ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – T – Traffic (2000)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Stephen Gaghan (Screenplay) Simon Moore (Miniseries)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones

 

Plot: A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron’s wife attempts to carry on the family business.


Tagline – It’s a dirty, dirty war! And no one comes away clean

Runtime: 2 Hours 27 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Burning Crime Thriller

 

Story: Traffic starts by following two Mexican Cops Javier Rodriguez (Del Toro) and Manolo Sanchez (Vargas) who aren’t part of the drug trafficking side of the business, though they must turn a blind eye. America is trying to clean up the drug war by hiring judge Robert Wakefield (Douglas) to take the battle to them, while DEA agents Ray Castro (Guzman) and Montel Gordon (Cheadle) are dealing with an informant. As a drug lord is taken away his wife Helena (Zeta-Jones) must deal with the consequences of her husband’s actions.

With the four sides needing to think of their futures, Javier makes a desperate decision, Robert needing to deal with his own personal problems including his daughter crack addiction, Montel wanting to be on the front line without losing more people and Helena wanting to continue her husband’s business either after being watched by the authority.

 

Thoughts on Traffic

 

Characters – Javier Rodriguez has been working on the Mexican side of the drug battle, one of the good cops that gets pressed into making a big decision which could affect his partner and his own family. Robert Wakefield is being lined up to lead the battle on the drugs from the American side of the war, his promotion is huge for his career, but his own teenage daughter has become a drug addict spiralling out of control, leaving him in the position of needing to win the war or save his family. Montel Gordon is the DEA agent that has been on the ground trying to get to the truth about who is behind the drug deals going on. Helena is the wife of the drug lord who wants to keep the business alive even after her husband is taken to jail, knowing her kids will need the money for their own futures.

PerformancesThe performances in the film are good through the film, while most of the big character barely ever connect with each other, the separate performances from Bel Toro, Douglas, Zeta-Jones and Cheadle are all strong for the film.

StoryThe story here follows separate stories involved in the drug war going on between Mexican and American sides of war as see the people on the ground, the people in political officers and the dealer’s family. We do jump between the stories a lot which can make it hard to keep up with everything because the jump between them and lack of connection can be disconnecting for the audience. It does give us an insight to the drug war that is on going between the countries and how the people can be drawn to extremes to get their own fixes. The cops will be pushed too far without having any power when it comes to taking down the criminals without crossing the lines. With plenty of questions being asked it would have been nice to have more answered.

CrimeThe crime world we are thrown into shows us just how the criminal world of drugs operates be it with the deals, the legal system or the users and how the problem is looking to be solved.

SettingsThe film does take us to many different locations as we get to see how everything operates, we see the Mexican dealer’s life of luxury home, to the political offices taking on the war to the dens where the users get attracted too.


Scene of the Movie –
Seth is being excused today.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Too many stories going on.

Final ThoughtsThis is a strong look at the drug war, it does have too many stories going on at once which can drag you down because each character feels like they are meant to be important in their own way.

 

Overall: Over saturated movie

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Comedy – S – Snatch (2000)

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writer: Guy Ritchie (Screenplay)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Alan Ford, Lennie James, Ewen Bremner

 

Plot: Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.


Tagline – Stealing stones is hazardous.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Gangster Wonderland

 

Story: Snatch starts as we meet Turkish (Statham) an underground boxing promoter who is on the biggest business with Brick Top (Ford), but when he loses his fighter to gypsy Mickey O’Neil (Pitt), he must work on a new deal to get Mickey to enter the fight.

When the fight doesn’t go as planned Turkish must make amends for the mistake, putting him where he never wants to be in debt to Brick Top, while we follow the gangsters in this world as they get themselves into a string of trouble.

 

Thoughts on Snatch

 

Characters – We have plenty of characters in this film, Turkish is our narrator telling us everything going on, he is a boxing promotor that gets himself in the bad books of the head gangster in the city. Mickey O’Neil is a gypsy that just so happens to be an amateur boxer that ruins the plans of Turkish. Brick Top is the gangster running the city, he keeps everyone in fear and promises to feed anyone that crosses him to his pigs.

PerformancesJason Statham broke out with this role, he had done a couple of supporting roles, but this made him the star we know he is today. Brad Pitt gives us a performance we didn’t see coming from him as he showed us he can bring us a supporting role that wants to break away from the Hollywood main stream. Alan Ford seems to enjoy playing the villainous gangster role too not holding back in anyway.

StoryThe story follows the many different members of the crime world on a serious of miss-adventures during a week long time, this takes us through robbers, thieves, gypsy and gamblers that are all trying to pull something off as things are unfolding. I will say at times it does feel like one too many things are going on, but they do all come full circle by the end of the film. as for gangster style movies this story is one of the more enjoyable without taking itself too seriously.

Comedy/CrimeThe comedy comes from things that do go wrong for the characters, with the dog having a squeaky toy instead of a bark is funny. The crime side of the film comes from every character that is from different places in the crime world.

SettingsThe settings keep us seeing everything coming from the different locations you would expect to see gangster films to take place.


Scene of the Movie –
The dog and the toy.

That Moment That Annoyed Me There is one too many stories to keep up with at times.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good gangster film that doesn’t want to take itself too seriously, which helps bring the colourful characters to life.

 

Overall: Enjoyable throughout.

Rating

 

 

Sicario 2: Soldado (2018)

Director: Stefano Sollima

Writer: Taylor Sheridan (Screenplay)

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Fulfo, Matthew Modine

 

Plot: The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

 

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Excellently Shot

 

Story: Sicario 2: Soldado starts with a terrorist attack on American soil, Matt Graver (Brolin) is bought in to learn who is responsible for getting them into America in the first place, this leads him to the Mexican Cartels. Matt’s assignment is to create a war between the cartels.

Matt brings Alejandro (Del Toro) the best man back for the job which involves kidnapping Isabel Reyes (Moner) the daughter of one of the games, but when the release goes wrong the race to cover up the job is on.

 

Thoughts on Sicario 2: Soldado

 

Characters – Alejandro is recruited once again by Matt Graver to do an off the books job on the border of Mexico. He is the cold hearted killer that we met before, he goes on his own mission through the film which shows just how skilled he is. Matt Graver is the man the government turn to when they need to get a dirty job done, he is like a machine when it comes to decision making and knows to make contacts in his field. He has a much more front and centre role in this film. Isabel Reyes is the target they team goes after as a pawn in the battle between the Cartels. This isn’t the strongest character and we don’t know how often she is willing to use her father’s name. the rest of the characters we meet focus on the government making the decisions, the cartels and the small town smugglers which all come together for the final story.

PerformancesThis is a movie with two excellent performances in from Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, these two show how talented they are and elevate their performances from the first film. the rest of the cast are good without taking away the spotlight from any of the two leads.

StoryThe story continues to show the war on the cartels in and around the Mexican border, it shows how the government is willing to create their own war to keep the other side out of their problems. The core of the story follows one mission to create a war in Mexico, we know the players in the game from the American side and they are unleashed to go further than before. There is a subplot about a teenager getting bought into the cartel to help with the smuggling, which is important for the story, but the build is very much out of the style of the rest of the film. if you like the dark, brutal side of the original then you will enjoy this one too, though I will warn there are some very difficult scenes to watch.

Action/CrimeThe action in this film is hard hitting, the shoot outs are brilliant and the explosion look as realistic as you could imagine. There is no turning away from the brutality in the action. The crime shows the American government breaking the law to fight the criminals at their own game which is where the film puts out the ethical question about what they are doing.

SettingsThe film uses the settings excellently, this helps with the shots we get that use the camerawork perfectly and show just where this war will be happening.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film show us just what happens when our characters get hit by the bullets flying around, the effects are brutal to watch.


Scene of the Movie –
The dust convoy

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Miguel storyline takes something away from the mission story.

Final ThoughtsThis is an excellent sequel to Sicario, it shows just how deadly the game of creating wars can be and just how dirty people will have to get to achieve this.

 

Overall: Must watch action thriller.

Rating

 

ABC Film Challenge – Random – I – Inherent Vice (2014)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay) Thomas Pynchon (Novel)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short

 

Plot: In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: 2 and Half Hours too Long

 

Story: Inherent Vice starts as private investigator Larry ‘Doc’ Spotello (Phoenix) who gets a visit from his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Waterston) needing his help dealing with the latest job she is on with her boyfriend Michael Z Wolfmann (Roberts). When he goes missing Lt. Det. Christian F ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Brolin) leads the case which also sees Shasta go missing too.

As the case continues to unfold Doc finds himself meet a string of different characters who all have different pieces of information that will help solve the case.

 

Thoughts on Inherent Vice

 

Characters/PerformanceDoc is our main character and he is a hippie private investigator that has connections all over town and finds himself in the middle of a big cast.

Performance wise, Phoenix is good but to be fair due to the slightly boring story the actors don’t have much to work with.

StoryThe story here is a crime story as we watch how a PI must solve a missing persons case and what the bigger picture to everything is, it would be fair to say this is very boring and not interesting in anyway.

Comedy/CrimeThere is no comedy in this film, I am pretty confident in saying that, the crime story is fine but not very interesting either.

SettingsThe settings look fine for the time period in question but otherwise nothing comes off truly memorable.

Final ThoughtsThis was a boring story with an all-star cast that don’t get the chance to show their abilities.

 

Overall: Sometimes you just need to miss a film and this is one of them.

Rating

 

 

The Fan (1996)

Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Phoef Sutton (Screenplay) Peter Abrahams (Book)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Patti D’Arbanville

 

Plot: An all star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Thriller

 

Story: The Fan starts as baseball MVP Bobby Rayburn (Snipes) joins to San Francisco Giants on a lucrative contract to be the highest paid player in the league. We also meet diehard baseball fan Gil Renard (De Niro) who is over the moon with the latest signing believing his team could go all the way this year but is on his last legs in his job as a salesman.

When Gil’s life starts crashing around him, he loses his job, gets a restraining order from his kid and even his beloved team isn’t performing he starts to reach into dark places. On the field, Bobby isn’t reaching to levels of expectation with Primo (Del Toro) outshining him in the games, with this we see how both men are not having the best time in their lives.

When Gil becomes obsessed with trying to help Bobby find his form, things take a dark turn with potentially deadly consequences.

 

Thoughts on The Fan

 

Characters/PerformanceGil is a true extreme diehard sports fan, he makes sport, in this case baseball the most important part of his life. He has been struggling with his job and family life which has pushed him over the edge. Bobby is the typical arrogant overpaid sports star who believes he can walk into any team and become the star attraction, when things don’t go his way, he struggles with the fan backlash when he hits a slump.

Performance wise, Robert De Niro is fantastic in this role with the final third of the film showing all of his skills on the psychotic levels. Wesley Snipes also brings the cocky sports persona from White Men Can’t Jump to the next level with his performance. The rest of the cast are all great, with always reliable performances from John Leguizamo and Benicio Del Toro.

StoryWe all know how certain fans can go to the extremes when it comes to supporting their team, we all know how the star player can sometimes find themselves getting the fans turn on them. So what happens when a fan goes too far, what happens when a star breaks his slump for his own change rather than because of the fan? Well this shows us just what could happen and in a very stylish way.

Action/SportsThe action is mostly based on the suspense of the film with the sports drama side coming from how the extreme fans can act.

SettingsSan Francisco is the most part for the setting which shows us how difficult it could be to get by, the difference between sports players and fans as well as the amount of people an average person could blend into.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most interesting twists on sports drama, seeing the extremes we could see a fan go to for a player and a team. This does start slightly slow but I do feel that helps build the characters for the final third of the film.

 

Overall: Great sports drama that has the intensity needed for the story.

Rating