Posts Tagged ‘denzel’

Los Angeles Detective Jim Baxter (Raimi Malek) has a serial killer on his hands, and is under mounting pressure to solve the murders of several young women. Joe Deacon, (Denzel Washington) is a sheriff’s deputy from Northern California who asks to help solve these cases because they bear a resemblance to a murder in Northern California. “Deke” settles on sex offender Stan Peters (Fredrick Koehler) as the primary suspect, but after questioning, Peters kills himself. The murders keep happening, so Deke zeroes in on another suspect, repairman Albert Sparma. (Jared Leto) Baxter and Deacon tail Sparma throughout Los Angeles, Deacon even searches Sprama’s house without a warrant, but does either Deacon or Baxter find anything incriminating on Sparma?

This is not a very well-written crime drama. All the suspects are found by Joe Deacon, even though Jim Baxter is the lead detective on the case. Why is Baxter deferring to Deacon on his own case? If anything, Baxter should be bringing in more suspects, to prove his worth to the Los Angeles police. Instead, there is only one suspect and the policemen spend the entire movie pursuing him. By setting up a binary choice, either Sparma did it, or the police are trying to pin multiple murders on an innocent man, the script boxes itself in. Additionally, the Sparma character fits the broad characterization of a serial killer too closely. He’s a stoner, a loner, skinny, unshaven with lomg hair. That, stereotypically is how a serial killer looks. In making the movie about that binary choice, the writer John Lee Hancock actually makes things worse, with the actual ending.

Denzel Washington tries his best to give his “Sheriff Deke” character some dimension, but the audience has seen this character before, it’s a mix between his character in Training Day, and the Bone Collector, but his performance, especially in Training Day is head and shoulders above the performance in this film. He needs to move on from the grizzled veteran policeman architype. Raimi Malek is not very believable as a police detective, he tries to push Leto’s character around to prove the character’s toughness, but it doesn’t work. He wants to expand his repertoire as an actor, but hard-nosed detective is a little out of his wheelhouse. Jared Leto does his best Charles Manson impression and fails. His lazy, lackadaisical speech pattern, the long, stringy hair and beard, and skinny frame all recall Manson. He could have rescued the character by making him sympathetic, but he antagonizes the police instead, making the audience not care what happens to him. For this, he got a Golden Globe nomination, he doesn’t deserve it.

Director John Lee Hancock’s direction is no better than the acting. He dithers around for the first hour not building much of a story. The pacing picks up a little in the second half, but long stake-out scenes drain the life out of any pacing that’s left in the film, mediocre performances, and a lack of visual inventiveness doesn’t help this film either. He seems to be better at making syrupy sweet films like Saving Mr. Banks or The Blind Side than creating a gritty crime drama.

The Little Things: Leto milks the serial killer role.

roman j israel

Roman J. Israel (Denzel Washington) is a partner in a small law firm in Los Angeles, his partner William Jackson, handled the courtroom appearances while Roman handled the behind the scenes legal briefs. After William dies, Roman is recruited by one of William’s former students, George Pierce. (Colin Farrell)  Roman has an idea for a class action lawsuit which will revolutionize plea bargaining, George wants nothing to do with that idea.  Roman also enquires about a job with another job with another acquaintance of Williams’s, Maya (Carmen Ejogo) who rejects his offer, saying that she and others who work there are only volunteers.  Roman has nothing left to do but work with George.

George assigns Roman a client named Derrell Ellerbee (DeRon Horton) who is accused of killing a store clerk.  Derrell accuses his partner in the robbery Carter Johnson, (Amari  Cheatom) but Derrell only shares this information with Roman.  After going to meet with Maya at her organization to give a pep talk, and having his ideas scoffed at by the younger generation,  Roman is mugged by a man who wants money.  Roman has a choice, do something unethical and reap immediate rewards, or stay true to his ideals, and struggle to pay the bills?

This is a dull movie that muddles along with a meandering plot, uninteresting characters, and has such trouble generating  a spark, that it can’t even bring itself to create a genuine love story. Maybe it’s because Denzel Washington is 19 years older than Carmen Ejogo, whatever the case, their relationship is clumsy.  The ending is syrup y sweet, to cover a much more dramatic ending, which should have been the way the movie ended.

After such a powerful, magnetic performance in Fences, it’s quite an adjustment to see Denzel Washington play such a meek, mild-mannered character.  Roman is described as a savant Coli Farrell’s character, maybe Denzel was trying to play someone with Asperger Syndrome, like Christian Bale did in the Big Short.  There was something disconcerting about Washington’s performance, lie he was trying to have a restrained performance.  Colin Farrell wasn’t bad, but he ended up playing a bland character in the end, and the character should have been more ruthless.  Carmen Ejogo is another victim of bad writing, is she a friend of the Washington character, is she a love interest?  Is he a mentor to her?  The vagueness of the script led to her weak performance, and she also had trouble maintaining her American accent, she is British.

The direction is also weak, Dan Gilrpy wrote this movie and directed it, which is apparently one too many jobs for hi.  The pacing is very slow and by the time the story gets interesting it’s 3/4th of the way over, if the viewer is still awake by then, it’s ok for about 20 minutes with a lackluster ending.  He doesn’t get any good performances, and there is nothing eye-catching about any scenes.

Roman J. Israel:  Feed This Roman to the lions.

Pictured: Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson)

Sanitation worker Troy Maxon (Denzel Washington) had dreams of becoming a baseball player, but that dream wasn’t available to an African American in the 1920‘s and 30’s, so he took the path most available to him, and married his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and set about raising his son, Cory. (Jovan Adepo) Life is far from easy for Troy, he feels pressure from his bosses because he wanted to be a driver and not someone who handled the refuse.  Cory wants to play football and Troy flatly denies giving him permission.  Troy’s older son, from another marriage, Lyons, (Russel Hornsby) is a musician, who Troy sees as a ne’er do well. Troy’s brother Gabriel (Mychelti Williamson) has suffered a brain injury in World War Two, and wanders the streets of Pittsburgh, talking to himself.  Troy feels guilty because he took Gabriel’s settlement from the military to buy his house.  There is a tenuous peace between all the disparate elements of Troy’s life, but then something happens to shake Troy’s family to the core.  What is it?  Does Troy’s family life ever return to the way it used to be?

Fences is the most honest and genuine working-class story I’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever.  It’s the story of a man, whose dreams have already been dashed, who is trying to eke out a living as a garbage man. That is a story of an average working man.  Troy wants better for his sons, but he doesn’t want them to take shortcuts.  Troy’s sons want to be like Troy, but different from him.  Troy struggles with his upbringing, his battle with his father, and his marriage.  If these aren’t universal issues that every family faces, I don’t know what is.  There are moments of happiness, but disaster is always on the razor’s edge. Even the characters have symbolic significance to them, Troy is the site of the Trojan War in the Iliad and there is certainly a war going on within Troy’s life. Gabriel, Troy’s brother, carries a trumpet, and thinks he is able to open the gates of Heaven, a reference to the Biblical angel Gabriel and his horn, made famous in African American spiritual songs. Rose is a sweet smelling flower, but watch her thorns. If anything, August Wilson’s screenplay peaks too soon, the last 25 minutes are anti-climactic, but until then the tension is palpable.

Denzel Washngton’s performance in Fences is nothing short of masterful.  Troy strides into everyone’s life like a colossus, and tries to control the actions of every character in the film.  Not every actor can handle the force of nature that Troy Maxon is.  Denzel did, and he did it superbly, he wasn’t screaming throughout, Washington modulates his character’s voice perfectly. There is no doubt that Denzel Washington deserved the Academy Award for best actor.  Viola Davis matches Washington, note for note, in an emotionally wrenching performance. Stephen Henderson is very good as Bono, Troy’s best friend. Jovan Adepo holds his own in scenes with Washington and Davis, not an easy thing to do.

The direction also by Washington has a few visual flourishes with good pacing and excellent performances throughout.

Fences:  Keeps on building.

Movie Review: 2 Guns (2013)‏

Posted: November 15, 2014 in Drama
Tags: ,

2 Guns

A DEA agent named Bobby (Denzel Washington) and a Naval intelligence officer named Stig (Mark Wahlberg) plan to rob the Tres Cruces bank and trace the three million dollars back to drug dealer Papi Greco. (Edward James Olmos)  Bobby plans to catch Papi, with the help of his girlfriend, DEA associate, Deb. (Paula Patton)  The robbery goes off without a hitch, but Deb never shows up, and there’s a lot more money in the bank than Papi’s 3 million, 43 million to be exact.  Bobby and Stig take the money, but suddenly Bobby is framed for killing his DEA boss, and the Navy is after Stig.  Who does the 40 million dollars belong to?  Who does the money end up with?

2 Guns actually gets off to a good start.  Crisp, funny, fast paced dialogue.  Good interplay between the lead characters and sexual tension between Bobby and Deb.  The story soon devolves into standard Hollywood filler, car chases, shootings, and explosions.  The character development is forgotten in place of more “action sequences.”  The “action” drags the whole movie down, and the movie is about half an hour too long to begin with.  By the time the secret of who owns the 40 million dollars is revealed, I really couldn’t care less.
The acting is good, better than the script deserves.  This movie is an example of the actors being better than the words written for them.  Denzel Washington is an Academy Award Winner and he shows why.  He’s completely at ease with the character and he tosses the banter with Wahlberg with the ease of a quarterback tossing a football to an open wide receiver.  Wahlberg is also at ease with the snappy dialogue and has good comedic timing and an excellent repartee with Washington.  Patton is nice to look at, and seems to have some chemistry with Washington, but her performance is similar to Baggage Claim, and I’ve realized she’s not much of a character actress, the performance is fine in a light comedy, but this is supposed to be a more dramatic film.  Edward James Olmos gives a standard issue performance as a drug kingpin, no nuance, nothing special.
The movie is long, and the pacing is odd, I found the movie actually slowed down when the action sequences started or maybe I zoned out, because the action is so similar to every other action cop buddy movie.  I really thought this movie would be different, edgier, but it wasn’t.
2 Guns: Misfires.

Movie Review: Flight (2013)

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Drama
Tags: , ,


Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an airline pilot with a complicated life.  He is divorced from his wife estranged from his son, and is in a sexual relationship with one of the stewardesses who he works with, Katerina Marquez. (Nadine Velasquez)  In addition, he drinks to excess and snorts cocaine, which he does on the morning of a particular flight.  He pulls the flight out of some tough weather, and then drinks while the plane is on autopilot.  The plane then starts to dive for some unknown reason and Whip Whitaker miraculously lands the plane, saving 96 of 102 people on board.  But the NTSB is doing an investigation and, and despite airline lawyer Hugh Lang’s (Don Cheadle) success in killing the toxicology report from the NTSB hearing, they still find out that there were two empty vodka bottles on the plane. Will the NTSB find out the truth about Whip’s drinking, or will a heroic act by a flawed pilot obscure the truth of his alcoholism and drug use?

I did not like Flight.  This is an example of a very good premise that goes awry, a hero pilot with very big personal flaws, must face his addictions or possibly face jail time.  This is an excellent starting point, but the movie gets so weighed down with its overwrought melodrama that it forgets to answer one of the basic questions posed in the film.  Why does Whip Whitaker drink?  In over two hours of what becomes a tedious morality play, the central question is never even addressed.  Many of the movies subplots are simply unnecessary, and add nothing to the central idea in the film.  Once again Hollywood has a strange take on religion, and the way down the plane clips a Pentecostal church, and the crash was somehow God’s will.  Instead the movie should be saying that all of us despite our many flaws are capable of heroic things, and that is through God’s grace.  The movie of course makes the co-pilot a fundamentalist Christian, whose wife’s every utterance ends with the phrase, ‘Praise Jesus.’  It’s sad that Hollywood wants to pigeonhole an entire religion as judgmental Bible thumpers , but they do. If that’s not bad enough, the ‘evidence’ that the movie hinges on is silly.  The plane is destroyed, people died, but two vodka bottles are unscathed.  Really?  Finally, this movie has an interesting take on alcohol detox, take drugs.  Not a good idea.

The acting is not great.  Denzel Washington, who I like, and think is an excellent actor, has gotten into something of a rut lately, playing a grizzled anti-hero a tough talking guy with all the answers. This take no-prisoners attitude was first and display in the movie Training Day, and it was eye-opening. Denzel could really play a bad guy with the face of a movie idol, but he played a similar role in American Gangster, Unstoppable and now Flight.  It’s time to put this character away for a while.  Don Cheadle plays a lawyer in the dullest, most uninteresting way, I’m really tired of seeing Cheadle give another lifeless, bland performance.  John Goodman was at the very least funny, but totally unnecessary . Goodman essentially serves  as Washington’s drug supplier.

Flight is very slowly paced and inexplicably long.  The director Robert Zemeckis, who made the very successful Back To the Future films and writer John Gaitains are responsible for the pacing and length of this film, a lot of editing was required to get to the essence of the film, but that was not done. The movie has nudity and numerous scenes of drug taking.  This is absolutely not a movie to watch with kids.

Flight.  Never takes off.

Movie Review: Unstoppable (2010)

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Drama
Tags: ,


At the rail yard, railroad employee Dewey (Ethan Suplee) lets a train go while disconnecting the air brakes Engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) are on a routine job bringing another train back to the rail yard.   They are told by Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) that the other train is headed straight for them.  Barnes and Colson are not in much danger, but the train is speeding towards Colson’s hometown carrying a trainload of toxic chemicals. Connie wants to derail the train, but railroad executive Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn) thinks that will cost the railroad company too much money, and vetoes the idea.  Barnes has a risky plan to chase the runaway train with the locomotive of their train, attach their locomotive to the runaway train, slow the runaway train down, get Colson to climb in and apply the brakes to the runaway train.  Is Colson game?  Will the plan work?

The problem with this movie is it’s entirely too predictable.  Everyone watching this movie knows how it’s going to end from the first frame. The moviemakers try to add some intrigue by hinting that Pine’s character got the job through nepotism, that he is dangerous because his wife has a restraining order on him.  They try to make Frank more interesting by making him a victim of a recent downsizing whose wife died of cancer and whose two daughters work at Hooters.  It doesn’t work, this movie plays like a bad tv movie, like a cross between Speed and Silver Streak, it’s got that been there done that feel to it.  Washington and Pine try mightily to rise above the material, but there is very little material here that’s not clichéd or hackneyed.   Rosario Dawson had less to work with, she could do no wrong.  Her character was flawless and deadly boring.  Despite the great cast, the fact that the movie is “based on real events” means that some parts aren’t true, so if the movie makers are going to fake it, why not fake the whole thing and make it more interesting?

Stop, Look and Listen.  Don’t Watch This Movie.

the book of eli

Eli (Denzel Washington) wanders around a post apocalyptic world that is likely victim of a nuclear conflagration,  Eli possesses a book, which he carries with him, that he sees as the key  to the continuation of mankind,  He has been told by a voice inside him to take the book “out West” and he diligently, single-mindedly tries to achieve that mission.  He believes that God will protect him, whatever dangers he faces, killing hairless cats for food, and roving gangs who try to impede his mission, with equal ease.  Eli comes to a small town, where he decides to stay for the night, Eli meets Claudia (Jennifer Beals) a blind   woman who woks at the ‘hotel’ where Eli is staying, and her daughter Solara, (Mila Kunis) who provides water for weary travelers,  They are being held hostage by Carnegie (Gary Oldman) an evil man, who wants Eli’s book in order to control people and build his empire based on fear. Solara begs Eli to take her with him, Eli reluctantly agrees.  Does Eli make it out West with the book of Eli, does Solara survive?

This is a deeply flawed movie at times.  For example, Eli is struggling to find food and water, yet his I-pod works flawlessly, that’s a silly piece of product placement, that makes the movie laughable.  Some of the gangs ride around in motorcycles.  Huh?  The world is destroyed, yet cars and motorcycles still function?  Where are the gas stations?  And everyone is armed to the teeth with guns; I guess guns survive nuclear winter.  The NRA will be glad to hear that.  Despite all of those post-apocalyptic gaffes, the theme of sustaining one’s faith, when everything around you has been devastated is a powerful theme, and that theme sustains the movie.  The story is similar to the story of Elijah, maybe it was based on the story of Elijah.  Elijah was directed by God to keep himself alive and keep being a prophet of God despite being chased by Jezebel and the followers of Baal.  The ending of this movie is reminiscent of the book Fahrenheit 451, which everyone should read at some point in their lives.

Denzel Washington pulls of his role with an easy, graceful, touch, he is a faithful man, forced to act violently to protect a possession that is vital to him.  That is a huge contradiction that not all actors could reconcile, but Washington does so.  Mila Kunis is not so fortunate, she is given some insipid dialogue, and she’s not a good enough actress to make it believable, so she resorts to sounding like her role on That 70’s Show, a whiny childish brat. Despite that, there are some powerful scenes with her and Washington that illustrate the central theme of faithfulness.  Gary Oldman plays a serviceable villain, but  he doesn’t seem to have his heart in it.  Jennifer Beals is good in the scenes that she is in, she and Washington seem to have better chemistry than Kunis and Washington, but Kunis is better known I guess, and more able to sell tickets. One more thing, the cinematography on some scenes in this movie is breathtaking, clouds seem drawn by hand, and the use of black and white photography is visually provocative.

The Book of Eli.  The Good Book, in movie form.