Wrath of Man review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast : Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, Scott Eastwood, Niamh Algar, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan, Andy Garcia
Genre: Action/Thriller
Run Time : 119 min
Opens : 29 April 2021
Rating : M18

There’s something exciting about an armoured truck full of cash that filmmakers can’t resist. 2009’s Armoured was a caper centred around an armoured truck crew, and an unrelated film of the same name is set to be produced by Michael Bay. Films like The Heat and The Town have memorable armoured truck-centric set-pieces. Now, Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham take the wheel.

Patrick “H” Hill (Jason Statham) is a mysterious new employee at Fortico Security, an armoured truck company operating in Los Angeles. Every week, Fortico transports millions of dollars around the city. Bullet (Holt McCallany) teaches H the ropes. During an attempted robbery, H showcases formidable skills, indicating he is overqualified for the job. He crosses paths with a gang of ex-military personnel-turned-robbers. H is on a path of vengeance, and soon, the reason for this becomes clear.

Based on the French Film Le convoyeur (Cash Truck), Wrath of Man is a solid, muscular action thriller that makes good use of both director Ritchie and star Statham’s strengths. There are some brutal action sequences, and the production design of the armoured car depot is quite striking. Wrath of Man often feels beefy and substantial, when many mid-budget action movies can feel somewhat lacklustre and pack too little of a punch. The movie manages to build intrigue in its first half; it’s too bad that the trailers give away the reveal of why exactly H is working for Fortico. The ever-dependable Holt McCallany is especially charismatic, threatening to steal the show from Statham at times. Wrath of Man escapes the feeling of being confined to direct-to-streaming and fits well on the big screen.

The movie is oozing with a bit too much machismo for its own good. The screenplay by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies is crammed with dialogue that strains too hard to sound tough and badass, sometimes bordering on self-parody. There doesn’t seem to be much to any of the characters except H. A cameo by Post Malone threatens to pull one out of the movie. Scott Eastwood’s villainous character is also a non-entity, with Eastwood having little screen presence compared to Statham and McCallany. The film is also ultimately generic and attempts to conceal this with some fairly clever structural shuffling. The movie is also divided into chapters, which, together with the title, can’t help but come off as a bit pretentious for what is mostly a meat-and-potatoes action thriller.

Wrath of Man reunites star Statham and director Ritchie, who burst onto the scene in the 90s with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch but haven’t collaborated since 2005’s widely-panned Revolver. This is not one of Ritchie’s more self-indulgent films; his signature combination of “toff guy” (the name of his production company) schtick and self-aware humour is toned down a little here. It seems like Ritchie is channelling Michael Mann, sometimes successfully. Statham isn’t an actor with a lot of range, but he is watchable doing what he does best. The pair will next collaborate on the spy thriller Five Eyes, currently in production.

Summary: Wrath of Man sees Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham doing what they do best. It’s not quite as cool as it thinks it is and sometimes has a whiff of self-importance about it. Overall though, this is a solid, intense action thriller that doesn’t quite feel as disposable as the typical action movies of the week we’ve been getting on streaming.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw – Meet the Characters

FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAW

MEET THE CHARACTERS

By Jedd Jong

“I don’t have friends, I got family” – so said Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto in Furious 7. Dom and the other main characters of the Fast and Furious franchise might not appear in Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, but this spinoff gets audiences acquainted with the ‘extended family’.

Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) make an unlikely team: one’s a righteous DSS agent, the other’s a shadowy SAS officer-turned-mercenary with a criminal history. Naturally, Hobbs and Shaw have not exactly gotten along in the past – in Furious 7, they had a vicious throw-down in the Los Angeles Diplomatic Security Services office, which left Hobbs hospitalised for most of that film. In the following film, Hobbs ends up in the same prison in which Shaw is held, and the duo fight their way out together.

When nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake, Hobbs and Shaw must set their differences aside and begrudgingly team up. Read on to learn about our titular duo and the other badass characters you’ll meet in Hobbs & Shaw.

LUKE HOBBS (DWAYNE JOHNSON)

Director David Leitch and Dwayne Johnson

Agent Luke Hobbs is a United States Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent and bounty hunter who entered the Fast and Furious series in Fast Five. In that film, he was hunting our heroes, but eventually came to respect and team up with them. Since that movie’s release in 2011, there has been talk of a Hobbs-centric spin-off, which has finally come to fruition.

Hobbs is a dedicated family man, raising his daughter Samantha (Eden Estrella) alone. In Hobbs & Shaw, we get to meet Hobbs’ long-lost family back home in Samoa, including his mother Sefina (Lori Pelenise Tuisano) and his brothers Jonah (Cliff Curtis), Mateo (Roman Reigns), Timo (Josh Magua) and Kal (John Tui). Wrestler Reigns is Johnson’s cousin in real life. Johnson further gets in touch with his Samoan roots by performing the Siva Tau, a traditional Samoan war dance akin to the Māori haka, before the film’s big action finale. Johnson is Samoan on his mother’s side, and a photo of his real father Rocky Johnson can be glimpsed in the background in Hobbs & Shaw.

“Hobbs has always been a personal character for be because so much of Hobbs and his DNA derive from who I am as a human being and a man,” Johnson told Kidzworld, calling Hobbs & Shaw “a deeply personal film”. He compared depicting his Samoan heritage in this film to showcasing Polynesian culture in Moana, in which he voiced the demigod Maui.

We’ve seen Hobbs wield a variety of weapons and do some hand-to-hand fights, but in Hobbs & Shaw, he gets truly visceral. Johnson said he has “waited his entire career” to perform fight scenes that are “raging, savage and primal and without weapons or without guns,” which we see when Hobbs leads his Samoan compatriots into battle at the end of the film.

DECKARD SHAW (JASON STATHAM)

Jason Statham and director David Leitch

Deckard Shaw arrived in the Fast and Furious series with a bang, murdering the character Han (Sung Kang) in the post-credits scene of Fast & Furious 6. The character is a former United Kingdom Special Forces operative who went rogue. Deckard’s brother Owen was the main villain of Fast & Furious 6, and Deckard waged war against Dom and his crew to seek vengeance for Owen’s defeat.

Shaw transitioned into a heroic role in The Fate of the Furious, in which he and Owen helped to save Dom’s baby from the villain Cipher’s (Charlize Theron) plane. By the end of that film, it seemed like Deckard had been accepted into Dom’s family, but as we learn in Hobbs & Shaw, he and Hobbs are far from bosom buddies.

The film is filled with back-and-forth smack talk between the two leads, which spilled over into real life. Statham proclaimed that Johnson was too big to fit into the McLaren the two ride in during a London-set chase scene. “We had to CG him into the McLaren,” Statham quipped. “One: his arse was too big to get into the seat, and two: he gets very nauseous when we’re going rather fast. Because he’s more used to driving these big lumbering trucks, so anything over 30 miles per hour, he gets a little nauseous.”

Just as we meet Hobbs’ brothers, Shaw’s family also figures into the film: Helen Mirren returns from The Fate of the Furious for a brief appearance as Shaw’s mother Magdalene, while Vanessa Kirby stars as Shaw’s younger sister Hattie: more on her later.

“It’s a great privilege for many reasons,” Statham told ET Canada about being part of the Fast and Furious series. “Franchises don’t last more than two or three, and if you’re lucky four – this has gone on and on and on.” He said that the team behind the Fast and Furious series “try to make movies that strike a chord with people, and the fanbase of these movies is so passionate. It means a lot to be part of these films.”

BRIXTON LORE (IDRIS ELBA)

Hobbs and Shaw need a formidable opponent, and they don’t come more formidable than Brixton Lore. Idris Elba portrays the former compatriot of Shaw’s, who has been subjected to a series of cybernetic upgrades which have made him a superhuman fighter. Brixton works for a shadowy organisation called Eteon, who use him as a tool in implementing a terrifying new world order – a world in which Hobbs and Shaw have no part.

Elba visibly enjoyed playing the over-the-top supervillain, telling ET Canada that “It’s super exciting to me just because it’s one of the most successful franchises in the world.” Elba described the way Brixton was written as “very exciting,” adding that “he’s a real sort of step away from the kind of characters I get to play.”

“David and I really talked about how we want[ed] to take this complex human being who has been killed before and brought back to life and made into this robot and make a believable bad guy,” Elba told Digital Spy. “He works for Eteon, for this company, and their ideology is to wipe out half the planet and save ourselves,” Elba added. “That’s kind of a complicated thing to get your mind around.”

One of the fancy toys at Brixton’s disposal is a futuristic robot motorcycle, which was an added draw for Elba, who is a motoring enthusiast in real life. “It is definitely one of the highlights of making a film in this [franchise], if you like cars, you like automobiles, you like speed, this is the one you want to do,” Elba said. “A lot of the bike stuff was real and the CGI stuff was definitely an enhancement of what we shot,” Elba stated, adding that “the bike kept evolving” in concept from the script to the finished film.

HATTIE SHAW (VANESSA KIRBY)  

Hobbs and Shaw can’t save the world alone, and it becomes a family affair when Shaw’s younger sister Hattie, an MI6 agent who has been targeted by Brixton, is drawn into the fray. Hattie throws a spanner in Brixton and Eteon’s plans to unleash a deadly virus on the world, meaning she as is important as the two leads in preventing global destruction.

Actress Vanessa Kirby is the first to admit she never thought she would be starring in a Fast and Furious movie alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. “I never thought I’d be in action movies ever, it’s not my natural habitat,” Kirby told ET Canada, insisting “I belong on stage!”

However, she acquits herself well, taking the role seriously. “Vanessa Kirby maybe kicks — dare I say — at least as much ass as the guys,” executive producer Kelly McCormick told Us Weekly. “She showed up, she worked out, she learned how to fight.” Kirby was in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but did not get a lot of action to perform herself. In this film, she even gets a one-on-one fight with Johnson himself.

“It’s really important to represent women in action movies in a certain way, and this is a massive opportunity to do that,” Kirby said, saying she seized the chance “to change something for little girls in the audience.”

“If you remember all the movies growing up like E.T., it was always the boys that get to do everything,” Kirby remarked, adding that the filmmakers ensured that Hattie “was never saved or never rescued by the men, that she was always actually getting herself out of the situation, even to the extent that she saves them at some point,” Kirby pointed out. “It definitely feels like a time when we’re able to do that and there’s a responsibility to do that.”

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw opens in theatres on 1 August 2019

The Meg review

THE MEG

Director : Jon Turteltaub
Cast : Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Robert Taylor, Sophia Cai, Masi Oka
Genre : Action/Thriller/Sci-fi
Run Time : 113 mins
Opens : 9 August 2018
Rating : PG-13

In 2013, Discovery Channel aired Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives as part of its Shark Week line-up. The pseudo-documentary was presented as fact, and the number of people who were initially convinced showed that at least some of us secretly want to believe that somewhere in the depths lurks a Carcharocles megalodon.

In The Meg, Jason Statham faces off with the deadly living fossil. Statham plays former rescue diver Jonas Taylor, whose claims of witnessing a sea monster attacking a nuclear submarine went disbelieved. Five years after that incident, Jonas is called on by his friend Mac (Cliff Curtis), who works aboard the research facility Mana One.

An expedition sent by the Mana One is in danger – the three-person crew of the submersible Origin are trapped 11 000 metres below the surface, threatened by a giant ancient shark. This confirms Jonas’ story, and he reluctantly undertakes the mission. Among the trapped are his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee). Suyin (Li Bingbing), daughter of Dr Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), insists she can conduct the rescue herself. Meanwhile, billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) worries that the emergence of the Megalodon could jeopardise his expensive investment. As the Meg rises from the depths to threaten swimmers at the beach resort hotspot Sanya in Hainan, China, Jonas and the Mana One crew must stop the Meg’s reign of terror.

The Meg is based on Steve Alten’s best-selling 1997 novel Meg, and a film has been in various stages of development since the book was published. There’s an unavoidable amount of stupidity inherent in the material – after all, there is no shortage of cheaply-made TV movies with similar premises. If you’re in need of a laugh, look up clips of 2002’s Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, starring a hapless John Barrowman.

The Meg is like one of those movies with an exponentially larger budget, and there is some pleasure to be derived from that. Several sequences are impressively staged, and the visual effects work is generally strong. Director Jon Turteltaub attempts to keep things largely tongue-in-cheek, while also going for genuine thrills and stakes. He is only fitfully successful – the film begins feeling like it might take things somewhat seriously, then dives headlong into the ludicrous as it reaches its conclusion.

The film has high production values and boasts behind-the-scenes talent like Lord of the Rings production designer Grant Major and Clint Eastwood’s regular cinematographer Tom Stern. To raise the estimated $150 million budget, the film must pander to Chinese audiences, and pander it does. It’s hard to discern how much of the silliness is intentional, and how much is a by-product of tailoring the film to the (perceived) tastes of international filmgoers.

Statham plays the lead role, an indistinct roguish action hero trying to outswim a tragic incident in his past. Turteltaub noted that this is a Jason Statham movie without the requisite gunfights and car chases, and on that level, he technically is doing something different. Statham has just enough leading man charm for audiences to kinda-sorta go along with the sheer ridiculousness, at least for the first act or so.

Statham is not particularly known for his acting chops and is regularly out-acted by the leading ladies in his films. Luckily for him, that is not the case here. Li Bingbing is uniformly stiff throughout the film, unable to carry any of the emotional moments or the action beats. While Winston Chao fares a little better as her character’s father, the would-be moving scenes between the father-daughter duo fall extremely flat.

The film’s supporting characters are all thinly-drawn stock types, as one would expect from a movie of this genre. Ruby Rose plays a cool Ruby Rose-type, Rainn Wilson plays a Rainn Wilson-type (but rich), you get the idea. Page Kennedy is meant to provide comic relief, but not many of the jokes land.

Sophia Cai plays Meiying, Suyin’s daughter. She’s a precocious moppet who cracks wise and is meant to activate everyone’s protective instincts, but the character is written and acted in a largely annoying manner. Despite the film’s best efforts, imperilling Meiying won’t draw too much of a reaction from the audience, because it’s hard to care about most of the characters here.

The Meg’s CGI shark may be technically impressive, and we appreciate that the visual effects supervisor on a movie set in the ocean is named ‘Adrian De Wet’, but when it comes down to it, the titular beast is rarely convincing. There are sequences that generate a passable level of tension, but there are only so many times the movie can riff on the “barrels dragged across the surface” gag seen in Jaws.

There’s a degree of “you know what you’re getting” with The Meg: yes, it was always going to be silly, but how effectively the film leans into that silliness is up for debate. The Meg is paced briskly enough and serves up several entertaining sequences, but compared to some of this summer’s sharper, more satisfying offerings, there’s more bark than bite.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Mega Bites: interview with The Meg actor Masi Oka

For inSing

MEGA BITES
Masi Oka talks being hunted by an ancient killer shark in The Meg

By Jedd Jong

Even in 2018, there are still corners of the world’s oceans that remain unexplored, and while it might seem implausible, it is tantalising and terrifying to imagine that hiding in one of those corners might be something like the Carcharocles megalodon. Scientists estimate that this fearsome ancestor of the Great White Shark stalked the seas between 23 to 2.6 million years ago and could grow up to 18 metres in length.

In the sci-fi action thriller The Meg, based on the best-selling 1997 novel by Steve Alten, a Megalodon rears its toothy head. the titular shark terrorises our heroes, led by Jason Statham as former deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor.

Jonas had a traumatic run-in with the creature five years earlier, but nobody believed him then. Jonas’ ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) is the pilot of the submersible Mana-One Origin, which is trapped in the Marianas Trench and effectively held hostage by the Meg. Jonas is hired by oceanographer Dr Zhang (Winston Chao) to lead the rescue effort, despite the insistence of Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) that she can spearhead the rescue herself. The other crew members stuck alongside Lori in the tiny capsule are ‘the Wall’ (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and Toshi (Masi Oka).

inSing spoke exclusively to Oka about his work on the film. Audiences might be most familiar with the actor from his role as Hiro Nakamura on the TV series Heroes and Heroes Reborn. A man of many talents, Oka started out in Hollywood as a visual effects artist at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), working on films such as the Star Wars prequels. His diverse CV also includes a stint as an English, Spanish, and Japanese translator at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo credit: Lisa O’Connor for AFP/Getty Images

Oka has recently taken on projects as a producer, including the Netflix film Death Note. He is a cultural envoy to the U.S. Embassy, endeavouring to bridge the gap between Japan and Hollywood in the realms of arts and business. His acting roles in film and on TV also include Hawaii Five-0, Get Smart, Punk’d, Jobs and Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Oka told us what it was like working on the submersible set, how his behind-the-scenes expertise informs his acting when working on a visual effects-heavy film like this one, the camaraderie between the cast and crew, and how the nature of the co-production between American and Chinese studios influenced the final product.

INSING: Hi Masi, thanks for talking with us. Please tell us about your character Toshi.

MASI OKA: He is a Japanese co-pilot for the Mana-One submersible. We are the first expedition to go 11 000 metres under the ocean’s surface, and we also have a fateful run-in with an enormous creature, later revealed to be an ancient species of shark long thought to be extinct. He’s an overall fun tech guy, very smart, but also very goofy and loves to joke around.

Is Toshi very much like the screen persona your fans know you to have?

I think there’s a piece of me in it. Any character I play, whether it’s on TV or on film, I always approach it with a part of me, by exaggerating a part of me.

Were you a fan of the books by Steve Alten before you got the job?

To be honest with you, I hadn’t read any of Steve Alten’s books before getting the job, I didn’t know what The Meg was. When you get the opportunity to work with Jon Turteltaub, who did National Treasure and who’s such a great director, that was very inspiring. There’s such an international cast, and ensemble cast, and to be able to create a new Jaws for a new generation, was just something I couldn’t pass up. It’s a great opportunity.

This movie has a really eclectic cast. Which of the actors do you share most of your scenes with, and what was the vibe like on set?

I shared most of my scenes with Dari and Jessica McNamee. We’re the three pilots of the Mana-One submersible. The vibe on set was so fun, it was amazing. Jon Turteltaub took us out for dinner, he took care of the cast and everyone, and we felt like a family. It was like being at summer camp with friends and family. There was a camaraderie, we were collaborative, and we were just goofing around – sometimes goofing around too much. We improvised a lot on set, hopefully you see that in the DVD extras.

Was it harder for Jon to wrangle the shark or you guys?

It’s probably harder to wrangle us. At least with the shark, he just has to press some buttons. It was just a fun atmosphere. Jon is very self-deprecating, he’s an amazing leader.

You worked as a digital effects artist at ILM. From your perspective having been in the industry, what can audiences expect spectacle-wise from The Meg?

It’s amazing, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s an over-the-top thrill ride with action, humour and fun. It’s a family movie that the whole family can enjoy. This shark, you’ve never seen anything like it before. I think the CG artists did an amazing job creating this. I had to imagine what it was going to look like on set because it hadn’t been created yet, but it really exceeded my imagination in terms of the sheer size and epicness of it, and the fear factor.

What have you learned from working both behind the scenes and in front of the camera?

I’ve learned a lot in terms of the process that goes into creating these things. Many times, actors don’t understand that us standing in one place and standing two centimetres to the right – there’s a reason for that. Those two centimetres help the post-production folks to save not only money, but hours and hours of work and headaches. Being a visual effects supervisor, having worked behind the scenes, it gives you an appreciation of everyone’s work. Also, it helps me communicate. When people tell me “we’re going to do some comps and roto you out here,” I don’t have to have that explained to me. To be able to communicate with people and speak people’s languages allows the set to be more efficient, and gives everyone mutual respect for each other’s work.

Yeah, that’s something you hear from actors who talk about working with directors who are actors themselves, they understand the craft from that perspective.

Exactly. It goes both ways – to understand both ways is really important.

It’s no secret that, unfortunately, there are more bad movies about sharks than there are good ones. What makes The Meg a good shark movie?

I’m actually happy there’s been a lot of bad shark movies, so The Meg can blow them out of the water. The amount of resources that went into creating this is amazing. We have a great director, an international global cast – the CG, the acting, it’s still grounded, it’s based on reality, it feels like the stakes are real. We want to have people scared, but also laughing, crying, maybe even angry at times, and then scared again. People go through a huge range of emotions, and that also makes The Meg something in the class of its own, compared to other shark movies which jump the shark.

This film has been in development hell, or development hell’s aquarium, if you will, for a while. What do you think were the challenges the production team faced in bringing this book to the big screen?

I think Warner Bros really believed in the film. It took time to make sure we did the film justice. That means we had to have the right budget to create the special effects, the technology. There’s a lot of reasons why things go through development hell, but I’m really glad Warner Bros. persisted and found the right creatives and the resources to make this. It took a while. Nothing’s easy when it comes to moviemaking. That’s a credit to everyone that Warner Bros, Steve and the producers continued pushing forward.

Jason Statham is one of the actors who’s pretty close to the action heroes of the 80s and 90s. What was your impression of him?

Absolutely. Jason’s a wonderful actor, he’s very generous and very charismatic. He’s definitely a lot larger than life, but he’s really just humble and a generous guy. When he gets on the screen, he is that persona – he’s everything you expect of an action hero and he encompasses all the qualities of an action hero.

The Meg very much plays on our Thalassaphobia, the fear of what might be lurking in the ocean. Do you have that fear?

Yeah, I definitely do have that fear. I’m also afraid of dark places, small spaces [laughs]…I’m glad that I’m playing a character. If this were me in real life, I would not be able to do what Toshi’s doing.

Movies like The Meg are sometimes described as “B-movies with an A-movie budget” – do you like that characterisation of the movie?

Not really – I think it’s a strange thing to say something’s a B-movie when the production quality is super-high. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we’re definitely not campy. There are campy movies out there, but this is a real film, it is a creature film but it is grounded and has real stakes. People will go on an emotional ride. It’s an A-movie with A-production value.

That’s a difficult balance, making a genre movie that people are emotionally invested in.

Yeah, it has to do with Jon’s direction, the way that shots are laid out, music, acting, it all comes really well together, a nice blend of humour and emotional stakes.

In the movie, the characters who were originally Japanese in the book are replaced with characters who are Chinese, but who serve similar functions as the original characters. How do you think this change affects the story, or if does at all?

I think we got a bigger budget because of that, with the Chinese studio. I’m glad that they kept at least one character, my character Toshi, Japanese. In fact, that’s what the Chinese producers said, they wanted to improve on Japanese and Chinese relationships through film, which I love. I’m always trying to use entertainment to bridge cultures. I’m really grateful for that.

It sounds like The Meg has a really big thrill ride element to it, and I love theme park rides. If you could design a theme park ride based on The Meg, what would it be?

Oh wow! If I could design a theme park ride based on The Meg…wow. They should definitely be in that submersible and get plopped down into water. It’s hard to say anything without giving a lot away. It might be more of an escape room – you’re in a submersible and you know the Meg is approaching in 30 minutes, and you need to find a way out of there.

What are some of your favourite creature features besides Jaws which you mentioned earlier, and how do you think The Meg measures up?

My other favourite is probably Godzilla. Being Japanese, I grew up on manga and anime and iconic monster movies. The Meg is completely different – the technology is different, we don’t have suit actors or maquettes. It’s a 75-foot shark that’s completely CGI. It’s definitely in a class of its own.

Finally, if you could bring one prehistoric animal back from extinction, could be a dinosaur or anything else, what would it be?

A prehistoric creature? What would it be…hmm…you know, dinosaurs are great, probably a Brontosaurus because they don’t seem to be too dangerous. One of my favourite anime movies is the first Doraemon film, Nobita’s Dinosaur. Nobita befriends a [Plesiosaurus] named Piisuke. Jurassic Park kinda ruined it for me, but the one prehistoric creature I would want to resurrect would be that. It would be my bodyguard. Meg 2 can be the dinosaur.

You’re commanding the dinosaur into battle against the Meg.

Exactly. You’d need a dinosaur who can actually swim.

The Meg opens in Singapore on 9 August 2018 

Fast & Furious 8 (AKA The Fate of the Furious)

For F*** Magazine

FAST & FURIOUS 8 

Director : F. Gary Gray
Cast : Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Elsa Pataky, Scott Eastwood
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 2h 16min
Opens : 13 April 2017
Rating : PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)

The driving force behind the Fast and Furious franchise – besides international box office – is ‘family’. Groan-inducing though it may be, many moviegoers have warmed to the crew led by Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Diesel), and audiences around the world feel a kinship with this team. In this, the eighth entry in the franchise, we watch the family get torn asunder.

Dom and his wife Letty (Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. The couple is called away for a mission in Germany, where the team must prevent an Electromagnetic Pulse generator from falling into enemy hands. Dom, Letty, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson), motormouth Roman (Gibson), mechanical whiz Tej (Bridges) and hacker Ramsey (Emmanuel) pull off the mission without a hitch – until Dom betrays them. The woman who has somehow convinced Dom to cast aside his loyalty is elusive, powerful cyberterrorist Cipher (Theron). To track down Dom and Cipher, spymaster Mr. Nobody (Russell) places the team’s nemesis Deckard Shaw (Statham) alongside them. Everyone, especially Hobbs, is upset that they must work with Shaw, but desperate times call for desperate measures. This latest adventure takes the team from New York City to the frigid Russian tundra, as they try to stop Cipher and win Dom back to the side of good.

Director F. Gary Gray, who helmed Straight Outta Compton and the remake of The Italian Job, takes the wheel from Furious 7 director James Wan. While it’s officially titled ‘The Fate of the Furious’, it’s promoted as Fast & Furious 8 in several territories. With the superstar cast and key behind-the-scenes personnel including writer Chris Morgan, cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, composer Brian Tyler and second unit director/stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos returning, not too much has changed, even with a new director.

Under the guidance of Justin Lin, who helmed the third through sixth entries in the franchise, the series has morphed from being ostensibly about car racing culture into a globe-trotting military action/heist behemoth. Fast & Furious 8 opens with a street race in Havana, to remind viewers that the series hasn’t forgotten its roots. It takes confidence to open the film with a relatively humble set-piece, especially when compared to the mayhem that follows.

When the sixth film came out, some viewers were wondering just how the series would continue to top itself in the outlandish car stunt stakes. Just when it seemed there’s nothing new under the sun, Fast & Furious 8 launches a submarine at the crew. This is a series that’s always in danger of swallowing itself up, but Gray presides over things with a firm-enough hand. A sequence in which Cipher orchestrates unbridled vehicular chaos on the streets of New York City is inventive, and in between all the big-budget bombast, we get to witness a good old-fashioned prison brawl. Once again, Razatos deserves credit for staging grand, entertaining spectacle.

Watching the action scenes is like watching a penguin glide gracefully through the water. Sitting through the dramatic scenes is like watching said penguin waddle on land: it’s ungainly, but endearing. The soap opera quotient is even higher than before. Dom goes rogue! Shock, horror! While Morgan’s screenplay heaves with cheesiness and Gibson’s ad-libbing tends to make scenes less funny, we have to admire the logistics of it. Not just the logistics of staging the action, but the sheer mechanics of constructing the screenplay, such that each member of the ever-expanding cast gets their time to shine. There are a few twists, a cameo or two and a reasonably clever gambit is put into play, but it’s nothing as audacious as the chase with the safe(s) in the fifth film. While the seventh film made a fair few viewers tear up with its closing tribute to the late Paul Walker, the emotional scenes here make considerably less impact.

The massive ensemble works like a well-oiled machine, anecdotal murmurs of friction between Diesel and his castmates notwithstanding. Gray wrings a good amount of tension from the premise of Dom turning against his teammates, with Rodriguez’s Letty naturally being the most hurt.

Johnson and Statham play off against each other wonderfully, trading juvenile barbs. Having the big bad villain of the seventh film get all chummy with the crew does run the risk of diminishing Shaw’s intimidation factor, but that’s not too much of an issue because there’s a new villain in town.

Said villain is played by Theron, reuniting with her Italian Job director and co-star Statham. Theron’s awesome in pretty much everything (we like to pretend Æon Flux doesn’t exist) and she has just enough fun with this role. Cipher is coolly evil and her dastardly scheme is very Bond villain-esque. However, unlike the Shaw siblings from the last two instalments, Cipher is mostly a passive villain, standing in front of a bank of computers, shouting things like “hack ‘em all” to her minions. It’s not the best use of Theron, but we’re glad she’s in the series anyway.

Perhaps it’s because she was only introduced in the previous film, but Emmanuel’s Ramsey doesn’t really feel like a part of the team yet. Scott Eastwood plays Mr. Nobody’s apprentice who gets picked on by the crew and feels extraneous. But if you’re already invested in the series and its characters, this is a fun ride that feels shorter than its 136-minute running time. Gray does a fine job of preserving the series’ personality while furthering the team’s delightfully ludicrous exploits.

Summary: It’s as cheesy and outlandish as ever: Fast & Furious 8 sticks to what works for the franchise and even if it doesn’t break ground the same way that submarine did, it’s enjoyable.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Mechanic: Resurrection

F*** Magazine

MECHANIC: RESURRECTION

Director : Dennis Gansel
Cast : Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, Rhatha Phongam
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1 hr 39 mins
Opens : 8 September 2016
Rating : NC16 (Violence and Some Coarse Language)

Mechanic Resurrection posterBrace yourselves for another Stath attack – everyone’s favourite bald, grimacing English tough guy with the limited acting range is back as Arthur Bishop. After surviving an attempt on his life by his would-be apprentice, Bishop has retired from being a hitman, or “mechanic”, and is lying low in Brazil. Riah Crain (Hazeldine), an arms dealer with a grudge on Bishop, kidnaps Bishop’s girlfriend Gina (Alba) and coerces him into completing three hits. Bishop’s three targets are African warlord Krill (Femi Elufowoju Jr.), who is holed up in a Malaysian prison that he rules from the inside, Australian mining magnate and sex trafficker Adrian Cook (Toby Eddington), and American arms dealer Max Adams (Jones). With the help of his old contact Mae (Yeoh), Bishop must pull off these nigh-impossible assassinations to ensure Gina’s survival, while also devising a way to get back at Crain.

Mechanic Resurrection Jason Statham 1

Mechanic: Resurrection is the sequel to 2011’s The Mechanic, which was a remake of the 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson. The contentious relationship between Bishop and Ben Foster’s Steve McKenna in the previous film lifted it slightly above the familiar trappings of the genre, but there’s nothing as interesting here. Mechanic: Resurrection pretty much meets all the expectations of your standard-issue Statham-led action flick. Its plot is entirely predictable and the action sequences aren’t staged with lots of panache, but Statham’s physicality means he’s always a convincing action hero. There’s also a decent amount of globe-trotting going on, with Bishop making stops in Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and Bulgaria, taking advantage of the latter’s film production tax breaks. There’s some fun to be had in seeing Statham run through the streets of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia or dangle from a skyscraper in Sydney. However, it’s painfully obvious that no actual filming was done in Brazil, with the opening sequence featuring distractingly phony green screen work.

Mechanic Resurrection Jason Statham arrested

Statham’s virtually non-existent acting chops have never hindered his career, and he’s probably the closest thing we have to the action stars of the 80s and 90s with whom he palled around in the Expendables films. The former national diving squad member gets to reference his sporting past with a dramatic leap into the ocean, and there’s no shortage of our hero stabbing and shooting the bad guys.

Mechanic Resurrection Jason Statham next to helicopterAlba does a lot of frolicking on the beach in sundresses, and despite hints that her character might not merely be a damsel in distress, she spends the bulk of the film held captive by the villain. Gina is meant to be a combat veteran who opens up a shelter for sex trafficking victims in Cambodia, so one would think she’d be able to hold her own. While Gina does help Bishop track her down, she generally comes off as utterly helpless. In the previous film, it was established that Bishop is a ladies’ man who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, but here, he forms a sentimental attachment to Gina with almost comical speed, and it’s difficult to buy that this woman whom he’s just met is someone he’d go to the ends of the earth for.

D4D_4796.NEF

As the lead villain, Hazeldine is gruff but bland, lacking the wily smugness of a master manipulator who has Bishop wrapped around his little finger. Yeoh’s character doesn’t seem to serve too much of a purpose in the plot, and quite disappointingly, Yeoh doesn’t get to take part in a single action sequence. Jones’ appearance amounts to not much more than a cameo. He’s sporting a deliberately ridiculous look comprising red-tinted shades, a soul patch, earrings and a leather jacket, but he’s phoning it in rather than hamming it up for the most part.

Mechanic Resurrection Jason Statham and Michelle Yeoh

Director Dennis Gansel delivers what is very much a production line action flick that’s barely a few notches above something that would be released straight-to-video, but which will meet the expectations of undemanding Jason Statham fans. The overarching plot is formulaic, the romance is trite and performers like Yeoh and Jones are woefully underused, but certain moments when Bishop plans and executes his elaborate assassination plots are interesting to watch. It’s barely satisfying junk food, but that’s what Statham does best.

Mechanic Resurrection Tommy Lee Jones

Summary: Silly and generic but sufficiently entertaining, Mechanic: Resurrection is as predictable as clockwork.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Fast & Furious 7

For F*** Magazine

FAST & FURIOUS 7

Director : James Wan
Cast : Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 137 mins
Opens : 2 April 2015

Big wheels keep on turning, the rubber keeps on burning and Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his crew are rolling, rolling, rolling down the road in the seventh instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise. Dom and his “family”, comprising Brian (Walker), Letty (Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Gibson) have been pardoned for their crimes in the previous films. Now, they’re sent hurtling back into their dangerous, high-speed existence when the lethal Deckard Shaw (Statham), looking to make the crew pay for almost killing his brother Owen, comes calling. With the assistance of spymaster “Mr. Nobody” (Russell) and Special Agent Hobbs (Johnson) of the Diplomatic Security Service, Dom and co. ride for their lives, this adventure taking them from L.A. to Azerbaijan to Abu Dhabi and back.

            We’ll get straight to the point – the untimely passing of star Paul Walker has cast a dark pall over a franchise built on pure escapism. What should have been yet another fist-pumping, all-out action spectacular is now a bittersweet affair. Director James Wan, taking the baton from Justin Lin, has managed to create a flick where the audience is reassured up front that it’s okay to have fun, it’s okay to just go along for the ride – and yet Brian O’Conner’s exit from the series is handled with as much grace and sincerity as the series can muster. The film displays a level of self-awareness – early on, Brian tells his young son Jack that “cars don’t fly”. Later in the film, they absolutely dofly. Screenwriter Chris Morgan supplies dialogue that is as overripe and clichéd as ever and yet, there is an undeniable charm to it all. Surprisingly, the 137 minute run time passes at a decent clip.


            There’s something that makes this franchise very different from the Transformersmovies, even though they are aimed at exactly the same demographic and contain cool automobiles, explosions and leery shots of scantily-clad women. There’s an earnestness here as opposed to the cynicism that pervades the Transformers films. This is movie #7 and yet there’s the sense that all involved are still invested and are determined not to phone it in, embracing the over-the-top stunts with all they’ve got.

Wan must’ve broken out in hives trying to devise vehicular set-pieces that would top those of Fast & Furious 6, which involved a tank and a massive cargo plane. Here, we have cars inserted into a treacherous mountain pass via air drop, a Lykan Hypersport sailing out a skyscraper window and crashing into the adjacent building, and a finale in which our heroes are pursued by a stealth attack helicopter and a souped-up Predator drone. Props go to second unit director and stunt coordinator Jack Gill for putting it all together – those cars were dropped out of a plane for real. Unfortunately, as adrenaline-pumping as these signature sequences still are, there is a conspicuous increase in the reliance on computer-generated imagery, especially for the Etihad Towers jump and the helicopter attack. The scenes in which Paul Walker is digitally doubled also stick out. It’s not enough to pull one out of it completely, but it does lack polish.

For all of screenwriter Morgan’s unsubtlety, he’s done a fine job of distributing the spotlight among the ensemble cast. The moments of pathos are cheesy – Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty is still coping with her amnesia – but all parties involved know that’s not why the audience is present. Even then, the loss experienced by the crew following the deaths of Gisele and Han in #6 is palpable and does lend the proceedings an emotional backbone, however slight. The film serves a great swansong for Walker; he gets to go mano a mano with Tony Jaa in two blistering martial arts showdowns. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson continue to have amiable chemistry as the constantly bickering Tej and Roman, but Tyrese’s comic asides border on the excessive here.  

Jason Statham is a fittingly intimidating villain, essentially Frank Martin from the Transporter series if he had no moral compunction whatsoever. There’s a nice appearance by Djimon Hounsou as a secondary baddie even though the character doesn’t do much. Dwayne Johnson revels in the exaggerated action hero persona the material presents him with, trucking out one-liners like “you’ve earned yourself a dance with the devil, boy” and “I’m gonna put a hurt on him so hard, he’ll wish his mother kept her legs closed.” Ronda Rousey shows up as a bodyguard to furnish the requisite catfight with Michelle Rodriguez, a role fulfilled by fellow MMA fighter Gina Carano in the previous film. The show is well and truly stolen by Kurt Russell. The 80s action icon has still got it and looks like he’s having a ball. When he slips on the night-vision shades and draws twin pistols to get in on the fun himself, prepare to cheer.

As film critics, we hear the “it’s not meant to be Oscar-worthy high art” defence a whole lot. Well, for the Fast and Furious films, especially #5onwards, it applies. We’re not about to give the cheesy dialogue and sometimes-intrusive visual effects work a free pass, but Wan makes sure it all comes together nicely and delivers what was promised – a really good time for action junkies. In addition, the director shoulders the responsibility of fashioning this loud, brash extravaganza into an emotional send-off for its recently-deceased star. Vin Diesel has been open about how truly distraught Walker’s death left him and we do see some of that laid bare on the screen. We’re not ashamed to say we were left misty-eyed and in that respect, Wan has succeeded. There are no stinger scenes during or after the end credits and while this does seem like a great place to call it a day, Universal is intent on doing at least three more. Better to ride off into the sunset while you’re ahead, but that’s not how studios work, we suppose.

Summary: The spectacle is as bombastic as ever and the laws of physics are as irrelevant as ever; the series continuing to entertain. Fast & Furious 7 also manages to provide some genuine heart amidst all that cheese, bidding a fond farewell to Paul Walker.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5Stars
Jedd Jong 

We are fast. We are furious. We are Groot.


Wild Card

For F*** Magazine

WILD CARD

Director : Simon West
Cast : Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Dominik García-Lorido, Milo Ventimiglia, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 92 mins
Opens : 12 March 2015
Rating : M18 (Some Nudity & Violence)
If we were rich and famous and had our pick of any contemporary action star to be our bodyguard, we’d probably go for Jason Statham (if Dwayne Johnson were unavailable). In Wild Card, the Stath plays Nick Wild, a Las Vegas “security consultant” for hire. Young self-made millionaire Cyrus Kinnick (Angarano) procures Wild’s protection while he has a night on the town gambling. In the meantime, Wild’s ex-girlfriend Holly (García-Lorido) is dumped outside a hospital, having been beaten and raped and left barely alive. Wild somewhat reluctantly goes after the man responsible, gangster Danny DeMarco (Ventimiglia). Wild loathes Vegas, feeling trapped within the seedy confines of the city, and hopes to win big at the tables so he can cash in and move away to Corsica, leaving sin city behind.


            Wild Card is based on the book Heat, by nigh-legendary novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, whose credits include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men. The book was the basis for a 1986 film starring Burt Reynolds. Goldman’s involvement seems to suggest that this just might be more than your run-of-the-mill Statham action vehicle. It’s different enough from typical Statham action fare, but not in a good way. Here’s the Catch-22 – most audiences are tired of the Brit playing the same character over and over again and yet, there’s also the comfort of knowing what you’re getting when you go to see a Jason Statham picture. Even if it’s mediocre – which they often are – at least there’ll be some cool stunts. Despite being marketed as an action movie, the fights in Wild Card are few and far between, with no big set-pieces whatsoever. Zero explosions, nobody hanging off the side of a hotel balcony, not even a car chase.

            Wild Card purports itself to be “character-driven”, which is becoming something of a buzz-phrase for action movies. There just isn’t enough to the Nick Wild character to help him stand out from the “cool heroes with impossibly awesome names” pack. The film stays purposely ambiguous on his backstory – he was probably in the military in some capacity, not that it really matters. There are glimmers of character development in that he’s the man about town and knows everybody in every corner. There just isn’t anything really distinctive to Nick and at the end of the day, audiences want to see Jason Statham wrestle bad guys, not wrestle with a gambling compulsion.

            There have been several disposable action flicks where the saving grace is a memorable, scenery-chomping villain. No such luck here. Instead, we get Milo Ventimiglia trying his best to be some shade of intimidating, which he doesn’t succeed at. As the tagalong kid, Michael Angarano is the dweeby semi-comic-relief, a sheltered rich kid who looks up to Nick for his toughness and swagger. There is an attempt to develop the relationship between the two characters but it fails to truly become anything interesting. There are several recognisable actors who pop up, but they do so for one scene each. Hi Sofia Vergara; bye Sofia Vergara. Hi Jason Alexander; bye Jason Alexander. Hi Stanley Tucci; bye Stanley Tucci. Of course, it is Tucci who makes the most impact, playing big-time Vegas crime boss “Baby” with his usual charisma.  The female characters don’t amount to very much either: Anne Heche plays a waitress and Hope Davis plays a croupier. Dominik García-Lorido is the victim-turned-Black-Widow, adding a dash of noir to the proceedings. There is one scene that will make all the men in the audience subconsciously cross their legs.

            Wild Card reunites Statham with Simon West, who directed him in The Mechanic and The Expendables 2. West is known for his bombastic action films and his forays into dramatic thriller territory such as The General’s Daughter are not well-regarded. There are many moments in Wild Card that made this reviewer think “this could make for a really cool TV show”. West consciously shies away from depicting Vegas as shiny and glamorous, instead embracing the seedy underbelly – and yet, he is obviously not the first director to give the town this treatment. There is one moment of striking symbolic imagery, with close-ups of a sewing needle piercing a cross-stitch Holly is working on as she recounts her sexual assault at Danny’s hands. Still, West can’t salvage this Jason Statham action movie that wants to be a Jason Statham drama but half-heartedly throws in a few punches and kicks just because it has to.


Summary:Wild Card is an episodic crime drama focusing on an uninteresting character instead of the action flick it’s advertised as. By the time Jason Statham takes on a bunch of thugs armed only with a butter knife and a spoon, it’s too little too late.  
RATING: 2out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong
            

The Expendables 3

THE EXPENDABLES 3

Director : Patrick Hughes
Cast : Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Genre : Action/Thriller
Opens : 14 August 2014
Rating : PG13 (Violence & Some Coarse Language)
Running time: 126 mins

 “If you’re looking to get the job done/ Be it murder or rescuing ladies/ You cannot do better than old guys/ Who were popular back in the 80s…” so go the lyrics to comedians Jon and Al Kaplan’s musical spoof of The Expendables. Those grizzled guys are back with some young blood to add to the crew. Barney Ross (Stallone), Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), Lee Christmas (Stallone), Toll Road (Couture) and Hail Caesar (Crews) break old team-member Doctor Death (Snipes) out of prison. In the ensuing mission, they encounter Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), a former Expendable-turned weapons and dealer and war criminal, hitherto thought of as dead. Barney brings in a younger bunch of mercenaries (Lutz, Rousey, Powell, Ortiz), with Spanish Armed Forces veteran Galgo (Banderas) insistent on joining. He is also assisted by Trench (Schwarzenegger), Yin Yang (Li) and Major Max Drummer (Ford), going up against the army Stonebanks has in his pocket.

This entire film series exists as a loving ode to 80s action films, featuring those who starred in said films proving they’ve still got the right stuff. As such, there was something of an outcry over this movie’s PG-13 rating – as the Kaplans put it later on in their song, “PG-13 is for pussies”. This reviewer wasn’t too bothered by that – while bloodless, the body count in this one is still very high. Also, the one f-bomb is given to just the right actor. No, this movie’s problems lie elsewhere. Succeeding Stallone and Simon West at the helm is Australian director Patrick Hughes, known for his neo-Western Red Hill. His direction here is mostly rote and journeyman-like; while competent, the action sequences lack flair or drive. There is a curious dearth of urgency or intensity in this action-thriller, even when an actual ticking bomb is introduced. It’s not like there isn’t a lot of shooting, punching or stuff blowing up, but the film often feels like it’s spinning its wheels, going nowhere fast.

            Why do action film junkies go to the Expendables movies? To relive the glory days of their cinematic heroes. As such, anytime the “Young Expendables” are onscreen, this reviewer was counting the minutes to when the actual Expendables – you know, the guys we came to see – would return. Even without Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz, the roster is already pretty crowded. There’s no time for us to get to know anyone and in place of characterisation, there’s bickering, mutual ribbing and general macho bro-ey-ness. We’re not expecting Chekhov or Mamet but just give us something to hang on to! The action sequences are fine, they aren’t infested with shaky-cam as most contemporaneous action sequences tend to be, but the sub-par visual effects work is carried over from the last two films. If it’s meant to evoke the cheap look of 80s action movies, then that’s the wrong nostalgia bone to tickle.

            The film is at its best when it goes for nostalgia in the right way, with its stars winking and nodding at the audience via references to their past work. Snipes’ character loves blades and jokes about being jailed for tax evasion. Schwarzenegger gets to say “get to the choppa!” Kelsey Grammer’s character makes a crack about ex-wives. However, in-jokes alone do not a good movie make. In spite of the humour, this go-round just seems a whole lot less fun. Indeed, Stallone often looks as though he’s grimacing through a heavy, dead-serious thriller. Nothing in this one matches Chuck Norris spouting his own “Chuck Norris fact” in the second film. Also, Harrison Ford does not say “get off my plane”. That’s a missed opportunity right there.

Mel Gibson is apparently paying penance for his myriad indiscretions by appearing in genre schlock like this and last year’s Machete Kills. He does go crazy-eyed Mad Mel but fails to be as memorable a baddie as Jean-Claude Van Damme was. Somewhere between the writing and direction, the potential for Conrad Stonebanks to be a spectacular bad guy is lost. Jet Li doesn’t bust a single kung fu move. What’s up with that? And yes, Ronda Rousey is a badass UFC champion, but this film is yet another example of “The Smurfette principle”, with one lone woman among a bunch of guys. Where are Linda Hamilton, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Yeoh?

      
      A good chunk of the film seems to exist as a rather petty raised middle finger to Bruce Willis, with whom Stallone had a falling out with over the former’s salary. It’s a good thing then that Harrison Ford is an upgrade and seeing him chew Stallone out earlier in the film is as exciting as the biggest action scenes are. “I haven’t had so much fun in years,” he says. We almost believe him. Antonio Banderas as the talkative comic relief – that’s an odd choice, but he’s still fairly entertaining. The Expendables 3 never amounts to more than the sum of its parts and even when Kellan Lutz’s stunt double jumps a motorcycle off the tail of a crashed helicopter, it falls short of effectively harkening back to the 80s action films it wants to homage.

Summary: There’s less vim and vigour in this third go-round for Stallone and co. and worse, they have to jostle for screen time with those meddling kids.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong