Tag Archives: Edgar Ramirez

Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum

I’ve said before in reviews that it’s pretty much impossible to pick a favourite from the initial trilogy of Bourne films, and I stand by that. They’re somehow completely their own thing as separate entries and also a synergistic entity together as well, using Moby’s propulsive song Extreme Ways to jet into each new chapter.

Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum brings Matt Damon’s arc as super-spy spy to a gong show of a close in New York City after breathless jaunts through London and Madrid. By this time Bourne has had so much trauma inflicted on him and lost so much that he’s almost in devil-may-care mode, but something in him senses that despite recalling a whole bunch lost memory, there’s still a few pieces of the puzzle that need to fall into place, starting with the interrogation of an ill fated British reporter (Paddy Considine). This puts corrupt wings of the CIA onto his trail once again, with evil David Strathairn filling in for evil Brian Cox and evil Chris Cooper before him. It’s a vicious cycle of selfish, narcissistic shirt tuckers trying to cover their asses while innocent people all over the globe die needlessly, and Bourne’s mounting anger has never been more understandable than here. Joan Allen returns as stern but sympathetic Pam Landy, Scott Glenn brings leathery charm as the agency’s duplicitous director and watch for Corey Johnson, Daniel Bruhl, Albert Finney and Edgar Ramirez as a rival asset dispatched to hunt him who is the first of his kind to show a glimmer of humanity. Julia Stiles also returns as Nicky Parsons, an integral person in the saga, her work in all three films is underrated as a restless portrait of guilt over past actions and patient resolve to do better with each new decision, I wish she’d get more complex roles like this because she’s so great.

Greengrass got a lot more kinetic and hyped up (the shaky cam is a turn off for some) than Doug Liman did with Identity, the first chapter. The hectic vibe serves to illustrate Bourne’s stormy, frayed mental climate and works for me, as does Damon’s ferocious performance. The stunt work and action set pieces are flat out spectacular, especially the explosive bike derby in Spain and the tense cell phone tag sequence in London’s crowded financial district. Like I said I can’t really pick a favourite, this is as close to a completely cohesive trilogy you can get, but this one was my dad’s top pick of the three so I suppose it has that edge going for it. As far as the other two that exist outside this trilogy… that’s a story for a far less glowing review. Ultimatum, however, is solid gold.

-Nate Hill

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Tony Scott’s Domino

Domino is Tony Scott’s fire roasted, charbroiled, turbo charged masterpiece. I’ve seen it over fifty times and every time I seem to enjoy it more. It’s pure unfiltered Scott, free from the nagging pressures of the studio, financed by his own company, a loving treatise of pure style and breakneck kamikaze energy that doesn’t let you breathe for a second. It’s loosely based on the life of Hollywood baby turned rough and tumble bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), daughter of actor Laurence Harvey. She leaves the 90210 world of rich snobs and gilded mansions to pursue a grittier path, in the form of restless underground law enforcement. Now, the film sheepishly admits it’s not entirely based on a true story before the credits even start, so as long as you know that much of it is fantasy going in, you won’t feel cheated. Knightley is a pissed off, sparking roman candle in the role of her career, shedding the dainty image and going full furious grunge, giving Domino an alternative edge and damaged pathos that fuels much of the film’s kinetic energy. Mickey Rourke plays her grizzled boss Ed Moseby, a veteran bounty hunter with a trail of violence behind him, who’s weary and tough in equal parts. Rourke fires on all cylinders, giving some of his simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, badass and best work. Edgar Ramiraz plays scrappy Choco, third musketeer and eventual lover to Domino with fiery Latin charisma. Christopher Walken, weird mode fully activated, waltzes in as a reality TV producer with the attention span of a ferret on chrystal meth, Mena Suvari as his squirrelly assistant, Lucy Liu as a prim, OCD afflicted federal agent who verbally spars with Knightley in flash forwards, Delroy Lindo is excellent as their bail bondsman handler Claremont Williams, and there’s scuzzy work from Dale Dickey, Lew Temple, Macy Gray, Monique, Dabney Coleman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jerry Springer and more. Just to sample some of the esoteric weirdness that goes hand in hand with the hard boiled crime elements, Tom Waits has a beautifully perplexing cameo as a spiritual wanderer who has a mysterious meeting with Domino and her friends in the Mojave desert, imparting some prophetic truth to them that only Scott and the sand dunes are in on. This is the kind of film that grabs you by the collar and hurls you down an asphalt horizon of hallucinatory camera work, brings you an intricate, lurid story of true crime gone wrong, and a balls to the wall depiction of life at its fastest, wildest and most out of control, as only the maestro of such things, Scott, can bring you. Domino, at least in this film, lives a crazy life that culminates in a hellish Mexican standoff and subsequent shootout atop a Space Needle-esque Vegas casino, a fitting way for a Scott film to come full circle and certainly not the first time he’s ended one in that situation. He uses cinematic magic to create visual poetry here, his sucker punch editing, nebulous display of scorched out colours, thunderous symphony of sound design and hectic, buzzing aesthetic isn’t for everyone but it’s something truly unforgettable and a style wholly his own, I truly miss the guy and believe he was one of maybe the ten best filmmakers to ever work in Hollywood. This is by far his best film, definitely his most personal and also the most arresting vision he’s ever sculpted, it will leave you haunted, pummelled, fired up and deliciously puzzled. Domino ironically says in voiceover near the end, “I’ll never tell you what it all meant”. Scott tells you, in his own special way, and if you’re tuned in to his otherworldly frequency you’ll treasure this masterwork as much as I do, and will continue to for years to come.

-Nate Hill

David O. Russell’s Joy

There’s something inherently engaging about a self made success story, an attractive quality that David O. Russell employs to great effect in Joy, his most recent, and my most favourite of his films so far. He’s a fascinating director who’s work always has an oddball quality to it, whether worn obviously on it’s sleeve (I Heart Huckabees, of which I’m not a fan), or subtly funnelled into a genre picture (the excellent war flick Three Kings), there’s just an undercurrent that’s decidedly south of normal humming through his whole filmography. Joy is one part hyper-dysfunctional family drama, one part autobiographical rise to fame with a hefty dose of comedy thrown in the mix. Jennifer Lawrence has beyond proven her solid gold talent as a miraculous leading lady by now, and she’s the acting equivalent of a truckload of C-4 here as Joy, a self made millionaire who’s persistence and strength in spirit led to her pioneering a revolutionary cleaning product. It’s loosely based on several true stories, but Russell is more intent on letting his actors run wild and giving us a frenetic ‘fly on the Wall’ glimpse into Joy’s upended family life. She’s basically the rock to all of her kin, the only one with a sane hair on her head and her priorities in order. Her dad (Robert Deniro) is an irresponsible man child in a tailspin of a midlife crisis, her mom (Virginia Madsen) is an unpredictable basket case, while her ex (Edgar Ramirez) deludes himself about a would be singing career. They all live at home, contribute not a penny to the household, plus she’s got a young daughter to look out for as well. Quite a situation to be in, and the only one standing in her corner is her loving grandmother, played warmly by a brilliant Diane Ladd. The film isn’t so much about plot as a measurable substance and more just how things happen from scene to scene via chaos and commotion. Everyone is so verbose, fired up and out of control that we spend swaths of time simply listening to them argue and rant before realizing we’ve been discreetly subjected to character development the whole time, a clever, patent aesthetic that Russell also used in his American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook. Joy dreams of a less crazy life for her daughter, and her miracle mop invention may just be the ticket there, if she can avoid her whole unruly clan tagging along for the ride. Bradley Cooper is great as a stern patent kingpin, and the scenes that show how television sales play out at headquarters have a studious, hypnotically meticulous rhythm to them that show Russell in full stylistic swing. The show belongs to Lawrence though, who’s a captivating wonder in every scene, her fever pitched exasperation at the people around her a tangible force of nature, her resilience and determination a source of inspiration. I like this film best of Russell’s filmography because it’s the most focused on people rather than plot. In Silver Linings, which is a lovely film don’t get me wrong,

the characters were believable and true, but they still serviced the plot which was rooted in an obvious theme of mental illness. In American Hustle, The shtick was conmen and their world, the characters sourced from that and existing to run on that racetrack. Joy is about an everyday girl who patents a kitchen mop. It’s benign, barebones and just lets the characters roam in a daily life arena that’s relatable, malleable and feels down to earth.

-Nate Hill

CARLOS – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

Carlos

Notorious international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s with several politically-motivated bombings, kidnappings and hijackings in Europe and the Middle East. He eventually became a popular culture icon with thinly-disguised depictions in films like Nighthawks (1981) and gracing the cover of Black Grape’s debut album. His image was used as a cultural touchstone rather than an accurate depiction. Incredibly, it wasn’t until Olivier Assayas’ ambitious, five-and-a-half hour miniseries Carlos (2010) that the man and his times were finally done justice. Assayas wisely doesn’t pass judgment on Carlos but rather depicts how he influenced the political climate and how it, in turn, influenced him. Far from a stuffy history lesson, Carlos is an epic political thriller with a charismatic performance by Edgar Ramirez as the infamous terrorist.

Carlos is presented in three, feature-length episodes that track his rise to power and notoriety; the man at the peak of his powers and his greatest triumph; and his inevitable decline and capture. Early on, Assayas establishes his take on Carlos (Ramirez), presenting him as a vain man who, at one point, is seen admiring his own naked body in a mirror to the strains of “Dreams Never End” by New Order. We also see him espouse his personal philosophy, that true glory is “doing one’s duty in silence. Behind every bullet we fire, there will be an idea because we act in harmony in our conscience.” And initially, he seems to adhere to this but once he becomes a superstar among international terrorists, he embraces and cultivates his inflated reputation.

In the first episode, Assayas shows Carlos’ clumsy attempts to impress Wadie Haddad (Ahmad Kaabour), co-founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), with a bungled assassination and a failed bombing. This segment builds towards an intense showdown between French domestic intelligence agents and Carlos at one of his girlfriends’ apartment in Paris where we see just how dangerous he is when cornered. The second episode starts off literally with a bang as Carlos and his group arrives at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna and take oil ministers from all over the world hostage in 1975. This was his highest profile operation done at the height of his powers.

By the end of the second episode, Carlos has been kicked out of the PFLP and he starts up his own terrorist organization, effectively becoming a mercenary. The third episode tracks his inevitable decline as he wages a war of terror on France in the early to mid-‘80s after they arrest his wife and a close associate. It’s costly battle for both sides but more so for Carlos who can no longer rely on his reputation to get jobs or find safe haven in countries that used to be sympathetic towards him. He becomes more vulnerable to attacks because he has more to lose, chief among them a family.

Edgar Ramirez’s magnetic presence really comes across early on as he exudes the cocky confidence of the man and conveys his complete commitment to the cause he espouses so brazenly. The actor has Carlos’ terrorist swagger down cold, showing us the smooth ladies’ man with his perfectly coifed looks and stylish attire. Known prior to Carlos mostly for his strong supporting turn in Tony Scott’s Domino (2005), he finally gets to be front and center, playing the role of a lifetime: a larger than life historical figure in a sprawling epic. Assayas and Ramirez’s fascinating take on Carlos is that he viewed himself as a kind of rock star, a charismatic personality who clearly saw himself as someone of importance, destined to do great things. This is evident in the way Carlos idolized and emulated Che Guevara during the OPEC raid, sporting the iconic revolutionary’s trademark beret and scruffy facial hair look as if making a statement. Also, the rock star analogy is further explored in the use of post-punk music along with the third episode, which could be seen as Carlos’ “fat Elvis” period of decline. Ramirez commands every scene he’s in, especially the OPEC raid where he prowls around rooms and hallways, expertly orchestrating this attack in order to get what he wants.

In an intriguing break from tradition, Assayas eschews a traditional orchestral score for source music, predominately post-punk rock. The opening track is “Loveless Love” by the Feelies, which sets the tone of the film. As the song builds so does the tension of the scene it plays over – that of Carlos attempting to assassinate a pro-Israeli businessman in England. Assayas also uses a few tracks by Wire, one by A Certain Ratio and a memorable action sequence scored to “Sonic Reducer” by the Dead Boys. The attention to period detail and architecture is also excellent as Assayas takes us on a perverse travelogue through Europe and the Middle East with Carlos as our guide.

With its color-coded sequences and its objective direction that is slick and confident, Carlos resembles Traffic (2000) and Syriana (2005). These films are all ambitious and expansive in scope as they expertly blend personal politics with bigger political movements. Carlos is a towering achievement, a fascinating study of a man who was a reflection of the times in which he lived in and is embodied by Ramirez’s powerful performance spanning several decades. Assayas’ film is very relevant to our times as it examines the complex machinations of international terrorism with the agendas of terrorist groups clashing with that of the governments of countries all over the world. Carlos sees the struggle of the oppressed against imperialist regimes as a war that he helps fight. With the end of the Cold War, he is marginalized and considered a relic from a bygone era. Assayas has crafted an incredible film that is smartly written, well-acted and masterfully directed.

10TH ANNIVERSAY REVIEW OF TONY SCOTT’S MASTERPIECE DOMINO — BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Without question or hesitation, I can firmly state that Domino is my absolute favorite Tony Scott film, the one I keep coming back to the most, and at 10 years old, I feel it’s time that this insanely undervalued pièce de résistance from one of our ultimate modern auteurs got the critical attention and audience credit that it truly deserved. Ahead of its time yet also fabulously au courant when the film was unleashed upon cinemas in 2005, Domino is a smashing entertainment, the perfect synthesis of Scott’s gritty yet slick, highly aggressive style that he developed in the 80’s and 90’s with The Hunger, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, and The Fan, which then led to a decidedly expressionistic (and at times impressionistic) aesthetic in the mid to late 2000’s, with such works as Man on Fire, Beat the Devil, Agent Orange, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and his final film, the hard-charging and incredibly entertaining Unstoppable, pushing his trademark visual flourishes to the absolute extreme. Sandwiched in between were his two “silver-blue sheen” political thrillers Enemy of the State and Spy Game, with the former sort of predicting our post 9/11 world climate, and the latter commenting on it in real-time. But for me, Domino is the *Toniest* Tony Scott film that the iconic filmmaker ever crafted.

2

Easily one of the most misunderstood, sadly maligned films of the last decade, Domino is due to gain a much-deserved cult following. It bombed at the box office, and with the exception of a few sharp critics (Ebert, Dargis, Strauss), people really attacked Scott over this distinctly personal and hyperactive piece of purposefully heightened cinema. And make no mistake, like an effort by Picasso, Domino is a work of collage-inspired art, maybe the first piece of true cubist-cinema ever crafted, leading a super-charged group with the likes of Running Scared by Wayne Kramer, Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces and Stretch, Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘em Up, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs.The World, all of which feel spiritually and stylistically connected to Scott’s over the top yet highly artistic sensibilities. Simply put, Domino is one of the most visually elaborate and sophisticated movies ever created, and all of these efforts feel birthed from the seismic contribution that Oliver Stone’s breakneck masterwork Natural Born Killers brought to the forefront in 1994, with its unrelenting sense of visual dynamism, outlandish humor, graphic violence, experimental tone and structure, and an emphasis on constant forward momentum. It’s also more important to note that Scott went on record as saying that Domino was his most favorite film that he ever directed; at the end of the day, he got the movie made the way he wanted to make it, and that says a lot in our current bean-counting movie climate.

3

I know that this is Scott’s most divisive, most critically savaged film. Many people hate it. Some people, like me, consider it to be the apex of Scott’s razzle-dazzle career as a storyteller and stylist, with a wild cast of characters (Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Mo’Nique, Christopher Walken, Dabney Coleman, Delroy Lindo and many others) who all throw themselves into the filmmaking process with gusto and unending enthusiasm for the lurid material. The film is a slightly insane, pseudo-biopic of infamous bounty hunter Domino Harvey (the fantastic Knightley) that exists primarily as a showcase for Scott’s obsession with style and form and, as per usual, a heartfelt narrative. What makes Domino work as a whole is that the story is as unhinged as the style, always complimenting each other, always doing this crazy cinematic dance. Also, many people forget that much of the film takes place through a cloud of mescaline, and most of the third act incorporates a hallucinogenic-trip aspect to the proceedings. And then there’s Domino herself – a wild, rebellious British model turned bounty hunter who wanted only to march to the beat of her own drum. The real Domino Harvey did in fact lead a crazy life, but it probably wasn’t as over the top as Richard Kelly’s crisscrossing and zigzagging script, which was based on a story co-created by The Last Seduction scribe Steve Barancik. The filmmakers make it clear upfront that they’ve taken liberties with the facts – there’s even a graphic that reads: “Based on a true story…sort of.” What I love most about Domino is how frenetic and in your face the filmmaking is, and how incredibly intricate the plotting becomes by the finale. Scott’s hyperventilating and exhilarating style would mean diddly-squat if it wasn’t in service to an exciting plot with characters you like and stakes that are high. Knightley shredded her good-girl image with her balls-out performance as the titular heroine; from the lap-dance scene to breaking Brian Austin Green’s nose to busting out the double machine guns during the finale, she grabbed the role and ran with it. Mickey Rourke’s recent career resurgence really began here, with a gruff and stern performance as Domino’s boss. And Edgar Ramirez, who would later blaze up the screen in the epic five hour terrorist biopic Carlos, busted out in a big way as Domino’s volatile partner, Choco, and the love story that develops between them is as soft and tender as the rest of the film is jagged and primal.

5

Many complained that Scott’s directorial tricks and kinetic editing patterns were a major problem in Domino. To those individuals I say: Go home and watch Driving Miss Daisy. First off, lest anyone forget, the film is framed through the P.O.V. of a main character who is tripping on mind-altering substances – that should be the first sign to the viewer that the film is going to be a bit off-kilter. Kelly’s labyrinthine yet still coherent screenplay is a marvel of ingenuity, character construction, and dense plotting with a couple of his customary satiric zingers thrown in for good measure. Daniel Mindel’s super-saturated, kaleidoscopic cinematography bleeds with intense color as the images jump off the screen, assaulting and overwhelming the viewer’s senses – it’s a hot-blooded cinegasm of technique, designed to get you off. Repeatedly. And when you take into consideration that Kelly’s off-the-wall but still rooted in reality screenplay frequently shoots off in various directions at any given point, always carrying the potential to spin wildly out of control, you have to applaud the zeal of all the people behind this crazy undertaking. Strip away all the pyrotechnics and the nonlinear structure and you’re left with a rather simple story of love, deceit, revenge, and emotional and physical catharsis. And let me tell you – if you don’t find it cinematically satisfying when Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez are speeding down that elevator shaft in the Stratosphere hotel while the penthouse level is exploding from an I.E.D., well, I’m not sure what to tell you!

4

There are just so many glorious sights that this movie has to offer: The epic opening credit sequence which needs to be played at full volume blast, Christopher Walken stealing scenes as a lunatic reality TV producer with a serious “font issue,” Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green destroying their 90210 celebrity personas in hilarious cameos, Tom Waits as a tripped-out roamer of the desert with some poetic and interesting notions regarding fate, Knightley giving a bra and panty lap dance to a gang member in order to get her crew out of trouble – this movie never stops chugging and churning, throwing stuff at the audience, egging them on for a visceral response. The Jerry Springer interlude with the unveiling of the “mixed-race flow chart” is still a pisser for the ages, and overall, the bizarre nature of the narrative can never really be pinned down, which is a huge part of the fun factor. This was Tony Scot unleashed, the moment where you felt Scott put ALL OF HIMSELF into making a movie. It’s that rare, expensive, personal project that only gets funded by private investors who then let the filmmaker do whatever it is that they want. Domino is Tony Scott’s undying love letter to cinema as a whole and stands as his immortal masterpiece. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said in her glowing review of the film: “It’s all the Tony Scott you could want in a Tony Scott movie.” Damn straight.