Rewind Review: Grown Ups

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Grown Ups (2010)

The film Grown Ups starts simply enough. It shows what may be the apex of these five friends lives collectively (a championship basketball game). It uses the death of their coach effectively to not only reunite these somewhat estranged friends but also to introduce them to us.

While this film passes with marginal colors one way in which it does excel is in that it it is rare for an all-star cast (granted how much of an all-star cast is open to some debate) to fit together this comfortably within the confines of a feature film. Some of that familiarity is due in part to the fact that Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider were contemporaries during the last true halcyon days of Saturday Night Light but Kevin James doesn’t fall by the wayside and fits in very comfortably with the aforementioned foursome.

The bottom line is that the film is funny, quite funny in fact. It absolutely revels in the nearly lost art of the one-liner especially in the one-line put down and as a straight comedy it works with absolutely no question. The film has other designs, however, and in trying to see those designs through that’s where some its failings shine through.

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One oddity, though not entirely a bad thing, is that the sports angle of the film is almost entirely subjugated. It is ultimately a good thing because then it might’ve wandered into the uncomfortable mildly funny Semi-Pro area and that would’ve been bad.

What that angle might’ve done for the film is drive it a little bit because the pace does struggle a little bit in the second act as each character, as head of the household, deals with their own issues. This slight lack of focus and insisting on inclusion rather than having the protagonist, Sandler, be a more driving force than he is does hurt things slightly.

The two things outside of just being funny that this film really tries to tackle head on are somewhat intertwined. They are: returning children to simpler pleasures and away from technology and modernity and not always putting career before family. These are both illustrated through the Hayek- (credited in this film as Salma Hayek Pinault) Sandler relationship. Things develop slowly and are infrequently at the forefront but because they are not developed quickly and addressed immediately the film lags slightly even though the resolution to these issues are ultimately satisfying.

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Another side-effect of the basketball being pushed into the background is that the antagonist and antagonism in general aren’t very present. The conflicts, when they occur, are typically intra-relationship. The antagonizers are the team they beat in said championship game years ago, thus making the lessening of the game seem an odd choice, until you see how it turns out, which in the end does fit the bigger picture but you just wish so much talk and time wasn’t spent on the rematch if it ultimately would not matter.

Looking at it from a purely comedic perspective it is a funny film and if you’re just out for a laugh it is enjoyable, if you want to have your cake and eat it too, meaning get a great movie along with the chuckles, you may go hungry.

6/10

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Rewind Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to watch a movie, read a comic book and play a video game at the same time then wonder no longer because Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has the answers. And to give you a hint it’s quite delightful.

What makes it even better is that this isn’t a film that wastes any screen time trying to rationalize, explain or instruct its audience members as to why the universe of the film functions the way it does, which makes it one of the most whimsical journeys you’re likely to have on screen. The bottom line is either you get the jokes or you don’t and if you’re overly-concerned about why someone who gets knocked out explodes into a pile of coins then this really isn’t the film for you.

This is a film that dares to be different amongst a forest of look-a-likes and wannabes and just on that alone this film is worth the price of admission. It is one of the most dazzlingly inventive films to come along in years and a much needed breath of fresh air.

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This film is very funny but funnier than most because its funny to its core meaning not only does the comedy spawn from the characters, as what they say and do matches their personality but being very much a comic book and video game on film as well it is replete with sight gags most of which you have to keep your eyes peeled for.

To put it mildly this is somewhat of a departure for the wildly talented director of this film, Edgar Wright. The man who was until this point most well-known for his brilliant comedy-homages Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Wright took a bold step in this film and boy is it ever a rewarding one.

The film never backs down from its vision or concept from the beginning. There are constantly familiar gaming interfaces and from comics action lettering, split-panels and the like to adron the imagery.

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Yet all this invention and gadgetry would only go so far without the right cast in place and this film certainly has that going for it as well. If Michael Cera isn’t overexposed he’s certainly very close, however, true overexposure only comes when you stop doing good work and if there was ever a part suited for him to play it is this. He brings comedy to the simplest lines, he engenders sympathy and understanding even when his decisions aren’t the most sound. He’s the ideal, awkward everyman of the moment and he shines in this part. Kieran Culkin, as his roommate Wallace is also a picture perfect choice, even given his over-the-top flamboyant lifestyle it makes sense and you believe it when he is the one who is trying to get Scott’s life in order.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the object of Scott’s affection, Ramona Flowers, brings the perfect balance of cool-masking-past-pain to the equation and conversely Ellen Wong, playing Knives Chau, develops perfectly in both directions and plays both obsessive groupie and jilted girlfriend perfectly and to add further balance to the equation is Wilmington native Aubrey Plaza, playing Julie Powers, who hates Scott’s guts from start to finish.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World not only dares to be different but succeeds with flying colors and creates something completely and totally original. It’s a film that may not have found its niche in the marketplace just yet but take a seat and watch it however you can manage it because you likely won’t regret it as you’ve scarcely seen anything like it. Game over.

10/10

Rewind Review: Hukkle

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Hukkle (2002)

If one is completely unfamiliar with Hungarian cinema and they venture out to see Hukkle, boy, are they ever bound to get culture shock. It is a film which may even be more cerebral and have more of an anti-plot than your typical Magyar fare.
The film tells the tale of a small village nestled in a countryside valley over the course of a few days. Story, perhaps, might even be an overstatement as it seems to be more a chronology than anything else.
The film employs next to no dialogue. The only significant portion of dialogue or words spoken that need subtitling is a folk song sung near the end. Instead what you do get is an amelodically symphonic soundtrack that crescendos quite frequently in the early going and differentiates itself from kitschy American commercials of sound montage, which are of a lesser ilk. The sound is the unifying sense in this film. Insomuch as everything is tied together by a hukkle (hiccup) which is uttered by an old man sitting on the bench.

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While the hiccup may be the epicenter of this story the affected landscape, the surrounding ecosystem, is the focus. While an American filmmaker might be inclined to make this an environmentalist manifesto here instead you get a comment on the nature of man and animal. You are bombarded with animal imagery such that it seems, at times, that you are watching a nature documentary. However, if you make note of all these scenes carefully you notice the actions parallel each other and at some point you see nearly everything you’ve witnessed in the animal kingdom demonstrated among men.
As per usual in Hungarian cinema, it is a film that requires patience from its audience, provokes thought and requires participation and must be engaged in not merely watched. This must be an active process you must impose it on yourself as narrative and other conventions will not work to draw you in and lack of effort to engage yourself will reap no reward.
It’s a film which is experimental but unlike many which could be described that way is highly accessible, again if an effort is put forth on the part of the viewer. It is also a film which challenges the very nature of narrative and, depending on how you read one shot, reality: there is a part where the film stops, tears and spins out. Then the camera pulls out and shows film strips hung over a bin. So the scenes we saw were shot by someone in the story. This reflexivity puts into question the narrative truth of the tale to an extent.
Similarly, there is a mini-subplot that develops about two-thirds of the way through of a police investigation. However, keeping in the spirit of experiment there is less mystery as is typical in a traditional film and the end of said subplot is concluded but not confrontational or bombastic as we’re accustomed to seeing.

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Hukkle despite all its unusual elements is a rather brisk film not only in running time but in pace as well. Despite its cerebral nature and antithetical construction it is an easy watch which should allow you to get a flavor for the Hungarian cinema.
7/10

Mini-Review: The Green Hornet

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Green Hornet (2010)

I truly shudder to think at what this movie would’ve been like had it not been for the creativity and flair that Michel Gondry brings to it. Yes, there is plenty of competition between action and comedy elements of the tale and both serve the film and story well but there’s also a lot of both and the film gets a little long in the tooth. As an origin story it’s not the most gripping based on how its handled not just based on the empirical facts of the character such that the flair and verve that Gondry brings is desperately needed.

The name Seth Rogen in the same sentence as the word superhero still does seem a little funny to say, however, it does kind of work for this character because it’s not a case of his being superhuman and his sidekick, well-played by James Chou does contribute quite a bit to the equation.

6/10

Stephen Daldry Week: The Reader

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

This review was initially to be posted during a theme week focused on Daldry’s work that has not come to fruition. Regardless, enjoy this take on The Reader as part of his oeuvre. 

The Reader (2008)

The Reader will open its second weekend in Wilmington on Friday, nearly two months after its wide release date.

The Reader fell into an unusual group of films being a Weinstein Company project it’s an indie that expected a wide audience which made Wilmington, DE a hard market to hit.

I had struggled to see The Reader for months. Its release was small and my schedule didn’t make a trip to Philadelphia an easy task. I was surprised to find last Monday that the now Academy Award winning film was at my local theater. I thought it would never hit the Regal Brandywine 16 but that’s what and Oscar will get you: the exposure you deserve.

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The film is excellent and asks hard questions that are unanswerable but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked.

These questions being:

1. How do you reconcile unimaginable crimes with the person that you knew?

2. Would you have the courage to do what was right knowing you would be a pariah if you did so?

3. If you failed to do right to what lengths would you go in order to pay penance?

4. When considering such heinous crimes against humanity what punishment can truly be considered justice served?

These are compelling probing questions that make us somewhat uncomfortable makes for great drama. I think a lot of the disconnect that mass audiences might feel in relation to this film is due to the fact the film dabbles in grey. The characters aren’t black and white like we’re used to seeing them. All the characters are flawed but if you think of some of the great films of the ’70s all the characters are flawed and the drama is more real.

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Another difficulty people may face is that a lot of Hannah’s (Kate Winslet) behavior and her interaction with Michael (David Kross) seems unnatural until you think about it in retrospect. You think she’s being unreasonable, flighty, stereotypically female, too easily changing her mind. Later we discover that she reacted to him as if he were a temporary prisoner. Every day after school he was there, it seemed mandatory. She dictated the order of the interaction and made reading go first before love-making. Everything was on her terms.

However, due to the power of Miss Winslet’s performance we could almost imagine here before World War II as a socially inept, isolated woman. Being a guard allowed her to interact with people who have no choice.

Director Stephen Daldry once again toys with time effortlessly as he did in ‘The Hours.’ The pacing of the film is so exacting that the titles on screen indicating to us the year were almost unnecessary as we feel the time go by because we follow these people.

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The score by Nico Muhly is spot on as this film needed a constantly mounting crescendo feeling as opposed to the haunting tones Philip Glass gave to The Hours.

The film is indeed worth seeing, although those going only to see Kate Winslet may be disappointed. Her greatness in this role is felt more by impact than by quantity of screen time. It is David Kross who carries the film and he does so effortlessly as if he’s been acting forever. It is a film that unquestionably resonates, grows and makes you think long after you’ve stopped watching it. Just because you’re done with it doesn’t mean it’s done with you.

Rewind Review: Edge of Darkness (2010)

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Edge of Darkness

Prior to the release of Edge of Darkness much of the discussion regarding it related to whether Mel Gibson can still carry a film as a lead actor, since he hadn’t starred in a project in six years. The answer to those concerns is a resounding yes. Gibson carries this film just as easily as any he had in the past and is just as good, if not better than he was in doing so.
Note that spoilers may be found below.
Edge of Darkness is a film which is a slow burn but it is most definitely a good thing. This film does not give you the complete picture at the outset and slowly, about at the same pace as the protagonist, you start to see what the circumstances surrounding the murder were. Eventually you work through the entanglements the plot has created to reach some sort of clarity of precisely what is going on. Differently than Sherlock Holmes a plot is uncovered which is far-reaching but not far-fetched.

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The action sequences in the film are very good and very intense and contrary to some reports were not too few and far between. They are some of the more resonant portions of the film showing that the filmmakers in this case strove for quality over quantity.
Those complaints were mainly made by those comparing it to the miniseries, which this cannot be. It is a film and must stand on its own two legs. As interesting a project as it is it makes one wonder why Gibson chose this as, essentially, his comeback vehicle.
On the downside the visions and posthumous conversations that Gibson’s character has with his daughter do become very tiresome. There are far too many of them for so short a film. Eventually they start to lose their effectiveness and yes they do drag the story somewhat though not for a lack of action around them.

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Recently, The Guardian wrote an article on the troubles with accents specifically South African ones when interpreted by American actors. Conversely though the Bostonian accent seems to be thriving and is not nearly as exaggerated as it was and Mr. Gibson and the rest of the cast playing locals are to be commended for that.
Where the film truly excels though is through the supporting character, Jedburgh, as well as the man who plays him Ray Winstone. This is a funny, dark and intriguing character which is the kind of dubious man without a past and affiliation that is most likely to get involved in a mess like this to clear it up. His and Thomas Craven’s (Mel Gibson) relationship is fascinating and helps to drive the story forward.
Unfortunately, the Achilles Heel of the film turns up again once more at the very end with a very cheesy shot of Thomas Craven and his daughter walking side by side. It is a shot without any finesse and tells us information we have already surmised that could be conveyed another way.

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Ultimately, this is a good action film with an interesting and intelligent plot that is well worth seeking out.
7/10

Rewind Review – Resident Evil: Afterlife

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Resident Evil: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the, worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous, while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively), did not lead me to believe this was in the cards.
As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.
There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little at a loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.

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For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.
The characters, for the most part, are shorthand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.
Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about. This film also has the unusual distinction of having the most incidences of unnecessary and unintentionally comedic slow-motion shots in the history of cinema.

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Bad is one thing, but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.
There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive, it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.
As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot.
1/10

Rewind Review: Karate Kid (2010)

The Karate Kid, the remake not the original. Now that that’s been cleared up we will just focus on the film at hand. The film starts on the precipice of the major change that will forever alter Dre’s (Jaden Smith) life. He is in his room and we look at milestones in his life and lines on a door frame marking his height. The camera passes one marked “Dad died.” A tad clumsy but also accurately childlike and at least it’s a visual conveyance of information, which this film does strive to do on more than one occasion. Dre re-measures himself and is much taller than the last time he even bothered and they are on their way to the airport to fly to China.
The film takes the gamble that knowing only the situation you will throw yourself in and meet and get to know them along the way and for the most part it works. It starts on the flight where Dre’s mother (Taraji P. Henson) is trying to get Dre to practice Chinese as she has been practicing because she has been transferred, he is resistant to change. The first big joke of the film is set up here and the timing on the lines, all shot in one take, is great. In fact, all of the comedy, when it is inserted, is very well-timed and helps the film greatly.
The cultural dislocation is immediately felt and a predominant theme in the film where even turning on the hot water for a shower becomes a difficulty in a strange land. You also get here a protagonist who is actually portrayed as average in the beginning and it’s believable. He makes a friend and goes to play basketball and is terrible is whipped at table tennis by an old man, he is confident enough to walk up to a girl when challenged but is also awkward and shy when he gets there.
This is a film that also does take its time and most of the time it is quite right to do so. It establishes Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) as a man who is reticent have any involvement with Dre or anyone. It firmly establishes Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his gang as an ever-present threat. The only time the film suffers in any way from its deliberate pace is at the start of training. Dre has spent three sessions taking off, throwing down and hanging up his jacket and twice misconstrues the meaning of it before Han reveals his design to him, however, the scene in which Han shows him what all this repetitive action was about is riveting and again much of it taken in one moving shot.
The film is usually at its apex when Mr. Han is instructing Dre particularly when he is explaining to him what Kung Fu is and isn’t and specifically that it is “in everything we do.” It is a film that is extraordinarily respectful of the discipline and illustrates that is indeed a discipline.
The romantic subplot of this story which is that of Dre and Meiying (Wenwen Han) is intrinsic to the story and not an afterthought which is actually a breath of fresh air. It is Meiying’s interest in Dre that first gets Cheng angry at him and causes their first fight. Mei Ying and Dre also invest in each other’s success and their night at a festival leads to some nice crosscutting, use of shadows, puppets, great lighting and a humorous and sweet kiss. The only part of their relationship arc that is a little hard to deal with is that when they are having a day of fun she receives a call that her audition was moved up a day. Granted you know something is going to ruin their fun but it felt a bit too contrived.
The acting in this film is nothing short of spot on. Jaden Smith is not only an affable actor who is easy to identify with but he’s funny and his emotional scenes are great as he cries twice but out of much different emotions, namely frustration and sympathy. Jackie Chan should not get the short shrift either this may be his best role and not only because he got to do scenes in his native tongue but also because he was given a character with a gruff exterior who slowly mellows and lets someone in but is also someone who has a skeleton in his closet and breaks down upon confessing it. The scene where he tells his story and Dre sheds sympathetic tears in listening  may be the strongest of the movie.
The tournament sequence is very effective overall in terms of dramatic content and fight choreography. The winning blow is amazing and the film performs the rare feat of earning a freeze frame ending. The only thing in the sequence that’s a bit off is the introduction of a third party challenger, which in an of itself is fine but he looks and is shot like he’s a Crazy 88s reject and that kind of comedy takes you out of the moment a little. Other liberties work like the very professional-sports jumbotron with photos and instant replays.
Despite a few minor annoyances and problems The Karate Kid most definitely succeeds in telling an uplifting underdog story that should be as likely to inspire the current generation as much as the original version did a previous one.
8/10

Rewind Review: In the Loop

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

In the Loop (2009)

In the Loop is a film that starts out promisingly enough. A functionary of the British government is listening to an interview he did on the radio where he makes a seemingly innocuous comment on the odds of a war starting in the Mideast but ends up in hot water. The fallout especially from his boss Malcolm, played hysterically by Peter Capaldi, is very negative. He is assigned a press secretary who is to advise all his media interactions from that point forward.

Yet his comment has already started gathering attention such that he is asked for another and this one while confusing and noncommittal is taken as a war cry by many and gets them involved in an international game of intrigue between the U.S. and Great Britain.

The relations are complicated by the fact that two U.S. Senators (Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche) are battling on opposite ends of the spectrum for and against this war with their aids both also locked in rivalry.

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Where the film starts to lose its way is when these entanglements all cross while it stays consistently funny on occasion coherence is lost on a couple of fronts. Examples: one of the major struggles of the film concerns the suppression or release of Aide Liza Wells’ (very well played by Anna Chlumsky) paper to the media. It was leaked but then edited and releaked – so wouldn’t conflicting versions obtained by the media exist? Even if one is released under a pseudonym the edits and/or similarities would be obvious. If the implication is that the governmental pressure on media nullified the first leak that was not made clear after all the BBC still had the “first draft” they just didn’t run with it. But why wouldn’t they?

Similarly our protagonist’s dismissal due to a dispute in his building over his constituency wall, that whole subplot and Malcolm not accepting his resignation only to fire him and not make him a “hero” were problematic and detracted from the overall effectiveness of the story.

While this is a satire it was inevitable that the fictitious war be approved the circumstances and evidence used to make it happen were too unrealistic even for a comedy and a satire which loses feasibility has no bite and is just silly.

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That is a shame though because there is some great work done by the ensemble and some really funny dialogue which can’t support a story which ends up being flimsy, which can best be encapsulated in a quote by Shakespeare that it is a film “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

5/10

Rewind Review: The Warrior’s Way

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Warrior’s Way (2010)

The Warrior’s Way starts with a pretty basic set up. Our protagonist who has been virtually eliminated an entire clan save for one, a baby girl, can’t bring himself to kill her and flees. The differentiation in this tale comes later on in the tale as we learn more about Yang (Dong-gun Jang). We learn about him in perhaps the most effective form of flashback which is the quick and bifurcated. We are shown little of his upbringing but see just enough to see where at a young age he had to make a decision about what he was to be and now he had chosen a different path.

Which brings us to another positive point in this film is that you know all kinds of chaos is coming in time. It is set up pretty early that there will be two factions of enemies rolling in. The issue is one of pacing while The Colonel does have a prelude to the massacre he intends, which is rather effective there is a lull both before and after. The training of the townspeople is a necessary exercise but takes too long and the final clash could be a little more mish-mashed than it is.

However well-executed the final clash is there are stakes in both which matters. lynne (Kate Bosworth’s) tale of her past is also well-rendered so at least its not just gunfire and swordsmanship for their own sakes but there is some emotional investment involved.

Truly, the tale needed to be told as such because as a standalone martial arts film or a standalone western there just isn’t enough there but together it works and makes sense which is what you’re looking for.

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There is a tremendous amount of stylization in this film but it all works and doesn’t become a distraction or an eyesore. Artificial vistas or not they are composed to enhance the story and not be the story. There are enough actual elements to make the film work.

They are also offset by the type of oddball town that Lode is designed to be in this story. For all intents and purposes the only residents remaining in the town are circus folk who don’t travel but are seeking to finish a ferris wheel which will be their carnival’s claim to fame. The film does take the time and make some of these characters prominent enough that you know them by name and a little bit about them too such that they’re not just peculiar set dressing.

All in all this film is an enjoyable enough piece of escapist fare which although it can been much better and brisker is still quite good.

6/10