Reviews: Broken City and Knife Fight

 

The One Man Army and His Foxy Assistant

russell crowe, mark wahlberg, broken city

Broken City
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Natalie Martinez

Rating: **

The trouble with Broken City comes around the halfway mark. You have a private eye who much like JJ Gittes in Chinatown, snoops on cheating spouses and reports back the suspicions. And then, there’s a sinister plot that keeps the protagonist – the private eye – puzzled. Before he can solve it, corpses pile up and he looks at the audience seated in the movie hall for guidance. In Chinatown, screenwriter Robert Towne tackled this issue by having Gittes tag along with the wife of the man he was snooping on. While that works in a fine mystery classic like Chinatown, Broken City is just not up to the mark.

In Broken City, these clues present itself to Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) a former cop who was arrested on charges of murder but released after the intervention of New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe). Seven years down the line, Hostetler hires Taggart with a wry concern that his wife (Zeta Jones) is cheating on him. A motion of deathly events are set off here and Taggart insists on uncovering it. He does this of course by surviving car chases, breaking into houses and with a small amount of shooting.

Taggart doesn’t work alone. He has an assistant, played by Alona Tal, who handles the phone calls and checks on the billings, and at times helps Taggart solve mysteries. The film boasts a star cast that can churn in curious filmgoers but the screenplay kills the pace of the movie and you have to settle with half-eaten broth. When you have Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Natalie Martinez in a film, you expect fine performances. And maybe, they did their best. But, you won’t realize it due to the sagging screenplay.

rob lowe, knife fight

Knife Fight
Starring: Rob Lowe, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jamie Chung, Richard Schiff
Rating: **

Having heard the title, I perceived Knife Fight to be a full-blown action movie. But, in reality, Knife Fight is a delightful political satire starring Rob Lowe as a spin doctor. Hollywood has seen many spin doctor films in the past few decades. A notable satire being Barry Levinson’s Wag The Dog which united Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman onscreen. But, spin doctor films are not purely political. Films like Network or even Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking are fine examples on how spin doctor films work. They take what’s wrong in the industry and make it funny for us to share some healthy laughs.

Knife Fight is set during the preliminary elections where Paul Turner (Lowe) has his hands full backing two major players – Larry Becker (Eric McCormack) and Stephen Green (David Harbour). These two are you standard issue senators. They are honest in front of the camera and pigs in front of young interns and sexy masseuses. And then, there’s the saintly character – played by Carrie-Anne Moss – who wants to join politics to genuinely serve the society. Like the characters in Jay Roach’s comedy, Campaign, the senators in Knife Fight are ready to go to town with anything that moves.

Richard Schiff plays the role of an intel digger who can somehow find almost anything about anyone. While this seems like a tough job for most of us, Schiff coolly sips a margarita in a strip club and downloads confidential health reports of an opposing senator. Rob Lowe’s character does seem to know every move of the media and plans months in advance. Anything he needs is just a call away, or in this case, his assistant, played by Jamie Chung makes the call for him.

The comforting thing about Knife Fight is that the script doesn’t take itself too serious. It harbours over territories and doesn’t dwell any deeper. That way, the film manages to keep itself sane and light-hearted. Knife Fight is indeed a sheer surprise.

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Review: The Lovely Bones

Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely Bones.

Fourteen year old girl rediscovers life after being brutally murdered

The Lovely Bones (PG-13)

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon

Genre: CGI-groomed Drama

Rating: *

There are some films which do the trick of generating a good buzz and then turning out so bad that you wondered why it was made. Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is such a film. Yes, I said it right – PETER JACKSON – the guy who made Lord of the Rings. The Lovely Bones has it wrong from the first minute. The murdered girl, Susie Salmon feels happy that she was murdered so that she could see her father stand up for her.

And, seriously, 135 minutes is too long. The best part is I can’t even count my yawns while this movie was screened in a huge theatre when I could easily count the number of people who were watching it. The Lovely Bones is a tripping stone in Jackson’s career. Murder is not something with a positive side. It’s something with a totally negative side. Why does Jackson make murder sound like miracle in this film?

And check out those CGI will you! I have never seen something so cheesy and it feels like playing a game of Mario Bros. where you have either blue sky and green grass or dark sky and darker water. Oh yes! The animation bores you to the core and the murdered girl actually finds afterlife to be more interesting. Well, The Lovely Bones becomes satirical in between and Jackson opens up a flow of emotions that are totally unnecessary.

What do you get from this movie about a fourteen year-old girl who dies painfully and then prevents her murderer from getting murdered by the right person, her dad? Well, you sure do get the message. Find a serial killer who kills fourteen year-olds and then frame him as a hero. Stanley Tucci becomes a hero for playing a serial killer. Saoirse Ronan pulls off a neat role in the animated grassy patches of afterlife which according to the film is somewhere in between Earth and Heaven while as the parents of the murdered girl, Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play their parts well on the rough and tough Planet Earth.

Based on a best-selling novel by Alice Sebold, I wonder how Jackson has re-invented the bestseller into a box office bomb. The Lovely Bones fails to impress and those cheap-ass CGI or ‘A Peter Jackson film’ tagline will never help.