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By midlandsmovies, Jul 15 2018 06:29PM



Gringo (2018) Dir. Nash Edgerton


After businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) phones his head office bosses (Joel Edgerton as the obnoxious Richard and Charlize Theron as the unpleasant but seductive Elaine) to explain he has been kidnapped, Gringo kicks off an international farce of blue-collar crime, gangsters and hostage taking in this film from debut director Nash Edgerton.


With Harold’s lack of money, a wife seeking love elsewhere and his boss’ secret plans to let him go owing to a very shady company merger, he takes it upon himself to use a meeting in Mexico to collect a ransom on himself. When a drug cartel gets involved, the tables are spun and as Harold gets unwittingly involved in a case of mistaken identity, a mercenary played by a theatrical Sharlto Copley (doing what he does best) is dispatched to clear up the mess.


The film’s criss-crossing narrative is at first its triumph but then sadly its downfall however. What starts as a fun farce of down-at-luck mockery and silly, but passable, characters soon descends into a complicated commotion where misunderstanding is replaced with daft coincidences and broad caricatures.


I could however watch Theron’s callous and ruthless Elaine until the end of time with her dry wit and appalling yet hilarious behaviour. But the one-note idea of a put-upon office worker getting his own back on his bosses becomes increasingly muddled with so-so dialogue, too few belly laughs and a story that spirals into slapstick mayhem.


With a better script, some cinematic flair and subtler approach I could see the outline of the plot making a very good Coen brothers film (The Big Lebowski/Hail Caesar aren’t a million miles away anyways) but Gringo has more in common with a very average 1980s comedy flick.


Kudos goes to everyone giving it their all but aside from one or two clever jokes and Edgerton and Theron wallowing in their impressive ‘horrible bosses’ roles, the film is run-of-the-mill entertainment at best.


6.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 25 2018 10:09AM



Red Sparrow (2018) Dir. Francis Lawrence


Based upon Jason Matthews’ book on his experiences in the CIA, Red Sparrow features Jennifer Lawrence fresh from her risky role in Aronofsky’s “mother!” tackling another part that pushes the actress’ boundaries further.


She plays ballerina Dominika Egorova – Lawrence prepped for the dance scenes but it looked somewhat CGI to me – who after a serious injury is recruited by her Uncle Ivan to work for Russian intelligence. She is sent to train as a “sparrow” – an agent that is assigned to use seduction to ensnare targets. In parallel, CIA operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) tries to re-connect with a Russian mole he’s been working with and their two operatives' lives are soon entwined as they come face-to-face.


Both end up admitting to each other their appointed roles with their respective employers and it’s here that the film becomes a convoluted dance between the two sides. This sadly results in a somewhat confusing narrative though, which is a shame.


In the UK, the BBFC removed some violence which lowered its audience age-rating, but this now pushes the film into extreme “15” territory. Although Lawrence was aware of the film’s nudity, a female-led action thriller this really isn’t - despite the trailer-house sales pitch.


For example, during her spy training, Lawrence is coerced to strip and seduce in humiliating sexual ways which makes for uncomfortable viewing. Charlotte Rampling as "Matron", the Headmistress of the school, verges on a callousness and cruelty not seen since Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And Matthias Schoenaert, Mary-Louise Parker Jeremy Irons and Ciarán Hinds flesh out the surveillance support cast with similarly shady roles.


However, the sleazy spectacle does give the film more grit than your average thriller and is all the better for it. We already have the over-the-top violence of John Wick and Atomic Blonde so this more sordid story which goes to darker places than those two helps sets it apart.


A smart and clever script ensures the sleazy sequences never get too off-putting and Lawrence, as always, is a mesmerising screen presence – from the naïve agent at the film’s start to the brutal assassin we witness later. That said, the violence may be too extreme for some and the film runs out of steam towards the end as scenes of torture may push the limits of those even with the strongest of stomachs.


Secrets are swapped and a collaboration of swift action/chase moments keep the momentum moving forward. If I may be so crude, it certainly isn’t hard to see why Jennifer Lawrence is cast as a faultless, and flawless, seducer of agents. Sensual yet dangerous, Lawrence’s physical attributes are played to the full yet she gives more depth to a role that could have been simply “Bond-girl” territory.


An intriguing espionage adaptation, Red Sparrow has some harrowing scenes alongside the usual spy tropes of double-crossing agents, security snooping and enemy infiltration. It is also an exploitation flick at heart, and although the movie doesn’t have the gloss of the violent assassin films of the past few years, its nasty pleasures are cleverly calculated and provide some ugly Cold War-style thrills.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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