Samuel L Jackson

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

After Kick Ass, Matthew Vaughn returns to the material of l’enfant terrible, Mark Millar with Kingsman: The Secret Service, loosely based on Millar’s comic book The Secret Service.

Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, a London kid from the wrong of the tracks who is taken under the wing of Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, a gentlemen spy for a secret service known as Kingsman who set up shop, literally, on Saville Row. Whilst Eggsy tackles his spy training head on, internet tycoon Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L Jackson) is traversing the globe looking for the rich and powerful to join his solution for global warming. Spoilers: he’s up to no good. Can Eggsy and Hart stop him before it’s too late?

Based on a script co-written with his usual collaborator Jane Goodman, Vaughn’s Kingsman is an explosive and blackly humorous response to the po-faced spy thrillers such as the Bourne Trilogy (there is no fourth) and Daniel Craig’s Bond. It’s also spectacularly violent, with a key scene set in a Westboro Baptist type church being the most gloriously vulgar and memorable. Anyone raising an eyebrow at Colin Firth being in an action film will be pleasantly surprised as he fights his way through a scene that feels like both The Raid movies compressed down to five minutes.

Whilst the film never lets up, there are some missteps. Kingsman was clearly filmed in the UK, and its apparent in many a scene that steps foot outside the British Isles. Admittedly not the crime of the century, but it does take you out of the film. There’s also a crude joke towards tot eh end that attempts to heighten and satirize the typical conjugal rights ending to a Bond movie, but instead rewrites Eggsy character unnecessarily.

However, these are minor quibbles in a film that for the most part is a blistering, balls to the wall comic book adaptation.

Robocop (2014)

Michael Keaton plays the CEO of OmniCorp; a corporation with designs installing their humanoid drones across the United States in the spirit of maintaining peace. And profit. And justice. But mainly profit. Despite having the media in his back pocket (personified by Samuel L Jackson’s Bill O’Reilly – sorry Pat Novak), Keaton is having trouble convincing America that machines with deadly weapons are really the best thing for policing its streets. When young detective, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is horrifically disfigured after a car bomb, a plan is put into place to bring about the first hybrid of man and machine, or – to those of you paying attention at the back – RoboCop!

Whilst there are car chases and gunfights and all the fun things to keep you chomping on your popcorn, his interpretation of RoboCop feels more like the opening chapter to a story than a stand-alone film with its heavy expositon. The script seems to think we need to see every step towards Murphy’s transformation from emotional human being to steely eyed, unquestioning drone. So, we witness training montages with watchmen’s Jackie Earle Haley’s mean sunuvabitch drone controller and boardroom discussions with Gary Oldman’s compassionate medical team. It’s all stuff that could have been condescend to 20 minutes of the opening act.

The nihilism of the original has been jettisoned in favour of more emotion through Murphy’s family who, unlike in the original, are front and centre for the majority of the film. As such, we spend large gun-less sections of the film worrying about Murphy’s humanity and compassion. It’s a bold move, but it doesn’t entirely convince and, unfortunately, it all just feels superfluous to what people have paid to see, which is RoboCop robocopping.

When it was announced that Paul Verhoeven’s seminal and ultra-violent RoboCop was up for a reboot, eyebrows were raised so high, they could only be brought down by industrial machinery. But on the basis of what’s on show Jose Padilha’s reboot, there’s not that much on show that justifies the vitriol that was fired at it with angst cannons. But then it’s also not exactly winning us over.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, is slowly adjusting to his new reality of modern day Ameerica. Like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, he’s slightly shellshocked from what happened in New York during The Avengers. Despite seeking a quiet life (he’s making a list of things he’s missed out on, including The Beatles), he’s routinely called up by SHIELD Director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), to perform clean up operations. When a hit is taken out on a member of SHIELD, it sparks off a series of events that leads Rogers and skilled assassin, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), down a path filled with intrigue and conspiracy. Albeit a conspiracy where people can punch through walls, which presumably Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward didn’t do during Watergate. But who is the mysterious Winter Soldier? How is he connected to Captain America? And why does he look like James Franco’s Green Goblin? Only one of those questions will be answered in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


Oldboy (2013)

Analysing a remake without explicit comparison with an original is hard enough work. In the case of Oldboy (2013) it all gets little more complicated. Whilst we could view it as a new adaptation of Garon Tsuchiya & Nobuaki Minegishi’s original source manga, Spike Lee’s latest joint seems to go out if its way to invite comparisons with Park Chan-wook’s 2003 critical darling. Except it’s not a Spike Lee “joint.” Lee got frustrated with cuts he was apparently forced to make from his original 140 minute feature that he downgraded Oldboy from “joint” to “film.” So here we have a new film, based on the Grand Prix winning favourite of Quentin Tarantino and almost overwhelmingly revered by film fanatics all over, which even its own director isn’t happy with. Signs do not bode well.

For the uninitiated, Oldboy tells the story of city boy Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a belligerent drunk who is imprisoned by an unknown entity for 20 years, framed for the murder of his ex-wife and eventually released back into the world obsessed with the idea of revenge. Where ever the supposedly imposed cuts were placed on Oldboy’s content, it was most certainly not on the film’s opening, a dreadfully slow, indulgent and cheap depiction of Joe’s alcoholism. With the subtlety of a battering ram, Brolin sways, stumbles and pukes his way through the city streets before hammily screaming “does anyone have any more alcohol?!” at apartment blocks. His imprisonment arrives after he chases an Asian lady with an umbrella through Chinatown, a motif that is consistently repeated to lead Joe into dangerous situations. It’s probable the filmmakers were trying to tip their hats to the original Korean film, but the overall association of badness with this corner of the city reeks of lazy and unsavoury Orientalism.

But Oldboy’s laziness extends far beyond its treatment of illness and culture. The infamous hammer hallway fight scene from Park Chan-wook’s original is practically copy and pasted, albeit with sickeningly cheesy guitar-led fight music that makes the whole scenario seem like Josh Brolin is levelling up on an awful arcade game. Then there’s the scene where Joe idly stares at a CGI octopus in an Asian restaurant. Brief and unnecessary, it’s very likely all involved thought this wonderfully subversive and clever, but it’s just an aching reminder of the superior version you wish you were watching.

There’s a chance that there is some enjoyment to be had in Oldboy if one has never witnessed how perfectly the story can be presented, as it was ten years ago. But for those familiar with the original there is precisely nothing new introduced, the twist climax limping in like a predictably unwanted guest, an over-acted one at that. Oldboy is completely undone by its lack of personal touch from its auteur director, its poor lead performance, and subtle-as-a-brick storytelling. Like its protagonist’s imprisonment, expect tedium and aggravation.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

To be honest, Captain America is one of those comic book characters I never cared for (A bit like the Green Lantern, and look how that turned out). He’s always struck me as a someone reeking of jingoism. He even pre-dates Team America by a good 60-odd years, but back then he had a purpose. He took on the old National Socialists and helped kids feel safer about what was going on around them and helped them love propaganda that little bit more. I’m sure my view point is not that controversial. Even Marvel/Paramount realised the character’s somewhat niche marketability and released this latest movie adaptation of old red, white and blue to the foreign markets with two titles; Captain America and The First Avenger. The latter adopted by Russia and South Korea.

So, yeah. I’m not a fan. Which is why it was all the more surprising to find myself really enjoying this two hours of WW2 comic book gumph. Captain America tells the story of how Chris Evans’s freaky CGI body becomes super-buff so he can take on Hugo Weaving’s freaky CGI head. Or something to that effect.

A lot has been made of the great efforts used to make Chris Evans look skinny. I had originally thought that they were going to blu-tac his head on to some skinny bugger in the same way they did for Fred Claus. Obviously they didn’t and the effects used are extremely well done. Unlike Fred Claus, which needs to curl up and die somewhere or be gone long enough for us to forgive Paul Giamatti. Whichever comes first.

The tone of movie works well. It was a brave move to set the entire story within World War 2. They could have gone the way of 1990’s Captain America and have him fighting Red Skull in 1993, which may have been the easier option. Don’t get me wrong. There’s about as much depth to this as there is in the eco-fable that was its predecessor. However, you’re being taken on such a ride, it doesn’t really matter.

Hugo Weaving – word class scenery chewer. That is all that needs to be said.

Oh, it has some horrible moments in it. Tony Stark’s father makes an extended cameo for no other reason than for people to go ‘ooooh, look it’s Tony Stark’s father! He has a mustache’. The underwritten romance between Evans and Hayley Atwells does grate with it’s needless will-they-won’t-they bollocks, but not enough to ruin the film as a whole. What does piss me off the return of Marvel’s favourite fucking bookend, Samuel L Jackson. It is this reviewer’s humble opinion that the sooner they do a Nick Fury movie, the sooner it will bomb harder than David Hassehoff’s effort and we can all get on with our lives, enjoying films that don’t have him in them. And if anyone dares mention it’s worthwhile because it’s linking everything together for The Avengers movie, may I offer that you go play in the traffic.

So, in summary Captain Amer-I-CA — FUCK YEAH!

It’s not that good, but I couldn’t resist that last line.