Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sick n Binging: Guys Shooting People

NOT a soon-to-be-regular category, but one Kent is welcome to, since he is more often exposed to virus laden bacteria machines, i.e. kids, this one is about laying on the sofa coughing and hacking and sneezing and having not enough energy to even sleep properly, so might as well watch Netflix.

The Gunman, 2015, Pierre Morel (Taken) -- Netflix
Shooter, 2007, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) -- Netflix

I am often confused about what constitutes a movie being made for the Straight To market vs the proper theatre release. A tired, familiar plot shouldn't inspire theatre release just because of a main star and some proper backing. But this is what Sean Penn ended up with -- another story about a gunman done wrong. But I was in the mood for crime stories, so this did well for me. I enjoyed it but was also rather bored with it.

In The Gunman, Sean Penn is Jim Terrier, a tough guy working as security for an NGO in The Congo. But what he is really there for is wetwork, as directed by Javier Bardem. Javier Bardem also wants Terrier's GF Annie, so chooses Jim as the guy to shoot the Minister of Mining, securing their client's contracts in the country and forcing Jim to leave. Javier steps in and replaces Jim in Annie's bed. Yeah, another female character as plot accessory instead of character.

Years later.  Someone is trying to kill Jim. He has given up the assassin life and is doing proper NGO work back in The Congo. But now he knows someone wants him dead and, of course, it must be connected to his work years ago. Yes, because, because he didn't have any other work that was shady, before or since. Anywayz, thus begins the Bourne-ian journey around Europe seeking knowledge of his hunters, killing mooks and reconnecting with Annie. Oh, and a meet cute with Idris Elba as an Interpol agent.

The only really impressive thing about this movie was Sean Penn's body. Part Sly Stone physique, part Liam Neeson skills, Jim Terrier is a well oiled machine over 50. And they use any opportunity to remind us of this by having him shirtless. But for the fact he also suffers major post-concussion syndrome (y'know, to make it current) from years of guns firing off in his ear, he would have waded through the conspiracy. In the end (and yes, Spoiler) it pulls out the usual crime reveal of having his good friend, the first person he reconnects with after the attempt on his life, turn out to be the Bad Guy.

Bleah, I expected more from Morel.

On the other hand, I am always happy with the way Antonie Fuqua does things. Starting way back with Training Day and Denzel as an unlikable, corrupt cop Fuqua allows his movies to have some weight to them. And remember The Replacement Killers, that brilliant and fun nod to Chow Yun-Fat and his Hong Kong actioners?  That was Fuqua. I am not saying he is Shakespeare but he does a little bit more with the action genre that raises the bar.

Right off the bat, from the intro story to our shooter, there is some skill to the directing, the lines between Mark Wahlberg and his spotter, and the camera work. You just get a gut feeling you are going to enjoy what you see.

Not that I am saying this is a completely original story -- snipes who get done wronged by their country is pretty common. But I liked the way this one played out, even as I was mentally yelling at the screen that he was being setup. After Bob Lee Swagger (now ain't that an American good ol boy name if you ever heard one) does not shoot the American president, he goes on the run. I am not sure how a trained special forces sniper also knows all these counterintelligence technique, but he gives the other special forces people hunting a good run for their money. Mooks in their dozens die.

The best parts are the quiet parts where Swagger swaggers, calmly planning his next move and inspiring those helping him with utter confidence, who includes Michael Peña as a bumbling FBI rookie and a surprisingly not-skinny Kate Mara. As they played up the sexuality of her character, to no good reason (tanktop no bra, she covers up modestly, but not before we get a good look) I wonder will we ever rise from female characters as accessories in Hollywood.

Sure, things blow up and lots of people get shot, but there is a way Fuqua handles everything that is quietly satisfying.