Saturday, March 25, 2017
CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES (2015)
Directed By: Jackie Earle Haley
Written By: Robin Moore
Cinematography By: Seamus Tierney
Editor: Alex Marquez
Cast: Michael Pitt, Dan Stevens, Rob Brown, Christopher Abbott, John Travolta, Jackie Earle Haley, Morgan Wolk, Edi Gathegi
The film is about four young guys who reunite at an ex-classmate's funeral. One mentions to the others inside information on a stock that is a guaranteed lock to make them instant millionaires. Unfortunately, the deal goes south along with their investment. Things go from bad to worse: one of them borrowed his share of the money from a mobster.
On one hand one is surprised that actor Jackie Earle Haley got such an accomplished cast for his directorial debut. Then again as a character actor for most of his life one probably shouldn't.
He's not a bad director. As this is more of a fun genre film. Where you seem to know what will happen, but wait to see how. Though shocked he choose this material. Which I can admit is engaging, but ultimately lackluster as it doesn't offer any acting challenges and seems more sleight of hand criminal thriller. That revels in cliches and more caricatures then characters. While watching you get a sense that all the actors involved are better then the material.
The pedigree of the cast. You expect more or better then what is being offered as it immediately makes you begin or expect that there is more then meets the eye throughout and you find yourself on alert. Looking for the double crosses or twists. Way ahead of time. Instead of taking the story as it comes along. Which distracts you as you are devising where it is going and all the possibilities instead of paying attention to the clues.
The film feels like a 90's Tarantino rip-off and very much in spirit to the film SUICIDE KINGS. It ends up feeling more like a guilty pleasure
the film at least manages to keep your interest. Even as you begin to suspect where it is going along the way. That breaks down to what seems like a Quentin Tarantino inspired 90's crime caper rip off, full Of quirks. Especially with one of Tarantino's all stars John Travolta.
John Travolta is a welcome pleasure in this movie. As I always prefer to see him play the dangerous bad guy or tough presence not necessarily in the side of good. Usually he runs into danger of going over the top. Like a cartoon villain. Here he has just enough danger, yet also charisma and finesse. This was the type of role Bruce Willis and other box office champions of yesteryear seem to take these days. Where they are top billed but only in a fraction of scenes, but play an important part. As always he seems to be engaging and having fun in his role. Even if his face shoes too much make-up. So they at times he almost resembles a wax figure of himself.
This might be some of the many reasons I enjoyed the film. As it has that straight to DVD feel of the 90's b-movies a bit trashy, tries to be exploitive but not that much. Overall it becomes fun.
Though I will give credit to actor Dan Stevens who is basically not only cast against type but virtually unrecognizable in the film. He seems to go above and beyond and ends up the films MVP. As he doesn't have the more demanding leading man quality. He seems to naturally have in other films. Here he gets to be more of a character actor in his performance.
It's a shame the rest of the cast never get that chance as they have all been noteworthy In Other films. Here they play roles we have seen them do before and aren't offered any type of variations. So that they seem more like background even though they are our leads. It’s a lost opportunity as the cast is all there but the material never rises to their level
Though the twists at the end. Seem a bit extreme and only get far-fetched by a few degree that go on a bit overboard. Just like the scene where Jackie Earle Haley tells a story from his childhood for no real reason. Except to have a punchline at the end of the scene.
In the end it's good for a rental. Just don't put too much excitement into it. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised. At best it will try to keep you on your toes