Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Royale - A Bond reboot that is well worth it

A Bond reboot after three years, after Pierce Brosnan. Based on the first Ian Fleming novel, this film presents a new interpretation and a grittier, darker and a matter-of-fact bond. Daniel Craig creates one of the most grounded, believable and kick-ass Bonds ever (I know, I know, except Sean Connery).

The movie starts out with Bond engaged in a gritty hand-to-hand combat (in black and white) with an assassin to earn his “00” status. And from there, he sweats out, picking new skills, smoothing the rough edges of his maneuvers. The Bond character is built stone by stone and we get an inside look at the construction process. Gone are the days of the womanizing, smooth-talking, chauvinistic killer. This Bond doesn’t have time for all that stuff: when asked whether he wants his martini’s shaken or stirred, he replies: “do I look like I give a damn”.

There is a spectacular on-foot chase in a construction site, where both vertical and horizontal hurdles are scaled with stunning ease (the chasee’s skills are more akin with a monkey than any possible human). From there, it is a mixed bag. There are some interesting sequences and set-pieces, and long romantic interludes where the action co-efficient is on the low. But, these sequences are never boring, and do serve the purpose of building the core of the character. This film is a set-up, and spends lot of time laying the base-work for future adventures- buckle up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Harsh Times - Movie Review

"Harsh Times" is "Mean Streets" cast in the mould of "Training Day". It is a buddy movie and an exploration of the underbelly of the urban landscape, filled with drugs, violence, pointless bravado, and masochistic humor.

Jim Davis (Christian Bale) is an ex-Army ranger, who has temporarily slipped into his previous life of patrolling the streets of LA, engaging in an array of illegal adventures- drug abuse, selling arms in the black market etc. Jim is intent on getting back into the mainstream job market so that he can afford to get married to his girlfriend in Mexico, and bring her to the US. Having freshly being rejected by the LAPD, he is called-in by a Federal agency for a job offer.

He rolls with his buddy Mike, who, in the pretext of searching for a job, joins Jim in his misadventures, and together they navigate the crime hotspots of LA with great ease. They dart in an out of explosive situations, armed with an insider's eye and ear for all things criminal. Their daily routine consists of drugging up as early as possible, as if to block-out any possible intrusion of reason and good-sense, and getting themselves into inextricable situations, and pooling all their resources to get out of them.

During their travails together, they meet some former buddies of theirs who have opted for a more mainstream lifestyle, and "straightened-up". These interludes briefly bring-up the possibility of hope and one day, redemption. The movie suggests that, in the violent inferno of urban crime and street-life, one's destiny is dictated as much by luck and turn of events, as by their deliberate efforts.
Christian Bale turns in another first rate performance. He has been silently building an enviable body of work that speaks for his range as an actor - for further proof, rent and watch "The Machinist" and "Batman Begins" back-to-back. He is ably supported by Freddy Rodríguez ("Six Feet Under") and Eva Longoria ("Desperate Housewives").

This movie was written and directed by David Ayers, whose past writing credits include a slew of hits like "Fast and the Furious", "U-571", and more relevantly "Training Day". He has an eye for detail, particularly in this landscape. Here he creates a believable urban jungle, with suffocating atmospherics and fully believable, down-your-alley characters. It takes a little getting used to to the frequent blood-shed and graphic drug abuse (there is an excruciating scene where Jim undergoes an ingenious procedure to pass a drug test - the weak of heart and refined taste are well advised to stay away).