SICARIO (2015)

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An F.B.I. agent is recruited to join a government task force set up to fight the war on drugs in Juarez, Mexico and at the Mexican/U.S. border. A Sicario is a hired assassin.

When Nixon began the official ‘War on Drugs’ in the 1960’s, one would hope that he wasn’t aware of the true cost of this phony war. Hundreds of thousands have died because of it and the death toll doesn’t seem to be abating.

Denis Villeneuve follows his excellent Enemy with this film about the horrific consequences of fighting in such an unwinnable war. As long as these drugs are outlawed by America and the rest of the world the killing will continue. A serious dialogue needs to happen. The war is clearly not working; fifty years on and no sign of any end in sight.
He gives us a tale that eschews deep character development in favour of the bigger picture, but don’t be fooled, this technique works brilliantly by allowing the viewer to be drawn into this crazy, lawless world.

Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, an F.B.I. special agent who is recruited by Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver, an agent who may not be who he initially appears to be and the great Benicio Tel Toro plays Alejandro, another member of the team whose story will be revealed in due course. Another Brit, Daniel Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, Macer’s F.B.I. partner and does a stellar job. Victor Garber is Dave Jennings, Macer’s boss and here, as usual he delivers a sturdy performance. And finally we have Jon Bernthal who, fortunately, is not featured massively. The long term readers of The Movie Musings will know how I feel about this actor, to précis, he acts too much, seems too aware of the camera and tics harder than a tic-tac-toe player on speed. Nuff said. Bernthal aside, everyone brings their A-game to a story that is both important and necessary. Sure, there have been many films about the Mexican Cartel already but if a story or a subject is worth investigating it’s probably worth telling again. Having just watched Narcos on Netflix this subject matter was interesting to me and Villeneuve gives us a different take on it. Here, he also spends time with the victims of this crazy war and seems much more sympathetic to their plight than the usual Hollywood pro-American stance.

Emily Blunt’s character is basically representing the audience in this piece; she gets to know what’s happening when we do, which makes this all the more exciting for the viewer. She plays a by-the-book agent and when thrust into this chaotic, unpredictable world she finds her morals and ideals compromised, as there really are no black and white solutions in this world. Grey areas are much more thought-provoking than tying things all up in a neat little bow.

Jóhann Jóhannsson delivers a killer soundtrack that is all atmosphere and greatly adds to the unsettling nature of the film.

On the subject of his score he says:
“I wanted to create music that had an underlying tension and a sense of coming from below the earth, like a throbbing pulse that resonates from underground or the pounding heartbeat of a wild beast that is charging at you. I also wanted to evoke the sadness and melancholy of the border, the border fences and the tragedy of the drug war.”

He succeeds massively creating this dark, brooding score that helps embed us, as onlookers, in the story, helped along by the screenwriting duties of actor, Taylor Sheridan.

I highly recommend this intelligent take on the effects of the war on drugs in America. Villeneuve is a director of weight and substance and as he has signed up to direct the new Blade Runner project, it may be worth a look.

4/5

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GRUDGE MATCH (2013)

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The Raging Bull versus the Italian Stallion or Jake La Motta versus Rocky Balboa.

These were probably the tag-line pitches that had the execs seeing dollar signs and foaming at the mouth (cos that’s how they roll).

“I mean even if it’s not a good movie, Stallone and De Niro! C’maaannnnn, it’s gotta make money, right?”

You might ask why Robert De Niro would accept this doomed to ridicule project.

It’s not like he needs it. His IMDB says that he was in 7 films in 2013 (this being one of them), so he really didn’t need to be in a film where he would have to work out and work hard, but fair play to him, especially at his age.
I think we are starting to see some wonderful performances again filled with nuance and truth. He was great in Silver Linings PLaybook.

Well, apart from the inevitable fun it would be to do it, the script isn’t half bad, Kim Basinger, the always wonderful, Alan Arkin and of course, the Sly-ster. Why the frak not?

Stallone’s been churning out Expendables like it was going out of style. (1st one in 2010, 3rd in 2014).

I haven’t seen any of them but I think that’s down to the fact that Statham is in them and….well…..I just can’t do it to myself, I got through ten minutes of the first one before I just had to STOP….Hammer Time.

Ultimately, this is a highly enjoyable movie that defies the odds and raises itself above the level it seemed destined to remain at. Everybody’s good in it, I was not even annoyed at Jon Bernthal (who managed to spike my levels of vexation in The Walking Dead), I didn’t say he was good in this, merely ‘not annoying’.

I watched this on a Sunday afternoon and it was perfect for this time of day. Not too taxing, entertaining and pacey.

It tells the story of a 30 year old rivalry and manages to deal with it with subtlety as opposed to feeling like you’ve been hit over the head with the emotional Hollywood hammer.

A lot of the jokes were in the trailer but that didn’t stop them from still being funny and a lot of that is down to Kevin Hart. He seems to have cornered a market for himself in passionate, emotionally retarded, men-children. He’s damn good at it and very funny too.

Stallone gives a nice performance here playing the world weary and De Niro plays the selfish sprinkled with the right amount of humanity and pathos.

A lot better, or at least more enjoyable than a lot of the drivel on offer.
Fun.

3/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

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