Sketchley's Translations Main Index
By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.3 2021.05.26

Thriller Film Reviews


Air Force One

The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Ultimatum

Clear and Present Danger

Collateral

The Hunt For Red October

The Hurt Locker

Italian Job

The Negotiator

Patriot Games

Ronin

S.W.A.T.

The Usual Suspects

Wild Things

Air Force One

stars

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The Bourne Identity

stars

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The Bourne Supremacy

stars

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The Bourne Ultimatum

stars

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Clear and Present Danger

stars

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Collateral

stars

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The Hunt For Red October

stars

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The Hurt Locker

4 stars

Release date: 2009
Written by: Mark Boal
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.03.09
Sergeant First Class James is the new team leader of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq—new, as the preceding team leader was recently killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Baghdad. James is reckless, described as a "wild man" at one point, and grates on the nerves of the people in his team: Sergeant Sandborn and Specialist Eldridge.

The film follows them through their daily missions to render unexploded ordinance safe. During the Iraq War, the vast majority of those are IEDs. Woven throughout everything else, there is the suggestion that the EOD teams are in a cat-and-mouse 'game' with the people behind the bombs, as they constantly attempt to outmanoeuvre each other.

In addition to depicting the grim reality of EOD specialists and the mind-boggling scale of the IED problem during that war, the film focuses on James to depict not only the type of person that thrives in war, but the persons who are, in a certain sense, addicted to it. The film only suggests the motivations as it depicts the ramifications of such a person on the people around them—the psychoanalysis is limited to Eldridge, who is receiving psychiatric help to deal with the trauma of having lost the team's preceding leader.

The film kept me glued to the screen. It's hard to pick any single scene, sequence, or characterization that stands out above the rest, as it's all finely interwoven and excellent. Perhaps the best thing about the film is that Dir. Bigelow opted to keep it minimalistic—focused on only the three main characters, with few other recurring characters, and using well-known actors in a handful of short, key appearances. Due to that, the tension in the protagonists' torturous experiences is even greater, we feel their pain, and we can almost taste the ever-present dust.

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Italian Job

3.5 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.02.24
Charlie Croker is the brains behind a heist to steal a rather large lock-box full of gold bricks from other thieves hiding out in a safe house in Venice. He has taken over the reigns from John Bridger—who is doing one last job before retirement—and assembled a crew consisting of John, Handsome Rob, Lyle (AKA Napster), Left Ear, and Steve Frazelli. They succeed and make off with the loot. While making their getaway through the Alps into Austria, however, Steve double-crosses them, shoots John, and leaves the rest for dead.

The action picks up one year later in New York, when Charlie visits Stella—John's daughter—tells her that they've tracked down Steve, and asks her if she wants 'in' to even the score. Stella initially declines, but soon decides to join the team. The team assembles in Los Angeles, and begins planning and arranging a heist to take their loot back from Steve.

I'm not sure how much this film has to do with the original that it is 'inspired by'. Nevertheless, the film has excellent writing with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, is well cast, and has cracker-jacket pacing and editing. While some of the characters aren't as smooth or as slick as their equivalents in Ocean's Eleven, for example, their rough edges and flaws give them distinct characterizations that add immensely to the fun. Perhaps the only drawback to the film is Edward Norton. He seems to be coasting in this performance—which may be due to him being contractually obliged to participate in this film.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the film is not the car action with the at-the-time *new* Mini Coopers, but the musical score by John Powel. Not only does it keep the film strumming along, it had this viewer tapping his feet to the beat.

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The Negotiator

stars

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Patriot Games

stars

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Ronin

stars

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S.W.A.T.

3 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: David Ayer, David McKenna
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.08.25
A great ensemble buddy movie for when you want some escapist fun. Highlights of the film are the characters and their interactions, and the relatively realistic action. Not to mention that the film has great energy, and is fun.

I found the live broadcast (and subsequent rebroadcasts) of the villain's "get me out of jail for 100 million dollars" speech to be unrealistic. Don't journalists in this film have the moral decency to not make things worse? Or is it that the writers have a poor opinion of the moral balance in the average LA resident?

That said, without that does of unrealism in an action movie that strives to be realistic, there wouldn't be a back end to the film, and we wouldn't get to see the our heroes exercising creativity in doing their thing. Nor the thrill that comes from the unpredictability of potentially anybody on the streets jumping out at them with guns blazing.

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The Usual Suspects

2 stars

Release date: 1995
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.06.16
There is a bloody shootout followed by an explosion on a ship docked in San Pedro Bay. The next day, the police find two survivors: a heavily burned and injured Hungarian mobster, and Roger "Verbal" Kint, a con artist from New York. Dave Kujan, a US Customs agent, flies in from New York to interrogate Verbal. While Verbal has arranged immunity, Kujan still wants to glean all that he can before Verbal posts bail. Verbal, under heavy questioning, describes how he and his associates ended up on the ship in a series of flashbacks. The events, which start out mundane, rapidly snowball into worse and worse situations for the protagonists until the shootout at the beginning (and end) of the film.

The Usual Suspects is a confused movie. It's probably deliberately that way as Verbal, the narrator, is spinning a yarn to confuse the cops, who he earlier describes as always looking for a simple explanation and facts that fit whatever assumption they have for a crime. It probably helps to keep in mind that Verbal is an unreliable witness—akin to Guy Pearce's character in Memento. In other words, everything told in flashback may or may not have happened, and may or may not have happened in the way it was depicted.

The highlight of the film is the sheer quality of all the actors. They all bring their A-game to the film, and it adds significantly to the movie's intensity. Of course, Kevin Spacey stands out in particular, having won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Verbal. However, despite all that, the plot is a little too labyrinth and murky, and the twist ending ends up underscoring how futile it is to try and unravel the film's convoluted plot.

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Wild Things

4 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: Stephen Peters
Directed by: John McNaughton
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.05.26
Sam Lombardo is a high school guidance counsellor in a wealthy Miami area high school. He is accused of rape by Kelly Van Ryan—daughter of rich widower Sandra Van Ryan—and poor outcast Suzie Toller. Sandra makes it her mission to make Sam's life a living hell. However, at trial, both girls admit to lying to get revenge on Sam for perceived slights. As Sandra and Sam privately settle, police detective Ray Duquette suspects that the three of them are working a scam.

Having outlined the first part of the plot, I've actually said hardly anything about it, as the plot is much, much, much more complex. This film is a joy to watch—despite it's trashy topic—as the plot continually surprises with unexpected twists and developments. The film is even explaining itself and providing fresh twists in flashbacks scenes spliced into the credits!

One of the films strengths is how well developed the characters are. Despite the complex plot, we are never confused about who is who, and where they're coming from. Every actor and actress fits their role, and the highlight is Bill Murray, who steals the show in every scene he appears in. Surprisingly, Jeffrey L. Kimball's cinematography is also a marvel to behold. The framing and lighting of some of his shots adds considerably to the film. Enjoy the ride while you watch this guilty pleasure, and make sure you stick around for the credits.

Note: I have the unrated cut. Some of the revelations add significantly to the 'icky' column, but they also more effectively explain the motivations of the key characters.

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© Aaron Sketchley