[*Read Part I: Chick Flicks here and Part II: Art House Flicks here.]
As we end another year long chapter of the 21st century, allow me to reflect upon said year’s dramatic film offerings. These are the films that undoubtedly leave the viewer with an emotional wound. One that may have healed over time only to be ripped open by the subject matter or a fresh cut that runs just as deep. Over the last decade, films such as as Million Dollar Baby; The Wrestler and Diving Bell & The Butterfly have had audiences leaving the theater in silence with glazed looks from those puffy eyes. This year though, I found three dramas that gave me more to be happy for, even if the journey was a rough one. (Special shout-out to Win, Win with the great Paul Giamatti and a great cast)
Warrior – Unexpected Heavy Hitter (full disclosure, I do not know anything about MMA)
I know this is a 3 word review, but if I had to give only a 2 word review it would have been “Tom Hardy”. I may be starting to overhype him, but he has been on my radar for about 3 years when I first saw him in the film Bronson at the Sundance Film Festival. I would not have had any interest in seeing this film if it hadn’t been for him staring in it. Then with the director of Miracle, (you know, the true story of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Hockey team defeating the Soviet Commie bastards in the 1980 Winter Olympics) Gavin O’Connor, behind the camera for this one – I was completely on board come opening weekend. It’s sad that this film did not bring more eyeballs to the screen and asses in the seats. And I get it, it’s such a late 80’s Van Damme/Dudikoff B-Movie premise that it screams for direct-to-DVD. MMA has a growing following but even those devotees would feel suspect going into a film based on the sport. But dammit – Tom Hardy is such a bad ass and he plays the ultimate bad ass hero in this. This is a real family drama between two estranged brothers with a deadbeat father smack dab in the middle. The greatest part about the finale, and I’m not spoiling anything here trust me – is that you have no idea who you would be rooting for in the final match. You root for both of them. In fact, I don’t remember who won the fight. Maybe that’s because this film is more about family, healing old wounds, honor, loyalty and love more than it’s about mixed martial arts. And that is definitely why I loved it so much more that I thought I ever would.
The Devil’s Double – Sadistically True Tragedy – full review here
Since you can go read the full review I already wrote, this is where I get to tell you people that the actors that Hollywood keeps forcing us to like – the ones they keep casting in box-office busting shitty action films that are actually brain-dead disappointments – are forcing the better actors into doing the films that should be topping the box office. Hollywood says come see Ryan Reynolds, Shia LeBeouf, Taylor Lautner, Sam Worthington and whoever else they find in some West Hollywood Gold’s Gym that they can turn into a “movie star” – all this while Dominic Cooper, Tom Hardy (see above), Jeremy Reiner, Ryan Gosling and the rest churn out performances that rock the house in films that don’t spoon feed audiences. Please support these great films with fantastic performances. I have a rule I like to follow – if a big studio film i.e. Transformers comes out like and I see it and I do not like it – I will not go see the sequels. No matter how much “better than the original” it is. I will not give you more of my time and money if the first one wasted both. I will post about this topic another time. So look out for that. For now – just watch this…
The Debt – Riveting Overdue Payback
Helen Miren is the main headliner in this film. I understand why. She is a legendary actress and deserves much of the film accolades that are presented to her. She shines very well in this film but it is her younger counterpart – Jessica Chastain that steals the film. Oh, and look who else is in this film, Sam Worthington trying to gain back some street-cred (see above) by starring in a gritty indie drama. Sorry Sam, you are still boring to watch. The Debt bases it’s premise on the true story of Nazi medical experiments leading up to and occurring during WWII. A doctor with a pivotal roll in the disgusting experiments eluded capture after the conclusion of the war and the newly formed state of Israel made it a mission to trek the globe in pursuit of Nazis. How awesome a story is that? (If you are unfamiliar with Simon Wiesenthal, look him up and his foundation and learn more about the real Nazi Hunters.) This film has some surprisingly tense moments that sneak up on you. You think director John Madden (boom, not that one) is simply and effectively showing you everything, keeping nothing a secret because the story is so intriguing already, but then he slips something into your drink and you are now looking over your shoulder thinking – what could be next? The tension is there from the get go. The film is available to rent by streaming and on DVD. I highly recommend it.
*Be sure to leave your favorites below in the comments.