Tag Archives: Edgar Ramirez

The Girl on the Train (2016)

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There is a girl—and a missing girl at that—but Gone Girl this is not.

I was so looking forward to The Girl on the Train, the film adaptation of the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins. I heard about the book a while ago and even read the first chapter or two, but my Kindle’s battery died and I forgot all about it until I realised the film was just around the corner. So as I usually do, I decided to just watch the movie version instead.

It starts off intriguing enough: A woman (Emily Blunt) who rides a train into New York for work likes to watch a seemingly happy couple as she passes their house every day. Then of course, something shocking happens, and she finds herself drawn into a missing person / murder mystery that is somehow intertwined with her own history. Like Gone Girl, it has damaged characters, utilises the narrative device of a potentially unreliable narrator, and cuts back and forth in time and through different points of view, gradually piecing together the clues to the mystery like pieces of a puzzle.

Sadly, I would have to call Girl on the Train an average disappointment. I thought I would like it a little more, considering that I had seen some of the lukewarm reviews (just the ratings, without reading anything) and thought low expectations might be beneficial in this case. But even leaving plot holes aside, I found the story—and especially the mystery at the heart of it—very predictable (more on this later), and most importantly, lacking in genuine suspense. This film tried to be this year’s Gone Girl, a deserved smash hit, but was really just a B-grade thriller more in the vein of 2014’s Before I Go to Sleep. That was based on a bestselling book too and starred Nicole Kidman, but it came and went, doing poorly both with critics and at the box office.

As such, The Girl on the Train is a waste of a talented cast that also includes Rebecca Ferguson (the standout from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Lisa Kudrow, and the always wonderful Allison Janney, who all deliver quite solid performances.

However, there are just some very fundamental problems with the movie. First of all, the whole “girl on the train” thing is a bit of a gimmick. It sounds intriguing, but is really not much more than a hook lead into the story. It doesn’t take long before the whole train thing becomes an irrelevant part of the story. Moreover, as I understand it, the book was based in London, whereas for the film they switched the setting to New York. And yet they got Emily Blunt to keep her accent and play a British woman. It doesn’t hurt the movie much, though I think a London setting would have suited the overall vibe better.

Secondly, there is a point of view problem with this movie. I’m sure it works better on the pages of a book, because on the screen it struggles to build a proper narrative thread. The story is told from at least three points of view because there are parts of it that Emily Blunt’s character could not have possibly known. Also, it jumps back in time quite often, from several years to a few months to a few days, breaking any momentum in the suspense the film manages to build. So the structure really takes the film away from Blunt’s protagonist, and as a result it doesn’t feel like we are in this mystery with her, trying to figure everything out alongside her. Instead, we’re simply watching from afar as the story feeds us bits and pieces of information in an arbitrary way, making it feel more manipulative. It doesn’t help that there aren’t any particularly sympathetic or at least interesting characters.

Thirdly, the answer to the central mystery is not very hard to guess. I would be very surprised if more than half of the people who watched it didn’t figure it out at least an hour away from the ending. A lot of it has to do with the script, but some blame also needs to go director Tate Taylor (The Help), who doesn’t offer enough red herrings and suspects to mislead the audience. There just aren’t many alternate possibilities to explain what happened, especially because you know the most obvious answer in such movies are almost always wrong.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t called The Girl on the Train a terrible film. It’s not poorly made and the cast and performances are pretty good. But it’s just an uninspiring adaptation that fails to bring out whatever it is that made the source material “the novel that shocked the world”.

2.5 stars out of 5

Point Break (2015)

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I swear, I was all pumped to hop on the Point Break remake bandwagon. The 1991 original with Keanu and Swayze was a guilty pleasure of mine growing up. It was cool, exciting and extremely rewatchable. I must have seen it at least half a dozen times, mostly on TV reruns. And I didn’t even know until a few years ago that it was directed by future Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), though in hindsight her trademark intensity was indeed all over the movie.

As you may recall, the film is about a young FBI agent named Johnny Utah who investigates a bank robbery case and ends up infiltrating a surf gang led by a mysterious and charismatic leader called Bodhi. Of course, Utah grows close to Bodhi over time and begins to question where his loyalties lie.

I don’t know how the film holds up today, but I agree that a remake was completely unnecessary. That said, the trailer for Point Break 2015 didn’t look all that bad, upping the ante from regular surfing to extreme sports all around the world. I had just seen Edgar Ramirez in Joy and thought he had the charisma to pull off Bodhi, and while no one would ever be “dude” enough to replace Keanu, I’m always up for supporting Aussie actors like Luke Bracey, who plays Johnny Utah. Bracey hasn’t wowed me with his past performances like November Man with Pierce Brosnan and Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me, but at least he’s still better than Jai Courtney.

Point Break 2015 turned out to be one of the biggest flops of the year, both critically and commercially, scoring a paltry 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and making just US$100 million worldwide against a mammoth US$130 million production budget. In all honesty, I went into this one hoping to play devil’s advocate. I wanted to be the guy to tell everyone that Point Break 2015 isn’t as bad as it has been made out to be.

Unfortunately, I can’t. For once, the critics and audiences got it right. The film sucks sweaty balls on a hot summer’s day. There are just so many things wrong with it, starting from the fact that it didn’t even need to be called Point Break. And it shouldn’t have been because there are substantial differences. Change the characters’ names and make a few more tweaks around the edges and you could have called this something else altogether. It wouldn’t have made everybody who didn’t want a remake roll their eyes, and it wouldn’t have been doomed with expectations it can’t possibly live up to. So that’s mistake number one.

Secondly, the script is really, really bad. In short, it tries way to hard. In trying to be a cool new take on the original story or even an homage, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (whose other winning writing efforts include the 2012 Total Recall remake and the shitty Law Abiding Citizen from 2009) arbitrarily takes bits from the 1991 script and actually makes them lamer. Apart from all the contrivances and stuff that makes little sense, the dialogue is atrocious and occasionally laughable, and there’s just no cohesive narrative thread. It’s like a bunch of set pieces that has been forcibly stringed together, with a few key plot points from the original thrown in there to guide the plot. On top of that there’s this spiritual journey BS and silly mystical quest business that I didn’t buy at all. The more seriously the characters took it the less I believed in it.

Thirdly, the film is surprisingly dull. You would think with all these extreme sport scenes it would be one adrenaline rush after another. Instead, what we got was a lot of CGI-heavy sequences that looked quite fake. And instead of getting your blood pumping all it does is make you wonder why people would do such stupid things. I remember there were some wonderfully executed action sequences in the original, but they were nowhere to be found here. Rather, they filmed at all these amazingly beautiful places around the world and chose a greyish colour tone that just made it look bleak and unattractive.

At the end of the day, the biggest problem is that the film doesn’t make you care about the characters. They aren’t developed at all, so you don’t really give a crap if they live or die. At least with Swayze’s Bodhi I kind of liked him while being wary of what he’s capable of. With Ramirez’s Bodhi I was just indifferent. And while Bracey does his best as Utah, I think we can all agree that he’s no Keanu. It never felt like he was torn between two sides. There was simply no emotional connection to anything he was doing. It’s as though the film takes for granted that audiences know Bodhi and Utah will bond, that Utah will have a love interest, and puts zero effort into actually creating organic relationships and characters that we can believe in.

As for the supporting cast, both Delroy Lindo and Ray Winstone (is he the Gary Busey character?!) look liked they phoned it in. And Aussie Teresa Palmer, who plays the Lori Petty love-interest character but renamed to Samsara (seriously, WTF?), was barely passable in a completely thankless token role.

I didn’t want to dislike Point Break 2015 this much. Sadly, it’s a complete mess, a spastic remake that takes a massive dump on everything that was good about the original. Inexplicably boring for an action thriller, contrived and predictable drama; this is one of those films that make you go what were they thinking? US$130 million for this? Some remakes didn’t need to be made. Point Break 2015 unequivocally should not have been made at all.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

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I had been really looking forward to Deliver Us From Evil, supposedly “inspired” by true events endured by a real NYPD sergeant by the name of Ralph Sarchie. With one of my favourite actors, Australia’s own Eric Bana in the leading role, I thought the film carried a lot of promise.

Sadly, despite Bana’s best efforts, Deliver Us From Evil disappoints on almost all levels. It starts off as an intriguing story about a cop struggling with his inner demons but soon becomes a far-fetched tale about “real” — and super powerful — demons possessing US war veterans.

The film does have its moments, with director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) pulling out his big bag of tricks to fuse a creepy atmosphere with traditional exorcism-related scares. It’s dark, moody and bloody, with an extended exorcism climax that works better than most similar efforts in recent years. Ultimately, however,  Deliver Us From Evil fails to “deliver” due to several fundamental problems.

I did a bit of post-viewing research to confirm what I already suspected — that the term “inspired” is applied so loosely that the film’s pants are in danger of dropping down to its ankles. None of the stuff that happens in the film are based on real events chronicled by Sarchie in his book. I have no idea why they went down this route — perhaps the book is not very exciting– but the plot is so ludicrous that it feels a lot more than a comic book adaptation than anything resembling reality. This is a real shame because I would have much rather preferred strong execution of a dull story than dull execution of a silly story.

Apart from the plot, Deliver Us From Evil is actually also a very unpleasant film to watch, and I mean that in a bad way for a horror movie. Having dark tones and “visual grit” is one thing, but this film goes a little overboard with it. Throw in the flashing lights that almost gave me an epileptic fit and all the rapid-fire cuts, I felt like I really needed to give my eyes a good rest after watching the film.

Eric Bana does the best he can as Sarchie, though the limits of the material make him just yet another troubled cop with a dark past. We’ve seen too many of these “losing my faith” redemption stories for Sarchie to come across as anything special. Edgar Ramirez, who plays an unorthodox chain-smoking Spanish priest, is not your typical exorcist. He’s interesting for a while, though not interesting enough to be a truly memorable character. Olivia Munn plays the wife, and it’s sad to see such a beautiful, talented woman like her being relegated to such a thankless role.

I genuinely wish I liked Deliver Us From Evil more. With the exception of a couple of bright spots, however, this is a film that belongs well hidden in the shadows.

2 stars out of 5