Beat the Devil (Diablo, 2015)

Diablo_PosterI gotta say…if you were going to make a western about young Bill Munny, Scott Eastwood would be the guy you would hire to play him.

Jackson is a veteran of the Civil War whose young wife is kidnapped by Mexicans (the film is intentionally vague on this…other than they are Mexican).  He sets out to find her.  Along the journey he crosses paths with the cruel Ezra.  Ezra keeps showing up at the worst times, leaving a path of bodies.

Diablo takes what could be an impediment, Scott Eastwood looks remarkably like his father Clint, and uses it to it’s advantage.  The audience fills in the rather loose sketch of a character with what we expect from his father’s westerns. Jackson is a loose sketch of a character until about the last half hour of the film.

Eastwood does not quite have his father’s charisma (at least not yet), and so it benefits him that the film allows the viewer to fill in the blanks.  Walton Goggins plays the mysterious Ezra with a real undercurrent of menace.  Why is he following Jackson? Why is he so quick to kill with no remorse?

There is a moment late in the film that saves it from being a generic imitation of old Clint Eastwood films.  Diablo is not perfect, but it is a decent western that seeks to subvert the expectations they audience brings with them.

 

Speed Racers Pt 8 (The Fate of the Furious, 2017)

fast_and_furious_008_posterIf prizes were awarded for the most inconsistently named franchise?  Pretty sure this franchise would own that.  If George Lucas was involved, they would all get renamed something like Dom Toretto and the  Fast and The Furious (Who care if Vin is in every film or not).

By this time, our heroes have gone from criminals to underdogs to helping the authorities.  But after saving the world last time around, Dom has apparently switched sides and is helping Charlize Theron take on the world.  She is an evil hacker with big plans…and so Mr. Nobody calls in The Fast and Furious team and a surprise guest…the last film’s villain (Jason Statham).  Has Dom truly gone bad?  Is he really turning his back on his family?

This is the first film in the franchise not directed by Justin Lin, and it definitely loses some of that cohesiveness.  It feels less like a continuation and more like a flat out sequel from the…uh…sequel factory.  F. Gary Gray is a strong director and has some definite “action/Car movie” cred with the 2003 remake of the Italian Job.  But the story itself feels like it was conceived months after the last film was released and worked to fit their latest idea together.  The previous films felt more “organic” with Lin at the helm.

I cannot pinpoint exactly why this is, as the guy who wrote this film (Chris Morgan) wrote every film since Tokyo Drift.  Maybe Gray connects with the characters differently.  But one thing that stands out is that there is a big plot point that comes pretty much out of nowhere as Dom’s motivations.  There is no point in a prior film to see it coming. It feels purely invented for the film, like a last minute idea to solve a problem they were having.

Fate is certainly not lacking for action, though they may finally be hitting that point where it is hard to top the big set piece of the previous film.  The massive race across the ice and attempts to outrun a massive submarine feel more like they cobbled together ideas from the previous film, so instead of giving us an impressive and new sequence it highlights cooler moments of past films.

While Fate of the Furious is not terrible (and not by the standards of the franchise itself, it has its moments), it does feel like the franchise is finding it harder and harder to sustain itself.

Let’s Visit Texas Part 7 (Texas Chainsaw 3D, 2013)

texas_chainsaw_3d_posterPicking right up where the original film ended, Texas Chainsaw opens with a recap of the original Massacre.  This is one of the best parts of the film as the remastering on the original film’s footage is really nice.  The film starts it’s own story with the town sheriff driving out to the Sawyer clan’s house.  He confronts the family, but a lynch mob shows up.  A fire is started and the mob celebrates the Sawyer family demise.  One of the mob discovers a mother and her baby, he kills the mother and he and his wife raise the baby as their own, naming her Heather.

40 years later, Heather is about 24 years old.  Yes, the film starts in 1974 and picks up in 2012.  Yes the young woman is clearly in her twenties.

 

Anyways, Heather gets a special delivery package telling her that her biological mother has died.  Her friends pack up a van (what is it the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and vans?) and head down to Texas for her inheritance.  She finds out she has inherited a very large house.  She also finds that her grandmother was not particularly liked by the local townsfolk…what with her being related to the Sawyer clan and all.  The mob ringleader Burt is now the mayor, and he offers to buy the property.  Heather politely declines.  While partying at the mansion, Heather’s friends start getting picked off by Leatherface (who apparently ages at the same rate as Heather).  She manages to reach town, which alerts Burt and the others that Leatherface is not dad as previously assumed.  And this is when Heather discovers that the townsfolk are as much a threat to her as Leatherface.

And herein lies the biggest problem film.  It makes Leatherface more sympathetic and less of a villain than other characters in the film.  He is more sympathetic than Burt and his cronies, to the point that the Sheriff refuses to interfere when Leatherface gets the upper hand.  Heather takes him home and takes the role of caretaker for Leatherface.

It is a visually nice film, but the characters are paper thin archetypes.  The continuity is pretty shoddy.  Where did all the Sawyer family members come from at the beginning?  It is not really clear.  How is Heather not nearly 40 in the film?  Why doesn’t Leatherface know Heather is coming?  I mean, aside from it makes more sense when he initially tries to kill her.  Texas Chainsaw is a very weak film (though the 3D works pretty well).  Sure, it is better than Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III or the abysmal Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.  But that is not saying a lot.

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