Tag Archives: Taken

Peppermint

9 Sep

‘Peppermint’: Jennifer Garner takes her turn in not-so-fresh parental revenge action genre

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There’s nothing minty or fresh to “Peppermint,” the hard-boiled throwback from Pierre Morel who covered similar terrain with “Taken” back in 2008. That psychological actioner starring Liam Neeson as a relentless pa out to reclaim his daughter from kidnappers proved a surprisingly effective B-grade thriller. Here, unfortunately, the amiable Jennifer Garner spreading her wings as an avenging angel has a lot less to work with in terms of nuance and character, though the film far exceeds “Taken” in brutality and head count. Comparisons to “Old Boy” or “John Wick” would be fair.

The film begins accordingly with a bloody struggle inside a boxy sedan in predawn Los Angeles. In those tight confines, Garner’s Riley North eventually gains the upper hand and lets a bullet fly into the cranium of a highly tatted gangbanger. The thing you admire most about the whole affair and its aftermath is Riley’s steely resolve and professional efficiency. You know she’s done this before. The how and why of that get answered quickly as we flash back five years, with Riley now a Girl Scout-leading soccer mom. Things are pretty tight for the Norths: Riley works part time in a bank while her loving yet flawed husband Chris (Jeffery Hephner) labors in a garage while figuring out his next big move. Unwisely, he listens (just listens) to an offer to be part of a crew to rob a drug lord by the fantastically generic name of Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), who, as the film says over and over, is the Mr. Big of the L.A. crime scene. The offer gets turned down, but Garcia’s already caught wind of the job and takes out Chris and Riley’s 9-year-old daughter (Cailey Fleming) in a drive-by. Riley sees the whole ordeal – in repeat slow-mo – and even though she IDs the shooters to the police, once in court, the defense attorney smugly flips the case. The judge won’t listen to Riley’s plea and the prosecutors don’t seem to care. The shooter goes free. An enraged Riley is cuffed, dragged out of court and prepped for a mental institution. Continue reading

You Were Never Really Here

15 Apr

 

Seven years ago Scottish director Lynne Ramsay served notice with the psychological thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” In that film, a family is torn apart by a son’s increasingly disturbed behavior. Things proceed edgily and eventually go off the rails, violently and shockingly. In her latest, “You Were Never Really Here,” audiences don’t have to wait long for an eruption of carnage when an equalizer/hitman is employed to retrieve a state senator’s daughter from a high-end brothel in midtown Manhattan.

If that sounds like the boilerplate to “Taken” or “Taxi Driver,” you’d be right to think so – at least on paper – but for Ramsay, getting at her protagonist’s state of mind and backstory is anything but a linear exercise. In wisps we catch Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) in military fatigues within the confines of a desert encampment feed a candy bar through a chain-link perimeter to a youth who is promptly shot dead by a surprising source. Later, ostensibly in the FBI or some investigative law enforcement unit, Joe uncovers a van full of dead bodies. And then there are the flashbacks to a highly abusive father and Joe’s attempts at suicide via asphyxiation (dry cleaning bags being the impermeable of choice). These images are littered throughout, giving brushstrokes of insight to the enigmatic Joe, bearded, burly and employing the peen end of a hammer to bash his way through his first assignment. To save the senator’s daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov), he employs the same implement – a new one of course, selected carefully from the hanging racks of a Home Depot, Ace Hardware or the like – working his way through the Manhattan brownstone in a more “Old Boy” style than Travis Bickle might consider. Continue reading

The Gunman

21 Mar

‘The Gunman’: Penn is almost mightier than weaknesses of misfiring action film

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Sean Penn jumps into the action genre – or that’s the tag everyone’s layering onto his involvement in “The Gunman.” In concept the film, a thinking person’s espionage thriller with a serious thespian at the fore and an international slant, has the bones of “A Most Wanted Man,” “The Constant Gardener” and even the Bourne films, but that’s as far the genetic similarities go. In the bigger kinetic rendering, the uneven pacing and seemingly smart twists that suddenly nosedive into cliché confine the film much the same way its uninspired title does: The obvious is floated as a banner that implies something more and deeper to come, but it never does.

032015i The GunmanPenn’s up for the role as a gun for hire, employed by a Blackwater type org that pulls the strings behind the soldiers of fortune in movies such as “Dogs of War.” His Jack Terrier (I kept thinking dog too) is buff, physically well oiled and ready for action at the drop of a pin. His only weaknesses are that he smokes and, while on assignment in the Congo, falls for an idealistic aid worker, Annie (a fetching Jasmine Trinca).

Given the film is directed by Pierre Morel, who steered Liam Neeson through much mayhem in “Taken,” you’d think Annie’s safety would be that catalyst for the gloves to come off, but the film (based on the 1981 novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette) is more concerned with corporations deploying operatives in third world hell-holes to tip the balance of power for profit. Annie serves mostly as a raw point between Jack and his handler Felix (a misused Javier Bardem) after an assassination of the Congo’s mining minister ripples across the years and continents. Continue reading