Project 101

Dan attempts to watch 101 movies in 12 months

Posts Tagged ‘drama’

38 – Funny People

Posted by Dan on April 10, 2010

I know this movie got panned in most reviews I saw – but I think the main problem is that it was advertised as a typical Apatow movie. I mean, just look at that poster. It even says that it’s The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up as associated movies. Yes, Judd Apatow wrote and directed Funny People, but do yourself a favour and just ignore that shit before starting this movie. Funny People is not supposed to be a funny movie.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are funny moments, but – okay, let me break it down for you: Adam Sandler plays, well, Adam Sandler. His character’s name is George Simmons, but essentially it’s like it’s Adam Sandler 20 years from now. One day George finds out that he’s got a terminal illness and only has a few months to live. So one night, down in the dumps, goes to some suburban open mic night, where he sees Ira, played by Seth Rogen. Ira is an okay comedian, but has dreams of giving up his shit day-job to do comedy full time. George gets up on stage before Ira and does a routine that’s more like a foretelling of death. Ira takes the piss out of him a little and thinks he gets away with making George look like an idiot until he runs into him in the carpark. They exchange bland pleasantries. The next day, George calls Ira and asks him to join him for a corporate gig a few weeks later. During the gig, George offers him a job as his assistant.

We then follow George on his trip of dealing with his terminal illness and his experiment with a trial drug, monitored by his doctor, and how his life revolves around it as he accepts his fate. Apatow apparently wanted to write a story about his life as an up and comer, but realised that all his mentors were quite nice to him – but what would’ve happened if his biggest influences were jerks? This is that movie. It’s almost a documentary in parts than it is fiction. There’s plenty of comedic actors playing themselves, and you’ll spend many scenes picking out your favourites – hell, there’s a scene where even Eminem tells George that he needs to relax.

Also, being an Aussie, it’s quite jarring to see Eric Bana playing an Australian. There’s a particular emotional scene which is quite weird due to all the St Kilda Football Club merch that surrounds the characters in the scene. Not to mention Eric Bana finally playing an Aussie role again!

Funny People is an occasionally funny, but generally quite emotional and rather sad movie, but in an unexpected way that makes it a joy to watch. You feel like you’re getting a true insight into their lives in an authentic, genuine way.

Funny People gets 4 out of 5 one-liners.

Ray Romano: [regarding George’s illness] How did he know he had it?
Ira: He said he was feeling dizzy and tired. So he went to the doctor, and it was in his blood work.
Ray Romano: That sucks, ’cause I get dizzy and tired. Anybody gets sick and I think I’m gonna get it. Is it contagious? It’s not contagious, is it?
Ira: No. No, I’ve been around him a lot. I feel fine.
Ray Romano: Okay, ’cause when you were talking, a little bit of your spit hit my lip. Not that you got it, but he spits on your lip, you spit on mine, and the next thing you know, I’m dead, and my wife’s fucking George Lopez.

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#36 The Soloist

Posted by Dan on September 2, 2009

SoloistPosterIt’s no secret that Jamie Foxx is a bit of a douchebag in real life, but I kinda find him to be the movie equivalent of Liam Gallagher – as a person, he’s a total jackass, but it’s hard to fault the talent. I can only assume that Jamie took this role in The Soloist so he can get another Oscar nomination – because everyone knows that ‘tards equal Oscar glory. While this movie isn’t the greatest movie of the year, there’s no denying that Jamie Foxx is an amazing actor.

The Soloist is a movie about LA Times journalist Steve Lopez, who’s looking desperate for a meaningful story to write about, when he one day stumbles upon a mentally challenged violin player (like there’s any other kind, am I right orchestra-geeks? BAM!) Nathaniel Ayers, who … you know what, I’ve seen this movie a dozen times, as you have. Rich Guy meets up with Guy From The Wrong Side Of The Tracks to help give him a second chance, and The Rich Guy realises he has just as much to learn, and everyone ends up all the better for it.

I guess the best I can say about this movie, is that it’s “nice”. It’s the kind of movie that I could easily show my mum. In fact, mum if you’re reading this, you and Dad should go and see it.

That above sentence is either a recommendation or a warning. You pick. It’s an enjoyable film, don’t get me wrong, and I was happy to sit through it, but just know that there’s almost nothing original about this movie. I mean, look at the art style of the poster – you’ve ever seen that a dozen times before. The only original thing about this, is that this is actually based on a real story.

It has some nice moments in it, and it’s a lovely way to spend 90 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, but just don’t go into it with high hopes, and you’ll be fine.

I give The Soloist 3 out of 5 Unfinished Symphonies

“I’m telling you, it was such an unbelievable experience – the whole thing, the whole day and if you had seen him, if you could have felt him. I mean it’s the same hall, we’re listening to the same goddamn music, but no, you see him it’s one thing, but you feel him, I’m watching him and he’s watching the music and while they’re playing, I say ‘my god, there is something higher out there, something higher out there and he lives with it and he’s experiencing it – i’ve never experienced it, but i can tell, i don’t even know what you fuckin call it?”
“what? what is it?”
“THAT’S grace? Thank you! To be there with him like that and see the way that he is transported – he surrenders. Dammit honey. I mean, I’ve never loved anything the way he loves that music”

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#33 This Is England

Posted by Dan on August 23, 2009

432px-This_is_england_film_posterThis is a movie I picked up almost by accident – I was looking at the dvd store a while ago, and happen to pick this up, thinking it was a different movie, then read the back and realised it was worth the hire. And now that I’ve watched it? Yeah, totally worth the hire.

The story’s about this young kid called Shaun, who’s father was killed in the Falklands War, gets the shit kicked out of him at school on a fairly regular basis. He’s on his way home from school one day all pissed off and frustrated at the world, when he runs into a group of skinheads who take pity on him and start to bring him into their group, lead by an older boy called Woody.

One day, a mate of Woody’s is released from prison, nicknamed Combo. Combo’s found a new streak of racism in him, and is wanting a team of followers, only Woody and his mates, who are more of the traditional non-political skinheads, want nothing of it. Shaun, however, chooses to side with Combo, who then takes him under his wing. Shaun is lead down a steep and dangerous path, which eventually ends up in a deadly confrontation and forces Shaun to have some solid realisations about where his life is heading.

This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, and is fairly tough-going for most of the movie. The racism is incredibly confronting, and it’s quite sad to see a young child swayed so easily on his quest to look for a new role-model. Despite being so hard to watch, it’s even harder to turn away. A quality cast, a solid script and a genuinely great storyline that just drips of gritty realism.

I give This Is England 4 out of 5 St George’s Crosses.

Lovely, lovely, love you for that, that’s fucking great. A proud man, learn from him; that’s a proud man. That’s what we need, man. That’s what this nation has been built on, proud men. Proud fucking warriors! Two thousand years this little tiny fucking island has been raped and pillaged, by people who have come here and wanted a piece of it – two fucking world wars! Men have laid down their lives for this. For this… and for what? So people can stick their fucking flag in the ground and say, “Yeah! This is England.”

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#29 Taken

Posted by Dan on July 4, 2009

TakenOkay, okay, so it’s taken me a while to post again. I’ve been on holidays since the start of June, and I only just got back from Scotland after spending time visiting my beautiful and amazing girlfriend (she’s spending 6 months over there and I went to visit at the half-way mark of her trip – don’t worry, this is not some crazy internet-dating thing where I fly around the world for a woman I’ve never met. I’ve totally met this woman before. I’ve even see her naked! SCORE!) But anyway, even on the plane I managed to catch a few movies. One or two of them I’m not really proud of, but hey, sometimes you gotta play the cards you’re dealt, right? Right!

So, let’s at least start off with a good flick, shall we? Taken is, in a nutshell, a story about a retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson, who’s daughter is travelling overseas with a friend, until they get kidnapped by the Albanian mob. It’s nothing personal, his daughter just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. See, the Albanian’s kidnap young girls, then turn them into heroin addicts and make them do prostitution. This is something that obviously doesn’t sit well with Bryan (go figure). He then decides to go and get her himself, because he’s some amazingly terrific CIA agent will loads of skills. But not like in that lame Napoleon Dynamite kinda way, but more in a “I know 4 places on your body that I can kill you with one strike of my fist” kinda way.

Now, I’d say that the majority of people would probably know Liam Neeson for being a loveable kind of guy. I asked a few female friends recently, while talking about this movie, what the last movie was that they saw him in, and every single one of them said ‘Love, Actually‘. But for those of you that have seen Batman Begins, you’ll be well aware that Liam Neeson is one bad-ass motherfucker and Taken is just another example of this. Forget about The Wu-Tang Clan, Liam Neeson aint nothin’ to fuck with.

This is pretty much a solo effort by Liam. There’s a nice little ensemble cast, but they’re easily forgettable when in contrast to Neeson. The action is swift and efficient, and for a retired agent, Neeson is certainly in good shape. There’s a few fairly unconvincing moments, as well as a fair bit of “assumed prior-knowledge” with the movie, which sometimes makes it harder to judge who’s a good guy, who’s a bad guy, and what does one consider good or bad to be? Sometimes this can be negative (like the dinner scene at Jean-Claude’s house), but for the majority, it’s just a good little pop-corn flick that I’ll let things like that slide in favour of it’s great fight scenes.

When I watched this, it was a few days before my girlfriend and another female friend of hers take off to Brussels for about a week, so I must say that I’m feeling slightly nervous at this stage after watching that movie. But on the upside, if those two do get captured, I know immediately who I’m gonna call.

Taken is a thoroughly enjoying action flick with enough suspension and action to satisfy just about everyone. It’s all-over a fairly well balanced film with a fast yet stable pace. Highly recommended.

I given Taken 3 and a half unconvincing French accents out of 5

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money… but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it – I will not look for you, I will not pursue you… but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
-Bryan, talking to some Albanian mobster on the phone

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#20 Dan In Real Life

Posted by Dan on January 4, 2009

dan_in_real_lifeWell, here we are, 1/5th of the way through the list! Thanks for sticking by (that is, if there are actually people reading this. If you’re reading this, you should comment! Don’t be afraid!). I think I might have to put the brakes on a little bit – I’ve gone through 20 movies and I’ve only been doing this for a month!

This is one of the movies that was on my own personal ‘must see’ list for quite a while, but not because I’m a Steve Carrell fan – I’m actually fairly impartial to him. I kinda got this feeling that he was becoming a bit typecast, and while some of the movies that he’s been in I’ve really enjoyed, I was kinda wondering when he was going to actually start acting.

Dan In Real Life is the story of Dan Burns, who writes an advice column for his local paper, and is a widower with 3 bratty daughters, as he takes them up to the grandparents house for their annual family holiday. His family is like any others – they seem nice and normal, but with Dan around, there’s always that thin layer on tension that you’re never quite sure when it’s going to break. Dan’s life isn’t really full of pleasure and his family begin to take pity on his subservient ways, especially romantically. His family is played by a fantastic ensemble cast, including Dianne Wiest as his mother, and John Mahony (the old guy from Frasier) as the father. There’s even a great job done by Dane Cook, who plays one of Dan’s brothers, Mitch, which I never saw coming!

One day, Dan makes a quick trip into town to get some supplies when he meets Marie, played by Juliette Binoche (who you might recognise from the Three Colours movie trilogy). Instantly the two hit it off, and what starts off as a quick 5 minute trip to the shops for Dan ends up a day-long impromptu ‘date’ and for once you see Dan come out of his shell and he finally looks happy. After Marie leaves to also head off to a family holiday, Dan practically floats back to the house only just maintaining to not burst out of his skin with joy. He tells the family about the girl and everyone’s esctatic for him. However while this is going on, Dan’s brother Mitch has been busy telling everyone about how nervous he is about bringing his new girlfriend to spend holidays with the family and how this girl could almost be “the one”. So when she shows up– that’s right, Mitch’s girlfriend is Marie.

It’s at this point that the movie can go either way – it can become an all-out slapstick humourous movie or can becoming incredibly saddening and depressing. Luckily, it seems to tread a thin line straight down the middle of both of these options, resulting in what is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. There are laughs there, but they’re not the usual set-em-up-and-knock-em-down jokes, and you find yourself either whincing or laughing because there is, at least for me, that sense of an air of familiarity, which is the movie’s, especially Steve Carell’s greatest asset. There’s a beautiful subtlety to every single piece of dialogue, and it’s reaction to those that hear it.

I really liked everything about this movie and is definitely one of those movies where the more you think back on it, the more you remember the bits about it that you liked. It’s a great story about love that never goes according to plan, with a great cast full of some amazing performances. It’s funny, sad and downright frustrating at all the appropriate moments and is definitely original enough to keep you wondering how the rest will pan out.

I give Dan In Real Life 4 out of 5 single parents.

“Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised”

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#16 Tsotsi

Posted by Dan on December 30, 2008

tsotsiposterI was looking for something fairly chunky and heavy-duty this morning for a movie, and I definitely got it with Tsotsi.

Golden Globe nominated, and winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006, as well as countless other awards around the world, Tsotsi takes place in the slums of Soweto in South Africa and centres around a small gang of African kids, lead by the emotionless Tsotsi, who will do anything to get what they want, including murder. After a fight that breaks out between Tsotsi and one of the other boys, Tsotsi runs off, and in an act of desperation, car-jacks a wealthy African woman and speeds off in her car, only to quickly find that the woman’s baby is in the backseat. Tsotsi takes the child back to his shed in the slums and starts to look after it. As the movie progresses, his dedication for the child finally teaches him empathy and decency.

Now, I know that the premise sounds corny, but it actually does work quite well. You get to know about Tsotsi, aka David’s past, growing up with an abusive drunk for a father, and a dying mother. It’s fairly heavy going through most of the movie, and there are some genuine moments of fear and panic throughout the movie as Tsotsi’s world starts to fall down around him as he tries to regain his new sense of responsibility and values.

To be honest, it’s hard to write about this movie without giving too much away. It’s a fantastic movie with a great lead with Presley Chweneyagae as the title character, supported by a great supporting cast. It’s wonderfully shot and captures the bleakness, and great juxtoposition of rich and poor in South Africa. I never really knew how to feel about the lead character in whether or not to pity him. He seems a very confused young man who finally starts to open his eyes to the world around him, and on his journey it’s hard to tell whether or not the person he’s talking to is about to get stabbed, or whether he genuinely is seeking some kind of deeper connection and understanding, but therein lies the beauty of this movie and the journey that Tsotsi takes.

I would highly recommend this one to anyone after a good solid movie-going experience. Definitely a hidden gem.

I give Tsotsi 3 and a half out of 5.

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#12 Little Fish

Posted by Dan on December 20, 2008

little-fish-poster-01Little Fish is an Australian film about the story of Tracey (Cate Blanchett), a former junkie trying to get her life back together, despite the pulling factors around her. Her drug-dealer ex returns from overseas, her step-dad is trying to kick his heroin habit, she’s constantly being knocked back for bank loans to expand the business at the local video shop she works at ,and her mum, while the straight one of the family, struggles to keep everything together.

Little Fish received loads of critical acclaim from almost every media publication in the country. To me, there seems to be a just as many reasons to agree with the praise as there are to disagree with them. I wanted to like this movie so much, and for the most of it I did. I just felt myself wanting more by the end. The movie ambles way too much, and there are far too many unanswered questions for me to really enjoy it.

Much like when I watched Layer Cake the other day, the same reasons seem to resonate again – there are some great moments, some fantastic acting and a really fucking impressive cast, but when it all comes together, there’s just a really big build up for what seems to be very little pay-off. I feel bad for not liking this movie, because it has so many good things about it – there’s just more bad things. The biggest problem I found was that the movie feels like you’re watching the second half of a movie. I spent half the movie trying to work out who was who, and there seemed to be no real plot to speak of, and some of the motivation for some of the characters seemed a little misplaced within the confines of the movie. I just can’t help but feel that it could’ve been a lot better than what it was.

I give Little Fish 1 out of 5 hits of golden brown.

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#11 Suburban Mayhem

Posted by Dan on December 20, 2008

Suburban MayhemFor all of it’s pride, Australian cinema still struggles to get real mainstream recognition. I’ll be the first to admit, that there’s a lot of stinkers that we put out, but it’s because of these mainstream flops that a lot of other smaller indie movies never get the exposure that they deserve. For every Fat Pizza: The Movie, there’s a dozen 2:37‘s, which I have to say that for the larger part of it, it breaks my true blue heart.

Suburban Mayhem, when it was released, seemed to get a fair bit of press, but nobody I know actually went to see it at the movies. I’ve always liked a good Aussie indie movie, but this is one that kept slipping down my To See list.

Suburban Mayhem is the quintessential tale of “where did it all go wrong?”, and at the end of the movie, you kinda realise that your life aint too bad. The story centres around Kat, a hormone-charged 19 year old single mum who seems to exist in her own separate world compared to everyone else – one that’s full of drugs, petty crime, cheap sex, fast cars and manicures. Her life then quickly starts to fall around her after her older brother Danny goes to jail for murder. Kat idolises Danny to almost disturbing levels of loyalty. He’s not a bad guy,  just a stupid kid with a bad temper. The true tragedy is that it appears that Danny is the most level-headed member of the family.

Kat’s mum was a drug addict that abandoned the family when Kat was a young girl, yet she’ll always be a little princess to her dad, John, played by Aussie screen stalwart, Robert Morgan. John’s a honest hard working tradie who just wants the best for his kids, which ends up with Kat walking all over him and treating him like her own personal ATM. Then there’s family friend Dianne, but to be honest, she has very little baring on the movie and her role seems to be nothing more than a mere afterthought.

One day, John decides that enough is enough and cuts off Kat’s financial flow, so Kat does whatever she can to make sure that someone’s looking out for her – and she gets it no matter what she has to do. Kat betrays and uses people left right and centre, and becomes more and more dillusioned about the world she’s living in, and to boot, she’s a truly awful parent, to the extent that John and Kat’s boyfriend Rusty are constantly being visited by police and Child Welfare. The main driver of the movie, is Kat’s obsession with the idea that Danny can get out of jail, if only she can raise the money to pay for court costs to appeal his sentence. It’s  then suddenly Kat gets an idea of how to get money – by killing her dad and selling the house. What happens then, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Kat is played fantastically by Emily Barclay, who won an IF Award for Best Actress for this role. She’s supported by a great ensemble cast. Why Laurence Beuls, who plays Danny, hasn’t starred in more roles than he has is just beyond me.

All in all, this is a really enjoyable movie. It’s a very gritty, often confronting story about a group of people off the rails who will do anything within their grasp to get back the control of their lives that they once had.

I give Suburban Mayhem 4 out of 5 life sentances.

“I knew the mother, she was mad. I knew the grandmother, she was madder. It’s genetics I reckon. That’s the only thing I can come up with. You just can’t get clean water from a dirty tank.”

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#9 Lars And The Real Girl

Posted by Dan on December 15, 2008

I remember when I saw Mysterious Skin a few years ago, when it was finished, I sat in the cinema chair completely silent through the credits, trying to gather my emotions. When I left the cinema, me and the two friends didn’t say a word until we were out on the street, and one of my friends said “I need a drink”, and we all nodded. It seriously fucked with us all, and it took me a while to work out whether or not I like it. It’s that sort of feeling that I live for in movies. As much as I love a good brainless comedy, or some cheap throw-away action film, I truly love a movie that fucks with my head.

Lars &  the Real Girl is one of these. I only finished watching it an hour or so ago, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. So really, this ‘review’ (a bit rich calling it that, but still) could go either way.

Lars & The Real Girl is a story of Lars (Ryan Gosling) living with the grief of the death of his parents. His mother died at birth, although I don’t think that they never really explained what happened to his dad. But now, Lars and his brother have inherited the family home.  His brother Gus lives in the house with his wife Karin, played wonderfully by Emily Mortimer. Lars chooses to live in the garage on his own. He’s a strange guy bordering on mental illness – he’s a shut-in with very little friends except for the guy he shares a cubicle with at work. It’s here that he’s shown the Real Doll website, and a few days later, Lars orders one.

Lars’ mental instability takes a new turn when Lars treats his new doll, Bianca, like a real person. Gus and Karin are delighted by the news that Lars has met a woman who he’s invited to dinner (at which Karin struggles each day to get him to share a meal with even just the two of them), but then things get awkward when Lars brings along Bianca. They send him to see their family GP (played by Patricia Clarkson), who also happens to be a pyschiatrist, who treats Lars under the guise of taking Bianca in to the practice each day for a check-up.

In an odd turn of events, the whole community decide to go along with Lars’ delusion, showing the great compassion that everyone has for Lars, and everyone in the community seems to draw something out of the situation for their own benefit. It’s a sweet tale that proves that it’s actually possible to love, without having to feel like it’s some kind of transaction, that it’s possible to simply love.

Now, there are bits of this movie that I loved, but others that I struggled with when it came to suspending my sense of disbelief. I can’t imagine a community, big or small, so openly accepting Lars’ delusion with such open arms. Whether or not Lars’ family was a “pillar of the community” type is never really explained. There isn’t a single person that seems to have openly hostile prejudices to the situation, which I find a little hard to believe. There’s really only one scene where Gus tries to tell Lars that Bianca isn’t real and is just a rubber doll, but even that only lasts a moment, and is largely ignored by Lars. Even the sweet Margo, who’s clearly had a crush on Lars since the dawn of time is patient and understanding when she realises that she’s been passed up for a rubber doll. She either has a stone for a heart, or is even more accepting than I give her credit for. I mean, shit, I’ve been knocked back by a girl for another guy before, but at least that guy was alive. I’m not sure I could take that kind of set-back.

If anything, I really related to the role of the brother, Gus and if anything, Gus really relates how I felt about the movie. I found Gus to be the main driver and a metaphor for the movie’s plot – at first, Gus was confused about what was going on and didn’t really understand it, so he became resentful and angered with Lars, hoping that he’d just “snap out of it”, but then, like everyone else in the movie, used the situation to explain his feelings and what happened in the past with his brother and finally tell him he was sorry, and in the end, even though he was still a little unsure about the life he and everyone around him was living, learned to become compassionate and understanding.

“Sometimes I get so lonely I forget what day it is, and how to spell my name”

I give Lars & The Real Girl 3 out of 5 Fleshlights

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#8 Street Kings

Posted by Dan on December 13, 2008

I’ve kinda been avoiding this movie a little. I’ve read some fairly unfavourable reviews, and the few people I know who have seen it seemed a bit iffy. Plus the cover is practically the exact same cover as the one for a shitty video game called The Club, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Given that it’s been nothing but wet and cold here in Melbourne for the past couple of days, I figure why not spend the night in tonight watching a couple of movies. So thanks to Video Ezy, I’m pretty much set until Monday morning.

Street Kings is a story about Tom Ludlow, who’s being somewhat wrongly implicated in the murder of his ex cop partner who’s gunned down by two thugs. There appears to be a cover-up, and Ludlow isn’t happy and goes searching for answers, which uncovers a web of corrupt cops, which only results in him questioning the allegiance of co-workers he’s spent his entire life with.

Look, to be honest, it’s really hard to talk about this movie without giving everything away. It has a really great plot that’s interesting enough to keep you entertained, but not so confusing that it’s impossible to follow. The cast is terrific – my only real complaint is how under-utilised some of them are. It’s kinda creepy seeing Jay Mohr with a bad comb-over and a big thick moustache

Despite my general dislike for Keanu Reeves (I had no idea he was the main character when I picked it up), he’s actually really good in this and actually manages to out-act Forrest Whitaker (which, to be honest, I never really liked him much as an actor – although The Last King Of Scotland is a movie that you’ll see here soon). You’ll spend the entire movie going “ooh look, it’s that guy who’s in that movie/tv show!” to almost distracting levels. There’s a couple of great action scenes. I often wonder whether Reeve’s character has some odd fetish for breaking limbs.

If you’re after a good action flick that has a good storyline with enough of a plot to keep it interesting, as well as some great action scenes (the chase scene with that Mexican guy in the ‘hood was cool as fuck), and a great ensemble cast, you can’t go too far wrong with Street Kings.

I give this one 3 and a half dead cops out of 5

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