Capsule Review: Locke, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Hitman: Agent 47

For this latest entry (which is pretty late), I assembled a trio of testosterone-led films that I’d be arguing about. The first two movies are quite divisive while the last is ultimately dismissive (sorry friend). Don’t get me wrong about Locke; it showcased the dramatic sensitivity underneath Tom Hardy‘s foreboding masculinity, but I’d rather see him unconfined and unhinged in more dynamic settings (cc: Mad Max: Fury Road). And while Kingsman was rapturously enjoyed by many, I find it to be unconscientiously gratuitous. As for Hitman: Agent 47, the suspenseful fifth season of Homeland is much more satisfying*. This set of reviews is not particularly rosy but for the sake of cinematic exploration, here are my critical thoughts.

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LOCKE (2014)

Film critics are on board in director Steve Knight‘s minimalist dramatic thriller about an accomplished family man’s doomed evening drive (where he basically lost everything he held dearly via phone calls). In this constricting yet immersive acting vehicle, Hardy occupies the driver’s seat throughout the film’s duration. LOCKE provides a powerful showcase for Hardy’s subtlety as a person whose family and working relationships were strained by a life-changing commitment. Guilty as he may be, he attempts to forge compromises among his duties as a construction manager (determinedly giving instructions to his proxy for tomorrow’s crucial delivery), a husband (contritely admitting to his wife about a brief affair) and a soon-to-be father (patiently calming the mother of his unexpected child over the phone); thus revealing a flawed yet moral character who bears accountability against the odds. Such entanglements inhabit Locke’s boxed environment but there’s no turning back at the highways of London. A sense of claustrophobia creeps in the limited framing of the film’s setting, much like the feeling of the loss of breath when one makes drastic decisions. LOCKE offers an infrequent incision to the male psyche where willpower is tested by external challenges (literally). Locke’s frustration and desperation are apparent but that does not falter his dedication as a man of honor, despite his extramarital mistake. In the end, he reaches his destination; the viewers may not know what happens to him after that eventful night but after accompanying him all through the ride, we are left assured of Locke’s fortitude that will drive him forward.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

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KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015)

A pugnacious spectacle with unapologetic coolness, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE could be the type of film fanboys are gushing for. Its arresting action sequences and glitzy spy craft lure an ephemeral entertainment with a youthful appeal, courtesy of gutsy newcomer Taron Egerton as Eggsy. But few minutes in, tossed with delirious mischief and airy sophistication, the British-American action film serves a fleeting escape from the mundane, juvenile life – made astray from a conscionable and responsible story-telling. KINGSMAN is consistent on its streak of ruthlessness that comes out as darkly comedic but numbing. While only a fictional medium, it feels disconcerting to derive amusement from violence, especially when rationality plucks viewers on the absurdity of young daredevils flirting with danger and reality taking a bite on the terrors that are bigger and more relevant than SIM card-triggered world domination. The young cast delivers on dynamic physicality, particularly Egerton and bladed hunch-woman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). The attempt to humanize its characters (Eggsy’s canine moral decisions, Colin Firth’s sentimentality as the veteran Galahad and Samuel L. Jackson’s likes and dislikes as the main antagonist), however, do not quite resonate when the film is suited in an unrealistic facade of misguided, remorseless fun. KINGSMAN got the spunk, charisma and attitude to spawn a sequel for its new-found fans, but it lacks the sobriety in establishing why its irreverence should matter.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

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HITMAN: AGENT 47 (2015)

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The only reason why I watched HITMAN: AGENT 47 is because of Homeland‘s Rupert Friend. Without him, I do not have any regard on this unremarkable reboot. Bland characterization and dulling visual effects populate an aimless script that only goes with the flow of the purported action. Some scenic Singaporean spots and dashing Audis steal what already is the short attention span that the audience can only invest to. The dialogue, particularly, is lethargic as director Aleksander Bach attempts to compensate via kinetic sequences where Agent 47 (Friend) is made conspicuous in his signature red tie at the sea of black and white opponents. This video-game adaptation could possible stay true to its title; perhaps 45 more remakes are needed to create the ideal Hitman film. But in the cinematic landscape crowded of cold-blooded yet compelling fighters, a subpar movie that re-introduces an unimpressionable contender would be easily forgotten.

Rating: 1.5/5.0

*TV Review of Homeland Season Five will be coming up. Soon.

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