Sketchley's Translations Main Index
By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.5 2021.09.16

Action Film Reviews


Charlie's Angels

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Enter the Dragon

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Mask Of Zorro

The Matrix

The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Revolutions

The Animatrix

Minority Report
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
True Lies

Charlie's Angels

2 stars

Release date: 2000
Written by: Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, John August
Directed by: McG
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.24
Natalie Cook, Dylan Sanders, and Alex Munday are secret agents working for Charlie, a rich millionaire funding an elite crime fighting team of private investigators. After foiling the bombing of an airline in a rather over the top, high risk—but extremely high adrenaline sequence—that leaves the fate of the rest of the passengers on the plane in doubt, the Angels are assigned to investigate the kidnapping of a computer programmer. Natalie's hunch on who is behind the kidnapping ultimately proves correct, but the film doesn't dwell on that at all.

In a word it is a fun, but ultimately inconsequential film. There is a moment at the start of the film where it hints that it'll be about something more—perhaps satirizing other movies based on old TV shows—but almost instantly, the film turns the action up to 11, and doesn't let off the gas for pretty much the rest of its run time. The plot is barely enough to string along the action scenes, as there are a couple of points where there's not even enough of that, and things just jump ahead.

The highlight of the film is the music (is it any surprise that the director is a former music video director?) Whatever your opinion on it, the film got me tapping my feet along to music that I don't like nor ordinarily listen to. That says something, doesn't it? Nevertheless, this film has most of the reasons why we go to the theatre: action, beautiful people living larger than life, and well choreographed sequences—ranging from fights to dance numbers. Turn off your critical thinking, sit back, and go!

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Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

1.5 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: John August, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Directed by: McG
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.05.11
Someone is after the pair of special rings that can display the people in the US Justice Department's witness protection program. Natalie Cook, Dylan Sanders, and Alex Munday—the titular Charlie's Angels—are dispatched to retrieve the rings. The complication is that Dylan is also in that protection program, and the mysterious thief has released her ex-boyfriend Seamus O'Grady, who has vowed to get revenge on Dylan for putting him in jail.

It'd be easy to sum up this film as 'more of the same'. However, unlike the first film, Full Throttle isn't as clearly plotted, has scenes with wildly different pacing, and has a couple of illogical jumps where it's not clear how the characters wound up where they are at the end of the preceeding sequence. On the other hand, when the performers are cut loose from the wires, there is an intensity in the fight scenes that we haven't really seen in Hollywood movies since the 80's.

The film brings back the more memorable characters from the first film—while the Thin Man is underused, it's great fun learning his origins. Bearnie Mac, as Bosley, is a great addition, but his brand of comedy can't really compete with the rest of the film, and it makes Bill Murrey's departure from the series more obvious. The film's saving grace is the expressions of pure joy on the 3 stars—they had A LOT of fun making this film, and it shows.

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Enter the Dragon

stars

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Lethal Weapon

stars

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Lethal Weapon 2

stars

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Lethal Weapon 3

stars

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Mad Max: Fury Road

4 stars

Release date: 2015
Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Directed by: George Miller
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.01.11
Max is captured by Immortan Joe's militia, and turned into a "blood bag" for one of Joe's sick soldiers. Concurrently, Imperator Furiosa—one of Joe's drivers—is sent on a supply run to pick up gasoline from a neighbouring settlement in the wastelands of the Mad Max world. However, she diverts course and heads out into the desert. Joe realizes that his five wives are missing and that Furiosa has them. He leads his army in pursuit, and the chase is on!

The action in this movie literally starts from the very first scene, and—aside from a short interlude in the middle—doesn't let up until the very end. Pretty much everything takes place on heavily modified vehicles racing through sun blasted, dry and dusty desert wasteland. The movie doesn't even take its foot off the accelerator for dialogue, and what we slowly glean about the origins and motivations of the characters comes during one intense sequence after another.

Despite the film being set in cars and trucks racing through the desert either attacking or fending off attacks, the film is neither monotonous nor repetitive. Each vehicle, each driver, and each battle is unique, with subsequent stunts and sequences topping the preceding ones. Nevertheless, despite the limited dialogue, the film has a lot to say about a bunch of issues. Perhaps that should be: the film highlights a bunch of issues and shows a potential outcome of each, but leaves it up to the viewer to fill in the rest.

This is one of those rare films that sucks you into its reality, and its intensity keeps you glued to the screen for the next 2 hours. There is virtually no CG in the majority of the stunts and car action (I'd go so far as to say that I noticed it when they added CG debris in one or two spots!) If you haven't seen it yet, you are in for a real treat of an action movie that Roger Ebert would have dubbed a 'Bruised Forearm'!

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The Mask Of Zorro

4 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.05.15 (revised 2021.04.04)
Alejandro Murietta, his brother Joaquin, and Three-Fingered Jack successfully pull off a robbery, but are stopped by Captain Harrison Love—who captures Jack and kills Joaquin. Alejandro, who had saved Zorro's life with his brother when they were children, is drinking away his grief and plotting vengeance against Harrison when he encounters Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro. Diego prevents Alejandro from making an attempt on Harrison's life, as he is drunk out of his mind at the time. Alejandro agrees to accept Diego's training to be able to take revenge without dying in the process. However, Diego himself is out for vengeance against Don Rafael Montero—the man who killed Diego's wife, took his baby daughter Elena with him back to Spain, and left Diego to rot in a California jail. Rafael is also Harrison's boss, and is plotting to steal what is now California back from General Santa Anna, who captured it from Spain 20 years earlier.

This is a surprisingly engaging film. It has an excellent blend of interesting and well depicted characters, fast paced action, and many other hallmarks of Dir. Martin Campbell's films. Namely character growth and development, excellent visual design, and well defined villains and henchmen—the henchmen were all distinct enough that I always knew who I was looking at, and what their motivations are.

The intertwined revenge stories of the old and new Zorros provides a great motivation for the heroes, as well as putting them into deliciously conflicted situations as the film progresses. Most importantly, it helps keep the plot clear and unmuddled for the viewer. It also puts an interesting spin on the title of the movie—the mask being greater than any one man, and is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the movie is the villains—they are just the right blend of classic movie villain badness, and are the kind that you love to hate. An interesting dimension to them is that their social class (or lack their of) plays a role in their actions, as well as how they treat those around and under them. It's not exactly subtle, but it is easy to overlook. James Horner's music is also another highlight. The score adds quite a bit to the movie, without being intrusive or distracting.

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The Matrix

stars

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The Matrix Reloaded

stars

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The Matrix Revolutions

stars

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The Animatrix

stars

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Minority Report

stars

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

3 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.09.16
Will Turner is an orphaned blacksmith's apprentice in Port Royal. He is in love with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann. She likes Will, however, due to her family's position, she is destined to be betrothed to Norrington, an officer in the Royal Navy. Jack Sparrow comes to Port Royal to steal a boat in his quest to recapture the Black Pearl—his former ship that was lost when it's crew, under the command of Barbossa, mutinied and left Jack for dead on a deserted island. Jack is captured, escapes, and is recaptured in short order. That night, Barbossa and the Black Pearl attack Port Royal and kidnap Elizabeth. Will, frustrated by Norrington's slow response, makes a deal with Jack to rescue Elizabeth. He frees Jack, and together they steal a boat to catch the Black Pearl, with the Royal Navy hot on their heels.

Black Pearl is an interesting twist on the traditional pirate movie. Instead of pirates trying to find treasure, they are trying to return it to lift a curse. Instead of a scary brute gnashing his teeth, the anti-hero is arguably more drunk than sober, and either has the best luck, or is truly skilled and hides it all under a vernier of intoxication. One suspects that the truth is somewhere in the middle. The film is loaded with snappy dialogue and unexpected plot twists—even Jack's fellow characters muse on where his allegiances truly lie—and moves along at a fair clip. However, the sword fighting tends to get old fast, and the further into the film the less we need to see of it. That's not to say that there are a few unexpected surprises in the third act ("Gents, take a walk.") However, the film seems to have used up most of its creativity in the choreography of the very first sword fight between Jack and Will, and what follows is fairly stock in trade.

While we go to these films to see the good (Will) defeat the bad (Barbossa) and get the girl (Elizabeth), the highlight of the film is Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. He is a heretofore original character, purportedly based on Keith Richards of all people. The character was so great, that it is one of only three to appear in all five Pirates of the Caribbean films (the others being Barbossa and Jack's First Mate Gibbs). In addition to Depp's over-the-top performance, the character remains an enigma throughout the film, with his shifting loyalties and apparently changing goals. In the end we can't help but cheer for this scoundrel who may—or may not—have his heart in the right place.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

stars

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

stars

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True Lies

3 stars

Release date: 1994
Written by: James Cameron
Directed by: James Cameron
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.19
Harry Tasker is a secret agent in Omega Sector, a top secret US intelligence agency. He is also a family man often away on business trips. The complication is that his wife and daughter know nothing of his real job—as Tasker has been lying and telling them that he is a computer salesman. Harry infiltrates a party in Switzerland where he and his team learn of a terrorist group plotting to smuggle four stolen Russian nuclear warheads into the US, and threaten the destruction of entire cities unless their demands are met. Things are further complicated when Harry learns that his wife is having an affair, and he temporarily diverts the resources of his agency to investigating that!

True Lies is a classic James Cameron/Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie. It has all the things one wants in a James Cameron film—smooth action scenes, thrilling stunts, plenty of explosions, as well as great female characters that are either on par with or greater than their male costars. One of the highlights is how much characterization is imbued into each character, how well the actors fit their roles, and the character growth each one experiences.

However, the drawback is the central act of the film where the protagonist essentially kidnaps and interrogates his wife. While there is an echo of that later in the film—when the wife questions the protagonist while he is under the influence of a truth serum—the questions the film allows her to ask are no where near as intrusive and uncomfortable. In fact, while the film grills the wife about her marital fidelity, it completely ignores that the protagonist may have (and probably has) had to have relations with the opposite sex to complete his missions.

Giving the film the benefit of the doubt, it does try to delve into the complexity of a couple who has been married for long enough to have lost the spark in their relationship and are more-or-less cohabiting. In its own way, it brings up the awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings when a couple reaches that state. Nevertheless, part of the film's fun is seeing Arnold as a jealous husband, and in some ways it is a joy seeing him (and later his wife, too) give the 'other man' his comeuppance. Nevertheless, stay focused on the couple in their final dance number when the camera pulls away—it'll explain why the tango at the beginning of the film was filmed from the waist up!

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