Contraband, a remake of the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, directed by Baltasar Kormakur (who starred in the original) and starring Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, Kate Beckinsale.
A smuggler turned legit businessman (Wahlberg, mwah) is forced to do another run after his idiot brother-in-law (the guy who played Banshee in X-Men: First Class) gets into trouble with a nasty gangster. The gangster is played by Giovanni Ribisi (Where have you been?) who makes up for his relative puniness by being insane-scary. Diego Luna as a Panamanian gangster also gets to do insane-scary, but Ben Foster who could out-insane-scary them all has to play subdued-complex (We prefer scary mode). Kate Beckinsale is in two movies this week: you can see her killing werewolves in the latest
Underground Underworld, or worrying about her husband in Contraband, and in both films she wears the same expression (Buti lang maganda siya). As always Mark Wahlberg is the calm center of the storm, the guy who makes the improbable believable.
Contraband is low-key and efficient, with some gripping moments and an interesting blues-rock soundtrack. We learned a whole lot about how to smuggle contraband by getting a job on an ocean liner. You don’t suppose the Costa accident in Tuscany…
Haywire, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor in a bad haircut, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton.
A high-powered action flick in which a private contractor doing black ops for some shadowy government agency exacts revenge on the people who framed her. Essentially it’s about an attractive woman (Gina Carano of American Gladiators) beating the crap out of hot guys. No suspension of disbelief required: she looks like she could break them in half. Entertaining, yes, but why all the A-listers in a movie that, with the exception of Carano, could’ve starred practically anyone?
J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Dustin Lance Black, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench.
Clint Eastwood is a very cool cat. Early on he was the silent gunslinger in spaghetti westerns, then he was the vigilante urging punks to make his day. But since Unforgiven he has been engaged in taking American myths apart, and now he takes on J. Edgar Hoover.
Why should we even watch a movie about J. Edgar Hoover, an odious man who ruined many lives? Clint Eastwood, working with Dustin Lance Black who wrote Milk and an in-form Leonardo DiCaprio, digs up the villain and unearths a human being. He doesn’t make us like the man, but he lets us see how he could’ve turned out that way: a man so intent on policing his country from enemies real and imaginary, he polices himself into a lifetime of denial and unhappiness. (We love the Psycho reference.)
The movie is particularly good at portraying the relationship between Hoover and his protege Clyde Tolson (the beautiful Armie Hammer doing discreet-campy). J. Edgar is very matter-of-fact about its protagonist’s gayness, and it does not take the easy route of blaming his actions on his being in the closet. The action shifts seamlessly between decades and manages to encompass half a century of American history.
Screenwriter Black allows Hoover to spin his own myth, complete with Hollywood public relations campaigns, and then calls him out on his lies. If you want to see a complex think movie, this is the one; for escapism you have the options above.
When we get back from Oz we’ll see My Cactus Heart.