ABC Film Challenge – Action – H – Hard Target 2 (2016) Movie Review

Director: Roel Reine

Writer: Matt Harvey, Dominic Morgan, George Huang (Screenplay)

Starring: Scott Adkins, Robert Knepper, Rhona Mitra, Temuera Morrison, Ann Tuong, Adam Saunders, Jamie Tomony

Plot: Retired mixed martial artist Wes “The Jailor” Baylor (Scott Adkins) can’t refuse a million-dollar purse he’s offered for one final bout in Myanmar. But when he arrives for the fight, he learns he’s been tricked into becoming the target of a human hunt. Carrying only water and a ruby-filled money belt for the last person standing, Wes must outsmart the heavily armed group that has paid to kill him. As he fights for his life in the treacherous jungle terrain, the hunters become the hunted.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Late Night Action 101

Story: Hard Target 2 starts when mixed martial artist Wes ‘The Jailor’ Baylor (Adkins) accidently kills his best friend in his last fight, turning away from the sports, Wes takes small fights to pay for his drinking problem. Wes is approached by Jonah Aldrich (Knepper) that offers him a $1 million pay day.

Wes takes up his offer, which sees him travelling to Myanmar, only to learn that he has accepted to be part of a human hunt, with a string of hunters including Sofia (Mirta) hunting him down through the jungles, where he works with local Tha (Truong) and proves to be a lot harder to kill than Jonah thought he would be.

Thoughts on Hard Target 2

Characters – Wes Baylor is a title contender in mixed martial arts, having a number one contender match against his best friend, which sees him win, but at a cost, he kills his friend. Wes retires from competitive fighting, taking small fights in illegal bouts. Wes gets a chance to get a big pay day, though it isn’t what he fought, it becomes a race to survive against hunters that see him as a prey. Wes shows that he does have the fighting skills to survive against these people. Jonah Aldrich is the man that is running the hunting session, he recruits people that could be considered difficult to hunt and makes plenty of money offering this idea to the hunters of the world. He stays in complete control of the game, making sure that the hunters get a chance, though he isn’t happy with the prey is harder to kill this time. Sofia is one of the hunters that has been following in her father’s footsteps when it comes to hunting.

PerformancesScott Adkins is fast becoming a big name in the action genre, he is a man that will always be able to handle the combat side of a film with ease, even if some of the line delivery isn’t his strength. Robert Knepper as the villain is always a great pick for a sleazy one, this again plays to the actor’s strengths. Rhona Mitra is one of the bigger names in the film, she does make her character standout, though she doesn’t make the impact that would be expected.

StoryThe story here follows a mixed martial artist that is forced into retirement and takes a big pay day in hope of escaping his life, though the pay day turns into a battle for survival against hunters that are looking for human prey. When it comes to the story, it is very simple and is something we have seen before, it is an entertaining story though, that always works for us when it comes to a single fighter that much look to fight for his own survival against a larger number of enemies. If you have seen The Running Man, The Condemned and even Death Race, you will know what you are getting into here.

ActionThe action in the film lets Scott Adkins show off his skills, it is routine, but it works for what the film is trying to do and will show how deadly a trained martial artist can be.

SettingsThe film is set in Myanmar which does offer the dense jungle which does make for a beautiful backdrop for the film.

Scene of the Movie – The first kill.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is slightly too basic.

Final Thoughts This is a simple, fun action film, it does everything it needs to without being anything original, just simple fun.

Overall: Simple and fun action film.

The Host (2020) Movie Review

Director: Andy Newbery

Writer: Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop, Laurence Lamers (Screenplay) Laurence Lamers, Zachary Weckstein (Story)

Starring: Mike Beckingham, Maryam Hassouni, Doughie Poynter, Nigel Barber, Suan-Li Ong, Togo Igawa, Tom Wu, Derek Jacobi

Plot: A opportunity arises for Robert Atkinson, a London banker who risks his bank’s money to leave the mundane behind to start a new life.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Crime Horror 101

Story: The Host starts as we meet down on his luck Robert Atkinson (Beckingham) who has filled his life with bad decisions, including an affair with a married woman, stealing from his bank and gambling with money he doesn’t have, facing even more trouble, he gets offered a deal to make a delivery to Amsterdam.

Once in Amsterdam, Robert finds what seems like a simple delivery, taking a turn when DEA Agent Herbert Summers (Barber) picks him out and Robert is caught in the middle of completing the delivery or jail or something way worse.

Thoughts on The Host

Characters – Robert Atkinson is a banker that has spiralled out of control, he steals from work, gambles with money he doesn’t have and has cut ties with most people in his life. To get out of his problems, he is offered a delivery job, one that will clear most of his debts, it seems simple enough, but it does take a turn for the worse for him. Vera Tribbe runs the accommodation that Robert stays in, it is a giant house that is filled with secrets behind her welcoming nature. Steve is Robert’s brother that has tried to help him get back on the right track, no matter what he has done in the past, he will help him through the toughest time. Herbert Summers sees the delivery Robert is on and looks to use him to get what he needs in the battle against the gang running deliveries around the world.

PerformancesMike Beckingham takes the leading role, showing us just how desperate his character has become, Maryam Hassouni is the star performer in the film with her truly dark turn, where Dougie Poynter, Nigel Barber and Suan-Li Ong giving strong supporting performances too.

StoryThe story here follows a man who is down on his luck making a deal with a gang leader to make a delivery to clear his debts, only for this simple task to take a very dark turn. This does start out looking like it will be a routine crime thriller with somebody needing to clean up their debts, we get the mix Robert getting stuck in the middle of the criminals and the law. This story does take a big twist, which will surprise and go in a very different direction which is shocking to see. The story does try to blend the two together, but does struggle though because we focus on the crime side dragging us in, only for most of this to get forgotten through the horror side, which does take over the second half of the story.

Crime/Horror/MysteryThe crime side of the film does feel routine for the most part, only this takes the back burner once the horror side of the film is unleashed, which is surprising by what happens.

SettingsThe film is mostly set inside the mansion like house in Amsterdam, the house shows us the mystery with the size, the secret rooms and the eerie feel to it.

Scene of the Movie – Vera’s true nature.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The crime side of the story does seem to get forgotten once the horror comes out.

Final Thoughts This is a crime thriller that is covered with a big horror twist to everything going on which is nice, only it does seem to get stuck in the middle of both sides.

Overall: Killer Twist to the Crime Thriller.

THE HOST is available on demand from 17th April 2020

Hard Eight (1996) Movie Review

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay)

Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L Jackson, F William Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Plot: Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.

Tagline – If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll see everything, win everything, and lose everything.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slick, but Not Glossy

Story: Hard Eight starts when Sydney (Hall) sees John (Reilly) looking dejected outside of a diner leaving Vegas, Sydney offers to give him 50 bucks to return and learn of him how to make the fortune he always wanted.

Two-years later John works with Sydney with connections including Jimmy (Jackson) that know how to work the casinos, with Sydney always making himself presented in a proper way, while John falls for a cocktail waitress Clementine (Paltrow) which sees the partnership start to hit a couple of stumbling blocks.

Thoughts on Hard Eight

Characters – Sydney has been around the casino scene for years now, he knows how to pick out the people that could help make him more money and in John, he sees his latest target. He does have a good thing going, he makes sure he knows the staff and knows how to clean up any messes that come his direction. John is a dejected young man that is on his way out of Vegas needing to make enough money for his mother’s funeral, he gets a helping hand from Sydney are learns getting himself into a comfortable life, until he meets Clementine, where he starts to make mistakes which put the whole operation in doubt. Clementine is a cocktail waitress that is desperately trying to get enough money to clear her problems, she is willing to go to extreme levels for this, which sees her putting partnership between Sydney and John in the air. Jimmy the reckless man that has worked with John before, Sydney doesn’t like him and his behaviour doesn’t help his case.

PerformancesPhilip Baker Hall is fantastic in the leading role, he is either in or narrating nearly every scene and does manage to dominate every time he is on camera. John C Reilly plays everything he needs to well, showing his naïve nature at times and how he got to the right position, keeping the nervous nature coming through. Gwyneth Paltrow great too, while Samuel L Jackson brings the character that does seem like he is on edge to life too.

StoryThe story here follows an veteran of the casino scene that knows how to pick out the best people to get money without being caught cheating or using the casino for work, that is until things start to get out of hand. This story focuses on people rather than the way the two make money, which shows that not everybody is as clean as you think with secrets always being up people’s sleeves. This is an interesting story, though it never truly gets going on the levels other films might well have when it comes to dealing with the same subject matter.

CrimeThe crime side of this film shows us just how the people operate on the other side of the law, which shows their own weaknesses to the world, while showing how they keep everything together.

SettingsThe film uses the casino settings to show us how the shady people would be operating to make sure they stay on top of everything.

Scene of the Movie – Late night visit.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We don’t really learn enough about what the bigger plan would be in the casinos.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting story even if it doesn’t reach the top potential, it tries to be slick and apart from the standout performance from Philip Baker Hall, we don’t get enough from the deeper story involved.

Overall: Interesting.

Michael Caine Weekend – Harry Brown (2009) Movie Review

Director: Daniel Barber

Writer: Gary Young (Screenplay)

Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, David Bradley, Iain Glen, Sean Harris, Plan B, Jack O’Connell

Plot: An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend’s murder by doling out his own form of justice.

Tagline – The law has limits. He doesn’t.

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Intense and Gritty

Story: Harry Brown starts as we meet mild-mannered ex-marine and widower Harry Brown (Caine) who is living on a London estate where his only friend Leonard Attwell (Bradley) spend time in the pub where they play chess at get worried about the local youth that are always causing chaos, from small harassment to murder.

After Leonard is murdered by the gang, the police Alice Frampton (Mortimer) and Terry Hicock (Creed-Miles) visit and inform Harry of the news, which soon turns Harry into wanting his on form of defence, which sees him looking to take on the gangs, while Alice is charged with trying to find the mysterious vigilante.

Thoughts on Harry Brown

Characters – Harry Brown is trying to live a quiet life of retirement, hoping his wife gets better, having one friend on the London estate, after losing his wife and his best friend gets murdered, Harry uses his past as a marine to look for answers, taking out anybody he sees as part of the problem. D.I Alice Frampton has just been transferred to the area, she comes off more approachable than most members of the police force, she is trying to get things done without needing to turn to name calling. She seems to be the only person trying to solve the case. D.S Terry Hicock has been working the estate for years, he has become warned down with the crimes, making him distant in his behaviour towards the incidents. Leonard Attwell is the best friend of Harry’s the two spend most afternoons together in the pub, though Leonard has started to fear for his life more as he is being targeted by the youth in the neighbourhood.

PerformancesMichael Caine is fantastic in the leading role showing a grittier performance than we are used to seeing from him. Emily Mortimer does show us a much calmer officer than we are used to seeing in the police force. In the supporting roles everyone is strong with the younger cast getting their chance to shine.

StoryThe story here follows a retired marine that decides to come and take a stand against the local youth problem that murdered his friend. We have seen the vigilante taking a stand before and it is nice to see a version that still kept the story looking fresh, with a new spin on it, by having a veteran needing to fight back against young people causing troubles, this could reflect real life with the gangs keep giving problems to the local people. The way everything unfolds is given a nice slowly built up moment which shows how Harry’s rage can be seen growing slowly too.

Action/CrimeThe action is kept in a more tame realm, though this is good for the film because it is meant to be a tighter enclosed environment for the events of the film, while the crime shows us just how the youth have started to take over.

SettingsThe film keeps the film in and around the London estate, it shows the different people living on it and how their lives will be affected by what is happening there.

Scene of the Movie – The underground.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The police don’t seem that helpful.

Final Thoughts This is a great action vigilante movie that shows just how far somebody could go to clean up their streets when they see nothing happening, where Michael Caine truly shines.

Overall: Brilliant.

The Hunt (2020) Movie Review

Director: Craig Zobel

Writer: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof (Screenplay)

Starring: Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Betty Gilpin, Ethan Suplee, Justin Hartley, Ike Barinholtz, Macon Blair

Plot: Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt.

Tagline – The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Entertaining Comedy

Story: The Hunt starts as 12 strangers wake up gagged in the middle of a woodland area, with a mysterious box sat in the middle of a field, soon they discover they are trying to fight back against a group of rich people that are looking forward to their hunting trip.

Crystal (Gilpin) soon turns out to be one of the strongest members of the strangers, being able to fight back, searching for an answer to why they have been select, where they are and proving to be a lot harder to kill than the rest of the group.

Thoughts on The Hunt

Characters – Crystal is one of the random strangers that has been taken for this game, she does head off on her own once she awakes, she proves to be difficult to kill, knowing how to get through different people bs and isn’t going down without a fight. Athena is the woman leading the hunt, she has planned, picked and set everything up, waiting for her chance to spill the motivation behind the selection. When it comes to the other characters, we meet the strangers who give out small clues to who they are, while the hunters give us clues to why they are doing this, letting the leading two get the most scenes.

PerformancesBetty Gilpin is wonderful in the leading role, which sees her holding back a lot, while letting her actions speak louder, while Hilary Swank is meant to be more of a surprise, though the trailer gives everything away with her appearance and she is great to see in this role. The supporting cast get plenty of laughs along the way.

StoryThe story here follows the 12 strangers that have been taken to be used in a hunting situation for the rich elite to hunt down for their own pleasure. This is a simple side of the story, with the wild introduction that doesn’t let you know which character is going to be the lead character and once we learn who it will be, we don’t get bogged down with the standard hunting situation, we get well into the bigger picture and why everything has unfolding, which is a clear message about how to react to what we say in any tone.

Action/HorrorThe action here is fantastic to watch, with the final showdown being a true highlight of the film, being completely engaging and showing the characters look like they have been hurt during it, we do get a lot more comedy that expected with the satire style of the film, which shows the horror of what is going on to them.

SettingsThe film does take us to the woodland area, which is part of the mystery about where we are, with the characters needing to learn this along the way, it works because it could have been anywhere.

Scene of the Movie – The final showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The hiding of Athena’s face for most of the movie, even though the trailer gave away who it was.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful satire that will get laughs that will make you think about who you word things in your own life, with a outstanding leading performance from Betty Gilpin.

Overall: Entertaining Throughout.