Monday
Feb112019

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW // A FILM REVIEW OF "COLD PURSUIT"

BY MATEO MORENO

 

Liam Neeson is now an expert at the revenge thriller. At least on screen. In real life, at a press junket for his latest movie COLD PURSUIT, he described a past situation where he actually did want revenge. One of his friends was raped and he suddenly had the desire to take justice in his own hands. But, as he described it, he asked what the man looked like. She didn’t know. Then he asked what color he was, and his friend told him Black. So he found himself walking up and down just wanting to kill someone, anyone, who was black. He told this story because he snapped out of it and realized how awful it was. And that he was wrong. However, it did not go over well, as you might imagine (to see more on the interview that went viral for all of the main reasons, click here). Press junkets were cancelled and his new movie underperformed this weekend. Hopefully, Liam Neeson the man can take this as a teachable moment, a learning lesson, and a way to understand how that moment, set 40 some years ago, was a moment of racism. That fact that he learned from it is great. But to fully move on is to acknowledge the moment of racism, and be better. I like Mr. Neeson. I think he seems like a good man overall, so I hope he learns from this and sees how troubling it was for us to hear it.

 

Liam Neeson the actor does indeed get revenge in his latest film, revenge for the murder of his son, and the film itself is surprising and well done. He plays a snow plow driver named Nels Coxman, who at the beginning of the film is accepting the Citizen of the Year from his small town of Kehoe, a fictional Colorado ski resort town. His son Kyle (Neeson’s real life son Micheal Richardson) is killed by a drug cartel over a some stolen cocaine, though we find out soon enough that Kyle was an innocent victim of it all. The cartel set it up so it look like Kyle overdosed. But Neeson smells a rat, knowing that his son was not a druggie. His wife (played by Laura Dern) simply breaks down and leaves him, never to be seen again. Which makes casting such a recognizable face to do almost nothing strange. So Neeson begins to track them down, one by one, exacting his revenge until he gets higher and higher up the ladder, the ladder held by the top boss, Trever “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman).

 

Based on the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, Director Hans Petter Moland readapts his original film using the Neeson model of the lumbering, late life action hero. But COLD PURSUIT plays much different than his Taken movies, or any of Neeson’s action films. It’s slow moving, the violent action often happens off screen, and it plays homage to slow moving Norwegian films, old Cowboy films, and the revenge film all at once. At the same time, it satirizes them, adding a good load of dark humor to offset you as you watch the film. Neeson is good here, and what I liked is that he’s not the unstoppable machine that he sometimes is. He gets winded. He often doesn’t know what he’s doing, simply that he has to find his son’s killer. And that change helps make COLD PURSUIT stand out. The supporting villain cast also has some strong support, especially Tom Bateman’s openly racist, psychopath head cartel boss, who is Patrick Bateman in the snow but also is rasing his son like a project (he gives him the novel "Lord of the Flies" as an instruction manual to be a man). Domenick Lombardozzi also has some very strong moments here and it’s nice that the middle of the movie follows other characters and then winds back to Coxman. There are missteps; it’s nice to see Native Americans as main characters and not make them caricatures, but perhaps a few lines and personality trates next time? Also, Emmy Rossum and John Doman are a nice, fun duo when we see them, but the fact that Rossum’s character has to use her sexuality to get information is just lazy.

 

All that being said, the film is a fun surprise. It’ll be interesting if Neeson can pull himself out of this self-made hole he gave with the bizarre interview and audiences will want to see him exacting revenge again, but we’ll see. Separate from his own troubles, COLD PURSUIT is well worth your time.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B+

BASED ON THE FILM "IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE" WRITTEN BY Kim Fupz Aakeson SCREENPLAY BY Frank Baldwin DIRECTED BY Hans Petter Moland STARRING Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Domenick Lombardozzi, Nicholas Hines, Emmy Rossum, John Doman, Laura Dern, William Forsythe, Micheal Richardson. Now playing in cinemas.
Sunday
Jan202019

AN EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX // A FILM REVIEW OF "ADULT LIFE SKILLS"

BY MATEO MORENO

(note: The majority of this review was first published on Sat April 23rd 2016 when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival)

 

In 2016, I had the pleasure of seeing ADULT LIFE SKILLS at the Tribeca Film Festival. Since then, I eagerly awaited a US release, but to no avail. It was released in the UK that summer but never had a US distributor - until now. It will now get a limited theatrical release and then will be available to stream, with a Blu-Ray release set for March. Below you'll find my original review, which I still 100% stand behind.

 


Anna (Jodie Whittaker, fresh off of her first season as "The Doctor") is fast approaching 30. This is not a good thing. At least, not for Anna. She's stuck in a rut, unable to move forward at all. She lives in a shed outside her mother's house. What she does excel at is mastering the art of doing nothing. And making funny online videos, like a space expedition using only her thumbs with faces drawn on. Her mother and grandmother (Lorraine Ashbourne and Eileen Davies) don't quite know what to do with her but they both know that enough is enough. Truly young Anna needs an emotional push into some adultish-ness, to learn some ADULT LIFE SKILLS.

 

Based on her BAFTA-nominated short film Emotional Fusebox, Rachel Tunnard's sweet oddball film is by far the charmer of the fest. Anna has suffered some sort of loss, though at the beginning of the film we're not quite sure what it is. So she slogs on day to day making weird videos and refuses to actually grow up. Her life begins to get a bit of a jolt when a young boy from next door (Ozzy Myers) starts coming around after his own mother gets put in the hospital. Strangely drawn to her, he someone understands her and begins to look up to her. Anna's best mate Fiona, played by Rachael Deering, comes back into town to spend time with her, make her laugh, push her into happiness. But something continues to hold her back and it's something that her family, the little boy next door, her friend, nor her neighbor Brendan with a sweet crush on her (Brett Goldstein) can fix by themselves. They're going to need help. They're going to need Anna to come back.

 

 

ADULT LIFE SKILLS is a strange, odd, endearing, hilarious and heartfelt. It's the emotional fusebox that I needed on a Friday night and I hope you visit Anna's strange little shed yourself very soon. You'll be glad you did.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: A

DIRECTED BY Rachel Tunnard STARRING Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering, Eileen Davies, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Ozzy Myers. Now playing in select cinemas and available on demand.
Sunday
Jan202019

BROKE, BROKE AND AWAY // A FILM REVIEW OF "GLASS"

BY MATEO MORENO

To say that M. Night Shyamalan’s career has had its ups and downs is really putting it mildly. Since exploding into the mainstream with The Sixth Sense in 1999 (which received almost universe love), M. Night has released one project after another, each one dividing audiences into a pure frenzy. Talk of “he’s lost it” and “he’s back to form” has been said throughout his entire career. But one thing that can be said is that he’s been consistently original. You may not like what comes out of his brain (cough, cough… The Happening… cough, cough), but it is purely his own vision being transported onto the screen. His follow up to The Sixth Sense was Unbreakable in 2000 and that film is still my favorite property of his. It told the story of David Dunn, an ordinary man who slowly finds himself to be “unbreakable.” It was a superhero story in a very non-superhero world. Samuel L. Jackson played his nemesis, Elijah Price, a man whose bones were so brittle that he was nicknamed “Mr. Glass.” Slow and powerful, and I’ve often thought of it ever since.

 

In 2016, M. Night “returned to form” once again with the unassuming Split, featuring James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who has 23 personalities inside of him and the most dangerous one is threatening to overtake them all. It was a fun, original, and very well told film. The surprise was that in the final moments of the film, we were reintroduced to David Dunn, and realized that the two films took place in the same universe. Now, the long-awaited follow-up to Unbreakable has arrived, now less of a sequel and more of the final piece of a trilogy. GLASS is the third part of the puzzle, bringing together David Dunn, Mr. Glass, and all of James McAvoy’s personalities. It also brings back Anya Taylor-Joy from Split and a grown-up Spencer Treat Clark from Unbreakable. M. Night’s three main characters are sent to an asylum and treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) a woman who specializes in the very specific delusion of grandeur where people believe they are actually superheroes

 

What follows is a lot of great build up and promise that fizzles so fast that it’s actually enraging. The mood and slow building dread of his earlier films fill the first half of GLASS expertly. Sarah Paulson is stoic and sharp, Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark are great supporting players, and James McAvoy is utterly brilliant (and he stays that way up until the end). However, for a movie named after Mr. Glass, Samuel L. Jackson’s presence is largely under utilized here, as he’s catatonic for most of the film and when he springs, rather wheels, into action, it’s pretty unremarkable. Most disappointing is the treatment M. Night gives David Dunn and the sleepwalk performance Bruce Willis performs it with. David Dunn is a fascinating character who’s reduces to getting thrown around and has the weakest of all storylines. The final act, which is teased to be a giant superhero showdown, is all smoke and mirrors and actually takes places somewhere else entirely, somewhere far less exciting. And the writer/director either doesn’t trust the audience to know the beats of a superhero story or doesn’t actually understand them himself, because suddenly near the end of the film, every character starts to explain out loud how this action is part of an origin story or this action is how the hero triumphs, etc, etc. GLASS had me engaged for the first half and completely nosedived into ridiculousness in the second. But I do admire the world, and the risks that M. Night took here. I just wish he knew how to land it.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: C+

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY M. Night Shyamalan STARRING James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark. Now playing in select cinemas.