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Friday, July 31, 2015
Sean Penn has been known to perform extremely well in many dramatic roles he’s had over the years. But little is said of the action films he’s made which is odd since his first notable roles was in BAD BOYS where he played a young troublemaker trying to stay alive in juvenile hall. That all could change with his latest film THE GUNMAN.
Penn plays Terrier, a hired mercenary for a global company with interests in the Congo. Part of a team, their latest target involves a man the company has paid influence money to. Rather than trust him they decide to take him out and Penn is the man assigned. This means that not only will he be required to kill this man he will also have to leave behind the love of his life, Annie (Jasmine Trinker), since a killer never stays once the hit is carried out.
Years go by and Terrier has returned to Africa, this time to actually do what his cover claimed years prior. Helping smaller towns to dig wells and solve their water problems during one drilling expedition a group of soldiers show not randomly but specifically seeking Terrier. In the course of events he defends himself stunning the locals he’s been helping by taking out the group of soldiers and his cover is blown. The question is why were they there searching specifically for him?
Terrier leaves the country and seeks out and old ally, Cox (Mark Rylance), who sets him on a path to connect with Felix (Javier Bardem), one of the men from his group. Felix is now married to Annie having been in love with her prior to ‘s leaving years ago. The pair do not have the happy life that he had wished for and with Penn back in the picture things get even rockier. Invited to their villa in the country a drunk Felix argues back and forth with Penn eventually revealing, as Penn has already guessed, that he’s called in troops to take him out. What he doesn’t realize is that this is a total cleansing and everyone from the old team is being taken out one at a time.
Barely escaping, Annie in tow, Terrier heads for help. But who can he now trust? Who is behind all of these murders? And can he stop them from killing both him and before it all ends?
This is a nice thriller that holds your interest from one minute to the next. Penn does a fantastic job of playing the ill-fated assassin who has tried to make up for his past mistakes only to have them follow him to the present. Sadly Bardem is wasted here playing the love smitten puppy who thinks he can win the woman simply by eliminating his rival. His was the order that sent Penn out to kill all those years ago. But his character here is limited too little more than looking jealous and getting drunk.
The movie is well made, the cinematography stunning to watch be it the streets of London or in the wilds of the Congo. Even the night scenes, some of the most difficult to film for some, come out easy to see and not get lost in the shadows. Director Pierre Morel adds another top notch action movie to his list of accomplishments which include the first TAKEN, DISTRICT B13 and FROM PARIS WITH LOVE. With the way his movies have turned out so far he’s a name I know I’ll be looking for in the future, expecting some great action films under his name.
Perhaps the only odd thing about this movie is the juxtaposition between the actions of the lead character and his crew and the real life opinions of Penn. A staunch anti-gun advocate he joins the already long list of actors who portray gun toting men of action in their films while demanding gun ownership be restricted or banned altogether. But then again this is Hollywood, the land that calls for clean air action while creating more explosions than most other businesses in the world.
Truth be told it doesn’t matter. As a movie goers I’ll continue to watch the movies that these folks make and enjoy each and every one of them. The end product here is a watchable movie that entertains and thrills from start to finish. Penn does a good job and I look forward to seeing him in more roles like this. Add this movie to your list of those worth renting and watching.
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While I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan of Lee Van Cleef he’s always been an actor that if I saw one of his movies playing on TV I’d make an effort to stop and watch it. He seemed to me to be one of those actors that always carried off whatever role he was playing with ease. So when I saw he had a starring role in DAY OF ANGER I couldn’t believe that I’d not only never seen the film but had never even heard of it. And after watching it I was even more surprised seeing how good a movie it was. Why doesn’t this one get as much attention as the films of Sergio Leone?
Here again we have a movie you won’t find at imdb.com under this title. Instead try GUNLAW. The movie opens in Clifton, AZ, with young Scott (Giuliano Gemma) making his daily rounds, picking up buckets of human waste and emptying them into his wagon barrels to be dumped at the stable where he works. Scott is the town bastard, the son of a prostitute mother and unknown father, who is treated poorly by everyone he knows from the local bar owner to the judge. Scott Ekes out a living under the watchful eye of stable master Murph, the only person who treats him well other than the owner of the local brothel. Murph taught him how to draw a pistol even though the only thing he has is a wooden one.
Into town rides Talby (Van Cleef). Well dressed and well-armed it’s apparent that he’s a gunslinger. Talby impresses the young man who he immediately takes a liking to. After Scott takes his horse to the stable, Talby asks him to join him for a drink. Of course the locals aren’t happy with this due to their opinion of Scott. When they get in the middle of things a gunfight follows with Talby the man left alive. A quick trial finds him innocent and he heads out of town with Scott tagging along.
As they travel to the next town Talby takes Scott under his wing, giving him a series of lessons on survival. These include everything from how to handle a weapon to not trusting anyone. All of these lessons will come into play before the end of the film.
In the next town Talby confronts a man about a debt he is owed. It seems that for 10 years Talby has waited for the man to be released from prison after the man lost the money he took from a robbery they did together. When the man explains that the folks of Clifton took the money and framed the man to go to prison. The judge, bar owner, barber and banker were all in on it. With that information Talby sets out to return to Clifton but not before the man draws on him and dies in the street.
Before heading back Talby and Scott visit another town where they pick up a sidearm for Scott. Choosing along barreled pistol Scott is thrilled. On their way back to Clifton Talby continues to train Scott on how to use his weapon. Surprisingly Scott turns out to not only be quick on the draw but an accurate shot as well.
The two ride into town and Talby begins with the banker, letting him know why he’s there and taking a small payment to begin with. From there he finagles a part ownership in the local saloon. When someone tries to keep him from moving forward with his plans a gunfight follows and Scott begins to become the enforcer for Talby. It’s his chance to repay the fine folks of Clifton for their treatment of him over the years.
But plans never turn out quite like those who formulate them would like them to. Talby becomes more and more a presence in the town, pushing things to limits that even Scott isn’t pleased with. Murph warns Scott that Talby is only using him because he’s aging and an eventual faceoff between the two will be the end result. Just who walks away and with what is the question.
The movie has a wonderful story that unravels and reveals so much of the town’s past and those who live there. While it may seem like I’ve provided too much the truth is there is more to these people than what I’ve written. Those are the juicy parts of the film that make the writing of this movie so good. It’s not a surprise to learn then that the director and writer of this film later went on to make MY NAME IS NOBODY, a movie I consider to be a crown jewel of the spaghetti western genre.
The acting here is smooth for all involved. There was a question about Gemma playing the part of Scott since he was 30 at the time and the role called for a much younger actor. But he does a great job. Of course Van Cleef does his utmost best here in the role of Talby. His character starts off as a well-intentioned guide for a young man only to be revealed as the killer he is before the end of the film.
Arrow Video has done an amazing job with this release. The picture quality is stunning to look at, restored from a 35mm Techniscope camera negative. Extras include interviews with both the director and writer of the screenplay. On top of this the movie is offered in three versions: a shortened English version, the longer Italian version and that last version dubbed in English as well. After watching this I’m sold on the quality that Arrow Video has to offer. While I’ve never been a fan of most extras on movies, they provide just enough to add to the feature without making the extras more than the movie (unlike newer movies that seem to provide 4 hours of extras for a 90 minute feature). I read someone reply to their releases as Criterion worthy and I would have to agree. The biggest difference though is that Arrow seems to make their releases more affordable.
So many movies involving classic monsters have been made over the years and many in the past few. For me not a lot of these have stood out. When it came to werewolves I’ve always been a fan. The original THE WOLF MAN with Lon Chaney Jr. used to terrify me as a child. I enjoyed AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON but thought THE HOWLING was a much better movie. So when I heard a movie involving werewolves and soldiers was coming out back in 2002 I was ready. Except that it never played here. But once it hit video I watched and fell in love with the movie. So when I heard that Shout/Scream Factory was going to release a special edition I was set to watch it and love it once more. I wasn’t disappointed.
The movie starts with a soldier named Cooper (Kevin McKidd) trying out for the elite squad only to fail his final tests. Several months later his regular platoon is sent to the Highlands of Scotland on a training exercise. No live ammo to be had and wandering through the woods, they come across the remains of the Special Ops group that Cooper failed to join, the sole survivor of the group being their leader Capt. Ryan (Liam Cunningham). As Cooper’s commander Sgt. Wells (Sean Pertwee) regroups his men and takes the weapons and ammo from the fallen soldiers, the group is set upon by the same attackers and do their best to escape.
Unwilling to admit to what they saw, some wounded, they make their way to a nearby road and run into a jeep driving by which they stop. Driven by a woman named Megan (Emma Cleasby), they commandeer the car, tell her to move and try to find some place safe for the moment. Megan tells them there is a farm nearby and they head there knowing they won’t make it to the nearest town that night.
As they set themselves up in the farmhouse to defend against whatever it was that attacked them they do triage on the injured members of the group included Sgt. Wells. Cooper takes over and in talking with Megan and in looking over the farmhouse, the group realizes that what attacked them, what they saw, was a pack of werewolves. Megan has been in the area looking for information about this pack as well as proof that they exist. The run in is all the proof theses soldiers need and now they’re in a battle for their lives. If they can make it through the night to morning then perhaps they can find a way to the nearest town. If not, they’ll be dinner.
While this may sound like a simple plot there are several subplots I won’t dare reveal because in just knowing what they are you’ll have time to figure out the possibilities they present. I will say that one person wounded by these werewolves suddenly begins to heal faster than one would expect. I’ll leave it to you as to why that would be.
Not only is this movie one of the most original treatments of werewolves I’ve ever seen, every pulse pounding moment on screen makes you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. Add to that some of the best looking werewolves to be seen on screen and you have a movie that is well worth not just watching but adding to your collection as well. And make note that these are not CGI created werewolves at all but practical effects werewolves, men in costumes with effects people on hand to help them along that make them all the more real looking. This in turn makes them some of the more frightening werewolves seen on screen in years.
Included in the extras is a making of featurette, a look behinds the models of the sets, a theatrical trailer, still galleries, audio commentary from director Neil Marshall and a short film Marshall made prior called COMBAT. If that wasn’t enough the transfer to blu-ray was supervised by Marshall himself so this becomes a stunning copy that fans and collectors will find a must have to their collection.
I can’t recommend this movie and this version enough. It is an amazing horror film that needs more recognition than it has received to date. Make sure you pick up a copy today.
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