Bullet to the Head, Homefront, and Escape Plan

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Bullet to the Head

I wasn’t going to even dignify Bullet to the Head with a review, but sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what I didn’t like as what I loved.

Bullet to the Head is an action flick featuring my favorite, Sylvester Stallone. Many of you might be tempted to think this movie is bad due to bad acting, but I’ve watched enough of Stallone to know he does just fine with his action flicks and he can play even deeper characters, which I think is evident in Rambo First Blood, Rambo (4), and Rocky. Sure, he’s not as diverse as Bruce Willis, but that doesn’t make everything he does bad. I think what we had here was just plain, old, terrible story telling.

The first problem this movie had was its inability to decided if it wanted to be a dark serious movie or a cheesy action flick. Because it couldn’t make up its mind, it was neither. It failed to deliver the cheesy lines with any sort of cheese making them feel stilted and odd. The action wasn’t over the top or continuous–both hallmarks of a good cheesy action flick. At the same time it acted like it had a complicated plot more along the lines of an intense thriller. If it had been an intense thriller it could have thrown out the cheesy lines and played up it’s dark, realistic feel. If it had been a cheesy action flick it would have been way more fun and enjoyable. Instead, it tries to walk between the two and comes across as a bit strange all the way through.

It’s first few opening minutes are very confusing as you have cops undercover acting like drug dealers and you have hit men dressed up like cops only to find out they’re not along with the introduction of several characters without any explanation leaving the viewer to pull out their hair as they try to keep up with who’s who and why they care.

The dialogue was just bad. At one point Stallone’s character accuses his partner of being annoying when he wasn’t being annoying at all. This happened regularly. Lines were delivered with no story to back up their intensity.

The basic plot of the movie is similar to Tango and Cash. But, instead of two cops with opposite personalities forced to work together, you have a hitman and a cop. Great idea! Get Stallone in there and this movie looks like it could be so much fun. It’s not. Tango and Cash was fun because two men who hated each other had to learn to work together and in the end they became friends. This movie forces two actors with zero chemistry together and never resolves them. The hitman and cop never become friends. They save each others skin several times but they never respect each other. They don’t change. Neither man grows through this experience. Stallone doesn’t become a better person and the cop doesn’t become a better cop. They both remain stagnant throughout the movie.

Which brings me to the reason I hated this movie the most: no heroes. Action flicks are an exaggerated form of storytelling that focus on heroes. They’re kinda like more realistic or down to earth superhero movies. Think about Die Hard, Predator, Rambo, Commando, Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens 2. All these movies are about fairly everyday guys doing amazing things for the good and right. They are protecting their wives, their children, their men, and the future. They’re heroes. Exaggerated? Yes. But, that’s the point. That’s what makes them fun. Bullet to the Head had no heroes. Stallone’s character was a hardened criminal with no redeeming qualities and the cop was just really bland. Neither character inspired me or made me cheer. They both left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, if you were thinking about watching Bullet to the Head, don’t. It will only leave you wishing you could get back that 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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Homefront

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for this movie and it stars Jason Stathem. Now for those of you thinking Expendables 2 off the bat, please remember that the Expendables series is designed to be as silly and cheesy as humanly possible. It is not to be taken seriously in any way. Stallone is a half-way decent storyteller who tells great warrior stories.

Homefront is about a DEA agent trying to settle down out in the country and raise his daughter after his wife dies, but his past comes back to haunt him and he is forced to violently protect his family.

This movie is less of a cheesy action flick and more of a good hero/warrior story. Don’t go into it expecting lots of Jason Stathem moves like Transporter. Oh, he does have a few good fights, but this movie is more about developing his character, his relationship with his daughter, and the dark underside of the small town where he lives.

If you know that going into it, the movie is a lot more fun. It reminded me of the first time I saw Rambo First Blood.  I totally expected to see a movie more like Rambo 2. Rambo First Blood is a serious piece of drama, not a cheesy action flick. While Homefront isn’t really serious drama, it was a good film. Also, Kate Bosworth does an amazing acting job.

This movie does center around the drug industry and has one completely useless and inappropriate scene. Other than that, there is just the normal intense violence and some language and obviously drug use. Homefront did a much better job than Bullet to the Head of balancing the action of the movie with the dark/thriller/realism of its subject. It also supplied the viewer with a hero.

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Escape Plan

And now for complete cheese. Arnold and Stallone play two men trying to escape from a prison. One is innocent and the other isn’t so innocent, but they work together to escape from an inescapable prison. This movie is nothing but cheese and was pretty fun for what it was. If you go into it expecting nothing, you’ll probably like it. I enjoyed it just because it was exactly what it was: old man Stallone and old man Arnold in a movie together.

 

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Frozen and Predators

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Sometimes you just have to own up to your own weirdness. Here’s mine: I watched Frozen for the first time the other day and Predators (the sequel to Predator) for the second time. Guess which one I ultimately enjoyed more? Or which one I wanted to watch again right away? Predators.

Yes. I enjoyed Frozen a lot. It was cute. It was sweet. It made me tear up especially because I watched it with my sister. (And I’m totally Elsa. I took a Facebook quiz and it agreed.) Disney’s tongue-in-cheek perspective of itself and the standard love-at-first-sight story line made the movie particularly funny. The inner message exemplified by Elsa’s character provided a great lesson on selfishness. When Elsa sought what she wanted, when she sang, “Let it go”, she destroyed the world. Only when Anna willingly gave her life for Elsa, was Elsa able to see what she was. A monster and a villain.

It’s odd to me that so many people, especially Christians, treat Elsa’s song as if it is some awesome message when it’s what creates the villain of the story. Do parents want their kids to become villains? Or are they so caught up in the idea of being ‘true to yourself’ that they don’t care if that makes you a monster or not? I doubt that the goal of Frozen was to point out the lie of this concept, but they did it, planned or not. The one person true to themselves was the villain, and then the villain was saved. Plus Olaf was really cute. Fun stuff!

Rated: PG

But . . . I loved Predators. Most people wouldn’t choose it over Frozen. I get that. It wasn’t anything magical or amazing. It wasn’t especially well acted, directed, or even that intriguing of a story. It was a nice shout-out and throwback to the first Predator movie, but not quite as good. The first Predator had great timing and pacing.

My weirdness: I have a well-trained eye for finding the special soft spot in an action flick that makes it worth watching.

When I first heard about this movie, I mouth fell open. Adrien Brody embodies great acting, but casting him to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger shoes seemed like insanity or comedy. It would be the equivalent of casting Justin Bieber to be the lead singer for Metallica. Okay, maybe not that bad, cause Brody can act. As the previews rolled out, I joined in with the ridicule for the casting decision. How could they not cast someone like the Rock, or even Jason Statham? Give us an action hero, not some pretty-boy actor.

NOOOOO! (At least that's how we all felt.)

NOOOOO! (At least that’s how we all felt.)

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Brody did a great job. He played a cold, distant, hardened killer. From the very beginning of the movie when he’s dropped out of a plane on some foreign planet, he pulls everyone together, shows himself to be a competent leader, and in some ways psychopathic. He’s not above using his fellow prey to trap the Predators.

They also have a female sniper. Now if you know me, you probably think I’ve lost it. I typically hate action movies with buff women who fight just like men. There are a few exceptions, like Sarah Conner and Chuck, but generally action flicks have eye-candy (come on, I have a brain) or they have super buff women (yep, it’s believable that without a gun, she took that guy out – not). In Predators, the female sniper nurtures and watches out for everyone else. As Brody leads them and uses them to figure out what’s going on, the woman at his side keeps track of everyone. She keeps them all going. This is a rare realistic pairing of a man and a woman. They stand shoulder to shoulder to face the problem together each supplying what the other lacks. It was amazing to see that kind of real and special relationship in an action flick.

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(SPOILER ALERT) Two things made this movie. Brody’s character’s unwillingness to give out his name and the woman’s willingness to end the sufferings of herself and her team before the Predators could torture them. The woman asks Brody’s character several times for his name and each time he evades the question. Why? He doesn’t want to attach himself in any way to these other people. He wants to stay distant because he realizes that’s the only way to stay alive. The minute he starts caring about anyone is the minute he dies. Over and over he uses those around him to learn and battle the Predators.

Woman: This isn’t right. He’s one of us!

Brody: He is. That’s what they’re counting on. They want you to feel something for this man. To be human.

Woman: And what are you?

Brody: Alive.

Woman: What’s that worth?

Several other people sacrifice their lives for the group painting a nice contrast between Brody’s character and everyone else. Even the convict two days away from execution gives himself for the others.

At the end of the movie, they’re down to three people: Brody’s character, the woman, and a strange guy who seems to have no purpose. The strange guy gets injured. (See quote above.) Brody wants to leave him behind. The woman refuses. Brody ditches both of them. He’s all about himself. In the end, he has to choose between going back to help them or the chance to leave the planet.

He goes back.

He’s the best fighter, and the only chance they have to survive. At the end, he makes the choice to sacrifice himself for his friends.

While Brody’s character is forced to fight for someone other than himself, the woman is also dealing with her own demons. Before she dropped on the Predator’s planet, she was engaged in a failed sniping mission which left her spotter captured and tortured. She wishes she had put him out of his misery even if it risked her own life. Throughout the movie, she assists with suicide, or offers to. At the end, she is forced to either put Brody’s character out of his misery, or give him a chance to save himself. She knows if she takes the shot, she might miss and he might suffer. But she decides to give him a chance.

Brody saves the day, decides to acts for the good of others, and instead of sacrificing the weak he depends on them. The woman chooses life instead of death.

Royce and Isabelle.

Royce and Isabelle.

His name is Royce and her name is Isabelle.

This movie amazes me because Isabelle finds her strength in nurturing and helping a man. Royce finds his soul in sacrificing himself for others. Wow. That sounds familiar. I think I know of other places this kind of behavior is encouraged. Wink wink. Who would have thought that you could see examples, extreme yes, of Biblical male/female behavior in an action flick?

There were quite a few places in the movie that had huge plausibility gaps. Thankfully, most of them happen at the beginning of the movie. At one point, the misfit gang seeks out high ground. They break free of the jungle and wonder across an open stretch of flat rocks. No one notices anything odd about the sky other than the sun not moving. Then, in a totally different scene, it’s the extra close planets visible on the horizon that clue them in that they’re far from home. How did they miss the planets the first time when they were on high ground? The jungle is filled with pines, fields, and oak type trees. That sounds about right for a jungle. Isabelle’s jacket has a decorative zipper on the back.

Why oh why do these movies not get military consultants? Please.

A sniper would never have a decorative zipper on the back of her jacket. Also, speaking of military, one of the things which sets our military apart is their ability to control their shooting. Our soldiers don’t just spray bullets everywhere. They choose a target and shoot it. This proved to be a huge advantage to us in the Iraq war. The untrained terrorist just hosed our boys with their AK-47s but missed much of the time. Our soldiers are trained to hit what they aim at. In one scene, Royce fires at this alien dog with no thought to aiming at all even after a head shot proves to drop it. Royce is supposed to be ex-special forces. His useless shooting was way out of character compared to the cool, calculated guy he appeared to be the rest of the time. It wasn’t like the scene in the first movie, Predator, where they used the mass destruction of the jungle to prove how freaked out the men were and yet how powerful. This was just everyone shooting. Royce doesn’t even seem particularly freaked out. It would have been better if they had carried his personality through to his shooting at this one point.

Rated: R (Obviously) (Deanna, you can’t watch this, obviously.)

In the end, I really enjoyed Frozen, but Predators hit home more. Despite its problems, it proved a fun action flick with an awesome heart at its core.

 

Predators