The Hurricane Heist movie review

For inSing

THE HURRICANE HEIST

Director : Rob Cohen
Cast : Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona, Jamie Andrew Cutler, Ed Birch, Moyo Akande
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 42m
Opens : 5 April 2018
Rating : PG13

In 1996, Rob Cohen’s Daylight involved a mix of traffic, crime and very inclement weather. Cohen revisits those elements in the delightfully-titled The Hurricane Heist.

A hurricane is about to hit the Gulf Coast of Alabama. A gang of thieves, led by corrupt U.S. Treasury officer Perkins (Ralph Ineson), has planned the perfect crime: make away with $600 million under the cover of the storm. Meteorologist Will (Toby Kebbell) and his mechanic brother, former U.S. Marine Breeze (Ryan Kwanten), must brave the hurricane and foil the audacious robbery. They join forces with Treasury Agent Casey (Maggie Grace), Perkins’ former partner, as the hurricane reaches Category 5 levels and the dastardly robbers get ever closer to making off with their loot.

When this reviewer first heard of The Hurricane Heist, he was surprised it wasn’t bound straight for home video/streaming. The plot and characters feel very made-for-TV, and the visual effects are often unconvincing. However, there is a good deal of practical stunt work that is executed with a level of skill.

The Hurricane Heist was always going to be silly. The challenge is for the film to cross that threshold into being entertaining, without making the audience feel like the movie is something they must endure. The movie is only partially successful in this regard. The first two acts of the film are often tedious and while there’s a lot going on during the action sequences, it feels kind of numbing. Then, the climactic chase involving three semi-trucks outracing the hurricane’s eye wall packs in the over-the-top action that the audience came for. It isn’t quite enough to make up for the earlier parts of the film, but it’s something.

 

Rob Cohen directed big-budget fare in the 90s and early 2000s, including Dragonheart and, as the poster is quick to remind us, The Fast and the Furious and xXx. Indeed, the font for the title on the poster seems suspiciously reminiscent of The Fast and the Furious. While those films have gotten increasingly extravagant, Cohen’s box office disappointments (including 2005’s Stealth) mean that he has to make do with limited resources. The film was shot in Bulgaria, the go-to location for budget-challenged Hollywood filmmakers.

Toby Kebbell makes for a more interesting leading man than the bland, generically handsome guys one would find leading movies of this type. He affects a Southern drawl which Kebbell seems to know is unconvincing but which he tries to keep consistent. He gets a laughably standard backstory and motivation, and there’s nothing here that’s remotely affecting on an emotional level, but Kebbell is clearly trying his best.

Touches like the hero’s brother being named ‘Breeze’ seem to indicate a certain level of self-awareness, but The Hurricane Heist always feels a notch or two away from peak B-movie enjoyment levels.

Maggie Grace is a serviceable leading lady, while Ralph Ineson happily chomps into the scenery as the villain. We’ve seen The Witch so we know Ineson is capable of nuance, but it’s just as well that he dispenses with anything resembling that, eventually yelling “MY MONEY!” as he tries to keep a speeding semi-truck with a storm front bearing down behind it under control.

The Hurricane Heist is packed with clichés and is aimed at undiscerning action movie fans looking to pass a lazy Sunday afternoon. The movie never feels insultingly cheap and there is a bit of charm to the less-than-convincing visual effects, but it never makes a commitment to the full-on stupidity that would’ve brought it into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

Aftermath

For F*** Magazine

AFTERMATH 

Director : Elliott Lester
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace, Judah Nelson, Glenn Morshower, Martin Donovan
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 1h 34min
Opens : 27 April 2017
Rating : NC16 (Some Violence and Scene of Intimacy)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been back in the limelight, after a short-lived stint on The Apprentice which earned the relentless mockery of the show’s former host, President Trump. In this film, Schwarzenegger leaves the realm of reality television for ‘serious actor’ territory.

The Austrian Oak plays Roman Melnyk, a construction foreman whose wife Olena (Tammy Tsai) and pregnant daughter Nadiya (Danielle Sherrick) are flying in from Ukraine to spend Christmas with him in the United States. Olena and Nadiya’s plane is caught in a tragic mid-air collision, which claims the lives of 271 souls aboard both aircraft. Broken and distraught, Roman blames Jake Bonanos (McNairy), the air traffic controller on duty. Jake is wracked with guilt following the incident, and spirals into a depression that affects his relationship with his wife Christina (Grace) and his young son Samuel (Nelson). Roman decides to take matters into his own hands, and sets about tracking down Jake to kill him.

Aftermath is inspired by the real-life incident of the Überlingen mid-air collision in 2002, when two planes flew into each other above a German town. Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, whose wife and two children perished in the crash, hunted down Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller handling traffic at the time, even though an inquest cleared Nielsen of any responsibility.

Elements such as disaster, grief and revenge make this a potentially compelling tale. However, Aftermath’s heavy-handed approach draws too much attention to itself. Director Elliott Lester practically shouts “this is a serious, artistic drama, you guys!” from the rooftops. The title card consists of all-lowercase white letters on a black background, as Mark D. Todd’s contemplative piano-driven score plays in the background. Then, the title card ‘roman’ (similarly all-lowercase) appears, showing us the events from Roman’s point of view. Subsequently, we get a title card reading ‘jacob’, switching to Jacob’s perspective. These stylistic touches are intended to legitimise Aftermath, but instead give it the vibe of a student film. This is to say nothing of Javier Gullón’s often inelegant dialogue. Gullón is known for writing Denis Villeneuve’s mind-bending psychological thriller Enemy.

Schwarzenegger has been dipping his toes into more dramatic fare, playing a father who struggles with gradually losing his daughter to a zombie virus in Maggie. Perhaps it was easier to accept Schwarzenegger flexing his thespian muscles in Maggie, because it was ostensibly still a genre film. While Schwarzenegger takes the role of Roman seriously, his presence is distracting. Part of it is because he’s never without his trademark Austrian accent, and is playing a Ukrainian man in this film. There’s also a random superfluous moment in which we see Schwarzenegger’s bare posterior while he’s in the shower, which seems hardly necessary. The film is set during Christmastime, and “Jingle Bells” is played in one scene. Surely it must have occurred to Lester that this would only conjure up memories of the Schwarzenegger-starring family comedy Jingle All the Way.

Aftermath is interesting in that it has no villain, and we’re meant to sympathise equally with Roman and Jake. The circumstances under which the collision happened are clearly explained, with the primary causes being that the control tower was short-staffed and phones were malfunctioning. McNairy is a capable performer, but Jake’s meltdown isn’t any different from other downward spirals we’ve seen in movies or TV. The film also goes the on-the-nose route of establishing just how rosy things are between Jake and Christina, obviously signalling that things will fall apart.

We’ve refrained from stating it here, but if one does a cursory look-up of Kaloyev’s actions following the Überlingen mid-air collision, one will know how things ended. As such, the events depicted in Aftermath are predictable, and even at 92 minutes, well below the average running time for a drama, the film feels padded out. Instead of being a visceral meditation of the destructive power unchecked, unmanaged grief can have, Aftermath seems more concerned with packaging itself as respectable awards-worthy fare.

Summary: Try as he might, Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t shake off the baggage of being an action star and pop culture icon. The grave, deadly serious film that surrounds him is stodgy rather than impactful and moving.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Taken 3

For F*** Magazine

TAKEN 3

Director : Olivier Megaton
Cast : Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1 hr 46 mins
Opens : 8 January 2015
Rating : PG13 (Violence and Brief Coarse Language)
Bryan Mills (Neeson) or, as we like to call him, “MC Millz with da Skillz”, is back for a third take. This time, he finds himself framed for the murder of his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) and on the lam from Inspector Frank Dotzler (Whitaker) of the LAPD. It seems Stuart St. John (Scott), whom Lenore married after her divorce with Bryan, might have played a hand in her murder. In addition to evading capture by the authorities, Bryan has to protect his beloved daughter Kim (Grace) and luckily enough has his old pals from his CIA days on his side.
            “It ends here”, the tagline on the poster proclaims. If this really is the conclusion to the Taken series, then it ends with a whimper rather than a bang. Taken 3 – or Tak3n, if you prefer – is a rote, derivative affair. This is essentially The Fugitive, with a pursued protagonist who has to prove to the determined cop in charge that he did not kill his wife. The first Takenfilm drew comparisons to the TV series 24, right down to the names of both protagonists’ daughters being “Kim”. The Los Angeles setting of Taken 3 does not help matters and even in its weaker seasons, the Kiefer Sutherland-starring show managed to be more exciting than this. At least the second film had the setting of Istanbul (following up from Paris in the first one) to set it apart from the action-thriller pack. Olivier Megaton, who helmed the second film and who is probably the most ho-hum director among all of Luc Besson’s disciples, ensures the action is as jumbled and incoherent as ever, packing in the shaky-cam and the whiplash editing.

            Taken 3’s greatest asset is its always-capable leading man. While Liam Neeson most likely agreed to this just for the paycheck, he looks nowhere near as disinterested and lackadaisical as, say, Bruce Willis in his later-period action films. He’s still believably tough and badass, and that’s got to count for something. Unfortunately, the novelty of seeing the Oscar-calibre actor punching and shooting his way through scores of bad guys has more or less worn off. Forest Whitaker is not good in this; apparently tics like fiddling with a chess piece and an elastic band are acceptable substitutes for any actual characterisation. His Inspector Dotzler is clearly meant to be in the same vein as Tommy Lee Jones’ Samuel Gerard from the afore-mentioned The Fugitive, but Whitaker fails to be even half as compelling.

            Oddly enough, Dougray Scott replaces Xander Berkeley as Lenore’s estranged husband Stuart – they look nothing alike and this reviewer had to double-check to make sure Stuart was in fact the same character as in the first film. While depicted as merely a milquetoast rich guy in Taken, Taken 3 sees Stuart turn into more of a badass, which is a head-scratch-inducing turn. Sam Spruell, who seems to have become the go-to guy when a Hollywood flick needs someone to play a real creep, is unconvincing as ex-Spetsnaz Russian mob boss Malankov. His lackeys in the film seem to have been found at the bottom of the “generic action movie villain” discount bin.


            Something this reviewer wanted to see more of from the first two movies was the old CIA pals Bryan hung out at barbecues with. In this film, they do have a larger part to play in the plot, helping Bryan lie low as he is pursued by the long arm of the law. Alas, we don’t exactly get to see them kick ass alongside their former colleague in a “reliving the glory days” kind of team-up action sequence. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen also visibly struggle to figure out what to do with the Kim character, the scenes of supposedly-emotional father-daughter interaction instead almost unbearably awkward. The action scenes are non-descript, it’s middling and uninspired and while it isn’t like the first Taken was some kind of masterpiece, it was at least exhilarating entertainment.


Summary:On the bright side, it looks like we won’t be getting T4ken after this dry re-tread of an action flick.
RATING: 2out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong