By Drew Parton
Since I didn’t review any new movies last week, I decided to do a bit of catch-up and do a double feature of Run All Night (2015) and The Gunman (2015).
Much like the action tropes of old, just when I thought I got done watching Taken clones, I’m pulled back in for another job. Run All Night stars Liam Neeson as retired mob hitman Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon, and Ed Harris as his ex-boss and best friend Shawn Maguire. When things go awry, Liam Neeson ends up killing Ed Harris’s son to protect his own son, and Ed Harris swears revenge. Then there’s all kinds of attempted son killings. Now first off, both Neeson and Harris do well in this. That’s not to say that it’s good, I can throw a person into a lion pit and say “they’re doing well.” It’s going to be unpleasant to watch. No, this film isn’t even as exciting as Rooster Illusion’s lion pit, the movie falls and fails somewhere in between pulp noir mob films and Frank Miller. And despite it being another mindless action film, it’s just got so much going on- and not in a good way. I’m not talking about subtext or imagery, I’m talking about muddying the waters of what could otherwise be a half-decent film. The film goes for a lot of “emotionality” (in the harshest quotations I can muster), but it’s all plain and superficial. Yeah, theres the whole “Oh, let’s reminisce about the good ol’ days of the mob,” schtick that hasn’t really been effective since the heyday of organized crime. I mentioned that this was essentially Taken 12: Whatever, Fuck you, because it’s made by the same people that have done the rest of the “taken knockoff trilogy” (Unknown, Non-Stop, and now this). One positive thing I’ll say about the movie is it’s depiction of violence as a cycle. It’s like William Shakespeare said: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” Both Jimmy and Shawn are out of the game, Jimmy’s a broke washout, and Shawn just wants to retire in peace. But the conflict and the strife the two of them caused are now entwined with their children- willing or unwillingly.
Is this from Run All Night or Taken 3? (You’ll never know)
All of the good scenes in the film take place between Neeson and Harris and I think save the film from the terrible territory of Taken 3. Now, unfortunately, it does decidedly fall into the dreadful chasm of “Eh.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the worst thing that a movie can be is “okay.” People remember Whiplash and The Room, but nobody’s getting the 25 Anniversary collector’s edition of Run All Night. I’m going to get into mild spoiler-territory, but I don’t honestly care enough about the film to censor it: Nick Nolte is in this film. Randomly. When Jimmy and his son, Mike (played by the new Robocop) are on the run from both the cops and Shawn, they lay low at Jimmy’s brother, Eddie’s house. Who just so happens to be played by Nick Nolte. Now I won’t criticize the scene for breaking my immersion (it never existed), I was honestly confused by the choice though. Not only of actually casting Nick Nolte, but in including the scene in the first place. Not only does Nolte really derail the entire movie, but it’s utterly pointless. They go to the house, there’s an in-effective family reunion, and Nick Nolte tells a story about how Shawn killed their cousin. Nick Nolte used to be a good actor, I promise. He was dynamite in Cape Fear, and more recently, phenomenal in Tropic Thunder (the namesake of our website). But I got the feeling that any of Nolte’s other scenes were cut due to his performance.
Run All Night may be a Taken knockoff, but The Gunman is actually made by the director of the first Taken: Pierre Morel.
Sean Penn stars as Jim Terrier, an aging black ops mercenary working for a mining corporation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On one covert mission, he assassinates the Minister of Mining, and is forced to go into hiding- leaving behind the woman he loves. 8 years later, he’s doing humanitarian work back in the Congo when hitmen try to kill him. Suddenly, all of his past is brought to the light and back to kill him.
Let’s get straight to the point about Sean Penn. He’s pretty crazy. He’s largely hated by everybody in hollywood for being obnoxious, alcoholic, and violent. Is he a decent actor? Yeah, sure, depending on the script and the director. But The Gunman is not his A-game. Matter of fact, it’s nobody’s A-game.
Now, I tried to go into this film with more optimism, especially after Run All Night, and at the very least decided not to judge the movie by its Sean Penn alone. But all around, it’s a waste of potential. The movie is filled with stupid cliches, boring, uninteresting characters, and a general blandness much like Run All Night.
So let’s break it down:
-No one cares about these characters (including the performers):
Sean Penn is ruthless mercenary, he assassinates one of the few good individuals in the movie- the minister of mining. This dude’s just trying to shut down the foreign mining companies that are exploiting the land and the people and causing strife. And Sean Penn kills him. And doesn’t feel bad about it. Javier Bardem plays an NGO agent who hires Sean Penn while trying to get with his girlfriend, not only is Bardem’s character drunk the whole film- but it appears the actor is as well. Sean Penn’s girlfriend winds up marrying Bardem during the 8-year time jump because she “owed him a debt.” And she does absolutely nothing during the film besides act as scenery and get captured. Out of Sean Penn’s only two friends in the movie (he has less in the real world), one of them turns out to be the bad guy (in the least surprising twist) and the other is another assassin who helped topple a government in Liberia. In fact, the only likable person in the movie is Idris Elba. Speaking of which…
-When you promise me Idris Elba, you’d better deliver
Seriously, he’s only in the movie for a total of 2 minutes collectively, and that’s pretty much all at the end.
I am just as disappointed.
You know who I wanted to see more of as well? When Jim is back working in the Congo as a well driller after the 8-year break, he has a local named Eugene as a sidekick. When Jim gets attacked by the hitmen, Eugene steps up to the plate, defends his boss, and starts to become a badass leader. There’s more character growth in his five minutes than there is the rest of the movie. Where’s his story? To hell with Sean Penn.
-This movie is 95% cliches
Let’s start with the first 5 minutes of the movie: you know what never gets old? The “exposition by newscast.” You know, when you see a news anchor conveniently explaining the background information for the movie? Sometimes it cuts between multiples newscasts and the sentences of the anchors just so happen to neatly line up. That’s how this movie starts. There are only 2 main females- one is on screen for 3 minutes, the other exists only as the damsel in distress. The “plot twist” is instantly recognizable to anyone over the age of 2 (note: do not bring a 2-year-old to this movie). The villain is simply a corrupt corporate executive trying to clean house and wipe away evidence of wrongdoing. And even after killing tons of people (and, you know assassination), Sean Penn still only serves minimal prison sentence because he gave up evidence against said corrupt corporation.
-The other 5% is slightly novel, but still stupid
Jim Terrier has early-onset Alzheimer’s caused by post-concussion syndrome. It’s actually refreshingly accurate and surely would come about from years as a mercenary and special forces. He’s got a ton of plaque and scar tissue in his brain that causes wooziness, headaches, and memory troubles- but only when plot convenient. The memory problems cause him to have to record and write down everything so that he can remember- and this actually does come in to play with the main plot of the film. The other interesting thing was how it handled the cyclical nature of violence. It’s like William Shakespeare said: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” Both Jimmy and Shawn are out of the game, Jimmy’s a broke washout, and Shawn just wants to retire in peace. But the conflict and the strife the two of them caused are now entwined with their children- willing or unwillingly. Wait a minute, did I say that already? Was that Run All Night or The Gunman? What’s with all the Jim’s this week? It was Sean Penn in this movie and not Harvey Keitel? Why?
Ple͟a̷s͜e,̷ ͘hel̛p͡ all ̷o͠f̵ ́t͞he m̡ovies͠ a҉r̢e ̕b͢len҉d҉in̶g͘ ͡t̨og̢et̢hert:̴ ͟O͢dd҉ ͢Thoma͜s ̡(Ant͘o͟n ̵Yȩl͏chi̛n) s̸ee͜ś ͏d̢ea͢d͞ p̧eo̵p̸le. ̵H̛e͠ can͞’t̡ hear͢ them̵, b̨ut h̸e se̸eś th͜e̕m̕ and̶ uses҉ ̀t͝hi̴s͟ ab̛įl̵i҉t̶y to s͘oļve mu͏ŕde͏rs̵ ͞ańd ̧l̨a̸y̸ ̵r̛e͜v͢e͡nan͜t̴s̴ to̴ res͘t̵. ̧He͞ ̸als̨o see͡s h̴oŗr̢ibl҉e ͜sp̸ect̶ra͢l̛ mons̛t͡ęrs n̕ame͠d͟ ͜Boda̵k͜s̴ th̵
a͢t̨ f͟eed ̸on̴ d͘eath҉ and do̷ n̸ot͜ t́a̴ke͡ ̢t̕o͡o͜ ͢k̢indly ͠to bei̢n͏g ҉noti̛c҉ed. ͝It’̴s ̷tough͞ to ignore̕ the̕m͝ ̧whe̶n t̷heir nu͢mbe̛rs ͢r͠éac̛h ̷a̷p͘óc͜al̀yp̷tic̢ h҉eight̸s in his ̡sm̨al̢l̷ t͟ow̧n, for҉eb́òd͝i҉ǹg̕ ̛som͘é ͝disaste̴r ͠o͞f ͢cata̶clys̛mic p̛r̀op̧oŗtions.̢ Te͜ami̢n͡g ҉up͜ ͞ẁíth hi͟s ҉g͢i͏r҉ļfr̶ie̷nd ͞S̕t̶or͠
my ҉(Ad̶d̕iso̧n Tim͘l̵in)̸ ànd͜ t̀he̴ ̢C̴hief͢ o̡f Po͢l̨ice͟ ͟(Wi҉l̛l̢eḿ D̛af͜oe)̷,̵ ̕b͟o͡t͡h҉ of̵ w̕h̡o̡m ͜ar̴ȩ ̢well͏ aw͟ar̵e ̕o͡f ̕O͠dd҉’s̷ ͞gift àņd ͡a
ppr̷e͡c͡iat̀e ͟w͝h̶at he ͟d̨o̶es w̵ith͢ ̕it, Odd͡ ̷T͘h͟omas ́mųs̛t ̷aver̴t ̧th̶e cri͝si̵s͟ befo̕r͘e͝ ͠i͡t́ ̀hapṕen̨s,̸ ̵an͜d̨ pu҉t̴ a s͜t͞o̴p ҉t҉o ̨the ẁo̕ưl̸d-̢be c͝ulpr̛i͏t̨s.
g̷ r͢ow͞n͟ups 3͡ c͜om҉i̡ng ͟s̀o҉on from ̷ţhe c̸o̸m̢e̷d͢ic͜ gén̡i͢us ̡of̷ j̴ack a̶n҉d͏ ͘jil͢l͢, ̧5̨0͠ fişt͟ da̵tes, ̡a̴n̢d i n̛o̶w̷ ̧pr͡on͞oun̡ce͜ ͢y͏ou̵ chu̧ck͡ àn̶d͠ l͢arry̕.T̵h̢e ̢old͡e͢s̡t̛ a̕n҉d s͏t͝r̢onge̴s̴t emo͜tion o͢f͏ m̕an҉k͡ind i̡s̡ ̨fe͏a͏r,̢ and ͞t̡he o̢l̕des҉t́ ͠a͠nd͝ s͠t́rǫn҉gest̸ k͝i̴ǹd҉ ͜ǫf ͜f͠e̵a̧r iś f͏ea͟r̵ ͡of͡ adam sandler
Things I liked about it: A͡n̴d̵ h͞e҉ had̛ ̶in͘ h̵is ͠right̨ ̷h͏and ̕s͝èv̀én͜ ̡s҉t͝ars: and́ ̨o҉ut͡ o͝f ҉h͠i̸s̨ ͟m͜outh̸ ͠wen͏t͏ a s̕h͡arp two̧èdg͞ed ͠s̕w̴o͜rd:͏ ̸and̸ ͏h̸iş co͜uņten͏ance wa͡s ͠as͡ ̧the̛ su̶ń shineth͟ ͢in҉ ͏h̡is stre͜n̸gth͞.̀ And̵ wh̷e͟n ̛I̷ s͠a͘w̷ ̡hi̕m,̀ I͢ ̸fell͝ at̨ ͜h̢i͠s̨ ̴fe̢et͟ ͞as̛ ͜de̸a̶d.͢
Things I disliked about it: I ͜will ̶gi̶v͏e҉ ̵p̵owe̸r̨ u͠nt͜o ͟m̢y̴ two̸ w̡i̧tn̶és͟şes̡,͏ ̕an͞ḑ t͡hey҉ ͞s͟h͏a̴l҉l͞ p͡ro͟phesy a t̷h̕o͞us̀an͠d t̴wo ̸hu̵ndred ͟an̸d thre͘e̷sço̸re͢ ̀days̶,̧ ćloth̴e̕d ́i̢n ̶s̵a̧ck͞cl͏ot͡h͡.
Should you go see it? No, to both.
Anyway, be sure to check out my other column Trope-ic Thunder, where I discuss science tropes in the media.
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