Movie reviews: Our Brand is Crisis, The 5th Wave, Ride Along 2, The Assassin
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases: Our Brand is Crisis, The 5th Wave, Ride Along 2, The Assassin
In David Gordon Green's comic drama Our Brand is Crisis (2*, 15A, 107mins), we're given some bad news: all politicians are corrupt and venal, and the spin doctors who mentor them are even worse. The fact that we've been beaten over the head with this weary truism for decades means Our Brand is Crisis would have to have done something fresh or different to make its story interesting. It doesn't, and what feeble entertainment it musters is largely due to its versatile and reliable star.
Sandra Bullock is Jane Bodine, a legendary political consultant who's persuaded to come out of retirement to work on the ailing presidential campaign of hack Bolivian politician Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida). Castillo is trailing badly in the polls to runaway favourite Rivera, who's being coached by Jane's old enemy Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). That's the real reason she's here, and soon the dirty tricks and negative advertising stunts are flying.
This idea has been knocking around for a decade, and was inspired by a 2005 documentary of the same name. George Clooney was down to direct at one point, and has co-produced this film, which sets out to be both satirical and earnest and ending up falling between two stools. Billy Bob Thornton's character is woefully underwritten, and the jokes and insights aren't that scintillating.
Dystopia is all the rage these days, and if you can throw a few handsome teenagers into your futuristic nightmare you're really in business. This formula has already been a huge success for the Hunger Games people, a solid earner for the Divergent franchise, and now The 5th Wave (2*, 12A, 102mins) is trying to muscle in on the act. J Blakeson's film is based on a young adult sci-fi novel by Rick Yancey, and set in an alternative present where the Earth is attacked by aliens.
Perky Midwestern high-school girl Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is going about her business when a giant spaceship occupies the sky above Ohio. In the first attack, or wave, all the power is knocked out; in the second, giant tsunamis decimate the world's great cities; wave three gives us all bird flu. I can't remember what the fourth wave did to us, but you get the general idea: those loathsome bug-eyes are trying to wipe us out, and only in a trilogy of movies will mankind have the time to stop them.
Whether The 5th Wave becomes a franchise or not, however, is definitely open to question, because despite a few good ideas and a decent twist, Mr. Blakeson's film is pretty dull for the most part, and gets bogged down in the dreary romantic tension between Ms. Moretz and two beanpole suitors.
In Ride Along 2 (2*, 12A, 101mins), Ice Cube and Kevin Hart resume the sparky comic double act they first road-tested in a 2014 action caper. Only trouble is they weren't that funny to begin with, and time has not made their double-act any more endearing. Mr. Cube is James Payton, a tough Atlanta undercover cop, and Mr. Hart plays Ben Barber, the excitable security guard who became Payton's unlikely partner in film number one. Now he's a rookie cop, but when Payton heads to Miami to bring down a major drug dealer, Ben decides to go along for the ride.
You can watch Ride Along 2 without causing yourself any long-term damage, but its flimsy crime plot judders along most predictably, and you should not expect to do much laughing.
And finally a word about The Assassin (3*, No Cert, IFI, 105mins), Hou Hsiao-Hsien's poetic but needlessly opaque Taiwanese martial arts drama set in 8th-century China during the Tang Dynasty. Shi Qi stars as Nie Yinniang, a trained killer who's sent back to her native province of Weibo to kill a troublesome chieftain. But when she gets there, she begins to question the morality of her mission. Shu Qi is beautiful, and so is this film, but its funereal pacing is problematic.