THURSDAY (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Sexuality, Language and Drug Use

Thursday poster

Directed by: Skip Woods

Written by: Skip Woods

Starring: Thomas Jane, Aaron Eckhart, Paulina Porizkova, James LeGros, Paula Marshall, Michael Jeter, Glenn Plummer, Mickey Rourke, Shawn Michael Howard & Gary Dourdan

THURSDAY is the first film from director/writer Skip Woods, a man who has become slightly notorious for writing a lot of bad movies (HITMAN, SABOTAGE, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, etc.). Long before that reputation was born, he cut his teeth on a low-budget 1998 crime-thriller-comedy THURSDAY. To put things in context, the late 90’s and early 2000’s had a surge of Tarantino wannabe films. Some of these efforts were good and others were bad. Though it opens with promise, THURSDAY falls on the bad side of the fence. To be honest, I was pretty excited to watch this film. The trailers had me sold on the idea that maybe Skip Woods made a great movie before slipping into mediocrity. The cast even had a couple of big names (who weren’t huge at the time): Thomas Jane and Aaron Eckhart. A sense of humor mixed with bloodshed made this look like it would be a blast. I couldn’t have been more wrong, because THURSDAY is bland, mistakes ugliness for cleverness, and comes off as a lazy Tarantino imitator.

MCDTHUR EC002

Casey Wells (Thomas Jane) is a reformed criminal trying to do his best to stay clean in suburbia. His past comes back to haunt him when former best friend/drug dealer Nick (Aaron Eckhart) pays a visit. Despite outward appearances, Nick’s seemingly friendly visit is not as innocent as it originally seemed, because he stashed a suitcase full of heroin in Casey’s home. Disgusted by his friend’s behavior and determined to stay clean, Casey dumps the drugs down the garbage disposal…just as various menacing people start showing up and asking about Nick’s special package. Casey finds an ordinary Thursday in suburbia beset by gangsters and crooked cops. If Casey wishes to live long enough to see Friday morning, he’ll have to reignite a lifestyle that he tried to leave behind.

MCDTHUR EC001

THURSDAY was brimming with potential. The premise had the makings of an entertaining, tense, and funny crime-thriller. The film opens with promise as we get a prologue that showcases Nick and two cohorts attempting to buy coffee at a convenience store…only for the transaction to take a stark bloody turn. It’s a shocking, darkly hilarious opening that promised I would be in for one hell of a ride and then the movie proceeds to go downhill from that point forward. The two biggest reasons for this rapid decline in quality can be attributed to dull writing and bland characters.

Thursday 3

I didn’t care about Casey, even though Thomas Jane seemed to be giving his all to make this reformed thug into a compelling protagonist. We aren’t given many reasons to like him, other than he fell in love with a small-town waitress and inexplicably grew a conscience. The viewer only knows both of those things, because we’re given jarring flashbacks that abruptly come right the hell out of nowhere and pad the running time. Though he’s putting on a smarmy attitude that seems appropriate for the despicable character, Aaron Eckhart’s Nick is noticeably absent for most of the film’s proceedings too. All that leaves the viewer with is Casey and a parade of various thugs marching through his front door.

Thursday 4

To be fair, Paula Porizkova is effective enough as disgusting psycho-bitch Dallas, who tortures Casey in a wholly unexpected way. With better writing, this particular scene could have come off as tense and borderline terrifying…but the way it plays out feels like Skip Woods thought this would be purely shocking for the hell of it. Porizkova still remains far more convincing than James LeGros playing hick hitman Billy Hill (a.k.a. Hillbilly, get it?). Mickey Rourke shows up for a few minutes as an intimidating presence, but receives no satisfying pay-off. Meanwhile, Glenn Plummer is downright embarrassing as a Jamaican hitman/wannabe rapper (providing two of the film’s most annoying plot holes).

MCDTHUR EC005

Though it runs under 90 minutes in length, THURSDAY is a chore to sit through and doesn’t even bother to wrap up all of its set-up with a believable finale. When it comes to the film’s final 10 minutes, the viewer is likely to get the impression that Skip Woods simply threw his script at the wall and said “whatever!” The rest of the story isn’t exactly original either though, because nearly every scene seems ripped off from a better movie and potentially great ideas are underdeveloped. Besides the convenience store prologue, the film’s biggest highlight is a social worker coming to the Casey’s house in the middle of bloody chaos. Parts of that sequence struck a solid balance of humor and tension that actually worked. If only the rest of the film had been as clever or well-executed. As it stands, THURSDAY seems to be loved by some viewers for its shock value, but I feel the entire film is a lame Tarantino rip-off that doesn’t hold up on its own merits.

Grade: D+

HITMAN (2007)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, Language and some Sexuality/Nudity

Hitman poster

Directed by: Xavier Gens

Written by: Skip Woods

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick & James Faulkner

Movies based on video games don’t have a great reputation. That’s because what might work in a game doesn’t exactly work on the big screen where you don’t have the benefit of a controller. However, even though we have yet to see a truly fantastic video game movie, fans of certain properties still manage to get excited for upcoming adaptations. 2007’s HITMAN was no different. Back when it was coming out (I was still in high school and playing video games on a semi-regular basis), I remember being stoked out of my mind to see this movie. So Thanksgiving weekend, I went with a couple of friends to catch a double-feature of HITMAN and THE MIST (the latter being a far superior film). Our feelings on HITMAN were mixed. Years later, having all but forgotten the film and with an upcoming reboot (due out on August 21) on the way, I rewatched this cinematic HITMAN adaptation.

Hitman 1

Meet Agent 47. He’s just your average workaholic who dresses nicely and constantly takes business trips to unique locations. However, 47 is slightly different from the average businessman. You see, he was bred from a young age by a mysterious organization to be a killer-for-hire. Said mysterious organization doesn’t exactly have any loyalties and 47 goes where the money pays. However, his latest assignment (the assassination of the Russian President) goes horribly awry. Despite apparently killing his target, it appears that there is something deeper and more mysterious going on. Agent 47 soon finds himself on the run with a damsel-in-distress in tow, while being hunted by an Interpol agent and his fellow assassins. Someone has put out a hit on our titular hitman, but who and for what purpose?

Hitman 2

HITMAN was a video game primarily made up of different assassinations that you would complete. These assignments could take you through dangerous foreign countries or into the backyard of a suburbanite. Needless to say that there wasn’t necessarily a ton of story and that paid off in spades as you could just have fun completing dangerous tasks and being the bad guy. This movie attempts to inject a solid plot into the screenplay, one that can carry a film for just over 90 minutes. The end result is a convoluted conspiracy thriller that tries to function with an action movie mindset. That combination doesn’t exactly blend well, because the movie gets so weighed down by its conspiracy plotline that it constantly forgets to indulge the mayhem and bloodshed (part of what made the games so fun).

Hitman 3

Though he’s become known for much bigger things since this film (cough, JUSTIFIED, cough), Timothy Olyphant is an okay anti-hero. He’s supposedly playing an emotionless shell of a human being (as one might be…especially if they were trained to be a contract killer from birth), but is more of an action hero as opposed to an intimidating assassin turned reluctant good guy. I can’t fault Olyphant too much for this, seeing as he isn’t exactly given a workable script or memorable dialogue. Dougray Scott is enjoyable as an Interpol agent, but his character proves to be utterly useless with the sole exception of padding out the running time a little more. The only other stand-out face/character of the cast comes in Olga Kurylenko as the damsel-of-distress in tow. It’s a bit odd that she’s essentially playing a Bond girl in a non-Bond film…and then went on to play a Bond girl in QUANTUM OF SOLACE…and then played another Bond girl in the non-Bond NOVEMBER MAN. There’s a bit of typecasting going on in her career, but she fits well into the role and makes the most she can of the overly familiar material.

Hitman 4

The quality of the visuals varies from scene to scene. While the beautiful locations are cool to look at, the camera too constantly flirts with shaky-cam, unnecessary flash-cuts, and forced slow motion. There are times and places to implement each of these techniques, but we don’t need to see Agent 47 pulling a pair of guns out of an ice chest in slow motion. Maybe, the shootout afterwards, but not necessarily the act of pulling the concealed weapons out. Much like the video games it’s based on, HITMAN has some graphic violence (blood spraying everywhere and even a few decapitated limbs). However, a movie titled HITMAN should definitely have more than three notable action scenes. The script gets so bogged down with its conspiracy thriller angle that I counted three memorable action scenes in total (two of which are wonderfully executed). My favorite moment has Agent 47 facing off against other hitmen aboard an abandoned subway train. From the trailer alone, it looks as if the upcoming reboot HITMAN: AGENT 47 has fixed the issue of minimal chaos and pandemonium (maybe becoming a little too ridiculous in the process).

Hitman 5

HITMAN is far from the worst video game movie that I’ve seen, but it’s a definite let-down from the source material. If you go into HITMAN expecting an action-packed thriller spanning across multiple countries, you’ll be disappointed as the movie doesn’t have more than three action scenes in the space of over 90 minutes. The performances are alright given the cliché-ridden storyline and the over-stylized flare (slow motion, flashes, and shaky-cam) can reach annoying degrees. However, the film looks good for the most part and isn’t necessarily infuriatingly bad. The two stand-out action sequences (not counting a lackluster final showdown) reveal how cool this whole damn film might have been if it had a better screenplay. As a whole, HITMAN is a strictly middle-of-the-road affair.

Grade: C

SABOTAGE (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, Pervasive Language, some Sexuality/Nudity and Drug Use

Sabotage poster

Directed by: David Ayer

Written by: Skip Woods, David Ayer

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Harold Perrineau, Martin Donovan

SABOTAGE has been marketed as the complete opposite of what it is. Seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger attempting to get his action movie cred back in recent years, one might expect a giant action extravaganza loaded with plenty of over-the-top violence and cheesy one-liners. However, David Ayer (HARSH TIMES, END OF WATCH) is behind this flick. That alone speaks volumes about the type of tone it hits. SABOTAGE is actually dark gritty thriller that has somehow attracted the names of a few big action stars to headline it. Judging from the trailers this looked like just another action B-flick so it hasn’t done too well in its opening weekend.

Sabotage 1

A crack DEA team (led by Schwarzenegger) make a massive bust on a cartel’s property. They burn the money they find, but not before putting a little down the sewer for themselves. When they go to retrieve the stolen cash, they discover it’s missing. Someone knew about their plan and has taken the drug money for themselves. The stolen cartel cash attracts some unwanted attention and the DEA agents find themselves being offed one by one. A special investigator is called in to identify suspects and discovers that the list is plentiful. The script basically plays out like AND THEN THERE WERE NONE with DEA agents and with a significant amount of more blood.

Sabotage 2

Taken on its own merits, SABOTAGE is serviceable as a thriller. It’s got big problems that ultimately leave it as a middle-of-the-road experience, but you could certainly do far worse. I found the most fun part of the film was guessing which character would get killed off next and which suspect was most likely to be doing the dirty work. For a film that goes into by-the-numbers territory come the final showdown, director/writer Ayer and co-writer Woods kept me slightly off as to my guess where things would turn next. The ultimate pointless decisions come in showing unnecessary exposition. There was an entire flashback sequence with Arnold that could have been clipped out in editing and it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference to the plot at hand.

MCDSABO EC047

While it plays out like a solid (at times, grisly) crime story, the film takes a sudden swerve into over-the-top action territory near the ending that felt like it didn’t belong in the slightest. The reasoning may have been that Arnold was headlining this film, so there needed to be a some sort of massive gunfight and a few car chases. These scenes didn’t fit the mood that the rest of the film seemed to be aiming for. The characters are all scumbags, but enjoyable to watch for the suspense factor of who may or may not be manipulating the other agents. Arnold Schwarzenegger also puts in a serious attempt to give a dramatic role, but he simply can’t deliver it. God bless him, he’s trying. It seems that he was never meant to give a genuinely good performance. He’s the big goofy Austrian action star and that’s probably all he’ll ever be.

Sabotage 4

The real mood killer comes in the reveal of who took the money/who did the killing being underwhelming too. This double-twist didn’t offer any closure, but instead opened a new array of plot holes. This effect probably wasn’t intended by Ayer or Woods. The film can also be downright unpleasant to watch in points. There’s a graphic gore factor (seriously, some scenes felt like they were from a SAW movie) and one car chase has a bunch of needless casualties that are in poor taste. I’m far from a prude and love good violent action sequences, but the action in this film wasn’t fun or enjoyable. The epilogue also drags the film out longer than it needed to be and didn’t benefit the story in the slightest.

Sabotage 5

SABOTAGE is a dark thriller that has been marketed as an action film. It’s bound to disappoint some with its deliberate pacing and has a climax that nearly destroys all of the good things the film had going for it (some sustained tension, freaky moments, and guessing of which character might be evil). It may also be Schwarzenegger’s first ever crack at a serious performance. It stumbles though and winds up just being a serviceable crime thriller, rather than the unrealized creepy one it was building on for a majority of the running time.

Grade: C

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑