YOF#7-9 | Spartan, We Are Marshall, Sabotage

Year of Film # | 7
Title | Spartan
Release| March 2004 (USA), August 2004 (UK)
Format Viewed | DVD 

Spartan is a neat little thriller that flopped at the box office. It stars Val Kilmer as a cold-hearted, but loyal, special forces operative who is drafted in when a prominent politician’s daughter is kidnapped. After a little digging, he believes she has been taken by a white slavery ring, who don’t realise who they have. Knowing they’ll likely kill her when they find out, they have a race against time to track her down and rescue her.

Kilmer is pretty good in the lead role, and he is ably supported – mainly by Derek Luke. There are some nice lesser supporting roles/cameos too, from the likes of William H. Macy, Kristen Bell,  Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield), Ed O’Neill (Married with ChildrenModern Family), Geoff Pierson (24DexterCastle), and a memorable walk-on for Mark Pellegrino (LostSupernatural).

One nice touch – the film is showing almost exclusively from Kilmer’s POV. There’s no cutting to the antagonists to give away plot points. It works quite well.

The story itself is pretty simple, but it flows nicely for the most part. The pacing is a little off towards the back end of the film, and it does feel like a potentially rejected script for a series of 24. However, Kilmer et al help make this a very enjoyable film, worth watching at least once. [3.5]

Year of Film # | 8
Title | We Are Marshall
Release| December 2006 (USA), Unknown(UK)
Format Viewed | DVD

We Are Marshall is based on the true story of a University that experienced a terrible tragedy in 1970 – a plane carrying the majority of the football team, staff, friends and family members crashes,  killing all on board.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Jack Lengyel, the man tasked with putting together the new team, to try and honour the memory of the team.

I found We Are Marshall to be a little saccharine in its delivery, though it is understandable given the background events. The all star cast (McConaughey is joined by Matthew Fox, Anthony Mackie, David Strathairn, Ian McShane, Kate Mara and January Jones) helps to elevate this above its otherwise passable level.

Probably not worth going out of your way to see, but you could certainly do worse. It’s fine.  [3]

Year of Film # | 9
Title | Sabotage
Release| March 2014 (USA), May 2014 (UK)
Format Viewed | DVD

Sabotage is heist thriller turned murder mystery that could have been so much better than it ended up.

The cast is pretty impressive. In addition to Arnie, we have Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Olivia Williams, Harold Perrineau and Mireille Enos.

Worthington, Manganiello, Howard, Martini, Enos and Kevin Vance are part of Arnie’s crack drug busting hard guys. In the opening act, they attempt to rip of a drug cartel that they are carrying out a bust on. However, when they return to the hiding spot for the money, they discover it has been stolen. Given the unique situation, they know that one of their close knit group has likely stolen from the rest of the group.

The majority of the film takes place some months later. Internal Affairs drop the case they have open on the team, due to lack of evidence. However, shortly after getting back in the field, a member of the team is murdered. It quickly becomes apparent that someone is slowly picking them all off. Is it the cartel they ripped off? Or is it one of their own?

Sabotage‘s strongest period is it’s middle third, at full throttle in ‘whodunnit’ mode. In fact, it threatens to become a pretty darn good film. However, the final third (particularly the limp reveal) is almost an entire let down. There’s also a sort of epilogue that the audience will struggle to care about, considering what has been revealed moments before.

Predictably, Olivia Williams is the strong point of the film. Along with Perrineau, she is tasked with investigating the murders that punctuate the middle third. A pointless romance angle threatens to derail her character, but some genuine camaraderie with her partner helps make the whole thing feel more realistic.

It’s difficult to say more without spoiling major plot points. In short, a poorly executed final third and reveal pretty much ruin an otherwise decent whodunit thriller [2.5].