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Entries in Liev Schreiber (2)

Friday
Apr202012

Goon

What is it about sports that bring out our bloodlust? Why do we cheer for and encourage hard hits in football, fistfights in hockey and beatings in the ring? For one reason or another, normally peaceful human beings turn into barbarians when watching sports, but why? It’s a question I can’t answer and, evidently, neither can the new hockey “comedy” Goon, a movie without purpose, structure, flow or brains. It celebrates our desire for sports related violence without ever truly saying anything about it. It doesn’t add to the conversation; it’s merely an example of it. It’s not insightful, interesting or funny in the slightest and you should absolutely skip it.

Apparently based on a true story, the film follows Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a dimwitted bouncer living in Massachusetts. He’s never known how to do anything except for protecting others through fighting. One day, while at a hockey game with his best friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel), a disgruntled player jumps into the stands and attacks him, only to be beaten down easily by Doug. The coach of the team is impressed and brings him on to drum up interest. Eventually, his notoriety begins to travel and he is promoted to a minor league hockey team in Canada, to an area where people end their sentences with “eh” and pronounce “out” closer to “oat.” Soon, another player by the name of Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is also well known for his ability to beat down other players, catches wind of Doug and their big game is coming up. Who will win the fight?

Who cares? Goon has one of the lamest, most inconsequential stories I’ve seen in a while. When the crux of your film rests on who’s going to win in a fight between two no name minor league hockey players, you’re in trouble. This story isn’t like one of last year’s best films, Warrior, where the fighting worked as a metaphor for something greater, which transcended the brutal act of beating each other mercilessly. No, Goon is just about cheering on the senseless violence the sport is known for while ignoring the actual playing of the sport itself. Eventually, you’ll learn a playoff berth is on the line for Doug’s team, but the movie seems so uninterested in their actual record that you have no choice but to reciprocate the feeling. So while his fighting is supposed to mean something greater to the team and the players on it, it instead simply feels unnecessary.

The violence is brutally depicted and glorified to the point of sickness, made all the more so since, as mentioned, the story about glory through fighting is so bare. There’s no momentum to it and no true character arc; Doug ends the movie just about the same way he began it, albeit with a swollen eye and numerous lacerations. There’s so little going on here, even in its brief 85 minute runtime (sans the credits), that the filmmakers threw in a flimsy, poorly developed schoolboy crush side story with a random girl he meets named Eva (Alison Pill) that exists only so someone will actually care about him in his time of need, since his parents are only in two scenes total, working as the obligatory villains who aren’t proud of him, and with good reason—they don’t want to see him make a living off brutalizing others. Clearly his parents are being unreasonable.

Goon also boasts ugly cinematography and horrible editing, with so many obvious jump cuts you’ll swear the copy of the film you’re watching is missing bridging shots. It’s nice to see Seann William Scott break his usual typecasting as the outgoing, crazy character—he’s timid (at least when he’s not fighting) and not so quick with the tongue here—but simply accepting a role that’s different than your norm isn’t enough to make a good movie. There has to be some meat to it, some type of theme or meaning to hold everything together. Goon has nothing of the sort and it’s a complete waste of time.

Goon receives 1/5

Friday
Jul232010

Salt

There comes a time in the average moviegoers life where they’ll see a film and have no idea what they think about it. It’s a movie that they have no real feeling for, positive or negative. Although I wouldn’t consider myself an “average” moviegoer (seeing as how I see them all), I’ve had this experience a number of times. Now here I am, just returning home from a screening of Salt, and I’m having it again. Its plot flips every which way on its simple journey from opening to close and characters seem to switch moral sides throughout. Sometimes it works. At others, it doesn’t. But the failures outweigh the successes, making Salt a mildly enjoyable, though not recommendable, summer action picture.

The film begins in North Korea where CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is being held as a prisoner of war. She has been beaten and tortured for an indefinite period of time, but is finally released when her husband Mike (August Diehl) finds out where she is and convinces the United States government to help her. Now she is back home working at the CIA headquarters (which works secretly under the guise of RINK Petroleum) and all is well. But one day, a Russian defector named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) is found snooping around and brought in for questioning. As Salt interrogates him, he outs her as a Russian spy and the CIA agents listening in take notice. Although she insists otherwise, they don’t necessarily believe her, so she breaks out to clear her name and find her husband, who she fears may be in jeopardy.

The basic structure of the plot works like this: quick prologue, one long bout of exposition that can be summarized as “Salt will kill the Russian President,” an hour of nonstop espionage action, end. Watching this movie is like taking a sucker punch from an angry man followed by an hour of whippings. Out of nowhere it explodes into action and never lets up. Without downtime, it becomes too hectic and by the end, I was exhausted.

To extensively delve into why the film didn’t work for me would mean ruining the story and I hesitate to do that, but I must point out that the many plot twists do little to intrigue the viewer. One in particular, while interesting, makes everything before it seem unnecessary. Why would the characters act this way? What overall purpose are they serving? The amorphous plot ran on and on and as details began to surface, it only muddled the experience.

While Salt certainly would have worked as a straight forward action picture, the filmmakers decided to throw in these narrative curveballs, but it doesn’t work. I suspect Kurt Wimmer (who wrote the equally dopey Law Abiding Citizen) gave himself a big pat on the back as he put this one on the page, but the problem is he thinks his story is smarter than it actually is. It takes itself so seriously that it makes it hard for the viewer to. At least recent action fare like Knight and Day and The A-Team knew they were stupid and reveled in it. Salt merely thinks it’s doing something more, but in reality is doing much less.

Salt may be a failure, but it’s a mild one. It has moments of inspiration and Jolie is magnificent. Channeling her characters in Wanted and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, she works the tough, calculated persona well, but the material she works with simply isn’t up to her level. I hate to tell you to give a pass to Salt, but I find no reason to insist otherwise.

Salt receives 2/5