Film Review of the Week


Bad Boys: Ride Or Die (15)

Review: In the midst of a frenzied gun fight in the fourth instalment of the Bad Boys franchise, grim foreboding grips Will Smith’s police detective. His wisecracking partner, played by Martin Lawrence, breaks the dreamlike stupor by loudly and forcefully slapping one side of Smith’s face. Three times. The close-contact violence conjures an uncomfortable flashback to the 94th Academy Awards and an on-stage altercation between Smith (who went on to win the Best Actor statuette) and comedian Chris Rock.

There was nothing remotely funny about the 2022 incident but Bad Boys: Ride Or Die scriptwriters Chris Bremner and Will Beall play the repeated slaps as physical comedy before they launch into a spectacular, overblown action sequence replete with bomb-laden drones, somersaulting gas cylinders and unfriendly wildlife. Returning directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, known collectively as Adil & Bilall, ricochet wildly between dizzying gyroscopic camerawork and slow-motion destruction to wreak havoc on land and water and in the air.

Eric Dane’s glowering antagonist is disappointingly two-dimensional, dispatching characters disconnected from the main plot to promote himself as the baddest boy in town. Smith and Lawrence rekindle their rat-a-tat repartee, trading barbs and bullets in a plot steeped in corruption that clearly signposts who they shouldn’t trust. “Bad boys, bad boys, Whatcha gonna do?” they sing at each other, quoting the chorus from reggae band Inner Circle’s 1980s song. To answer their question: please stop while you’re slipping behind.

A medical emergency on the dancefloor almost turns the wedding of Detective Lieutenant Mike Lowrey (Smith) and physiotherapist Christine (Melanie Liburd) into a wake. Best man Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) lingers briefly between life and death in the company of murdered captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano). Shortly after Marcus regains consciousness, fresh allegations of corruption are levelled against the Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO) team.

Mike and Marcus unearth a conspiracy perpetrated by a shadowy traitor (Dane) and are consequently marked for death with a five million dollar bounty on their heads. Fugitives from the law they swore to protect, the duo run a gauntlet of duplicitous Miami police officers and gun-toting criminals, aided by recent AMMO recruits Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig).

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die is a direct sequel to the third film and exhausts any remaining good will for the leads’ freewheeling bromance. Marcus’s brush with death almost causes the film to flatline and the script persists with his out-of-body loopiness to provide Lawrence with flimsy dramatic purpose. A cameo by Michael Bay, director of the first two Bad Boys films, is another throwaway. He angrily slams the brakes of an expensive car to prevent a motorway accident. Filmmakers contemplating a fifth film should follow his example.

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The Dead Don't Hurt (15)

Review: Dead men tell no tales and sometimes, the living also prefer silence. Moments of quiet reflection and lamentation punctuate actor Viggo Mortensen’s second directorial feature, a slow-burning revenge thriller set before and during the US Civil War, which pits neighbouring states against each other. The Dead Don’t Hurt is more ambitious in scope than his accomplished 2020 debut Falling, chronicling the fractious relationship between a gay man and his cantankerous, ageing father.

Intergenerational conflict also lights the dramatic fuse here but the consequences are graphically violent and potentially deadly at a time when heartfelt prayers could be just as impactful to survival as the limited supplies in a doctor’s medicine bag. The intentionally fractured chronology of Mortensen’s script withholds an expected emotional sucker punch until the conclusion of the first hour, sowing seeds of rage and retribution in a second half that noticeably picks up pace to an energetic trot.

Mortensen reunites with top-line creatives from his first picture including production designer Carol Spier, art director Jason Clarke and Danish cinematographer Marcel Zyskind to conjure majestic panoramas of the American West. Vicky Krieps invests her strong-willed homemaker with a steeliness and self-reliance that makes her character’s fate truly heartbreaking. She sparks delightful screen chemistry with a gruff and stoic Mortensen, whose impressive multi-tasking extends to composing the film’s mournful score.

Danish immigrant Holger Olsen (Mortensen) meets French Canadian flower seller Vivienne Le Coudy (Krieps) and woos her away from pompous art dealer Lewis Cartwright (Colin Morgan). The couple move into Holger’s ramshackle cabin on the outskirts of a small town run and owned by corrupt mayor Rudolph Schiller (Danny Huston) and influential businessman Alfred Jeffries (Garret Dillahunt). Holger wears the sheriff’s badge with pride while Vivienne finds work behind the bar of the only saloon for miles managed by Alan Kendall (W Earl Brown), which is frequented by Jeffries and his hot-headed son Weston (Solly McLeod).

With his father’s money as protection, Weston rampages drunkenly through town and tells his old man that he “ain’t some lickfinger you can push around”. Primal desires have sickening repercussions and innocent people are caught in the crossfire including simple-minded Ed Wilkins (Alex Breaux) and sheriff’s deputy Billy Crossley (Shane Graham).

Opening with soft, rhythmic breathing on a deathbed, The Dead Don’t Hurt sits comfortably in the saddle of a genre that frequently takes innocent lives with the reckless pull of a trigger. Gunfights on foot and horseback are well executed. Supporting characters are convincingly fleshed out, stoking tension between townsfolk down to the Bible-spouting judge of a kangaroo court, who justifies a perversion of justice with verbose scripture. The guilty cannot escape righteous punishment forever.

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The Watched (15)

Review: I see soon-to-be-dead people. Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of The Sixth Sense filmmaker M Night Shyamalan, makes a composed directorial debut with a supernatural horror thriller based on AM Shine’s creepy novel The Watchers. Ignorance is bliss for this unsettling trek through an untamed forest in Ireland, rechristened The Watched for audiences in the UK and Ireland. The opening hour is the most satisfying stretch, kickstarted by an ill-fated escape bid from nocturnal creatures. These hideously disfigured predators linger in the shadows and their malevolent intent is shrouded in mystery.

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