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Monday, September 04, 2017

Granger at the Movies: ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ ‘Leap!,’ ‘Good Time’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

There are no surprises in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a buddy action-comedy. Two established American stars (one Caucasian, one African-American), supported by some stalwart, foreign character-actors, engage in lots of violence, peppered with profanity.

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Disgraced Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an elite private security guard — aka bodyguard — who botched an assignment when a Japanese arms-dealing client succumbed to sniper fire.

So when his former girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Young), asks him to safeguard a witness, promising to restore his “Triple A” reputation, he accepts the assignment.

Bryce is to provide protection for convicted hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who is going from Manchester, England, to The Hague to testify in International Criminal Court against the deposed “ex-Soviet Union” Belarusian president, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman).

Spewing obscenities, Darius Kincaid’s badass Latina lover, Sonia (Salma Hayek), is incarcerated in a Dutch prison. As part of the bargain, his evidence is her get-out-of-jail card.

Bryce and Kincaid have a bad history together. They’re about to embark on a perilous 24-hour road trip together, and they soon discover they must rely each other to survive.

Scripted by Tom O’Connor and directed by Patrick Hughes, it’s generic to its core and chock full of clichés. The vintage plot is neither original nor inventive. And every scene looks as if it’s filmed through a gauzy haze.

The use of stunt doubles for both is obvious, particularly during the extended chases through Amsterdam. And it becomes ludicrous, even laughable, to see them both emerge unscathed from gunbattles that leave their car riddled with bullet holes.

The only saving grace is the occasionally humorous verbal sparring between Bryce and Kincaid.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a 5, missing its mark.

Aimed specifically at preteens, “Leap!” has a bizarre history. Originally a French/Canada coproduction, titled “Ballerina,” it performed well in Europe last year. Unfortunately, the Americanized version lost its magic somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.

Set in the French countryside in the late 19th century, the animated story begins at a dreary orphanage, where spirited 11-year-old Felice (Elle Fanning) and her scruffy friend Victor (Nat Wolff) want to run away to Paris, where Felice can become a famous ballerina and Victor an accomplished inventor.

After escaping from the surly supervisor, Monsieur Luteau (Mel Brooks), they arrive in the City of Light, where they’re accidentally separated.

The Eiffel Tower is under construction, and Victor lands a menial job as an apprentice in the prestigious atelier of Gustave Eiffel.

After wandering the streets, Felice sneaks into the Paris Opera Ballet. When the guard catches her, Felice is befriended by Odette (singer Carly Rae Jepson), the lame cleaning lady who has a second job as a housekeeper for evil restaurateur Regine Le Haut (Kate McKinnon).

Madame Regine’s daughter Camille (Maddie Ziegler) is also an aspiring ballerina, so Felice wangles her way into Ballet Academy auditions by impersonating snotty, selfish Camille.

Although she yearns to play the part of Clara in “The Nutcracker,” untrained Felice has a problem. As Master Merante (Terrence Scammell) puts it, she has “the energy of a bullet and the lightness of a depressed elephant.”

Thinly scripted by Carol Noble, Laurent Zeitoun and co-director Eric Summer, working with co-director Eric Warin, it relies on a formulaic, yet predictable, often anachronistic underdog plot, exhorting young viewers to “follow your dreams.”

There are many similarities to “Anastasia”: both girls flee from orphanages, both have precious music boxes somehow connected with their past, and both pretend to be someone they’re not.

FYI: “The Nutcracker” premiered in 1892 and was not performed outside of Russia for many years after that.

On the Granger Gauge, “Leap!” falls flat with an inconsistent, functional 4. Wait for the DVD.

In “Good Time,” British actor Robert Pattinson (“Twilight” franchise) is barely recognizable as a small-time criminal determined to break his mentally-challenged brother out of custody.

Cynically dubbed “Of Vice and Men” by those who recognize the modern-day reference to John Steinbeck’s classic 1937 novel about two Depression-era migrant workers, it’s a gruesome, violent crime drama from street-savvy, guerilla-filmmaking siblings Josh and Benny Safdie.

They’re outspoken advocates of “cinema verite,” emerging from the French New Wave that insisted on neorealism. That means shaky, hand-held camerawork, natural lighting and unlikable, distressed characters mumbling insignificant dialogue while wallowing in depravity.

The pulpy, rambling story begins as Constantine “Connie” Niklas rescues his brother Nicky (Benny Safdie) from a psychiatric test about an incident involving their abusive grandmother.

They’re set for a bank robbery, which goes wrong when a dye-pack explodes, dousing them both in red. Scumbag Connie flees, but panicked Nicky falls into a plate-glass door and gets arrested.

Dwelling in a squalid, shadowy underground culture of drugs and thugs, Connie manipulates his girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to max out her mother’s credit cards for Nicky’s bail.

But then a brawl at Rikers Island sends Nicky into a hospital. When Connie tries to stage an escape, he inadvertently springs another patient, Ray (Buddy Duress), who hid a stash of liquid LSD at the dingy, deserted Adventureland theme park where they encounter Barkhad Abdi, the emaciated Somali immigrant who played the pirate threatening Tom Hanks’s “Captain Phillips.”

On the Granger Gauge, “Good Time” is a far-fetched, feverish 5, bastardizing the jailbird term for days deducted from an inmate’s sentence for good behavior while in prison.


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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Posted 09/04/17 at 12:02 PM  Permalink



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