Killing Them Softly (2012)

Director: Andrew Dominik

Writer: Andrew Dominik (Screenplay) George V Higgins (Novel)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta

 

Plot: Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.


Tagline – In America you’re on your own

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow & Uninspiring

 

Story: Killing Them Softly starts when Frankie (McNairy) and Russell (Mendelsohn) rob Markie’s (Liotta) mob protected card game, putting a bounty on themselves. With the men not happy with this incident, they hire Jackie (Pitt) to clean up the mess, he enjoys killing his victims, softly, with his Driver (Jenkins) filling in the information about the hit he will need to take out, while the  man Jackie wanted to help with the job, Mickey (Gandolfini) isn’t the man he used to know.

 

Thoughts on Killing Them Softly

 

Characters – Jackie is a hitman assigned to clean up a mod owned robbery, he has his own ways to get the job done which will see him slowly calculated kill his targets, but he will get the job done smoothly. Frankie is one of the thieves that commits the robbery, he has bought in his own friend to help with the latest job, he must try to stay low while he waits for the bounty to go away. Russell is the loose cannon that is bought in by Frankie, he isn’t liked by the boss, but is given the chance to help with the job. Mickey is the former hitman that just isn’t the man he once was, he can’t be seen in public which doesn’t help with his job. Driver fills in the information for Jackie, he shows him where the job could be done too. Markie is the host of the poker game who sees the money stolen, knowing what it will mean for him.

PerformancesBrad Pitt is the highlight of this film, which isn’t saying too much, he does keep the cool persona we know him for through the film, but isn’t as incredible as we could have seen from him. The supporting cast all struggle in this film without getting any moments that will make us want to support their characters.

StoryThe story follows a hitman hired to clean up a gangster robbery but unsuspecting thieves, only for him to see the people are not the same as they once were. This story goes at a slow pace which just doesn’t ever get going before ending without seemingly finishing. We have too many characters being introduced to enjoy this film which just seems to be a lot of talking and never hitting the criminal world style that you would be expecting from the gangster underworld.

CrimeThe criminal side of this film just seems to follow different people in the criminal world, they are at different levels and are force to be against each other.

SettingsThe film is set in a city which is filled with the chances to be a criminal without making any location feel iconic.


Scene of the Movie –
Frankie drive.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Too much pointless talking.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow non-moving crime thriller that just drags along even with Brad Pitt trying his best to make something of nothing.

 

Overall: Slow and dull.

Rating

 

 

The Last Dance (2016)

Director: Amanda Sharp

Writer: Amanda Sharp (Screenplay)

Starring: Ray Liotta, Rose Leslie, Justin Bartha, Gina Rodriguez, Carmen Tonry

 

Plot: A story about love and loss. And maybe one day – love again.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Dream Chasing Drama

 

Story: The Last Dance starts as we meet Athena (Leslie) a determined dancer still trying to prove herself in her field, she lets off steam with one-night-stands, with her latest one Bryan (Bartha) getting interrupted by her father Jack (Liotta) who announces he has cancer.

Jack calls Athena back to start his treatment with his 6-year-old daughter Honey Bunny (Tonry) which will lead to Athena needing to make the big decision about her future, right when her biggest opportunity comes his way.

 

Thoughts on The Last Dance

 

Characters – Athena has been working on her career in dancing, she is finally about to take the biggest chance of her career, until her father arrives barely bad news. She is left to decide whether to support her father or follow her dreams. Jack is the father who is set in his old ways in life, which sees his call his daughter back to help him through his cancer struggles, as he is left to see if she will stay with him to help him, while raising his 6-year-old daughter. Honey Bunny is the youngster daughter in of Jack’s she has an adventurous childhood, she has followed in his footsteps with what she has been taught. Bryan is the new guy that walks into Athena’s life for a one-night stand only to be one of the best friends through the struggles. Natalia is the oldest friend to Athena who is there for her when she returns home.

PerformancesRose Leslie is strong in the leading role showing that she does have a career after Game of Thrones. Ray Liotta gives one of his best modern day performances. Justin Bartha and Gina Rodriguez are solid when we see them, but sadly do see to have limited screen time.

StoryThe story follows a young lady who has been chasing her dreams only to see them come crashing down when her father is struck down with cancer, forcing her to care for him before ultimately needing to make the biggest decision of her life and learn to let people into her life once again. The story here does give us a wonderful family dynamic which shows the differences between the three generations that show how life has changed. This story however does have a major twist in the final act which turns a lot of what we have seen on its head, it also does confuse certain scenes though.

ComedyThe comedy in this film comes from how the three interact, it can get a laugh when needed to move the story and show how they can have inside jokes.

SettingsThe film uses too main settings, LA where the dreams are and Florida where Jack is, the two locations show the decision that Athena must make.


Scene of the Movie –
For my Honey Bunny.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t get enough from the supporting characters.

Final ThoughtsThis is a drama that does hit home hard once we see the story of how the film ends, it shows how seeing a family member suffer will make life for anybody.

 

Overall: Hard Hitting drama.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – K – Kill the Messenger (2014)

Director: Michael Cuesta

Writer: Peter Landesman (Screenplay) Gary Webb, Nick Schou (Book)

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michel Sheen, Andy Garcia

 

Plot: Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. The film takes place in the mid-1990s, when Webb uncovered the CIA’s past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was aggressively sold in ghettos across the country to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras’ rebel army. Despite enormous pressure not to, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence, publishing the series “Dark Alliance”. As a result he experienced a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA. At that point Webb found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life.


Tagline –  How the CIA’s crack-cocaine controversy destroyed journalist Gary Webb

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Investigation Journalism 101

 

Story: Kill the Messenger starts as reporter Gary Webb (Renner) has been investigating the handling of drug dealers who are fond not guilty in a court of law. This opens the door for Gary to a whole new story about how the CIA had been using drug trade to fund a war in Nicaragua.

The deeper Gary got into the story the more the CIA put pressure on him as he must regain his reputation after the CIA pulls the same tricks to disgrace him.

 

Thoughts on Kill the Messenger

 

Characters – The characters in this film are based on the real people, we are looking at their own decisions which would have put them in the position they find themselves in. Gary Webb is a reporter, he believes he has the biggest story of his career which puts his own family life and career on the line by trying to expose the CIA. Sue is the wife that sees her personal life become part of the sideshow in the press. We do have many other reporters, contacts, CIA agents, lawyers and even the drug dealers themselves who interact with Gary as the story comes to the light of day.

PerformancesJeremy Renner is the star of this film, he does a great job in the leading role dealing with the different situations he finds himself in. the film is filled with great performances from the characters actors we have seen in plenty of films through the years.

StoryThe story here shows us one man’s determination to try and bring a story to life, one that could expose the governments secrets. This brings him into a personal battle against the CIA who are trying to ruin his reputation and destroy his creditability. The is based on the real man and the real story which once again shows us just how governments can become corrupt for their own gain. Though this is based on the true story, it does feel like it is lacking something to truly bring us into the film, we find ourselves just on the side lines of the story which never reaches the levels it could do.

Biopic/Crime/MysteryThe biopic side of this film is the important part of the film, we focus on the man whose story turned people against him even though he was exposing a big crime within the government.

SettingsThe settings do take us around America and even through the North America countries as we see where the truth is being designed to send us to the different corners of the truth.


Scene of the Movie –
Speech.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Driving looked terribly fake.

Final ThoughtsThis is a biopic movie that does set out to show us the truth about the CIA using the drug trade to fund a war but quickly turns into the CIA trying to discredit the man behind it all, it doesn’t reach the highest levels we are hoping for even it Renner does shine through the film.

 

Overall: One for the biopic fans out there.

Rating

 

 

Goodfellas (1990)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese (Screenplay) Nicholas Pileggi (Book)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorrain Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Tony Darrow

 

Plot: The story of Henry Hill and his life through the teen years into the years of mafia, covering his relationship with wife Karen Hill and his Mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVitto in the Italian-American crime syndicate.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Classic but Not for Me

 

Story: Goodfellas starts as Henry Hill tells us all about why he wants to be a gangster from a young age, we learn how he got a chance in his early teenage ages, where he made more money that his father and after spending his time in jail he is all grown up. Henry (Liotta) works with Tommy DeVito (Pesci) under the James Conway (De Niro) who all answer to Paul Cicero (Sorvino).

Henry rising up the ranks has built himself a reputation and once he starts dating Karen (Bracco) who becomes his wife. When Tommy murders a high-ranking member of the Mafia James and Henry help him cover it up as they continue to build their reputation. This is the rise and fall of Henry Hill as the truth about his identity comes outs.

 

Thoughts on Goodfellas

 

Characters/PerformanceHenry Hill is telling us the story, he is quiet man who wants to be a gangster, we follow his story as he rose the ranks in the Mafia, we see how far he goes and what he needs to do to clean up the mess he finds him in. James or Jimmy is the top ranked of the three, he makes the deals and makes sure everyone stays in line. Tommy is the hot head that shots first always leaving the others in danger.

Performance wise, De Niro is great in what is a supporting role in a genre he is brilliant in. Liotta is the star of the show and is fantastic through the whole film. Joe Pesci gives one of the most iconic gangster performances of all time here.

StoryThe story of one man’s life inside the Mafia is always interesting but the reality is it can only be seen a number of times before we know how it will all unfold. Yes, this is one of the most popular of all time but I do feel it is just fine for a non-gangster film fan.

CrimeThe crime world we enter into is everything we would have come to expect and it is easily the strong point of the film.

SettingsThe settings all fit the time the film is set in showing the environment the characters are in.

Final ThoughtsThis is a classic and I can see all the good points about the film but it just isn’t a film I will want to watch again.

 

Overall: This is a classic of the genre.

Rating

 

 

Go With Me (2015)

goDirector: Daniel Alfredson

Writer: Joe Gangemi, Gregory Jacobs (Screenplay) Castle Freeman Jr (Novel)

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julia Stiles, Ray Liotta, Alexander Ludwig, Lochlyn Munro, Hal Holbrook

 

Plot: An ex-logger comes to the aid of a woman who returns to her hometown in the Pacific Northwest and finds herself harassed and stalked by a former cop turned crime lord.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Moving Thriller

 

Story: Go with Me starts when Lillian (Stiles) returns to her childhood hometown after her mother’s death to start a new life only to find herself being stalked by Blackway (Liotta) a former cop turned crime lord. Turning to the Sheriff (Wilson) Lillian gets passed over to the local loggers for help, Whizzer (Holbrook) refuses to help but offers his men a chance to join her. Lester (Hopkins) and Nate (Ludwig) go along to investigate as Lillian gets to learn more about how evil Blackway is.

As the three go in search for Blackway we learn more about why Lester agreed to go on what they all say is a suicide mission and learn what drew Blackway’s attention towards Lillian.

 

Thoughts on Go with Me

 

StoryThis story is set mostly over just one day as we follow the three search for the crime lord in an act of revenge. I did think this story did come off slow but I also think this builds the tone nicely for this story. the story is also kept very simple and is character driven throughout. I think if you like a good thriller you will enjoy this one.

ThrillerThis is a slow builder thriller that shows us all the reasons before having the final act releasing all the tension built up.

Characters/PerformanceLillian is designed to be a character that has always ran from problems but this time she wants to fight back. The town’s people are all created with fear of this villainous Blackway who is meant to strike fear in anyone he doesn’t like. While Lester is, a man looking to protect a woman after losing his daughter years before. The characters do all suit this film nicely.

The performances are all good with Stiles taking on a grittier role than in her earlier career but Hopkins and Liotta never come out of their comfort zones as actors.

SettingsThe settings are all within this very small town who know how the community acts towards the man who gives them the most fear, some avoid other work for him but most wait for their chance. this setting plays into the tension being built throughout.

Final ThoughtsThis is a very solid thriller that could be enjoyed by the fans of the genre that went completely under the radar.


Overall: Thriller fans try this one out for size.

Rating60