Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson

Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy

What’s the first R rated film you ever saw in theatres? For me it was Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy, a gorgeous piece that has since stuck with me not just for the fact that it left a vivid, bloody impression on my young psyche but also because it’s quality filmmaking, no matter what anyone might tell you. Never mind the fact that Brad Pitt doesn’t quite fit the old world aesthetic or is out-acted by almost everyone in the film including the host of classically trained professionals he’s surrounded by. There is a lot to love here, starting with a narrative that is kind of not so common in big budget Hollywood; there are no real good guys or bad guys here, just people making decisions that lead to war. We witness compassion on both sides of the army, and cruelty too, but there are no clear cut heroes or tyrants, it’s all politics or emotion. This makes it pesky choosing who to root for but so much more fascinating once the swords start swinging and you have stock on either side.

Pitt may not have the accent down as mythical warrior Achilles but he sure gets a striking look going, streamlined physicality, epic spear throws and concise, satisfying sword fight choreography that he obviously put a lot of work into. Eric Bana is just as impressive as Trojan prince Hector, a rational, anti-war guy who resents his younger brother Paris (Orlando Bloom, wooden as ever) for basically screwing things up as badly as you possibly could. The romance between him and Helen (Diane Kruger, radiant) never feels authentic and definitely is not developed enough to start a war of this magnitude, but their relationships aren’t where we place out investment here anyways. It’s Hector, his princess (Saffron Burrows will break your heart) and their infant son as well as Achilles’s protectiveness over his cousin Patrocles (Garett Hedlund) that win over our emotions and make us care.

The siege on the beach of Troy is a nervous spectacle set up with anticipation in the air as a single bell rings out, signalling ships on the horizon. As spectacular as the war is cinematically I found myself wishing it wasn’t happening just because of the suffering inflicted on either side. It’s not a pleasant or glorious set of battles and no one really wins but rather comes to a collective bitter end, which is another unique factor here. Look at this cast they’ve assembled too, with bold turns from Sean Bean as Odysseus, Peter O’Toole as King Priam of Troy, Brendan Gleeson as the petulant king of Sparta and a loathsome, fantastic Brian Cox as the greedy warlord Agamemnon. Rose Byrne is soulful as the young Trojan priestess who serves as concubine to Achilles until he actually catches feels, and watch for James Cosmo, Tyler Mane, Julian Glover, Nigel Terry, Vincent Reagan and a quick cameo from the great Julie Christie, still beautiful as ever.

Petersen mounts an impressive production here, full of horses, ships, elaborate sets and gorgeous costumes, brought alive by James Horner’s restless, melancholy score. The set pieces are fantastic too, the best of which involves Pitt and Bana in a ruthless one on one fight to the death, each angry and lunging with sword and spear while their people look on, its well staged and genuinely suspenseful thanks to the hour plus of character building before. I couldn’t give a shit whether this is either historically accurate or follows the literature closely at all, that’s not the point for me in going into something like this. I want to see immersive, brutal battle scenes that thrill and I want an overarching story that makes me care about said battle, so every spear throw and image of carnage holds some weight beyond itself. Actors like Pitt, Bana, O’Toole, Reagan and especially Burrows sold me on it and had me legit worrying what will happen to them so that when the dust settles and the very tragic, depressing outcome is apparent, you are haunted by it after. It sure had that effect on me at age eleven or whenever. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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Edge Of Tomorrow


-Nate Hill
Tom Cruise, dare I say, has been making really decent stuff these days, some of which is downright brilliant. Oblivion had its moments, carried on wings of an M83 score that was better than the film itself (hello Tron Legacy syndrome), Jack Reacher was solid badassery all round, but Edge Of Tomorrow is just pure class and could almost be considered an instant classic. I waited a long time to finally see it, because in most cases a pg-13 sci fi blockbuster starring Tom would be cause for me to cruise right on by in the Netflix/on demand lineup and pick something else. The reviews were uncommonly good though, and so I inevitably went for it. I’m sorry I waited, because it’s flat out spectacular. What makes it so? Well, it is everything I described above. A sci fi, blow ’em up blockbuster starring Tom Cruise, packed to the gills with action, aliens and stuffed with more Independence Day fireworks than you can shake a stick at. The catch? It has the plot, script and character development to match. This is one seriously thought out story, with heroes who don’t start off that way, conflict among the ranks of characters and genuine, honest to god arcs. You can hurl all the cash you want at a film and blow up as much shit as you can, but if you don’t have those core elements of story in place, and well so, you’ll end up with a hollow piece of vapid space garbage (like that Independence Day sequel). No, this one earns its stripes, opening up during a chaotic intergalactic war between humans and a formidable alien race, who are winning fast and stamping out any hope for our race. Cruise plays a weaselly military PR puppet who talks shit but has never seen a moment of actual combat, until he’s thrown directly into it by chance, with neither skills nor experience to keep him afloat. Stuck in a Groundhog Day esque time loop (I won’t spoil the how and why, but it’s a wicked smart premise that logically plays out), our coward gradually gains what it takes, day by day, to become a hero and save the planet. It takes a lot of dying and starting over though, each day beginning in the same fashion, the possibilities ripe for him to finally get that perfect round and win the day. Emily Blunt, that adorable badass, plays the most adorable badass thus far in her career, a resilient and vulnerable valkyrie who’s rage at the marauding fiends burns through terrifically, providing moments of grit, warmth and humour as needed. Bill Paxton plays a gung-ho military honcho with the same gee whiz charm that made Pvt. Hudson (Aliens, for you plebs) so memorable, and Brendan Gleeson does a third act encore as another General who takes a fair bit of convincing to get onboard with their plan. It’s so much fun you never want it to end, the high concept used for all it’s worth, supported by truly inspired creature design, detailed steam punk style weaponry and old school Hollywood fanfare rationed out in deliciously measured portions, resulting in that perfect recipe, an effects driven crowd pleaser with the brains to back it up. Who knew they could still make that? It’s a thing of beauty. 

Safe House: A Review by Nate Hill 

Safe House is cut from the same cloth as many a spy movie, but this horse doesn’t have quite as much piss and vinegar as other ones in the stable, notably the Bourne trilogy. It’s more of a slow burn, peppered with a few purposeful action sequences and quite a lot of time spent with Denzel Washington’s world weary spook Tobin Frost, a veteran operative who has gone severely rogue after escaping the grasp of a nasty CIA interrogator (Robert Patrick). He’s soon in the hands of rookie agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who has been left to guard an agency safe house in Europe, now overrun with shadowy special ops dudes out to snuff Frost. The two of them are forced on the run together, and attempt to smoke out those behind the chaos, who turn out to be a little closer to home than they thought (don’t they always, in these types of movies?). Weston is young, naive and idealistic, Frost is bitter, jaded and ready to burn the agency down around him for what his career has made him do. They’re a formulaic pair made believable by the two actors, both putting in admirable work. Brendan Gleeson is great as Westons’s dodgy handler, Vera Farmiga shows moral conflict in those perfect blue eyes as another paper pusher in Langley, and Sam Shepherd smarms it up as the CIA top dog. It was nice to see Ruben Blades as well, who doesn’t work nearly enough, and watch for a sly cameo from Liam Cunningham as an ex MI6 agent. It’s not the greatest or the most memorable film, but it does the trick well enough, has a satisfying R rated edge to its violence and benefits from Washington being nice and rough around the edges. There’s a downbeat quality to it to, as Weston watches the futility inherent in the life of a spy unfold in Frost’s actions, which are leading nowhere but a self inflicted dead for a cause that’s bigger than both of them, but ultimately leaves them in the dust. Solid, if just above average stuff. 

Dark Blue: A Review by Nate Hill 

  

Dark Blue is the overlooked performance of Kurt Russsel’s career, and also the best. It’s also a film that brilliantly examines corruption, lies, brutality and abuse of power through a thoughtful narrative lens and via a powerfully moving story . So why then was it received with an unceremonious cold shoulder? Life is full of mysteries. I was too young to see it when it came out, or pay attention to the buzz surrounding it’s release, but I fell in love with it when I was older, and it remains one of my two favourite LA cop films, alongside Training Day. Kurt Russell throws himself headlong into one of the fiercest and most complex character arcs he has ever been in as Eldon Perry, an LAPD detective who comes from a long lineage of law enforcement. Eldon is a corrupt cop, but the important thing to realize about them is that they never consider themselves to be the bad guys which they are eventually labeled as. To him he’s on a righteous crusade, led by Captain Jack Van Meter (a purely evil Brendan Gleeson), a quest to clear the streets using any means necessary in his power. Eldon is blind to to the broken operative he has let himself become, questioned only by his wife (Lolita Davidvitch) and son, who are both thoroughly scared of him. The film takes place during the time of the Rodney King beating, with tensions on the rise following the acquittal of four LAPD officers. Ving Rhames is resilient as Holland, the one honcho in the department who isn’t rotten or on his way there, a knight for the force and a desperate loyalist trying to smoke out the corruption. Perry is assigned a rookie partner (Scott Speedman) and begins to show him the ropes, which include his patented brand of excessive force and intimidation. As crime ratchets up and a storm brews, Perry realizes that his blind trust in Van Meter and his agenda has been gravely misplaced, and could lead to his end. It’s a dream of an arc for any actor to take on, and Russell is seems is the perfect guy for the job. He fashions Perry into a reprehensible antihero whose actions have consequences, but not before a good long look in the mirror and the option to change the tides and find some redemption, before it’s far too late. It’s not so common anymore for crime films to cut through the fat of intrigue and action, reaching the gristle of human choices, morality and the grey areas that permeate every institution know to man, especially law enforcement. Working from a David Ayer screenplay based on a story by James Ellroy (hence the refreshing complexity), director Ron Shelton and everyone else onboard pull their weight heftily to bring this difficult, challenging, sure fire winner of a crime drama to life. Overlooked stuff.

Turbulence: A Review by Nate Hill

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Before there were snakes on a plane, there was a charming serial killer named Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta). We meet Ryan as he’s about to go on a blind date with a cutie, and he seems like your average sweet guy. The scene plays out in romcom mode… until a SWAT team led by a veteran detective (Hector Elizondo) busts in and arrests Weaver, apparantly just minutes in time. We then learn that Weaver is an extremely dangerous Ted Bundy type of dude who suckers women in with his flashy grin and good looks, only to murder them soon after. With the big bad wolf now in chains, Elizondo can rest easy, as it becomes clear he has been hunting him for some years now. The last step: transporting him by plane to the state where he will be tried and senteanced. Naturally, every security protocol is rigidly in effect, right down to Elizondo stubbornly accompanying the flight. And, naturally, Weaver finds a harebrained way to break his shackles and terrorize the nearest thing to him, which in this case happens to be a gorgeous flight attendant (Lauren Holly). Now they’re 30,000 feet in the air with not a cop in sight but the aging Elizondo, and Weaver free to roam about as he pleases, teasing and taunting Holly with both mirth and menace. The film hinges on an actor’s ability to be convincing, and Liotta is downright perfect in the role. He’s played so many nut jobs and angry lunatics he could do it in his sleep by now, yet he still manages to give each baddie their own unique flavor and flourish. He is downright scary here, geniunly winning you over with his dapper gentleman act, then pouncing like a lion. He’s a one man Con Air, and means business, piloting the movie with a sure hand and leading man talents. I consider this one of the great overlooked thrillers of the 90’s, and certainly my favourite one set on a plane. Watch for appearances from Rachel Ticotin, Ben Cross, Jeffrey Demunn and Brendan Gleeson. Now there’s two sequels: one with Tom Berenger and Jennifer Beals, which I still have to see, and another called ‘Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal’, which is a demented little shit of a flick with Rutger Hauer and Gabrielle Anwar. Neither have Liotta on their side, but the third is worth a watch just for its unintentional hilarity. This first one is the real deal, though.

In Bruges: A Review By Nate Hill

  
I can’t really say in enough words how much I love In Bruges. In fact there aren’t words in my language which can express how deeply in tune to it I feel every time I put the DVD in for a watch, which is at least every four months or so. The dual forces of comedy and tragedy have combined here using Martin McDonough’s genius scriptwriting as an avatar to create something raucously funny and profoundly moving. The comedy is of the spiciest and very darkest nature (my favourite), and the tragedy tugs at both the heart strings and the tear ducts, scarecly giving you time to wipe away the tears of laughter from the scene that came before. The best in UK crime fare, some of the most balanced, peculiar writing and fully rounded characters who are as flawed as human beings get. Colin Farrell delves deep and gives the performance of his career as Ray, a would be hitman who has fucked up bad, and now heads for Bruges (it’s in Belgium) with his mentor Ken (Brendan Gleeson, pure brilliance and humble class). Ken loves eccentric little Bruges, with its historical architecture and quaint townsfolk. Ray is bored to tears and pouts like a toddler. They meander around the town getting into all sorts of mischief including a dwarf (who has fascinating ideas about the ultimate race war), museums, cocaine, the Belgium film industry and more. Ray sets his sights on the gorgeous Chloe (), and Ken does his paternal best to keep him out of trouble while wrestling with his own gnawing guilt. The film gets a shot of pissy adrenaline when their boss Harry comes looking for them, in the form of a knock it out of the park funny Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes rarely cuts loose and bounces off the walls like he does here, and his Harry is a delightful creature to watch in action. Angry, petty, volatile, clever and out for blood, just a joy to behold. As playful as the script is, there’s a purgatorial sadness to Ray’s situation, a fateful sense that he’s been dumped in Bruges not just to fool around, get drunk and utter witty barbs in that brogue (which he does do a lot) but to deeply ruminate on his choices and ponder where his actions will lead him moving forward from his terrible deed. Maturity permeates each exchange between him and Ken, a fledgling and an old timer shooting the breeze about heavy topics which neither of them pretend to understand, but both are neck deep in. I always cry at certain scenes, always laugh my ass off at others, and never cease to be affected right to my emotional center and the marrow of my funny bone each time I watch this. Look for a brief cameo from Ciaran Hinds in the opening few minutes. Every second of this piece is filled with lush, thought provoking dialogue, awesomely un-politically correct dialogue that doesn’t censor a single impulse from its characters, and a yearning to explore the decisions which cause people to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, something that’s inherently complex yet feels lightly treaded on here. Masterpiece. 

Into The West: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Into The West is a charming Irish folktale with two excellent lead performances from Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin, who have been married in the past and therefore have a natural, easygoing chemistry. The film takes place in rustic Ireland, where two young boys are given a magnificent and mysterious white stallion by their gypsy grandfather (David Kelly). They come from a poor neighbourhood, somewhat left to their own devices by their downbeat alcoholic father (Byrne), who lost his wife and their mother years before. The horse seems to have some type of sixth sense related directly to their family history. The two boys are in that state of wonder where fables and magic still exist, and follow the horse wherever it leads. Byrne desperately pursues his sons to whatever end, helped by a fellow Traveller and old flame (Ellen Barkin, excellent and passing quite well as an Irishwoman). The horse seems to know his past and leads him to places which have sentimental value to him, leading him one step closer to his kids, while teaching him an esoteric lesson along the way. Great stuff, kid orientated but still has an eerie and mature atmosphere. Watch for early appearances from Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham. Beautiful film.