Tag Archives: Vince Vaughn

Not So Smooth Criminals


by Brandon Thomas

Clark Duke has established himself as one of the more prominent “Hey! It’s that guy!” actors in Hollywood. You probably don’t know his name, but you’ve seen him pop up on shows and films such as The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine and Kick-Ass. While Duke might not be included among the comedy greats of our time, he shows far more promise as a feature writer/director with his debut, Arkansas.

Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke) are low-level drug dealers working for a mysterious king-pin named Frog (Vince Vaughn). The two pose as park rangers by day so that they can courier drugs at night for Bright (John Malkovich), one of Frog’s proxies. When one of these runs goes bad, Kyle and Swin find their lives in danger as Frog starts to believe that they are a threat to his drug empire.

Duke handles the movie’s tone from the first scene. Not quite interested in gut-busting comedy nor the other darkly comedic side of the coin, Duke, instead, is happy to present this tale with wry wit. Think of a happy marriage between the works of Joe R. Lansdale and Elmore Leonard than that of Tarantino.

Fully on board with this tone is the film’s cast. Duke himself plays Swin as a man with unmatched, and unearned, confidence. Malkovich is clearly having a ball, and that allows him to go big, but not Cyrus the Virus big. The odd man out is Hemsworth. Try as he might, Hemsworth tackles every line with a little too much seriousness and bravado. 

Vaughn continues his recent streak of popping up in interesting indie thrillers. While Arkansas isn’t nearly as intense as Brawl in Cell Block 99 or Dragged Across Concrete, Vaughn attacks the role of Frog with the same sense of danger. Like the film itself, Vaughn’s performance oozes charm, but with menace bubbling just below the surface. 

Arkansas probably won’t be taking a victory lap during awards season later in the year, but what it will be doing is showing that Clark Duke is a behind -the-camera talent to keep an eye on.

Shotgun Safari

Dragged Across Concrete

by George Wolf

Songwriter Jim Steinman, best known for baroque and dramatically verbose musical epics often belted out by Meat Loaf, has said in interviews that he would love to write 3-minute pop toe tappers, he just doesn’t know how.

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler can probably relate. Dragged Across Concrete is his third feature as writer/director, and he’s still clearly invested in the long game. Like Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, Zahler’s latest is full of strangely indelible characters and memorable dialogue, a film anchored in creeping dramatic dread that finally explodes with wonderfully staged brutality.

Brett (Mel Gibson) and Anthony (Vince Vaughn), street-smart cops in a fictional urban jungle called Bulwark, get popped when a bystander captures one overly zealous interrogation on video. A suspension without pay is something they’re forced to accept, but it isn’t long before Brett has a plan to make up for the lapse in funds with a little “proper compensation” on the side.

But of course, they’re not the only ones looking for a score.

Henry (a terrific Tory Kittles) is fresh out of the joint and needs money for his family. His old friend Biscuit (Michael Jai White) hooks them both up as drivers for a lethal bank robber (Thomas Kretschmann), and the long fuse to a standoff is lit.

This is Zahler’s slowest burn yet, but he keeps you invested with a firm commitment to character, no matter the screen time. From a new mother with near-crippling separation anxiety (Jennifer Carpenter) to a loquacious bank manager (Fred Melamed) and a shadowy favor-granter (Udo Kier), nothing in the film’s 159 minutes feels superfluous.

In fact, quite the opposite.

As Zahler contrasts the cops with the robbers, the sharply-defined supporters orbiting the core conflict only add to its gravity, despite a few moments than seem a bit too eager for Tarantino approval.

Gibson is fantastic, drawing Brett as the real bulwark here, defending what he feels is his with a savage, unapologetic tenacity. Vaughn, re-teaming with Zahler after a standout turn in Cell Block 99, again shows how good he can be when pushed beyond his default setting of “Vince Vaughn.”

Finally, the steady march of battered souls, desperate measures and eclectic soundtrack choices comes to a bloody, pulpy head, staged with precision and matter-of-fact collateral damage.

Zahler’s command of his playbook is hard to ignore. Though the glory of Concrete‘s payoff never quite rises to the breathtaking heights he’s hit before, his confident pace and detailed observations make for completely absorbing storytelling.

And two out of three ain’t bad.


Because “Insemination Man” Was Just Tacky…


by George Wolf


Delivery Man wants very badly to be that magical “feel good movie of the year.”

I’d like to play right field for the Cleveland Indians.

Both have an equal chance of happening.

Delivery Man is director/co-writer Ken Scott‘s near shot-for-shot remake of his 2011 French Canadian release Starbuck, and it casts Vince Vaughn as David, a NYC slacker who learns that, in about nine months, his 534th child will be born.

Seems that years ago, David earned quite a bit of money doing quite a bit of manual labor at a sperm bank. Through some unethical misappropriation of bank “funds,” he is the biological father of 533 people, many of whom have banded together for a lawsuit in hopes of overturning confidentiality agreements and learning their father’s identity.

At the same time, David’s long-suffering girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) announces she’s pregnant, and so it’s time for an absurdly manipulative lesson on the importance of family. Check that, the importance of fathers, as the mothers of all these sperm bank kids are barely an afterthought.

The funny thing is, it’s not even funny, as the film focuses instead on exploiting your soft spot for family bonds during the Holiday season.  David gets a file with bios of many of his kids, so he begins acting as a “guardian angel,” dropping by incognito to instantly solve a young women’s drug habit or to be the caring soul a severely disabled boy has always needed. If there is a heartstring available, Delivery Man tries to pull it.

Vaughn’s usual crutches aren’t the problem. For the first time in a long time, he doesn’t just do the Vince Vaughn schtick, and appears interested in actual acting.

Trouble is, there’s nothing of substance for Vaughn, or us, to cling to. The film never seems more than a weak collection of sitcom moments, rendering Delivery Man little more than an empty carton of schmaltz.