New to cinemas this week – Dope, Southpaw, Hitman: Agent 47, Irrational Man, Vacation and Wild City.
Dope – A critical hit and audience favorite out of the Sundance Film Festival, in DOPE, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself. Dope is a Superbad-esque buddy comedy set to pumping hip-hop beats with a perceptive online social media-influenced drug-distribution/marketing twist. Fast-paced and full of style and energy, though the latter is not sustained through the runtime, this is is a very funny film chock full of pop culture references and witty stereotype subversion. The success of the film rests on the comic timing between the central trio and they play off each other beautifully. Moore carries the film effortlessly, but Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) is consistently the supporting MVP. The narrative is manic enough to have been a brisk 90 minutes so the story does drag on in the latter half and ties up disappointingly neatly, but as a hip-hop fan this was my jam.
Southpaw tells the riveting story of Billy “The Great” Hope, reigning Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World (Jake Gyllenhaal). Billy Hope seemingly has it all with an impressive career, a beautiful and loving wife (Rachel McAdams), an adorable daughter (Oona Laurence) and a lavish lifestyle. When tragedy strikes and his lifelong manager and friend (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) leaves him behind, Hope hits rock bottom and turns to an unlikely savior at a run-down local gym: Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a retired fighter and trainer to the city’s toughest amateur boxers. With his future riding on Tick’s guidance and tenacity, Billy enters the hardest battle of his life as he struggles with redemption and to win back the trust of those he loves.
Hitman: Agent 47 centers on an elite assassin who was genetically engineered from conception to be the perfect killing machine, and is known only by the last two digits on the barcode tattooed on the back of his neck. He is the culmination of decades of research – and forty-six earlier Agent clones — endowing him with unprecedented strength, speed, stamina and intelligence. His latest target is a mega-corporation that plans to unlock the secret of Agent 47’s past to create an army of killers whose powers surpass even his own. Teaming up with a young woman who may hold the secret to overcoming their powerful and clandestine enemies, 47 confronts stunning revelations about his own origins and squares off in an epic battle with his deadliest foe.
Irrational Man – When a burned-out, brilliant professor – one who believes in lessons from life rather than textbooks – takes a job at a small college, everyone there is abuzz. He becomes involved with a teacher as well as a precocious student, but it takes a dramatic, existential act to turn his life around and make him see the world through a much rosier and more positive perspective.
Vacation – Ed Helms stars in the New Line Cinema reboot of the Vacation film series as Rusty Griswald, the son of Chevy Chase’s iconic character of the original four films. Horrible Bosses‘ helmers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein write and direct.
Wild City – When former cop-turned-bar owner T-man Kwok befriends a drunken woman at closing hour, they soon find themselves targeted by her former lover-a high-powered Hong Kong attorney-and the thugs he employs. Once Kwok’s underachieving half-brother and a suitcase full of tainted cash enter the picture, the chase turns deadly, with the brothers’ tense family history coming to the surface as Kwok finds himself torn between the triads and his former police colleagues.
Weekly Recommendation – Dope. It has a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and is a good time. Even with Joaquin Phoenix headlining Woody’s latest, which amounts to 100% of the appeal, Irrational Man appears to be another ‘bad Woody’. He’s very inconsistent these days. While very wary of Antoine Fuqua’s ugly tendencies as a filmmaker I am keen to see Southpaw for Jake Gyllenhaal’s transformative performance.