Posts Tagged film review

film review: Brooklyn’s Finest

These streets have an expiration date.
–Tango [Don Cheadle]

Boasting an outstanding [albeit mostly male– though in a small role Ellen Barkin blasts through the few scenes she has as a hard ass top brass] cast, Brooklyn’s Finest is a gritty, violent and shocking film. Three police officers, with vastly different career trajectories, struggle to rise above the filth and danger in Brooklyn. All three officers fight off job fatigue to hit individual goals: retirement, a house, a promotion. Eddie [Richard Gere] is mere days away from collecting a pension and moving to the idyllic quiet of Connecticut. Sal [Ethan Hawke] lives for his family and plans to buy a house so that his pregnant wife [Lili Taylor] won’t be so sick. Tango [Don Cheadle] aches to be done with undercover work and be promoted to detective.

So over his police officer job and just counting the days, Eddie aims to stay out of trouble. When a rookie cop gets in the middle of a domestic dispute, Eddie pulls him away and tells him that they don’t act of their precinct even though the guy totally smacked the woman while arguing outside their car. Sal becomes so desperate for money that he starts eying that of the drug dealers he busts. He’s frantic and going to blow [Hawke is so entrenched in this role that I didn’t immediately recognize him]. Tango finds himself in the ultimate dilemma: help take down a drug dealer or protect sometime he’s grown to care about. Caz [Wesley Snipes in a nearly unrecognizable, toned down performance] is not the flashy prototype but he’s one cool cat.

In the end, all three men end up in the same dangerous location with tragic and stunning consequences. Director Antoine Fuqua [Training Day] helms this stellar examination of what motivates the three officers. Delving into each officer’s life and telling separate yet intersecting stories catapults Brooklyn’s Finest beyond the predictable, clichéd cop film. Gere exudes wear and tear and numbness. Hawke rocks the Brooklyn accent and turns in a darkly nuanced performance. Cheadle exudes coolness with this bold, layered role. It’s a disturbing, bloody and provocative film. The brilliant, solid cast and potent writing, makes Brooklyn’s Finest an authentic, unflinching film.


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film review: Turn the River

When he introduced the film at this year’s Independent Film Festival of Boston, writer/director Chris Eigeman said, “If handmade is the opposite of corporate, I hope this feels handmade.” It does. It has its charms. Eigeman starred in the Wilt Stilman trilogy: Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. He’s very good at playing the buttoned-up, upper crust preppie type. So it’s somewhat surprising that he wrote and directed a film like Turn the River. But then again not that surprising as in those films, the characters drew the interest. Turn the River is a character study. Eigeman met Famke Janssen when they starred in the indie In Treatment together. Eigeman wrote the character in Turn the River specifically for Janssen. That tells a lot about her acting talent. She’s a tall, beautiful woman, yes. If you’ve only seen her in the X-Men films, you are missing out. She’s fantastic in little films like Monument Ave. and Love and Sex. [I’d love to see a film with Janssen and Elizabeth Hurley playing sisters.] While effortlessly beautiful and cool, Janssen can delve into nearly any role with conviction. She’s fearless. And there’s no Charlize Theron-technique of hiding her beauty to play serious roles either. Those beautiful, expressive eyes carry her character through this film. She turns in a gritty, natural performance as a pool hustler mom in Turn the River.

Kailey lost her custody of her son Gulley (Jaymie Dornan) to her ex-husband about a decade ago. We’re not exactly sure why but can guess. She seems from the other side of the tracks. She plays a lot of pool, isn’t educated in the conventional way and shuffles from place to place like many a grifter. Life experience shapes her and provides her with that hard edge. Yet her heart remains open to her son. Kailey has suffered losses at a young edge when she may wasn’t even enough of an adult to realize their implications. She’s not “book smart” like her son but certainly appreciates the virtues of his private schooling. Rip Torn plays the owner of one of her regular joints. He’s the father she’s always wanted. He doesn’t ask her too many questions and he supports her and unconditionally loves her and cares for her. It’s sweet. She spends most of her time at pool houses, sizing up potential marks, storing wads of cash in the back of a pick-up truck she won in a card game. When she finally decides to make the big move with her son, she’s going to risk everything.

Turn the River is a quietly moving film. It’s not flashy but is direct and complex. It slowly unfolds to show this street savvy woman who’s so on the edge and so close to going over the top. Will she make it? The ending may leave you completely confused and even asking, “Why did that just happen?” It’s flawed, absolutely. There are holes throughout but also plenty of heart. Overall though, this is a fine little film with stellar acting from Janssen.


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DVD Review: The Lookout

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Isla Fisher, Jeff Daniels
Directed by: Scott Frank
Miramax Films

Everyone was saying how you woke up this other guy.
–Luvlee [Fisher] to Chris [Gordon-Levitt] about his coma.

Chris Pratt [Gordon-Levitt] seemed to lead the charmed life: star hockey player, pretty girlfriend, popular, family wealth and a number of prospects ahead of him. Now, he lives by lists. People do not expect much of him. And he seems an easy target and you get uneasy when anyone talks to him. Stuck in a mind he did not choose to be in, nor wants to be can be surprising and is often frustrating for Chris. He’s now treated differently. Sometimes he surprises himself and gets frustrated too by his slow verbalization process or the way he blurts things out at times.

Gordon-Levitt expresses a naivety and just the right expression. On the extras, Gordon-Levitt said he intentionally did not get much slept and was really worn out on the set to get in to the mindset of this character. It’s an impressive character study. Fully aware of his shortcomings, the character knows at times how slow and complicated things are and other times is lucent.

Despite wealthy parents he works cleaning floors at the local bank and lives in a shady part of town with his blind friend. Guilt? Some form of self-punishment? Townies befriend him and convince him to collaborate on a scheme to rob the bank; will he go through with it after all. Especially conniving and convincing is Luvlee [played by the effervescent Fisher]. Chris hasn’t received so much attention in a long time. But will he risk it all for the thrill or for the money or the power that it will provide?

The Lookout is a superior psychological thriller.

STEELE RECOMMENDATION: Top of the netflix queue.

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film review: 2 Days in Paris

It’s not easy being in a relationship, much less to truly know the other one and accept them as they are with all their flaws and baggage.

2 Days in Paris is a refreshing, layered, truthful depiction of relationships. The film makes shrewd observations on how a relationship influences the human heart, soul and mind. The coupling without losing the individual. Sometimes you get blinded, often you are insecure and eventually, you might get it right. This chatty, extremely funny and insightful romantic comedy finds talented actress Julie Delpy directing her own script. She co-stars with ex-boyfriend Adam Goldberg, her own parents and even her cat makes a cameo appearance.

This sharp film reveals the minutiae and varied aspects of a relationship. Marion [Delpy] is a 35-year-old French woman who lives in New York. She’s a photographer and has been with her serious, brooding, introspective boyfriend, Jack [Goldberg], an interior designer, for two years. After a trip to Venice, the couple stops in Paris to see her parents. During those 48-hours, Marion runs into several ex-boyfriends, throwing him into an insecure spiral and he starts to question her commitment. It’s a turning point for them as the relationship will either wither or bloom in the City of Love.

Delpy attacks Parisian stereotypes in a way only someone French can really do. She shows the real, gritty parts of Paris; the political undertones, the racism, the immigrants and the less-romantic side– the dark underbelly. 2 Days in Paris simultaneously evokes Delpy’s love of the city and her distain for its politics and hypocrisy. And the best part is that Delpy is hysterical. The film is a winning romantic comedy full of surprising moments.

2 Days in Paris is thoughtful, genuine and amusing in its reflections on love and self-identity for a career-oriented woman in her 30s. She’s independent, has had many loves and relationships in her past. In this refreshing film, the focus is a career-oriented woman who does not want children, has slept with more than a dozen men and is neither regretful nor apologetic and loves her cat and boyfriend equally.


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