Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Better in every conceivable way than its predecessors, The Purge: Election Year stops mucking about with wishy-washy paranoia and instead goes straight for the throat. America is ruled by a cathedral full of mummified Freemasons who fix elections by sending white supremacist death squads after popular third-party candidates. Homocide: Life on the Street's Kyle Secor is their Great White Hope, a frothing pastor who plays vanilla and civil in-front of the cameras then snarls and clicks in private. Writer-director James DeMonaco invests his film with a slyness lacking in his previous efforts, there's more of a sense that he's reacting to our fracturing reality rather than just pushing at an iterative franchise idea.
This new vitality is most obvious in how Election Year re-organises the idea of The Purge along explicitly religious lines, meaning the recent, absurd diktat is treated as if it has been chiselled into ancient stone. Likewise, pro-Purge politicians talk around the cull in the sanctimonious circles of someone pretending there's a chance they might somehow offend God. Faith is wielded like a cudgel, beating down the grasping serfs until they comply with their own extermination. Threat in the third Purge film springs from a moneyed, comfortable political class unwilling to share their success with anyone else. The New Founding Fathers would rather everyone else fought over scraps. They are old, white and functionally presentable which actually contrasts nicely with the lightly diverse, prim-and-proper middle class seen in DeMonaco's first film. If you're not Caucasian you can climb but only so far.
The bee in the plutocrats' bonnet is Elizabeth Mitchell's Charlie Roan, an anti-Purge Presidential candidate, herself a survivor of the night's dubious festivities. Targeted by Nazi stormtroopers and her own security detail, Roan and her bodyguard escape into the streets, colliding with the working class people powering Election Year's B plot. Up until this point, the series has struggled to fold its disparate storylines into one cohesive whole. The Purge featured an unhinged boyfriend that seemed to be a way to introduce the prolonged threat of a cuckoo into Ethan Hawke's nest before revealing itself as a disposable device thrown in to make sure Adelaide Kane's daughter stayed half-dressed. Election Year is the most successful Purge yet then because it unites its characters and threads into one adrenalised push of political upheaval. The resulting violence may be a little Hays Code but the effort is appreciated.
Monday, 9 July 2018
Two films in, it's clear that James DeMonaco's The Purge series lacks the raw, blood-and-guts determination to really deliver on its exploitative, class war premise. DeMonaco's first instalment took the perspective of the upper middle-class, people who had accumulated wealth and had something to lose. Aside from an exceptionally slack second act, DeMonaco fumbled his sitter with situational writing that seemed incompatible with a central idea that demands citizens compromise themselves utterly in the face of their new America. It was also pretty difficult to get excited about a Lena Headey performance that choose teary-eyed compassion over the actresses' trademark venom.
The Purge: Anarchy makes a few key changes. First the scale is exploded, taking place across an entire city rather than one walled estate. Government extermination squads trundle around in 18-wheeler trucks, attacking tower blocks while opportunist street gangs kidnap defenceless poors to be auctioned off during well-to-do ballroom functions. Secondly, this Purge follows characters with objectives that are compatible with, rather than upset by, the chaos. There is opportunity. Frank Grillo's Sergeant stands to make a personal gain from the prolonged lawlessness. DeMonaco frustrates his revenge by loading him down with helpless strays that only he, a hero, has the training and inclination to protect.
DeMonaco, himself the credited writer on 2005's buttoned-up Assault on Precinct 13 remake, is happy to tread water, using this film to invoke the individualist, anti-authoritarian cool of John Carpenter's oeuvre without any of the associated grit. Grillo, decked out in magic sunglasses, stomping and gunning down a scrum of rich but incompetent hunters may be fun but Anarchy's decision to tie its emotional summit up in fake-outs and last minute change-of-hearts stinks like compromise. The Purge: Anarchy does have one excellent scene though, one predicated on the idea that guns and the permission to use them does not, as the NRA would have it, equalise situations, rather they needlessly raise the stakes of basic, domestic disintegration from weepy and intolerable to pointlessly lethal.
Thursday, 5 July 2018
The United States, as seen in The Purge, has undergone a soft coup, now governed by a group of blood-thirsty braggarts calling themselves The New Founding Fathers. Although details are sketchy, since the central premise is really only an excuse to stage a siege, this new ruling party have seized upon a Peruvian community festival as a way to both hold onto power while also expunging the populace of its grumbles. Takanakuy centres around hand-to-hand straighteners to settle grievances and determine social standing. The American expression naturally skews more homicidal, involving the suspension of all police and emergency services for a 12 hour period in which citizens can pretty much do whatever the fuck they want.
Writer-director James DeMonaco has a great premise on his hands but is content to use it simply for scaffolding. Indeed a lot of The Purge's most interesting ideas are abandoned to talk radio detailing. This America survives thanks to a bubble economy centred around personal and architectural self-defence. Presumably everyone spends the year either preparing for (or recovering from) The Purge. Ethan Hawke's financially secure James Sandin enjoys the benefits of this system. He has made his family's fortune outfitting his jealous, gated community neighbours with state-of-the-art safety features. Sandin is passive though, reluctant to really engage with The Purge as anything other than a way to get himself a sailing boat.
DeMonaco never holds Sandin to account for his profiteering, instead writing him as someone on the used car salesman spectrum who has to tap into his inner cowboy to protect his homestead. In terms of familial interpersonal drama, Sandin is unusually reasonable too. He's interested in his children's lives, no matter how much they pout about it. Lena Headey's Mary isn't obviously bored or resentful either. There are no extramarital affairs looming on the horizon. The Sandins are humdrum. DeMonaco doesn't use The Purge as a device that has already warped his character's moral or ethical perspectives. Although apparently long established, the state-sponsored cull is treated as a new danger that will force the family to make tough decisions, tonight. This is the film's biggest problem - DeMonaco's characters react to events as fresh rather than established circumstances. The Purge reassuring its audience when it should be puncturing them.
Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Monday, 2 July 2018
Sunday, 1 July 2018
Mark Goldblatt puts his time as Paul Verhoeven's second-unit director to good use with The Punisher, an impatient set-piece generator that combines the interlaced fuzz of RoboCop with the vulgar, home video opportunism of The Cannon Group. Dolph Lundgren plays the titular vigilante as a disconnected and bereaved. The pure machinery of Marvel Comics' ruthlessly motivated exterminator is nowhere to be found, replaced with a character that screenwriter Boaz Yakin likely hoped would register as, at-least, semi-human. Cursed with essentially the same backstory as his newsprint forebear, Lundgren's Frank Castle glooms in biker leathers, loaded down with army surplus and branded stiletto daggers.
Lundgren's chiselled, basically beautiful face is shaped into a glaring death mask with heavy, waxen make-up and a pencilled in beard that gifts the actor knife-edge contouring. Lundgren's louche violence and lovingly photographed automatic weaponry would be star-making if the film wasn't so thin. The actor is working at being iconic, a heavy metal Elvis in a piece happy to be simply diverting. The film's main dramatic push concerns a back-and-forth between a legion of everytown mafiosa and a gang of arrogant, marauding Yakuza. Naturally the depiction of the Japanese gangsters combines every possible permutation of video shop Orientalism.
Shuriken, sexualised cruelty, white slave trading, and Kim Miyori's one-dimensional (but enjoyably vindictive) Dragon Lady boss are all pressed into service to illustrate the sub-human otherness of the invading criminals. This blunt exoticism combined with The Punisher's decision to team up with Jeroen Krabbe's heavily accessorised mob don lends Goldblatt's film the air of 40s propaganda. American criminals are still American after all. In this sense The Punisher is not so much an adaptation of Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr and Ross Andru's character, rather it is a stuttering, confused live action run-through of the imagery that Frank Miller lifted out of sombre Samurai manga then transplanted into the Western comic canon via his electric Daredevil run.
Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Friday, 22 June 2018
Thursday, 14 June 2018
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Naughty Dog's best murder simulator yet sees series fav Ellie moving around a multi-layered environment slowly, but decisively, picking off a gang of burly fanatics who bleat on about sacrificial land. Apart from an aside from an NPC about his infinite crankiness, Murder Dad Joel is absent in this trailer. Perhaps The Last of Us Part II will follow the generational lead of the Godfather series, allowing us to steer Joel through the early passages of his career as the world's greatest bushwhacker?
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Hideo Kojima's latest offers the opportunity to wander the kind of untouched, prehistoric landscapes seen in Prometheus or Interstellar as actor Norman Reedus (complete with accurate tattoos). Gameplay wise, Death Stranding appears to be asking players to transport contraband across various examples of science fiction topography whilst avoiding the attentions of fossil fueled ghosts. Reedus' twitchy injuries and hesitant nail surgery would seem to point to a body maintenance mechanic, similar to the one seen in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater too. I hope so anyway.
After years of whispers, Capcom's over-the-shoulder remake of Resident Evil 2 finally gets a reveal. It's difficult not to be excited about a chance to re-explore Hideki Kamiya's superb sequel with the added benefit of all the oppressive, atmospheric lighting effects modern graphics engines can offer.
Monday, 11 June 2018
Sega's Yakuza spin-off Hokuto ga Gotoku bags a confirmed western release under the title Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. If this licensed adaptation of Buronson and Tetsuo Hara's manga is anything like the video game series it papers over, then players can expect to take control of a bemused Kenshiro as he wanders a radioactive wasteland getting into near constant random battles while pursuing wildly discursive side-quests.