Tag Archives: Frank Grillo

Jailhouse Glock

Copshop

by George Wolf

Man, did I hear about it last week when I argued that the first two acts of Malignant weren’t nearly strong enough to support the all out lunacy of the finale. I stand by that, but moving on…

Copshop also delivers a balls-out third act, but the self-aware setup by director/co-writer Joe Carnahan ensures we’re plenty ready to surrender to the shoot-em-up fun.

Mob “fixer” Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) punches Nevada rookie cop Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) on purpose, looking for the safety of a jail cell. He gets one, but he’s soon followed by hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler, also a producer), who wants to get close enough to Teddy to take him out.

Plenty more bad guys get involved – including a scene-stealing Toby Huss (Seinfeld‘s “The Wiz”) as a psycho who likes to spray bullets and sing soul classics – and before long it seems Val’s only chance of getting out of work alive is deciding which one of these locked up bad guys is worth trusting.

Grillo and Butler are both on tough-guy autopilot, charismatic and menacing with a smidge of possible empathy. But Louder (TV’s Watchmen) is the standout, finding the layers of a character that’s real, smart and savvy enough to holster this movie and claim it for her own.

The dialog often snaps with wit, the banter touching on everything from Chris Hemsworth’s beach getaway to the benefits of cole slaw. But this is an action flick first, and Carnahan (Boss Level, The Grey, Smokin’ Aces) rolls out well-staged and satisfying set pieces that strike a nice balance between tense and preposterous.

The grindhouse Western opening not only introduces us to the setting of Gun Creek, Nevada (subtle!), but also a playful and purposeful tone that Carnahan steers with impressive craftsmanship.

Are you gonna remember Copshop much past closing time? Probably not, but you’re gonna have a bloody good time before you clock out.

For A Good Time Call

The Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard

by George Wolf

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a great movie – heck it’s barely a good movie – but it is a fun movie. And that last part means the film does have pretty great timing.

Because with so many of us returning to movie theaters for the first time in a long time, what is the majority looking for?

A good time. And this film does deliver it, even if it is just one Fat Bastard away from parody.

In case you’ve forgotten, this is a sequel to 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and returning writer Tom O’Connor gets us up to speed via Michael Bryce’s (Ryan Reynolds) final therapy session with a doctor who can’t wait to be rid of him.

Bryce has lost his AAA bodyguard license, which is going to make it difficult to win the Bodyguard of the Year award he dreams of. Bryce has also sworn off guns, which becomes a problem once the bullets start flying and director Patrick Hughes (also back from part one) rolls out more direct head shots than a zombie apocalypse.

Bryce doesn’t let the lack of licensing stop him from guarding Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), a spitfire who has no problem shooting first – from the hip or from the lip. Plus, she happens to be married to Bryce’s old nemesis Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). So while Bryce and Darius are bickering about old grudges, Sonia and Darius argue about starting a family (don’t bother thinking about their ages – just go with it).

The dangerous games come from an evil tycoon (Antonio Banderas on a steady diet of scenery) who’s fighting back against E.U. sanctions on Greece, and from a frustrated federal agent (Frank Grillo) who decides his best bet is to work with bad guys in hopes of catching worse guys.

Hughes proves adept at quick-paced action and satisfying set pieces full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but excess. There’s plenty of globe-trotting to beautiful locales, lo-cut costume changes for Hayek and enough all around ridiculousness to make you wonder when Reynolds and Jackson are going to switch faces.

But the starring trio seems to be enjoying it enough to be in perfect sync – with each other and the level of material they’ve been handed. All three may be on auto-pilot, but their banter is an expletive-laden, rapid fire hoot that’s consistently mischievous and sometimes downright hilarious.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard isn’t high art, but it isn’t trying to be. In the words of Bret Michaels and Sam Jackson: it ain’t nothin’ but a good time, motherf^*%$#.

Watchu Talkin’ Bout, Grillis?

Cosmic Sin

By George Wolf

Knowing that Cosmic Sin comes from the writers behind last year’s Breach probably won’t fill you with confidence about their latest sci-fi adventure.

But the good news is Edward Drake and Corey Large are improving. Very, very slowly.

Drake also takes the director’s chair this time, and coaxes a mildly interested performance out of returning star Bruce Willis (which Breach could never manage).

The year is 2524 (remember that) and Earth’s forces have formed the Alliance of colonies throughout the universe. Willis is General James Ford, renamed the “Blood General” after he wiped out one of the colonies with a “Q-bomb” and was stripped of rank and pension (ouch!).

But minutes after learning of first contact with an alien life form, General Ryle (Frank Grillo) calls Ford back to duty, where he’ll join a rag tag group of you know who to make a heroic you know what and save you know where.

Drake and Large (who also plays Ford’s sidekick) clearly blew the budget on Grillo and Willis (Grillis!), with a side of Costas Mandylor. 500 years from now looks a lot like next Tuesday, while planets light years away look like next Tuesday in Michigan.

And still, cinematographer Brandon Cox manages some slick deep space panoramas…that are often ruined by Saturday morning-worthy effects of our heroes flying through the stars and “pew pew pew”-ing in battle with the aliens.

Likewise, Drake and Large’s script toys with the meaty issues of war, sacrifice, and colonialism, only to abandon them in the name of heroic grandstanding. Potential threads (and Grillo’s entire character) grab our attention and then vanish at random, rendering much of the 88 minute running time a meandering mess.

Still better than Breach, though.

Western Guilt

No Man’s Land

by Cat McAlpine

The liminal space between Mexico and Texas is home to fear, anxiety, and confusion. It is in this taut, emotional maelstrom that two families tragically collide.

The Greers have a struggling cattle ranch directly on the border. Young Fernando and his family are making their way into Texas illegally, led by their father, Gustavo.

“Texas looks like Mexico,” Young Fernando observes.

“Yes, it does,” his father agrees.

No Man’s Land hinges on the relationship between sons and fathers and their shared legacies. The film is a family affair in its own right, co-written by Jake Allyn (who also stars as Jackson Greer) and directed by his brother Conor Allyn. Also written by David Barraza, No Man’s Land attempts to tackle national tensions along the border.

This is a new and old western. It prods at current events but follows the familiar beat of a man on the run seeking redemption. Forced to flee, Jackson makes his way deeper and deeper into Mexico, paralleling an immigrant’s journey northward. He doesn’t speak the language but he’s willing to work, and work hard.

No Man’s Land subconsciously uses the same “he had his whole life ahead of him” argument we often see used for violent, young white men. Jackson is at the mercy of a culture, and in particular a grieving father, who owe him nothing. And yet it is their kindness, compassion, and forgiveness that truly save Jackson from the mistakes he’s made. He becomes more compassionate and understanding after experiencing Mexican culture, instead of simply recognizing the intrinsic value of other humans from the start.

Visually, the film is breathtaking. Technology is largely eliminated from the screen, horses are used as often as cars, and there’s a timeless western quality to the story. Jackson’s journey into Mexico is not made hazy with yellow filters, but instead shows a place more vibrant and green than his home.

The cast is another shining element in No Man’s Land. Allyn delivers an agonized but mostly understated performance as Jake. He’s matched by a wonderful Jorge A. Jimenez as Gustavo, a man constantly battling with himself. And George Lopez – as a Texas ranger who can’t speak Spanish – adds great dimension to the stories as they intertwine.

No Man’s Land is beautifully shot, emotional, and an honest extension of the western genre, but ultimately its call to unity could use some work.

The Great Outdoor Fight

Donnybrook

by Matt Weiner

Go into Donnybrook expecting an action movie about bare knuckle fighting and you’re going to be sorely disappointed: there’s more road movie than Rocky. But director Tim Sutton’s dissection of American desperation is out to expose the underbelly of more than just backyard brawling.

Sutton adapts Frank Bill’s novel with unrelenting sparseness. The movie centers on the intertwined lives of Jarhead Earl (Jamie Bell) and Chainsaw and Delia Angus (Frank Grillo and Margaret Qualley) as they pursue the limited versions of the American dream available to them in rural, addiction-ravaged Ohio.

Earl wants to win the Donnybrook, a legendary underground fight whose winnings will allow him to give his family a better life. Delia just wants to sell a bunch of meth so she can escape dead-end life with her abusive brother. And Chainsaw Angus just wants all that meth back that his sister stole. (You know a situation is dire anytime someone steals drugs from a person named Chainsaw.)

Donnybrook is violent but not gratuitous. As the characters’ lives converge on the road to the fight, the flashes of violence that build toward the climax serve mostly as a reminder of the pervasive despair everyone is running away from.

Grillo plays Chainsaw Angus as a relentless force that blows right through anyone and everyone he comes in contact with—men, women and children alike. There’s more than a touch of Coens-meet-McCarthy to Sutton’s adaptation, and not just in Angus’s almost elemental pursuit.

Earl’s milieu echoes the Appalachian noir of Winter’s Bone, but with a contemporary urgency all its own. Unfortunately, the film’s singular devotion to its economically downtrodden message leads to some shortcuts for the characters.

Delia doesn’t get the space to expand beyond her tragic archetype, but the movie is at least an equal opportunity offender when it comes to dispensing with supporting stereotypes: James Badge Dale’s alcoholic cop could be removed entirely and the story wouldn’t miss a beat.

The degree to which Sutton’s languid, dream-like depictions of this world succeed in amounting to a whole greater than their parts will probably come down to how much you think we need another Fight Club-style examination of a narrow (and uniformly white) male anger.

Giving that perspective such lyric treatment is certainly a choice. Even when the blows don’t connect, there’s something to be said for action with ambition.