Another 48 Hrs. (1990) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 93 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte return for more in this so-so sequel to 48 Hrs. (1982). Once again, tough guy cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) recruits the help of conman Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to help him on a case. This time, the police officer wants to take down a mysterious drug lord known as “The Iceman” as well as clear his name after being accused of killing an unarmed man.

The plot of Another 48 Hrs. feels rather formless, which is the biggest problem with the film. In retrospect, it just seems like our dynamic duo are chasing various leads until the final shootout arrives. Sure, Nolte and Murphy do no wrong here, but the plot needed a little more meat on it. Oh well, at least the adequate pacing and relatively short runtime keep this flaw from being fatal.

The action scenes here are actually better than the ones in the first installment of this motion picture duology. They’re definitely not top-tier, but they are filmed and edited in a more coherent fashion than in 48 Hrs. This picture is somewhat famous for the amount of glass that gets smashed in it and, yeah, panes of that stuff are being broken left and right. I guess it adds to the fun of the whole experience.

Another 48 Hrs. features less racist and homophobic dialogue than the original, which may make it easier to watch for modern audiences. It’s also less grimy- and gritty-feeling, but – hey – if that’s the cost of superior action set-pieces, I’ll pay it. Okay, the bottom line is that this one isn’t quite as good as the 1982 flick, but it certainly is watchable.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

48 Hrs. (1982) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The 1982 action-comedy 48 Hrs. is an excellent example of how the right casting can save a movie. Here, Eddie Murphy is the hero of the production. The story of the picture in question is about a down-on-his-luck San Francisco police officer named Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) who reluctantly teams up with imprisoned con man Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to track down a pair of cop killers. It’s often considered one of the first of the “buddy-cop” subgenre, but, in this case, only one of the two main characters is a lawman.

It’s largely thanks to Eddie Murphy that this gritty crime-thriller keeps afloat. The movie really comes alive when he shows up, and it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role. The plot may be nothing worth writing home about, but when Murphy’s on a roll, he’s on a roll. Be warned, though, that this flick contains quite a bit of racist, sexist, and homophobic language that makes it a little awkward at times.

Director Walter Hill is generally very good at handling action scenes, but I don’t think 48 Hrs. is one of his better outings when judged by carnage alone. The action here feels a little clumsy sometimes. It’s certainly not all bad, but it doesn’t feel up to the Walter Hill par. The sequences of violence, however, do feel appropriately grounded for such a tight, intimate film.

This is an important landmark in the history of buddy-cop movies, and it holds up pretty well today (except for the bigoted remarks, of course). Sure, it would be topped by Lethal Weapon (1987), but it still has a sleazy, dirt-under-the-fingernails charm all to its own. Also, David Patrick Kelly, perhaps better known as “Sully from Commando (1985)” makes an appearance as criminal Luther.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Shutter Island (2010) Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre(s): Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Runtime: 138 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

With 2010’s Shutter Island, director Martin Scorsese waded into the world of the psychological horror-thriller film…and he did so quite effectively, in my opinion. Set in the 1950s, this movie is about two American federal agents – Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) – who’re sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from an offshore asylum for the criminally insane. Despite a somewhat mixed reception from critics, many moviegoers have latched onto this menacing mind-bender.

Professional film reviewers are generally quick to compare this picture to the works of director Alfred Hitchcock, but there are also notable elements of noir and pulp here, too. I can’t help but feel that the aforementioned pulpy aspects threw some critics, who may have expected something a bit more grounded, for a loop. Anyway, this flick’s paranoid thriller style is supremely foreboding and sinister.

With its high-impact imagery and tense musical choices (collected by Robbie Robertson of The Band fame), Shutter Island is gripping from the start and never lets up. It starts off mysterious and uneasy before building up to fever dream-like ferocity. Some audience members have found some of the production’s plot points to be predictable, but I think that it’s just as much about the journey as it is about the destination in this case.

This feature got a divisive reaction, and I happen to fall on the side believing that it’s a superb piece of suspense and psychological terror. Its plot is alluring and the pacing is swift enough to keep the viewer from questioning some of its potential excesses. For fans of trippy cinema that messes with your head while remaining somewhat mainstream (we’re not talking Un Chien Andalou [1929] levels of nuttiness here), this is an easy one to recommend.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

U.S. Marshals (1998) Review

Director: Stuart Baird

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 131 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

The 1993 action-thriller The Fugitive seems like an unlikely movie to get a sequel, but get one it did. A man named Sheridan (Wesley Snipes), who’s been accused of murdering two government agents, has escaped from police custody, and – you guessed it – U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is on the case. It certainly isn’t as masterful as The Fugitive, but it’s a better-than-serviceable film that keeps my attention.

This one is a tad different from the original Samuel Gerard movie in that it’s not clear if the fugitive being pursued is innocent or not. Okay, it’s not exactly a wildly unpredictable ride, but it has enough ambiguous situations to keep one’s interest. The whole cast does a good job, but, as you’d expect, Tommy Lee Jones is the standout here as a gruff, yet protective, lawman.

U.S. Marshals tries to outdo the action in the first film with mixed results. Sure, the action set-pieces are probably bigger in scale than most of the ones in The Fugitive, but this one lacks some of the human drama of the 1993 flick. The most memorable sequence in the 1998 picture has got to be the part where circumstances allow Wesley Snipes’ character to escape from the law in the first place (I’m not going to spoil the details of it). There are a few other good action bits here, but they probably won’t stick in your head like some of the ones from The Fugitive.

Yeah, U.S. Marshals might contain a slightly slow section or two (making it less relentless than the 1993 production that it’s a sequel to), but it will still satisfy many viewers who were left wanting more (in a good sort of way) by The Fugitive. Earth-shattering it is not, but there’s enough mayhem here to keep an action buff amused for two hours. It’s not exactly a necessary sequel, but, despite lacking the Harrison Ford factor, it’s one worth watching for fans of the original.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Fugitive (1993) Review

Director: Andrew Davis

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 130 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

We all have some movies that take us to our “Happy Place.” For me, one of those elite-class films is 1993’s The Fugitive. Just in case you don’t know, the plot’s about a Chicago doctor named Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) who’s falsely accused of murdering his wife, Helen (Sela Ward), and has to escape from police custody to find the true killer. All along the way, he’ll be pursued by Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), a relentless U.S. Marshal.

One of the best things about this classic is the cat-and-mouse game played by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters. They’re both professionals and they, like the movie itself, never miss a beat. Ford’s an easy guy to root for and Jones, despite being an antagonist, is not demonized. Action and suspense scenes come and go, but it’s the characters that make the deepest impression.

Speaking of action sequences, there are a few stunners here that I won’t spoil. The big set-pieces are pulse-pounding, and the film captures a great sense of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure. The pacing is exquisite, moving from one fight, evasion, escape, standoff, chase, or close-call to the next, with just enough dialogue to make sure the thing is comprehensible.

The Fugitive is a classy, airtight action-thriller that makes great use of its Chicago-area locations. It manages to feel somewhat plausible on one hand, but, on the other, it doesn’t feel tied down by concerns for excessive realism. The tone’s just right, being serious enough to draw the audience in without being oppressive. I would consider it essential viewing.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

Mile 22 (2018) Review

Director: Peter Berg

Genre(s): Action, Thriller

Runtime: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Mile 22 is intense, but aimlessly so. It got my blood pumping, but I’m not sure why, as it’s so messy and unsatisfying. Set in a fictional nation in Southeast Asia, a team of CIA operatives are tasked with escorting out of the country Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a police officer who knows the location of some weapons-of-mass-destruction that threaten the world. It’s an interesting set-up…with a so-so execution.

This is an action movie, and, on that front, we have a mixed bag. The editing is frequently too choppy for its own good, occasionally making it difficult to tell who’s fighting who. Martial artist Iko Uwais is one of the main draws of the film, and his action scenes are exciting when they’re comprehensible. Overall, the violence is half-sloppy and half-well-done. There’s more gunplay than fisticuffs, resulting in endless headshots.

One of the more prominent flaws of the feature is the unlikable main character, James Silva (Mark Wahlberg). This guy’s got anger issues and does very little to ingratiate himself to the audience. Okay, he does prevent a kid from being blown the Hell up by a bomb, but that’s so far into the runtime that the opportunity to win over the viewer is long gone. He’s probably one of the most unpleasant leads since Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars prequels.

Yeah, I’ve definitely ragged on this movie enough. I mean, it’s not a boring picture, for what it’s worth. There’s no shortage of action here. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, it’s an oddly intense-feeling action-thriller, yet it doesn’t leave that much of an impression when it’s all said and done. It seems to have a worldview that’s on the nasty side, but, considering the film’s underwhelming nature, does it even matter?

My rating is 6 outta 10.

The Foreigner (2017) Review

Director: Martin Campbell

Genre(s): Action, Thriller

Runtime: 113 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Although The Foreigner is directed by Martin Campbell, who helmed two of the best James Bond films, GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006), this movie is not up to par with those two pictures. The complicated story concerns an immigrant to Great Britain named Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan) who loses his daughter, Fan (Katie Leung), to a terrorist bombing in London and decides to harass the British government for the names of the perpetrators, so he can have his revenge. I like the Jackie Chan stuff in here, but these parts are often drowned out by a convoluted plot.

As some critics have pointed out, The Foreigner sometimes feels like two separate movies joined at the hip. One is a thriller about a cell of terrorists trying to reignite “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland and the government’s response and the other half is an actioner about Chan’s character beating up people on his vengeance-driven path. The behind-the-scenes intrigue sequences are kept afloat by Pierce Brosnan’s performance as Liam Hennessy.

The best parts of this feature are, as you might expect, the action scenes. They’re not as manically choreographed as the fights in some other Jackie Chan movies, but they’re still superb. Chan is much more sullen here than he is in his typical action-comedy. He’s certainly playing against type a bit, and I think it pays off pretty well for him.

The Foreigner‘s twisty and turny plot holds it back from being truly recommendable. There are so many characters and so many motivations that we just want all of it to stop and watch Chan pummel some fools. It’s nice to see Jackie doing something more serious – I’m all for that – but this one just feels overplotted.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Review

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Genre(s): Action, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 88 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG (theatrical cut), Not Rated (unrated cut)

IMDb Page

The Planet of the Apes series had been dark before, but, with the fourth entry, it became outright pissed-off. In a fascistic future where all dogs and cats have died due to a plague from outer space, apes are used as pets and slaves by humans. However, one chimpanzee, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), has violent revolt on his mind. This, right here, is the best of the original set of sequels to Planet of the Apes (1968).

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is seething with revolutionary fervor. This is an angry and incendiary film, built around a slave rebellion…and it almost plays out like a start-your-own-state-of-anarchy playbook. It is available in two versions: the standard, PG-rated theatrical cut (that’s still plenty vicious) and a bloodier unrated version with an alternate ending.

The big draw of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is the final action sequence, which lasts about twenty minutes. It is certainly the most sustained scene of mayhem that the franchise has seen yet. It’s exceptional, with humans and apes duking it out at the “Ape Management” building and in the streets of the city that the picture is set in. Its budget wasn’t unlimited, but director J. Lee Thompson (who had previously helmed The Guns of Navarone [1961]) uses his resources very effectively.

Roddy McDowall gives a surprisingly good performance, considering that he’s covered in chimpanzee make-up. It’s a little odd seeing dirty apes, when they’re being used as slaves, serving humans food and touching all of their precious belongings. Get past that, and you’ll be rewarded with a fiery, dramatic, action-oriented sci-fi film with plenty of passion. Forget satire and nuance, let’s get straight to violent revolution!

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Review

Director: Don Taylor

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 98 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

Somehow, after the ending of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), the Planet of the Apes series was kept alive, and the third film in the franchise is one of the more unique entries into its canon. Three ape astronauts – Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Milo (Sal Mineo) – arrive in the 1970s United States in the salvaged spacecraft used by the humans in the original Planet of the Apes (1968). This one is special, being the least action-oriented of the series.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes actually starts out like a fish-out-of-water comedy. How would these apes react to being slapped down in the middle of the twentieth-century United States? It’s mostly light stuff, but the film’s increasing thriller elements mean this merriment doesn’t last forever. There are no clear heroes or villains here.

As mentioned above, this picture is not very concerned with physical action. It’s more about exploring complicated moral dilemmas, something it does quite well. Despite a minimum of fighting, the film does end on a very grim note. Like the previous entries in the Planet of the Apes series, its G rating from the MPAA should be ignored.

The plot of Escape from the Planet of the Apes is mighty contrived and implausible, but it’s a successful midway point for the 1960s/1970s incarnation of the franchise. No explosions or intricately choreographed fights here, yet its solid pacing and unafraid examinations of important moral matters make it a winner. It’s sometimes regarded as the best of the sequels from the ’60s/’70s series, and, while I don’t agree with that, it’s definitely a feature worth watching.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Review

Director: Ted Post

Genre(s): Adventure, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 95 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

When people think of Planet of the Apes (1968) being a cheesy movie, they probably have something along the lines of its first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in mind. This is the one where astronaut Brent (James Franciscus) lands on the same ape-controlled planet as the crew from the original film does, and finds himself in the middle of a war between the apes and a race of underground mutants. Yeah, this is the point where things really start to get out of control.

This one feels slightly cheaper-made than the 1968 classic. There’s still lots of stuff going on, but, in comparison to the first one, this one has a bit of made-for-television quality to it at times (though it was released in theaters). The star, James Franciscus, is basically just a Charlton Heston lookalike, and he goes through a similar journey to that of Heston’s in the original. There’s also some “satire” here that is almost comically on-the-nose.

Still, there are a few good action set-pieces to enjoy. The film’s tone is pitch-black, with some nihilistically violent scenes. The movie’s G-rating from the MPAA is truly a joke. It’s a dark picture, almost horror movie-ish at times, but that’s part of its appeal. The budget may be lower, but it’s fun to watch to see how zany and off-the-wall it can get.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes is certainly a piece of sci-fi kitsch, but I like that kind of stuff. It’s not essential viewing if you liked the 1968 original, especially if you have a low tolerance level for cinematic cheese. Despite the film’s bleak nature, the scariest part of the feature is actually its end credits, which credit Victor Bruno’s character as “Fat Man” and Don Pedro Colley’s as “Negro.” Yikes!

My rating is 7 outta 10.