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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
scr Mattson Tomlin
prd Eric Newman, Bryan Unkeless
with Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Amy Landecker, Courtney B Vance, Colson Baker, Tait Fletcher, Allen Maldonado, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Kyanna Simpson, Casey Neistat
release US/UK 14.Aug.20
20/IS Netflix 1h52
Flashy and deeply ridiculous, this stylish thriller has enough energy to keep the audience intrigued, as it centres its plot around a drug that can briefly turn people into random X-Men. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman flood scenes with colour and attitude, adding a witty sense of unpredictability to action sequences that are explosively vicious. It's a big, dumb movie that combines ingredients in a way that's relentlessly entertaining.
Arriving in New Orleans, Biggie (Santoro) launches a huge glowing capsule that gives people unpredictable superpowers for five minutes. Undercover cop Frank (Gordon-Levitt) is working with teen dealer Robin (Fishback) to halt its spread. And shattered ex-soldier Art (Foxx) turns up with his own reasons to catch the people making it. Despite the drug's serious risks, Frank takes it to make himself bulletproof while crime-fighting, which infuriates his captain (Vance). As Art tracks down Robin, Frank eventually realises they'll need to team up to take down Biggie's all-business boss (Landecker) and her hulking goon (Fletcher).
The film is packed with preposterous touches, such as the pill's excessive packaging and how, when it makes a user burst into a fire monster, his clothes miraculously don't burn. Although a slow-motion bullet-bouncing moment is very cool. As is a fight with a bendy-man. The three central characters come to life in some sharply written and played in-between scenes, plus inventively integrated flashbacks, which gives them vivid inner lives that pull the audience in. Although the villains are little more than the usual over-talking megalomaniacs.
Fishback steals the show as a smart, shy student who imagines a more powerful version of herself. Robin's real-life issues are believable, as are the perilous things she is doing to survive, and Fishback plays her with terrific understatement. She's a shooting star. Meanwhile, Foxx has a lot of fun with Art's snarky humour and haunted moods, a guy who punches first and asks questions later. And Gordon-Levitt steps up to an unusually beefy role, enjoyably growling his way through each scene.
Tomlin's sassy script doesn't make much of the premise, using this drug as merely a McGuffin that sparks a bunch of whizzy fights, shootouts and political extortion. So having Foxx and Gordon-Levitt on board lends the movie a lot more gravitas than it deserves. And with Fishback in the mix, the filmmakers keep everything effortlessly in motion, navigating the plot's corny twists and turns with a shrug. Which of course turns this mindless action mayhem into a guilty pleasure.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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