Monday Morning Critic – Draft Day, Kevin Costner and The Power of Hope – 2014’s Most Over-Hyped Film: The Raid 2, A Review

MMC

I didn’t want to do a full review of Draft Day this weekend, mainly because I didn’t have many thoughts that hadn’t already been said en masse earlier. I thought it was a good, not great, film that touched on a lot of marks but didn’t score a touchdown. It was in striking range, and in the red zone a couple times, but it settled for field goals instead. Sometimes you can’t hit that home run with a film but you can make a good one out of it, which isn’t a bad thing sometimes. It’s ok to take a film like this and make it enjoyable, keeping it in that area between good and great, without going full bore for a masterpiece.

Sometimes it’s ok to understand the limits of the material and keep them within there.

The one thing the film did that I think hasn’t really been done in sports is that it accurately shows just how powerful and intoxicating hope is in sport. It’s the one thing the NFL draft symbolizes more than any other professional sport: the power of hope to make you think that one player can turn you from zero to hero. The NFL draft, which garners an insane amount of viewers, is the ultimate spectacle in sport when it comes to inspiring this.

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And it’s the one thing the film definitively understands at its soul. Its one conceit early on is that the Cleveland Browns, and nearly every other franchise, are more than one player away from contending. Holes are everywhere, multiple positions and players are needed, and yet that air before the draft makes you feel like only a handful of players are needed to take your fortunes from the gutter to the penthouse. You can feel the desperation in the air from Sonny Weaver but that the hope is just as intoxicating.

You might need a dozen players … but one of those blue chippers he sees in front of him could turn things around. That stud middle linebacker could anchor his defense … that running back his head coach covets could make his offense sizzle … and that once in a generation quarterback could be the piece he builds everything around. It’s what drives the film and makes it a strong viewing. We get to overlook all of the flaws of a roster already built, of all the questions coming in to a season, because of this overwhelming power of hope.

It’s why I think this film is going to hold up for much longer than it normally would. Films about the business of sport generally tend to be illuminating for any number of reasons. Draft Day is a film about the nature of sports faith; of that hope beyond hope that this is going to be “our year.”

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

My post fight predictions after Friday’s UFC Fight Pass card are right here.

Travis tackled Draft Day and was spot on with his review.

Mike Noyes tackled +1 on DVD.

And now on MMC … we work some biceps.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD Theatrical Review- The Raid 2

The other film I saw in theatres this weekend, besides the strong but flawed Draft Day was the sequel to 2011’s insanely overrated The Raid: Redemption. And much like its predecessor The Raid 2 is about as overrated as The Raid.

I had some thoughts on the original here as part of a longer piece, so give that a whirl.

What made the original a tedious exercise of an action film was that it was just a series of action scenes without much context. It reminded me of Outrage, a Yakuza film that was mainly a series of death scenes tenuously strung together in a loose plot structure. I reviewed that film, as well, and it’s the first one The Raid reminded me of when I saw it in theatres.

The sequel, taking place right after the events of the first, rectifies this error by making it a much tighter film in terms of plot and structure. The action has a purpose this time as it moves from scene to scene as Rama (Iko Uwais) is sent undercover into a ruthless crime syndicate to bring it down from the inside. They want to bring everyone down, including the crooked cops from within it, and he becomes a criminal by the name of Yuda who ingratiates himself into the son of the cartel head. From there he has to rise in the cartel while keeping his identity a secret.

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Meanwhile the criminal underworld is conspiring, as well, as the peace between the cartels and the Japanese Yakuza looks to come undone.

The problem with the sequel is that it trades out the original’s flaws, of no real plot, and for a bunch of new ones. This is a film that essentially apes Infernal Affairs and The Departed in plot and length respectively. The problem is that the film runs nearly three hours and feels significantly longer. There’s easily an hour of this film that could be taken out without the film missing much of a beat. This is a slick, 90 minute action thriller with incredible fight scenes that’s burdened with an additional hour of filler to make it feel like a big, epic film that has something grand to say about the nature of man as both cop and criminal.

There’s an interesting story to the film in that regard that seems to be coming out … and then another in a long line of action sequences come along. It’s like Gareth Evans can’t go five minutes without needing a scene where someone gets a limb broken, stabbed or shot in gruesome fashion. I love action films but this was almost too much; I wanted Rama/Yuda to like talk his problems out with someone after a while instead of inflicting violence. In many ways it reminded me of a friend of mine’s take on Showgirls when it was released.

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“I mean Jesse Spano is naked so often that after a while I’m just like ‘put some clothes on, boring’ … and I’ve waited years to see her naked in a film.”

I get it and I can see why Evans inspires fanboys to cream their pants like young schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert. I dig that he avoids shaky-cam and CGI, going for practical effects, and think it’s admirable that he’s trying to make an action film that’s more throwback than modern. But don’t tell me it’s the greatest anything with a straight face. This wasn’t even the best action film out in theatres this weekend much less the best film of the year. It’s a mediocre action film, not much better than its predecessor.

Slightly recommended … find a matinee if you can.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Bears – Is it Earth Day soon? This film is about bears doing bear things, I think.

Skip it – Nature films as a rule are boring and nothing about this screams can’t miss.

Transcendence – Johnny Depp becomes an evil computer … and bad things happen.

See it – I think the intellectual concepts behind the film, of artificial intelligence and our basic humanity, might wind up being better discussion points than this film. However the premise alone, of a man’s mind being put it into a supercomputer, is intriguing enough to warrant a ticket purchase.

A Haunted House 2 – The Scary Movie of found footage horror films gets a sequel.

See it – The first was a lot better than I expected … not that it was any good but it wasn’t completely rancid. The second could be passable … right?

Heaven is for Real – A young kid momentarily goes all corpsed up and winds up seeing Heaven. Based on a real kid who got all corpsy, apparently.

Skip it – I love Greg Kinnear but this … this looks appropriately bad.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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