Ten Word or Less Review: One of these movies is not like the others.
The Hunger Games – What an amazingly mediocre phenomenon of a movie. It flirts with being uniquely ridiculous and stupid but gradually settles into a kind of action movie blandness that’s at complete odds with what it the story demands. Really disappointing for a movie rooted on the plot of two dozen teenagers killing themselves for the amusement of a society of people who, based on their fashion sense, worship Boy George as a god. I didn’t understand any of it. For 74 years this warped society of poofdas and pansies call upon the outlying societies to sacrifice two teens to a game of death as a form of societal control. Please, someone explain it to me how the Hell that works. How does making a community send two kids off to certain death keep the rest of the ant hill in line? Nothing about this scenario makes any sense to me. Jennifer Lawrence is a captivating actress and she’s the glue that makes this silly thing passable, but aside from her and some decent supporting work, Woody Harrelson, there’s nothing particularly good about it. It’s toothless and gutless when it should be hard hitting and have bite. It’s poorly thought out and constantly begging for some kind of deeper explanation that never happens. It’s at least well performed but always with a nagging sensation of being under imagined. The sparse use of CGI is welcome but what CGI is here is embarrassing and cheap. On a side note I was surprised to see the Hulk dogs from Ang Lee’s maligned comic book movie of the giant green guy get another job. A real let down and next to the Twilight flicks, the most befuddling movie to garner mass fanaticism from an audience.
Expendables 2 – The first 15 minutes of Expendables 2 are some of the finest action movie porn one can hope to see in this largely neutered day and age. See above. Stallone and his buddies come barreling into a military complex to save an unknown hostage. Their guns are enormous and their vehicles would be right at home in a G.I. Joe cartoon from Hell. They blow away untold numbers of human targets like so many cans of spaghetti sauce popping open. The madman Stallone who reveled in unabashed blood lust in Rambo a few years back gloriously returns for more guts! Things escalate to such heights that when they use the cannon mounted to the front of their rickety aircraft to blow away a bridge full of baddies, sheer anarchy and a joy of reigning down death from above just flies off the screen in a perverted, giddy, euphoric wave. And then the rest of the movie happens. Those first 15 minutes promise a movie which never comes together. There are lively bits here and there and the whole thing is light years better than the worthless bag of shit that was the first Expendables, but nothing matches that opening onslaught of carnage. Yeah, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Lundgren, Van Damme and a bunch of other meat heads are here, but they don’t need to be. Van Damme and Norris are particularly unnoteworthy additions to this cast of aging saddlebags with guns. Sly, quit dicking around with these things. If part three happens, use those first 15 minutes as your inspiration. You can ditch the rest. And be damn sure to call Carl Weathers. What’s the point of an 80’s action tribute piece if you aren’t going to invite Action Jackson?
The Raid – The real fucking deal of this trio of action fodder. Made by a possibly insane Welch director in Indonesia, Gareth Evans’ The Raid makes most action movies look like wet noodles dropped on the floor and stepped on. Every action movie director working today should have to see this movie. Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), Marcus Nispel (Conan the Barbarian), Len Wiseman (Underworld, Total Recall), all those witless hacks who turn in vanilla flavored, studio garbage tied to PG-13 ratings need to view it. I guarantee when it was over they’d stand up, look at each other and say, ‘We’re a bunch of fucking wussies who don’t deserve to make movies.’ in complete unison. The Raid is about a swat team trying to quietly infiltrate a mammoth apartment complex being controlled by a drug dealer. But once the alarm is sounded, all Hell is unleashed on the cops, the criminals, the audience, everyone. This movie would make God cringe. Faces are brutalized with fist and feet. Bullets fly through anything and everyone. Hooligans are tossed through walls and windows. Fight scene after fight scene piles on top of each other until you’re exhausted, and then more people just keep the melee going till the breaking point. A heart surgeon in his whole career won’t see so many arteries slashed open. And it’s all done in long, unflinching takes which just put the carnage front and center and let it ride. Every fist hurts. Evans isn’t even afraid of quiet moments. Amazing. This guy should have made The Hunger Games. If he had made a story about two dozen kids forced to kill each other for other peoples amusement he would have made it the ripe, mortifying horror show such a story needed to be.