Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: F. Gary Gray

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz


The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

Photos Courtesy of:

Friday (1995)

I guess the hood ain’t such a bad place to live after all.

Craig (Ice Cube) spends most of his days doing nothing, staying unemployed, and just trying to get by in life, constantly chilling with his boy Smokey (Chris Tucker). However, the day that comes between Thursday and Saturday hits and for some reason, there’s something different about the day that isn’t like every other one.

By the mid-90’s, the hood subgenre of film became a bit of a joke. The themes, the violence, the stereotypes, etc., had all been played-out so much so that by a point, there was even a Wayans spoof on it all. What once had been a reliably sad and effective genre of film-making, soon became a bit of a stale product, that only seemed to get worse with each and every attempt at creating something close to resembling Boyz N the Hood.

Every neighborhood’s got a dude like this.

Which is why, at the time, and of course, now Friday is such a breath of fresh air.

Sure, is it a “hood film”? Yeah, it is, but it’s a different kind of one. It doesn’t really try to lay down some life-altering message about getting out of the hood and making a better future for yourself, nor does it ever seem to try and ever take itself too seriously. If anything, it’s just a smooth, relaxed, and downright silly comedy about one day in the hood, where some good stuff, some bad stuff, and some wacky stuff happens in, of all places, the hood.

And yes, Friday works because of that; it’s a very chilled-out kind of movie that doesn’t rush itself, doesn’t have too much of a plot to really get going with, and it sure as heck isn’t running too long with its barely 90-minute run-time. And none of this is a bad thing, either – most comedies, like John Waters always says, should barely be 90 minutes and Friday works well for that reason. A lot of the gags are so quick and random, that they somehow just work and come together, because the movie doesn’t harp on them too much, just like it doesn’t slow itself down with jokes, either. And it all matters, too, because, well, the jokes are actually pretty funny in and of themselves.

Which is why it’s hard to go on and on about Friday without talking about the one and the only, Chris Tucker.

Gotta get down on….

I think it goes without saying that Tucker makes Friday as funny as it can get. He’s often the scene-stealer, using his high-pitched squeal and delivery to make any joke land, as well as seeming like the funniest guy in the room, amongst a pretty funny crowd. It’s not really known how many of his lines were scripted, or how much everyone involved just trusted him to do his thing, but whatever it was, it works and it’s because of Tucker that even when Friday seems to meander a bit too far away from itself (which it often does), it still comes together in the end.

Which isn’t meant to take away from everyone else here, but yeah, when compared to Tucker, it’s hard not to notice. For instance, Ice Cube plays the straight-man, and seems to be having fun, even though often times, his role seems to just be used as the protagonist we see everything through. John Witherspoon is also a lot of fun as his daddy and kept me laughing every single time he showed up but also provided a lot of insight into how daddy’s usually are with their older, bum-like children. Nia Long is also nice as, once again, the romantic love-interest in a hood flick, while such comedic-greats like Michael Clarke Duncan, Faizon Love, and Tiny Lister, and oh, of course, Bernie Mac, all show up, do their things and remind us why they’re so funny in the first place.

But where Friday doesn’t hold up for me (and granted, I have seen this movie about four-to-five times now), is that it’s direction is a bit sloppy, however, with good reason. At barely 25 years of age, F. Gary Gray took over Friday and seemed like he didn’t have to do all that much, but somehow, the movie is still a bit messy. The best aspect of the movie is how, for the longest time, there’s really no plot and nothing needing to drive it by, but by the end, all of a sudden, there’s a plot, there’s a serious conflict, and there’s a, unfortunately, message that we’re all supposed to learn from. If anything, it feels lame, tired and annoying, and it seemed to only happen because Gray was just getting started and needed to get his foot in somewhere.

Thankfully, he did.

Consensus: Even with a slightly amateurish direction, Friday still works because of its odd gags, relaxed, yet pleasing tone, and of course, the exciting cast, led by a stand-out performance from Tucker.

8.5 / 10

Damn, indeed.

Photos Courtesy of: Filmaholic Reviews

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

No Detox, but hey, at least we get a musical biopic!

Growing up as just a bunch of young bucks in Compton, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), all wanted to make a difference as the hip-hop group N.W.A. Sure, they wanted to rap, make money, party hard, and have a great time, but what they really wanted from life, was to have their voices be heard and, in some ways, maybe even change the world. Well, when music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) gets ahold of them, that begins to happen. With the release of their seminal album, Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. became one of the most notorious and controversial groups; most of it had to do with the fact that they’re songs were great, but also because they were so racy, that they attracted plenty of attention from law enforcement who didn’t appreciate their songs about police brutality and violence. But even though they were on top of the world and absolutely loving it, too, personal problems began to come into the fray where certain members weren’t getting as much money as they were promised, respect, or wanted to do something else with their careers.

"Yo Dre?"

“Yo Dre?”

Basically, what happens to every band ever formed.

Everything about Straight Outta Compton is as generic as you can get with a musical biopic. The rusted, ragged roots; the first taste of fame; the money; the expensive cars; the lavish mansions; the wildly kick-ass bangers; the tension between members; the idea of “selling out; the break-up; and of course, the eventual reconciliation are all fine points of the musical biopic that are covered here and even then some. In other words, Straight Outta Compton is nothing more than a dramatization of a Behind the Music episode and while that sounds terrible, director F. Gary Gray surprisingly keeps it away from being so.

I say “surprisingly” not because it’s hard to make a musical biopic enjoyable; in all honesty, all you really need is good music, good acting, and a good pace, and everything’s all fine and dandy despite the conventionality of it all. But the reason I say “surprisingly” is because having seen Gray’s past movies, I’m surprised to see that he didn’t lose any sort of conviction with this story and how it handles each and every bit of it. While it would have been easy to just end Straight Outta Compton as soon as N.W.A. breaks up and fill-in the blanks with post-script (as most musical biopics do), Gray takes it one step further and focuses on what happened to each and every member after the break-up. It’s a wise choice on Gray’s part because half of the story of N.W.A. is how they went from being the best of friends, to openly dissing and ripping one another apart in harsh, but legendary diss-tracks, that nobody in their right minds would ever forgive somebody over.

And this is all to say that the movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and honestly, it does not need to be.

Though, the interesting aspect behind the long-winding run-time is even though it’s clearly long and definitely needs to be trimmed-down, the movie moves so quickly and enjoyably, that it’s hardly noticeable. There were plenty of moments in the later-half of the movie where I felt like they could have definitely wrapped things up more efficiently than they did, but all in all, the movie never had me checking my watch. Gray keeps the story moving and constantly interesting, even if it does seem to cover the same ground and get a little phony after awhile.

But like I said, it’s a musical biopic that went through all of the same hoops and holes that most others do, and still, it felt fresh, if only because it was actually fun. Even when the hearts and emotions get heavy by the end, the movie still never loses its sense of entertainment; which is to say that it’s a treat for anyone who has been clamoring for this story to be brought to the big screen. There are the occasional flip-ups where its obvious that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had some influence over which light a certain occurrence was shown in, but overall, it seems to paint a full picture that makes you feel like you know why this group was so important to the world of music, why they didn’t last, and why their own respective members deserved to be praised until the end of time.

"What up, Cube?"

“What up, Cube?”

Hell, it’s even better than some documentaries I’ve seen.

And while I’m sort of on the subject of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube producing this, it should be noted that they did a nice job of getting a good cast in these roles, even if none of them really have to stretch themselves too hard. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is an absolute spitting-image of his daddy that you may have to wipe your eyes every so often to remind yourself that it isn’t actually Ice Cube up there on the screen, but his living, breathing, walking, talking and rapping sperm. Corey Hawkins is also a good fit as Dre, not because he looks a little like him (even with a slight hint of Asian), but because he handles the material well when we see the “true” Dre come out. And then, as Eazy-E, the heart and soul of the group, Jason Mitchell is very good and perhaps the most impressive of the young fellas, showing a huge level of depth to a person who would sometimes be classified as a “goof-ball” and all around “lady’s man”.

But whenever these guys are up on the screen next to Paul Giamatti, there’s almost no comparison. Clearly, Giamatti’s the most skilled actor out of everyone here and he shows that off, each and every scene he gets, because he’s constantly evolving into a human being you don’t want to believe exists, but sadly does. All problems with Jerry Heller aside, the movie paints him in a portrait that’s fair; Heller himself has even on occasion spoke of how he’s “just a man for money”, but the movie never makes him out to be sniveling, evil person that most of these movies like to paint the manager as being. He’s just another guy in California trying to make a quick and easy buck, no matter at what costs; sometimes, he’s nice about it, sometimes, he’s not. But he’s a businessman through and through, and Giamatti plays every side of that perfectly.

But poor Suge Knight! What did that guy ever do!

Consensus: Conventional and overlong, Straight Outta Compton feels like it could fall apart at the seams, but somehow, director F. Gary Gray keeps it all together in an entertaining way that makes it feel like the story of N.W.A. is, once and for all, complete.

7 / 10

"We've got somethin' to say."

“We’ve got somethin’ to say.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Negotiator (1998)

Finally Samuel L. has just had it with all of these white people effin’ him over.

Police choppers circle as swat marksmen target Danny Roman (Samuel L Jackson). he is holding the chief of the Internal Affairs Department at gunpoint. Roman’s world has been destroyed by false charges of murder and embezzlement. Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), a negotiator from another precinct is brought in to mediate.

What we have here is a pretty generic, B-movie that wouldn’t want to be watched by anybody if it didn’t have the two stars it has in the lead roles. To be honest though, I can’t say that it’s a bad thing either.

Director F. Gary Gray does a pretty good job at keeping this flick moving with a nice essence of suspense and tension through the air. It reminded me a lot of a mixture between Man on a Ledge and Dog Day Afternoon, where I had no idea what was going to happen next with this negotiator and these hostages as well. Gray is good at keeping the action moving but it’s not just about big explosions, car chases, and guns going off in this flick, it’s more about the game of wits between the two negotiators. Since they are both professional negotiators, they both know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to talking a person out of doing something and it’s very interesting to see considering we never really see the tables turned around like this in a generic movie such as this one.

However, all of those games suddenly get lost by the half-way mark and then the script starts to lose itself a bit. Rather than being a flick about two professionals basically out-playing the other one, it ends up being another “whodunit” that we always see and in this case it’s nothing or exciting. It’s not hard to see where this film is going right from the start but it was such a disappointment considering I was having so much fun with these two dudes on-screen, but instead, Gray had to bring in the big-bangs and the boom-booms so I sort of have to blame him as well.

What also bothered me about this flick was that this script got really thin, really quick. I felt a lot for Danny, our main character, because the guy totally got effed over and how could you not want to cheer someone on when they’re up against a bunch of dirty cops? But the problem I had here was that he was the only character that was really fleshed out, and everybody else was just a bunch of corny types that we see in movies like this all time. The cops here are the usual “get the job done, at any cost” types, the hostages are the “we’re scared, but can also help you with this hostage situation you’re pulling off” type, and even the other negotiator himself is a type too. So many people here are types and even though I’m not always disappointed in every film that I see that shows characters as two-dimensional, here it bothered me because it seemed like they were starting off so well.

When it comes to two actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey though, you can’t go wrong. Samuel L. is awesome here as Danny and creates a likable and believable character that really could g0 to the ends of the earth to prove that he’s innocent after all this time. Jackson has a couple of scenes where he just lets loose on his anger, especially one where he messes with another negotiator who just doesn’t know what to do and it’s funny, but also very tense the whole way through which reminded me a lot of his “What” scene in Pulp Fiction. Spacey is also very good with his toneless readings here as Chris and gives him a certain edge that makes him a lot cooler than any of the other cops in this flick. Still though, I think that with Spacey you need to have more dimensions to him because his voice is so monotone and sinister, that he can give any likable character a darker edge to them as well. Then again, they didn’t go down this road and Spacey still did fine with it so I can’t complain that much.

Consensus: The Negotiator has tension and suspense to it, and also features strong performances from reliable leads like Jackson and Spacey, but it starts to lose itself about half-way through and gets more and more predictable until we end at a conclusion we thought we were going to have all along.


Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Jails not that bad after all, you can still do all of the things you want to do even if that is just getting revenge. Sweet sweet revenge.

Inventive master-mind, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), wreaks havoc on prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) after one of the men who killed his family goes free. Basically, Shelton is out to screw everybody else who went out and screwed him, and I promise you that this is not a porno.

The whole legal system, regardless of who or where you are, is very flawed. I mean just by taking a look at this flick I have to say I kind of agree a bit with Butler’s character a bit. You got DNA evidence, an eye-witness, and even a confession from the killer themselves and you can’t make that stick? The criminal justice system is one that people have learned to trust less and less as the year’s go by and to be brutally honest, it may start to bring more rebellion to this country in the future. However, this is the only type of smart thoughts that went through this film.

Having the “whole legal system is flawed” aspect would have been a nice template for this film to fall back on but somehow it just starts to get more problematic as it goes on. The film tries to balance out the idea of us not knowing what’s going to happen next, even though we pretty much do and gives us these very gory and bloody death sequences of Butler just ripping a guy into 25 pieces. I did not understand what this film was trying to convey by showing this and I think that it was just director F. Gary Gray‘s way of trying to be hip and cool with the 21st century crowd by giving them some cool scenes that they would see in ‘Saw’. Let’s also not forget to mention that none of them are particularly original or new in any way.

I like the whole idea of this one dude getting even with the people that screwed him over in the first place and for the first 30-40 minutes, this film had me pretty entertained considering that this was practically Butler killing people left-and-right from the comfort of his own cell. Although, this all started to change as I soon realized how totally illogical and unbelievable these killings really are so that I started to have a feeling as to just where this flick was going.

The one thing about this film that really pissed me off is that I feel like the film wanted to have its cake but also eat it too. I already mentioned how the film brings up good points about the flawed legal system we have in today’s world but the film also feels like it needs to exploit it’s violence by having these savage killings. It doesn’t work both ways so by the end of the film, when everything starts to come full-circle after all of the blood-shed has been drawn, the film tries to go back to the points it made before and I just felt it was terribly phony right away. This film tried to cheat me but instead just failed miserably at trying to give me murdering with reason, and that’s the main reason why this flick made me mad.

Probably my favorite part of this whole film was probably the fact that I remembered when it was first getting filmed, that it all took place in Philadelphia and even a jail that is about 1 minute away from me. It was definitely cool to see my state and mainly my mayor in a film that gives it a bad name. However, if anybody who is reading this watches football, I highly doubt that this film is the only thing that gives Philly a bad name.

Jamie Foxx is a guy who is usually always a charmer in everything he does, so when he has to play an asshole lawyer (if that’s not a tautology) he seems very lifeless. The whole performance here that Foxx gives just seems lazy and the same emotion on his face the whole time. It also didn’t help that this flick tried to get us behind his character’s back considering that he made an asshole decision in the first place knowing the consequences going in as well. He definitely had more life in his eyes when he was playing Ray Charles. Getttt itt!??!

Gerard Butler struts his stuff and there’s nothing really with that here, however, his character just seems a bit one-note the whole time. Yeah, he’s mad and angry but does he always have to be? Can’t the guy at least show a little remorse and sadness over the things that have happened to him and the things that he does to others? I guess when you’re speaking of King Leonidas, who the hell cares! The film is also held accountable for the only time I have ever seen a bad performance from Viola Davis who plays the governor. Shame on you F. Gary Gray.

Consensus: Law Abiding Citizen is slightly entertaining in some spots and features a somewhat smart critique on today’s legal system, but it gets more and more implausible, unoriginal, and sillier as the film goes on and all of that critiquing goes away as soon as Butler blows up a 3rd car.


Set It Off (1996)

Four crazy ass black woman, that guys don’t have just all the fun robbing places.

Sick of being victims of circumstance and fighting a system that keeps them from realizing their dreams, four black women from the Los Angeles projects opt to knock over a bank. Emboldened after pulling off the heist, they continue their crime spree. But the sticky-fingered quartet (played by Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise) is unaware that a fixated police detective (John C. McGinley) has them in his sights.

There are certain types of films that show a love between a group of friends that love each other so much that they would do anything for the other. For these four chicks, that anything, is robbing banks in order to get rich. Oh, I wish I had friends like these.

The film shows a great deal of how these four friends all equally inhabit struggle, and hardships in their personal and work lives. Whether the d-bag boss is just up your ass all the time, or you feel like you might be getting played by some Harvard grad, they each all have hardships. We see this very well, and early on in the film, we understand the characters enough for us to like them even when they start shooting up mofos.

However, I just had a huge problem actually believing they could pull off as many jobs as they did. These four worked together so sloppy, by the way their technique went, and how the first place they robbed wasn’t even the place they were going to go for. Everybody is so disorganized when it comes to pulling of the heist itself, they make Thunderbolt and Lightfoot shake their heads in disgust.

I liked how director F. Gary Gray made a lot of the action sequences fun and smart, reminding me a lot of the old-school action flicks, but I just feel like he didn’t know what to make this film. In the beginning the film looked like it was a big social statement on how African American women are treated in society. But when they start doing the heist jobs it turns into a typical action flick. I didn’t know what Gary Gray wanted to do, hell I don’t even think he knew what he wanted to do, all I know is that it could have been formatted a lot better. But the guy does look pretty chill, so i can’t talk that much ish on him.

Other than those two slight problems, the performances from these four ladies are superb. Jada Pinkett Smith, does a great job in this film in what you could call the “tragic hero”, and brings out that charm we all know and love her for, but also the unrelentless hate in her soul. Vivica A. Fox, is her usual high-spirited diva, while Kimberly Elise is just being the sheltered little nice girl. But the best here is that lovable little fire herself, I present to you, Miss Queen Latifah. I have to give a lot of props to Latifah for this performance because she goes all out with her lesbo-loving character. Back in 1996, it was unheard of a musician-turned-actor, actually doing a good job. But Latifah broke down that wall and showed that she isn’t anything other than just a bunch of hits, she’s a great and independent woman, who can go all out with her performance, and still be 100% likable.

Consensus: Though the film gets lost in its message, and believable happenings, Set it Off works so well when it comes to showing great action sequences, and working a story of four friends that actually seem like it, mostly due to their performances.