Darke Reviews | The Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)

I checked in on my phone at the theatre a few hours before seeing this one as I did a double feature tonight. On my facebook page, I asked “why does this exist?” In the realm of sequels out there, there are ones we deserve, ones we want, ones we earn, and ones we go – how did this even happen? The remake of the Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent classic hitman caper debuted in January of 2011; with a production budget of $40 million and a total domestic haul of $29 million ($62 worldwide). It didn’t do much better in DVD sails with a mediocre $17 million total. Yet…here we have a sequel. We have a sequel to this thing when Ghostbusters (2016); which has earned $208 million on it’s $144 million budget and is still showing is being lambasted as a “flop” and sequel plans cancelled.  So 5 years later, we get this film, but Jason Statham is usually good for an action sequence.

The question is should the Mechanic have been resurrected?

The story and screenplay are brought to you by Philip Shelby (Survivor)  and Brian Pittman (A Haunting At Silver Falls, Dawn Patrol), with screenplay by Shelby and Tony Mosher (just this..); I am left wondering if they know how to tell a cohesive narrative. They introduce points that mean nothing, jump locations as if they are nothing, fail to create dramatic tension, and quite honestly just get to the edge of farcical but take themselves too seriously to let the audience feel comfortable to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I feel like there may have been a man with a gun in the writing room waiting for the first draft and taking that as the final copy despite protests to the contrary. There are leaps of logic, decision making, and plot points that left me scratching my head and scrunching my face in confusion.

Some of that blame might go to director Dennis Gansel, who provided me one of my favourite vampire films in the past few years We Are The Night (look for a review in October). He failed on this one and failed big, I can see all the marks of the European shooting style and sensibilities in how many of the shots were blocked, how the camera was used, and actors positioned. But he, or someone in the production, should have watched the dailies and realized something wasn’t working. Ok…nothing was working. Chemistry, the Camera, the action, none of it worked.

Jason Statham clearly was in it for a paycheck and must have been doing this while rehearsing for Fast 8. His attention isn’t here nor is any of the charm he can manage. This is just generic Statham. A generic movie with him that I think they rewrote to make it a sequel to the Mechanic because they couldn’t do anything else with the concept to make an attempt to sell it. I spoke of chemistry and there is none. If someone buys the relationship and so called emotions between Jessica Alba’s Gina, and his Arthur Bishop tell me what I missed. There’s precisely one scene where they are drinking beer together that I bought and I think it’s because both actors realized the mistake they made signing this and needed the drink. Alba emotes with all the force of Jai Courtney in this movie. The writers didn’t do her any favors when they tell me she’s supposed to be ex-military and she’s entirely relegated to damsel. I am not even bothering to talk about the villains; there isn’t a point – much like this movie.

I may have cared more if I could see a shot. Some shots linger too long or have no point. I mean Jessica has a lovely body, always has, but there’s really no point to watching her dolphin kick in the lovely blue waters of Thailand for 30 seconds. Other shots cut so quickly from one angle to the other I think there may have been two editors playing a nasty game of tug of war with the audiences attention span as the flag in the middle of the rope; and we suffer for it. It’s so choppy and bouncing (not quite shaky) that a love scene in the film comes across as two blocks of wood trying to figure out how this kissing thing and sex thing work. They even kept a shot of Alba laughing in the scene, not a smile, I mean a laugh. It is not good to have the lady love laugh during sex. Just sayin’. The kills are patently ridiculous…beyond the pale.

Oh and I get you are on a budget. I totally do. You could try just a bit…bit harder to make me not realize you are on a set and the image is composite. Maybe make the lighting look less like a studio? Maybe not use something that’s obviously a miniature. There’s even a scene near the beginning where Statham is in a small boat and you can *tell* it isn’t on the water. It looks like a students first film and I expected to see someone’s hand moving the underside of the boat. You can almost..almost see someone throw water in the air as he ‘jumps in’. It’s THAT bad.


This is bad.

That’s it. Just bad. You can’t even MST3K it because it’s that bad. There are absolutely no stakes. No concern. No real threat. Plot armor of the gods.  The action is mediocre and nothing new. This is like bad fanfic (and there’s a lot of good fanfic, this isn’t it!)

Should you see it?

Really, you need to ask? No. No you shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have either, but I have to live with that choice. You don’t.

Will you buy it on…?

Stop. I am done writing about this. It isn’t worth a single other word.


Darke Reviews | Furious 7 (2015)

Furious 7.  As I have said in previous reviews when you are this invested in a franchise it is already a forgone conclusion that you are seeing this film. So how do I review it? Do I review it? Well of course I do. It’s worth mentioning as I open this that there was a clip in the pre movie commercials of Vin Diesel being asked if he thinks this is the best of the franchise. His response brought a tear to my eye.

“Whenever we went to a movie premier, I would turn to Paul and ask was it the best? He would look to me and tell me the best is still in the can. I am hoping to hear from him, somehow that he thinks this one is the best.” These men were brothers in real life as much as they were in the films. Even Paul’s mother knew it and is quoted by Diesel as saying “I thought they needed my strength but realized when I got there and broke down before his family, that it was I who needed theirs.”His mother hugged me and said I am so sorry … I said sorry? You’re the mother who lost a son? … She said yes, but you lost your other half.”

So how was the movie?

The writer on the franchise since Tokyo Drift , Chris Morgan, returns to give us what will likely be the last of the series. If Fast 5 was a love letter to Oceans 11 with cars and Furious 6 was a love letter to shark jumping everywhere, then this film is the love letter to Mission Impossible, while it jumps a shark with friggin lasers on their heads. It is gloriously over the top and embraces it with a smile and a Corona. The natural charm and chemistry of the returning cast members makes every ridiculous scene work. Morgan is also wise enough to give us slow moments where the characters can interact and show why we have stuck with them for the six previous movies. It’s not just long looks, but comes down to the performances and delivery which means Morgan needs some help from the cast

I won’t go too long here. Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto who continues to stubborn and street prophet his way through the movies. Walker’s role is probably more reduced than originally intended, but the moments he gets with Mia (Jordana Brewster) sell every single time. Michelle Rodriguez continues as Letty and is both beautiful and one of the baddest women we have on screen. The meme of keep your pop icons, we have our own should equally apply to this woman. Tyrese keeps earning that paycheck as CinemaSins says and sadly continues to be the weakest part of the family. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges is once again epic as Tej and a highlight for the film. Dwayne Johnson was born to be in this franchise and clearly has a blast with every single scene chewing line.

Joining this film is Statham as Lee Christmas, er the Driver, er …Deckard Shaw. Oh heck with it. Jason Statham is Jason Statham. Djimon Hounsou comes in as a secondary villain along with Tony Jaa and a brief but wicked appearance of Ronda Rousey. Kurt Russell makes his own appearance as Nobody taking a page from the Rock and looking to chew scenery. In my private fiction I think he was secretly Jack Burton 20 years later. Our movies McGuffin is a person this time, Nathalie Emmanuel, better known as Missandei from Game of Thrones. It was nice to hear her in her own speaking voice rather than her clipped precise tones from the show.

James Wan, best known for Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious is replacing Justin Lin at the helm. I think that might be where the seams begin to show. He just doesn’t have what Lin did. This isn’t to say he was horrible, but he isn’t as gifted with the camera or ensemble as Lin. There’s some weird camera tricks used that detract from the film and there just is not enough love for certain characters that I think comes down to the director more than anything else. Granted, he still directed the heck out of the film while the shark continued to do it’s double half back flip with a triple twist. He does run this far more as an over the top Mission Impossible action film than a car movie, but that comes across as an observation than a complaint.

From the technicals CG is CG. Physics is bound, gagged, slapped around, and hung up in an oubliette – and we don’t care! Seriously we don’t. You shouldn’t. The movie is absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense from a biologic, architectural, or engineering standpoint. Gravity? HA! Injuries? Don’t make me laugh. Actually the movie did more than a few times and I was thankful for it.


The final film in the Fast franchise is so beautifully over the top any flaws it has, which there are a few, don’t seem to matter. This is one of the first movies this year I can feel comfortable saying “Go See it

– If you are invested already – you didn’t need my review.

– If you weren’t invested – you also didn’t need it. You weren’t going to see it anyway. Seeing it before the others is a disservice to the series.

The movie is good. It is beefcake. It is cheesecake. It is ridiculous and I love it for all of it. 14 years of these movies and the series can rest now. It earned it and got a good send off.



Rollover spoiler –

I did cry at the end from the reshoots they added to address Paul Walkers death. Diesels send off for him was as much to the character of Brian as it was to Paul himself. It was moving and heartfelt. I am not sure what the original ending was, nor does it matter. This was good and I am glad they did it the way they did.

– end spoiler

Darke Reviews | Expendables 3 (2014)

Ah the stars of yore trying to get one last paycheck. Except, it’s not the stars of yore in this one; is it? What happens when you try to make a movie where you have older actors and individuals trying to pass the torch to younger ones? This sounds like one of the rumored Ghostbusters 3 plots. Should Ghostbusters 3 ever come the out of pre production ecto containment unit it’s been in, the producers need to watch this movie for pointers.

Which pointers? Good? Bad? Ugly?

Well…rather than keep a director between films they went with a new guy. Seems silly to not keep whats working, but who am I to understand studio logic. Ok, other film buffs reading this stop laughing at that oxymoron. This time we get Patrick Hughes who has previously directed a relatively small scale film called Red Hill. I’ve seen this and it’s good. I’ve seen Expendable 3 and I can tell you a budget isn’t always the best thing. He keeps a good style and knows the right places to focus and what he does with what he has is actually really good. Sadly, Stallone is one of the producers so I know how his hands may have been tied. I also said he does well with what he had.

What he has is a Three Writer Script. You may commence shuddering if you’ve read my reviews before. Stallone, aside from starring and producing also provides the Story credit and one of the screenplay credits. Olympus has Fallen writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt gives us our other two. As much as I like Olympus has Fallen for what it does right, this script fails in almost all those respects.

It doesn’t make you care about any of the characters that are being introduced of which there are many. You can’t keep track of the ones that you have from the previous films and nothing with them even seems to matter. The stakes *just* aren’t there. In a PG-13 film they just didn’t go enough to the places they need to. I am not talking blood and guts, I can get good action without that. I’d rather have no blood than CGI blood. I mean risks. I mean violence. I mean honest to darkness threat to characters to make me even believe for a moment they may be in danger.

But this is Expendables. Why bother with a plot? That’s actually the problem. They did. It needs to be judged. It’s a very thin plot and honestly they spend more time on the slow beats than they should have. Much like Expendables 1 there’s a lot of things that are focused on that no one wants. The first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes have it all. The down side is the movie runs just over two hours. That means there’s nearly eighty minutes of – why am I watching this?

Acting? Ok now you are trying to make *me* laugh writing this. That is so not in this film. Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Li, Couture, and reprise their roles from the first two films. Willis was asked to leave after being a prima donna. There’s even a joke in the movie about it. We introduce Snipes who gets a lovely little joke at his own expense. Gibson who seems to be playing an evolved version of one of his former characters. Kelsey Grammer, I do not know why he is in this either.  Banderas is a joke that runs too too long. Ford walks in, is Ford and walks off. Its enough.

We also introduce Victor Ortiz (Boxer and Dancing with the Stars…no seriously!), Kellan Lutz (from the godawful Hercules earlier and Twilight), Glenn Powell since Chris Evans was busy, and our first real female – Ronda Rousey an MMA fighter. Rousey and Lutz are the most memorable additions. Rousey shining as a fighter in her sequences and generally being kinda awesome. She should get used more if she wishes and can be a new action star along side Carano and Gadot. We do need more women action heroes and she’s a good start.

The action, when we get it is explosive (no pun intended) and intense. It’s well done, well choreographed and just generally good. When you can see it. There’s the tiniest bit of shaky cam for reasons that I cannot fathom. Quick cuts hide some of the flaws. The only one with a really good hand to hand fight is Rousey. Her fight is good and watchable. The gunplay is all you’d want to see from an 80’s film and just as ridonkulous.


Yeah, so this happened. It is ridiculous, but if you can just watch the opening act and final act you get everything you want. Nothing else is relevant. Really – NOTHING else. It might explain why it tanked in the box office this weekend. It only made 3 times what Willis was asking to be paid for his work in the movie. I will let that sink in.

If you are bored and want some action schlock – go see this. If you can find a way to catch just the opening and ending you’ll be in really great shape.

I WAS entertained mostly, but I don’t believe in sending folks to movies for mostly.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy (again), TMNT, or save your money for SIn City: A Dame to Kill for.