Tag Archives: John Leguizamo

Tony Scott’s Revenge

Tony Scott’s Revenge is a difficult one to sit through, but it’s Aalto a good showcase of not only the late director’s inherent talent around a camera and staging of restless, brutally violent action, as well as one of the better, albeit off-putting entries in a sub genre I like to think of as ‘desert noir’ (Oliver Stone’s U Turn pioneered and set the good standard in my books). Sweaty, sleazy, excessively graphic, melodramatic and mottled out of those old school, primitive pulp laden love triangle bad blood archetypes, it’s relentlessly unpleasant but has a dark hearted charm that somehow sneaks in the back door and gives it an iota of likability, albeit in a weird way. Kevin Costner plays a hotshot navy pilot (Scott shamelessly plugging Top Gun) who heads to Mexico for a little down time, where he finds anything but. While on a visit to his old gangster friend (Anthony Quinn, that big ol’ sweaty Italian meatball), he meets the kingpin’s beautiful, shockingly young wife Miryea (Madeleine Stowe, back when she used to be in things), and naturally they fall in love. This ignites a volcanic conflict between them all that results in some of the most sadistic, sexist acts of violence and a giant rift in the brotherhood between Costner and Quinn, for you see, the pilot saved his life years before and there’s some vague blood debt owed, obviously now null in void when he tries to mow the guy’s lawn. There isn’t much to the story other than these Stone Age, chauvinistic games of betrayal, sex and retribution the three play, or at least the two while Stowe is so badly hurt she’s out of commission after the first act. Costner spends time moping about the backroads and flophouses of Mexico, befriending a dusty old shit-kicker (the late character actor James Gammon, credited simply as ‘Texan’), who helps him get back on his feet. He’s also aided in his vendetta against Quinn by two mercenaries, played by scene stealing Miguel Ferrer and John Leguizamo. The eventual final confrontation between them has the hollow howl of redundancy as both men sheepishly realize they’ve become a slave to their own emotions and ruined their lives, and especially Miryea’s. Ebert wrote of this “It’s such a good job of salesmanship that you have to stop and remind yourself you don’t want any.” Well, that’s Scott for you, who could take footage of a domestic dispute and whip it up into a frenzy of action and energy you can’t take your eyes off of. This is a dark, empty, unpleasant film bereft of gallows humour or tongues in cheeks. But there’s something about it’s lurid sense of danger, hot blooded anger and over the top, hide-behind-the-couch doses of extreme violence that draw you in and cast a dark spell.

-Nate Hill

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John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 expands nicely on a mythology that we caught a glimpse of from behind the shadowy curtain of assassin’s anthropology in the first film, a fantastic meld of stylish world building and hyper violent, stunts driven action that saw Keanu Reeves come blasting back onto the big screen in probably the best role so far of his career. Chapter 2 has one big challenge to face though: the first one was driven by the fact that those fuckers killed his dog, and the man’s subsequent bloodlust over it. That was the crux, the catalyst, the reason we cheered so loudly each time he maimed or mauled someone. Now, I don’t need an excuse like that to watch an antihero slaughter people, but some might, and the dog thing just propelled him forward faster and furious…er. What’s the catalyst here? Well, they destroy his house. Not quite the emotional kick in the nuts you get from seeing a beagle murdered, but it seems to be enough to light Wick’s fuse again, so there you go. He’s faced with a figure from his past here, some fruitcake of an Italian mobster (Ricardo Scamarcio) who wants him to come out of retirement and kill his powerful sister (Claudia Geroni) to ensure his seat at a revered council table of international crime figures. It’s basically John Wick’s Eurotrip, as he treks across the pond to kill more goons and thoroughly destroy more night clubs and other such convenient set pieces than you can shake a stick at, before returning back to New York for an ultra-violent third act. John Leguizamo, the always awesome Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan and David Patrick Kelly all reprise their wicked cool roles, whilst Common, Ruby Rose, Peter Serafinowicz and Franco Nero create new characters that flesh out this fascinating world of killer’s mythology even further. The film is special though for two important reunions for Reeves that give wonderful callbacks to earlier in his career: the prologue sees Wick ferociously reclaim his stolen car from Abram Tasarov (Peter Stormare) the more gregarious brother of Viggo, villain from the first film. Reeves and Stormare played Constantine and Lucifer in the underrated 2005 comic book adaptation, where they faced off with just as much menace and charisma we see in their little bit here. It’s also a reunion for Neo and Morpheus, because Laurence Fishburne shows up as the godlike Bowery King, a rooftop dwelling, pigeon keeping derelict who runs a vast crime syndicate that all disguise themselves as dishevelled hobos. It’s wonderful references like these that pack the pedigree with solid gold and moments to remember, not to mention it’s just a worthy sequel, a slam bang screamer of an action flick and a great time all round. Bring on Chapter 3, and I request an Al Pacino villain turn so we can get nostalgic for The Devil’s Advocate all over again.

-Nate Hill

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer was the first film in the revival of Matthew McConaughey’s career after a lengthy slump stretching back to the early 2000’s, and what a banger of a pseudo courtroom drama it turned out to be. Based on the series of novels by Michael Connelly which focus on slick, morally untethered defence attorney Mick Haller (played to perfection by Matt), director Brad Furman whips up an enjoyable, razor sharp yet laid back LA crime saga that’s smart, re-watchable and competently staged, not to mention stuffed to the roof with great actors. Haller is something of a renegade lawyer who operates smoothly from the leather interior of his Lincoln town car, driven by trusty chauffeur Earl (the always awesome Lawrence Mason). Mick is ice cool and seldom bothered by the legal atrocities he commits, until one case follows him home and digs up a tormented conscience he never knew he had. Hired to defend a rich brat (Ryan Phillipe) accused of murdering a call girl, events take a turn for the unpredictable as older crimes are dug up, double crosses are laid bare and everyone’s life starts to unravel. It’s a deliciously constructed story with twists and payoffs galore, as well as one hell of an arc for McConaughey to flesh out in the kind of desperate, lone wolf role that mirrors the dark side of his idealistic lawyer in Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill. Let’s talk supporting cast: Marisa Tomei is sexy and easygoing as Mick’s ex wife and rival, Bryan Cranston simmers on low burn as a nasty detective, William H. Macy does a lively turn as his PI buddy, plus excellent work from Frances Fisher, Shea Wigham, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton, Bob Gunton, Pell James, Katherine Moennig and the great Michael Paré as a resentful cop who proves to be quite useful later on. There’s a dark side to the story too that I appreciated, in the fact that not every wrong is righted, or at least fully, a sad fact that can be seen in an unfortunate character played by Michael Pena, but indicative of life’s brutal realities, something Hollywood sometimes tries to smother. One of the great courtroom films out there, a gem in McConaughey’s career and just a damn fine time at the movies.

-Nate Hill

Jonas Ackerlund’s Spun

Jonas Ackerland’s Spun is a film you’ll be onboard with in seconds, or jumping ship before the credits even start. It’s unpleasant, epileptic, downbeat, hyperactive, fucked up, strung out, cartoonish, nonsensical, unstructured, and is a complete masterpiece for those willing to lend an empathetic ear towards lost souls mired in the doldrums we call drug addiction. Set on a particularly sweaty day in the suburbs of L.A., all the film really does is try to keep up with a sorry bunch of meth-heads as they meander through a hazy existence filled with confusion, mania and that ever present need to score. Jason Schwartzman’s Ross is the default protagonist, and he moves from locale to locale, encountering the denizens of each dwelling in all their warped glory. John Leguizamo’s trademark brand of crazy is right at home as Spider, a maniacal dealer who can’t sit still for a nanosecond, along with his haggard looking girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari). Brittany Murphy is excellent as wayward Nikki, who leads Ross to her cook boyfriend, a strange fellow credited as literally The Cook, played in a brilliantly dark pitched, sad turn by Mickey Rourke. There’s others flitting about as well, including Patrick Fugit’s nutball Frisbee, a couple of frenzied narcs played by Alexis Arquette and Peter Stormare, plus cameos from a grab bag of figures like Debbie ‘Blondie’ Harry as a fearsome diesel dyke, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford as a porn shop clerk, Ron Jeremy, Larry Drake, Josh Peck and a surprise Eric Roberts who gets a reunion of sorts with former costar Rourke. Director Ackerland, also a music video whiz, employs every stylistic trick and balls out editing fuckery to his film, until we have some wild inkling of what it must be like for these deranged urban pixies and their ADHD addled misadventures. It isn’t all comedic though; Once in a while the crazy curtain lifts and we see the deep set sadness that lives in these characters, a melancholy self loathing in which the actors find truth amongst the raging din, especially Murphy and Rourke, who provide the best work of the film. Mickey has a final act monologue that encapsulates the weary trajectories inhabited by these folks. Much of the film is stylized sound and fury though, a cavalcade of noise, vulgarity, offbeat altercations and loosely strung together events that have no meaning to anyone outside this asylum’s inner circle of addicts. One of a kind experience, and the most blatantly honest film I’ve seen on the subject of drugs.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Frogs For Snakes


They say actors will literally ‘kill for a role’, and in the long forgotten, bizarre NYC set indie flick Frogs For Snakes, that’s the very concept. A handful of Bronx lowlifes all directly involved with criminal kingpin Al Santana (Robbie Coltrane, before he went all Hagrid on us), discover he is putting on a play, and promptly begin to literally murder each other for parts. Now, such a premise should provide a downright brilliant film, but sadly that’s not the case with this dreary gutterball. The possibilities are just endless, and all these miscreants do is just languish in alleyways, decrepit apartments and dive bars, monologuing about.. nothing much at all. It hurts when you have a cast this good in such fuckery as well. Al’s ex wife (Barbara Hershey) works as a debt collector for him, while she pines for her thespian boyfriend (John Leguizamo) who spends the majority of his scenes reciting overblown monologues that have nothing to do with the story, or lack thereof. There’s all manner of creeps and hoodlums running about like New York sewer rats, played by an impressive lineup including Harry Hamlin, Lisa Marie, Ian Hart, Clarence Williams III, Nick Chinlund and briefly Ron Perlman, but none of them have much to do and seem to aimlessly shamble through their scenes as if they were never given much of a script. Being the weirdo that I am though, I did get a sick thrill out of hearing potty mouthed Debi Mazar explicitly describe giving a blowjob to Coltrane’s character, a mental image I won’t soon erase from my head. It’s a whole lot of nothing for the most part though, and kinda makes you wonder how the thing ever got green-lit, let alone attracted such talent. If the film itself were a play, it would be run out of town on opening night. 

-Nate Hill

John Wick: A Review by Nate Hill

  

The reason John Wick works so well is a flawless mix of simplicity, earnestness and passion. The premise is a familiar one, and nearly identical to countless other slam bang action flicks out there, a simple and well travelled formula. It’s in the absolutely stylish, classy and distinct execution that it finds its uniqueness. The filmmakers (Chad Sahelski and Derek Kolstad) are stuntmen themselves, and therefore know what is needed to make a successful action film: well staged action. The terrific atmosphere that tagged along is a bonus and goes to further prove these guys have serious talent. They also care, want to have fun and want their film to exist within a memorable universe, and this all shows. An action film would be nothing without it’s star, and Keanu Reeves comes busting out of the gate in full rampaging glory as the titular ex-super hitman John Wick, an expert operative who can do things with guns that would make Neo nervous. John is grieving the death of his wife (the lovely Bridget Moynahan) and taking care of the puppy she left behind to console him, living the quiet life as it were, or at least as quiet as life can get for an ex mob assassin. Wick manages to chill out for a bit with the doggo, but that all ends when his path crosses with that of a spoiled mafia brat (Alfie Allen, played an even nastier snot rag than he did in Game Of Thrones) who steals his car and kills the poor pupper. This really lights Wick’s fuse, gives his brutal talents a new lease on life and throws him headlong back into the dangerous and often eccentric realm of covert contract killers. Allen was the son of a powerful, loose cannon Russian kingpin (Michael Nyqvist in a mirthful blend of funny, scary and just plain exasperated), and now John is at odds with hordes of his underlings and a few former associates who want his head. That’s pretty much all there is in terms of plot, but the film soars on the wings of propulsive, meticulously choreographed action and positively drips with cool, it’s main asset found in Reeves, who is an absolute boss in the role. Sporting a tailored suit, fiery attitude and lethal reflexes, John punches, kicks, stabs and shoots his way through endless unfortunate adversaries, seeming to be both fallible human and invincible archangel of destruction simultaneously. It’s the perfect role for him, a comeback of sorts and just a rip snortin action hero you can get riled up for. There’s attention to detail paid to his world too, the clandestine realm of killers given a mythology, currency and protocol all its own and perfectly original. Adding to the already impossible levels of class are a perfectly chosen roster of supporting talent too. John Leguizamo makes a peppy cameo as a cranky auto fence, Willem Dafoe plays a morally vague fellow hitman, watch for Lance Reddick, David Patrick Kelly, Daniel Bernhardt, Dean Winters, Adrienne Palicki and the always awesome Ian McShane as the suave proprietor of The Continental, a posh hotel that caters only to assassins. All characters encounter John Wick at some point and in some capacity, but Wick himself is the constant, the raw element which drives this film forward with the force of a stampeding bull, scarcely hesitating to breathe or seek medical attention on his quest for carnage. Reeves sells the character and then some, headlining one of the most flat out spectacular action films of the last decade.

CARLITO’S WAY – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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There was a lot of anticipation when Carlito’s Way was released in 1993. Director Brian De Palma had just come off a lukewarm reception for yet another Alfred Hitchcock homage, Raising Cain (1992) and was in need of a hit to appease the studios. And so, a re-teaming with Al Pacino in an effort to recreate the magic of Scarface (1983) made commercial sense. Carlito’s Way was much more somber in tone than the cinematic shotgun blast that is Scarface. It is a tragedy about how a criminal tries to go straight but is ultimately doomed from the get-go.

Carlito’s Way features one of the oldest chestnuts in the world. Narrating his story during the last moments of his life, Carlito Brigante (Pacino) is a veteran criminal recently released from prison and intent on leading a normal, law-abiding life. Of course, it isn’t going to be that easy and when he returns to his old neighborhood, his reputation precedes him. Local gangster Benny Blanco from the Bronx (John Leguizamo) is a cocky, up and comer who sets his sights on Carlito after he is shamed by him in public. Carlito, however, barely notices him as he’s torn between reuniting with an old flame, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), a struggling Broadway dancer, and keeping his lawyer friend, David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) out of trouble.

As a personal favor to David, Carlito runs a nightclub so that he can raise enough money to start his own business renting cars in a tropical paradise with Gail. However, Carlito’s loyalty to David will be his undoing because his friend has become so corrupt during the time that Carlito was in prison.

As always, De Palma injects the film with his trademark bravura action sequences, including one early on when Carlito accompanies his cousin on a routine drug deal that turns into a violent blood bath. One look at the set-up and, like Carlito, we know that something is not right. De Palma prolongs the violent confrontation for as long as possible, gradually building the tension as we feel Carlito’s apprehension. The director orchestrates the entire scene like a pro, knowing just how long to build things up before the inevitable eruption of violence.

Carlito is a role tailor-made for Al Pacino, allowing him to essay another larger-than-life character. Carlito is a smart guy who cannot escape what he is no matter how hard he tries and Pacino conveys the melancholy that lurks behind the bravado of his character. The real scene stealer, however, is Sean Penn’s sleazy, coked-up lawyer. The actor reportedly did the film to help finance his second directorial effort, The Crossing Guard (1995). For a paycheck role, Penn does a great job as he disappears into the character, complete with a frizzy afro and cheap suits. It’s almost as if Pacino’s presence inspired Penn to step up his game. And this makes Penn’s memorable turn so much fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is filled out by solid character actors like John Leguizamo, who plays Benny as a pushy little runt with a motor-mouth, and the always reliable Luis Guzman as Carlito’s right-hand man. The only miscasting is Penelope Ann Miller as Pacino’s love interest. She looks out of place and just doesn’t have the chops to hold her own against Pacino.

Despite the cliched premise, Carlito’s Way works so well because of the caliber of actors, David Koepp’s screenplay with memorable dialogue (“You think you’re big time?! You’re gonna fucking die big time!”), and De Palma’s stylish direction. This film is proof that given the right material, De Palma can still make a hell of an entertaining movie.