Central Intelligence

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber (2016)

In every sense the world’s biggest movie star, Dwayne Johnson’s huge charisma, charm and frame dominates this entertaining action comedy.

As a rogue CIA agent Robbie Weirdich, Johnson is like Jason Bourne on comedy steroids, combining a tremendous sense of goofy fun with the ability to fight his way out of a kitchen using only a banana.

The name of the character name is a pointer to the sophistication of the film’s humour.

Robbie is framed for the death of his partner and so lands unexpectedly on the doorstep of Calvin, his erstwhile best friend from high school.

Squeaky voiced comic Kevin Hart is refreshingly restrained and occasionally even funny as Calvin.

In order to accommodate the pneumatic presence of Johnson, Hart is squeezed into a rare straight man role. Although rarely allowed to ad lib in his usual shouty style, whenever Hart wriggles free the film stalls.

Once the king of the high school prom and predicted for greatness, Calvin is now a dull accountant and is having difficulties at home. Danielle Nicolet is sweetly concerned as his beautiful wife, Maggie.

Calvin reluctantly teams up with his erstwhile buddy to attempt to recover some military files while being pursued by the CIA.

Through all the chases, fights, escapes, interrogation, torture and some terrifying relationship therapy, it’s the strong comic rapport between the leads which keeps us engaged.

Amy Ryan is keeps a straight face as an icy CIA chief, Aaron Paul makes an impression in a small role and Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy cameo.

The story is predictable but Central Intelligence blasts along with a fun energy, decent stunts and some surprisingly violent action. Though not an over abundance of intelligence.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

 

 

 

Triple 9

Director: John Hillcoat (2016)

This confused crime drama is a loose tissue of tattoos, muscles and machismo.

Despite the violence, very strong language, drug use and nudity, the lack of focus and ambivalent moral stance makes for an un-involving experience.

Too many minor characters slow the pace and the moody lighting fails to illuminate the blunt action scenes.

Kate Winslet gives tremendous vamp as a glossy Russian-Israeli mafia mol who blackmails a crew of corrupt cops into one last heist.

The gang leader is Michael who’s played  by Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor rarely given to compromising his character’s intensity in return for popularity.

Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul appears as a loose cannon with a drug problem. Again.

Full of epic ambition and clearly influenced by Michael Mann’s far superior Heat (1995), director Hillcoat had a much firmer grip of his material with the taut Australian western The Proposition (2005).

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Director: Ridley Scott (2014)

Striding into cinemas on a mission from God, Exodus is a handsome and monumental retelling of the Moses bible story.

Ridley Scott combines typically impressive design with spectacular action and even makes a couple of successful stabs at humour.

But he fails to broaden our understanding of events . Remaining true to the spirit of the story he fails to put an interesting spin on it. There is, of course, the parting of the Red Sea and the carving of the Ten Commandments.

Surprisingly for the director who gave cinema Ellen Ripley, G.I. Jane and Thelma and Louise, Scott provides no memorable female characters.

Although Indira Varma as a High Priestess makes an impression, Sigourney Weaver appears briefly and to no great effect as as Ramses’ mother Tuya. Love interest Zipporah (Maria Valverde) is forgettable. Even Scott’s recent and deservedly maligned Prometheus gave us two entertaining female roles.

In a nothing role Aaron Paul continues to cash in on his Breaking Bad kudos – but the likeable actor needs to start banking decent roles soon.

Egyptian general Moses (Christian Bale) is troubled when told he is the son of a Hebrew slave. His foster brother King Ramses II (Joel Edgerton) sees him as a threat and casts him into the wilderness

God appears to Moses in the controversial guise of a haughty and petulant youth – a confident and spine-tingling performance by Isaac Andrews.

He tells Moses to return to Egypt and free the chosen people but the prince-turned-prophet takes his time about it. So in the movie’s stand-out sequence, God lets loose a terrifying series of plagues including crocodiles, frogs, boils, flies and locusts.

All the children of Egypt are killed, including Ramses’ own son, and he orders the Hebrews to flee. But he chases them and they end up trapped between the sea and his bloodthirsty army.

Bale, with his usual intensity, successfully turns from sceptical young warrior to devout old leader – though his wildly changing circumstances barely phase him.

He’s not even surprised when he is unexpectedly introduced to his adult brother Aaron (Andrew Tarbet) for the first time.