Sidekick’s Sunday Reviews #1
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake, Colin Friels
Back before Sam Raimi made the Spider-Man trilogy, he directed and co-wrote Darkman starring Liam Neeson as a crime fighting scientist whom could alter his facial appearance.
Darkman is a tightly put together film that draws from horror, action and the superhero genre. Sam Rami’s script does a good job of giving us viewers exactly what we need to understand Liam Neeson’s character Peyton Westlake/Darkman.
There’s a moment that sums things up when Peyton’s facade beings to deteriorate during a date with his girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand). He becomes self-conscious of himself and of the darkness inside. Even though Peyton wants to be happy, to spend his day with Julie, he can’t contain his dark side.
I wouldn’t say Darkman is a superhero in the strictest sense. Sure, he has special abilities and he only goes after criminals. But he’s not at the point where he’s fighting for a greater good or heroic purpose. What’s driving Darkman is vengeance. Darkman is a good revenge flick. It has a 90’s look and feel to it, including the action sequences … well because it was made in 1990!
The bad guy Robert G. Durant is a classic straight forward thug, played really well by Larry Drake. You don’t need to empathize with this antagonist, just fear that there are no lines he won’t cross. Liam Neeson has a particular skill set and this role as Darkman suits him to a tee.
Sam Raimi’s Darkman is an old-school film. The script has fun with the premise of altering facial appearances. It’s also quite dark in places, hence the horror influence. In addition, there’s the hallmarks of a superhero origin story, albeit more of a tortured anti-hero.
Logan Lucky (2017)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough
Logan Lucky is a heist film about two brothers down on their luck who concoct an elaborate scheme to rob a motor speedway during a race.
Logan Lucky’s charm is the black comedy that is inherent in the script, the characters and the situations they find themselves in. Director Steven Soderbergh does a good job of letting the mundane in certain scenes play out which then allows for the comedic moments to shine through.
The film centers on criminals who are likable and speak with a down-to-earth North Carolina/southern accent. Channing Tatum’s performance is really good, he’s continually getting better as an actor (do you remember him Step Up?). Jimmy Logan (Tatum) is a working-class father who is recently laid off and his ex-wife (Katie Holms) wants to move to another state with their daughter.
It’s good to see a movie that shows two brothers in an understated but positive relationship. Jimmy and his younger ex-veteran brother Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) always have each other’s back. Clyde doesn’t harbor any hidden bitterness for being in the shadow of his older brother, an ex-high-school football star.
Clyde lost one of his hand in the military. The family curse doesn’t seem to extend to sister Mellie Logan who’s in on the heist as well. The most prominent personality is Joe (Daniel Craig), he’s a safe-cracking expert and career criminal. He’s a bit off kilter which makes for fun chemistry between these characters.
The key ingredients that make Logan Lucky work is that these are good-hearted thieves whom I’m rooting for. It’s also that a well planned heist is best when things go unexpected in a way that keeps me engaged in what will happen next. Logan Lucky is not a cynical movie. But for the heist to work it must rely on the cynicism of law enforcement, the corporate motor speedway and prison institution as well as and in contrast to the lack of greed and generosity of the criminals.