By BRUCE DENNILL
Marauders / Directed by Steven C Miller / 16LV
Fast & Furious 8 / Directed by F Gary Gray / 13LV
Logan Lucky / Directed by Steven Soderbergh / PGLV
Collide / Directed by Eran Creevy / 16V
Interrogation / Directed by Stephen Reynolds / 13LV
The heist movie has become a staple of the loosely defined action genre, probably because it allows – as is the case in Marauders – for dramatic, violent setpieces that fizz along and drive the energy of a film forward. That ubiquity, however, means that filmmaker are having to try harder and harder to differentiate their projects from others, and they often use elaborate plot layering to achieve that goal. In this case, corruption and conspiracies muddy the waters as an FBI agent (Christopher Meloni) chases a gang of bank robbers who have also been involved in a murder. Bruce Willis plays the bank manager, a man whose behaviour suggests he has secrets of his own, and the actor’s star power creates a useful alternate focus when the action is not front and centre. Ultimately, though, apart from some well-made action sequences, none of the main threads convince, and Marauders just becomes another middle of the road time-filler – fine for that purpose, but not something to prioritise.
It still feels wrong on so many levels that the Fast & Furious films are some of the biggest box office earners in history, but they continue, even eight chapters in, to deliver some standard-setting action scenes and big-name stars to further excite audiences. In the latter category, F8/Fast & Furious 8/The Fate Of The Furious (come on marketing department; pick one and commit) features, alongside the usual crew (which is headlined by Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson), Jason Statham in more or less his natural habitat, Charlize Theron as the villain and Helen Mirren, effective as always, if not revolutionary. As above, simple action dynamics – in this case, the glamorous muscle cars and the illicit activities of the central gang of anti-heroes – aren’t enough, and a convoluted plot-line sees Dom (Diesel) abandon his long-time friends in favour of Theron’s hammy baddy, apparently aiding her efforts to – cue maniacal laugh – take over the world. It’s big, loud and utterly preposterous, which is more or less what anyone who saw any of the first seven films would’ve expected. There’s a ninth installment on the way, and unless all the characters die, there’ll be a tenth after that, and so on, and so on…
Based on reputations alone, Logan Lucky – directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank and Seth MacFarlane – should be superb. But it’s palpably poor. The main issue is the pacing. The characters, rednecks to a man (and woman) are colourful, with amusing, if stereotyped, mannerisms, but even the relatively gentle entertainment value there is diluted by sequences that make it seem like the original cut was poorly edited, being bewilderingly pointless in terms of the purpose they serve as part of the greater narrative. Tatum is sweet, MacFarlane is appealingly annoying and Craig chews, swallows and digests the scenery, but most of the others – Swank in particular – are wasted. And the intricacy of the plot – probably conceived as an unexpected counterpoint to the protagonists’ apparent simple-mindedness – is unnecessary given the style of the piece. The brassiness of the setting and the tone would have achieved a higher level of entertainment without all the twists. Ultimately, the most startling aspect of this project is how unsatisfying it is.
Similarly poor is Collide, which features no less than Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley alongside its central, troubled couple, played by a sincere Nicholas Hoult and a mildly edgy Felicity Jones. Hoult’s Casey has a habit of getting mixed up with the wrong crowd – again and again – and when he has to go on the run to escape a particularly savage crime boss (Hopkins), he makes the dubious decision to rely on a rival criminal (Kingsley) to ensure the safety and survival of his girlfriend Juliette (Jones). Casey’s tenderness towards and commitment to Juliette is the only part of the film that engenders any emotional response. The rest is unlikely explosion after suspect fight sequence, with plot holes strung together like chain links. And both Hopkins and Kingsley are awful, making a mockery of their collective reputation without even giving viewers the benefit of some sort of so-bad-it’s-good B-movie satisfaction. As a vehicle, Collide is an odd choice for all concerned.
Interrogation does well to not reveal itself as a heist movie for a large chunk of its running time. That subtlety is unexpected, perhaps unfairly, given that the film is a WWE Studios production and has wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland as its leading man. For the record, the other top-billed cast member is CJ “Lana” Perry, another wrestler, but she has such a small role that the daft film-as-marketing strategy is immediately set three steps back. For all of that, though, the piece works well as a procedural thriller involving a terrorist and the threat he hopes to realise before the police – led by Copeland’s insightful, tough Lucas Nolan – figure out his intricate plan. Copeland is a competent actor, and he clearly puts plenty of effort into his role. And the whopping great twist makes the whole exercise several times more effective than it otherwise would have been – satisfying, if not exceptional.