Tag Archives: Jeff Kober

F. Gary Gray’s A Man Apart

F. Gary Gray’s A Man Apart isn’t exactly the glowing pinnacle of Vin Diesel’s varied career so far, but it sure as hell isn’t one of the lower points either (I reserve that label for garbage like The Pacifier). A scrappy, brutally violent revenge flick, Vin is cast here as Sean Vetter, moody DEA badass who decides to take on the Mexican cartels almost singlehandedly when they wipe out his family. He drags his partner (Larenz Tate) into going rogue and before he knows it the cartels have dispatched a few colourful contract killers his way including Joker-esque Hollywood Jack (Timothy Olyphant), ruthless cowboy Pomona Joe (Jeff Kober), psychotic Hondo (character actor Marco Rodriguez) and others. Despite heavy reshoots and re-edits, this just works as a dark, entertaining piece of action pulp. Diesel is appropriately fuming as a guy with nothing to lose who is capable of horrific violence at the drop of a hat and has long since broken free of the constraints of his badge, it’s a nice no holds barred turn from the actor. Director Gray has an extensive, impressive resume in the action/crime genre, having helmed everything from The Italian Job to cult classic Friday to one of the Fast & Furious films. A Man Apart certainly isn’t his calling card or most prolific effort, and it has its issues, but I admire how down and dirty it gets, it’s like a 70’s Clint Eastwood flick that is so violent and industrial strength rough that it almost feels like an exploitation film. Fun stuff.

-Nate Hill

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Michael Apted’s Enough

I’ve always liked Michael Apted’s Enough, a slick, scary girl-power flick that’s given heart and personality by Jennifer Lopez, who brightens and classes up anything she headlines. It’s also got a subtly eclectic supporting cast of ice cool character actors/actresses and uses them to great potential too. Despite being predictable (a story like this usually will be in Big Hollywood), the motions it goes through somehow just feel fresh and engaging in ways that not all films like this might be able to whip up. J-Lo plays Slim here, a battered housewife who has the misfortune of being married to Billy Campbell’s Mitch, a terrifying sociopath who beats her senseless. Worse still, he’s a rich and powerful dude with a lot of high profile connections, which makes escaping his tyrannical dominance a tad tricky. She’s got a young daughter (Tessa Allen) who’s caught in the crossfire, and for Slim, enough has become enough. On the run, changing her name and decking herself out with some gnarly hand to hand combat skills are all part of a journey to both freedom and empowerment, an arc that Jennifer makes us believe with her soulful conviction and bruised spirit. Juliette Lewis is a low key scene stealer as her good friend who aids in the escape. Fred Ward does a quietly anarchic turn as her somewhat neglectful father Jupiter, who is clearly not the most compassionate fellow but does his best to right the wrongs of yesteryear with his considerable wealth and resources too. Noah Wyle does a charming scumbag shtick as a dirty cop in Campbell’s pocket who hunts her like a wolf, Jeff Kober is cheerfully menacing as one of his gung ho faux FBI Agent lieutenants, and watch for work from Dan Futterman, Brent Sexton, Michael P. Byrne, Bruce A. Young and Bill Cobbs too. The training J-Lo uses is Krav Maga, a viscerally intense martial art that’s taught to Israeli special forces, and it’s a rush to see her beat the absolute fucking shit out of her shitty asshole husband with it in some close quarters, emotionally charged bone breaking and appliance slamming beatdowns. Her and Campbell have some warped, freaky chemistry too, he’s like some demon who’s been imprisoning her and her the dark angel who strikes back fiercely. Great flick.

-Nate Hill

Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace

Debra Granik‘s Leave No Trace is the most important film about post traumatic stress disorder I’ve ever seen, and a potent, timely and very frank father daughter story that will leave you reeling in the final frames. Not that it’s cloying or melodramatic either. On the contrary, Granik, who made waves with Winter’s Bone some years back, chooses to tell her story in a spare, hushed, realistic manner that at first seems to keep you at a bit of a distance, but before you realize it you’re drawn right in. This immersive story sees Ben Foster as a haunted veteran suffering from PTSD who has chosen to raise his daughter (Thomasin Mackenzie) in the wilderness of Oregon, just outside Portland, living off of the land and keeping mostly to themselves. This is a haven until social services gets wind of their situation and makes every effort to relocate and integrate them back into society, something which Foster’s character just can’t seem to do anymore. Moving from county to county, always on the run from something he can’t even put into words, holding onto his daughter because she’s the only one he has left, this is the life of someone who has been broken and forgotten by most, and it’s tough to see. I read that in pre-production Foster and Granik workshopped the script to remove almost forty percent of the dialogue, to let the silences in between words do the talking. A wise move. Him and Mackenzie are so good you believe them as family for real, seemingly tuned into each other on an elemental level, these are the two best performances I’ve seen from anyone so far this year. They meet many folks on their journey along the Pacific Northwest belt of Oregon and Washington (cue lush,

gorgeous cinematography captured by Michael McDonough), and the one running theme that comes across is compassion. Everyone they meet, from the Oregon social services bureau to an RV park full of quiet, peaceful folk, everyone shows them kindness and tries to understand their plight as best as they can. I’d like to believe that human beings are inherently good, and clearly Granik shares this hope here, with an intimate realism in every character interaction and the direction to anchor every actor, from the two leads right down to the bit players, in something believable and very much human the way we’re used to outside the cinema. PTSD is not in the forefront here either, not used as an emotional device or explored in an analytical manner, it’s subtly hinted at and the most we ever see is the mannerisms playing at the corners of Foster’s eyes, and his blunt inability to exist in a societal way anymore, which eventually drives a heartbreaking wedge between him and his daughter, laid bare in an ending scene that affects to the core and is the gold standard of what acting could, and should be. Other fine work can be found all over in the people they meet along their way, including a kindly farmer (Jeff Kober) who runs a homestay program, a sympathetic ex army medic () and the owner of a Washington RV Park (the great Dale Dickey, who also stole scenes in Winter’s Bone). This film starts out slow, comes on strong and the end will leave you tearful, ponderous about the situation of so many in their country afflicted by this condition, hopeful that family bonds can provide a modicum of healing, and altogether fulfilled in terms of story and atmosphere. One of the year’s best so far.

-Nate Hill