Title: Free Fire | Rated: R | Runtime: 90 min | Theaters wide
While it does get messy, Ben Wheatley’s action-comedy Free Fire bursts with infectious energy throughout, which keeps its simple premise interesting. Mostly taking place in a single warehouse, the film depicts a shootout between arms dealers and IRA members after their deal goes south. Realism seems to have no place here, as characters get shot multiple times and yet their wounds seem to irritate them no more than a stubbed toe would. They fire off insults as much as they do bullets, and the film’s humor tends to come from their giggles and taunts. The cast have thin characters to work with, but they are undeniably enthusiastic, and their charisma carry their performances, with Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, and Jack Reynor impressing. Laurie Rose’s cinematography certainly helps in this regard, as the camera gets intimately close with the characters. The editing work by Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump give the film a frenetic, staccato-like pace that, while mostly effective, results in confusion during the action sequences. An idiosyncratic score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow augments the film’s dark comedy aspects, and the many sounds heard during the shootout are deliciously crisp and emphatic. For better or for worse, this is an entertaining if not brainless affair.
* Photos courtesy of A24
Title: Colossal | Rated: R | Runtime: 110 min | Theaters limited (expanding)
At first, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal comes across as a quirky kaiju comedy, but it holds plenty of surprises that cause it to transcend that initial impression. We may judge Gloria (Anne Hathaway) for her alcoholism and inability to be responsible for her actions, but the film – utilizing Hathaway’s committed earnestness – keep her a character deserving of our empathy. Thus it becomes clear that the kaiju is a manifestation of her alcoholism, and her realization of that plays a significant role in her development into someone whom we cheer on. Coupled with this feminist narrative are the wonderfully executed deconstruction and subversion of the Nice Guy archetype, which Jason Sudeikis takes advantage of to deliver an incredibly layered performance. Admittedly, the film does drag in certain scenes that distract it from its true purpose, but for the most part, it stays on track to become a compelling character study.
Colossal Rating: 4.0/5.0
Title: Your Name. | Rated: PG | Runtime: 106 min | Theaters wide
In order to be eligible for Oscar consideration, a film must be scheduled for at least a week-long qualifying run in theater(s) in a given year. This tends to explain why there’s always a host of “Oscar bait” films squeezing into the cinema in November and December. Makoto Shinkai’s anime film Your Name. was one of these pictures last year, having screened at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 in Los Angeles from December 2 to December 8. At the time, I was aware of the buzz surrounding it (it was Japan’s highest grossing film last year, and just a month later, it beat Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away to become the highest grossing anime film worldwide) and wanted to check it out, but previously scheduled plans kept me from doing so. Now, months later, I finally caught it as it graces American theaters again. Truth be told, reader, when the end credits began to roll, I was mentally kicking myself for not seeing it back in December.