Phil had run out of movies to choose this week, so had a look on Netflix and decided to do Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Robert De Nero and Clive Owen. You’da thought that would be a good romp wouldn’t you, but dear reader in the first 10 minutes we decided it was abysmal and stopped watching.
So we turned back to the menu and instead Phil chose A History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. Viggo plays Tom Stall who runs a diner in Milbrook Indiana. He has a great marriage with Edie (Bello) and 2 kids, Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Heyes). One night a couple of mobsters try to rob the diner, and just as one of them is about to ‘do’ the waitress, Tom kills them as if he’s born to it. He becomes a local hero, and his face is plastered all over the news.
Of course he’s a good killer as really Tom is Joey Cusack, a professional hitman from Philadelphia who gave up that life to have a normal one instead. Unfortunately the mob see him on the news, and Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty turns up at the diner with some henchmen to bring Joey back to Philadelphia. Tom/Joey had had dealings with Carl in the past ending up with Carl losing an eye. Tom just keeps on denying that he’s Joey so Carl stalks the family over the next few days to try and get him to go to Philadelphia with him. Intimidation and kidnapping are not beyond him. That’s it for spoilers, as it’s worth watching without knowing the plot.
Cronenberg does a good job ratcheting up the tension while also showing us how the situation is affecting Tom’s relationships with his wife and son, as they find out the truth. Viggo Mortenson of course is a great actor, and he plays Tom understated but with everything showing in the eyes. Bello is the perfect foil as his wife, sexy and sassy but fierce and loyal, even under the duress she goes through. The kids do a good job, especially Ashton Holmes as Jack, who is going through teenage bullying at school. Ed Harris, well he’s good at being menacing and William Hurt’s part as Joey’s brother Ritchie, now in charge of the Philly mob is short but spot on. All in all A History of Violence has more character development than actual violence, and we thought it a great movie, as did all the critics.
My choice for Saturday night was the latest Netflix offering, The Old Guard (2020) directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. It’s based on a comic book and the screenplay was written by it’s author, Greg Rucka, and the main star is Charlize Theron.
The movie is about 5 immortal people, who have amazing healing capacity, so if they are injured or killed, they heal rapidly or pop back into life. They are centuries old, and Charlize plays the groups boss, Andromache of Scythia known as (“Andy”) and is the oldest amongst them. The others are chaps, two who met during the crusades and became lovers, Joe / Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior played by Marwam Kenzari, and Nicky / Niccolò di Genova, a former Crusader played by Luca Marinelli. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Booker / Sebastian Le Livre, once a French soldier who fought under Napoleon.
The 5th member is a brand new immortal, a marine soldier, Nile Freeman, who has her neck cut open and comes back to life much to the distaste of her fellow marines, played by KiKi Layne. Chiwetel Ejiofor is James Copley, a former CIA agent who hires them for a job and has investigated their lives and the consequences of helping out the people they have saved in the past. Of course there is a baddy who wants to capture them and experiment on them, that’s nothing new but what is really? The baddy is played by Harry Melling in the now formulaic tradition of American movies always having an Englishman for the bad guy! That’s it as no spoilers!
This movie is like Highlander meets John Wick on steroids, and is full on action. Theron is definitely making a living being an action star these days and she is really, really good at it. This is Blythewood’s first action movie, usually making character driven ones and that really helps as she makes sure the characters have back stories and pathos, and are not just gung-ho warriors. With the Nile character we see her go through hell trying to come to terms with what is happening to her, Layne makes you feel it. The fight scenes are amazing, so well choreographed and filmed hand held so you are in the thick of it with the action. We enjoyed it, and as there are 3 installments in the comic books, I imagine we’ll be seeing the sequels when/if they happen!
The critics have mostly given it a thumbs up, my fave by Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a “B+” and said: “Steeped in hand-to-hand action… but with enough ballistic firepower to kit out a small civil war, every action sequence is more than awe-inspiring; they’re necessary to the film itself. Superhero battles that are eye popping and narratively motivated? Oh, yeah