Tag Archives: McConaughey

The Gentlemen

26 Jan

‘The Gentlemen’: Guy Ritchie gangster crew hashes out their differences to deadly ends

 

Video Player

tmp-the-gentlemen

It feels somewhat weird that this boldly minted Miramax offering from Guy Ritchie hits theaters just as the Harvey Weinstein trial kicks off in New York. Miramax, for those with short-term memories, was the studio Harvey and his brother founded back in 1979. The name remains synonymous with the notorious abuser, which is why in Ritchie’s return to the British gangster romp it’s so strange to see the moniker not only up there in lights, but as part of the plot. Perhaps the studio thought of it as something of a whitewash, but the timing makes the connection just too hard to shake.

That bit of ignominious history aside, “The Gentlemen” is quite entertaining, sharper and more focused than Ritchie’s “RocknRolla” (2008) though not in the same class as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) or “Snatch” (2000). (Also hard to believe Ritchie just helmed the recent “Aladdin” adaptation). The ensemble here is a stroke of genius, with Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Pearson, an American transplant who runs a half-billion-dollar cannabis operation, Hugh Grant owning the picture as a conniving P.I. and aspiring screenwriter named Fletcher and hunky hot ticket Henry Golding as Dry Eye, a foot soldier with big ambitions. Then there’s Colin Farrell as “Coach,” a saucy sort who runs an inner-city gym, and Charlie Hunnam as Ray, Mickey’s fixer. The uber-twisted plot essentially rides on the rails of Mickey in the process of selling his business (because of his criminal past, when weed goes legal he likely won’t get a seat at the table) to a fellow American (Jeremy Strong). From there, the chess match of double dealings and plots within plots spews forth, the whole endeavor framed brilliantly by some deliciously dicey dialogue between Fletcher and Ray over a few bottles of scotch and Wagyu steak – what’s that in your freezer, the son of a Russian oligarch? Continue reading

The Beach Bum

29 Mar

‘The Beach Bum’: McConaughey is Moondog, the weed is strong and life is all right, all right

 

Image result for the beach bum movie

Harmony Korine, the wunderkind (as screenwriter) behind Larry Clark’s dark and disturbing 1995 chronicle of bad adolescent behavior, “Kids,” has been a dicey go when working the camera. An experimental filmmaker who’s pushed the boundaries of sex, sexual violence and despair, his work is often critically hailed but financially anemic. His first film, “Gummo” (1997), about white trash eccentrics in a depressed Ohio township, cost more than $1 million to make and grossed about $20,000. “Mr. Lonely” (2007) about celebrity impersonators in Paris, ran $9 million to put together and grossed less than $250,000. Not great math, but “Spring Breakers” – his 2013 Day-Glo crossover starring Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as coeds turned boat-running perps – crushed it both at the box office and with the critics. So what could go wrong with a return to sun-soaked Florida, a big-name cast and some gonzo high times? Well, sharks for one, and a muddled vape waft of a plot for two.

If you’re a fan of Matthew McConaughey’s eternal high school hound-dog in Richard Linklater’s brilliant 1993 teen comedy, “Dazed and Confused,” “The Beach Bum” will be something of a treat; he plays the maturation of that delusional soul, a party-every-day stoner named Moondog, a once-was poet famous enough to take the mic from Jimmy Buffett at a gig. Moondog hangs in the Keys, lounging on a houseboat named “Well Hung,” drinking PBRs and banging on bongo drums accompanied by buxom, naked females. It’s something of a cross between “Waterworld” and a Goya painting. But Moondog, it turns out, is a family man with a wife and daughter up in Miami. Baby girl is getting married to a guy Moondog refers to, even at the ceremony, as “Limp Dick.” 

Moondog’s wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) is loaded and lives in a seaside manse replete with infinity pools and more house staff than Tony Montana. She’s also got her own side distraction with longtime family friend and rap mogul (or maybe more of a drug dealer?) named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg, who owns every scene with aplomb). When Moondog shows up drunk in a skiff at the dock, he and Minnie immediately down a few cocktails; as she receives a poolside pedicure from an away-glancing pedicurist, Moondog performs oral sex on her. For such eccentric hedonists, their daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen, who ever seems on the verge of cracking up at McConaughey‘s goofy Moondog hijinks) is exceptionally well adjusted, aside from her choice of spouse – he’s simple a generic 9-to-5 wonk, not suited for this family by any means.

Not to give too much away, but the film could be subtitled, “A Wedding, a Funeral and a Book.” The big win to the film besides McConaughey, who has to power it along and does so with lecherous, avuncular charm, is the utterly inspired casting. I mean, there’s a duet between Jimmy Buffett and Snoop Dogg; Zac Efron shows up and smashes a wheelchair-bound elder over the head with a whiskey bottle – Korine must have some kind of vendetta against “High School Musical” – and Jonah Hill emulates the accentuated Southern twang of Strother Martin as Moondog’s money-grubbing agent. Then there’s Martin Lawrence as Captain Wack, who likes to wake and bake (his parrot needs a few lines of toot to get up and going as well) and take unwary tourists out on dolphin tours. That’s where the film jumps the shark, or I should say a shark jumps unnecessarily into the film. It’s a near fatal stroke, but nothing McConaughey‘s Moondog can’t fix with a giant blunt, a bottle of booze and some bad prose. Any decent prose that flows from Moondog is borrowed from the greats, though. The one poem we get that’s heralded by mucky-mucks is about appreciating the prowess of one’s penis to do it twice a day. 

It might be too harsh to call “Beach Bum” a spectacle of excess, the way that maybe “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998) or “Candy” (1968) were, but it’s listing in that direction. Overall the film doesn’t have the biting edge of “Spring Breakers,” but if you have a taste for Korine’s raucous rambling skids through the highs and lows of society (think “Gummo” or “Trash Humpers”) this is the grade-A Wagyu, James Beard-approved course for you. And of course there’s McConaughey. The film does’t work without him. This is a sheer shambles of cinematic poetry that’s all McConaughey.

White Boy Rick

23 Sep

‘White Boy Rick’: Life of overachieving teen can’t sustain its high in crack-dealing 1980s

Image result for white boy rick

 

There’s a whole lot of bristle and edge to “White Boy Rick,” the true-life chronicle of Rick Wershe, a plucky street criminal who made front page news as a drug dealer and gun runner in crack-addicted Detroit. Sure, there were lots of other kingpins working the street during the desperate ’80s, but Rick was barely 16 and – as the film has it – the only white kid trying to cut in. Rick was also an on-and-off again informant for the FBI, a move that ultimately proves less favorable than it did for local white guy Whitey Bulger.

If you were hoping “White Boy Rick” might be a Horatio Alger story propelled with shotgun shells like “Scarface,” it’s not. It’s more a tale of desperation, poor choices and swimming against the current and, on a social level, an American tragedy, and there’s a lot you want to like: the topographical audacity, trademark disco funk music, gritty street lingo and a wickedly impressive cast. But somehow “White Boy Rick” doesn’t know how to deliver, or maybe it’s just that hard to make a true-life criminal be sympathetic or compelling onscreen. Remember how highly anticipated “Black Mass” was, and how it fell short? Rick doesn’t kill anyone here – not directly, anyway, though he does unload a gunny sack of AK-47s to a posse of trigger-happy gangbangers and later distributes heroin and crack. So there’s that.

What “White Boy Rick” needs is a fix of character development and motivation. We have little idea why Rick grabs that satchel of guns from his dad initially and saunters into a kingpin’s operation, inconspicuous as an elephant at a yoga retreat. It’s a perfectly orchestrated and tense scene, but without a framework it wanes quickly thereafter – as does much of the film, as it achieves crescendo after crescendo only to return to flatness. It’s no fault of new face Richie Merritt, who’s convincing enough as the titular man-boy full of resolve and the capacity to pull the trigger, but a high reluctance to shoot first and think later. Strangely or perhaps poetically, Rick flows seamlessly from white to black. If you could imagine Gary Oldman’s dreaded and grilled gangster in “True Romance” shot in the rump with a tranquilizer, you’d have the right approximation: far less cartoonish, but with the right amount of cred. Continue reading

Mud

26 Apr

‘Mud’: Pulpy crime noir, love story and coming of age, all found along a river

The titular substance usually connotes filth, squalor and entrapment like quicksand. About the only positive spin I can think of are mud baths in a health spa. But I digress. Mud acts as an effective tapestry in Jeff Nichols’ follow-up to his doomsday preparer saga, “Take Shelter.” It’s the name of the arcane protagonist (played with vigor and game by Matthew McConaughey, whose trademark southern drawl is aptly perfect for the Arkansas setting), a metaphor for the sticky situation he’s in and can’t get unstuck from, and it’s everywhere in the Arkansas Delta where many of the characters live in ramshackle houseboats and eke out a living pulling fish, pearls and salvage from the silt-lined bed of the mighty Mississippi.

Like the olio of treasures found at the river’s bottom, “Mud” is a lot of diverse things compressed into one. It’s a southern gothic, a pulpy crime noir, an account of a fading way of life, a contemplation on love and most of all a coming of age tale that evokes shades of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. As Ellis and Neckbone, the proverbial Twain tandem, Tye Sheridan – one of Brad Pitt’s lads in “The Tree of Life” – and newcomer Jacob Lofland imbue the film with a sweet innocence and impish teen know-how.

Neckbone lives with his uncle (Michael Shannon, who starred in “Take Shelter”) and never knew his parents. Ellis lives in a dingy but cozy floating shack, and his parents are on the verge of splitting. The two find solace in each other and their mini adventures. Their latest involved the rumor of a boat lodged high up in a tree on an island after a recent flood. The rumor turns out to be true, and the boat happens to be where they meet Mud, scraggly, starving, feral and needing their help to get food. He can’t set foot in the mainland, because he’s a wanted man.  Continue reading