Tag Archives: Matthias Schoenaerts

Philadelphia Freedom

Brothers by Blood

by Hope Madden

It can be tough to find a fresh way to tell a mob story. Brothers by Blood doesn’t bother.

Director Jeremie Guez’s film, based on his own adaptation of Peter Dexter’s novel Brotherly Love, offers an intimate look at masculinity, loyalty, faith and redemption through the eyes of two men who are as close as brothers. They’re part of the criminal underground, and one (the brooding, quiet, good one) is worried that the other (the loose cannon) may have gone too far.

Like Mean Streets. Like The Drop. Eastern Promises, Casino, Legend.

Like a lot of movies.

Luckily, Guez has a strong cast with the potential of finding something uniquely human in these characters.

Matthias Schoenaerts is the quietly observant Peter, a reasonable man who isn’t proud of what he does but he keeps his head down, his mouth shut, and does the work. Michael (Joel Kinnaman), on the other hand, likes attention. He likes power and respect, and he’s quite sure he isn’t getting enough of either.

Kinnaman brings a weaselly quality to Michael that suits him. His best scenes showcase a level of insincere congeniality that really is sometimes chilling. Meanwhile Schoenaerts—a truly talented actor able to disappear into characters—is hamstrung by a role that requires little more than disappointed headshakes, askew glances and sighs.

The surrounding ensemble offers opportunities as well. Paul Schneider (nice to see you!) carves out a little authenticity as Jimmy, a restauranteur in over his head. Maika Monroe plays Jimmy’s kid sister Grace. They all grew up together—Jimmy, Michael, Peter and Grace—and now Grace has come back home.

Monroe, by the way, is fully twenty years younger than her co-stars, which makes the prospect of a love scene the single creepiest aspect of this film.

Talent be damned, Guez can’t find an original thought to explore. Everything about Brothers by Blood feels absolutely garden variety, although competently made. Except for the obligatory flashbacks, which are wedged in so poorly you almost overlook the fairly decent acting going on in them.

Mean Streets is $2.99 on Prime right now, by the way.

Tugging Hearts, Slashing Throats

The Old Guard

by Hope Madden

Let’s start with this piece of obviousness: Charlize Theron can do anything. From indie dramas to bawdy comedies to badass action, Theron commits and convinces.

In Netflix’s The Old Guard, she plays the leader of a small but immortal group of soldiers eluding capture while trying to train a new member. It’s Book One in a series, and that can be a dangerous spot for a film because that tends to mean a lot of exposition and not enough conflict.

Not here.

Greg Rucka adapts his own source material and director Gina Prince-Bythewood makes the most of his screenplay and her cast.

She flanks Theron (spectacular, obviously) with actors who are, first and foremost, talented actors. The fact that they make for believable mercenaries is a really excellent bonus.

The ever versatile Matthias Schoenaerts gives the film its aching heart while KiKi Layne proves herself to be as convincing here busting heads as she was at drawing tears in If Beale Street Could Talk. Though it’s unfortunate he couldn’t have stolen a little more screen time, the great Chiwetel Ejiofor is a welcome presence, as always.

So what Prince-Bythewood does is surround Theron with other talented actors whose versatility compliments hers. This brilliant move let the filmmaker take a somewhat by-the-numbers superhero tale and tell it with a restraint that takes advantage of her cast’s flexibility and talent.

In Prince-Bythewood’s hands, The Old Guard explores the same universal themes mined in most superhero films, but she tells the tale as a taut and tactical military experience. The understatement makes the action sequences stand out, the filmmaker requesting your close examination of each bout and each battle, whether hand-to-hand, bullet-to-brain or saber-to-throat.

It pays off, delivering a thrilling action movie that doesn’t disregard your brain. Even better, this is a movie that tugs at your emotions without the need for swelling strings or sentiment to convince you.

That’s what happens when one formidable women pulls together a group of similarly skilled badasses.

Sexy Collusion

Red Sparrow

by Hope Madden

Jennifer Lawrence could use a hit.

Though few could throw shade at the film star’s talent—one Oscar and two nominations in a three year span!—she’s made a series of critical and commercial missteps. The slide began with David O. Russell’s weak biopic Joy, then wallowed in all that can be wrong with a superhero movie in X-Men: Apocalypse before hurtling through space with the underwhelming Passengers, and ending with the flaming disaster (though bold and compelling) mother!

Can her sexy espionage thriller Red Sparrow turn that luck around? Doesn’t seem likely, does it? I mean, come on—you’ve seen the trailer.

And yet, surprisingly enough, the film has some style, some queasying violence and unrepentant perversions, and Jennifer Lawrence. It could be worse.

Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a Bolshoi ballerina (yeah, right) who breaks the wrong leg, is related to the wrong uncle (the always welcome Matthias Schoenaerts), makes the wrong compromise and winds up in a nasty state.

Writer Justin Haythe, working from Jason Matthews’s novel, has never written a film worth seeing. This is no masterpiece, but it is the kind of material director Francis Lawrence (no relation) manages well.

The helmsman of the last three Hunger Games films knows how to take what amounts to dreary, ugly, mean tales of human bondage and slick them up with a plucky female lead, good costuming, a talented supporting cast and smooth camera movement.

The ugly, demeaning sexuality, though, that’s mostly just Red Sparrow.

Lawrence’s steely, emotionless mask of an expression suits this performance even more perfectly than it did her Hunger Games franchise, but the lacking chemistry between the star and her co-stars keeps the film from ever reaching the sexy thrills it hopes to achieve.

Joel Edgerton, playing the good-hearted American, can’t generate any believable connection with Lawrence’s Russian sparrow, and the crissing and crossing of teams and tales and sides and stories feel forever superficial and convenient.

It might at least be a fun time waster if Charlize Theron hadn’t done that better with last year’s Atomic Blonde.

So, no, this won’t be the film to point Jen’s career back toward true north. But she does have another X-Men coming up. That’s sure to be a winner, right?





A Beautiful Trainwreck

A Bigger Splash

by Christie Robb

Remember that infamous high school math problem about the trains? You know, the one where two trains leave different cities heading toward each other and you are tasked with discovering when and where they collide?

A Bigger Splash is a lot like that, only instead of trains we are dealing with ex-lovers and the location of the collision is a gorgeous volcanic island off the coast of Italy.

Rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is on vacation, recovering from throat surgery with her studly younger partner Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), when they are interrupted by unexpected houseguests: her ex-lover and producer, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), and his recently-discovered, lascivious daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). It’s clear that Harry still carries a torch for Marianne. It’s also apparent that he is more than willing to use the close quarters to fan those flames into obsession.

A catastrophe is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time — which, in this film, can tend to drag a little bit. This is not just a movie about nostalgic characters. With its long takes and dramatic score, director Luca Guadagnino’s film itself demonstrates a palpable longing for an earlier cinematic age. But with the stellar cast, breathtaking setting, and stylish costumes, the extra length, like a spare tire on an old flame, is easy to forgive. There is something beautiful in nearly every shot.

Schoenaerts and Johnson deliver solid performances in their somewhat underwritten characters (disdainful melancholic and crafted nymphet, respectively). Fiennes and Swinton, however, are delightful contrasts. Fiennes very nearly steals the show with his frenetic outbursts of verbal diarrhea — and in the scene where he dances to the Rolling Stones, he does. However, in the end this is Swinton’s movie. The layers of emotion she manages to convey with minimal dialogue is what truly makes the biggest splash.

Verdict-4-0-Stars





Good Doggie?

 

The Drop

by George Wolf

An accomplished writer and a young director combine talents in The Drop, while a masterful actor walks away with their film.

That would be Tom Hardy, adding fascinating layers to his role as Bob, lead bartender at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) place in a rough section of New York City.

Well, it used to be Marv’s bar until he, as Bob says, “blinked,” and allowed a takeover by some Chechan gangsters. Now, the bar is often used to launder cash for the foreign mob, and they don’t much like it when Bob and Marv are robbed one night after closing. No doubt, shady characters and double crosses abound, but Bob seems above it all. He’s calm, polite, a bit simple.

Or not.

From the minute Bob rescues a battered pit bull puppy from a trash can, we get the drift:  treat Bob the wrong way, and he may get vicious.

Writer Dennis Lehane, known for the novels that inspired Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and Shutter Island, infuses his first screenplay with familiar themes of desperation, regret and redemption. Though not quite as gripping as Lehane’s best work, the story is effective, and in capable hands with director Michael R. Roskam.

In his debut English language feature, Roskam creates a mood of palpable dread and inevitability. Despite a few occasions when his camera gets a bit too fond of gradual focus and Scorcese-esque panning shots, Roskam finds a tone of simmering tension and displays a confident hand with his superior cast.

Gandolfini, in his final role, is customarily great, and there is solid supporting work from Noomi Repace and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), but Hardy is the force driving The Drop. He’s mesmerizing, inhabiting his character so completely it evokes memories of 1950s Brando.

Yep, he’s that good. And the movie ain’t bad either.

 

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 





For Your Queue: Ignore the Hyperbole, Embrace the Subtitles

While we often like to suggest one newly available DVD and one older title worthy of looking up, this week we thought – screw that, there are two new ones we want to recommend!  So that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re edgy like that.

Two first rate films release this week, beginning with Zero Dark Thirty, the gripping tale of the hunt for Osama bin Laden from director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal.

Look past the hyperbolic debate the film inspired, and you’ll find a work of meticulous craftsmanship that is bursting with intelligence, suspense, and a profound respect for the story it is telling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAtWcvCxPhc

Meanwhile, Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) , a gritty and punishing a tale of sexual redemption, tells of two broken people unconventionally well suited to each other. Crafting a spell of raw, emotional and sexual intimacy borne of struggle, writer/director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) introduces two strangers (Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts). How do they find anything in common, let alone generate the fierce bond they share?

The chemistry between the leads keeps the film taut, and Audiard’s wandering storyline and loyalty to his characters forever surprises.