Sunday, August 22, 2010

Willis and Morgan an Unusual Duo in "Cop Out"

On one hand, there's something very familiar about this movie. We've all seen the "buddy cop" movies (i.e. Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour franchises). We've all seen the story line as well. Two cops end up chasing a drug dealer, an arms dealer, or a kidnapper. What's NOT familiar about this film is the pairing of tough guy Bruce Willis and Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan.

Kevin Smith (Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob) directs Willis and Morgan. They play a veteran cop "couple". After Jimmy's (Willis) valuable baseball card is stolen (his only means to pay for his only daughter's impending wedding) he and his partner Paul (Morgan) go after it's captor, Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz) a gangster, kidnapper and murderer obsessed with sports memorabilia. With the help of a robber (Seann William Scott) who tasers Jimmy en route to selling his card, the partners embark on their case, having just been suspended from the NYPD. What starts as a mission to get back a valuable card becomes a mission to take down Poh Boy and his murderous group of thugs. Jimmy and Paul also become the keepers of Poh Boy's kidnapping victim, the beautiful Gabriela (relative newcomer Ana de la Reguera). And to top everything off, Paul suspects his wife of having an affair. He installs a "nanny-cam" which is hidden inside a teddy bear.

It's unknown to me as to how these two came to be. The two have very different styles. Jimmy (as Willis is in most of his films) is soft spoken, but forceful. Paul incites lines from the cliche and formulaic "good cop, bad cop" routines of film, much to his partner's chagrin. Bruce Willis is an actor who has the gift of a film being able to adapt to him. Much as fellow actor Christopher Walken, Willis is a one-dimensional actor. But in a good way. He only shows his range of emotion within that one dimension. Tracy Morgan is also a one dimensional actor. But unfortunately, his acting is just that. It can be so comically outrageous that he almost becomes unbearable. The most range of emotion shown by Morgan is in his scenes with the teddy bear. Somehow, the pairing works though. Willis plays the straight man to Morgan's outlandish character, but not without getting in a few one liners and zingers of his own.

As in the "Lethal Weapon" and "Rush Hour" franchises before it, this movie has an unusual partnership. And as with these films, this one, for the most part, works. It's funny, action packed, raunchy and violent. But, strangely, all of these factors work.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Kick-Ass" kicks some ass

Every young comic book reader has lost themselves within the colorful pages of the adventures of their favorite superhero. Personally, I don't typically read comic books, but I liken it to losing oneself in a good book, or putting oneself in the place of one's favorite action hero on the big screen. Who wouldn't like to be James Bond, or Superman? In this film, we see a different type of superhero. He may not possess the ability to stop a bullet, but, nonetheless, his "powers" are just as fantastic.

Aaron Johnson stars as Dave Lizewski, a geeky, comic book loving unnoticed high school student. He lives alone with his widowed father, and one day, becomes inspired to become a superhero, albeit one with no powers and no fathomable reason to do so. And so, his alter-ego, Kick-Ass, is born. In an attempt to end the high crime, and to end the bullying of him and his friends, Dave joins forces with three other people with superhero personas. Among them is a father and daughter team, Damon and Mindy Macready (A.K.A Big Daddy and Hit Girl), played by Nicholas Cage and Chloe Moretz, and the spoiled brat rich kid Chris D'Amico (A.K.A Red Mist) played by Chris Mintz-Plasse. The principal antagonist is, strangely enough, the father of one of the heros, Frank D'Amico, one of the largest drug kingpins in the city, played by Andy Garcia look-alike, Mark Strong. The younger D'Amico joins forces with Kick-Ass to impress his father in hopes to one day take over his empire. Along the journey of this rag tag group, Dave becomes anamored with a classmate Katie. They begin their relationship under the false pretense of him being gay. Eventually he comes clean to the woman he loves, and their relationship blossoms. In the end, his ultimate goal is to give up the superhero/vigilante life.

The bar has been set high for the comic book turned film in recent years. Most notably, we've had the Spiderman franchise, as well as the Batman films which culminated with the amazing performance by the late Heath Ledger as the caped crusader's diabolical nemesis, the Joker. This film is extremely well done, and brings together veteran actors, such as Cage, and newcomers, such as the young lady playing Cage's daughter. Moretz's performance as Hit Girl was one of the best parts of the film. The training that must have been involved with some of the stunts she performed was likely extensive. The visual affects are absolutely stunning as well. While his performance in this film was decent, I will forever see Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the nerdy loser "McLovin" in Superbad. As far as I'm concerned, no matter what role he plays, his early roles have typecast him.

This is a good, imaginative and visually stunning film. If you're looking for a family friendly film, this is NOT the one for you. Despite it's comic book persona, it's more like a graphic novel. Nonetheless, it's very entertaining, and highly recommended.