Spies, hitmen, shantytown gangsters and terrorism are all front-and-centre this week with the latest new arrivals on DVD featuring drama and laughs, but only two legitimate must-sees: the dramatic comedy In Bruges, and Brazil’s City of Men.
What does it take to survive a vacation in a town you can’t stand? For two hitmen, sent to the town of Bruges in Belgium, it’s a question of not only putting up with the strange town and its people, but also figuring out what to do after a botched job in London has them cooling their heels.
Brendan Gleeson and a never-been-better Colin Farrell star as Ken and Ray, friends and hired guns who are dispatched to the medieval city of Bruges after Ray mistakenly kills a young boy during a hit. Neither knows what is going on, why they have been sent to the picture-perfect town, or what their boss Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, has in store for them.
While the trailers and other promo materials give the impression that this is a twisted comedy, the truth is that the film is much more of a dark drama, with a few decent laughs throughout the clever, witty dialogue. Gleeson and Farrell are a great duo for this buddy-bad guy story, but it’s Farrell who gets the most to work with here, laughing, crying, and punching his way through this imaginative film.
Writer and director Martin McDonagh, who previously made his mark on stage, earning a number of awards, has done everything right with In Bruges. The story is taunt and dark, but rounded out by hilarious scenes including fat Americans and a midget. The cast is perfect in every way, with Fiennes leaping in for the final chapter, providing a definite rush near the end. There is also a strange air to the film that makes it feel like a vivid dream – a reference that is used throughout the plot and should leave you thinking even more about the story as the credits roll.
DVD extras include a number of deleted scenes, which add quite a bit to the story, especially for Fiennes’ character, a quick collection of gag takes, and four features on the making of the film and how Bruges affected the whole production. Two features are strictly about the making of the film, but they’re also quite complimentary to Bruges as a tourist destination and from the filmmaker’s perspective, while looking at different angles on making the film, and speaking to actors about their roles. The other two features are oddball extras, with one offering a boat tour of Bruges set to music with text about the history of the city, while the other feature is a mash-up of every expletive-laced scene in the film. Overall, a great batch of features that actually compliment the film quite well.
On the surface, Pete Travis‘ Vantage Point is a multi-layered story about an assassination attempt against the President of the United States, told through six different perspectives. As the film goes through each angle, we find out more about what is really going on as President Ashton, played by William Hurt, is gunned down at a world summit on terrorism and everyone around him scrambles to find answers.
Playing the largest role in the story is Dennis Quaid as Secret Service Agent Barnes, the shell-shocked serviceman who saved the president’s life once before, but seems on-edge about the entire situation. Barnes is teamed up with Agent Taylor, played by Matthew Fox, and Holden, played by Richard T. Jones, who are forced into action when the president is shot and multiple explosions send the crowd running for their lives.
Through each retelling of the story, the clock resets and the audience is forced to watch a new take on the story we just saw minutes ago. The perspectives do change how the entire tale unfolds, but the problem is that each time we restart the story, all sense of urgency is lost. Vantage Point also suffers from being a fairly straightforward action thriller that is merely dissected into tiny pieces to make it seem like a bigger, and grander tale.
The trouble is that it’s really not a very good story and you can scatter the pieces as far apart as you want, but it’s not going to change that this is a basic whodunit with guns and explosions.
Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control
Spin-offs and sequels are fairly common in Hollywood, but usually there is time to let a franchise breath a little before it gets repackaged. In the case of Get Smart, barely two weeks have passed since the film arrived in theatres and already Warner Bros. is delivering their direct to DVD spin-off about the two gadget-wielding geeks who supply Maxwell Smart with all his technology.
Like just about every other direct to DVD film, the result is what you might call pretty lame. Starring Masi Oka and Nate Torrence as Bruce and Lloyd, two social misfits who find themselves thrust into adventure when the invisibility cloak they have designed for their secret agency gets stolen. With a few quick appearances by the stars of Get Smart, Out of Control aims low and still manages to fall short of anything resembling comedy or action. It isn’t the worst film ever made, but after enjoying Get Smart, the whole film definitely cheapens the franchise.
The only positive aspect of the film is the fact that obviously they worked hard to give Out of Control the same look and feel as Get Smart, and everything from the visual effects to the cinematography all look really good. That doesn’t change the fact that the script is utterly weak, Heroes star Oka is wasted in this role, and I think I only laughed twice in the whole film.
Other new arrivals this week…
City of Men
Based on the popular Brazillian television series of the same name, City of Men is the story of young friends Ace and Wallace, played by Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha, who get caught in a turf war as their lives become ever more complicated. With huge action sequences from beginning to end and your typical gangster plot, the film is nevertheless a legitimate drama that wowed critics when it was released in theatres. City of Men is also a follow-up of sorts to director Fernando Meirelles’ hit film City of God.
Owen Wilson stars in Drillbit Taylor as a bodyguard who agrees to protect three absolute nerds as they start their first day of high school. Hit and miss producer Judd Apatow failed this time out with this lame, unfunny comedy that was co-written by actor/writer Seth Rogen, who also worked with Apatow on the hilarious Superbad. As Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger comments in his review, “Wilson needs to find a few other steady sources of scripts if he doesn’t want to become the clown prince of B-movie land. And Apatow needs to slow down and try a little harder unless he wants to become its smirking figurehead.”