Tag Archives: Terrence Howard

Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners poster

I really wanted to watch this one and I’m glad I got the chance because it’s very very good. It’s the type of film that could have been a B-movie but ended up being a punch-in-the-gut type thriller because of the confident direction of Denis Villeneuve, the terrific ensemble cast and powerful performances by the two leads, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The story starts off simple: Jackman and his wife Maria Bello take their daughter to the home of their friends played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis, who have a daughter of their own. The two girls go missing, and Jackman, who is a bit of a hotheaded psycho, decides to take matters into his own hands even though the case is being handled by a very capable detective played by Gyllenhaal. That’s a nice little premise summary that doesn’t give too much away, and the only thing I will add is that the film’s title is an apt one.

Prisoners is a dark, disturbing and emotional roller coaster ride that will have you questioning right and wrong and the lengths you would go to if your own child was taken and you feel like the police aren’t doing their job properly. It’s brutally violent but not in a gratuitous way because the psychological impact wouldn’t have been the same without it. There aren’t a lot, but there a few solid twists and turns which I much prefer to a lot of cheap ones, and it keeps up the tension as the characters become more desperate with the clock running out.

A big part of the reason why the film is so compelling is the performances of Jackman and Gyllenhall. These are complex characters with demons lurking behind them in the shadows, without these two Oscar-nominated actors in the roles I’m not sure all the layers could have been brought out as well as they were.

Also fantastic is Paul Dano, who I have always been a big fan of, as a mentally challenged suspect. Melissa Leo is again a chameleon in yet another unrecognisable role, while Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Mario Bello round out the superb ensemble cast by making the most of their more limited screen time.

While there is nothing jaw-dropping or groundbreaking about the plot and the final revelations don’t quite live up to the rest of the film, Prisoners is still one of the best suspense thrillers of the year, an unsettling, creepy climb into darkness thanks to effective execution and great performances from the all-star cast.

4 stars out of 5

DVD Review: Fighting (2009)

Fighting is one of those movies that looks, smells and tastes B-grade, but is backed by an A-grade cast (Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard as opposed to an unknown white actor +  Brian Dennehy) and a better-than-expected screenplay and director (Dito Montiel).  But for these factors, it probably should have gone straight to DVD.  Instead, what we ended up with is a slightly above average, albeit forgettable film.

Fighting is a film about…er…fighting.  Underground, bare-knuckle street fighting, to be precise.

Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, a nice young man trying to make ends meet on the streets of New York, and Howard plays Harvey Boarden, the man who ‘discovers’ him and kind of takes him under his wing.  Throw in a few fist fights, a love interest (Zulay Henao), an arch nemesis (Brian White) and an unfolding back story, and that’s Fighting in a nutshell.

Right from the opening sequence, from the music to the gritty feel to Tatum’s outfit, you get the suspicion that Fighting is trying to channel Rocky.  You know, the underdog from the wrong side of the tracks who tries and manages to become something after being given an opportunity.

Tatum even gives a bit of a Stallone impersonation.  He’s got that good guy routine going, and he’s also got that underdog pride; even their persistence in picking up girls is similar.  The only thing missing is a crooked mouth and a speech impediment.

The fight scenes in Fighting are solid.  Naturally, they are a little over-the-top, but for the most part they maintain a slight resemblance to realism (apart from the fact that getting belted in the face hardly leaves more than a light bruise). Thankfully, each fight is given proper screen time – there’s no hastily prepared montage with rapidly accumulating victories.

My problem with it all is that the whole process from Tatum’s character being ‘discovered’ to him being in and winning fights is pretty dubious.  Seriously, the guy punched out a few stiffs on the street, and the next thing you know he’s been thrown into bare-knuckle fights with a massive underground audience?  And really, it’s not like he is a freakish talent or has abnormal kung fu abilities.  He’s just a skinny street punk who knows how to throw a punch or two – would he even have a sliver of a chance against the type of tough guys he was going up against?  I highly doubt it.  (One of the dudes was Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le!)

Maybe that was the whole point.  He wasn’t supposed to stand a chance, but somehow he manages to prevail.

Nevertheless, if Fighting was all about fighting, it would have been okay.  Unfortunately, they just had to insert the love interest in there.  Nothing wrong with a bit of loving, but it took up such a large chunk of the 105-minute running time.  And most of all, it was quite lame.

Oh well.

2.5 stars out of 5!

[Note: for about 2 months before watching this movie, I mistakenly thought ‘Fighting’ was ‘Never Back Down‘.  Gotta see that one too.]