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: A Good Year (2006)

Theatrical Poster of A Good Year
Theatrical Poster of A Good Year

A Romantic Comedy On The Rocks

A Good Year (2006) (PG-13)

Directed By: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard and Albert Finney

Rating: ***

What do we really require to live a good life? It’s certainly a good job, a good apartment, a good car, a good mistress, a good fortune and a good year. Directed by Ridley Scott, pay no heed. Just pick it up and watch it. It’s quite a rollicking adventure from Long Live England to Viva La France. A Good Year is also produced by Scott and is based on the book by Peter Mayle. The film is visually arresting and irresistible. It has an amazing cast. It includes Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, Abbie Cornish and Freddie Highmore. The film has quite a simple storyline but what it evokes in you is laughter and enjoyment. Bearing in mind that A Good Year is a romantic comedy, it won’t make you turn bitter watching the same lovesick people squabble among each other. The film is based on women and wine.

Max Skinner is a British trader who gets news of his uncle’s death. His uncle who happens to be his only surviving (now dead) relative hasn’t written any will and thus his property in France will be inherited by Max. Max’s first intention is to sell the estate and the vineyard which his uncle has left behind. But, trouble lands when Uncle Henry’s illegitimate daughter Christie Richards arrives to the estate. Fearing that the illegitimate daughter may have a claim, Max tries his best to ward off Christie. Soon, he learns that Christie has no intention of staying in France and decides to go back to California. Halfway through the film, we’re introduced to Fanny Chenal who seems to know a lot about Max. The mystery lies in the flashback. Does Max go back to the estate or does he stay rich in London. That forms the crux of A Good Year which I would call an artistic rom-com by Ridley Scott. The film is pepped up with humor which will certainly tickle your bones.

Now, we all have seen films with French Romance or to put in plain words, Romance in the French country with a French woman. Two Days In Paris is an awesome example of French Romance. But, the problem is that Two Days In Paris is more of a mature one while A Good Year is a fancy one. It is something which will keep you smiling throughout. Ever since Last Tango In Paris, screenwriters have always wanted their scripts to contain more French and less horrific English whenever it comes to writing a scene where the location is France. You see that here too. That’s where Scott’s gone soft. Marc Klein’s unabashed script is faulty at times. But, Scott and his crew do their best to keep up the film’s pace.

As Max Skinner, Russell Crowe proves a mighty jig. His fast-forward life and the way he speaks British English and juggles between some less profound curse words is something we would’ve seen in his previous films. As the young Max Skinner, Freddie Highmore does a good job just like his older counterpart. As Uncle Henry, Albert Finney lives a short role which he sweetens to the tip. As Henry’s illegitimate daughter Christie, Abbie Cornish makes a mark. But, the best performance with less screen time is Marion Cotillard’s Fanny Chenal.

A Good Year is a sweet tale. Bear in mind it’s a tale and don’t expect your livid reality to be screened. It is simply about two manly desires – Women & Wine.