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Coriolanus: Updated Shakespeare Tragedy
Taking cues from films such as Baz Luhermann’s Romeo + Juliet, Coriolanus is a Shakespearean tragedy, set in modern times. It may require a bit more concentration than regular films but it’s a treat hearing the prose just roll off of the tongues of trained actors.
The film takes place in Rome and tells the story of an army general by the name of Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes). Stern, violent and anti social, he was nonetheless considered a hero by the people of Rome. When he decided to run for Consul however, his detractors used his rigidity against him and sparked a riot that had him banished from the city. In revenge, he teams up with his mortal enemy, Aufidius (Butler), leader of the Volscian army, to wreak havoc on the people who dared deem him a traitor.
Maybe because he isn’t hidden behind a ton of makeup and because this time around he has a nose, but Fiennes is more deranged in this role than he was as Lord Voldemort, and that’s saying something. He has an intensity that poor Butler, as his adversary, just can’t hope to match even though he does do a pretty good job regardless. In fact, the acting here is uniformly strong, but Fiennes is simply phenomenal. The only people capable of going toe to toe with him are Chastain, who plays his wife, and Redgrave, who plays his brutally chilling mother.
On the one hand the film analyses the connection between what the public wants from their politicians and the personas that said politicians present to them. Unlike every other politician in Rome, Coriolanus refuses to sugar-coat his words and openly declares his loathing of the people. His stubborn, idealistic nature greatly complicates his transition from the battlefield to the senate much to the chagrin of his mother - who’s probably even colder and more terrifying than he is. He’s a very ambiguous character and it’s this that gives the film much of its depth. He’s a bloodthirsty tyrant just like his mother yet also a bundle of intense emotions, be it love or disdain.
The film is a complete blood bath which shouldn’t come as a surprise in a film about an army general, but the intensity pervading the film takes the fights to another level. The Romans and Vulscians have a ‘fight or die trying approach’ to war directly inspired by their leaders’ complete contempt for their own lives. And while the cinematography captures the fight scenes really well - Aufidius and Coriolanus’ one-on-one fights are particularly thrilling - it does even better with the rest of the film. The protest scenes feel utterly contemporary and give the film a sense of immediacy; no mean feat when you’re speaking in Shakespearean English.
It’s not a perfect film but it's close and the acting, Fiennes in particular, is as close to perfect as you can get. Despite that though, the film’s main strength lies in the fact that it updates the play and makes it completely relevant to modern audiences. The themes that the play covers are ones that play out in our political arenas every day and it makes for absolutely riveting viewing.
Expanding further on its already wobbly and tedious premise, the third installment of the Sylvester Stallone-led testosterone-filled franchise is exactly what you would expect it to be; loud, senseless and utterly brainless.
Directed by Patrick Hughes, The Expendables 3 opens with Barney Ross (Stallone) and his dependable crew of rowdy mercenaries, Lee Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren), Toll Road (Couture) and Ceaser (Crews), rescuing and breaking Doctor Death – a.k.a “Doc” – (Snipes) out of prison.
After a series of unnecessary explosions, the team decides to take a quick trip to Somalia and take part in a CIA-operated mission to eliminate a black market arms dealer from the scene. However, the mission proves tricky when the group is confronted by Stonebanks (Gibson); a backbiting businessman - and an ex-member of the crew - who holds personal ties with Barney. The team ends up taking a huge and an unexpected blow and, after almost losing one of his members, Barney promises to track down Stonebanks – with the help of CIA Agent Drummer (Ford) – and seek revenge.
Wanting to keep his dear friends out of line of fire, Barney and recruitment specialist, Bonaparte (Grammer), begin putting together a much-younger team of mercenaries, which include the tech savvy, Thorn (Powell), no-nonsense tomboy, Luna (Rousey), weapons expert, Mars (Ortiz) and Smilee (Lutz). Not wanting to miss out on the action, Trench (Schwarzenegger) also joins the team. Their mission? Find Stonebanks and, if circumstances allow, bring him back alive.
Let’s be honest; the novelty of watching this peculiar but impressive assembly of 80’s and 90’s action superstars - all thrown together in one massive concoction of muscle, guns and testosterone – has worn off. While the first two films offered a bit more appeal – mainly thanks to the cast’s obvious sense of self-awareness at their very own absurd existence - The Expendables 3 chooses to go in another direction. Taking itself a little too seriously this time, it seems like the boys are running on fumes; the witty one-liners have been replaced by one too many explosions, the action scenes feel erratic, shaky and incoherent, the pacing is rather clumsy and the predictability levels have reached their all-time high.
The addition of Gibson and Banderas is probably the best aspect of the entire film; Gibson shows what real acting looks like and Banderas – as the unemployed warrior looking for a kill – infuses the story with the much-needed energy. As for the rest, it’s the same old story - old being the operative word – though there is still enough to keep fans happy.
Unable to take the plunge and fully immerse itself into its own pool of ideas, Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime – drawn from the pages of Elmore Leonard’s 1978’s novel, The Switch – is, sadly, neither here nor there.
Set in Detroit, Michigan circa 1978, Life of Crime is centred on inept and useless low-level criminals, Louis (Hawkes) and Ordell (Def), who hope to extract one million dollars from drunken real-estate developer, Frank Dawson (Robbins), for the kidnapping of his seemingly lonely socialite wife, Mickey (Aniston).
The plan seems pretty straightforward at first, but little did they know that Frank – who’s busy canoodling with his young mistress, Melanie (Fisher) at their vacation home in Florida – has already filed for divorce and is now more than happy to use this opportunity to sidestep the obligatory alimony payments.
Now that Frank has called their bluff, things get a little complicated for the hopeless thugs who have clearly not done their research and even more so when Mickey – who is being held hostage at a home of a Nazi-loving fanatic, Richard (Boone Jr.) – comes to realise that her matrimonial bliss has now truly come to end. The deepening relationship between Louis and Mickey only adds fire to the fuel, causing a riff between the two partners, who seem to be running out of both ideas and time.
While the film still manages to serve its purpose and deliver the goods – through a mix of black comedy and slow-burning tension –Schechter, who also wrote the adaptation, plays it too safe; an approach that doesn’t really allow for Elmore Leonard’s distinctive storytelling style to shine through. Life of Crime is not the first Elmore Leonard adaptation – see Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and Sonnefeld’s Get Shorty. Unlike those to adaptations, this lacks an edge, leaving it rather placid.
Aniston shines as the lonely trophy wife whose kidnapping – although distressing – also ends up being a one-way ticket out of her isolated and troublesome marriage. The actress, who is not usually seen in these types of roles, manages to show great versatility and the chemistry shared between her and Hawkes is equally convincing. Robbins is persuasive as the alcoholic, two-timing husband while Fisher was deliciously manipulative as the seductive mistress.
Capturing the 70’s era with plenty of polish and charm, Life of Crime is rather forgettable, despite occasionally popping into action – the source material deserved better.