Bro-Reviews: Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman’s finest hour.

Back in September of 2017, buzz began swirling around a film making its rounds in the film festival circuit, which is typically a common occurrence. What made this buzz different for this film, however, was the rumor of it featuring an awards worthy performance from a tremendous actor who has been long overdue for such accolades. That film was the World War II set Darkest Hour, and the actor was Hollywood veteran Gary Oldman. With Oldman racking up the awards for his performance, including the Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama”, Darkest Hour has finally received a wider release in the hopes of proving Oldman’s performance lives up to the hype.

Darkest Hour begins in May of 1940, where British Parliament has grown uneasy due to the lack of action by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). Chamberlain is replaced by General Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), a seemingly past his prime politician whose reputation as a drunkard and a militant makes him unpopular in the government. Churchill finds himself and his country under fire, as Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany are imposing their force and taking down Europe country by country. Churchill must overcome his reputation and the seemingly unstoppable Nazis before Great Britain is invaded and is no more.

The biggest compliment I can give the film is all the hype surrounding Oldman’s performance is warranted. Oldman has the reputation of being a great actor despite appearing in critically maligned films from time to time, and has never gotten his due via an Oscar win. His performance in Darkest Hour should change that, as his alcoholic dialogue slurring, cigar smoking, and motivational speaking all highlight an actor at his apex, and is the clear favorite to walk away with Oscar gold this March.

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Two other noteworthy performances come from veteran actress Kristen Scott Thomas, who plays Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and Ben Mendelsohn, who plays King George VI. Scott Thomas adds more humanity to the film by representing the balance to Churchill’s life, and it’s a shame her solid performance didn’t garner any awards attention. Ben Mendelsohn also delivers a solid performance as King George VI, and the development of the relationship between George VI and Churchill is one of the more intriguing aspects of the film.

The rest of the film, unfortunately, can’t match the quality of the lead and aforementioned performances. Even at a running time of just over 2 hours, the film poorly paced war film from director Joe Wright plays like a history lecture you’d be tempted to fall asleep during. The grey color palette doesn’t help accentuate the setting either, and the film rarely flashes to battles during World War II to wake the audience up. Young starlet Lily James, who left a huge impression on most with her performance in Baby Driver earlier in 2017, hardly resonates in the film as an assistant of Churchill’s, a waste of a young, talented performer.

Darkest Hour benefits greatly from a surely Oscar worthy performance from its lead actor and a couple of other solid supporting performances. The rest of the film, however, can’t quite match the quality its lead performer has. Gary Oldman deserves to take a bow for his finest hour as an actor and walk away with a little golden man, but Darkest Hour is nowhere near deserving of its “Best Picture” Oscar nomination, making it the weakest of the Academy Award’s “Best Picture” bunch.

Rating: 2/4 stars. Rent it.

Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

When Deadpool met Nick Fury.

It’s typically around the month of August we see the summer movie season slow down considerably. Although recent years have seen the release of blockbuster films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, August is the month many studios reserve for dumping films they have no confidence in in the hopes that audiences will go see them out of pure boredom. Many of these films are mindless, over-the-top action films catered to action junkies, and Summit Entertainment is hoping the presence of Mr. Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson will propel those junkies to go see the latest R-rated action buddy-comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a former special protection agent who laments on his career whilst still protecting lesser clientele after a job that went sideways. When an Interpol transport mission is intercepted by the enemy, Interpol agent and Michael’s ex-flame Amelia (Élodie Yung) calls upon him for help transporting a witness to the trial of a power-hungry Eastern European dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). That witness happens to be Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hitman and Michael’s rival. Despite their hatred for one another, the two must band together to make it to the International Court of Justice in England in time to put Dukhovich in jail once and for all.

Before going any further, one must note the first trailer for this film was cut expertly, with Samuel L. Jackson cursing up a storm, loads of explosions, and the late Whitney Houston belting out her famous rendition of “I will always love you.” It was marketed as an anti-The Bodyguard, the 1992 smash hit starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The trailer made me very excited to see the movie, but unfortunately, the trailer is better than the actual feature length film.

While Jackson and Reynolds do have chemistry, the two aren’t straining to portray characters, they’re playing themselves. Reynolds is in peak snarky but capable form, and continues to showcase he can rise above otherwise pedestrian material. Samuel L. Jackson is in peak “Samuel L. Jackson” form, yelling four letter swear words every other line of dialogue and clearly having a blast doing so. The two are well matched together, but the surrounding material just isn’t there for them to gain any momentum and carry the film by themselves.

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Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

Salma Hayek, save for the typical cleavage shots, one butt-kicking action sequence, and one joke with another prisoner, is utterly wasted in the film. Her scenes consist of her swearing, swearing in Spanish, and exploitative cleavage shots. That’s it. Gary Oldman is sleepwalking through the film as the villain, and it’s time to hold him accountable for giving terrible performances in films such as this, The Unborn, Paranoia, and Red Riding Hood. There’s no doubt Oldman is a talented actor and can give a great performance when he feels like it, but he far too often chooses to take “for the money” roles such as this and goes through the motions.

The film also has jarring tonal shifts within the first 30 minutes or so. Scenes of Oldman’s Dukhovich slaughtering innocent people are meant to make us fear him, but then the film cuts to Reynolds and Jackson quipping one-liners in an attempt to make the audience laugh-off the otherwise horrendous events we’ve just witnessed. The film is also far too long at 118 minutes, as a tighter, quicker film could’ve improved it tremendously. It doesn’t help the film is also riddled with cheap-looking special effects and actors from other late-summer action films such as Sam Hazeldine (Riah Crane AKA the bad guy in Mechanic: Resurrection) to remind you you’re watching a late summer action film, and not a quality one.

Although the special effects are quite cheap-looking, the action sequences are brutal and do deliver. Director Patrick Hughes has shown he’s capable of staging action scenes very well in the underappreciated Expendables 3, and his direction of the action in the film livens it up. One must particularly note the final car chase, which displays Hughes’ talent for filming thrilling action. It’s these scenes that ultimately made me forgive the film for it’s otherwise cheap feel save for the leads they were able to sign onto the film.

Ultimately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a disposable, substandard, harmless late summer action film that has the saving grace of two well matched leads and enough adrenaline pumping action. However, one cannot help but notice the film surrounding the two leads and action sequences isn’t up to par with them, ultimately leaving viewers an expandable and forgettable action buddy-comedy film.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Sam Hazeldine, Kirsty Mitchell, and Joaquim de Almeida. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.