CIA exfiltration specialist Ben Affleck ( Daredevil ) and Hollywood insider John Goodman ( ) create a fake scifi movie, glamourising the Iranian Revolution, and propose to scout for locations in Tehran. The escapees will join the film scouts, using fake Canadian identities, and slip out of the country unnoticed.
This is a drama - the thriller aspects have been amped up a bit to make it artificially exciting. The writers have added lots of last-second escapes and other cliches of the thriller genre. In fact, its non-violent problem-solving makes it a diametric opposite of Zero Dark Thirty, its rival for the Oscars which deals with the same theme (America's real-life relationship with the Islamic world).
All in all, it seems like a whitewash of the Carter Administration's mis-management of the situation. Operation Eagle Claw is never mentioned by name, although it is alluded to. And the political nature of its Oscar win (Best Film) is illustrated by the fact that Ben Affleck was never even nominated for the Best Director award!
Fearless girl reporter Erin Karplunk meets a teenage hacker in the hope he can introduce her to a conspiracy of Hacktivists.
The Hacktivists believe that The Singularity has occurred. This involves the appearance of a self-created Artificial Intelligence on the Internet. Unfortunately, the AI has the Modus Operandi of Skynet in the Terminator series.
The US military's top brass include such distinguished TV actors as Blu Mankuma ( Robocop: The Series ), Matt Frewer ( Max Headroom ) and Gil Bellows ( Shawshank Redemption ). But there are all flummoxed, as the plot demands.
The computer tech is very up-to-date, which means it will all date very quickly. The visuals are quite good - the computer chat uses an on-screen texting display like the one used in Cherrybomb. This is mixed in with satellite footage, to add a 24 type feel. The result is the kind of surveillance society that Will Smith faced back in Enemy of the State (1999) ...
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The amateurs go on the run, and hide out off the grid with Seth Green ( Buffy ). Seth is actually quite grown-up now, with a beard and a stack of automatic weapons. Unfortunately he thinks he can take on a SWAT team single-handed.
The NSA run out of ideas in dealing with the Singularity. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Blu Mankuma) wants to destroy every networked server it might be using. He decides to unilaterally detonate thermo-nuclear warheads over every city on Earth. Not only will this reduce the human race to the Steam Age, but the PRC's response will reduce everyone to the Stone Age!
Ex-spies are imprisoned in The Colony run by Paul Freeman ( Raiders of the Lost Ark ). Van Damme must escape this inescapable prison - a reference to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner . Then he teams up with Dennis Rodman.
The climax is an OTT grudge match, with real-life boxer Rourke against kickboxer Van Damme.
Lots of cliches start to crop up. The Rock is kill-crazy. The only reason that the hero does not have the female lead as his love interest is that she is his sister. What sets this apart from other monster-movie shoot-‘em-ups like Resident Evil (also based on a computer game) is the references to the original source material. The Rock’s goal is to find and use the B.F.G. (Big Force Gun). There is a brief sequence where the movie’s format becomes first-person shooter, like the game itself.
The building is controlled by the drug-dealing Ma-Ma Clan, run by a scar-faced Lena Headey . This is an original character, but she fits in so well she could easily have featured in the comics.
The plot is simple enough. It is the same as The Raid, which was an Indonesian rip-off of The Rock. Our protagonists enter a building controlled by heavily-armed villains. They have to fight their way towards a climactic confrontation with the arch-villain.
What makes the film work is its style. It was made in 3-D, and this works really well in the scenes where characters use a drug named Slo-Mo. All in all, this corrects all the mistakes made in the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd movie.
Gerard Butler ( Dracula 2001 ) is the protagonist, the finest warrior in the games so far. Dexter wants him dead, so he sends Terry Crews ( The Expendables ) to kill him. Luckily, a group of Resistance fighters have worked out how to cable-hack the broadcasts - like Eyes Only in Dark Angel .
Yes, the show is basically an updated version of Running Man . But this falls flat compared to the Schwarzenegger version. If nothing else, the mixture of shaky-cam and the frenzied high-speed editing makes it almost unwatchable.
Amber Valetta is Butler's wife, who is an Avatar in a less violent (but sexually exploitative) version of the game. Other familiar faces can also be spotted - Sam Witwer ( Smallville: S9 ) as a shrink and Milo Ventrigliari ( Heroes ) as a TV show presenter.
By sheer chance, Justin gets a treasure-trove of time-money. He tries leading the rich life, and encounters slimy billionaire Mr Weis (Vincent Karthusier - Angel ) and his daughter ( Amanda Seyfried ).
Justin and Amanda go on a Bonnie and Clyde crime spree together, falling foul of Police detective Cillian Murphy ( Batman Begins, Sunshine ) who prances around in a stylish leather trench-coat and 1970s pursuit car. Yes, in the future everything will be inexplicably Retro.
The result is a luke-warm crime thriller sent in an unconvincing future that is a metaphor for the vicious US capitalist system.
Cruise massacres a horde of CIA goons in order to protect the McGuffin, in this case a battery that acts as an eternal power source. This is to prevent it falling into the hands of a Spanish arms dealer. This ignores the fact that Spain is a NATO country, and thus the USA would be able to buy the battery back at a reasonable price.
Like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York , Snow is sent in as a one-man rescue team. Pearce acquits himself well in the role, which would be better suited to an established action star like Vin Diesel. Grace is a feisty heroine, and they make the standard bickering pair (as in Romancing The Stone ). They can even bluff their way through the convicts, an entirely Caucasian bunch - despite being set in a US prison, it was filmed in Europe so the ethnic mix is off. The token ethnic person in the cast is Snow's CIA buddy Lenny James ( Jericho, The Walking Dead ).
This was based on an Original Idea by Luc Besson . No doubt he had it while watching a marathon of 1980s action films.
Gruner tries to resign. However, LAPD goons Tim Thomerson ( Trancers ) and Brion James ( Alien Mine ) force him into a secret mission to Java. He meets some other cast members who are slumming it, in more ways than one. Deborah Shelton from Dallas looks like she has become a weight-lifter, and Thomas Jane ( Deep Blue Sea ) has a small part - no pun intended.
The story follows the Rocky mould - No real surprises, it is all predictable enough. Evangeline Lilly is Jackman’s sort-of-love-interest - it is very family-friendly.
Our hero has to evade the Marauders, led by Kate Vernon . He teams up with Gordon Kennedy ( Robin Hood (2006) ) and his nephew, the poor white trash version of the Magic Negro cliche. Yes, despite lacking skills or weapons they let their hillbilly charm guide them to inexplicable success.
They end up facing off against Gareth David Lloyd ( Torchwood ) in one of his youngest-looking and most uninspired performances.
The plot is a standard pseudo-noir whodunnit/conspiracy thriller. Police Detective Bruce Willis investigates a murder, and uncovers a conspiracy. Somehow, someone can kill people by killing their android! Suspects include the inventor of the Avatar androids (James Cromwell - Star Trek: First Contact ) and his opponent, the neo-Luddite Ving Rhames ( Death Race 2 ).
The concept of Avatar Androids falls flat, and as a mystery thriller this is unoriginal. For example, it is nowhere near as good as Will Smith's somewhat similar I, Robot .
Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell - Minority Report ) lives in a Dystopia, like in Blade Runner . The whole economy depends on slum-dwellers like Quaid and his best buddy (Bokeem Woodbine - Blade: The Series ) who commute through the Earth's core to the other side of the world. They work in a factory to build Cohaagen's army of killer robots (like in I, Robot ). Of course, Cohaagen plans to use his robots to kill and replace the slum-dwellers. Star Wars I: Phantom Menace , anyone?
The character of Richter does not appear in this version of the film. Instead, he is amalgamated with his wife. This, of course, removes the murderous motivation of the pursuer - but who cares, right? And instead of getting Michael Ironside, who looks like he can take on Arnie, we get a generic action-babe (like in Underworld ).
In the film In Bruges, Farrell's dim-witted Irish hitman proclaims that, in the coming Race-war, I'm fighting for the Blacks! Well, this film actually makes it come true. To American Audiences, the villains are the British Empire and the heroes are the Colonial Separatists - the American Founding Fathers reborn in Australia. However, a deeper exploration of the film shows far more disturbing themes. The UK has been taken over by a US President named Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston - ), a right-wing extremist straight out of the Tea Party. The Al-Qaeda and Taliban have relocated to Australia, where they continue their anti-Imperialist struggle. Hauser (Farrell, with a goatee beard - marking him as an evil twin!) was assigned to kill Matthias Bin Laden (Bill Nighy - Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3 ). Instead, he defects - his intent to take out a Pentagon's worth of robots and change the New World Order.
Melinda ( Jessica Biel ) pops up to help Quaid when things get tough for him, and to act as a compulsory love interest. But other than that she has little or nothing to do.
The final climax, of course, boils down to Colin Farrell brawling with the dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Seriously.
Our hero, with Olivia Wilde , must re-enact the first film (but with updated 3-D SPFX). Pure style over substance, nothing original here.
James McAvoy ( X-Men: First Class ) lives a boring humdrum life - like Neo in The Matrix or Ed Norton in Fight Club . Then he meets beautiful hit-woman Fox ( Angelina Jolie , looking scarily thin compared to her healthier Lara Croft days). She recruits him into a fraternity of assassins run by Sloan (Morgan Freeman - Oblivion ). The assassins' targets are designated by a magical loom, which functions like The Machine in Person Of Interest .
In an alternate universe, NATO has collapsed and the USA stands alone. Suddenly, the USA is invaded from all sides. Patrick Swayze ( Steel Dawn ) teams up with other tweenagers, including Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey . Of note, Swayze and Grey later teamed up together for Dirty Dancing.
Swayze hangs out in the desert, meditating while doing a handstand. The place does not just look like Tattooine, it is also full of Sandpeople. They are armed with gaffi sticks, and have their heads swathed in bandages. Unfortunately for the Tusken Raiders, Swayze is a martial arts expert with his own sword.
Swayze and his mentor are ambushed by the villain's brutal henchman and his minions. Even the casting is cliched. The mentor is a Japanese Samurai, while the antagonist is an Englishman. The incidental music is OTT, and gives the film a strangely dated feel.
Swayze moves on, across a desert filled with stranded ships. Lots of great helicopter footage to set the scene. Eventually he arrives at a moisture farm run by Lisa Niemi and guarded by Brion James ( Enemy Mine ).
Unfortunately our hero finds himself in the classic Western movie scenario, as the entire genre seems to owe a lot to the real-life Johnson County Range War. The small farmers are being oppressed by their powerful neighbour, Damnil (Anthony Zerbe - License To Kill ), and his band of hired thugs. One of them is Arnold Vosloo ( The Mummy (1999) ), which marks this out as made-in-South Africa. The plot itself devolves into Shane.
Basically, this movie has about the same amount of diversity as The Breakfast Club. In fact, that is unfair to the John Hughes movie. Breakfast Club has diversity of archetypes, but it also has diversity WITHIN the archetypes too. The whole message of the film is that nobody is JUST a geek, a jock, a nerd, a princess or even a teacher. However, three decades later it would be decried as just a bunch of rich white folk.
The kids actually make it home from their camping trip unscathed. This is probably the first time ever in a movie. However, they discover they have wandered into a rehash of Red Dawn (1984) . Except their country is Australia and the invaders are
The invaders' countries are not identified by name. However, the kids listen to a radio broadcast that claims they have invaded because their countries are poor and they need Australia's vast natural resources. Unfortunately the part about poverty cannot actually be true. After all, the soldiers have brand new body armour and their air cover outnumbers the locals by three to one. Also, it is lucky that there is a token Chinese teenager in the group because the invaders appear to be from an oriental country.
The story needs a climactic third act. Luckily, the small town is right next to a strategic road-bridge that the invaders need to keep their main supply route operating. The teenagers manage to outsmart the trained soldiers protecting it. However, will the Christian one manage to get character development and overcome her pacifist beliefs when the plot demands it?
The script is mostly the same as the original, but the execution is flawed. It lacks the epic feel that John Milius delivered, and there is no moral ambiguity. Instead, the protagonists are flawless and virtually unkillable most of the time. For example, they develop their skills though makeshift training rather than on-the-job learning. No matter how stupid the insurgents' actions are, the heavily-armed and armoured North Korean Marines are easy victims.
The CIA creates a group of super-soldiers, experts in assassination. It then inexplicably uses them as deep cover agents, where they have to blend in and avoid any of the combat situations they were created for. The assassinations are left to teams of normal agents with norrmal weapons and skills.
Super-soldier Jeremy Renner ( Avengers Assemble ) is targeted for assassination by his own side, so he goes on the run. He is running out of super-soldier-serum so he needs more.
The only person who can help him is Rachel Weitz , conveniently a beautiful woman (and thus a potential love interest). They go on the run together, as always happens in this kind of thing.
Bourne hangs out with illegal immigrants in Greece, about as far north of the Brandt line as he can safely go without getting picked up by NSA electronic intelligence. He gets contacted by Nikki ( Julia Stiles ), who has left the CIA. She has decided to do a Snowdon and reveal the CIA's secret black-ops programs. Bourne gets called in to save her.
The CIA now come after Nikki and Bourne. Pamela Barnes ( Joan Allen ) has disappeared, presumably promoted to Vice President or sent off to run Death Race in a top-security prison somewhere. Instead, the main female in the unit is Alicia Vikander . She looks so young that it seems like she is there for work experience, or perhaps it is Bring your daughter to work day. It turns out that she graduated from Stanford a few years previously, but she must have shot up the ranks to be in such a sensitive job while she is still in her twenties.
Bourne starts to remember his father (Gregg Henry - Just Before Dawn ), a CIA analyst who was blown up in a supposed terrorist bombing. Now, in a gratuitous sub-plot, it turns out that Bourne now has extra motivation. My name is Inigo Bourne, you killed my father - prepare to die!
The CIA Director is busy with his new master-plan. He wants to use a social media app to harvest everyone's data. This is pretty much the villain's plan in Spectre . If it has now become a cliche, it is because this film reflects public news stories. In real life, Snowdon's revelations indicate that the NSA already uses such techniques. It is useless against terrorists, who do not have facebook profiles, and is only useful as a tool of mass oppression against law-abiding citizens. This movie is basically art imitating life, but in the real world the bad guys have already won.
Murderous mayhem ensues. This is an incredible series of car chases and explosions.
Lauren Cohan is a television reporter working for Billionaire Mr Weyland (Ving Rhames - Surrogates ). Weyland has a huge portfolio, including a TV network and the US Prison system. He may even be related to one of the founders of the Mega-Corp from the Alien series. Anyway, Cohan invents the idea of maximizing TV ratings by turning prison riots into a live, televised spectator sport. This is developed into the Death Race, and when Goss ends up in prison he soon becomes the top competitor.
The UN sends in US Special Forces and UniSols. Unfortunately everyone (terrorists and Merkins alike) uses crap tactics - the regular forces stand in the open and wait to get shot, while the UniSols split up and wait to get picked off one at a time.
Meanwhile, Luc Devereux (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Replicant ) is the last of the original Vietnam-era UniSols. He is undergoing therapy, but gets re-activated.
The villains also have a Dolph Lungren ( View To A Kill ) clone. Lots of fight scenes ensue.
This is the fifth film in the series - it shows how far the stars have sunk, that they will now do this again.
However, an Agency of the US Federal Government is sending assassins after the UniSols. Since only a super-powered soldier can take on the UniSols, the Government hit-men are basically the next generation of cloned Unisols.
Stallone leads a rag-tag mix of mercenaries, from fellow 1980s star Dolph Lundgren ( Universal Soldier ) to more recent action heroes Jason Statham ( Ghosts of Mars ), Jet Li ( The One ) and token black guy Terry Crews. When not hanging out in the tattoo parlour of Mickey Rourke ( Iron Man 2 ) they kill Somali fishermen on behalf of a MegaCorp.
CIA goon Bruce Willis ( Surrogates ) hires the Mercs to assassinate a Latin American dictator (the Cuban cop in Dexter). The real target is the dictator's backer, drug baron Eric Roberts ( Dr Who TV Movie ). In order to defeat the villains and save the predictable damsel in distress, the unstoppable crew must kill every man in the town between the ages of 15 and 50. No problems there.
Among other things, this completely fails the Bechdel test. The only other proper female character is Charisma Carpenter , who is Statham's love interest long enough to give him an excuse to beat up a wife-beater.
Basically, the film staggers from one unbelievably OTT action scene to the next one. There is no suspense, we know EXACTLY what is going to happen at every step. That said, nobody really cares. If you liked the most recent Rambo film, you will love this!
The roster gets a shake-up this time. Stallone and Statham are still in charge, supported by Lungren, Couture and Crews. Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth both get a look-in, while the team also gets a token girl. Strangely, she is the only one who is a newcomer - an irony that while the men are all aged over fifty (except Hemsworth), the girl is in her twenties.
One thing that is remarkable is the lack of swearing. Apparently the film was meant to be a PG-12, so it was dumbed down for family audiences. The word is that thanks to a backlash by fans, Stallone was forced to put in extra scenes of ultra-violence. However, despite the on-screen decapitations the dialogue is still child-friendly so Yanks can take their kiddies to see it.
Stallone retires his old team, even though they did great work in the previous two movies. The second act of the film is Stallone recruiting a new team (with help from Kelsey Grammer – Transformers 4 ). This includes relative newcomer Kellan Lutz ( Legend of Hercules ) and the first woman Expendable – Ronda Rousey (a slightly younger version of Gina Carano ). They are more hi-tech than the old mob, using 21st Century hacking techniques to bring this up-to-date with modern techno-thrillers. Of course, it all goes wrong so there is a cliffhanger at the end of the Second Act.
Finally, the climactic third act features Stallone pulling his old buddies out of retirement. This is just as well for Statham, because Charisma Carpenter is nowhere in sight this time. The CIA get directly involved again, with Bruce Willis’ replacement (a foul-mouthed Harrison Ford – Ender’s Game ) arriving with more goons – Arnie Schwartzenegger and Jet Li!
The place is run by Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ), a vicious SOB who has used Stallone's textbook to construct an apparently escape-proof prison. The head guard is Vinny Jones ( Swordfish ), while the Medical officer is Sam Neill ( Alcatraz ). Yes, Christ and Damien Thorne are on the same side for once!
Luckily, while on the inside, Stallone is befriended by his co-star from The Expendables series, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Basically, an undercover mission goes badly wrong. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ), sole survivor, is the obvious suspect. He must go on the run, and recruit a new team of expert spies to save the world, without backup. They must break into the CIA's most secure data vault and steal the NOC list - a reliably lo-tech mcguffin more recently used in the James Bond effort Skyfall .
In a 1990s update to the old cliche, the climax is not aboard the Orient Express but the Eurochunnel train.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup. Luckily Hunt can rely on:
The villain is the bad guy from the Swedish adaptations of the Millennium books. He is no longer a communist who wants to destroy society, he is a Nihilist who wants to destroy the world! His plan is to trick the USA and Russia into starting a nuclear war with each other. Just like the Bond villains of outdated Cold War movies ( The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only live Twice ). Yes, this is an updated version of a 1960s plot.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) is framed and disavowed, so he cannot use the IMF's infinite resources to save the day. He and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup.
A top spy with world-class IMF-style training has gone rogue, and only Ethan Hunt can stop him. Ethan is still the IMF’s top field agent, despite being only five years younger than Jim Phelps (Jon Voight – Tomb Raider ) was in the first film twenty-ish years ago. Not only has Ethan passed the age of retirement from field duty, he was a trainer and then he actually retired in the third film. What the heck a middle-aged fifty-something man is doing on the front line is never adequately explained.
A beautiful lady spy helps Ethan, but her loyalties are unclear. This time it is Rebecca Ferguson , a relative unknown who does the Sidney Bristow stuff from Alias . She is the best sight in a thigh-slit dress since Maggie Q a couple of movies ago. She is twenty years younger than Cruise, though she has not aged as well.
The villain wants something that is locked in an impregnable vault, so Ethan must steal it for him. The villain uses one of Ethan's friends as leverage and gets Ethan to hand it over.
Those pretty much happen in all the other movies. What do you want to bet that this film has exactly the same story?
The villain, Solomon Lane (no, not Solomon Kane ) has a creepy English accent. In Hollywood movies this is shorthand for villainous and should not indicate any particular country, but there are only five superpowers (permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) and when you rule out Russia, China, France and the USA then there is only one left. Another clue – the film’s title (MI-5) is also the name of a certain counter-intelligence agency ...
There are a number of unanswered questions. Why does The Syndicate run around committing acts of global terrorism? Who is funding them, since the goal of their mission is to access a specific supply of funds? After all, this is basically the storyline of Swordfish - which ironically was pulled from cinemas in its final week because of the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. Where did a government dedicated to financial austerity get thousands of millions of dollars to spare, and how did a relatively small government agency get that money into its off-the-books black-ops budget?
Finally, the UK Prime Minister is repeatedly referred to as the PM of Great Britain (with no mention of Northern Ireland) ... one would have hoped that a film largely shot in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would get small details like the name of the country correct!
Ethan Hawke ( Gattacca ) and Lena Headey live in a nice, remote suburb with their cliched teenage offspring - the sexy schoolgirl daughter and the tech-nerd son. Unfortunately they have a couple of unexpected visitors, and end up being besieged by an updated version of Alex and the Droogs from Clockwork Orange .
The real gut-wrenching scenes are not the conflict with the Droogs. It is when the veneer of middle-class suburban civilisation is stripped away, and the protagonists try to placate the villains by torturing a homeless man.
The political subtext of the film is an indictment of wealthy people who choose to Purge - even though it benefits poor people. An urban revolutionary (Michael K Williams - Flash Forward ) wants to protect the poor from this murderous system.
A small group of people band together, trapped on the streets of a city where the inhabitants have gone feral for the night. As well as gang-bangers on the prowl, they also have to escape the conspiracy's SWAT team. Luckily, one of the good guys is a Special Forces soldier with all the necessary combat gear. Of curse, this means he is Purging too ...
What is most shocking about the concept of the Purge is that when murder is decriminalised, every grudge (including domestic disputes) becomes murderous. Is law (and fear of prosecution) the only thing that prevents everyone from becoming a killer?
Mykelita Williamson ( The Final Destination ) is a shopkeeper in a deprived part of town that is a short walk from the Senator's mansion. He and his employees decide to help the Senator. After all, the murder-squad on her tail are White Supermacists.
An anti-Purge revolutionary is also in town for Purge night. This character seems to be based on the one played by Michael K Williams ( Flash Forward ) in the original. Presumably Williams was unable to participate in this film because he was too busy appearing in Ghostbusters (2016) .
The story is a case of white middle-class liberals and the black working class taking on the white aristocracy and white working-class extremists of America. Yes, the politics are very heavy-handed. The Liberal female Senator is obviously a reference to Hillary Clinton, while her religious fundamentalist opponent could be any one of the Republican candidates.
Years later Machete is in Texas, where Federal Agent Jessica Alba is hassling Michelle Rodriguez for helping illegal immigrants. Corrupt businessman Jeff Fahy ( Lost ) hires Machete to kill an anti-immigration Senator (Robert DeNiro - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ). However, it is a double-cross. Machete is framed, on the run ...
Rodriguez's writing can be overly self-indulgent, for example in his third Mariachi film Once Upon A Time In Mexico . But this is deliberately OTT, like Planet Terror . There are lots of deliberate mistakes, and the climax is completely OTT.
Machete has blundered into a much bigger case. He is hired by the US President - played by a newcomer named Carlos Estevez, who is the spitting image of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone . POTUS gives Machete a CIA handler ( Amber Heard ), who sends him off to rescue a hooker held prisoner by Sofia Vergara and her sidekick Alexa Vega .
Just as in the original film, this is a parody that encompasses many cliches of action movies. As such, there is no point in applying logic to the plot.