For a movie about a giant shark, given a giant budget, Jon Turtletaub’s The Meg is just kinda underwhelming. First off it’s PG-13, which is just not gonna do your shark attack flick any favours, I mean people wanna see sharks fucking people up and rating constraints will put a damper on that. Secondly, they just don’t do much with the infamous prehistoric megalodon other than have it jump around a bit, swallow a few people whole and arrive at a densely populated beach that looks like it was conceived by Wes Anderson’s production designer. What does work? Much of the interaction between some engaging human characters is funny, genuine and likeable. Jason Statham is great as a legendary deep sea diver who would rather just crush beers in his Thailand shanty. Robert ‘Longmire’ Taylor, Olafur Darri Olafsson, stoic Cliff Curtis, unbelievably sexy Ruby Rose, Bingbing Li and a smarmy Rainn Wilson are fun. There’s a welcome tribal feel to the group dynamic and enthusiastic cheesiness that somehow reminded me of Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising, a much more fun ocean set creature feature. But the shark action is lifeless and just not exciting, and if the lynchpin of your film doesn’t hold the thing together all you have is what works, in this case a fun group of folks played by varied actors running around impressive sets. The rest? Boring as hell dude. There’s one cool moment when a little girl sees The Meg slowly swim up to a giant glass window underwater and lunge for her but Netflix put that as the little teaser video on the film’s main menu so it’s spoiled before you even start the thing. I’ll still take Deep Blue Sea over this tide-pool detritus any day.
Renny Harlin brings the action buddy comedy back into full swing with Skiptrace, a rambunctious romp through the Orient starring the perfectly paired odd couple of Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville. Harlin has lovingly studied stuff like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, creating a piece of adventurous fun that sits on the same level as those beloved classics, and even outdoes them in some areas of the stunt work. Chan must be well into his 50’s now, but he still swings about like a squirrel monkey on Ritalin, agile as ever. Knoxville is a little less graceful, getting pummeled and thrown around in ways that must remind his weary bones of all that stupid, backbreaking shit he cavorted through on Jackass. Chan plays a Hong Kong police officer trying to bring down an elusive crime lord called The Matador, who is also Chinese, despite the Latin moniker. Knoxville is a bumbling casino hustler who accidentally witnesses said Matador execute some poor girl in cold blood. The chase is then on, Chan trying to get Knoxville to Hong Kong so he can testify, Knoxville hilariously trying to save his own ass and outrun clueless russian mobsters at the same time. It’s absolute juvenile chaos, and I mean that as the hugest compliment ever. Harlin just *gets* the simplicity of this subgenre, and makes a miracle of a buddy flick that I now rank with some of my favourites. He’s also an action guy (we have him to thank for Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, among many others), and the stunts on display here will box your ears. The choreography is just plain nuts and beautifully sans CGI, especially in a knockout early sequence where Chan extradites Knoxville from the russian’s possession, and a dizzying zip line ride across a canyon that evokes merry memories of Cliffhanger. Also, I have to give major kudos to any flick that let’s us see a hammered Chan wail away an impromptu rendition of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, accompanied by dozens of Mongolian plain dwelling tribes people. Yeah. This is some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far this year, and it’ll go in the special section of my dvd shelf reserved for the best and brightest in buddy comedies. Not that I actually organize my collection that well, but whatever. Go see this now.