Action Triple Feature
If you're a red-blooded adrenaline junkie like me, you're always up for a good action movie. Unfortunately, 2009 has offered a rather lackluster line-up with more underwhelming fare like Push than truly rousing pictures like Watchmen included. Still, isn't there something in recent releases to get the pulse of moviegoers pounding? Below are capsule reviews of three action films currently heating up the box office.
Crank: High Voltage. Jason Statham's Chev Chelios returns for another round of mayhem after Chinese gangsters replace his heart with an artificial model that needs regular jolts of power to stay pumping. As much as I loved the cult action movie Crank, I'm not entirely sold on the idea of a sequel. Don't get me wrong, for there's plenty of insane thrills to go around here, especially a truly nutty fight sequence inspired by the Godzilla movies. The directing duo of Neveldine/Taylor make sure the action keeps on coming so that viewers are rarely bored. But too much of High Voltage feels like they're trying to capture lightning in a bottle, attempting to replicate its predecessor's gonzo charm. As strange as the story's shenanigans get, too many characters dragged in from the first movie weigh it down, making things a lot more complex than they should be. Still, while it's not perfect by any means, Crank: High Voltage possesses more verve than many modern action offerings. It also provides Statham with an arena to prove why he's one of today's coolest genre stars. MY RATING: ** 1/2
Fast & Furious. All four key players from The Fast and the Furious (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster) return to take down a vicious drug lord. In this fourth outing for the Fast and the Furious brand name, Walker's character intones "A lot has changed." To say this dialogue is ironic may be the understatement of the century, for not a thing has changed since the series began eight years ago. Fast & Furious serves up yet another round of fast cars and hot bodies, and for fans of the franchise, that's all they need to have a good time. More discriminating viewers, however, probably won't be as easily convinced. Save for a fun race sequence or two, the action is so choppily-edited in the MTV style that it's hard to tell who's running up against whom. The lack of acting chops has remained the same. Diesel and Walker share the charisma of a pair of wet naps and Rodriguez and Brewster getting very little screen time. Fast & Furious comes across as big and flashy, and while it's just what the doctor ordered for some, those hoping to see a little substance need to lower their expectations. MY RATING: **
Knowing. Nicolas Cage takes a break from global treasure hunts to play an MIT professor trying to crack a code that hints at the end of the world. Of the three movies in this action triple feature, Knowing is the one I'm most disappointed with. After Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man, I've long since given up on Cage, but I truly expected director Alex Proyas to do something great with the material. He's the man behind The Crow and Dark City, two films whose expressionistic looks remain effective even today. Unfortunately, his career has taken a turn for the worse with Knowing, which, like M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, starts with a corker of a premise, then quickly turns goofy. While the film's overall look is top-notch, I can't say the same for the dodgy acting, unintentionally hilarious disaster sequences, or the out-there ending, which will have most religious leaders on the planet scratching their heads. Had the idea been tackled in a more subtle and solemn manner, Knowing could have been quite an effective piece of work. But with too much emphasis on explosions and Nicolas Cage screaming at things, Knowing presents a view of the future that's more funny than foreboding. MY RATING: **