Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The November Man (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Alice, in all her infinite wisdom, goes to meet with Edgar instead of hopping the first tram out of Belgrade. Good to see Kurylenko is still playing complete idiots, because Peter told her that Alexa was a world class assassin. The same assassin who saw her meeting with Edgar at the diner, but I'm sure she wouldn't, you know, BE FOLLOWING HIM OR ANYTHING. Edgar takes her back to his hotel where Alexa pops out and kills him. Oh gee, what are the odds? Alice runs, but we can't see what happens next because this film was edited by someone with extreme ADHD, so we go back to David who is going through Pierce's CIA file.

He discovered Natalia wasn't just Peter's lover, but was also the mother of his daughter. Oh snap! Well, it's been a minute already, better see what Hanley's doing. Pierce pistol whips his way into the shipping yard the CIA is holding him at, confronting him over why he lied about Natalia wanting him to rescue her. Hanley says Natalia had been acting strangely the last few months of her assignment, so the CIA planned to take her out. He figured sending Peter was the only way to save her life, because he really wanted her information about Mira witnessing the bombing. Hanley tries to say Federov masterminded the whole thing, but Peter knows better and asks who in the CIA was behind it.

Dramatic cut to Weinstein in his office for a quick scene of nothing, so back to Peter and Hanley. Bloody hell, I never thought I could get a seizure from just watching people sitting around talking, but here you go. These five second scenes are making Attack of the Clones look like a Brian De Palma film. Hanley tells Peter more about Mira's background, which JUST HAPPENS to be a verbatim match for things Alice told Peter about herself earlier. Oh ho, outsmarting Brosnan in his own film! Point Alice! Now that we've brought her up, it's her turn for Scene #6:024 of this movie. We see she somehow managed to escape Alexa and has gone to Denisov for help.

Shockingly, we stay with her for the next scene, where she has now transformed herself back into Mika from Hitman with a short cut wig and black dress so tiny it looks like it'd explode if she moved too fast. She goes to the hotel Federov is staying at to confront him, because she's REALLY smart if you haven't picked up on that yet. Peter calls her to let her know she's onto her, but she hangs up on him. Federov's guards stop her and search for the the prerequisite “all guards are leering perverts” scene, that let her in Federov's suite. He is very happy to see his “gift” from Denisov, getting into bed while Alice goes in the bathroom to wash up. She quietly breaks a mirror and grabs a shard, all while having flashbacks of Federov raping her back in Chechnya. Alright, I'm ready to see him get his throat torn open, let's do this!

She fucks it up though by chickening out, Federov nailing his Complete Bastard status by mocking her about their shared past while holding the shard to his throat. He's able to get the drop on her, but before things can get worse Peter shoots his way into the room and stops him. He has Alice, err Mira I guess, take out her cell phone so he can record Federov ratting out Weinstein. Federov won't though, as he is unflinching even in the face of death. Peter pulls out a revolver he took off the body of one of the guards, emptying it of all but one bullet. Sweet, a game of Russian roulette! Although since we're in Russia, I guess it's just roulette.

Federov endures two rounds of the game before he finally cracks and says the CIA agent who bombed the building wasn't Weinstein, but Hanley. Ah, PLOT TWIST! So Hanley wasn't trying to save Natalia, he was trying to kill her before she could spill the beans to Weinstein, knowing Peter would get the job done. He couldn't risk that Weinstein would kill her before she told him about Mira, so this is a classic case of hedging one's bets. Peter and Al- Mira leave, just in time to walk into a shootout with David and some redshirt CIA agents. Peter mows through them like the faceless nobodies they are, ending up fighting David hand-to-hand in the hotel's basement. The battle is freaking AWESOME, Donaldson goes out of his way to make sure you can FEEL every stomach turning blow. Even better, he keeps it all in frame so you can actually tell what's going on.

After choking out David with a hose and smashing his head into a pipe, Peter gives him Mira's cell phone and leaves. David watches the video and rushes off to take it to Weinstein... only Hanley is now sitting at his desk. Well, fuck. It seems the CIA is much more interested in having control of the fucking PRESIDENT of Russia than the violently immoral methods of one of its agents, so Hanley is now running the show and Weinstein is back in the States. BIG SHOCK THERE, I just wonder how much of a raise Hanley got? Peter, hiding in a hotel with Mira, calls his daughter Lucy to check on her at the boarding school she's currently staying at. Hanley answers the phone, because he really, REALLY wants to die in this movie. Now full on evil jackass, he sets up a deal: Lucy for Mira.

Peter tries to send Mira to a train station where he promises he'll meet up with her after rescuing Lucy. Are you noticing how similar a lot of this is to Hitman, actually? You have Olga Kurylenko playing a character with a virtually identical name (Mika/Mira) that is a major playing chip in a plot involving a man trying to become the president of Russia. You have a ruthless badass, betrayed by his employers and now waging a one man war against them, protecting Kurylenko's character at all costs. They even nailed the whole “taking a train out of Russia while the badass heads off for an 'odds stacked against him showdown'” that closed out Hitman. I'm not saying writers Karl Gajdusek and Michael Finch ripped off Hitman because NO ONE in their right mind has seen that movie, but it is an eerie coincidence. Maybe when Skip Woods wrote Hitman, he “borrowed” elements from 1987's There Are No Spies, the novel that the November Man is based on.

While everyone meets up at a park, Mira goes to the train station and buys tickets. This proves to be a rare slip up from Peter as he didn't warn her to not use her credit card, because this alerts Alexa to her location. Isn't that something a highly trained CIA agent would think about? Don't leave a paper trail? Hanley lets Peter talk to Lucy for a few moments before ending the call, during which we see Celia tracing the line. Peter tells Hanley the bus station Mira is heading to, which of course isn't the one she's actually at. Hanley sends David off to retrieve her, but in reality David drives towards Lucy's location that Celia texts to him.

The agent Hanley sent along with David tries to stop him, but David smashes into a wall at full speed to take him out. DAMN! There probably was a less fucking stupid way to do that, but at least it looked cool! Fortunately David wasn't too far from Lucy's location, so he runs there guns akimbo and blasts the shit out of everyone holding her prisoner. Since she lost a lot of face by not killing Federov, I wonder can Mira play the badass game now? Mira and Alexa lock eyes at the train station, Mira leading her on a chase to the top floor where she takes a construction worker's shovel and OBLITERATES Alexa's face with it! Yes, yes I would say Mira can hang.

That minor inconvenience over, Mira returns to the computer terminal she was sitting at and continues working on a tell-all story she was writing about Federov. I LOVE how totally casual she is about this. David returns to Hanley and begins shooting up Hanley's men, Peter thanking him as he walks to the top of the park's stairs where Lucy is waiting in a car. They drive to the train station and reunite with Mira, who sends her story to Edgar's boss at the New York Times. We close things out with Mira telling her story before a military tribunal, which transitions to Federov on a yacht watching the news about the end of his quest to become president. He doesn't seem too upset about it however, as the ship is filled with young bikini clad women. I was going to say he came out the victor in all of this, getting to frolic with hot babes instead of the soul sucking grinding of politics until a mysterious sniper offshore shoots him through the head. His body falls into the water... and the movie ends?!? What?

That's it, I guess. Cue the credits, set to Aloe Blacc's WONDERFULLY atmospheric “Ticking Bomb”.

Federov technically wasn't even the Big Bad in all of this, why does he get to close the movie out? What happened to Hanley? Or Peter and David? Did they get in any kind of trouble for killing at least a dozen CIA agents? That seems like something that would at least warrant a write up, if not a life sentence in prison! Especially with this whole fiasco going public like it did, the government aren't exactly big fans of their fuck ups being aired for the entire world to see.

Abrupt ending aside, I liked this movie a lot. The highlight of it was that it was an R-rated movie that actually USED it rating appropriately, as this thing was quite violent. You get to see blood and the impacts of bullets hitting people without masking it through the Shaky Cam style you usually see in these kinds of films. It is incredible the effect this has on making a movie feel more real and visceral, something I haven't seen in a very long time from a movie that wasn't called the Raid: Redemption.

Brosnan was by far and away the highlight of the movie, turning in a surprisingly layered performance in a film that was basically about shooting people. He is an actor's actor, a throwback to an era where you had to do more than just look tough to carry a movie. It's a shame he couldn't have got to play James Bond this way when he had the role, as the producers were much more interested in turning the series into a glorified video game at the time. I read an interview with Brosnan saying he wanted to do this movie because he felt he had “unfinished business” with the Bond character, if this movie goes on to become a franchise I'd say he definitely will get his closure here.

With the exception of Bill Smitrovitch's wickedly evil Hanley, everyone else here was serviceable and did their jobs. Luke Bracey was pretty generic as you never really get a sense of his character's arc since so much of it happened off screen. Olga Kurylenko's Mira was one of her better roles, making up for playing yet another damsel in distress by kicking major ass with a shovel at the end. She has gotten much better since the days of Mika and What's-Her-Ass in Max Payne.

The biggest negative, and one that overshadows a lot of what the movie did right, is the chaotic editing of the scenes. It's strange I've now reviewed too wildly different movies in a row and came out with almost the exact same criticism, but you almost never get a chance to feel anything because it jumps back and forth between revelations WAY too much. It gets almost comical towards the middle of the film where the scenes barely last a minute and you just get ASSAULTED with fifty things going on at once.

Still though, a very entertaining film. Critics were less than kind, giving this a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35 percent. Really, a thirty-five? This film was worse than the Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Fluffy Movie, Heaven is for Real, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, or the Robocop remake?! No, I DON'T THINK SO. The consensus was this was a generic and cliche-ridden spy movie that does nothing to reinvent the wheel, BUT when it's done as slick as this, I'm okay with that! This was not just some soulless cash grab cranked out overnight, this was the work of people actually TRYING to make an interesting film.
Will I remember this ten years from now? Probably not. But while I was watching it, I was mostly into it and never once got mad or had to pause and ask myself a million questions about who is doing what and why. Hollywood could take a lesson from this movie, and I can safely say when the sequel comes out I'll be there to watch it. Probably not opening day, but like first week at least. And can you ask better than that? I DON'T THINK SO.