By: Kevin Jordan
A poor man’s, poor man’s Die Hard.
As we continue to go without any major movie releases (with the exception of Tenet and Mulan), there is still a small trickle of low-budget films being released to video on-demand (VOD). Typically, these movies tend to fall into the category of really shitty sequels to films that definitely shouldn’t have had sequels. Films like Starship Troopers, Cruel Intentions, and Universal Soldier. But, it’s not just shitty sequels that go straight to VOD. There are shitty original films that are part of that trickle as well. That’s where The Doorman comes in.
(SPOILER ALERT – If you didn’t laugh at that pun, buckle up.)
Ali (Ruby Rose) is a marine assigned protection duty at some random consulate. She is so awesome that she doesn’t even have a last name (nothing on her uniform or in the credits). She is the Cher of the marines. One day, she is in a convoy of vehicles taking the ambassador somewhere when they are ambushed on a forest road. Of note, she is the only marine amongst a dozen or so suit-clad private bodyguards, which seems weird until you notice that her fatigues have a giant patch on the front that says US. Not USA. US. Did I mention this film was low-budget (I tried to find the budget, but came up empty)?
This being an action-thriller, we are treated to the standard cliche of the ambushing mercenaries killing all of the bodyguards in a shootout because the bodyguards are terrible shots, then Ali killing all of the bad guys by herself. And one-shotting them, no less. I know where that missing A on her US patch went – Ali tore it off and ate it because A is for Awesome. Then, she gets blown up by the one bad guy she missed; the guy with the bazooka. And the ambassador and her daughter are in the car he blows up. Maybe A isn’t for Awesome.
Sometime later, Ali is a new doorman at a building in New York City. She is fresh on the job, learning that her duties include being insulted by an asshat tenant who can’t carry his own suitcase, said asshat saying to Ali’s male co-doorman Borz (Aksel Hennie) “I may be old-fashioned, but, a woman doorman?” Borz replies by apologizing for “modernizing” and every woman (and decent man) just threw up in their mouths a little bit.
Eventually, the movie makes its way to the plot of Die Hard – bad guys take over a building to steal stuff from a safe. The bad guys are made up of a bunch of nameless goons, a dorky safecracker, and a refined, euro-accented boss named Victor Dubois (Jean Reno). At one point, Ali will even pull a fire alarm to try to expose the bad guys. Maybe this movie isn’t so much an original as it is a plagiarism.
By the time the, er…heist, begins, Ali is having dinner on the tenth floor with her brother-in-law, Jon (Rupert Evans), and his two children, Max and Lily. But their apartment is not the target. Instead, Victor and his crew assail an old man and woman, the old man being an old colleague or something of Victor’s. Victor knows the old man hid priceless paintings in his apartment and wants them. After questioning, then torturing the old man, Victor discovers that the old couple used to live in a different apartment. This won’t be the last time Victor is surprised by information that he should have known. Maybe Victor isn’t so much Hans Gruber as he is Dr. Evil.
The film only gets worse from there. Even if all you want out of this film is to see Ruby Rose kick some ass, you are going to be disappointed. Just like every movie she has been in, though at least those other movies featured tons of action. This film felt the need to include talking, talking, and more talking. In one scene, Ali and Max have themselves a therapy session (while hiding in a secret, gigantic, speakeasy within the building), culminating in Max throwing a tantrum and storming out of the room, causing them to be discovered. In another scene – doubling as a showcase for Victor being an idiot – Victor yells at the safecracker guy to keep drilling (Ruby shuts off the water in the building and the drill is water cooled), then he and two henchman stand there silently watching him drill until the drill bit breaks. To be fair, this scene was unintentionally hilarious, accidentally waking us from our boredom.
The only positive and non-plagiarized part of this film are three novelty deaths. The first is Ali performing a flying neck stab, then kicking the guy into a pool of water where he is electrocuted by a live wire (it’s a little plagiarized since it happens in a part of the building undergoing construction). The second is a bad guy’s head being blown to pieces by a jar filled with nails and the third is another bad guy impaled on a spike in the center of a giant ventilation fan, slowly turning as Ali does her cool-guys-don’t-look-at-explosions walk.
Even with the dearth of new films and my desperation for anything resembling a new flick to watch, this film was a waste of time. The acting is bad, including and especially Reno, the dialogue is filled with terrible lines and even worse one-liners like…
Baddie: “You’re a twisted bitch. You’re not a Virgo are you? I’m a Gemini myself.”
Ali: “I’m a Scorpio; it would never work.”
Me: “Die. Both of you, just…die.”
…and the cinematography is what you would expect from a movie that probably spent ninety-five percent of its budget to convince Jean Reno to be a good boy and just recite the lines please, and only had five dollars left to hire someone to run the camera. Oh, and why do the bad guys have to lock down the entire building, after making sure everyone was gone from the building for construction? Did Ali, her brother-in-law, and the old couple not get the memo? Pretty much anything would be better than this, including a fourth Cruel Intentions (they made two sequels!!).
Rating: Demand all of your money back. I told you to buckle up.
By: Kevin Jordan
Am I a bad parent for taking my six year-old to see The Meg? Maybe. In my defense, he really, REALLY wanted to see it. I am not saying it is a good defense, just a defense that is slightly more effective than that of the Cleveland Browns. Hi Clevelanders. At some point, every parent decides when to let their kids watch their first scary movie and I decided to let my kid watch Jaws months ago. And Jurassic Park (and all the sequels) a few weeks ago. So, when my son saw a preview for The Meg after watching videos on YouTube Kids featuring fake Megalodons (eighty-foot, prehistoric sharks), the only real decision was choosing between coke and cherry for our flavor of Icee.
(Note: Coke is the correct answer.)
Writing a full review of The Meg is far more than it deserves. There is a reason why nobody reviews SyFy channel monster flicks. Those films are stupid on purpose and made on a budget little more than a high school kid’s allowance. And good for SyFy. Obviously, people watch these *ahem* films and enjoy them, so you do you, SyFy (though I am still mad at you for giving up on the excellent The Expanse which, thankfully, Amazon snatched up to continue producing). The Meg is absolutely the same quality as those shitty monster flicks, but is getting a full review because a bunch of film studio executives bet $150 million dollars that those same fans will show up to the theaters in droves and that a billion people in China are willing to set their money on fire. It really is a shame that the idiotic tariffs imposed by our idiotic White House administration did not prevent this film from showing in any theaters.
This is the high-water mark of special effects in this film.
Alas, it will show in theaters and we had the unfortunate opportunity to view it in an Imax. Imax – where it is not just mind-blowing visuals and earth-shattering sound (their words, not mine), but where stupid is amplified to brain-melting levels (my words, but you know they are thinking it). I was prepared to accept some Deep Core levels of bullshit in this film, but I was not prepared for “the ocean floor is actually a cloud.” Yeahhhhhh. You can hear your brain draining into your throat now, can’t you?
(SPOILERS ahead, which is exactly what this film deserves.)
Billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) has funded a billion-dollar, underwater research facility. The scientists employed by Morris hypothesized the cloud-floor idea and have decided to send a submersible with three people to test the theory by diving through the ocean floor rather than sending a probe or something first. You know – just in case the floor really is a floor. And that was the best depiction of science in this movie.
I signed up for deep-sea clouds?
Once through the cloud, the explorers discover a full-blown ecosystem of life. Twenty seconds later, the submersible is attacked and crippled by a Megalodon. Trapped on the real ocean floor (which is inexplicably only a couple of hundred feet below the cloud) the explorers have twelve hours or so to live. On the station, Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao) decide to bring in the best deep-sea rescuer they know, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham). Yes, that Jason Statham and he is no Ian Ziering. Also, Statham never gets in a kick fight with the Meg, which is arguably the most disappointing thing about this movie.
Jonas quickly hops into another sub and, racing Dr. Zhang’s daughter, Suyin (Li Bingbing), reaches the crippled sub. And is attacked by the Meg. But not before Suyin is attacked by a giant squid. Oh man, if this movie had been the Meg versus the Squid versus the Statham, I would have had so much more fun. What was I saying?
We did not even get a chance to know you.
Science. That is what this movie is really about. Using smart-words to make the bullshit they are slinging sound slightly less plausible than the nonsense spewed by Flat-Earthers. An absurd amount of time is spent trying to explain everything we are seeing in a movie featuring giant mythical creatures trying to eat people, including that the reason the Meg stayed below the cloud was because the cloud was cold. We do not care and, holy crap, that might be the dumbest possible explanation short of the Meg being cross-eyed. Update – the Meg is not cross-eyed. Bring on the blood bath. Wait, you are right – my son is there. Bring on the not-too-much-blood bath.
After the Meg discovers the permeability of clouds, it races to the surface of the ocean and does not immediately die of the bends. Also, neither do any humans. The Meg starts destroying boats, as sharks do, so the humans decide the best course of action is to jump on a boat and chase it. This chase goes on until the end of the film, as well as through the most crowded beach and waterfront you will ever see (imagine seven thousand people in inner tubes, all touching) until Statham slashes the Meg in the stomach with his submarine, then pokes the Meg in the eye.
Like that game where you try to fit as many Skittles in your mouth as possible.
As terrible as this movie was, I was primarily concerned with keeping an eye on my son rather than my eye on the screen. Had we been in a non-Earth-shattering-sound theater, I would have been less concerned, but my son spent age four and five covering his ears around toilets that flushed loudly. Like most six-year olds, he hates loud sounds (except the ones coming from his own mouth – what is that about, anyway?) and scares easy. I asked how he was doing at every worrisome moment in the film (there were maybe five) and I was prepared to walk out of the theater if he gave me a thumbs down. In short, we saw the whole film and I am definitely more scarred from it than he. Now I just need to scoop up the rest of my grey matter before I get the bends.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back because you already set it on fire.
By: Kevin Jordan
Murder, death, kill.
It’s been two and a half years since John Wick murdered scores of people over a dead dog and stolen car and I still don’t understand how that movie scored an 85% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was easily one of the worst written movies of 2014 that somehow got a complete pass because of action scenes that were one take instead of 84 million (a.k.a. the Michael Bay). I get the reason why regular American audience members liked the movie – action, kill, death, action, Mustang, blood splatters, action, death. There’s a reason why the NFL is the most popular thing in this country and that fights are the most talked about part of hockey. We loves us some bloody violence. So of course Summit Entertainment was going to make a John Wick 2, especially when John Wick grossed $80 million on a $20 million budget. I just don’t get how critics weren’t foaming at the mouth at a movie with far less plot than a high school graduation ceremony.
Going into the sequel, I wanted two things to happen in the film – 1) explain anything in this mystical underground assassin world and 2) have something resembling a plot.
(Note: This is the point where I would generally give you the obligatory SPOILER WARNING, but there’s nothing to spoil. The title alone tells you John Wick won’t die in this film because it’s Chapter 2 and not The Final Chapter. You also know he’s going to kill somewhere in the neighborhood of an entire neighborhood because this would be a weird sequel if he didn’t.)
The movie opens with more of the same dumb shit that littered the entire first film. The uncle (Peter Stormare) of the Russian dog murderer has John Wick’s car and John (Keanu Reeves) has come for it. Here’s the conversation between the uncle and a henchman (paraphrasing):
Henchman: “What’s this guy want?”
Uncle: “We have his car.”
Henchman: “Why don’t we just kill him?”
Uncle: “It’s John Wick’s car.”
Henchman (with disconcerted look): “So…just send more guys.”
Uncle: “He’s the boogeyman. Did you hear about the pencil? He once killed three guys with nothing but a pencil. Who does that!?”
Henchman: “Why don’t we just give him his car back.”
Uncle: “Because he killed my nephew.”
Oh, so you’re going to make the same dumbass mistake as your brother? The one who ended up getting himself and all of his men killed even though he spent half the movie talking about how John Wick made a Terminator cower inside the actual boogeyman’s vagina? At least the brother was trying to save his son (even though he threatened to kill his son himself). Just give him back his car. Or are you just looking for a quick way to replace your workforce?
Thankfully, this movie has a plot, though one that quickly devolves back into John Wick getting revenge again. Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls on John to fulfill a promise John made in the form of a “marker” containing John’s bloody fingerprint. The marker is essentially an I.O.U. that can be redeemed for anything. In this case, Santino wants John to kill his sister, Gianna (Claudia Gernin), so Santino can take over her seat at “the high table.” What is the high table you ask? Beats the hell out of me. Like the first film, this movie introduces new concepts of the assassin world and never bothers to explain what they are or mean. All we know is the table has twelve seats and Gianna controls New York City maybe? John initially refuses, stating that “no seriously, it is literally impossible.” Santino leaves John’s house, then blows it up in retaliation for John’s refusal. Here we go again, right?
I’m guessing those mirrors aren’t going to last very long. Kind of like him.
Well, not quite so fast. John goes to the Continental hotel (the safe-haven from the first flick) to consult with Winston (Ian McShane). Winston says those are the rules and that John is lucky Santino didn’t just outright kill him. Of course, Santino needed John’s help, so blowing up John’s house with John still in there seems like a bad way to change John’s mind, especially if he’s dead. Whatever – the point is that Winston tells John to nut up and honor the marker.
You know that impossible task I just mentioned? Well, turns out it wasn’t so much impossible as it was Hitman on novice level. Literally as soon as John completes the task, Santino’s men and head henchwoman, Ares (Ruby Rose), attempt to kill John because Santino says he must avenge Gianna’s death. Huh? Isn’t that against the arbitrary assassin rules of the Continental? Whatever – the point is that the rest of the movie is John exacting revenge on Santino. The only difference between the rest of this movie and the first movie is that there isn’t a James-Bond-villain-leaving-the-laser-room scene involved. Just lots and lots (and lots) of death.
What happens at the Continental…is pretty much nothing.
On the positive side of this movie, there are better looks at this underground assassin world that don’t leave you scratching your head in confusion. Remember the dead-body cleaning crew that shows up at John’s house in the first movie right after the cops literally see the bodies and walk away? That crew was pointless because John could have thrown the bodies into a wood chipper on his front lawn and the cops would have helped him. This time, there is a standard “gearing up” scene in which John goes to an arms provider and they have an absurd, but fun exchange where John is ordering his gear as if he is ordering food, at one point saying “and I’ll have some dessert as well.” The marker was also another good component of this world that gets a full treatment instead of a cursory mention. Finally, we are shown a 1940’s-style operating room where tattooed women plug in those old telephone cords on switchboards, utilize pneumatic tubes, and operate an 1980-era computer to communicate hit contracts to all the assassins. The room doesn’t actually matter to the plot or movie at all, but somebody had some fun spending money on that set.
That’s not to say they don’t pile on more unexplained world stuff. Besides the high table, we are introduced to Laurence Fishburne’s homeless spy network that might be as powerful as the Continental (which is a world-wide chain, by the way), or just a bunch of homeless assassins indebted to a crazy pigeon guy, or some sort of rebel faction within the assassin world. We also learn that pretty much everyone in New York City is really an assassin, even the mother feeding her baby on a park bench. And, we still have no idea what the hierarchy of this whole world looks like. You’re right – who cares when you get to watch John perform another pencil trick.
I decided to take the blue pill.
In order to enjoy this movie (and the last), you really do have to ignore everything for the action, which isn’t that hard to do. Somehow, Reeves’ acting got even worse, though the director and writer share a lot of that blame. I’m pretty sure Reeves’ dialogue does not include a sentence longer than one word (you’ll see what I mean). The movie continues the awful multicolored subtitles that even Michael Bay has never stooped to and he gave us racist transformers. And definitely don’t try to understand Santino’s motivation because they don’t explain anything about that guy. He’s just that kid at Thanksgiving dinner that is throwing a tantrum about not getting to eat at the adult table, even if he presumably has all the cake he could ever want. Just sit back and enjoy some good old-fashioned, American ultra-violence. What else are you going to do now that football season is over? Read?
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back. It satisfies your need for dumb action flick and that’s all you can ask for in mid-February.