THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (IN BRUGES). After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo and Ian McShane
Run Time: 2H 2 mins
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
4 out of 5 Frames
By: Shari K. Green
If you like muscle cars, chase scenes, incredible fight sequences and beautiful sets and locations, this movie is going to sizzle your cerebral cortex. It has everything I mentioned and has them in spades. All that you liked about the first film is here so you won’t be disappointed. As you most assuredly know, John Wick was as high octane as they come… what will be your delight is, Chapter 2 is just as powerful and as potent as the first. John Wick (Reeves), the ghostly and stealthy killer you met in Chapter 1, is the same bad ass, with the same reputation of reigning terror without breaking a sweat but he wants out! He wants to retire and live out his life in peace. Well, he may want out but someone comes knocking to remind him that he’s duty bound to do something first and that is to fulfill a blood marker. A marker is a blood oath. Once it’s given to a member of the criminal conclave Wick belongs to, one with strict rules for the professional help and perks they receive, it must be honored.
He’s forced to be true to his pledge which is to assassinate Santino D’Antonio’s (Scamarcio) sister so that he could have her seat at the high table, a highly coveted place within the criminal federation. Stahelski adds an ingenious scene of Wick shopping for his accessories and it’s priceless. After he gears up he gets to work. When he completes his task or she does for him, rather, not only are members of her security team after for him, (especially Cassian, played by Common, whose role adds a special element of regalement to the film), but so is Santino. He decides to close loose ends. The choreographed action sequences such as rolling down steps mid fight, running on stage and through a concert’s audience while shooting at one another and all the death and destruction delivered by clever cinematography more than makes up for the few times that Reeves, unfortunately, has speaking lines. I know that’s hard to swallow but it’s more than accurate.
Centrally, this is an astonishingly action packed film with a good narrative. It’s the story of a character you can’t help root for, even though he’s a ruthless, emotionless and heartless killer. You want him to win, despite his willingness to murder because, after all, they’re the bad guys, right? Again, luckily for us, it’s more action driven with focus on the deadly encounters rather than on his dialogue. Every performance outside of Reeves was adequate, McShane and Common’s especially, but the only delivery Reeves seems to be capable of giving is dry and detached and that’s a shame. It’s true acting class isn’t necessary with this sort of role but had he been able to give some passion to the lines that he did have, it would have been that much better. I have to suggest you go see it if you’re an action fan. I’ll go on record now and say you’re going to absolutely love it. It starts with a punch and never stops going; it’s solid all around. Also, it ends with a clear set up for Chapter 3. After all hes been through and has done, he decides to break a rule anyway, for which you cannot do as long as you’re in the league. Now that he has, he is banished and… well, I’ll let you discover that on your own.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister and Chris Cooper
Genre: Crime, Drama
Run Time: 2h 9mins
2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
I love a lot of Affleck’s work. In fact, it’s safe to say I like most of his work. This one… not so much. This confounds me because it’s Affleck! He’s responsible in one way or another for “Good Will Hunting”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “Argo” and “The Town”. Great films. He usually has a firm grasp of story but that’s not the case here. “Live By Night” is more or less all over the place. To be completely honest, it doesn’t feel like his voice at all. It can’t sit still so neither can you. So I wonder… just went wrong? I can indicate to you a few culprits. It’s too slow and there are too many plot lines and both are working in concert to single handedly ruin this film. It feels as if you’re watching a series of different films in one yet starring the same characters. It’s a mobster/gangster picture but not. There are moments when it is but, well, not to confuse you, these moments are few and far between. It’s hard to even categorize this film.
I’ll try and explain the premise. To start, in voice over, Affleck introduces his character, Joe Coughlin. He’s a soldier. He was miserable as a soldier. The spoiled boy, yes it feels that way, was being told to do terrible things on the battle field and decides that being told what to do wasn’t for him. He will forever be his own boss so he gathers two friends and they become bank robbers. We learn that when it comes to Boston, there are two gangs it’s run by; the Irish and the Italians. Not wanting to become involved with either, for some reason he doesn’t consider himself gangster material but is a criminal… okay, Coughlin, thinks it a good idea to become involved with the girlfriend of the head of the Irish gang, Albert White. They even appear in public together. Immediately, you can see that Affleck didn’t think this through. You know what’s going to happen and it does. Along with a butt kicking, he gets set up and spends a few years in prison. Now hating White, we have a revenge film where he’ll do anything to work against Albert White. The man who said he’d never work for anyone again is working for the Italians to take over White’s rum distribution… in Florida. We change again. Coughlin enlists the help of the Cubans who were once stealing and instead turns them into assets, who now are happy working with him instead of against.
There are several people trying to take him down but obstacles are easily overcome and Coughlin is the king of Tampa. He also has a new woman, Graciela (Saldana), for whom he has absolutely no chemistry.
It becomes, eventually, a gangster picture again when a double-cross or two are shed and the movie gets exciting. This is what the film had promised to be and it’s nice that it gets back to its roots but it’s not enough and it’s too little too late. However, what’s also good about “Live By Night”, and I’d say what makes it a worthwhile watch for anyone who wants to study good character actors are some of the performances. Matthew Maher as a member of the KKK is outstanding. Elle Fanning is memorable as a victim of circumstance. Also worth mentioning is Robert Glenister as Albert White and Remo Girone as Italian leader Maso Pescatore. When they’re on screen, you are lost in their performances. They evoke “The Godfather” when they’re present and are quite impressive. More of them would have improved the movie but for some reason we’re spread thinly over a few storylines and you become disinterested in everyone entirely. So, check this out on DVD or wait for VOD, however you get your entertainment these days, but going to the theatre, my preferred outlet, is not my recommendation.