I really can’t decide what kind of movie this is or if it was actually good or bad.
I’m going to coin a new descriptive phrase and expect every other review who uses it to send me a $.25 royalty: script confusion. This describes a movie that can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be when it grows up. This film was torn between a crime drama and an action movie. The crime drama felt awkward and haphazard, especially when it is established 10 minutes in that the main protagonist is reputably the greatest smuggler who ever lived. Throughout the crime aspects of the movie the story seems to indicate that secretly it wants to be an action film but, like a transgendered man taking her first steps in high heels, when we actually get to the action scenes they feel awkward, comedic, and tacked on.
That’s not to say this movie is bad. I found that it’s many shortcomings were often times balanced out by it’s more virtuous aspects. The comical gunfight and getaway is balanced out by some very clever smuggling tricks. The over the top main bad guy is balanced out by the very entertaining ship captain. The continuous sequence of narrow escapes is balanced out by a decent plot twist that comes about fairly organically. In fact, the whole movie seems so perfectly balanced that I can’t help but think this was intentional on the part of the director, Baltasar Kormákur. I have in the last year become a big fan of Scandinavian film makers (check out my review of Trollhunter), and while is filmography lacks a lot of main stream releases (Jar City, A Little Trip to Heavan, the Sea) it looks like he might be worth keeping an eye on.
The story. A loser kid Andy (Caleb Landry Jones-X-Men First Class, No Country for Old Men, the Last Exorcist) dumps a cargo of drugs overboard a freighter when it gets boarded by customs agents and now owes a ton of dough to the local campy bad guy Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi-Avatar (the corporate guy), Saving Private Ryan, Gone in 60 Seconds), who is going to kill him in horrible ways if he doesn’t get his money. Andy is the brother of Kate (Kate Beckensale-Underworld, the Aviator, Pearl Harbor) who is married to the most famous smuggler that ever lived, Chris Farraday (Marky Mark Wahlberg-Boogie Nights, the Fighter, the Other Guys). Now it is up to Chris to find the money to pay off Briggs, and given that he has retired from smuggling in order to be a blue collar business owner, his only option is to go back into smuggling. He is aided by long time friend Sebastian (Ben Foster-the Mechanic, the Messenger, 3:10 to Yuma), who has also gone legit with a construction business. They plan to smuggle in a huge stack of counterfeit money (yay for supporting the American economy!) on another freighter.
Somehow he and Andy get hired onto another freighter headed to Panama and meet up with a number of supporting characters plucked fresh from the the ground of the stereotype farm. Once on board Chris catches the eye of the ship captain (the great J.K. Simmons-J. Jonah Jamison from the Spiderman franchise, Juno, the Closer. Spiderman image courtesy of the Marvel T Shirt category), who was easily my favorite character and knows of Chris’s history and is instantly suspicious. They get to Panama in about 45 minutes where Chris gets involved in some kind of local gang lord crime spree. At that point the movie shifts gears into what I like to call the Scooby Doo chase sequence, where the story and characters progress only by the most ridiculous sequence of perfect timing and coincidence, like when the bad guy in the rubber costume is chasing Scooby and Shaggy through the corridor with the six doors (you know what I’m talking about). This part feels more that a little hackneyed, which surprised me as most of the rest of the movie seemed pretty well put together. Either Baltasar (what a cool name. I want to name my hypothetical son Baltasar) was trying to convey something I am too dense to pick up on, or he caved in to outside pressure from the studio to make the movie somehow more exciting by hoisting the audiences disbelief a little higher up.
Anyway, smuggling hijinks ensues. A lot of time is spent looking into shipping containers. Some kind of interesting plot twists reveal themselves.
The stars. Decent story. One star. Direction was pretty good. One star. In spite of the whole Scooby Doo portion, overall the pacing was right on target. There was no time that I felt bored or that things were dragging or progressing too fast. One star. Mark Wahlberg delivered a credible performance, in spite of the occasional campy dialog. One star. Decent plot twists, although a perceptive person might have seen them coming ahead of time. One star. Captain Camp was great. One star. In total a decent film that was enjoyable in a kind of bland way, like chewing on gum that has already lost it’s flavor. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. A movie that is rated R for language is a huge waste of potential. It’s like going to jail for stealing socks. If you are going to eat the R rating anyway you might as well throw in more horrific violence, blood, and some nudity. One black hole. Some of the characters, Briggs in particular, seem really over the top. One black hole. Some ocean container sized plot holes. One black hole. Almost all the characters worked on having some kind of New Orleans accent except for Wahlberg, who in spite of the fact that his character supposedly grew up on the Big Easy sounded like he just got off the plane from Beantown. One black hole. While it seemed like a decent movie, I walked out feeling no real connection to the story or any of it’s characters, and honestly struggled this morning to remember the plot and my feelings for it. Definitely a forgettable film. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of two stars. Meh. You won’t feel like you wasted your time or money seeing this, but a week afterward it won’t really stick with you. If you can see it cheap cool. If you wait until DVD you won’t really lose anything. There aren’t any cinemagraphics that requires a big screen. Date movie? Sure. Exciting and interesting enough to keep her into it while being bland enough to not offend or overstimulate her. Marky Mark keeps his shirt on for pretty much the whole film so you don’t have to worry about the comparison factor too much. However, this movie is kind of neutral in that it will neither help or hurt you in your campaign to seduce her, so if you haven’t closed the deal yet try to find something more enticing (or better yet, do something more fun and exciting than a movie).
Thanks for reading. I will eventually get the rest of my best of 2011 stuff done, but there are a bunch of new movies I want to see. My best friend tells me he wants my review on Joyful Noise. I will see it, but I suspect he is just screwing with me because he knows this film will drive me nuts. Also I am working on another huge project for work, so I might not get a lot done in the next week or so. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon.