Sunday, January 14, 2018

Seaport Cinema: All the Money in the World (and Proud Mary)

I probably won't talk about the new Showcase Icon spot in the Seaport until I've been there a couple more times, seeing a few different movies there with different specs (a 3D one, one in "Icon-X"), but my first impression is that it feels like a place that will take a little getting used to; it's high-end but not right-to-your-seat delivery the way the likes of the Alamo Drafthouse or the SuperLux in Chestnut Hill is. It's gonna take a little more sussing out, although it's worth noting that the laser projection is pretty nice, and that's arguably the most important part.

Funny thing about going there this weekend: They didn't open Proud Mary, even though the clearly visible address for Mary's apartment is right in that very neighborhood, a couple blocks away. I joke about the movie's geography being terrible - there are at least two times when characters start at the public garden and wind up in completely unreasonable places, but someone probably would get on the T at Chinatown if they needed to get somewhere on the Orange Line, although I'm not sure that would necessarily take him any place they show him going.

The credits mentioned that it was partially shot in Chicago, so maybe I need my brother to watch this to tell me how many scenes of this set-in-Boston movie are obviously there if you know what to look for.

All the Money in the World

* * (out of four)
Seen on 13 January 2018 in Showcase Icon Boston #5 (first-run, DCP)

It's a harsh and horrible thing to say, but the various controversies that impacted All the Money in the World may have been the best things for it. Send this out into the world either with Christopher Plummer cast as J. Paul Getty from the start or with no frantic replacement of Kevin Spacey, and this is a pretty forgettable movie. Now, at least, it will be a footnote in an interesting story.

The film is based upon the story of how, in April 1973, Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer), the sixteen-year-old grandson and namesake of oil magnate J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, no relation), was kidnapped off the streets of Rome by a crew led by Cinquanta (Romain Duris). The crew demands a seventeen million dollar ransom, an amount mother Abigail Harris Getty (Michelle Williams) is completely unable to pay, having relinquished any financial compensation in exchange for full custody in her divorce. She pleads her case with with her former father-in-law, but Getty senior refuses to pay any ransom, though he does assign former CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to try find the kidnappers and get Paul back without paying.

As nightmarish a situation as that is, this particular kidnapping is not necessarily one that translates into a movie. It's a thriller built around a long-term waiting game, and the filmmakers never really figure out how to wring tension out of that. Maybe, perhaps, as a TV show, with room for subplots and the feeling that things are actually dragging out, it works (it will be interesting to see how well the upcoming miniseries Trust works), but the movie flattens that. The script by David Scarpa includes a number of flashbacks, but they seldom shed much extra light on any motivations or planting seeds that will germinate later, like Scarpa and director Ridley Scott know that there's a lot going on underneath this story, but can't find the pieces of information that would add insight rather than background.

Full review on EFC

Proud Mary

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 13 January 2018 in Regal Fenway #11 (first-run, DCP)

Proud Mary is not a terrific movie even by the blaxploitation throwback standards it's clearly striving for; though it sets the situation up with laudable efficiency on the way to a trim 85-minute running time, it still gets bogged down with boring gangster stuff and jettisons large chunks of that when it's not needed any more. It would be a bit of a drag if it didn't embrace being a pulpy B-movie both in size and willingness to dive straight into action; the sometimes-sluggish scenes where guns aren't being fired don't bury how well it works when it gets down to business.

The Mary of the title (Taraji P. Henson) is a killer working for Boston gangster Benny (Danny Glover) - like a daughter to him even though she and his son Tom (Billy Brown) are no longer together - and when she dispatched a Jamaica Plain bookie for him a year earlier, she made an orphan out of his son Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Danny's been running errands for an Eastern European creep who goes by "Uncle" (Xander Berkeley), and when a guilt-ridden Mary finally catches up with Danny and tries to get Uncle to back off… Well, it goes badly enough for Uncle's boss Luka (Rade Serbedzija) to feel retribution is called for unless Benny can deliver the one responsible - and Benny puts Mary in charge of finding that someone. Benny's money man Walter (Neal McDonough) looks like a good patsy, but there's no way it will be that easy.

It's not a bad plot, really, and given that the film is shorter than most that get a theatrical release, there's a good chance that it was cut to heck at some point - Mary framing Walter is basically one sentence of "who else?" and for someone really hell-bent on revenge, Luka pretty much vanishes when the movie has other fish to fry. What the three credited writers and director Babak Najafi are going for here is pretty clear, and maybe given a little more room to breathe and a more charismatic cast of characters, they'd be able wring a twisty crime story that really gets into Mary feeling disillusioned and recognizing how she's pushed Danny ointo the same path as her. Instead, the outline is clear but the details are drab.

Full review at EFC

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