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Reviews for August 7th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      Co-directors David T. Friendly and Mick Partridge trace the origins of the passion and obsession over sneakers in the doc Sneakerheadz. A sneakerhead is someone who treats a sneaker as more than just a sneaker, and you'll see a lot of evidence of that throughout the film as unapologetic sneakerheadz of various ages and cultural backgrounds are interviewed. Among the interviewees are also sneaker designers. Those of you who are already sneakerheadz might not find much in terms of new, shocking or revelatory insight, but for the rest of you who take sneakers for granted, you'll never look at sneakers the same way again. The co-directors wisely define many of the insider terms and colloquialisms that sneakerheadz use on a day-to-day basis. Most importantly, though, you'll never look at sneakers the same way again. To be fair, Sneakerheadz glosses over the darker elements of sneaker-craze: the hundreds of deaths that occur each year when sneakerheadz murder others to steal their limited-edition sneakers. Had it delved deeper into that issue, it would have been more balanced, but at least it brought the issue up briefly unlike A LEGO Brickumentary which was totally one-sided. At a running time of 1 hour and 10 minutes, Sneakerheadz is a slick, stylishly-edited doc that manages to be illuminating and easy-to-follow. Gravitas Ventures opens it at Village East Cinema.


Directed by Choi Dong-hoon

      Yem (Lee Jung-jae), an agent for the provisional Korean government, gathers a team of assassins, namely, Hwang Deok-Sam (Choi Deok-moon), Ahn Okyun (Gianna Jun), and Chu Sang-ok (Cho Jin-woong). Their mission is simple: to kill a Japanese commander (Shim Cheol-jong) and a Korean businessman (Lee Kyung-young). Cue lots of shoot-outs and double-crossings as events don't quite transpire as Yem had expected.

      If you're an avid action fan who's just looking for pure escapism, Assassination delivers the goods more often than not. Director/co-writer Choi Dong-hoon provides exciting action sequences whereby the action itself is easy-to-follow, so you know who's killing whom and how. The set design, lighting and costumes are all top-notch and add to the film's rich aesthetic. Unfortunately, when it comes to story and character, that's where Assassination falls behind a bit. The plot is overstuffed with double-crossings and characters, none of whom ais particularly interesting or memorable enough to root for. Moreover, the film overstays its welcome at a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, so it starts to feel exhausting and tedious around the 90-minute mark. Less would have been more without an excessive number of long battle scenes.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Well Go Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire.

The Runner

Directed by Austin Stark

      Congressman Colin Pryce (Nicholas Cage) finds his reputation and career on thin ice when he speaks up for the Louisiana citizens who have been affected by the BP oil spill. They have yet to receive their much-deserved reparations, so Colin fights for their rights while hoping that he'll soon be elected as Senator. Surveillance footage of him having an affair with a married woman only makes matters worse for him, and the same can be said about his battles with alcoholism and his flirtations his campaign publicist, Kate Haber (Sarah Paulson). It's no surprise, then, that his wife, Deborah (Connie Nielsen), tells him that she's leaving him. The apple apparently hasn't fallen very far from the tree because Colin's father, Rayne (Peter Fonda), a former mayor, also had scandals to deal with back in the day.

      The Runner works as a powerful dramatic thriller because it treats its characters like human beings. Colin's relationship with his father and his wife is just as compelling as his fight against BP. Yes, The Runner could be more darker and have more bite given that it deals with an important, sensitive human rights issue. It does remain thought-provoking without sugar coating, and writer/director Austin Stark wisely avoids preachiness. What takes away slightly from the film's momentum, though, is its somewhat choppy editing and fast pacing. In other words, Stark doesn't trust the audience's patience enough.

      Nicholas Cage is in top form here. This is his best performance since Leaving Las Vegas where he also played a character dealing with alcoholism, although to a much greater extent. Cage brings a lot of charisma to the role which makes Colin more likable---not that a film has to have a likable character, though, but it helps. Colin isn't simply a trainwreck like he seems to be. Underneath everything, there's a lot of pain and buried emotions which probably have something to do with his hot and cold relationship with his father who's not a particularly good role model for him. He's a good person at heart despite his many flaws. That complexity makes him quite an interesting and compelling character. At a running time of 90 minutes, The Runner is a gripping and exhilarating thriller.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Alchemy.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

To the Fore

Directed by Dante Lam


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Asia Releasing.
Opens at AMC Empire.
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