FKB’s weekly article series with recommendations on what to catch in theaters this weekend.
BIG BAD WOLVES
Director: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Dov Glickman, Menasheh Noy, Dvir Benedek
Genre: Dark Comedy/Suspense
Quentin Tarantino has touted Big Bad Wolves as his favorite film of 2013. High praise don’t you think? Before you get ahead of yourself, keep in mind he also listed The Lone Ranger and Kick-Ass 2 in his top 10. I guess Tarantino didn’t look very hard this year. Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado have flown under the radar of many filmgoers but made a name for themselves with the slept-on 2010 slasher Rabies. Israeli cinema in general has turned up some gems as of late, including the hard-to-watch S#x Acts by Jonathan Gurfinkel.
Anyway, with that said, Big Bad Wolves makes me giddy with excitement. I can’t resist a good dark comedy, but they’re hard to pull off. Creating a good balance between dark themes and humor without tipping too much either way has only been really successfully done a handful of times. I’m not talking about the (admittedly excellent) South Korean films of the last decade or so, including Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host and Kim Jee-Woon’s I Saw The Devil, that infuse a few perfect little moments of brevity among a multitude of bleak scenarios. Those are great, but they’re not dark comedies in the pure sense of the term. I’m talking about the likes of the Belgian classic Man Bites Dog (not for the faint of heart!), Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and the Coen Brothers’ Fargo. If you’re a fan of any of those, read on.
Some are calling Big Bad Wolves a “serial killer comedy”, which already gets my attention. I’m just intrigued to see how they execute it (pun intended). If they do, oh boy will it be a spectacle. The father of a recent serial killer victim and a vigilante police officer join together to torture the man they suspect of the crime: a nebbish schoolteacher who lives in his dead parents’ house alone with his dog. As the lines between good and evil blur further and further, and unexpected interruptions abound, the film veers from comedy to thriller to psychological horror. Sounds to me like a slightly more humor infused I Saw The Devil mixed with Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners.
They had me at “serial killer comedy”. Count me in.
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightly, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh
Lucky for you readers I happened to catch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in theaters Friday night, and guess what? It’s not that bad! I was mildly surprised, which I shouldn’t have been. Kenneth Branagh is a capable director with a long and decorated list of credits as both actor and director. His Thor wasn’t exactly the greatest thing ever, but it held my attention and overall I was satisfied with it. The same can be said of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The film is a reboot/prequel/origin story of sorts to the Jack Ryan films of the early 90’s most famously starring Harrison Ford. Chris Pine (Star Trek, Smokin’ Aces, Unstoppable) holds his own as economics student Jack Ryan, who witnesses the events of 9/11 while studying overseas and decides to join the marines. After a nearly fatal helicopter attack and lengthy rehab process, Ryan is recruited by the CIA to track suspicious monetary trends while undercover on Wall Street.
The first half of the film is pretty routine as it introduces the character and the supporting players including his fiancee, played by the endlessly bland and overrated Keira Knightly (in an inconsistent American accent), and Kevin Costner as his superior at the CIA. The film is saved by a slightly smarter-than-usual terrorist plot script involving a Russian oligarch named Viktor Cherevin (played solidly by Branagh himself) who attempts to collapse the U.S. economy via the stock market. Eventually the setting switches to Russia where Ryan is sent to audit some files involving Cherevin’s company. The action is well shot and the tension is high, not to mention non-stop, for what felt like the last 40 minutes or so of the film.
I often use the phrase “you could do worse” in my previews and reviews, but I have to use it again here because it certainly applies. I’ve seen much worse (I’m looking at you Jack Reacher) and much better (hello, Bourne Ultimatum!), but this is an overall solid, if not eventually forgettable, action thriller.
Also, it’s January, usually one of the worst months for movie releases, so I’ll take “you could do worse”.
Director: Tim Story
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Bruce McGill
Reviews have pretty much confirmed my suspicions about this film. Kevin Hart pretty much goes on a non-stop comedy overload while Ice Cube stands around with his arms crossed and a take-no-shit attitude. I’ve seen too many movies like this to get excited (48 Hours anyone? A much better choice, even if you’ve seen it already. EDDIE MURPHY IN HIS PRIME!). Kevin Hart is probably the only good reason to check this out, and that probably isn’t even enough. Cookie-cutter to the max, watch it when it’s released online in six months and save yourself the money.