Tag Archives: Emily Browning

Legend (2015)

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I know what you’re thinking, but no, Legend is not a biopic about me. Nor is it a remake of that trippy 1985 fantasy film with Tom Cruise and a unicorn. This one is actually about the notorious Kray twins, Ronald and Reggie, two mobsters who ruled London back in the 1950s.

Both twins, who have vastly different personalities and even look a little different, are played by Tom Hardy in a powerhouse performance. And yet, despite this and a brilliant supporting cast that includes Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston and Chazz Palminteri, Legend largely slipped under the radar, pulling in just US$43 million at the global box office (against a US$25 million budget).

Legend has a mostly fun, energetic vibe to it, mixing the humour of the contrasting personalities of the twins — Reggie is the levelheaded one, while Ron is literally crazy — with brutal, unrelenting violence. There are also some dark shades to this story with Reggie’s abuse of his young wife (played by Browning), and credit goes to director Brian Helgeland (best known for directing the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 and penning the adaptation scripts to LA Confidential (he won the Oscar for it) and Mystic River) for controlling the rhythm and transitions so that the shifts in tone aren’t too jarring.

The problem with Legend is that it feels like it should have been a whole lot more than it was, given the stars, performances and source material. The story plays out too coventionally, and the developments are predictable despite it being a true story. It’s also too long, of course, with a sagging midsection and an anticlimactic ending. Further, while the Kray twins are fascinating people, it’s not easy to sympathise or empathise with them, making it difficult for audiences to connect with the protagonists. These problems prevent it from being the classic mobster flick it had the potential to be.

Still, flaws notwithstanding, Legend is a very solid mob film with some enjoyable sequences and a super cast. It’s another one of those good-but-not-great movies to throw onto the pile. It’s not quite The Departed, but it’s not quite Gangster Squad either.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Pompeii (2014)

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Liar. There were plenty of warnings.

I knew Pompeii was likely going to be trash even before I watched it. But perhaps because my expectations were so low, I actually ended up having quite a good time with it. OK, so it’s no Gladiator, but it’s a lot better than The Legend of Hercules.

Fans of Game of Thrones will be happy to know that Kit Harrington, aka Jon Snow, does an excellent job of portraying a protagonist named after a delicious chocolate beverage, Milo. With his parents slaughtered by the evil Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), Milo is forced into slavery and eventually grows up to become a gladiator with impressive abs. His skills take him to Pompeii, where he meets and falls madly in love with Cassia (Aussie Emily Browning), the daughter of the city’s ruler.

It’s a fairly typical story about a wronged man seeking vengeance who falls into a forbidden romance, and as such it’s hard to take the movie seriously. But of course, as the title of the film tells us, there’s something about it that sets it apart from your usual swords-and-sandals flick. Er, like an epic volcanic eruption! I hope this is not a spoiler (and if it is, you need to learn a little more about history).

To the credit of director Paul WS Anderson (best known for all the Resident Evil movies, the underrated Event Horizon and the atrocious Mortal Kombat), you never get the feeling that the rest of the movie is all just filler for the big catastrophe at the end. We get many not-so-subtle reminders throughout the film that it’s coming (though no one in the film seems to think much of all the warning signs), but until it happens the focus is strictly on the action and the love story.

The love story is, well, crap, but it’s surprisingly and pleasantly lacking in corniness.  There are almost no cringeworthy Twilight-esque moments, that’s for sure, and it seems quite natural that the only two attractive people in the city should be together. My only complaint is that Emily Browning needs to eat more. She’s basically skin and bones now, and the round face she had as recently as Sucker Punch has turned all angular and gaunt. It’s not a good look for her, but on the bright side at least she has the English accent down pat.

The action, on the other hand, is solid. The film takes a page out of Gladiator and infuses it with a bit of Resident Evil — the moves, not the zombies — to create some stylistic and exciting gladiator duels. Harrington knows his way around a blade having been on Game of Thrones, but he was nearly overshadowed by the presence of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr Eko on Lost) as the champion gladiator with an awesome screen presence. The two make a formidable on-screen duo.

And yes, it is worth the wait when the volcano erupts. I assume it’s all CGI, which is done reasonable well and gives the impression that the danger is genuine and imminent, though the danger really only strikes when a character has served his or her purpose. For what it’s worth, I thought it was done right.

The thing about Pompeii I can’t quite figure out is whether everything about it was intended to be dead serious or tongue-in-cheek. On the face of it it looks like a serious action epic, but there are just hints here and there that no one is taking it seriously. What probably clinches it is the casting of Kiefer Sutherland, who has absolutely reason to play a Roman politician. It just looks like Jack Bauer stumbled onto the wrong set and played along by putting on a snarling and uneven British accent. One of the strangest and funniest things in the whole film.

As for Carrie-Ann Moss, who plays Emily Browning’s mother, it was a thankless role anyone could have played and frankly it was a little sad to see how her career has turned out following the promising heights of The Matrix and Memento.

Nonetheless, if you know what you’re in for, Pompeii is actually not a bad popcorn film. Some passable drama and romance, well-choreographed gladiator scenes, a hilarious villain and sweet special effects towards the end. Just don’t expect too much and you’ll be fine.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Sucker Punch (2011)

In a nutshell, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is the one of the most visually impressive but intellectually and emotionally empty films I’ve ever seen.

I’m really stuck on this review right now because I don’t know how to go about it.  The film started off unbelievably well, with virtually zero dialogue and a kick ass soundtrack — but most importantly it told a story, and an interesting one: a deceased mother, a dead sister, an evil stepfather and a girl in a mental institution where she will be lobotomised in five days.

At this point I thought I was in for one of the best films of the year.  I loved the look of the film (in my opinion it exceeded both 300 and Watchmen), I loved the sound (something I don’t usually notice) and I loved where it was heading.  It had a terrific (at least looking) cast led by two sensational Aussies (Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish), plus Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Then, as expected, the film took a turn into fantasy, and from there, the story just went downhill (though I will say it redeemed itself a little towards the end).  I didn’t have a problem with the turn itself, but I disliked the way it was executed.

The effects and fight scenes were amazing to watch, but because you knew it was all ridiculous fantasy, nothing was at stake and as a result there was no genuine excitement.  Incredible to look at (it was like a freaking video game or the best live-action anime of all time) but it left me feeling strangely hollow.  And without giving away anything more about the plot, I also found the progression to be predictable and plodding.  The devices used were, for lack of a better term, lame.

And so I have very mixed feelings about Sucker Punch.  On the one hand the geek inside me was utterly impressed by the super cool visuals, martial arts moves and blazing guns.  There was a scenario for every nerd — war, fantasy, sci-fi.  But on the other, the sane movie-goer in me was disappointed by the lack of a compelling narrative and a complete failure to generate any emotional connection.  It smelt of a lazy film, one that was too focused on the aesthetics and not nearly enough on the heart and soul.  It’s a real shame because with a stronger script, Sucker Punch could have been something quite special.

2.5 stars out of 5