18 August 2017

Hitmen, Racetracks, and a Whole Lot of Whitney Houston

Welcome again folks, to what's likely the last installment of this column for a while. Try as I might, it's tough to get excited over late August / September crap. We'll be back for IT (2017), though. It'll be the same exact preview as The Dark Tower (2017). But this is an exciting weekend because two big original films are hitting the theaters and they both look pretty good. We've got Ryan Reynolds vs. Sam Jackson in The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) and finally, Steve Soderbergh's return to feature filmmaking with Logan Lucky (2017). Let's dive into both in that order.

There's not a ton of cultural context behind The Hitman's Bodyguard that isn't crazily meta. This is basically a distillation of these two giants' popular personas, thrown together to play off each other in what could be a hilarious series of action comedy events or a cliched mess that fails to deliver. Director Patrick Hughes is coming off The Expendables 3 (2014) so uh...probably the latter.

I've had it with these motherfuckin hitmen and their
motherfuckin bodyguards
It's weirdly got a horrible Rotten Tomatoes but a solid IMDB right now, so who knows. I'm always one to judge a film on whether or not it succeeds in what it's trying to do, and so far the consensus seems to be that Jackson and Reynolds have chemistry but the plot is whatever. To me, that sounds exactly what I'd expect from this movie. The entire premise should be a mere excuse to get these two Titans of R-Ratings on screen together to exchange insults and motherfuckers at each other for two hours until the movie just sort of ends. That could be an extremely entertaining flick.

Now, for some reason Ryan Reynolds is still allowed to make movies even though everything he's ever made that isn't Deadpool (2016) and The Proposal (2009) has failed miserably. Sam Jackson is nigh bulletproof, having made enough duds and triumphs over a ridiculous career to be acceptable in just about anything. It's been a while since he really headlined a flick. Maybe you count Hateful Eight (2015), but that was so blatantly about its ensemble (it's in the title), even if Jackson was probably our best protagonist. It's a fun and fresh kind of humour, and even though this script was written and blacklisted back in 2011, totally feels right for a post-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and an anytime Sam Jackson.

My only real concern is if it feels too forced and exactly that - a Deadpool rip-off with the same actor doing the same kid of jokes in a cheap ploy to ride the success of that other movie. I definitely have that vibe. Late August is pretty awful for any release, but this isn't the kind of monumental blockbuster that's a huge risk, and the core concept of a bodyguard protecting his hitman nemesis is actually new and interesting while also being pretty simple. I think commercial prospects are solid, and like any comedy, especially one in as sparse a year as 2017, if it can win Funniest Movie of the Year, it'll be solid.

"Where've you been?"
"Enjoying death."
Now let's get to Logan Lucky. This isn't about an Irish Wolverine, this is Steven Soderbergh's retirement-ending bonkers North Carolina NASCAR heist film that I'm pretty excited to see. The cast is a dream with his somehow muse Channing Tatum leading the way and Daniel Craig all blonde and super un-Bond-like. Soderbergh is a weird dude whose filmography is insanely prolific. He seems to have no issue cranking out project after project in a wildly diverse array of genres. He's probably best known for his early efforts like Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), Schizopolis (1996), and the dual one-two of Traffic (2000) and Erin Brockovich (2000), which somehow came out in the same year.

Then he cashed in on the Ocean's 11 movies and developed this remarkably smooth editing style, almost building the entire film by montage that carried into a lot of his early 2010s work. He has his great 90s stuff for sure, but I actually really dig Contagion (2011), Haywire (2012), and Side Effects (2013). Haywire is continuously underrated, by the way, I thought about that the most coming up to Logan Lucky. Of course we've also got our greatest modern male stripper opus, Magic Mike (2012). All in all, Soderbergh films, without being really flashy or audacious, tend to find a niche in the cultural context, even if you don't really think of him as a Coen or Tarantino.

In his faux-retirement he did a lot of work on The Knick and random stuff like editing Magic Mike XXL (2015), but we were all just waiting for him to come back. Logan Lucky DOES look super-Coen Bros-y, and I'm curious to see if he can actually pull off the dumbass heist trope in a convincing and comedic way. There's little doubt that the man can, as he's a filmmaker who has sticked to his principles for nearly thirty years, even while making big celebrity-filled films like Ocean's Thirteen (2007). There's always a wit to his work and hopefully he hasn't lost the touch in the past...four years.

That's another thing - for all the griping about Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) and other miscellania, Summer 2017 has seen some great original films for once. We got Baby Driver (2017), Dunkirk (2017), Girls Trip (2017), Atomic Blonde (2017), and...can you count Wonder Woman (2017)? The obvious trend here is finally giving voices to marginalized people (non-Dunkirk, that is), and look at that - new, interesting stories that do pretty well at the box office! Logan Lucky is a bunch of white dudes, but to be honest, blue collar country folk more often star as backwoods rapists than heroes. I'm excited to see this trend continue.

So, that's it, folks. Summer's over. It's done. It's finished. Well, for the movies at least. We still got a few Summer Jams to crank out. What are you watching?!

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