Archive for the Thriller Category

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Posted in Action, Sequel, Thriller with tags , , , on May 23, 2017 by The Confused Critic

(** out of ****)


Plot: The trials and tribulations of stoic Major (ex-Major, actually, as he will remind you countless times throughout the film) Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) continue as he innocently stumbles his way into a nefarious conspiracy involving the military, Taliban, missing guns, and an endless supply of private security firm goons. Teaming up with (current) Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and a young teen who may or may not be his daughter (Danika Yarosh), Reacher must uncover the truth beneath this ghastly plot before he can peacefully return to his brooding drifter lifestyle.

Review: The first Reacher movie was a mildly amusing, if not mindless, attempt to bring the character to life on the big screen. There was nothing outstanding about its plot, characters, or set pieces, and it mainly served as reminder that Cruise can secure an impressive budget for even the most unremarkable of projects. It was a chance for action-hounds to whoop and holler over a few broken bones and growled one-liners. Never Go Back, the second in the series, fails to move on beyond this simple blueprint, instead turning the movie into one long chase scene. Its story is silly, simple, and implausible – factors that can usually be ignored by all but the most refined cinephiles when a film is willing to demonstrate at least a modicum of self-awareness.

Despite the presence of a talented cast, there is nothing interesting or unique about any of the characters in Jack Reacher II: The Search for More Masculinity. These no-nonsense archetypes deprive the film of the bombastic excitement and winking humor that would enable its success. The sparseness of the story saps them of backgrounds, pathos, or relatability. Likewise, the action sequences are carried out with such an indifferent ho-humness that the proceedings are rendered bland and pedestrian. Only an all-too-brief sequence involving a New Orleans Halloween parade gives 2 Jack 2 Reacher any sort of color or pizzazz.

What we are left with is a tedious slog through routine mediocrity. Cruise misses the opportunity to exhibit the charismatic thrills that have made his Mission: Impossible franchise so successful over the years. Unlike Ethan Hunt, Reacher is an overly serious bore that tries too hard to embody the quintessential cinematic badass. Unfortunately, these films have neither the stylish flamboyance of John Wick nor the over-the-topic, exploitative glee of Taken that could excuse such flaws. Given Hollywood’s inability to curtail Cruise’s omnipresence, do not be surprised if we see another one of these in two years.

Confused Take: I have never read any of the books by Lee Child, so it is tough to say whether or not this film faithfully captures its source material. While my review may be overly harsh, this movie is not the worst way one could spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Stream this one or catch it on cable when it rolls around, but refrain from spending your money if possible.


The Number 23 (2007)

Posted in Thriller with tags , on July 7, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(*1/2 out of ****)

The Number 23

(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 2/26/2007)

In The Number 23, Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a dogcatcher who leads a seemingly normal life with his wife (Virginia Madsen) and son, Robin (Logan Lerman) – yes, the kid’s name is Robin Sparrow. When a book that shares the movie’s title comes into Walter’s life, everything changes. The book, written by a Topsy Kretts, follows the life of a detective named Fingerling who is cursed by the number 23. Everything adds up to 23 and his resulting paranoia drives him to become a killer. As he reads on, Walter realizes that there are more than a few similarities between his life and Fingerling’s.

This discovery sends Walter into a state of paranoia much akin to that of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, minus the subtle buildup and character exploration. The movie spends a good deal of time jumping back and forth between real time and a depiction of the events that Carrey is reading. The flashbacks of the book are presented in a film noir style that is visually appealing, yet clashes with the tone of the rest of the film.

The first problem with this film is newcomer Fernley Phillips’ script. It is hard to recall another movie in recent history with a dialogue so forced as that found in The Number 23. Ridiculous lines are delivered with such a soap opera-like sense of profundity that one cannot help but laugh. For instance, was it really that much of a revelation when the characters realized that Topsy Kretts was not a real name, just a cute way of spelling out “top secrets?” It is especially painful to see Carrey and Madsen, two veteran actors, struggling to make their roles believable. Everything in this film just happens so fast that it is hard to care about any of the characters or their so-called struggles.

Furthermore, it is never entirely clear what exactly is so dangerous about 23. While it is interesting that everything adds up to the aforementioned number, it is difficult to see why it really matters. Some of these occurrences are downright ordinary. For example, at one point a character turns toward a clock that reads 11:12, which, if you had not guessed at this point, adds up to 23. Nevertheless, why should this seem so significant when such an event happens twice a day? The concept of 23 being an evil number is intriguing, but, unfortunately, most of its appearances in the film are purely coincidental.

All of this is not entirely surprising when you take a look at director Joel Schumacher’s track record. Many of you may remember him as the guy who ruined the Batman franchise in the late ’90s or as the director of Phone Booth. Schumacher is a classic case of relying on stylish gimmicks rather than providing the audience with an engaging story with well-developed characters.

In The Number 23 he borrows the visual nuances of M. Night Shyamalan and David Fincher, and, for some strange reason, decides to steal formulaic twists and turns from recent genre disappointments like Hide and Seek and Secret Window. Ultimately, there is nothing terribly interesting about The Number 23 or the actual number 23 itself. Perhaps the most dishonest thing about this movie is the fact that it was marketed as a horror film. There is nothing supernatural or particularly scary about 23. Instead, we just get a half-brained mystery with a “surprise ending” that could be guessed from viewing the 30-second TV spot. In the future, movie viewers should just stick to 13 as the universal unlucky number.