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Reviews for January 17th, 2020

Bad Boys for Life

Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah




       Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) have been cop buddies for over two decades. Marcus wants to retire and settle down with his family, but Mike wants to keep worked. The nefarious crime boss Isabel (Kate Del Castillo) tells her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to hunt down and kill Mike. After he shoots and injures Mike while on a motorcycle and wearing a mask, Marcus and Mike team up to find him and to avenge the attempted murder. 

      Bad Boys for Life the third film in the Bad Boys trilogy is yet another mindless action thriller that's essentially a B-movie with a big budget. The plot doesn't really matter as long as it's entertaining and suspenseful, but the suspense wanes very quickly because the shallow screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan introduces the identity of the masked shooter too early and makes his motivations very clear from the beginning. The rapport between Mike and Marcus lacks wit although it does get some credit for at least trying to create some chemistry between the leads. The main problem is that the screenplay tries too hard to be funny and the jokes don't land, so the chemistry and rapport feels contrived. There's one mildly humorous moment just when the film cuts to Marcus crying at a wedding that leads you to believe at first that it's Mike's funeral. Anyone who's ever seen a Hollywood blockbuster would know that killing off one of the leads early on rarely happens, so that scene doesn't work as effectively as it could have because there's no way that the filmmakers would allow for Mike die in the first act.

      Do you really need a see a visual gag with Marcus touching a bump on someone's head over and over before referring to him as The Elephant Man? That punchline would've been much funnier without Marcus repeatedly touching the bump beforehand thereby milking the irreverent joke until it's no longer funny. A twist in the third act seems more like a cheap way to add complexity and poignancy to the plot, but the performances and the screenplay aren't strong enough to allow those emotions to resonate. Too little rings true, especially how Mike manages to heal so quickly after he was shot. If only the filmmakers were to have treated at least one character as a human being instead of just as a plot device, but that seems like too much to ask for in a Hollywood blockbuster (the rare exception to that is the surprisingly tender Bumblebee). When it comes to exposition, the screenwriters fail yet again because there's too much of it and it's handled in a way that takes away from the film's narrative momentum while leaving nothing to the imagination.

      Although the filmmakers don't trust the audience's imagination, intelligence or emotions, they do, unfortunately, trust the audience's patience by having a running time of 123 minutes. If this were a 90-minute action thriller, it would've been much more leaner and entertaining, but at over 2 hours, it overstays its welcome and becomes exhausting after the 90-minute mark. On top of that, none of the action scenes are exhilarating enough on a palpable level nor well choreographed. Some of the editing feels choppy and it's hard to see what's happening during the action scenes at times. Do you really need to see so many long and lengthy shoot-outs? They could've been easily trimmed which would've made the running time much more palatable. Bad Boys for Life is ultimately an overlong, dumb and shallow action thriller with not enough suspense, thrills and laughs nor any chemistry between the leads.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Dolittle

Directed by Stephen Gaghan




       

Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Intrigo: Death of an Author

Directed by Daniel Alfredson




       Henry (Benno Fürmann), a translator, travels to a remote Greek island to where, Henderson (Ben Kingsley), a reclusive author, resides. Henderson agrees to give him advice about a story that he wrote for a book that has yet to be published. The story involves an author, David (Benno Fürmann), whose wife,  Eva (Tuva Novotny), announces to him that she's pregnant with another man's child and that she plans on leaving him. He plots her murder which doesn't quite go as planned. Meanwhile, David translates a novel by a recently-deceased author,  Germund Rein, and flirts with his with his widowed wife, Mariam (Daniela Lavender). He also discovers a hidden message in the author's manuscipt that might shed light on who murdered him.

      Even on paper, Intrigo: Death of an Author has a premise that has with too many subplots and characters with not enough focus. The execution of that premise leaves a lot to be desired because writer/director Daniel Alfredson and co-writer Birgitta Bongenhielm include stilted dialogue with excessive, distracting narration by Henry as he tells Henderson the story from his new book. Henderson makes comments about the story every now and then, some of which are valid comments that the audience would make, i.e. a preposterous part of the book when David thinks that his wife is still alive because he recognized her unique cough while listening to a concert on the radio. That's something that sounds like it belongs in a parody of a thriller, not a serious novel. As the plot progresses, it becomes increasingly twisty and convoluted while being more headache-inducing than intriguing. It's hard to become involved in one story or to care about any of the characters because there's too many of them and not nearly enough screen time with each of them to develop them into fully-fleshed human beings. One of the stories within Henry's novel is slightly reminscent of i>Tell No One, a far more intriguing and suspenseful crime thriller with better-written characters. Then there's the setting on the island which harkens to L'Avventura, but the cinematography here doesn't do much to add much poetry to the film that even holds a candle to the breathtaking cinematography of the classic, haunting and brilliantly subversive Antonioni film. 

       Each of the subplots within this film could have easily been the main plot of a separate film, so it feels like you're watching 3 films at once. If the screenplay were smarter and better-constructed without the need for narration, perhaps it wouldn't be such a lackluster experience. The mediocre performances don't do much to breathe life into it to boot. Also, the twist ending can be seen from a mile away especially if you've been paying attention and wonder why Henry chose to visit Henderson, of all people, for advice. It's surprising that this story comes from the same filmmaker who made The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because it has none of that film's tautness, surprises and cleverness. At a running time of 100 minutes, Intrigo: Death of an Author is an overwrought, dull and undercooked thriller stuffed with too many characters and not enough suspense and intrigue.

     

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Lionsgate.
Opens nationwide.
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