Tag Archives: mel gibson

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ a Bloody, Moving Story of Conviction

Hacksaw_Ridge_posterI thought it was interesting the trailer for this said “from the director of ‘Braveheart’;” apparently it’s still too soon to use Mel Gibson’s name as a brand…


“Hacksaw Ridge” is the true story of World War II Army medic Desmond Doss, a pacifist who refuses to bear arms despite enlisting in the military and being thrown into the belly of the Pacific Theater.  Andrew Garfield portrays Doss as Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn co-star with Mel Gibson directing.


Gibson is a talented director, although no one has ever accused him of being subtle. He last directed 2006’s “Apocalypto” (an underrated gem) and is best known for directing “Braveheart” (an overrated flick, don’t @ me). “Hacksaw Ridge” puts the best and the worst of Gibson on display (to varying degrees), with two halves featuring conflicting tones and pacing, but powerful messages and impactful violence that make for one of the most moving films of the year.


Andrew Garfield is best known for starring in the failed “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot, but his best performances have come in “The Social Network” and “99 Homes” (which if you haven’t seen I implore you to check it out; one of 2015’s best). He is a great “young” talent (I put young in quotes because he’s 33 years old, despite looking 23) and after this and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Silence” he should finally get the award attention he deserves.


Garfield’s Doss is a soft-spoken Southerner who is strong in his convictions to not pick up a weapon, and we fully buy into his reasoning. The film isn’t overly preachy about its Christian-based backing, but it does make you see why Doss truly would rather be court-martialed and go to prison than even practice firing a gun.


What really is surprising and pleasant to see, however, are the performances from the supporting cast, many of whom we are not used to seeing in dramatic roles. Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey and Vince Vaughn all fit their roles perfectly as the doubting Captain, bully solider and yelling, dark-humored drill Sergeant, respectively. Vaughn is a little jarring when he first walks on screen (visions of “True Detective” flashed before my eyes) but he carries his own and has a few funny insults that he yells at the new recruits.


Per classic Gibson, the film is brutally accurate in its depiction of war. Especially since this is Okinawa, where things did not go easy-breezy for the Americans, there is a lot of blood and loss of life in this film, and those with weak stomachs need not apply. But it is a necessary evil, as it only begins to display the horrors of war that Doss and his men endured, but after a while things do grow a tad repetitive.


Which brings me to my central gripe about the film and that’s that it can grow a tad monotonous. The first half is filled with constant instances of Doss refusing to fire a gun and getting punished for it in one way or another; we get it, he won’t kill. The second half is filled with constant instances of gratuitous violence and Doss running men to safety, which as awesome and lump-in-the-throat-inducing as it is, you can’t help but get a sense of emotional manipulation after a while. There is even a cheesy low-angle shot of Doss slowly standing up and putting on his helmet like something out of a Captain America comic.


Teresa Palmer is almost nothing but a plot device and while it is important to give Doss a little bit of backstory, her girlfriend character really doesn’t do much besides add runtime and a bit of romantic comedy relief to the film.


“Hacksaw Ridge” isn’t the war epic is sometimes thinks it is, nor is it as memorable as I’m sure many people were hoping, but in-the-moment there are few that know how to put the power of the human spirit on screen better than Mel Gibson. On an unrelated note, it must’ve been dusty in the theater I was in because by the end of the film I was tearing up from my allergies…

Critics Rating: 7/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Fury Road’ Will Drive You Mad

Max_Mad_Fury_Road_Newest_PosterSome franchises are just better left untouched.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the fourth film in writer-director George Miller’s Mad Max franchise, and the first since 1985. Tom Hardy takes over the titular role from Mel Gibson, and this time around must aid a rogue commander (Charlize Theron) as they are chased by a cult leader and his army across the future desert wasteland.

“Fury Road” suffers from the same problem that plagues much of Hollywood today, and that is that filmmakers and audiences alike put style over substance. From a technical standpoint, this latest Mad Max film is constructed brilliantly, with expert stunts and well-staged action sequences. However from a narrative perspective, it leaves much to be desired, and unfortunately the film turns out to be much more exhausting than it is entertaining.

I’m not saying action films need in-depth storytelling and a hefty plot, but all we get in “Fury Road” is that Max must lead a group of women away from a kingdom to a safe area known only as the “Green Place”. The film then acts in a series of repeating motions: they get into a fight, they outrun the bad guys, their truck breaks down, and they must fix the truck. Rinse, repeat. Like I said, the action sequences themselves are often breathtaking at first, but they drag on for so long and eventually just become nothing more than expendable bad guys getting thrown around, so you stop caring.

There is just no real weight or suspense in the film. In the first 10 minutes we are thrown out of the gate and just have characters shoved in our faces, without time to really learn about them or what makes them tick. We then are supposed to root for same characters simply because the movie tells us to. There are several points where two of the girls traveling with Max ask what will happen to them if the cult leader catches them, and I kept wondering the same thing. They never build up the stakes so there is no real reason to feel worried for anyone.

Individually, the two leads, Theron and Hardy, work. Theron digs down deep and conveys a woman who has been torn apart by war and tragedy while Hardy keeps his mouth shut most of the film and certainly could pass as a younger Mel Gibson. Together, however, their chemistry is lacking. Yes, the whole point of the film is that Max is a loner so he doesn’t want to communicate and bond with others, but most of the time it really just looks like two A-list actors simply spewing lines of dialogue at each other.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is fun in small doses, and at times clever, but in my humble opinion (and isn’t that all a movie review is?), I’ve had more fun watching a Michael Bay film. I just spent way too much of the film either scratching my head at the bizarre imagery or trying to figure out certain character’s motivations.

If you loved the original Mad Max films then this is probably a grand trip down memory lane, and I’m sure that making this film was a labor of love for George Miller. But for me, sitting through it was just plain labor.

Critics Rating: 4/10



Third Time’s the Charm for ‘Expendables’

Expendables_3_posterThe “Expendables” franchise in a nutshell: Sylvester Stallone has gathered the biggest action stars from the past 30 years, thrown in a few old jokes and sprinkled it all with excessive violence and gunplay. The results have been mixed, with the first film being fun but taking itself way too seriously, while the sequel was a little more self-relevant but was still sloppy.

With “The Expendables 3”, Stallone and his team have clearly taken notes because, while not a masterpiece or even particularly good film, the third time is the charm for this group for the steroid and Botox mercenaries.

Directed by Australian newcomer Patrick Hughes, “Expendables 3” follows Barney Ross (Stallone) as he tries to find new, younger blood in order to bring down an arms dealer, and former Expendables member, played by Mel Gibson. Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Arnold Schwarzenegger are among the many costars.

First things first, the jokes are much more prevalent than in past films. Stallone brought onboard Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, writers of “Olympus Has Fallen”, to co-write the script with him, and it results in the same irrelevant, intentionally awful jokes that not only made “Olympus” so much fun, but the action films from the 80’s. Harrison Ford, filling in for Bruce Willis who was fired after demanding $1 million a day, has the most fun of the newcomers, and unlike Willis looks like he actually gives a darn about being there. He has smile on his face the entire film, and has one funny running gag where he tells Jason Statham to “stop mumbling” whenever he speaks in his British accent.

Also, unlike the first two films, we know and actually empathize with the villain. Gibson’s weapons dealing character is given an actual backstory and there is one scene where he is talking to Stallone about why he does what he does and feels genuine.

Of all the newcomers, two stand out for reasons they may not like, the first being the lone female Expendable, played by UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. Her acting has a lot of opportunity for improvement (nice way of saying she’s not very good), and on more than one occasion she clichély says “men” when a group of the guys do something stupid. The other “standout” is Antonio Banderas, who, I swear to God, pulls a Jar Jar Binks. He is just over-the-top, quickly saying unfunny lines and never stopping the talking.

When news broke that this film was PG-13 instead of R, most people freaked out. We saw what happened when an R-rated franchise goes PG-13 earlier with RoboCop, so many people were nervous that this one. However the 4th Die Hard was rated PG-13, and that is arguably featured the best action of the series. And “Expendables 3” luckily falls closer to the Die Hard side of things.

Director Patrick Hughes stages some fantastic action sequences, and right from the start of the film you know you’re in for a thrill ride as it opens up on a train during a hostage rescue. Yes, there are the obligatory close-ups and shaky cams that accompany PG-13 films, but it never distracts you (this was shot as R but was cut to PG-13, because money).

At this point you know whether you like these films or not. I personally found the mix of new age tech versus old school fist fights an entertaining step in a new direction for the franchise, and is the best film in the series (take that statement for what it’s worth). There’s a part in the film when Ford turns to Stallone and says “that’s some of the most fun I’ve had in years”. I wouldn’t be lying if I said “Expendables 3” is some of the most fun I’ve had all summer.

Critics Rating: 7/10