A Hong Kong cop goes to great lengths and heights to catch a drug lord.
Directed by Jackie Chan
Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, and Brigitte Lin
Review by Jon Kissel
Ask me about Hong Kong action movies, and the first thing that comes to mind is John Woo’s doves and Miami Vice jackets, followed by Bruce Lee, followed by an admission that I’m not the right person to ask. I would need to be reminded of Jackie Chan much further down the list. It’s hard to shake the first impression of Chan from his Rush Hour movies, taking a backseat to Chris Tucker’s domineering personality when it’s apparent that Chan is the bigger talent in every respect. Chan’s martial arts films don’t fit in the same category as Woo’s operatic flash or Lee’s ostentatious physicality, but his choreographic mastery and fearlessness puts him alongside the all-timers like George Miller and what Tom Cruise is doing in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Steven Soderbergh’s one-sentence review of Fury Road was that he doesn’t understand how they aren’t still filming it and how dozens of people aren’t dead. The same can be said for Chan’s Police Story, a film that made me pause and rewind it several times, both to see yet another near-death experience from Chan and to calm myself down. The few Chinese-language films of Chan’s that I’d seen so far were fine to pretty good. Police Story is incredible and makes me revere Chan as a god of action filmmaking, though I’m admittedly decades late to the party.
Greta Gerwig, queen of indie cinema, has been in a dozen films about tentative young women trying to figure out the next steps of their lives. The best of these, like Frances Ha and 20th Century Women, balance a light tone with serious introspection, while the worst, like Greenberg and Lola Versus, devalue Gerwig’s character as either a prop or a caricature. Having taken part in so many versions of that particular archetype, Gerwig is uniquely suited to turn back the clock to 2003 and make her own film about the kind of person some of her characters might’ve been in their teenage years. By also turning the protagonist into a rough approximation of herself, Gerwig can also construct a deeply specific coming-of-age story with an anti-indie sensibility. For all the focus on the titular Lady Bird in Gerwig’s immaculate directorial debut, she’s only one grounded and affecting character in a film packed with them. No props or caricatures here, just love for everyone that graces the screen and a film that is impossible to not fall for.
Of all the sequels in all the world, it’s only a scarce few that top their respective originals. Even the best sequels, like Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back, have plenty of honest detractors who prefer what came before. There’s always that feeling of discovery that is associated with a franchise’s first entry, as well as the dangling suspicion that the sequel is more of a commercial enterprise than a creative one, especially in recent cinematic history when a list of any given year’s top grossing films is dominated by remakes and next chapters in ongoing stories. Paddington 2 avoids that stink by replicating the warmth and charm of the original and incorporating indelible new characters. It also has the gift of timeliness, a pitch for friendliness and good faith towards one’s neighbors when the world seems to be taking the opposite stance. Paul King’s film qualifies as one of 2018’s biggest surprises, a joy delivery system that takes what works from the original Paddington and crushes it into a diamond of irresistible delight.
We’ve been down this road before. I don’t get Adam Sandler as a writer or an actor. Uncut Gems is less than a year old, and here’s Hubie Halloween, another Netflix, Steven Brill-directed predictable pile of warmed-over trash featuring Sandler and his buddies with varying prosthetics or accents. They didn’t even get to go a fancy locale this time. The guy is putting his finger in my face and saying, “You know movies, that thing you love that’s starving for production budgets and is probably a dying art form? I can get 8-figure salaries for a movie that has nothing at stake artistically or economically, and the bloopers over the end credits won’t even be funny.” It’s the complete lack of effort that gets me first and foremost, but it’s not like Hubie Halloween doesn’t have other sources of irritation.
Welsh director Gareth Evans’ first three movies, Merantau and the two Raid movies, put him at or near the top of the list for martial arts filmmaking. His work with Indonesian casts are sweaty, bone-crunching monuments to the brutality of feet, fists, and elbows crashing into an opponent, and they put most other action movies, martial arts or not, to shame. They are also some of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen, particularly Raid 2. Evans has moved on from Jakarta-set crime epics to period horror with Apostle, leaving behind almost all of the hand-to-hand combat but keeping the violence and gore. Evans pays tribute to earlier movies about creepy British cults like The Wicker Man or Kill List while putting his own stamp on the subgenre with some eyelid-searing imagery and unique cinematography. A more complex story than his earlier work slows Evans down and reveals the limits of his powers, but Apostle bolsters a director whose visual sense is impeccable even if he might need some help in the writer’s room.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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