Review: The Gambler (2014)

2015/01/img_0148.jpg Mark Wahlberg’s fine and committed performance isn’t enough to save The Gambler – Rupert Wyatt’s remake of the 1970s crime drama – from being slight and dull. Literature professor and blackjack addict Jim Bennett (Wahlberg) is thousands of dollars in debt, turning to loan sharks for help after his wealthy mother (Jessica Lange) leaves him cold. But when he fails to pay back the loaned money, his position worsens further. Continue reading “Review: The Gambler (2014)”

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Review: Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor – the re-telling of a real-life military operation that took place in 2005 – sees director Peter Berg on a mission to atone for his involvement in Battleship, the multi-million dollar blockbuster flop. He succeeds in part, yet Lone Survivor, no matter how intense and true-to-life it’s brought to the screen, can’t help but feel overblown, particularly thanks to the slideshow epilogue that brings it all to a mawkish close. Continue reading “Review: Lone Survivor (2013)”

Review: Pain & Gain (2013)

Pain and Gain

Leaving the ludicrously successful world of sentient robotic beings destroying the world bit-by-bit (otherwise known as Transformers), director Michael Bay lends his hand to dark satire Pain & Gain, the bizarrely true story of a mid-90s plot that saw three bodybuilders extort and blackmail their way to success. It’s regrettable, then, that what is, at times, a well performed and deliciously dark deconstruction of the American Dream, quickly becomes a distasteful and hard-featured botch job thanks to Bay’s inability to be anything but over-the-top and overambitious.  Continue reading “Review: Pain & Gain (2013)”

Review: Broken City (2013)

Broken City

Corruption-based political thriller Broken City hails from director Allen Hughes – one half of the directorial team behind The Book Of Eli and From Hell – and screenwriter Brian Tucker and offers a murky and coarse, yet deeply scatterbrained and prosaic insight into the underbelly of untrustworthy figures in New York City, complete with all the typical neo-noir tropes, including heavy doses of sex, murder, adultery and deception. Continue reading “Review: Broken City (2013)”

Review: Ted (2012)

Plagued by loneliness, eight year old John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) makes a Christmas wish for his teddy bear to come to life. When it does, John transforms into the happiest boy alive, and the teddy bear becomes somewhat of a minor celebrity. However, as years come to pass and John finds himself in a position where his girlfriend Laurie (Mila Kunis) wants more from their relationship, he’s forced to make some life-changing decisions regarding his Continue reading “Review: Ted (2012)”

Review: The Fighter (2010)

David O. Russell’s new film, The Fighter, is about a dysfunctional family based on the boxer Mickey Ward’s turbulent life.

The Fighter tells the story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) who’s attempts at a boxing career are always met with failure. Trained by his drug-addicted brother, Dicky, and managed by their manipulative mother, Alice, Micky struggles to escape his tight-knit family and carve a successful life of his own.

Dicky’s dramatic fall from grace and the fractured shards of his dysfunctional family spur Micky forward, tearing him down, yet building him up at the same time, leading him to girlfriend Charlene and a career-move to LA.

Shepherded by Wahlberg’s Micky and Bale’s Dicky, The Fighter builds its dynamic around the family, choosing to focus on the families relationship, rivalry and manipulation, rather than the boxing itself, which is seen as a form of escapism, for Micky in particular.

Wahlberg and Bale each inhabit their respective characters absolutely, their personaes played against one another to represent two brothers struggling against the odds to make a name for themselves in the world.

Amy Adams embodies Charlene with a magnificently arresting force, striving to free Micky from the cycle of exploitation and anxiousness he’s been stuck in for years, allowing him to reach his full potential.

Melissa Leo is boorish in her rendering of Alice; exploiting and disrupting Micky and Dicky’s quest for stardom and freedom as mother/manager Alice. She’s one of those women from hell, all cigarettes and chicanery.

Russell’s direction is wonderful, mixing docu-style with intense, evasive cinematography, constructing everything with a perfect sense of naturalism and vivid energy.

Disappointedly, the script doesn’t, at times, match up to the strength of the direction and performances. It fails to find the right balance between boxing film and family psychodrama, making it difficult for viewers to fully invest in the characters’ lives; never quite reaches the heights its premise is destined for.

The Fighter is a well-directed, powerful film, with some truly sublime performances, regretfully let down by an often poor and in-cohesive script.