’t even bother trying to follow what was going on. There’s a twist at the end that meant nothing to me. These twists only work, I think we can lay it down as a rule, when you actually care what’s going on before the twist.
*. It’s apparently based on a graphic novel that I haven’t read. As far as I can tell, Leitch didn’t really care much about this side of things either. On the DVD commentary he remarks how the music was meant to drive the movie right from the start. So again we’re watching a video game, maybe one of those Grand Theft Auto ones with the retro soundtrack turning it into a violent jukebox.

*. I guess I should like the music more, since it’s what I grew up with, but it’s all remixes and I didn’t see how much of it had anything to do with what was going on. I laughed the first time I heard Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and rolled my eyes the second time.
*. Nice seeing Stalker on the big screen, but was that really what East German audiences were watching at the multiplex in the ’80s?
*. Yes, Theron as the lethal lady in lingerie, and with a (clichéd) lesbian sex scene to boot, is a plus. But was she even trying to act? She hardly shows any emotion at all the entire movie. Keanu Reeves might have done that.
*. For Leitch the directive was that “cool overrides everything.” Given the basic grammar of this type of movie, isn’t that more like a default setting? Wouldn’t it have been more of a challenge to have injected a note of almost anything other than cool into the proceedings?
*. Was there really any point to the framing device of the debriefing? The story certainly didn’t seem complex enough to warrant it, and I don’t see how it made any difference.
*. I’m a little surprised at the decent reviews this one got. Theron got a lot of praise, but I thought she was basically a robot and anybody could have played the part as well. Other than that, this is a movie with a couple of really good fight scenes and nothing else.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

*. I had a moment of misgiving just before I started in on John Wick: Chapter 2. Not because I didn’t like John Wick (I didn’t), but because I’d pretty much forgotten what that film had been about. Was I going to be able to follow the sequel?
*. There was no reason to fear. Chapter 2 begins with John (Keanu Reeves) messily tidying up loose ends from the previous film and it didn’t matter (at least to me) that I had no memory of what those loose ends were. It was all just carnage.
*. So the story here is that John thought he was out of the game but he gets roped back in by way of some arcane oath of the assassins’ guild that he’s a member of. He performs a high profile hit in Rome but soon realizes he’s been double crossed and that there’s an open contract on his head. I think that covers it.

*. Given how little I thought of the first movie, my expectations were low going in. I’m happy to say however that those expectations were surpassed and that I actually liked Chapter 2. Sure it’s dumb, but it’s a lot more fun than the previous film. Here are some improvements.
*. (1) It’s less of a video game and more of a comic book. What I mean by this, primarily, is that there’s more of a fantasy superhero storyline to follow and less first-person shooter fight scenes (though it has those as well). And the storyline was even a bit interesting. Certainly more so than the first movie, whose plot I had, as I’ve said, totally forgotten.
*. (2) There’s more humour. I mentioned in my notes on John Wick how they hadn’t exploited Keanu Reeves’ constipated delivery and natural comic ability to deadpan everything. Think Christian Bale with a saving hint of irony. Well, they get more out of that here. “The blade is in your aorta” is almost laugh-out-loud good (I mean, how does he even know?), but most of the best lines (not the ones written for the trailer) bring quiet smiles. Look at the expression on John’s face when Franco Nero asks him is he has come to Rome for the Pope. Damn, Keanu Reeves is actually good in this movie. I’m as surprised as you.
*. (3) We get some nice scenery. Mostly Rome (which, according to producer Basil Iwanyk in one of the “making of” featurettes, “has been around for a thousand years”) and New York (or Montreal standing in for New York). They also pick some nice settings for the fight sequences. I liked the dramatically lit catacombs and the rolling down the steps and the struggle on the subway car. OK, the hall of mirrors is old, but it looks terrific here tricked out to look all bright and shiny like a pinball game. You can’t go wrong with the classics.

*. Because it’s a comic book it’s all a fantasy, so you don’t even mind the way John keeps shooting up cities without any sign of law enforcement. Nor does the general public seem all that impressed at what’s going on. It’s almost like John and the assassins exist in some kind of parallel reality next door to our own, what I think director Chad Stahelski means when he talks about the “Wick World” on the commentary. The assassins walk (and fight, and shoot) among us, but we can’t see them.

*. In addition to all the great locations from the action sequences I have to acknowledge how much I enjoyed the assassin switchboard. I think it was the way all the ’50s-style operators are covered in tattoos. Tats are big in Wick World.
*. So John has a bad-ass dog but he doesn’t bother giving it a name and we never see it doing anything. Perhaps in the next film. Otherwise I’m not sure what he’s there for.

*. Ruby Rose looks tough, but she doesn’t get much of a final fight with John does she? On the other hand, since we never actually see her die she might be back for the sequel. I’m assuming Cassian (Common) will have that knife out of his aorta by then too.
*. Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King seems to be settling into his role as Wise Black Man now. Which is almost a shame. But then, Ian McShane is just as typecast these days.
*. Yes, it’s all brainless noise. But in a market crowded with brainless noise it’s better than most. The end here even left me looking forward to the next instalment. It’s John against everyone now, and do you doubt he will prevail? To adapt Archimedes: just give him enough bullets and he could depopulate the world.

The Forbidden Room (2015)

*. The Forbidden Room has no linear narrative. Instead it has a nesting structure, what Hillary Weston in her essay included with the DVD liner notes likens to a set of Russian dolls. The stories within stories form a series of echoing rings around each other, and we start on the outside and work our way in.
*. The structure fits the theme, which (at least in my reading of it) is all about digging into ever deeper layers of the unconscious. We begin in the depths, on board a submarine, and from there go even deeper. This spelunking may be presented in physical terms: entering a cave, for example, or “going deep, going deeper, deeper still” into the skull of a man with a sexual fetish that surgery is seeking to correct.

*. What this is all meant to represent, again in my opinion, is psychosexual mining. The forester enters the pink cavern to look for his kidnapped love, the volcano bubbles over with hot flowing magma, the submarine, the psychologist’s cigar . . . that sort of thing. I don’t think there’s any section of the film that doesn’t make use of this motif. The captain’s mother’s room on the submarine must be a womb, wherein is found a naked woman covered in pink gel. And the shot of the train entering “within a broken pelvis” (on the x-ray) is an entry into just another forbidden room stacked with the mess of memory and desire.
*. Even the way the film moves, with its repetition of going in and pulling out, is sexual. And all that heavy breathing, which is pushing air in and out, complements the pervy action perfectly.
*. Now noting that the structure fits the theme is one thing. But as themes go it’s kind of vague and, as I began by saying, there’s no story to carry it. Personally, I think some of the signals get mixed. For starters, the point of the movie was to recover a bunch of unfinished or lost films from the silent era. Since this has always been a big part of Guy Maddin’s thing as a director it should have been a perfect fit. And it is, if what you want is a creative reimagining of the films of that era.
*. It doesn’t look anything at all like a silent film though. It’s a completely different aesthetic. The rapid editing, jerky camera, weird angles, and constant layering and superimposition of images seems more like Oliver Stone’s JFK than anything from the silent era.

*. What a weird commentary with co-directors Maddin and Evan Johnson. I wonder if they really take all that stuff about appropriating voice, mansplaining, and the male gaze seriously. It was like listening to Jordan Peele’s commentary on Get Out and wondering how many times he would say “woke.”
*. I did like the suggestion they made that they were remaking Inception. I’m sure that was a joke, but there’s enough of a hook there for it to be funny.
*. Just like Inception, or any such framed narrative, when you get all the way in you realize the structure of the film has turned inside out and you’re back on the outside being drawn in again. At least that’s the feeling I had. It’s not a movie I wanted to re-watch right away, but I have gone back to it a couple of times and I’m sure I will again. It’s that rich, in ways both premeditated and accidental.
*. Well, I know a lot of people don’t care for this kind of filmmaking but I really enjoy it and I had a great time with The Forbidden Room. I thought it was clever, funny, intriguing, silly, and even beautiful at times. I don’t think it adds up to anything more than a filmmaker’s sketchbook, but where else are you going to find movies of this unique a texture?

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

*. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a really unoriginal movie, which means there’s not much to say about it, since I don’t even think it can be said to represent much of anything. It tells the standard buddy-action film story, with sophisticated executive bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) finding himself protecting street-smart hit man, and former adversary, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). They fight, find things they have in common, bond, and kill all the bad guys sent to kill them. At the end, they accomplish their missions and get their respective girls.
*. It’s hard to think such a clichéd plot could be taken seriously. Two things to take note of: (1) the original script was on the industry Black List of “most liked” unproduced screenplays; and (2) it was not initially planned as a comedy. I don’t know which of these factlets is more surprising. Perhaps a combination of the two. I mean, if it was such a highly regarded script, why did it have to be changed so fundamentally, in what was apparently a rush job, before it got made?
*. Watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard it didn’t take long for my mind to begin to drift. I only had a couple of thoughts about the movie. First: Ryan Reynolds can pretty much charm his way through anything. He just has that “it” quality that immediately draws us toward him. Second: What could Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman have seen in their woeful parts that would have made them want to do this movie? She is a violent, foul-mouthed con and he’s a Belarussian dictator. As with everyone else in the movie they are clichéd characters who only exist to spout a bunch of clichéd lines. I guess they were paid well, but still. If you were an actor and you read a script like this wouldn’t your heart sink?
*. Sure, if you know what you like and what you like is a conventional shoot-’em-up action film then this pretty much delivers. There are a couple of extended and (I thought) well executed chase scenes. Reynolds and Jackson crack wise together. Everything happens just the way you want, and expect, it to happen. A sequel is reported to be in the works. No surprise there, either.

Red Sparrow (2018)

*. “The Cold War did not end. It shattered into a thousand dangerous pieces.” So Charlotte Rampling’s Rosa Klebb (or simply Matron, as she’s styled here) tells the entering class of new students at Russia’s top secret spy school. I appreciated the heads-up, because without it I might have thought this film was set some forty years earlier.
*. Apparently I was not alone. When the novel was first optioned the producers planned to push the story back to the 1970s. They changed their minds, but then others noticed that the plot was very similar to a 1985 TV movie called Secret Weapons. The point being not that the novel was plagiarized but that it is wholly generic. It’s a Cold War spy thriller, and in Hollywood at least the Cold War really hasn’t ended.
*. The novel was written by Jason Matthews, who got some credit for having been a former CIA operative (whatever that entails). I ask: so what? The story here is preposterous (though played straight) and doesn’t contain anything interesting or new on the level of tradecraft. It’s actually a bit depressing that these are the kind of paperback fantasies (drawn from Fleming, LeCarre, or Ludlum) bored CIA employees are still having. Oh, those sexy but deadly Russian agents who were formerly prima ballerinas! They never get old.
*. Despite (or perhaps because) of the clichéd story, Matthews was paid a lot of money for the rights to his book. Plus there was the fact that it was only the first volume in a trilogy, meaning it had franchise potential. As if we needed any more such films.
*. There is much not to like. The plot is less complex than silly. Even Dominika’s name is unrealistic, and had to be changed to Veronica when the film was released in Russia because apparently no one would believe a name like Dominika.
*. Two hours and 20 minutes. Egad. There was no need for it to go on so long. They should have wrapped all this up in an hour and a  half.
*. The whole training school section was a waste, as there was no psychological movement to be tracked, as in Nikita, and the only lessons Dominika learns have to do with general principles of male sexuality that I think every girl has figured out by the time she’s finished high school. I mean the West may have grown weak — “drunk on shopping and social media,” as Matron says — but at least we don’t have to send our kids to special state schools that use porn videos to show us what turns guys on.

*. There’s some skin. Jennifer Lawrence has a nice ass, and is not afraid to wear a totally impractical swimsuit to do laps in at a public pool (that top would have set her boobs free as soon as she hit the water). Unfortunately she’s saddled with one of those awful Russian accents that are impossible to take seriously.
*. There’s some violence, much of it with a seasoning of sex. I’ve even seen it stuck it with the label of torture porn, and given the way things play out I think there’s some fairness to the charge. Director Francis Lawrence wanted a “hard R” rating from the start, but to what end? There is nothing either erotic or suspenseful in what’s going on.
*. Why does Dominika hate her uncle so much anyway? He doesn’t arrange her ballet accident. Once her leg is broken she doesn’t have many options and he gives her one. She calls her spy training “whore school,” but isn’t that just being bitchy? If her uncle had wanted to make her his kept woman, given his position and her suddenly precarious position he surely could have. But he doesn’t. There are suggestions of his attraction to her throughout, but we don’t actually see him proposition her or make any moves. The way he watches her being stripped and tortured doesn’t seem quite right, but she doesn’t know he’s watching and by that time her plans for revenge are already well advanced. So why does she blame him for all her troubles? This must be important as her revenge is what drives the whole plot. I feel like I missed something.
*. The DVD commentary by Francis Lawrence didn’t clear things up. He mentions wanting to make the relationship between Dominika and her uncle seem creepy, but given how important it is I think it needs to be a lot more than that.
*. Reviewers who were trying to think of nice things to say praised Jennifer Lawrence and the film’s sense of style. I think Lawrence is wooden and the style, if that’s what it is, overrated. I don’t think it’s a stylish film at all. I think it’s a movie that like to show off luxurious sets and European locations. Lawrence’s direction is totally flat.
*. So it’s dumb. Dull. Vulgar in the sense of just jolting the audience with sex and violence in order to keep them awake. A total disappointment for anyone hoping to see a spy story brought in to the twenty-first century. Instead it just rehashes a bunch of clichés so as to insist that nothing has in fact changed. There’s no need to be ironic or put such material in a period film (or to do both, as in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). The Cold War didn’t end, so let’s go back to the future.

Death Wish (2018)

*. It took a while, but finally got done. I think there had been talk of a remake of Death Wish ever since the initial franchise died with Death Wish V: The Face of Death in 1994. Various names had been attached to the project at various stages of development. Until, finally . . .
*. As thing worked out, the remake was a victim of bad timing, being released less than a month after the Parkland school shooting and the usual uptick in interest in gun violence that follows such events. I think this may explain some of the critical drubbing it took, because it’s not that bad a movie judged on its own.
*. The thing is, it was always such a simple story to begin with, and was then imitated so many times, there was scarcely any way for director Eli Roth to make it new. I think he tried, and enjoyed some limited success. But at the end of the day he just didn’t have enough to work with. Fans were expecting the classic story so he had to deliver on that, but he couldn’t juice it enough to make it interesting.
*. When I say Roth didn’t have that much to work with what I mostly mean is that the screenplay was by Joe Carnahan, the genius behind Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team (both of which were very bad scripts). Kersey’s father-in-law tells him, after shooting at a poacher on his Texas ranch (a poacher?) that “If a man really wants to protect what’s his. He has to do it for himself.” Seeing his daughter in hospital Kersey says “Look what these animals did to my baby!” After tying one of the malefactors up beneath a hoisted automobile Kersey waits until he says “You’re not going to kill me!” Which lets Kersey say “No, Jack is.” He yanks on a chain, pulling out the jack and lets the car crush him. Really. I do wonder how some people continue to find work.
*. But wait! Apparently there were some nine writers working on the screenplay and almost none of Carnahan’s original dialogue remained in the script they actually shot. So I’ll give him a pass (how he got the sole screenwriting credit is another question). Plus The Grey was actually pretty good.
*. Like I say though, Roth does try. I was dreading the rape-murder scene that kicks things off and was pleasantly surprised that he elects to do that part off camera. Elsewhere he kills one of the gang members by having a bowling ball accidentally fall on his head. He nicely develops the idea of the Grim Reaper turning into an Internet sensation: from being a YouTube star to becoming a meme and a hashtag (Kersey himself is also a product of the Internet, having learned many of the tricks of his trade from online videos). He presents Kersey’s basement as a fetid man cave. And, best of all, he makes terrific use of split screen when we see Kersey’s personality splitting as he finally breaks bad, contrasting the life-saving doctor with the life-taking Grim Reaper (all to the tune of AC/DC’s “Back in Black”). I don’t usually care much for split screen, but here’s it’s perfectly apt and very well done.

*. The problem, as I’ve said, is that we’ve been here too many times before. Bruce Willis is fine, but he does seem bored with the proceedings. I tried hard to think of some reason why Vincent D’Onofrio’s character had to be introduced and couldn’t come up with much. Aside from the bowling ball there isn’t even much to the kills aside from a gallery of splatter effects on the walls and one nice broken neck. There’s also a torture sequence included (“signature Eli Roth” according to producer Roger Birnbaum) that doesn’t impress much and which seems slightly out of character even for the bad doctor.

*. A final reflection I’d make is on how much tamer a film this seems than the original. This isn’t just a comment on the fact that the murder and rape of the wife and daughter isn’t shown (which I’ve already mentioned feeling grateful about). In fact there seems not to have been any rape involved, and the whole incident was just a burglary gone wrong (the family weren’t supposed to be home). More than this, there’s also the fact that the irony in the original, where Kersey doesn’t actually kill any of the guys who killed his wife, is rejected for the more cathartic (and conventional) revenge story here. Also cleaned up is the daughter’s injury. In the original she survives but only as a vegetable. Here she’s off to university at the end, looking none the worse for what she’s been through.
*. Why these specific changes, making this film, despite the passage of so much time, less dangerous and more predictable? Primarily, I think, the bottom line. A mass audience today demands all those cathartic kills and that happy ending. As Roth notes in his commentary, it’s a superhero story, with Willis’s hoodie (this is my observation now) not having any political message but rather linking him to his character in Unbreakable, where he plays another media star-vigilante hero. That they still managed to stir up controversy must have upset everyone, as that was surely no part of the plan.

Terminal (2018)

*. Let us now praise Margot Robbie. I thought she was very good in Suicide Squad, which was not a good movie. I think she’s very good here too, in a movie that’s even worse. That’s something she deserves some credit for. I don’t think it’s easy to be good in bad movies.
*. Did I say worse than Suicide Squad? Well, Terminal is a talky film and none of the talk is good. It’s a movie that promises plot twists but none of the twists is interesting or unexpected. It plays a lot like a neon Tarantino, but by 2018 wasn’t that coming to the party awfully late?
*. Robbie, however, is fascinating. She’s dolled up in various fetish outfits (waitress, stripper, vamp, nurse) and her lips are so brightly painted it’s hard to pay attention to anything else. Even so, and given she’s playing a cartoonish psycho, you can tell she’s actually doing a really good job with what she’s been given to work with. She’s high-impact glossy and everybody else seems to be playing in black and white.
*. We’ve been here before. And not just in terms of the plot. It was shot in Budapest, I assume because it was cheap because otherwise it might as well have been filmed in any abandoned industrial site. The city itself is never named, being a generic, ahistorical, noir wasteland. Proyas’s Dark City seems the obvious model, as it’s never day. There also don’t seem to be any people except at the White Rabbit strip bar.
*. The ending should have been more fun. It’s a crazy enough premise, but then it’s played out as just some lazy exposition followed by a nasty coup de grâce. Not even two Margot Robbies can save it.
*. I don’t have anything else to say. It’s become obligatory to praise the photography and art direction of such self-consciously artificial-looking films, but I found the garish colour and giant vacant sets to be pointless, even as they seemed in some mysterious way what the movie was really about.