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

Sleepless

For F*** Magazine

SLEEPLESS

Director : Baran bo Odar
Cast : Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, David Harbour, Dermot Mulroney, Octavius J. Johnson
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 35min
Opens : 23 February 2017
Rating : NC16 (Violence and Coarse Language)

sleepless-posterJamie Foxx is up all night trying not to get killed in this action thriller. Foxx plays Vincent Downs, a crooked Las Vegas cop. Along with his accomplice Sean Cass (Harris), Vincent steals a shipment of cocaine from business tycoon Stanley Rubino (Mulroney). Rubino is in cahoots with the unhinged mobster Rob Novak (McNairy), heir to a Vegas criminal empire. When Rubino finds out about Vincent’s involvement, his men kidnap Vincent’s teenage son Thomas (Johnson). Vincent goes about rescuing his son, while keeping the kidnapping a secret from his estranged ex-wife Dena (Union). Meanwhile, Vincent earns the suspicion of Internal Affairs investigators Jennifer Bryant (Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (Harbour). All parties clash over the course of one night in a battle that tears through the Luxus Casino and Hotel.

Sleepless is a remake of the 2011 film Sleepless Night, a French-Belgian-Luxembourgian co-production. Sleepless Night was also remade as the Tamil-language action thriller Thoongam Vanam. Sleepless might star A-lister Foxx and possess fairly slick production values, but it’s hard to shake the vibe of a disposable direct-to-DVD action thriller. Despite all the twists and turns the story takes, Sleepless never becomes more than a blandly generic crime movie, failing to put a spin on familiar tropes. Seeing as the bulk of the film is set in the span of one night, it should have a breathless, pulse-pounding momentum. No such luck. This feels considerably longer than its 95-minute running time, even with a healthy number of action sequences.

sleepless-t-i-and-jamie-foxxThe official Twitter account for the film brazenly declares it “the action event of the year”. We would like to have seen the PR person stifle laughter as they typed this. While it by no means even approaches that hyperbolic statement, the action in this is not terrible, thanks to the involvement of veteran stunt coordinator Jeff Imada. Imada’s credits include the first three Bourne movies and several of the Fast and Furious films, so the fights in Sleepless do look brutal, if uninventive. Foxx and Harbour throw down in a spa, and the climactic showdown that moves from the casino floor to the garage does generate some excitement. Alas, it’s all too rote to stick in the mind of any action aficionado, and director Odar’s workmanlike style, heavy on the shaky-cam, lacks panache.

sleepless-michelle-monaghan-and-jamie-foxx

Foxx’s natural charisma is rendered moot in a role which is all knitted brows and gritted teeth. We’re introduced to Vincent as he steals drugs from a crime lord, but fret not, all is not as it seems and Vincent emerges as a typically heroic figure. Dispensing with the realism, Vincent shakes off being stabbed in the stomach like it’s no big deal. Monaghan is miscast as a dogged, tough cop, unable to shake her innate sweetness and coming off as unconvincing when she has to deliver silly hard-boiled dialogue. Both Harbour and McNairy are interesting actors despite not yet having that high a profile, Harbour being best known for Stranger Things and McNairy for Argo. Neither actor phones it in, but there’s not much they can do with this material. McNairy does try to have fun as the violent mobster scion, but is unable to significantly enliven the proceedings.

While Sleepless never plumbs the depths of bad movies that are dumped into theatres by studios in the beginning of each year, its mediocrity is still frustrating. It’s too dour to be fun and silly and too sluggish to be a piece of throwaway escapism.

 

Summary: An exercise in going through the motions, Sleepless is a crime thriller that fails to quicken the pulse.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong