Tag Archives: Luke Bracey

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the alcoholic antisemite nutjob sure knows how to make awesome movies!

I was somewhat wary about his latest film, Hacksaw Ridge, the remarkable true story about a Christian conscientious objector who became a hero during World War II. Given Gibson’s religious leanings, I was concerned that he was going to push that aspect of the movie down my throat, but I guess I didn’t give him enough credit because Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most epic and inspiring war movies ever made. And it’s technically an Aussie film!

Former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a young man who felt obligated like so many in his hometown to join the US military and fight the Japanese during WWII. The problem is, he’s a devout Christian who not only refuses to kill but even refuses to carry a weapon. Obviously, if he were simply sent home at this point, Hacksaw Ridge wouldn’t be much of a movie. So you can kind of guess what happens next. And yet, the battle sequences, when they finally hit, are so impactful and devastating that I became totally immersed in the film, such that it didn’t matter if I knew what the story was about or what the outcome would be.

We all know Mel loves violence, and Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t hold back one bit. Bullets shredding bodies, exploding heads, flying limbs — the carnage actually wasn’t too far off from the over-the-top massacres in Rambo (2008), except here it felt terrifyingly real. Well-developed characters you care about and good acting can make all the difference.

Garfield is really, really good as Doss, and I wouldn’t be upset if he snags one of the five Best Actor spots at the Oscars this year (he also could for Silence, though I haven’t seen it yet). It could have been easy for Doss to come across as too self-righteous and obtuse, but Garfield’s performance makes him a protagonist you want to root for. The rest of the cast is fantastic too, including Doss’s abuse, alcoholic father played by Hugo Weaving and mother played by Rachel Griffiths. Teresa Palmer puts in one of her better performances as the love interest, while Luke Bracey and Sam Worthington — two guys who haven’t been great leading men but have been solid supporting actors — are as good as they have ever been as soldiers in Doss’s unit. Vince Vaughn rounds off the stellar cast with also one of his best performances in years as their wise-cracking sergeant, providing the bulk of the film’s humour without at all coming across as jarring or out of place.

Hacksaw Ridge a brutal, harrowing film about the horrors of war, but also an uplifting one about faith and sticking to what you believe in and who you are. You really don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy this movie or be moved by it. You can actually even hate Christianity but love this movie because the themes are universal. Inspiring is inspiring, and a great movie is a great movie.

4.5 stars out of 5

PS: Apparently the film is pretty accurate too. Some timelines are shifted or stretched, but the core facts are verifiable.

Point Break (2015)

point break

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: The November Man (2014)

november man

Whenever I see an aging star in a new action flick, I immediately think: Taken rip off! But The November Man, starring former 007 Pierce Brosnan, is no Taken imitator. It’s actually quite a clever and complicated political action thriller based on the novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger. I wouldn’t quite put it in the 007 class, nor does it live up to the likes of the Bourne franchise, though all things considered, The November Man is a perfectly adequate and compelling film experience that proves old man Brosnan still has what it takes.

Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, an old CIA spy who went into retirement after his protégé David Mason, played by Aussie Luke Bracey, disobeyed his order and caused a tragedy. Five years later, he is called out of retirement to obtain crucial information from a spy who has been working undercover in the offices of a politician tipped to become the next Russian president.

The plot is quite complex; I wouldn’t call it convoluted, though you do need to pay attention. Essentially, the evidence leads Peter to a refugee worker played by Olga Kurylenko, whom he must protect from a deadly assassin. At the same time, he is pitted in the field against David, who is desperate to prove himself against his ex mentor.

There are twists and turns; people are not who they seem. Most of it is fairly typical spy thriller stuff, though I was quite intrigued by the intelligent narrative and the stylish execution of Roger Donaldson, who previously collaborated with Brosnan for Dante’s Peak and has films such as Thirteen Days, Species, The Recruit and The Bank Job on his resume. Those are all fairly solid but unexceptional films, and The November Man falls in the same category.

I was never that big of a fan of Brosnan as James Bond, but he was very good in this. Looked the part, felt the part. By comparison, Luke Bracey came across as a bit out of his depth, failing to match both Brosnan’s charm and screen presence. The dynamic sort of matched what was happening between their characters on screen too.

On the whole, The November Man is neither great nor memorable, but it is still an entertaining spy action thriller that represents a welcome return to form for Brosnan.

3.5 stars out of 5