Review: ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,’ starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman

June 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

Samuel L. Jackson, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Photo by David Appleby/Lionsgate)

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”

Directed by Patrick Hughes

Culture Representation: Taking place in Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Croatia, the action flick “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A disgraced bodyguard is hired to protect the wife of the hitman who clashed with the bodyguard in the 2017 movie “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

Culture Audience: “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a silly action flick that is horribly made and frequently sexist.

Salma Hayek in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Photo by David Appleby/Lionsgate)

Outdated and idiotic, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” looks like it was made by people whose minds are stuck in the 20th century, when it was more acceptable for American action movies to portray non-white people as less-intelligent caricatures and for women to be treated as nothing more than sex objects. An all-white-male team of principal filmmakers (director, producers, writers) decided to dump this stupid sequel into the world. And like most sequels, it’s far inferior to the original.

Directed by Patrick Hughes, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was written by Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy and Brandon Murphy. The movie is the sequel to 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a formulaic and occasionally funny action flick, starring Ryan Reynolds as neurotic bodyguard Michael Bryce and Samuel L. Jackson as gruff hitman Darius Kincaid who are (cliché alert) complete opposites, who don’t get along with each other but are forced to work together. Hughes directed and O’Connor wrote “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which was a mediocre movie but not as aggressively dumb and offensive as “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

It’s hard to know if the addition of brother screenwriters Phillip Murphy (who has a background as a graffiti artist) and Brandon Murphy (who has a background as a stand-up comedian) had anything to do with lowering the quality of this sequel, but enough people signed off on this crappy film that the blame can’t be put on just two people. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is supposed to be an action comedy, but there’s almost nothing funny or exciting about this dreck that’s a brain-dead ode to toxic masculinity.

In “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the addition of Salma Hayek in a co-starring role could have been an opportunity to showcase her like Halle Berry was showcased as a badass equal to her male co-stars in the 2019 action hit “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.” But no. The filmmakers of “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” wouldn’t allow this woman of color to have her own powerful worth in this story. Instead, Hayek (who is capable of doing better-quality work) is reduced to being objectified and depicted in the worst negative stereotypes that Hollywood has for Latinas.

Hayek had a small role in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” as Sonia Kincaid, the con-artist wife of hitman Darius Kincaid. It’s easy to speculate that Hayek reprised this role in this sequel because she wants to prove that she’s still sexy at an age when many actresses over the age of 50 get less opportunities because of ageism or they usually have to play safe “wife and mother” roles. Whatever she was paid to do “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (and it was probably a lot less than what Reynolds and Jackson were paid), it wasn’t worth the cost to her dignity for perpetuating Hollywood’s negative stereotyping that Latinas are nothing more than hot-tempered sexpots.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was also clearly an excuse to spend millions at different glamorous locations around the world. It’s all such a waste, because no amount of picture-perfect locations or flashy stunts can fool people into thinking that this is a good movie. Messy trash wrapped up in a shiny box is still messy trash.

The incoherent story that’s masquerading as a plot in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is that Michael is now a disgraced bodyguard who has lost his license because he couldn’t prevent his most important client (a political leader) from being assassinated. He’s gone from winning Bodyguard of the Year at the Executive Protection Awards to being unlicensed and facing an upcoming tribunal that will decide if he can get his bodyguard license back. Michael spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself because he’s not the respected bodyguard that he used to be.

Meanwhile, at European Union (E.U.) headquarters in Luxembourg, E.U. chief Walter Fiscer (played by Brian Caspe) has announced that the E.U. has issued sanctions on Greece. Greek billionaire tycoon Aristotle Papadopolous (played by Antonio Banderas) is enraged by these sanctions, so he has some of his goons kidnap Walter. While in captivity, where he is tortured, Walter is told that he has four days to reverse the E.U.’s decision about the sanctions.

Michael has been in therapy, but even his female therapist has gotten sick of him and tells Michael that he has now “graduated” from therapy. Taking his therapist’s advice to go on a vacation, Michael is relaxing at a beach resort, as he reads the self-help book “The Secret” and listens to whatever he’s listening to on his headphones. All of sudden, mayhem breaks out in the resort.

Several armed terrorists invade the place and start shooting everywhere. This movie’s slapstick comedy is so witless that viewers are supposed to believe that Michael doesn’t hear the chaos because he’s got headphones on and he doesn’t see anything because he’s wearing sunglasses.

But someone comes to Michael’s rescue during this terrorist attack: Sonia, who grabs Michael and tells him that her husband Darius told her to find Michael so that Michael could be her bodyguard. Michael and Sonia escape by motor scooter and then jump off of a cliff. Darius eventually joins them for more shenanigans where there’s a lot of pointless arguing and more stunts.

Somewhere in this muddled mess of a story, there’s a Croatian computer hacker named Gunther (played by Blake Ritson), who’s hired by Aristotle to set off bombs at whatever places that Aristotle wants to be blown up. There’s an Interpol informant named Carlo (who’s never seen in the movie), who gets murdered. And there’s a sexist and arrogant Interpol agent named Bobby O’Neill (played by Frank Grillo, doing a dubious Boston accent), who’s determined to find out and capture who’s responsible for Carlo’s death and these revenge acts against the E.U.

At various points in the story, these things happen: Darius is kidnapped; Sonia disguises herself as Carlo’s blonde British mistress; and one of Michael’s rich former clients named Seifert (played by Richard E. Grant, in a cameo) almost blows Michael’s cover at a nightclub. There’s also a lot of predictable shootouts and explosions.

Michael reunites with someone from his past who currently lives in Italy. Morgan Freeman portrays that person from Michael’s past, and how his character knows Michael is supposed to be a surprise. This person’s connection to Michael is really just a way for the filmmakers to exploit racial stereotypes for badly written jokes.

Speaking of exploitation, this loathsome movie is unrelenting in objectifying Hayek and making her into a shrill, nasty and jealous shrew who shows off as many of her body parts as possible while fully clothed. There’s a lot of very “male gaze” close-up camera shots of her breasts and rear end. And at one point, during one of these rear-end angles, Darius says of Sonia in a terrible pun: “I’m just protecting my assets,” where he puts an emphasis on saying “ass.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

It isn’t just the men who talk about Sonia’s body parts in crude and demeaning ways. There’s a subplot about Sonia and Darius wanting to start a family, but they haven’t had any luck conceiving. Sonia comments out loud to Michael on why she thinks she can’t get pregnant: “My pussy’s just too tight.”

In this very male-dominated film, the only female star who shares top billing is reduced to saying a line like that, which is no better than bad dialogue from a porn movie. That tells you all you need to know about how these filmmakers feel about how about a female star deserves to be treated in their movies. Meanwhile, the male stars in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” have dumb lines too, but nothing that makes them talk like low-level porn actors. It’s sexism that’s unnecessary and frankly disgusting.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that this move isn’t sexist, just because Interpol agent Bobby has a female supervisor, because her role is nothing but being a cranky battle-axe, while Bobby gets all the glory of being the star Interpol agent in this story. Not surprisingly, Bobby resents having to report to a woman. Bobby’s supervisor is an older British woman named Crowley (played by Caroline Goodall), who is stereotypically stern and uptight in the way that American male filmmakers tend to portray older British women.

And the ethnic stereotyping doesn’t end there. The filmmakers make Sonia (who’s Mexican, just like Hayek is in real life) look so ignorant that she can’t pronounce Michael’s last name correctly in English. She repeatedly pronounces Bryce (rhymes with “rice”) as “breece” (rhymes with “fleece”). It’s yet another negative stereotype that makes it look like anyone whose original language is Spanish can’t possibly master the English language. There are racist undertones to this stereotyping, since Hayek is a woman of color.

The movie overall perpetuates negative and racist stereotypes because the three non-Anglo actors with the most screen time (Jackson, Hayek and Banderas) all portray characters who are criminals. The people who don’t notice these negative stereotypes are usually the same type of people who think this type of racist stereotyping should be normal in movies and television. But the reality is that what people see on screen, when it comes to representation of certain demographics, has an affect on how people peceive those demographics in real life. It’s part of the vicious cycle of bigotry that instills the false idea that certain races are “inferior” to others.

The male-female relationships in this movie are either about sex or resentment that a woman might be smarter than a man. Bobby is assigned a translator named Ailso (played by Alice McMillan), a Scot whose only role in the film is to be eye candy, based on the bland lines that she’s given. Instead of being impressed that Ailso knows multiple languages, Bobby just belittles her for her Scottish name, and she’s sidelined for most of the movie.

Sonia and Darius are portrayed as a horny couple, so there are repetitive scenes of them talking about their sex life or having sex, while a mortified Michael is nearby. It’s just more racist stereotyping that depicts African Americans and Latinos as hypersexual. Viewers won’t be surprised when it’s revealed that Sonia used to be Aristotle’s lover too.

There’s a flashback scene of Sonia and Aristotle’s past relatonship, where she comes across as a scheming gold digger. Hayek and Banderas previously co-starred in 1995’s “Desperado” and 2003’s “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” action films that were both written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Although fans of those two movies might be thrilled that Hayek and Banderas are in another film together, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is a cringeworthy reunion for both of these talented actors.

All of the stars of this movie are doing versions of other characters they’ve played in other films. Reynolds has made a career out of playing emotionally insecure and sarcastic characters in comedies. Jackson does his usual schtick as a quick-tempered loose cannon. Banderas, who is originally from Spain, has played a cold-blooded villain before, but in this movie he doesn’t even try to get into character because he sounds Spanish, not Greek. Freeman is doing his usual “I’m wiser than you are” persona.

But the most problematic way that a character is written and portrayed in the movie is with Hayek’s Sonia. Hayek is not a starlet who’s desperate to get a big break. She’s an Oscar-nominated actress who’s also an experienced movie producer. It’s kind of sad that she’s sunk to this level to be in such a horrendous and embarrassing dud. The next time she lectures people about Hispanic representation in Hollywood movies, she needs to check herself and think about why she allowed herself to be used in this degrading movie that’s the epitome of why there’s a culture of damaging discrimination against women and people of color.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” doesn’t even have action scenes that are thrilling or imaginative. The scenes with fire and explosions have cheap-looking CGI effects. Watch any “John Wick” or “Mission: Impossible” movie to see how action scenes are done right and how action scenes can be innovative. Everything in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is like garbage that should’ve been thrown out a long time ago: It’s awful, it’s worthless, and it’s got a lingering stench that no amount of exotic locations can cover up.

Lionsgate will release “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” in U.S. cinemas on June 16, 2021, with sneak preview screenings on June 11 and June 12, 2021.

Review: ‘The Rookies’ (2021), starring Talu Wang, Sandrine Pinna, Timmy Xu, Meitong Liu, David Lee McInnis and Milla Jovovich

June 8, 2021

by Carla Hay

Talu Wang in “The Rookies” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

“The Rookies” (2021)

Directed by Alan Yuen

Mandarin, Hungarian and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong and in Hungary, the action flick “The Rookies” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing law enforcement and criminals.

Culture Clash: Four agents in law enforcement battle a villain who wants to take over the world.

Culture Audience: “The Rookies” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching incoherent and poorly acted action movies.

Milla Jovovich in “The Rookies” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

Utterly forgettable and messy on every level, “The Rookies” is one of those movies that makes viewers wonder why the filmmakers thought it would be a good idea to get this embarrassing dud made. The acting is cringeworthy, the visual effects are cheap and tacky-looking, and the story is just simplistic garbage made even worse with jumbled and nonsensical action scenes.

“The Rookies” director Alan Yuen seems to have been going for a video-game-inspired tone for the movie. But almost all video games are far superior to this clumsily made film, which was written by Yuen, Yun Cheung and Kong Xu Lei. It has the most boring and over-used concept imaginable for an action flick: heroes chase after a villain who wants to rule the world. Watching this movie is like watching someone saying a bunch of gibberish to answer a simple question.

In “The Rookies,” four special agents in law enforcement team up to stop the bad guy, who happens to be a billionaire. The villain’s name is Iron Fist (played by David Lee McInnis), but his real name is Liam Wonder. At the beginning of the movie, it’s mentioned that he went into hiding after the death of the love of his life named Angelina Kim.

This tidbit of information is the movie’s weak attempt at having a backstory for the villain. The information ends up being irrelevant because “The Rookies” is a movie that consists primarily of badly filmed chase scenes and stupid dialogue. Iron Fist’s master plan to take over the world is to have bombs go off in Budapest and Hong Kong. It’s just a very unimaginative story idea that’s mishandled in the filmmaking.

The four agent pals, who are all in their 20s, waste considerable time bickering with each other, just so the story drags out even more. These four agents are:

  • Zhao Feng (played by Talu Wang), the alpha male of the group who sometimes bungles his way through the job.
  • Miao Yan (played by Sandrine Pinna), an Interpol office who’s a master of disguises and who is struggling with bipolar disorder and depression.
  • Ding Shan (played by Timmy Xu), the group’s nerdy “beta male” who’s the computer/tech expert.
  • L.V. (played by Meitong Liu), who’s got combat skills that catch opponents off-guard because they underestimate her.

Iron Fist has an androgynous accomplice named Bruce (played by Milla Jovovich), an assassin who has a thing for wearing black ties with a black leather jacket and slicked-back hair. As an example of how bad the dialogue is in the movie, in one scene, Bruce faces a group of several men as opponents. Bruce says to them, “Hey boys? Do you like music? How about a fast track?” And then, Bruce fights all of the men by as some fast dance music plays. In another scene, Bruce comments, “Every battle needs a theme song.”

The movie has some filler nonsense where someone has to go to Budapest to hand-deliver a bag that contains something that’s so secret, the person making the delivery can’t even know what’s in the bag. Zhao Feng and Miao Yan have arguments, but it’s really for the most cliché movie reason possible: Deep down, they’re attracted to each other. And throughout the movie, there are cartoonish, animated graphics that just serve as annoying distractions.

“The Rookies” is one of those movies that tries to do too much with some of the action scenes by making them colorful and busy-looking. But it’s all very superficial, because the plot is so jumbled and there’s absolutely nothing memorable about the personalities of the heroes. Jovovich looks like she’s having some fun as she smirks away in her villain role, but clearly this was “just a paycheck” movie for her. She’s been in a lot of terrible movies, but “The Rookies” is easily one of her worst.

The other stars of “The Rookies” have acting talent that ranges from average to almost unwatchable. “The Rookies isn’t the type of horrible movie that’s aggressively offensive. It’s just a complete waste of time for anyone who wants to see an entertaining action flick with a story that doesn’t insult viewers’ intelligence.

Shout! Studios released “The Rookies” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 16, 2021. The movie was released in China and other countries in 2019.

Review: ‘The Paper Tigers,’ starring Alain Uy, Ron Yuan and Mykel Shannon Jenkins

May 16, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ron Yuan, Alain Uy and Mykel Shannon Jenkins in “The Paper Tigers” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Paper Tigers”

Directed by Tran Quoc Bao

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the male-centric action dramedy “The Paper Tigers” features a predominantly Asian cast (with some African Americans and white people) representing the middle-class, working class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Three middle-aged men, who used to be friends and aspiring kung fu masters in their youth, reunite after their former mentor dies, and they investigate their suspicions that their ex-instructor did not die of natural causes.

Culture Audience: “The Paper Tigers” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an unconventional kung fu movie that includes a murder mystery and touches of goofy comedy.

Matthew Page and Mykel Shannon Jenkins in “The Paper Tigers” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Paper Tigers” plays with kung fu tropes and upends a lot of these stereotypes with a story that skillfully blends gripping action, emotional authenticity and the right amount of comic relief. Written and directed by Tran Quoc Bao, “Paper Tigers” (which was funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign) is the type of film that perhaps could only have been made independently, because it tells a story that major movie studios don’t seem interested in telling: What it’s like for middle-aged men to get back into the kung fu fighting that they loved in their youth. Some of the movie’s pacing drags at times, and the dialogue can be occasionally over-simplistic, but these minor flaws are outweighed by a story that is very entertaining overall.

“The Paper Tigers,” which takes place in an unnamed U.S. city, begins with a nighttime scene that serves as the catalyst for the rest of the story: A restaurant cook named Sifu Cheung (played by Roger Yuan) is in a physical fight with an unseen assailant in the back alley of the restaurant. The attacker makes some kung fu moves on him, including a deadly move that’s later described in the film as “poison fingers.” Sifu Cheung succumbs to this fatal blow and dies alone in the alley.

Who was Sifu Cheung? As shown in flashbacks presented as old home video footage throughout the movie, he used to mentor three special kung fu disciples: Danny, Hing and Jim, who were all classmates in the same school. Sifu Cheung began giving them private after-school lessons in 1986, when the boys were about 10 years old. Danny is considered to be the most talented, Hing is the jokester of the group, and Jim is the most dedicated student of kung fu. The actors portraying the boys during this time period are Kieran Tamondong as Danny, Bryan Kinder as Hing and Malakai James as Jim.

Sifu Cheung, whose background is kept vague and mysterious in the movie, was working as a restaurant cook for years as his day job. The restaurant where he died in the back alley is the same restaurant where he worked at in the 1980s when he began teaching kung fu to Danny, Hing and Jim. It’s never explained why Sifu Cheung is working as a restaurant cook instead of having a professional job in kung fu, but the way it’s described in the movie, he’s too humble to seek glory for himself.

However, he’s a local kung fu legend among people in the community. And being mentored by Sifu Cheung is considered to be a very high honor. Sifu Cheung likes to teach kung fu lessons to boys (there’s no mention of him having any female students), and only a chosen few are considered to be his special protégés. Danny, Hing and Jim were Sifu Cheung’s last-known protégés. And the three boys were given the nickname the Three Tigers.

The Three Tigers have a nemesis named Carter, who is a relentless bully and a wannabe kung fu master. One of the reasons why the boys want to take kung fu lessons is so they can defend themselves against Carter. By 1993, when the boys were teenagers, they’re good enough at kung fu to defeat Carter in kung fu battles. The actors portraying the teenagers during this time period are Yoshi Sudarso as Danny, Peter Adrian Sudarso as Hing, Gui DaSilva-Greene as Jim and Mark Poletti as Carter.

Danny does so well in kung fu that he’s accepted to participate in a major kung fu tournament in Japan. Jim also goes on the trip as Danny’s backup, in case Danny gets an injury and can’t compete in the tournament. When the teens find out that they’ve been accepted to be in this tournament, they’re naturally elated. However, it’s revealed later in the story that Sifu Cheung disapproves of his disciples participating in these types of competitions because he thinks prize money corrupts the honor of kung fu fighters.

The camaraderie between the the Three Tigers fell apart because of something happened during this tournament that caused a major falling out between Danny and Jim. It’s eventually revealed in the movie what happened to cause this rift. Hing, who was caught in the middle of this feud, didn’t want to take sides. And all three friends drifted apart soon afterward. It’s mentioned later in the story that Danny, Jim and Hing also became alienated from Sifu Cheung because he was angry about Danny and Jim’s participation in the tournament, and he became disillusioned over teaching kung fu.

In the present day, “Paper Tigers” is told from Danny’s perspective. He is now a divorced dad in his 40s who works in insurance. And he left kung fu behind a long time ago, ever since that tournament in Japan that caused the end of his friendship with Jim. Danny and his ex-wife Caryn (played by Jae Suh Park) have a tense relationship because she thinks Danny is too flaky when it comes to spending time with their sensitive and adorable son Ed (played by Joziah Lagonoy), who’s about 9 or 10 years old.

It’s mentioned several times in the movie that Danny and Caryn have agreed to joint custody of Ed. However, for whatever reason, the movie only depicts Danny having weekend visitations. Maybe the arrangement is that Ed lives full-time with Danny for part of the year and lives full-time with Caryn for the other part of the year.

Whatever the arrangement is, it’s not working out the way that Caryn wants because Danny frequently lets his job take precedence over taking care of Ed. In one of the movie’s scenes, Danny is late to pick up Ed, and he knows that Caryn will be upset. In order to placate her and a disappointed Ed, Danny spontaneously tells Ed that they’re going to a nearby amusement park named Magicland. Caryn is skeptical that Danny can afford the cost (which is a hint that he has money problems), but Danny assures her that he can pay for everything.

And wouldn’t you know, just as Danny and an elated Ed are driving to Magicland, Danny gets a call from his job. And he ends up having to go into the office to do some weekend work. Danny is so embarrassed about this parental letdown that he asks Ed to lie to Caryn and tell her that they went to Magicland. It’s one of a few examples in the movie that show how unexpected things happen to Danny that test his parental skills and integrity.

It’s shown throughout the movie that Danny has become so disenchanted with kung fu, he doesn’t even really like to talk about it anymore. Before Danny was about to drive Ed to Magicland, they encountered an angry man named Tommy (played by Ray Hopper), who was about to pick a fight with Danny because Danny’s car was blocking Tommy’s car that wanted to exit the parking lot. The furious man began to show signs of physical aggression and made racist comments to Danny, who drove away without escalating the argument.

Danny uses this incident as a teachable moment to Ed. He tells his son: “A lot of boneheads think they can solve things with their fists, like that guy back there. You know what to do? You do what Dad did: Be the bigger man and walk away.” Danny brings up this incident after Ed asks him about some old kung fu photos of Danny that Ed had found. Danny avoids going into details with Ed about his kung fu past.

Danny finds out about Sifu Cheung’s death when Hing shows up unexpectedly at Danny’s house and tells him that Siefu Cheun died of a heart attack. They make plans to go to the funeral. The two former friends haven’t seen or spoken to each other in years, but they pick up right where they left off when they reunite. Danny only agrees to go to the funeral when he finds out from Hing that Jim won’t be there.

At the funeral, Danny and Hing see their old enemy Carter (played by Matthew Page), who brags that he was very close to Sifu Cheung. Danny and Hing know that the Three Tigers had a special relationship with Sifu Cheung that Carter never had. Carter is still very annoying and very insulting. He tells Hing: “You look like a fat Asian Mr. Rogers.” In his middle-age, Carter tries to come across as a kung fu master, with a lot of appropriation of Chinese culture.

During the funeral services, three obnoxious men in their late teens/early 20s go up to a large photo on display of Sifu Cheung. The three guys pose together in front of the photo and disrespectfully start taking selfies with their phones. Carter tells Danny and Hing to do something about this rudeness toward their former mentor, but Danny and Hing refuse, because they don’t want to cause any further trouble.

After this tacky selfie photo session, the three guys immediately leave the funeral service. Who are these jerks? They will be seen again later on in the movie because they will be part of one of the big kung fu showdowns in the story. This trio of thugs is led by arrogant Chief (played by Phillip Dang), whose sidekicks are Boi (played by Brian Le) and Fu (played by Andy Le). These goons might or might not have clues about Sifu Cheung’s real cause of death.

Hing is the first to express skepticism that Sifu Cheung did not die of natural causes. The official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia. Hing doubts that Sifu Cheung, who was reportedly in great health, could have died this way. Danny, who works in insurance claims, says that it’s possible, since Sifu Cheung smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Hing wants to investigate and Danny reluctantly goes along at first.

In order to gather information, Hing and Danny end up seeing Jim again. He works in a gym as a trainer to mixed-martial arts fighters. And unlike Danny and Hing, muscular Jim is in top athletic shape. The trio’s reunion starts out as awkward but eventually, they all agree that Sifu Cheung’s death is worth investigating. It’s also their way of honoring their former mentor because they feel guilty of never resolving their differences with Sifu Cheung before he died.

Some of the people whom Danny, Hing and Jim encounter during their amateur sleuthing are Sifu Wong (played by Raymond Ma), who was a longtime close friend of Sifu Cheung; Ray (played by La’Tevin Alexander), one of Jim’s MMA fighter trainees; and Zhen Fan (played by Ken Quitugua), who kung fu fighter in his 30s who is said to have been one of the last people mentored by Sifu Cheung. Carter tries to insert himself into the investigation, and he might or might not be helpful

“The Paper Tigers” gets a lot of mileage out of poking fun at how out-of-shape Danny and Hing are when they do their inevitable kung fu fights. Hing also has a bad right knee. Jim is in great shape, but his hindrance is that he hasn’t done kung fu in years, so there are moments when he forgets what to do in kung fu and resorts to MMA techniques. And all three man aren’t as nimble and fast as they used to be.

The fight scenes are well-done and often comical. Quitugua was also the action director/fight choreographer in “Paper Tigers.” And his fight scenes in the movie (not surprisingly) stand out the most. Even though some of the fights veer into slapstick comedy territory, the injuries are not glossed over too much. There’s a point in the movie when one of the Three Tigers can’t do any more fighting because he’s too injured.

All of the actors do a fine job with their roles. But because Danny has the most character development and backstory of his adult life, Uy’s portrayal of Danny is the most memorable. Ron Yuan and Jenkins also do quite well in their roles, especially in their comical banter. Bao provides solid direction, and he has a keen sense of knowing how to bring humor to intense fight scenes.

Where the movie’s screenplay falls short is in its lack of well-rounded female characters. Caryn is really the only woman who has a significant speaking role in the movie. And frankly, her character is portrayed as disapproving and bitter. “The Paper Tigers” isn’t a misogynistic film, but it could have done a lot better in presenting a variety of female characters instead of this unrealistic bubble where more than 90% of the people who exist and get to speak are male.

Of course, the Three Tigers’ return to kung fu fighting is about more than reliving their youth. It’s about confronting their past and coming to terms with who they’ve become as adults. Solving the mystery of Sifu Cheung’s death is a part of that journey. But, in its own way, “The Paper Tigers” is a coming-of-age in middle-age story. It’s about facing fear—not fear of what other people can do to you but the fear of not living up to your potential.

Well Go USA released “The Paper Tigers” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on May 7, 2021.

Review: ‘Vanquish’ (2021), starring Morgan Freeman and Ruby Rose

May 7, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ruby Rose in “Vanquish” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Vanquish” (2021)

Directed by George Gallo

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the action film “Vanquish” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the criminal underground and law enforcement.

Culture Clash: A corrupt and retired police officer forces a former colleague to do some of his dirty work, in exchange for setting her kidnapped underage daughter free from captivity.

Culture Audience: “Vanquish” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind wasting time watching a dimwitted, poorly made and incoherent film.

Morgan Freeman in “Vanquish” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

At some point while filming the horrific embarrassment that is “Vanquish,” Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman must have asked himself, “How did I end up in this garbage movie?” It might have been an easy paycheck for Freeman, but it came at a cost to some of his dignity to be in this putrid cesspool of terrible filmmaking. Freeman seems to know it too, based on his zoned-out performance, which is barely distinguishable from the rest of the stiff and terrible acting that stinks up this trash pile of an action flick.

Viewers unlucky enough to watch “Vanquish” might think that the movie’s sloppy and amateurish filmmaking might be from a first-time feature-film director. No, “Vanquish” is the 13th feature film directed by George Gallo, who made his feature directorial debut with the 1991 dramedy “29th Street,” starring Anthony LaPaglia, Danny Aiello and Lainie Kazan. Gallo is best-known as the screenwriter for the 1988 crime-caper comedy “Midnight Run” (starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin) and for coming up with the story that would turn into the 1995 action hit movie “Bad Boys,” starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Based on his filmography, Gallo has done plenty of movies about mismatched people who are involved in some criminal activities. In other words, this type of subject matter isn’t new to him. And that’s why it’s even more mind-boggling that “Vanquish” (which Gallo wrote with Sam Bartlett) is so badly bungled on every single level of filmmaking. The plot is nonsensical, the aforementioned acting is cringeworthy, and the way that the film was shot and edited makes some no-budget YouTube prank videos look like masterpieces in comparison.

It’s a very bad sign when “Vanquish” has an opening credits sequence that lasts for a bloated six minutes. That’s how long it takes for the movie to repetitively show newspaper clippings and news footage of police officer Damon Hickey (played by Freeman) becoming a decorated hero during the course of his long career. (The movie doesn’t mention where this story takes place, but it’s supposed to be in a U.S. city.)

Damon’s career was cut short when he was gunned down in a shootout that left him as a paraplegic. And so, throughout this entire dull and dreary movie, Damon is in a wheelchair while he lives by himself in a sleek-looking mansion worth millions. How could a retired police officer afford such a luxurious home when he doesn’t come from a rich family and there’s no sign that he married into wealth? And how could Damon’s ownership of this mansion, which is beyond his cop salary, not raise suspicions from law enforcement?

This illogical movie never answers the second question, but it answers the first question. Damon has been a corrupt cop involved in skimming money from drug deals and other crimes. And he’s been able to get away with it. For reasons that aren’t made clear except for vague references to revenge, Damon now wants payback from certain people in the criminal underworld. And he plans to steal loads of cash from them.

And that’s where Victoria (played by Rose) comes into the picture. Victoria, who is originally from Australia (as is Rose in real life), is Damon’s caretaker and a single mother to a daughter named Lily (played by Juju Journey Brener), who’s about 8 or 9 years old. Victoria is in for a shock one night when she and Lily are in Damon’s home, and Lily goes missing. Damon calmly informs Victoria (whom he calls Vicky) that Lily is safe but in captivity, and Victoria won’t get Lily back unless Victoria does what Damon says.

Damon wants Victoria to go to five different pre-planned places to pick up cash. But it’s not as simple as that. Damon also wants Victoria to murder anyone who gets in her way. These places are where Damon knows exactly where his criminal targets are gathered. And so, even if any of these crooks owed Damon any money, he won’t be satisfied with just the money. He wants them dead.

And why is Victoria so qualified to do these dirty deeds? She used to be a drug courier for the Russian mafia, which explains why she has assassin skills. It doesn’t explain why viewers have to be subjected to the idiocy of scene after scene where she’s able to single-handedly take on several armed opponents at once and never miss a target when she fires a gun.

After Victoria goes to each of the location to murder people and pick up a bag of cash, she gets on her motorcycle and delivers the cash to Damon. Then, Damon and Victoria spew some badly written lines that are supposed to be arguments. And then, Victoria hops on her motorcycle to go to the next destination. Freeman literally does nothing in this movie but sit in a wheelchair and act cranky and self-righteous.

During the course of this movie, viewers find out that Victoria can not only speak Russian but she can also seek German and French. Be prepared to hear Rose mangle words in different languages. With her limited acting range (and that’s putting it nicely), she barely has command of the English language.

Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a muddled storyline about some gangsters who’ve caught a snitch in their group. This snitch’s secret audio surveillance was found on a portable cassette tape recorder that would need a wire for remote recording. What year is this? 1991?

Viewers know that this movie takes place in the era of digital, wireless recorders because Damon keeps track of Victoria through a high-tech digital video surveillance system that he requires her to wear during her robbery/killing spree. And that’s why it’s almost laughable that the snitch was found with a cassette recorder that looks like it was left over from an old episode of “Law & Order.”

The snitch has been killed, and the people he secretly recorded are corrupt cops who used to work with Damon. They include B.J. (played by Paul Sampson), Erik (played by Miles Doleac), Sniper (played by Richard Salvatore) and Max (played by Ele Barda). These goons show up at various points in this messy story, where not even the clergy is immune to the corruption. In a flashback scene, Damon is shown in a confessional with a priest named Father Thomas (played by Bill Luckett), who’s been in cahoots with Damon in their criminal activities.

Are there any good cops in this story? Not really. There are some law enforcement people who turn up at various points in the movie, by they don’t do anything except say moronic lines while they hang out in seedy bars. The cops in the movie certainly don’t seem to be doing any real police work.

These useless characters include Detective Stevens (played by Nick Vallelonga), Detective Kehoe (played by Chris Mullinax) and Agent Monroe (played by Patrick Muldoon). Freeman isn’t the only Oscar winner in the “Vanquish” cast. Vallelonga won two Oscars for being a writer and a producer of the 2018 dramedy “Green Book.” It goes to show that being an Oscar winner doesn’t automatically give someone the good sense to avoid bottom-of-the-barrel projects.

While Victoria speeds around the city in her motorcycle to go from destination to destination, Damon inexplicably acts as if he’s her personal GPS, by giving her directions. Expect to see a lot of footage of Freeman sitting in a wheelchair and barking empty lines such as “Go there!” or “Turn left!” The only direction this movie goes is off the rails.

Victoria is armed with two large guns that she keeps exposed in full view while they’re tucked into the back side of her jeans. And so, there’s scene after scene of her walking into these criminal hangouts, where her guns are exposed and no one stops her or questions her. The bodyguards who are supposed to protect the criminals are completely incompetent (just like this movie’s screenplay is incompetent), because it doesn’t take long for Victoria to open fire and slaughter everyone in sight. Remember, she never misses a target.

During her first stop at a nightclub where her targets are, Victoria shoots and kills some people in a back room without a gun silencer, and the movie wants viewers to believe that no one could hear the gunshots because the door was closed. These lunkheads apparently didn’t think that a known associate of Damon’s who walked into the club with two guns sticking out of her back wasn’t going to use these guns.

After these murders, Victoria manages to rescue a prostitute named Galyna (played by Hannah Stocking), who begs to be set free from these thugs. Victoria decides that she and Galyna should play it cool and walk out of the club as if they’re friends having a laugh. “Can you pretend I’m funny?” Victoria asks Galyna. Galyna replies, “I’m a prostitute!,” as if to say “I already know how to act.” Too bad no one knows how to act in this film.

Another mindless massacre scene is one where Victoria encounters an over-the-top effeminate/flamboyant gangster named Rayo (played by Joel Michaely), who has one of the worst fake Southern accents you’ll ever hear in a movie. Victoria shows up unannounced at Rayo’s home. Rayo offers Victoria some Mint Julep, as if she’s at the Kentucky Derby, not in the lair of a sleazy criminal who has some heavily drugged young men on his living room sofa. (Adults will know exactly what those young men are doing there and why they’ve been drugged.)

And because Victoria is as dimwitted as this movie’s screenplay, she drinks the Mint Julep, even though she sees that there are people on the sofa who are in a drugged stupor. The Mint Julep is laced with a sedative, of course. Damon is watching this fiasco the whole time on his video surveillance camera. As Victoria is about to pass out from the unnamed drug that she ingested in the Mint Julep, Damon sees that there’s a small mound of cocaine on a nearby table. You can easily guess that he tells Victoria to do and what happens next.

And did we mention that Victoria used to have a (now-dead) brother who was her partner in crime? It’s of no consequence to this movie’s plot because it’s just another useless detail that’s thrown in to make it look like Victoria has a backstory. She really doesn’t.

That’s why there’s a ludicrous moment toward the end of the film where viewers find out that Victoria’s mother is the governor of the unnamed state where this movie takes place. Governor Ann Driscoll (played by Julie Lott) had not one but two children caught up in running drugs for the Russian mafia, and somehow this was never exposed by her political opponents. What a way to get elected.

One of the most annoying aspects of “Vanquish” is how it over-saturates the movie with fade-in/fade-out editing, as if to mimic a fever dream. It’s more like a nightmare to sit through this rubbish. The movie’s blaring soundtrack is distracting and often drowns out the dialogue.

And the filmmakers mistakenly thought that “Vanquish” would look artsy by having substandard cinematography that tries to make almost every interior look like a neon aquarium. It doesn’t look artsy. It looks garish and tacky.

In the production notes for “Vanquish,” director/co-writer Gallo makes this statement that reads, in part: “I have always enjoyed the Korean gangster film genre ever since I first became aware of them. These films have a cool, bouncy and deliciously dark vibe and most importantly, a great sense of humor … My attraction to ‘Vanquish’ was that I could make a film that I hadn’t really done before and infuse my love of these genres into my film.”

First of all, please don’t insult Korean cinema by comparing “Vanquish” to Korean gangster films. It’s like comparing toxic trash to works of art. Secondly, there is absolutely no humor in “Vanquish,” unless viewers want to laugh at how horrible everything in this movie is. And lastly, “Vanquish” does the exact opposite of what Victoria does every time she fires her gun: The movie completely misses the mark.

Lionsgate released “Vanquish” in select U.S. cinemas on April 16, 2021, on digital and VOD on April 20, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27, 2021.

Review: ‘Wrath of Man,’ starring Jason Statham

May 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Holt McCallany, Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett and Rocci Williams in “Wrath of Man” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Wrath of Man”

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the action flick “Wrath of Man” features a nearly all-male, predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A crime boss goes undercover as an armored truck driver to avenge the murder of his teenage son, who was killed during a heist of an armored truck.

Culture Audience: “Wrath of Man” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a predictable and violent movie with no imagination.

Raúl Castillo, Deobia Oparei, Jeffrey Donovan, Chris Reilly, Laz Alonso and Scott Eastwood as Jan in “Wrath of Man” (Photo by Christopher Raphael/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.)

The fourth time isn’t the charm for director Guy Ritchie and actor Jason Statham in the vapid action flick “Wrath of Man,” their fourth movie together. It’s tedious and predictable junk filled with cringeworthy dialogue and stunts with no creativity. People who are familiar with Statham’s work already know that his movies are almost always schlockfests that are essentially about violence and car chases. However, Ritchie’s filmography is much more of a mixed bag. “Wrath of Man” isn’t Ritchie’s absolute worst film, but it’s a movie that could have been so much better.

Ritchie co-wrote the “Wrath of Man” screenplay with Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson. The movie is based on the 2004 French thriller “Le Convoyeur,” directed by Nicolas Boukhrief and written by Boukhrief and Éric Besnard. Ritchie and Statham previously worked together on 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (Ritchie’s feature-film debut), 2000’s “Snatch” and 2005’s “Revolver.” Whereas those three movies had plenty of sly comedy with brutal action, “Wrath of Man” is so by-the-numbers and soulless, it seems like a computer program, not human beings, could’ve written this movie.

The movie’s simplistic plot could’ve been told in 90 minutes or less. Instead, it’s stretched out into a nearly two-hour slog with repetitive and unnecessary flashbacks. In “Wrath of Man,” which takes place in Los Angeles, Statham plays a mysterious crime boss who’s out to avenge the murder of his son Dougie (played by Eli Brown), who was about 17 or 18 and an innocent bystander when he was shot to death by a robber during a heist of an armored truck.

Dougie’s murder (which is not spoiler information) is shown in a flashback about halfway through the movie. Until then, viewers are left to wonder who Statham’s character really is when he shows up at the headquarters of Fortico Security to apply for a job working as a guard in an armored truck. When he applies for the job, he identifies himself has Patrick Hill, a divorcé with more than 25 years of security experience. Later, viewers find out that it’s an alias; his real last name is Mason.

But he was able to create an entire false identity as Patrick Hill, with documents provided by his trusty assistant Kirsty (played by Lyne Renée), one of the few women with a speaking role in this movie. The false identity includes phony job references and a fake job stint at the now-defunct Orange Delta Security, which was a well-known company. Based on this elaborate scheme, Patrick is easily able to get a job at Fortico.

Fortico is described in the movie as one of the top armored vehicle companies that does cash pickups and deliveries in the area. The company’s clients include retail department stores, marijuana dispensaries, cash vaults, casinos and private banks. On a typical pickup or delivery, there are two or three employees in the truck: a driver, a guard and/or a messenger. The company isn’t huge (it only has 12 trucks), but it’s very profitable. A Fortico truck haul can total around $15 million a day, sometimes more.

Patrick is trained by Hayden Blair (played by Holt McCallany), who goes by the nickname Bullet. Almost everyone Bullet works with directly seems to have a nickname, so he immediately gives Patrick the nickname H, an abbreviation of Hill. Patrick/H goes through the training process (including gun defense skills) and he barely gets passing grades. He’s assigned to work with a cocky driver named David Hancock (played by Josh Hartnett), whose nickname is Boy Sweat Dave. Another colleague is Robert Martin (played by Rocci Williams), whose nickname is Hollow Bob.

When Bullet introduces H to these two co-workers, Bullet says, “He’s H, like the bomb. Or Jesus H.” The bad dialogue doesn’t get any better. H is told that he’s replacing a co-worker named Sticky John (who came up with these cringeworthy nicknames?), who died during a heist that killed multiple employees. The robbers got away, so the Fortico employees on are on edge about this shooting spree, which they call the Gonzo Murders. Boy Sweat Dave says, “We ain’t the predators. We’re the prey.”

The insipid dialogue continues throughout the entire movie. In a scene with some Fortico workers off-duty in a bar, Boy Sweat Dave is playing pool with Dana Curtis (played by Niamh Algar), the token female on Fortico’s armored truck crew. Dana says sarcastically to Boy Sweat Dave: “The point of the game is to get the ball in the hole.” Boy Sweat Dave snaps back, “The point of a woman is to shut the fuck up, Dana.”

Dana replies, “Well, that Ivy League education is really working for you, Boy Sweat.” (How can you say a line like that with a straight face?) Boy Sweat Dave retorts, “Pretty soon, you’ll all be working for me. The power is in this big head here.” Dana snipes back, “Well, it’s definitely not in your little head. Or are you still blaming the beer?”

The character of Boy Sweat Dave is an example of how “Wrath of Man” wastes a potentially interesting character on silly dialogue. What kind of person with an Ivy League education wants to work as an armored truck driver, a job which doesn’t even require a high school education? Viewers never find out because Boy Sweat Dave is one of several characters in the movie who are shallowly introduced, just so there can be more people in the body count later.

And because Dana is H’s only female co-worker, this movie that treats women as tokens can’t let her be just a co-worker. No, she has to serve the purpose of fulfilling H’s sexual needs too, since he and Dana have a predictable fling/one night stand. He finds out something about her when he spends the night at her place that helps him unravel the mystery of who killed his son.

It isn’t long before Patrick/H experiences his first heist as a Fortico employee. He’s partnered with Boy Sweat Dave, who’s driving, while H is the lookout. The heist is unrealistically staged in the movie as one of those battles where one man (in this case, H) can take down several other men in a shootout where a Fortico employee has been taken hostage by the thieves. Post Malone fans (or haters) might get a kick out of the scene though, since he plays one of the nameless robbers who doesn’t last long in this movie. H has saved his co-workers’ lives in this botched heist, so he’s hailed as a hero by the company.

Meanwhile, the FBI has been looking for Patrick because he’s been an elusive crime boss. There are three FBI agents, all very uninteresting, who are on this manhunt: FBI Agent Hubbard (played by Josh Cowdery), FBI Agent Okey (played by Jason Wong) and their supervisor Agent King (played by Andy Garcia). Hubbard and Okey come in contact with Patrick/H, when they investigate the botched robbery where Patrick/H ended up as the hero.

Agent King orders Hibbard and Okey not to let on that they know H’s real identity and to keep tabs on why this crime boss is working at an armored truck company. Eddie Marsan, a very talented actor, has a very useless role in “Wrath of Man,” as an office assistant named Terry. Terry becomes suspicious of who H really is, because in his heroic rescue, H showed the type of expert combat skills that contradicts the mediocrity that he displayed in the company’s training.

And just who’s in this group of murderous thieves? They’re led by mastermind Jackson (played by Jeffrey Donovan), a married man with two kids who lives a double life. This seemingly mild-mannered family man works in a shopping mall. But he also apparently has time to lead a group of armored truck thieves, who pose as street construction workers when they commit their robberies. The robbers use a concrete mixer truck to block the armored truck and then ambush the people inside the armored truck.

What’s really dumb about “Wrath of Man” is that these armed robbers use the same tactic every time. In real life, repeating this very cumbersome way of committing an armed robbery would make them easier to catch, not harder. Apparently, these dimwits think that the best way to not call attention to yourself during a robbery is to haul out a giant concrete mixer truck.

Jackson’s crew consists of a bunch of mostly generic meatheads: Brad (played by Deobia Oparei), Sam (played by Raúl Castillo), Tom (played by Chris Reilly) and Carlos (played by Laz Alonzo), with Jan (played by Scott Eastwood) as the loose cannon in the group. Guess who pulled the trigger on Patrick/H/Mason’s son Dougie? Guess who’s going to have a big showdown at the end of the movie?

Of course, a crime boss has to have his own set of goons. Patrick/H/Mason has three thugs who are closest to him and who do a lot of his dirty work: Mike (played by Darrell D’Silva), Brendan (played by Cameron Jack) and Moggy (played by Babs Olusanmokun). There’s a vile part of the movie that shows Patrick/H/Mason ordering his henchman to beat up and torture anyone who might have information on who murdered Dougie. The operative word here is “might,” because some people who had nothing to do with the murder are brutally assaulted.

Mike has a conscience and he says that he won’t commit these vicious attacks anymore to try to find Dougie’s killer. Mike advises Patrick/H/Mason to think of another way to find the murderer. And that’s when Patrick/H/Mason got the idea to go “undercover” at Fortico, with the hope that he could catch the murderous thieves in their next heist on a Fortico truck.

And what do you know, this gang of thieves will be doing “one last heist” on a Fortico truck, to get a haul that’s said to be at least $150 million. What could possibly go wrong? You know, of course.

Ritchie’s previous film “The Gentlemen” (which was also about gangsters and theives) had a lot of devilishly clever dialogue and crackled with the type of robust energy that hasn’t been seen in his movies in years. And although “The Gentlemen” wasn’t a perfect film about criminal antics, it at least made the effort to have memorable characters and to keep viewers guessing about which character was going to come out on top. “Wrath of Man” is a completely lazy film that has no interesting characters, no suspense, and not even any eye-popping stunts. It’s just a silly shoot ’em up flick that’s as empty as Statham’s dead-eyed stares.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Pictures and Miramax Films will release “Wrath of Man” in U.S. cinemas on May 7, 2021.

Review: ‘Mortal Kombat’ (2021), starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han and Joe Taslim

April 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim in “Mortal Kombat” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Mortal Kombat” (2021)

Directed by Simon McQuoid

Some language in Chinese and Japanese with subtitles

Culture Representation: The fantasy action flick “Mortal Kombat” features a racially diverse cast (Asian, white and African American) portraying humans, mutants and monsters in various realms of the universe.

Culture Clash: Fighters in Earthrealm and Outworld face off in the ultimate universe showdown called Mortal Kombat.

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of people who are fans of the “Mortal Kombat” video games and franchise, this “Mortal Kombat” movie reboot will appeal primarily to people who want to see bloody action films and don’t care about terrible dialogue and flimsy storylines.

Josh Lawson and Jessica McNamee in “Mortal Kombat” (Photo Mark Rogers/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The 2021 movie reboot of “Mortal Kombat” should please fans of the video game who want to see an action flick that stays true to the video game’s bloody violence. However, compared to the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie, what hasn’t changed is the train wreck of stiff acting, embarrassingly bad dialogue and a stale plot. Thanks to improvements in technology, the visual effects are unsurprisingly better in the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” than they were in the 1995 “Mortal Kombat.” The reboot’s fight choreography is also superior to its predecessor. But these fight scenes aren’t necessarily all that suspenseful or thrilling, because everything is very hollow and predictable.

Directed by Simon McQuoid (in his feature-film directorial debut), the 2021 version of “Mortal Kombat” is one of those movies where death can be meaningless and very fake. There are at least three characters in the movie who are seen “dying” in the film, but then they come back to life with little or no explanation. It just reeks of the filmmakers needing to fill up the movie with more scenes with these characters to stretch out the already very thin plot. After all, you can’t have the big group showdown at the end if half of the main characters are dead.

Just like in the 1995 version of “Mortal Kombat,” the story is centered on a major battle called Mortal Kombat, which pits elite fighters against each other from different parts of the universe. Earthrealm and Outworld are once again the two places whose warriors are going head-to-head in Mortal Kombat. There are many returning characters and a few new characters to this “Mortal Kombat” movie.

The returning hero characters are Lord Raiden (played by Tadanobu Asano), who acts as a mentor/leader to the Earthrealm fighters; Liu Kang (played by Ludi Lin), a former Shaolin monk; Sonya Blade (played by Jessica McNamee), an American Special Forces officer; and Jackson “Jax” Briggs (played by Mehcad Brooks), Sonya’s military partner. Making his debut in a “Mortal Kombat” live-action film is Kung Lao (played by Max Huang), Liu Kang’s cousin who is a descendant of a legendary former Mortal Kombat champion named the Great Kung Lao.

The returning villain characters are Shang Tsung (played by Chin Han), a demon sorcerer who is the leader of the Outworld fighters; Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (played by Joe Taslim), who has the power to cause ice storms and to kill people by putting them in deep freezes; and Goro (voiced by Angus Sampson), the four-armed monster. The character of Reptile makes an appearance in a visual manifestation that’s different from what’s in the “Mortal Kombat” animated films.

In the group of Earthrealm fighters, there’s always someone who’s new to learning about the legends and history of Mortal Kombat while on this journey. In the 2021 version of “Mortal Kombat,” this character is an American mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighter named Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan), who is a former champ on a losing streak when he finds out that he’s been chosen for Mortal Kombat. (In the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie, the character who was ignorant about Mortal Kombat’s history was American movie action star Johnny Cage, played by Linden Ashby.)

Also new to the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” movie reboot are Cole’s wife Allison, nicknamed Ali (played by Laura Brent), and their daughter Emily (played by Matilda Kimber), who’s about 11 or 12 years old. The characters of Ali and Emily are awkwardly placed throughout the movie because they only have “damsel in distress” or “cheerleader” roles in relation to Cole. For example, in the middle of a Mortal Kombat fight in another part of the universe, a villain could suddenly appear on Earth to possibly cause harm to Ali and Emily, just to remind viewers that Ali and Emily exist while Cole is off fighting in Mortal Kombat.

It’s shown in the beginning of the movie how Bi-Han/Sub-Zero and Japanese warrior Hanzo Hashashi (played by Hiroyuki Sanada), also known as Scorpion, became enemies in 1617. That’s when Hanzo was living with his wife Harumi (played by Yukiko Shinohara), pre-teen son Satoshi/Jubei (played by Ren Miyagawa) and baby daughter (played by Mia Hall) in Japan. Bi-han and his thugs invaded Hanzo’s home, and you can easily figure out the rest. In the present day, Sub-Zero comes to Earth and goes on a rampage because he’s been sent by Shang Tsung to murder the rare people on Earth who have been chosen to fight in Mortal Kombat.

The heroic Earthrealm people who do battle in this version of “Mortal Kombat” also have a reluctant allegiance with an obnoxious Australian mercenary named Kano (played by Josh Lawson), who spews dumb jokes almost as often as he spews curse words. Kano was also in the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie, but in the 2021 version of the movie, Kano spends more time with the heroes than with the villains.

The Earthrealm people need Kano as a guide to Raiden’s temple so that they can train for Mortal Kombat. Sonya has kidnapped Kano and kept him prisoner in her hideout when Cole arrives and he’s introduced to Kano. (The movie doesn’t show the kidnapping.)

Kano only promises to lead them to Raiden’s temple if he’s paid $3 million. Sonya makes the deal, but smirks when she privately confides in Cole that she doesn’t really have the money. And it’s right then and there that viewers can predict what Kano will do later when he finds out that he won’t be getting paid.

The 2021 version of “Mortal Kombat” has a half-Tarkatan, half-Edenian fighter named Mileena (played by Sisi Stringer), who is on Shang Tsung’s team. Her villain superpowers include the ability to teleport and using her detachable jaw with a ferocious set of teeth. And speaking of deadly teeth, the vampire Nitara (played by Mel Jarnson) is also in the movie but doesn’t have enough screen time. Two of Shang Tsung’s other underlings are Kabal (played by Daniel Nelson) and Reiko (played by Nathan Jones).

As a result of all these additional characters that weren’t in the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie, this 2021 version of “Mortal Kombat” over-relies on showing simultaneous fight scenes with the heroes in various locations having individual face-offs with villains. These fights aren’t shown by using split-screen editing but by jumping back and forth between fight scenes that are going on at the same time. After a while, these simultaneous fight scenes actually become monotonous. It’s like someone with a short attention span speaking, but not being able to concentrate on one thing at a time, and in the end, having nothing substantial to say.

The 2021 “Mortal Kombat” movie screenplay (written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham) is filled with cringeworthy conversations. The chief culprit is motormouth bully Kano, who can’t stop insulting people and yammering about how great he thinks he is. But his non-stop ego posturing is made worse by the writers’ failed attempts to make Kano sarcastically funny. In one scene, Kato tries to ridicule Kung Lao, who wears trousers resembling parachute pants, by calling him MC Hammer, who was famous for wearing parachute pants. That outdated joke might have worked in 1995, but not now.

And in another scene, Kano gets into a heated argument with Liu Kang and Kung Lao during a group dinner. Liu lectures Kano about Kung Lao: “He is here to save you because you cannot save yourself. You’re like an aggressive little bunny—soft and useless—angry, mentally and physically. You should be on your knees to this man.” Kano’s reply: “Sit down, shut up, and pass me a fucking egg roll!”

If you start to get bored or confused by this tangled mishmash of characters in the first 15 minutes of the movie, then “Mortal Kombat” probably isn’t for you. It’s the type of movie that was made for die-hard fans of the video games who already know all the backstories and worldbuilding of this franchise. The 2021 version of “Mortal Kombat” doesn’t take a “less is more” approach. And that means, compared to the 1995 “Mortal Kombat movie, “more is a mess.”

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Mortal Kombat” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on April 23, 2021. The movie was released in several other countries from April 8 to April 21, 2021.

Review: ‘Enhanced’ (2021), starring Alanna Bale, George Tchortov, Chris Mark and Adrian Holmes

April 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Alanna Bale in “Enhanced” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Enhanced” (2021)

Directed by James Mark

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed Canadian city, the sci-fi action film “Enhanced” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and Africans) portraying mutants and humans.

Culture Clash: An elite military squad is tasked with rounding up and imprisoning mutants who have deadly powers, while a “super mutant” is looking for more mutants to absorb their energy so he can take over the world.

Culture Audience: “Enhanced″ will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching derivative and forgettable sci-fi movies.

Patrick Sabongui, George Tchortov and Eric Hicks in “Enhanced” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The filmmakers of “Enhanced” should have titled this movie “Flimsy X-Men Ripoff” if they wanted more truth in advertising. It’s a formulaic and mindless flick about mutants being hunted by humans. The visual effects are weak, most of the acting is mediocre-to-terrible, and the action scenes are just filler as one scene clumsily lumbers to the next.

Directed by James Mark, “Enhanced” has almost no suspense because it’s obvious which characters will survive in this “humans versus mutants” war that is going on in an unnamed city in Canada. How do viewers know who’s going to survive until the end of the movie? Time and time again, there are two characters in the movie who could easily be killed when they’re cornered by the “enemy,” but these two characters inexplicably are allowed to get away. It’s all so that movie can drag along to its very predictable conclusion.

“Enhanced” (which has the title “Mutant Outcasts” in Germany) was written by “Enhanced” director Mark, Matthew Nayman and Peter Van Horne. And having three writers for this lackluster and unimaginative screenplay just makes “Enhanced” look worse, because three minds were clearly not better than one in this case. There’s almost nothing that’s original in this movie, which recycles ideas from other, much-better movies about persecuted mutants. By the way, the humans in this movie have a very bland name for the mutants: The mutants are called “subjects.”

“Enhanced” begins with an elite military squad hunting down a mutant named Joseph or Joe (played by Patrick Sabongui), who works as a janitor in an office building. Leading this squad into action is George Shepherd (played by George Tchortov), who is the type of generic “alpha male” who’s supposed to be the story’s hero. George’s closest sidekick in the squad is Scott Cromwell (played by Eric Hicks), who is more laid-back than “take charge” George. Scott, George and some other members of the squad ambush Joseph while he’s doing some janitorial work when the office is closed for the night.

This is the type of bad dialogue in the film. George tells Joseph that they know his real name isn’t Joseph, and that Joseph’s number is 78-934BRAVO. Apparently, he’s escaped from a secret prison that the government has for mutants. Joseph, or whatever his name really is, shouts to the squad: “I’m not going back there! I haven’t hurt anyone!”

Joseph’s eyes turn a glowing blue (it’s how the movie shows the mutants unleashing their powers) and replies in desperation, “You don’t understand! They did this to me!” George says, “Joseph, this is your last chance.” Joseph answers, “No, this is your last chance!”

Joseph runs away and ends up using his mutant powers to burst onto the rooftop of the building. But the squad is right behind him, and Joseph is cornered and captured. He’s taken back to the secret prison, which is is shown later on to be just a space with several glass-enclosed rooms. It looks more like a modern office building than a prison.

Usually in movies like this, the mutants would be held captive so that the government can do secret research on them. But no, not in this dimwitted movie. These mutants are just being held captive until the government can figure out what to do with them. Taxpayer money down the drain.

Meanwhile, there’s a mutant named Anna (played by Alanna Bale) in her late teens or early 20s who ends up being one of the hunted. She works as a mechanic in an auto body shop owned by her boss Danny (played by Jeffrey R. Smith), who doesn’t know that she’s a mutant. For example, he doesn’t notice when Anna uses her mutant superpowers to do things like unscrew major auto parts with her bare hands when it would take tools and a lot of human strength to do it.

Danny is targeted for extortion by some local thugs, who gang up and assault him one day at the auto shop while Anna is there too. You know what happens next. Anna uses her mutant superpowers to kill the thugs, but it’s not enough to protect Danny, who has been shot during this brawl. Anna makes a phone call for emergency help. As Danny lies seriously injured on the floor, he asks Anna, “What are you?” She doesn’t give an answer because she’s already out the door as a fugitive on her bicycle.

During her time on the run, Anna meets a guy named Eli (played by Michael Joseph Delaney), who’s a stereotypical nerdy researcher who always seems to be in movies like this one. The researcher fulfills the role of explaining all the “secrets” that they’ve uncovered in their research. When Eli first meets Anna, he already knows that she’s a mutant. However, Anna doesn’t trust Eli at first because she think he’s another human who wants her to be locked up.

Eli has found out that there’s a “super mutant” on the loose who’s been killing other mutants to absorb their energy. This “super mutant” can sense other mutants’ presence and track them down like he’s got some inner mutant GPS system or psychic ability or some other nonsense that’s explained in the movie. And guess who finds out about the secret prison filled with mutants?

This “super mutant” has the very unremarkable name of David (played by Chris Mark), and he’s an extremely dull villain with no personality. Glaring into the camera doesn’t count as having a personality. Chris Mark’s performance as David is so lifeless that you almost wonder if he thought he was playing a zombie, not a mutant. The actor shouldn’t get all the blame because the director didn’t cast this movie very well and should have given better direction to the cast members.

Meanwhile, George clashes with his supervisor Captain Williams (played by Adrian Holmes) over something, so George ends up going “rogue.” It’s not a spoiler to reveal this information, because how else would it explain why George and Anna work together when they inevitably cross each other’s paths? And let’s not forget about Eli, who has to play the role of the “computer/technology expert” so that someone can conveniently tap into secret computer networks when needed.

Bale gives the best performance in the cast, but that’s not saying much when her Anna character, just like everyone else in the movie, is as two-dimensional as a cartoon character. Don’t expect any of this movie’s characters to have interesting stories about their lives. And the fight scenes aren’t very impressive when you consider that certain people could be easily killed during certain fights, but they aren’t killed because the movie obviously wants these characters to survive.

Mutant villain David has the ability to regenerate when he’s wounded, but the movie isn’t consistent in showing this ability in some of David’s fight scenes. This movie is called “Enhanced” because the mutants have enhanced physical powers. But the movie is so woefully lacking in originality that the quality of the movie is diminished to being creatively bankrupt.

Vertical Entertainment released “Enhanced” in the U.S. on digital and VOD on March 26, 2021. The movie was released in Brazil in 2019.

Review: ‘Dark Web: Cicada 3301,’ starring Jack Kesy, Conor Leslie and Alan Ritchson

April 11, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ron Funches, Conor Leslie and Jack Kesy in “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Dark Web: Cicada 3301”

Directed by Alan Ritchson

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed North American city, the action comedy film “Dark Web: Cicada 3301″ features a predominantly white cast (with some African Americans and a few Asians) representing the middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A bartender who’s a secret computer hacker uncovers a Dark Web secret society of rich criminals called Cicada 3301 and is pressured by law enforcement to infiltrate this secret society.

Culture Audience: “Dark Web: Cicada 3301″ will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a painfully unfunny film that struggles to find anything resembling a coherent plot.

Alan Ritchson, Andreas Apergis and Jack Kesy in “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

Just like the title of this movie, the action comedy film “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” is vapid and badly conceived. It tries desperately to be a wacky caper film, but the movie’s convoluted plot is filled with cheesy comedy that includes a homophobic fixation on depicting gay male sexuality as something to shamefully ridicule. Almost all of the characters in this movie are unappealing. Good luck to anyone who wastes time watching this incoherent drivel until the very end. Even the movie’s mid-credits scene looks like a throwaway.

Directed by Alan Ritchson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joshua Montcalm, “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” has a misguided concept that can be described as “Mr. Robot” meets “National Treasure” meets an “Austin Powers” movie. The protagonist of “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” is a computer hacker who’s a loner, but he goes on a treasure hunt as a wisecracking spy for the government. It’s even more cringeworthy than it sounds. At 105 minutes, “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” feels like much longer, as viewers have to watch a lot of nonsense, and most of it still won’t make much sense by the end of the movie.

“Dark Web: Cicada 3301” takes place in an unnamed North American city. The movie was filmed in Canada and has a mixture of American and Canadian actors, but nothing in the movie looks specific to the U.S. or Canada. The name of the federal agency that the law enforcement people work for is also left out of the movie. There’s a lot of things in “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” that are purposely vague, mostly due to terrible screenwriting and direction.

“Dark Web: Cicada 3301” opens with a scene of Connor Black (played by Jack Kesy) in a castle, pointing a gun at someone in a study room, uploading something on a computer in the room, and then destroying the computer. Connor then climbs out the window and over a wall. Suddenly, there’s an explosion that hurls Connor backward. It’s a scene that the movie circles back to later on, to explain how Connor got into this situation.

As the movie shows Connor falling in slow motion, he’s heard commenting in a voiceover: “Believe it or not, I’m falling through the sky like an apple over Newton’s head. Things have been a little fuzzy ever since.” It’s one of the many examples of how tonally off-kilter this movie is. “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” is a mindless action flick, but it also makes these pseudo-intellectual references where people have to know that Isaac Newton is being referenced in this bizarre attempt at a joke.

Throughout the movie, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers of “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” couldn’t seem to make up their minds about what type of audience they want for this movie: Is it the people who like the complex and edgy hacker drama of “Mr. Robot”? Is it the people who like artifact-finding adventures like “National Treasure”? Or is it the people who like deliberately zany spy comedies like “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”?

There is some overlap in these audiences, but not much. And the result is that “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” is a tonal mess. Connor Black is written as a strange amalgamation of all three male protagonists in “Mr. Robot,” “National Treasure” and “Austin Powers.” It’s no wonder that Connor is as annoying and confused as he is throughout the movie.

Early on in the movie, it’s shown that Connor is now a prisoner who is testifying on his behalf at a judge’s hearing. The “adventure” scenes of the movie are really supposed to be what happened that led up to Connor being arrested. This movie is so badly made that this scene doesn’t look like it was filmed in a courtroom. It looks like it was filmed in a library or a university meeting room with three tables placed in the room.

At the “defense” table is Connor, who is in a prisoner’s uniform, with his hands and feet cuffed in chains. And he doesn’t have a lawyer with him. Sitting at the “prosecution” table are five men: two attorneys (the one who speaks is played by Joe Bostick) representing the prosecution, as well as the three government agents who offered $5 million to Connor to find a darknet secret society called Cicada 3301. The government agents are leader Mike Croft (played by Al Sapienza), Agent Carver (played by “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” director Ritchson) and Agent Sullivan (played by Andreas Apergis), who all have contempt for Connor.

Sitting at the third table that faces the other two tables is a panel of three judges: Judge Mary Collins (played by Victoria Snow), who does most of the talking; Judge Walters (played by Rothaford Gray); and Judge Bates (played by Marvin Karon). The judges ask Connor to tell his side of the story, which leads to the flashback scenes in the movie. During his “testimony” Connor is very rude to the agents, and he often gets up from the table in a disruptive manner. Connor and the agents also frequently interrupt each other.

Connor sometimes distorts the details in his “testimony,” by telling lies that Agent Carver is a closeted and horny gay man who’s attracted to Connor. For example, there’s a “fantasy” scene from Connor’s imagination where Agent Carter sexually licks Connor on the face. And in another “fantasy” scene, Agent Carter has a dildo strapped on his head after being in an “orgy room” with another man.

Telling these fabrications is Connor’s way of trying to humiliate Agent Carver, who gets upset every time Connor creates a false story about Agent Carter trying to seduce Connor and other men. These fantasies are depicted in the movie for laughs, but it’s not funny to use real or perceived homosexuality as a way to shame someone. “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” over-relies on these co-called “gay jokes” to the point where viewers have to wonder what kind of bigoted hangups these filmmakers have about gay men.

Connor is portrayed as a stereotypical arrogant jerk whom the filmmakers want to audiences to think is what you’re supposed to be if you’re a wisecracking, “no filter” action hero. He’s a bachelor in his early 30s who lives alone and works as a bartender. But he’s also a computer whiz who has a photographic memory. And when the government recruits a reluctant Connor to be a spy, he suddenly has combat skills that aren’t really explained in the movie.

“Dark Web: Cicada 3301” uses an an annoying visual technique of showing numbers and images on screen, to depict how Connor’s photographic memory works in his brain. The movie never explains why Connor is a bartender instead of working in a computer-related job. Maybe it’s to set up this clumsy plot development in the beginning of the story where Connor starts looking for Cicada 3301. He’s enlisted to be a government spy when government officials find out that he’s close to discovering Cicada 3301, and they want Connor to lead the government to this secret society.

Twenty-nine days before he’s shown falling out from a castle ledge, Connor is at the restaurant/bar where he works. He sees a rude customer give Connor’s waitress co-worker Lori (played by Linnea Currie-Roberts) a measly 50 cents as a tip for serving about three or four people. Before the customer leaves with his dinner companions, Connor steps in and confronts the customer about the insulting tip.

The customer, whose name is William J. Edwards III (played by Benjamin Sutherland), is unapologetic and angrily flicks a lit cigarette at Connor. This triggers Connor to a childhood memory of his abusive father (played by Patrick Garrow) flicking a lit cigarette at him. The movie has more of these flashback memories of Connor’s troubled relationship with his father. (Tomaso Sanelli portrays Connor as a child.) Connor responds to the cigarette-throwing, stingy customer by getting into a fist fight with him.

Later, when he’s at home in his dingy apartment and nursing his bruised knuckles, Connor decides to get revenge on William, the customer he fought with in the bar. Connor remembers William’s full name and goes on his desktop computer to log on to the Dark Web. Connor hacks into William’s Bitcoin and credit card accounts to mess up his credit, and he sends a computer virus to William’s email.

While surfing the Dark Web, Connor stumbles onto mysterious files from an entity calling itself Cicada 3301 that promises a huge treasure worth a fortune, for people who can crack Cicada 3301’s puzzle codes and clues that will lead to the treasure. The group’s logo is a cicada. And it’s implied that whatever “treasure” is being offered is illegal.

Connor is intrigued, but his first attempt at solving a Cicada 3301 puzzle results in him getting a message from Cicada 3301 telling him that he failed the test because he’s not smart enough. This insult causes Connor to get so angry that he smashes a beer bottle, but some of the beer spills onto the computer tower and short-circuits the hard drive. Connor is now more determined than ever to find out who’s behind Cicada 3301 and how to get some of the promised treasure.

Connor needs the money because he’s very close to being evicted from his apartment. Connor has already been served an eviction notice. His deaf landlord Mr. Costa (played by Anselmo DeSousa) threatens to change the apartment’s locks if Connor doesn’t come up with the money. Connor promises that he will have the money by the next day, but even the landlord know that’s a lie.

Connor seems to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), because he understands everything that Mr. Costa is saying just through hand signs. (The words hover over Mr. Costa’s head instead of appearing on screen as regular captions.) It’s never explained how or why Connor as ASL communication skills, just like it’s never explained why Connor works in a low-paying bartender job, even though he has advanced-level computer information technology skills.

Because the story in “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” is so jumbled, it throws in a precocious, foul-mouthed kid, and then makes this character disappear for no good reason. She’s a 10-year-old named Sophia (played by Alyssa Cheatham), who lives in the same apartment building as Connor. Sophia is first seen in the movie cursing out Connor for being late with his rent. It’s mentioned later in the movie that Sophia has a single mother (played by Quancetia Hamilton), who spends long hours working away from home. Therefore, Sophie and Connor hang out together a lot, with Connor as Sophia’s unofficial babysitter.

Connor seems to be aware of how odd it might look for a man his age to be spending so much time with a girl who’s not a family member. And so, when he and Sophia go to the library to do some research, there are some moronic jokes made about pedophilia. Connor doesn’t have the money to fix his computer, so he has to use Sophia’s computer or a computer at the library.

While at the library, he meets a sarcastic and pretty library assistant in her 20s named Gwen (played by Conor Leslie), who predictably ends up helping him with this Cicada 3301 hunt. Gwen becomes Connor’s more level-headed sidekick/accomplice. Gwen and Connor have the type of sexual-tension banter that indicates he’s very attracted to her.

But Gwen plays guessing games with Connor about her sexuality. In one scene, Gwen tells Connor that she’s a lesbian. In another scene, Gwen kisses Connor in a romantic way. In another scene, she tells him that she “goes both ways.” In other words, she’s bisexual or queer.

“Cicada 3301” is annoyingly preoccupied with portraying queerness as something to be ridiculed or used as a a homophobic punchline. The third member of this “National Treasure” wannabe trio is Connor’s best friend Avi (played by Ron Funches), who needs a lot of convincing to go on this Cicada 3301 treasure hunt. Avi is used later in the story as sexual bait to flirt with a museum front-desk attendant who’s openly gay, so that Connor and Gwen can sneak into the museum’s book archives while Avi serves as a distraction. All the stereotypical over-the-top gay male mannerisms are used in this scene, such as high-pitched squeals and hand fluttering.

Avi is a college professor of art history who becomes Connor’s reluctant recruit to help solve Cicada 3301’s puzzles, which require extensive knowledge of art history. Avi, who likes to wear bow ties and blazers, is the type of eccentric whose idea of fun is to play chess with old men in a park. Funches portrays Avi as someone with flamboyance and of vague sexuality, although Avi seems to be initially attracted to Gwen. Toward the end of the movie, Avi gets a female love interest named Shauna (played by Jess Salgueiro), whose presence is almost like an afterthought, as if to let viewers know that Avi really isn’t gay.

Avi likes to make cupcakes, and the movie depicts Avi’s interest in cupcakes as “effeminate.” Avi also has the role of the high-maintenance “scaredy cat”/worrier of this Cicada 3301-hunting trio. It’s just another reason for Avi to have more diva-like posturing in the movie, to try to make him the frequent butt of the movie’s not-very-funny jokes.

A lot of the movie consists of Connor, Gwen and Avi gathering clues and solving puzzles. There’s some gibberish about William Blake art and clues that suggest that Cicada 3301 is an Illumniati-type of group. In one preposterous scene, Cicada 3301 has rigged an entire set of street lights to blink out a message in Morse code. Connor conveniently knows Morse Code, so he deciphers the message.

And Connor has some visions that often don’t make any sense. In one of these visions, his 10-year-old neighbor Sophia is seen being taken out of her home on a gurney, with a sheet over her body, as if she’s dead. Her mother is shown wailing next to the gurney. Sophia is never seen in the movie again, nor is it ever explained why Connor had that vision. That gives you an idea how sloppy this movie’s screenplay is.

Connor, Gwen and Avi go through some more shenanigans that eventually lead them to a castle, where Cicada 3301 is having an orgy party that’s trying to go for an “Eyes Wide Shut” masquerade vibe. It goes without saying that there are people in this movie who wear animal masks—and not because it’s Halloween. There’s someone at the party named Phillip Dubois (played by Kris Holden-Ried), whose purpose in the movie is exactly what you think it is. And there are a few twists toward the end of the film that aren’t very clever and aren’t much of a surprise.

The cast members’ performances, which are mediocre, aren’t the main problem in this shoddily made film. The screenplay and direction are the weakest links. At one point in the movie, Gwen says to Connor: “Are you always this grating? It’s like living sandpaper, man!” Ironically, that’s a perfect description for “Dark Web: Cicada 3301.”

Lionsgate released “Dark Web: Cicada 3301” on digital and VOD on March 12, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on March 16, 2021.

Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong,’ starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Julian Dennison and Demián Bichir

March 29, 2021

by Carla Hay

Godzilla and King Kong in “Godzilla vs. Kong” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)

“Godzilla vs. Kong”

Directed by Adam Wingard

Culture Representation: Taking place in various other parts of the world, the action flick “Godzilla vs. Kong” features a racially diverse cast (white people, African Americans, Asians and Latinos) who are part of the scientific community, corporate business or are underage students.

Culture Clash: Gigantic monster enemies Godzilla and King Kong cross paths, while some greedy corporate people want to exploit the monsters’ power sources in order to make deadly weapons.

Culture Audience: “Godzilla vs. Kong” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “Godzilla” and “King Kong” movies and don’t care if the story is badly written, sloppily directed and populated with hollow human characters.

Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle in “Godzilla vs. Kong” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)

The tedious and atrociously made train wreck that is “Godzilla vs. Kong” probably will please people who have extremely low standards for action flicks. But considering that several superhero movies have proven that action movies can be entertaining spectacles with distinct and memorable characters, there’s really no excuse for why “Godzilla vs. Kong” stinks more than any toxic excrement that can be expelled from these fictional monsters’ bodies. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the epitome of a “cash grab” film that lazily exploits the nostalgic brand names of beloved creature feature films. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the filmmakers do almost nothing to create intriguing characters that can exist in a cinematic art form.

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, “Godzilla vs. Kong” takes an annoying amount of time building up to the inevitable fight scenes described in the movie’s title. The filmmakers inexplicably overstuffed the movie with a lot of characters that barely do anything except act egotistical (if they’re the villains) or look anxious (if they’re the heroes). The human characters who are involved in the most action and decision making in the movie are reduced to spouting idiotic dialogue that makes the monsters in the movie look more intelligent.

Yes, it’s another movie about a creature that threatens to destroy the world, while humans think they can stop the destruction in time, and the greedy ones think they can get rich off of this crisis. That’s pretty much the plot of every movie about Godzilla, King Kong or other giant monster. Pitting two supersized titan monsters against each other should raise the stakes even higher, but “Godzilla vs. Kong” fails in delivering an enjoyable story and has an ending that falls very flat. The movie’s visual effects from Luma Pictures are adequate but not outstanding.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” begins with King Kong living in a biodome on Skull Island, where he is being observed by scientists for research. Leading the team of scientists is Dr. Ilene Andrews (played by Rebecca Hall), who is a single mother to an adopted deaf/mute daughter named Jia (played by Kaylee Hottle), who’s about 9 or 10 years old. Apparently, Ilene cares more about her research than the safety of her underage daughter. Jia is allowed to be in many completely dangerous situations that would be more than enough for child protective services to get involved.

But dumb movies like “Godzilla vs. Kong” pander to the lowest common denominator by showing people with horrific parenting skills and acting as if nothing is wrong with it. And if that means making it look like kids should be allowed to be in the line of fire and actively fighting these monstrous and deadly creatures, then so be it. Kaylee and some of the other underage characters in “Godzilla vs. Kong” are portrayed as having uncanny knowledge and skills that the adults don’t possess. It’s just more pandering to a kiddie audience or people with a child’s mentality.

The movie (which was filmed in Hawaii and Australia) jumps all over the place in a haphazard manner, but here are the main locations in the film:

  • Skull Island, where King Kong lives until he’s brought out of hiding for reasons explained in the movie. It’s also where Ilene and her daughter Jia live until they decide to travel to wherever Kong will be relocated.
  • Apex Cybernetics, a high-tech corporation in Pensacola, Florida, is involved in cybertechnology related to military defense weapons. The CEO of Apex is a typical money-hungry villain named Walter Simmons (played by Demián Bichir), who has a conniving daughter named Maya Simmons (played by Eiza González), who wants to take over the business someday. Walter’s loyal right-hand henchman is Apex chief technology officer Ren Serizawa (played by Shun Oguri). Apex also has an engineer named Bernie Hayes (played by Brian Tyree Henry), who ends up becoming a whistleblower.
  • Monarch Relief Camp, also in Pensacola, is the temporary home of refugees who were displaced by the destruction caused in the 2019 movie “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” It’s where divorced dad Mark Russell (played by Kyle Chandler), a former Monarch animal behavior and communication specialist, works to help refugees. Mark has a headstrong and independent teenage daughter named Madison (played by Millie Bobby Brown), who wants to follow in his footsteps as scientist who studies animals.
  • Denham University of Theoretical Science is a think tank in Philadelphia where the workaholic and underappreciated Dr. Nathan Lind (played by Alexander Skarsgård) is working on a top-secret theory/experiment. Aren’t they all in movies like this one?
  • Hong Kong, where some of the characters in the story take a rocket, because apparently it’s not enough just to have transportation by planes, ships, trains or automobiles.
  • Tokyo, because you shouldn’t have a Godzilla movie without Godzilla fighting in Tokyo.
  • Hollow Earth, a place somewhere below the earth’s surface that was discovered in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” This location also plays a major role in “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” King Kong somehow got access to a javelin (it’s never explained how), and like an Olympic champ, he throws it at the sky while he’s on Skull Island. The javelin pierces the biodome ceiling, so that’s how King Kong finds out that the world he’s been living in has been hermetically sealed.

You know what that means. King Kong becomes restless because he knows he belongs somewhere else. It isn’t long before Ilene and the rest of the scientists find out that King Kong has literally cracked their carefully constructed façade.

Ilene comments about King Kong to a co-worker named Ben (played by Chris Chalk): “The habitat is not going to hold him much longer.” Ben replies, “We need to think about off-site solutions.” Ilene then says, “The island is the one thing that’s kept him isolated. If he leaves, Godzilla will come for him. There can’t be two alpha titans.” Oh yes, there can, or else this movie wouldn’t exist.

The decision is made to move Kong out of Skull Island. King Kong is tranquilized and strapped to a cargo ship. And you just know that tranquilizer is going to eventually wear off. Somehow, Kong’s energy is sensed by Godzilla, who comes out of hibernation from deep in the ocean. Godzilla goes on a rampage in trying to find Kong. It’s all just filler until these two creatures face off against one another.

What does this have to do with Apex? The company has discovered a subterranean ecosystem that’s as “fast as any ocean light.” It has an energy life force that Apex wants to find in order to make a weapon that will defeat Godzilla.

Nathan, a former Monarch employee, says that he tried and failed to find the mysterious Hollow Earth entry. He believes in genetic memory, a theory that says all titans share a common impulse to return to their evolutionary source. Nathan wants to tag along with Ilene and her crew to find the power source that’s in Hollow Earth.

But since “Godzilla vs. Kong” isn’t interested in keeping things simple with only essential characters, there are more people who want to get to Hollow Earth too. There are the Apex villains, of course. And then there’s a motley trio that’s meant to be the movie’s comic relief but they end up saying a lot of corny lines and getting into stereotypical slapstick predicaments.

This trio consists of Apex engineer Bernie, who’s decided he’s going to expose Apex’s dastardly plans; teenage Madison, who apparently skips school so she can save the world in “Godzilla” movies; and her schoolmate Josh Valentine (played by Julian Dennison), who’s the type of character that Dennison is known to play in movies: a sarcastic brat. Josh is also the clownish “klutz” of the group who’s prone to be more terrified than the others. Meanwhile, Bernie sometimes acts like he’s a uttering lines that were rejected from a bad stand-up comedy act.

How did Bernie get mixed up with these kids? Bernie is the host of a podcast called the Titan Trade Podcast, where he spouts “insider” conspiracy theories about Apex but doesn’t reveal his true identity. Even though Bernie’s voice and his irritating motormouth personality would be recognizable to his Apex co-workers on this podcast (Bernie makes no effort to disguise his voice), the movie wants people to believe that Bernie’s been able to keep his podcast identity a secret while he’s spilling confidential company information to the world.

“Something bad is going in here,” Bernie warns in one of his podcast episodes. He says that he’s going to download evidence of a “vast” corporate conspiracy. “It’s more than a leak. It’s a flood,” he adds. “And this flood is going to wash away all of Apex’s lies.” And with that announcement, Bernie essentially tells the world that he’s a company whistleblower, without thinking that the company could possibly catch on to his exposé plan before he actually does it. So dumb.

Madison listens to the podcast and essentially drags a reluctant Josh along when they meet Bernie. Madison uses Josh because he has a car and she doesn’t. As if to put an emphasis on how Bernie is the “out of touch” adult in this trio, he has a very outdated flip phone that he uses a lot in the movie. It might be some type of weird irony that a guy who works as an engineer at a highly advanced tech company doesn’t even have a smartphone, but it just makes Bernie look even more dimwitted, considering all the benefits of a smartphone that he would need on this mission.

Because “Godzilla vs. Kong” is meant to be a family-friendly film, there are the obligatory sappy moments to make it look like this isn’t just a movie with fights and explosions. Jia has an emotional bond with King Kong that’s intended to tug at people’s heartstrings, because somehow she’s taught him sign language without her mother knowing. Ilene eventually finds out, but you have to wonder how much of neglectful parent Ilene must be if she let her daughter spend enough time alone with King Kong that Ilene didn’t know that Jia has now become King Kong’s personal American Sign Language tutor. Kids these days.

And while this awful movie whips around from place to place like flea in search of a mangy dog, somehow the filmmakers forgot to have any meaningful story arc for Madison’s father Mark (who was a protagonist in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”), who is completely sidelined in “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The parents in this movie are insultingly portrayed as incapable of making truly effective decisions unless the kids show them the right way.

There’s nothing wrong with precocious kid characters, but not at the expense of making the adults with years of scientific knowledge look clueless next to kids who haven’t even graduated from high school yet. The movie completely undervalues and dismisses the life experiences of adults whenever the kid characters are in the same scene. It’s why “Godzilla vs. Kong” has the mentality of video game or a cartoon instead of a live-action movie.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” doesn’t even bother giving the villains anything memorable about their personalities, which is what all worthwhile “good vs. evil” stories are supposed to do. Heroes often have bland, interchangeable personalities, but villains are the ones who are supposed to get the biggest audience reactions in these stories. And audiences like to see some of the clever ways that villains make mischief. None of that happens in “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

There could have been so much improvement to the movie’s lackluster human interactions if the villains were compelling. Walter is very generic, Ren doesn’t talk much, and Maya is a completely unnecessary character. All of the actors in “Godzilla vs. Kong” give performances like they know they’re in a movie where they don’t have to show much acting talent and it’s all about the paychecks they’re getting.

As for the Godzilla vs. King Kong fight scenes that come too late in the movie, they are extremely predictable but at least better than the witless dialogue that the audience has to endure whenever the movie’s scenes focus only on the humans. In order for a monster movie to have the most impact, viewers should care not just about the fight scenes but also about the people whose lives are in danger. And in that regard, “Godzilla vs. Kong” stomps out a lot of humanity to distract viewers with CGI action that isn’t even that great in the first place.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Godzilla vs. Kong” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on March 31, 2021. The movie was released in several countries outside of the U.S. on March 25 and March 26, 2021.

Review: ‘Nobody’ (2021), starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Alexey Serebryakov and Christopher Lloyd

March 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

RZA, Bob Odenkirk and Christopher Lloyd in “Nobody” (Photo by Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures)

“Nobody” (2021) 

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Some language in Russian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the action film “Nobody” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A seemingly mild-mannered husband and father becomes an angry, gun-toting vigilante who has Russian mobsters out to get him.

Culture Audience: “Nobody” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching movies filled with over-the-top fight scenes and deliberately satirical comedy.

Paisley Cadorath, Gage Munroe and Connie Nielsen in “Nobody” (Photo by Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures)

In a world filed with action films that take themselves too seriously, the cartoonishly violent “Nobody” wants to be like a court jester, by poking fun at the movie’s characters and the action genre overall. It’s a film that takes pleasure in having audiences witness an “everyday,” seemingly “normal” person transform into an ass-kicking heroic type who protects the vulnerable and the downtrodden. It’s definitely not a superhero movie, but it’s more like a vigilante dark comedy with messages about the dangers of underestimating people who look harmless.

“Nobody” might get some comparisons to the 2014 action film “John Wick” because it starts off with a home invasion that triggers the story’s protagonist on a path of violent revenge. There’s a cute pet in the story (a puppy in “John Wick” and a kitten in “Nobody”), and both movies have David Leitch as a producer. “Nobody” writer Kolstad is a writer for the “John Wick” movies. But that’s where the similarities end.

“Nobody” and “John Wick” have styles and characters that are very different from each other. And cute pets aren’t killed in “Nobody.” John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) is a mysterious loner without a family, while “Nobody” protagonist Hutch Mansell (played by Bob Odenkirk) is a husband and father. “John Wick” movies have a more sinister tone than “Nobody,” and the John Wick character has a more typical image of someone who’s ready for physical combat.

Directed by Ilya Naishuller and written by Derek Kolstad, “Nobody” actually taps into a similar mentality that Michael Douglas’ protagonist character had in the 1993 crime thriller “Falling Down.” Just like in “Falling Down,” the premise of “Nobody” is about an apparently law-abiding citizen whose pent-up anger at being underappreciated and ignored eventually explodes into a violent rampage against people he thinks are being bullies. “Nobody” takes a much more comedic route than “Falling Down,” but both films are commentaries on how seemingly respectable American men can be pushed over the edge and use self-defense or vigilantism as justification for their violence.

“Nobody” opens with a scene of Hutch sitting at a table in an interrogation room. Seated across from him are two unnamed law enforcement detectives (played by Kristen Harris and Erik Athavale). Hutch is bloodied, bruised and shows signs of other physical injuries. He’s smoking a cigarette, and he brings out a kitten out from underneath his jacket.

The female detective looks at Hutch and asks him suspiciously, “Who the fuck are you?” And then the screen cuts to the title of the movie “Nobody.” How did Hutch end up in this interrogation room? The rest of the film is a flashback showing what happened.

It all started when Hutch and his family became victims of a home invasion robbery, late one night. The robbers are husband and wife Luis Martin (played by Edsson Morales) and Lupita Martin (played by Humberly González), who wear masks and have guns while committing the crime. It’s never revealed why they targeted the Mansell household, but Hutch is the first to notice the burglars in the house, which is an unnamed U.S. city. (“Nobody” was actually filmed in the Canadian city of Winnipeg.)

Hutch lives in the home with his wife Rebecca, nicknamed Becca (played by Connie Nielsen), who’s a successful real-estate agent; their son Blake (played by Gage Munroe), who’s about 13 or 14 years old; and their daughter Abby (played by Paisley Cadorath), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Blake also hears the intruders, but he lets his father go out in the living room to investigate. Hutch brings a golf club with him for protection.

Sure enough, Hutch is confronted by the robbers. Lupita sees some cash and loose change in a bowl in the living room and scolds Hutch for not having more cash in the house. Hutch replies, “I use a debit card.” She then demands that Hutch give her the watch that he’s wearing.

Just as she’s about to take Hutch’s wedding ring, Blake leaps from upstairs and tackles Luis. Blake and Luis get into a fight, while Hutch is about to hit Luis with the golf club. But Lupita aims the gun toward Blake, and Hutch tells Blake to back off of the robbers. Just then, Becca sees the commotion from the top of the stairs and tells the robbers to take anything they want.

But the robbers have had enough of this bungled home invasion and they run away. They’ve stolen about $20 in cash and Abby’s kitty-cat bracelet that were in the bowl in the living room. And they’ve also stolen the family’s sense of trust and safety in their own home.

When the police arrive to investigate, the cop asking the questions expresses surprised disappointment that Hutch didn’t do enough to stop the robbers. Blake shows some resentment toward Hutch because Blake feels that he and Hutch would’ve won in the fight against the criminals. And the end result is that Hutch is made to feel like he was a wimp who made the wrong decisions during the home invasion.

During the attack, Hutch noticed some big clues that might be helpful to the investigation. The female robber had a distinctive tattoo of a bird on her wrist. And her gun was an old Smith & Wesson .38 special. And when the shock of the home invasion wears off, Hutch remembers that this robber’s gun was actually empty. And knowing this makes Hutch feel even more like he wasn’t man enough to protect his family.

The next day, a neighbor named Jim (played by Paul Essiembre), who lives next door to the Mansells, tells Hutch: “I heard you had some excitement last night. Man, I wish they [the robbers] could’ve picked my place. I could’ve used the exercise.”

Jim then shows off the 1972 Dodge Challenger that he inherited from his dead father. The car is in tip-top shape. And it’s at this point in the movie that you know that this car is going to be in a chase scene.

The early parts of “Nobody” have a series repetitive montages to show that Hutch’s monotonous “daily grind” life has made him bored and unhappy. He works as an accountant at a dull office job at Williams Manufacturing Ltd., which is owned by his father-in-law Eddie Williams (played by Michael Ironside), who is preparing to retire sometime in the near future. Hutch has offered to buy the business, but Eddie has said no because he tells Hutch that Hutch’s monetary offer isn’t good enough.

Instead, Eddie said he’ll probably pass on the business to Eddie’s son Charlie (Billy MacLellan), a boorish lunkhead who taunts Eddie about the home invasion by pointing a gun to Eddie’s head when they’re at work together. Charlie then gives the gun to Hutch and tells him in a condescending voice, “Keep my sister safe, bro.” Hutch reluctantly takes the gun.

When Hutch exercises outside, he can see his wife Becca’s enlarged image in her real-estate ad at a nearby bus stop. Because of this ad, she literally overshadows him while Hutch works out. And it’s not said out loud in the movie, but it’s implied that Becca makes more money than Hutch does. It’s shown later in the movie that Hutch and Becca’s marriage has lost its passion and romance.

And when Blake says he has to do a school report on a military veteran, he asks Hutch if he could interview him for the assignment. Hutch replies that he was an auditor in the military, so he was “kind of a nobody. That makes for a pretty dry story.” Becca suggest that Blake interview her brother Charlie instead, since Charlie was “a real soldier.”

As soon as Becca says that she apologizes to Hutch, who looks like he’s used to these backhanded insults. Hutch then suggests that Blake interview Hutch’s father, “who saw some real [combat] action.” Hutch’s father David (played by Christopher Lloyd) is currently living in a nursing home.

With Hutch feeling powerless and emasculated in his own home, the only person he can turn to for advice is someone named Harry (played by RZA), who is in hiding for reasons that are explained later in the movie. It’s also revealed later why Harry and Hutch know each other. Until Harry appears in person (it’s not spoiler information, since it’s in the movie’s trailer), Harry is just a voice that Hutch communicates with over a stereo radio.

Harry can sense that this home invasion has triggered something dangerous in Hutch. Harry advises Hutch: “I know what you’re thinking about. Don’t do nothing stupid. You hear me?”

But it’s too late. Through a series of events, Hutch finds out the identities of the two home invasion robbers. It sets off several violent encounters, as Hutch goes into full vigilante mode. One such incident is when he’s on a city bus and notices that five young thugs have surrounded a teenage girl, with the intent to harass her.

They are the only passengers on the bus. Hutch calmly makes the driver stay outside the bus, and then he completely goes off the thugs in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes. It’s the type of fight scene that’s completely unrealistic, but it’s entertaining for people who like watching outlandish stunts.

Throughout the movie, Hutch experiences the type of injuries that would land people in a hospital emergency room, but he’s able to walk away with just some grimaces and some heavy limping. Because this movie is intended to be a dark comedy, these far-fetched fight scenes are very slapstick. However, viewers need to have a high tolerance for bloody violence to enjoy this movie.

One of the thugs who gets badly injured by Hutch during the bus battle is named Teddy Kuznetsovj (played by Aleksandr Pal), whose injuries include brain damage and possible permanent paralysis. Teddy just happens to be the younger brother of a demented Russian mobster named Yulian Kuznetsov (played by Alexey Serebryakov), so you know what that means. Yulian finds out that Hutch s responsible for Teddy’s near-fatal injuries and vows to get revenge.

Yulian provides security for a Russian organization called Obshak, which houses a fortune worth millions. So there’s big money at stake in this crime saga. Yulian’s has several goons helping him track down Hutch. Among these accomplices is Yulian’s half-Russian, half-Ethiopian right-hand man Pavel (played by Araya Mengesha), whom Yulian viciously defends when some racist gangsters try to degrade Pavel for not being white.

As an example of some of the goofy quirks in this movie, Yulian likes getting on stage and performing to corny dance-pop music. There’s a scene of Yulian at his favorite nightclub Malina, which is the type of gaudy and tacky nightspot where you might see wannabe Eurovision Song Contest performers. Yulian leaps on stage with one of the singers and starts dancing as if he’s the star of the show.

Another sight gag in the film is during a big shootout at Williams Manufacturing Ltd., Hutch is near a wall sign that that reads, “This department has worked 204 days without lost time accident. The best previous record was 91 days. Do your part.” The number 204 is on a part of the sign that is erasable. In the middle of the melee, Hutch takes his elbow and erases the number 204, to indicate that the office isn’t a safe space anymore.

Even with these touches of comedy, the main attraction for “Nobody” remains the action. Fortunately, the movie doesn’t let up on its adrenaline pace. And the filmmakers understand that the spectacle of Hutch being a one-man combat machine isn’t enough, so there are more people who eventually join Hutch in his fight against Yulian and his thugs. The choreography and stunts in the fight scenes are much better than the movie’s visual effects. (For example, there’s a scene with a massive fire where the flames look very fake.)

Odenkirk carries the movie with an entertaining flair as Hutch, who never really loses his humanity underneath all of his rage. If viewers are wondering how Hutch is able to have such masterful fighting skills, it’s explained in the movie. The explanation isn’t surprising in the least, since there were many clues that Hutch isn’t as “average” as he first appears to be. The ending of “Nobody” is a clear indication that the filmmakers want this movie’s story to continue. And based on all the crowd-pleasing aspects of this movie, there’s a high likelihood that “Nobody” won’t be the last time that viewers will see Hutch Mansell.

Universal Pictures released “Nobody” in U.S. cinemas on March 26, 2021. The movie’s VOD release date is April 16, 2021.