Identity Thief Review (Kirk Haviland)

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Identity Thief (2013)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet

Written by Craig Mazin based on a story by Jerry Eeten and Craig Mazin

Directed by Seth Gordon

The doldrums of the winter post-Oscar bait box office continue this week as after a very lackluster January our friends at Universal Pictures give us Identity Thief. This comedy is the follow-up feature from McCarthy after her breakout role in 2010’s Bridesmaids (This is 40 cameo notwithstanding) and her first shot at a lead performance. Along for the ride is Jason Bateman playing his very familiar bland straight man role and Amanda Peet as his long suffering wife.

Diana (McCarthy) makes her living assuming stranger’s identities and bleeding them dry. Her seemingly unlimited funds have allowed Diana to party and shop it up on the outskirts of Orlando, where her house looks like a Shopping Channel storage warehouse.  But her new identity comes with a catch, it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman), Sandy, who lives halfway across the U.S., and Sandy has been tipped off as to where she lives. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before he loses his job and livelihood, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life.  And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back. And let’s not forget the Skiptracer (Patrick) and Mob enforcers (Harris and Rodriguez) following and tracking their every move.

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Identity Thief is a very poorly executed movie in many regards. The script here is extremely lazy, think of the worst possible rehash of Midnight Run you’ve seen and this is worse. The gags are tired and lazy and the dialogue is terrible. The plot device as to why the pair is forced to drive instead of fly is ludicrous and makes no sense. The fact that Diana and all her many fake ID’s can’t fly because her ID is the same as Sandy’s, when she can simply make another ID and actually does so later in the film, is just mediocre writing at best. Writer Mazan’s previous efforts include the lackluster Hangover 2, Scary Movies 3 and 4 (the UN-funny ones) and the abysmal Superhero Movie so the lack of ingenuity shown here should come as little surprise. But Mazin can’t be held solely responsible for this effort.

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Director Gordon has done some excellent work on television and in the world of documentaries but his feature length fiction films have left something to be desired. With Horrible Bosses being his most respectable, Identity Thief may even be worse than his other, badly executed holiday film: Four Christmases. Watching the film it would appear the film just got away from him and he let McCarthy run rampant without any guidance or attempt to reel her in. McCarthy is probably the best part of the film, managing to elicit a few laughs along the way in what were likely her variances from the script. But a lot of the time she seems to be throwing everything she can on screen just to try and make something stick. Based on Bateman’s performance you would expect him to turn directly straight to camera at some point and say “Hey, it’s a paycheck” before returning to whatever line he is delivering next. Peet is fine here, but is really given nothing to do. The rest of the roles are merely extended cameos with wasted performances especially from the talented likes of Favreau, Stonestreet and Cho.

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Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the film is how offensive it gets towards the end. In one sequence that I’m sure is meant to be humorous, McCarthy’s Diana tries to explain to Peet’s character that nothing happened between her and Sandy on the road. But what ensues is McCarthy going on and on about how irresistible she is and the audiences and Peet’s Trish are supposed to be laughing because of course a fat person can’t be sexy right? Similar subject matter was handled with class and hilarity in Bridesmaids but that is sadly lacking here.

There may have been a good movie to be had with this premise, but Identity Thief sadly is not that film. Audiences will likely have to wait for McCarthy’s turn in director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) next film The Heat and Batemen’s long awaited return to the role of Michael Bluth from Arrested Development to get the laughter they were hoping to get out of this film. The amount of talent on screen is hampered by a poor script and some spotty direction that drags everyone down. Identity Thief is not recommended.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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The Last Stand Review (Kirk Haviland)

Photo Courtesy of Eone Entertainment
Photo Courtesy of Eone Entertainment

The Last Stand (2013)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Peter Stormare and Genesis Rodriguez

Written by Andrew Knauer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Goergeo Nolfi

Directed by Jee-Woon Kim

Making his first starring bow since leaving his office as Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns this week with his new film: The Last Stand. The film also marks the English language debut of Korean director Jee-woon Kim, the director of atmospheric thriller “I Saw the Devil” and the western homage “The Good, The Bad and the Weird”. But will Jee-woon’s frenetic style mesh with the action veteran Schwarzenegger’s own signature style?

Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Noriega), the most wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy. With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1, a hostage in tow. Cortez’ path is straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever. At first reluctant to become involved, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands after a tragic encounter, which sets the stage for a classic showdown in the middle of Sommerton Junction.

Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment
Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment

The Last Stand is a film that knows very much what it is meant to do and who the film is targeted at, and boy does it delivers. Arnold is in classic mode here, with many sequences feeling like he is winking directly at the audience, all that is missing is an actual wink and an already lit stogie. The film title sequence is a broad animated sequence that lasts about 30 seconds as just when you are ready for a full out sequence it ends as abruptly as it started. This just sets the tone for an all-out, action packed 107 minutes of bullets and blood that will satisfy any action fan. Schwarzenegger’s welcome return is flanked by a handful of familiar faces: Knoxville, playing a local gun aficionado who coincidentally has a full arsenal that he makes available for the final shoot out; Stormare, the leader of the mercenary team helping Cortez escape; the always hilarious Guzmán, playing a bumbling deputy; and Forest Whitaker, the agent in charge of the case. Whitaker’s performance is noteworthy as he is full on tongue-in-cheek and hilariously over the top throughout.

Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment
Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment

Jee-Woon is very good at is staging action. The set pieces here all work very well and cater to Schwarzenegger’s capabilities. The sheer amount of blood exploding out of the very ‘juicy’ squibs used for the bullet wounds add a level of comic book mentality to the film and allows the audience to buy into the more comedic tone of the action. Schwarzenegger’s dispatching of a roof top mercenary is a stand-out among the sequences, as is Guzmán’s ‘hero moment’ in the film. The final chase through a cornfield ending on a knockdown, drag out fight on a bridge with traditional fisticuffs facing off against jujitsu is excellently staged and extremely satisfying. Car buffs will love the Corvette of Cortez’s and gawk in awe at how the film uses the vehicle as an escape device as well as weapon. The action here is also more “Expendables” that “Kindergarten Cop” in nature as it is extremely violent and not intended for small children as the 14a rating would suggest, and Jee-Woon revels in the freedom of this choice.

Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment
Photo courtesy of Eone Entertainment

An extremely satisfying North American debut form one of Korea’s rising stars, Jee-Woon makes the most of his opportunity in delivering a film very much influenced by his own “The Good, The Bad and The Weird”, with its western feel being set in a small town and a Sheriff refusing to back down. He is a very astute action director as Last Stand will attest to and with his compatriots in Chan-wook Park and Joon-Ho Bong also set for their English language debuts later this year, 2013 could be a breakout year for Korean cinema in mainstream North America. Full of plot inconsistencies with goofy dialogue and predictable story lines, The Last Stand is ‘technically’ not a great movie, but this film knows all this and plays to it, resulting an film that may end up one of the most fun times in a theatre this year. The Last Stand is a strong recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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