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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Yeah, I'm thinking he's back!, 12 February 2017

"John Wick" was one of my favorite films of 2014 - a simple revenge movie with no pretensions, expertly directed and choreographed, perfectly cast, and creatively designed (from its seemingly dated and yet entirely appropriate Marilyn Manson soundtrack to its very unique usage of captions during foreign-language dialogue). It was at once a throwback to revenge-based action thrillers of the '70s and a kind of neo-noir genre piece. I loved it.

The film didn't do crazy business at the box office, but it had strong weekly holds which indicated positive word of mouth, and it was Lionsgate's third best-selling title of all time on home video (directly behind a Hunger Games movie). The growing reaction was palpable enough to inspire faith in a sequel.

And this is where it gets tricky, because "John Wick: Chapter 2" looked like a sure-fire dud on paper. Often times movies of this ilk have trouble replicating the successes of their predecessors - opting for a rushed "been there, done that" routine - but director Chad Stahelski and co. have wisely built upon some of the mythology inherent in the original film and found a way to make it work, expanding the universe in a way that feels organic. The movie's budget is twice as much as the original's, and yet it's still a fraction of most Marvel blockbusters ($40 mil as per trade reports), and so in tone it feels more grand and sleek without necessarily feeling bloated or carefree. (You'll notice there's very, very little CGI employed in the film.) This is one of those rare, beloved action films - much like the original - where you can see every punch thrown, every kick delivered, without the camera cutting so incessantly that it's unintelligible mayhem. There's a fluidity and art to the carnage here that is quite impressive.

A few qualms: I think the story of the first film, as a revenge picture, works much better. It also put us more firmly on John Wick's side, justifying his murders. This man is, after all, a legendary hit-man -- but the first movie showed Wick post-transformation, as we are led to believe that his departed wife helped rescue him from a sinister lifestyle and brought him resolution. The reason he goes on a killing rampage is because a few thugs beat him and kill his dog. The original movie was a revenge flick, and audiences love revenge - enough so that we're willing to ignore the fact that Wick killed fairly innocent henchmen in the process of exacting his retribution.

The only serious problem I had with "Chapter 2" is that Wick is brought back to the hit-man game (albeit reluctantly) and ends up quite brutally murdering well over 100 people in the process. Yes, these scenes are beautifully choreographed and at times darkly funny. I enjoyed them -- and yet it disturbed me a bit at times to think that these nameless henchmen being massacred by Wick are essentially just doing their jobs, and the scenes are framed in such a way as to suggest they deserve their brutal slaughters. Does it say more about me, as a person, that I'm OK with Wick killing people as revenge for his dog? Perhaps. But it was a bit of an issue I had with the movie, which is that it's much easier to root for the hero's killing when he's on a revenge mission versus just fulfilling a job requirement.

The other issue I had is that the film lost a bit of the original's idiosyncratic flair (e.g. the aforementioned Marilyn Manson tunes, and the kind of grungy Gothic vibe -- all that kind of early 2000s throwback stuff is gone, and the movie feels more modern and polished).

These are fairly minor qualms. Whatever the movie lost in terms of its soundtrack or tone, or its questionable murder scenes, it certainly made up for in its expansion of the Wickiverse (can we call it that?), with the Continental - briefly glimpsed in the first film - really evolving and becoming a main point of the sequel. They are doing very interesting things with this aspect of the storyline, and the movie ends in such a way as to suggest that Wick's story is far from finished.

Count me in for opening day of "John Wick: Chapter 3."

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Has its moments, but is miscast and desperately seeking Oscar, 4 February 2017

Vinny "Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza is a troublesome character to frame as a hero. He's been through some disconcerting things in his private life, such as assault and allegations of domestic abuse. "Bleed for This" portrays this aspect of Vinny's life as a fun, good ol' boy routine of fun romps to the strip club and passive gambling, with his beautiful girlfriend in tow. When she gives up on him halfway through the film, it's not because of his abusive behavior - but rather, because she doesn't love him enough to deal with his neck brace device and the fact that it's restricting their love life. The movie effectively portrays her as the bad person.

It is Hollywood, so of course there will be historical inaccuracies. But "Bleed for This" desperately wants to be the next "Raging Bull," yet it doesn't have the conviction or the guts to show the demons of Paz the way the latter film did for Jake LaMotta. You can't try to turn a man of questionable moral fiber into Rocky Balboa and then also try to posit your film as a hard-hitting true story when omitting important facts.

Miles Teller has received waves of bad press in the last couple years. He was great in "Whiplash," but it seemed a bit of an in the right place at the right time casting decision. In most of his other films he has been smug and detached to a disadvantage. Ostensibly, this should work in "Bleed for This," highlighting Paz's smarmy charm, but Teller just doesn't have the acting or the physical chops to really drive the performance home. The movie doesn't help this by frequently showing footage of the real Paz (e.g. at a late night TV show appearance), who was short, stocky, and menacing in stature. Teller, with his peach fuzz mustache and lanky build, never really comes across as doing anything more than posturing. Even for the film's physical transformation scenes, he's lacking - there's a before-and-after drawn during Paz's rehabilitation, not to mention a scene that highlights the fact that he has jumped up two entire weight classes... and yet Teller, often with his shirt off, consistently looks exactly the same, and never looks any more or less out of shape or any larger or smaller.

Aaron Eckhart, shaving his head back and growing a paunch, is OK but not given much more to work with than the tired cliché of the boxing trainer. You know the character. Forest Whitaker just played him in Southpaw a couple years ago. Eckhart, like everyone else involved in the film, seems convinced that he's in an awards-worthy role, but frankly the writing is never up to par, which makes his performance seem a little overzealous, like he's trying a little too hard to solidify his Oscar chances.

The best aspect of the film is its direction, by Ben Younger. The problem is that the script lets him down - after an interesting first 45 minutes which takes its time setting up the characters, the pivotal car accident happens... and the movie kind of blows past Paz's recovery. One minute doctors are telling him he might never even walk again, then he begins training...and suddenly he's back in the boxing ring again. One gets the impression that there was probably a lot of content in the middle portion of the film that was left on the cutting room floor, possibly in an effort by the studio to bring a 2.5 hour film down to just under 2 hours. It feels rushed and sloppy.

Overall this is a decent, sporadically interesting one-time viewing, but some of that interest derives from the miscalculation by so many involved (both behind the camera and in front of it). From the miscast lead role to the clunky screenplay to the questionable decision to turn Vinny into a hero figure, the movie has too much working against it to even consider itself in the same league as the great boxing movies it so desperately wants to emulate.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Bloated, boring and ugly to look at., 28 January 2017

I'm perplexed by the glowing reviews for "Fantastic Beasts," as it seems to lack any of the wonder or warmth of the best of the "Harry Potter" movies. The titular beasts are not-so-fantastic, rather appearing as very garish, cartoonish CGI creations - instantly pulling us out of the film and its new world-building. Every set piece is just constructed with endless green screen and lazy computer effects. There's nothing exhilarating or awe-inspiring on display here - just one video game cut scene after another. (And I'm a video game fan, so I'm not belittling them; but the point is that as a movie with such an emphasis on visuals, there's nothing here that you haven't seen done much better, including on home gaming consoles.)

Eddie Redmayne, one of the most overracted actors alive, is woefully miscast as Newt. He takes scenery-chewing to Nic Cage levels, minus the fun. Every facial expression, every little tic, is so overly calculated and overly accentuated that it begins to evoke memories of Simple Jack from "Tropic Thunder."

Colin Farrell is stuck in another supporting role that doesn't play to his strengths, completely forgettable and generic. Ezra Miller seems to be in competition with Redmayne to see who can chew the most scenery - the kid is just awful. There's a not-so-secret cameo appearance that was announced before the movie hit theaters (ostensibly to counteract any potential fallout due to the actor's recent personal issues and allegations of doemstic abuse) - and this actor, who was once so talented, manages to ham it up even with just two pieces of dialogue, and leaves very little hope that he will be a menacing or charismatic villain in the (god help us) sequels to this movie.

There are numerous supporting actors who seem tonally and aesthetically wrong for the 1920s setting - the whole crew of wizards, for example, look like a bunch of Abercrombie models playing Prohibition dress-up. You know how the undercut haircuts are all the rage right now, loosely based on haircuts from that era but upgraded with the skin fading, etc. that barbers back then did not have the means to do? Well, that's pretty much how everyone looks in this movie. Even Colin Farrell is rocking a hipster undercut that just distracts.

Katherine Waterston is awesome. She looks the part, she puts Redmayne to shame as an actor, and she inspires a lot of faith for her role in "Alien: Covenant." She is the lone saving grace of this film.

It's a shame about the rest of the performances and the glaringly poor CGI special effects, because honestly, the other attention to detail paid to the city and its era is pretty impressive - there are lone shots in the movie, the ones mostly devoid of the miserable SF/X, that are quite impressive and lovely to look at. The costumes for average city folk (less so the wizards...) are lovingly fashioned. There are hints here of what a great film this might have been in the hands of a better director, someone who didn't make a film as bad as "The Legend of Tarzan," with a cast of actors who mostly aren't hamming it up and totally misfiring on every level.

Maybe the sequel will rectify these issues.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A decent one-time binge watch, but it's like a network TV show on a premium channel., 22 January 2017

Sneaky Pete was originally offered to CBS, who turned it down before Amazon gave it a home. This much is apparent from the show's storytelling, as it pads out what could have been a two hour film into a 10 hour series with diverting subplots and busy work to keep supporting characters spinning. There are times when you sense that it would be too quick for characters to move from A to B, so they have them tread water with narrative contrivances (eg the parole officer who has a decent amount of time committed to his presence and then abruptly disappears midway through the show).

The pilot episode, shot prior to the rest of the episodes, had some beautiful visuals but the rest of the program is aesthetically quite flat and procedural. It looks like something you would find on CBS, but with some f-bombs dropped in.

Ribisi is good, although his constant random lemon sucking facial contortions at inappropriate times are an odd choice for the character. To be a convincing con man one would think you shouldn't draw attention to yourself, but he often looks like a bad De Niro impersonator in an SNL sketch. Beyond that, he's fun to watch and brings more to the character than the script affords.

Bryan Cranston was so brilliant in Breaking Bad but one gets the sense that his producer credit on Sneaky Pete caused him to be surrounded by too many yes men that wouldn't tell him to keep things in check. His scenery-chewing gangster is tonally wrong for the show, and every time the main story randomly cuts away to his storyline it really beaks the momentum and doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose. There's a particularly awkward nine minute (!) monologue in episode 4 that you can tell Cranston thought was going to be an Emmy moment, but it simply doesn't work, because his character for whatever reason just never seems particularly threatening or intimidating. He's a bit of a cliché, and I think Cranston is an incredibly gifted actor but I believe he let his ego get the best of him here and perhaps the role should have been reduced or been cast with another actor. Some of the misfiring also comes down to the writing - the dialogue in the monologue, for example, just isn't that good.

I'm being a bit harsh on Sneaky Pete, but that's because in today's streaming era, TV is at an all-time high water mark and shows must push harder than ever before to stand out. Pete comes packaged appealingly - an Amazon original series with a strong cast and talented producers (Graham Yost and David Shore) - but it ultimately feels like a show that would have felt more at home on a basic cable network, and never quite feels like more than just a passable one-time binge.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Cruise is in fine form, but the movie is entirely forgettable and lacks the retro charm of its predecessor., 17 January 2017

The first "Jack Reacher" film, by Christopher McQuarrie, was a pleasant surprise. It was a retro, '70s-style action thriller in the vein of "Dirty Harry" with old-fashioned stunt work, tangible special effects (the car chase is one of the best in years and more "Bullitt" than "Fast and Furious"), and a fun turn from Tom Cruise, who clearly relished being able to play an unapologetic bad ass - he's usually tasked with playing good guys who are so cookie-cutter American Hero that they would never spit dialogue such as telling their enemy that they wish to drink their blood from the bottom of their boot.

The sequel, alas, is pretty generic. McQuarrie is gone, replaced by Edward Zwick, who at one time was fairly distinct behind the camera, but the aesthetic approach of "Never Go Back" is that of a TV movie. Devoid of the sleek noir vibe of McQuarrie's film, Zwick has fumbled the ball here.

Most action films would be given props for having strong female leads. This happened in Cruise's awesome 2014 blockbuster, "Edge of Tomorrow." But Colbie Smulders isn't given much to work with here, and frankly, the entire appeal of these Reacher books (at least as far as I have been told by its avid readers) is that Reacher is the main protagonist. The movie mistakenly sidelines him in favor of a not-entirely-convincing dynamic shared by Reacher, Smulders, and a girl who may or may not be his daughter. The movie deserves credit for trying to create supporting characters, especially strong female roles; but they just aren't developed well enough for us to care, and since Cruise is so good in this role, whenever they are stealing screen time it really does become a bit frustrating.

The movie isn't bad, per se. It's pretty much textbook mediocrity -- Cruise is great, he clearly loves playing this character and I'd be down for another serving with someone like McQuarrie back behind the camera, but unfortunately it's pretty clear that Zwick either wasn't given full creative control here and the studio cut his film to shreds -- or, conversely, was given too much freedom and didn't understand what made the character/previous film appealing to audiences. The result is a movie that just exists, destined to be played on late-night rotation on TNT and generate merchandise sales for the studio, but one that will never catch on with home video audiences the way the 2012 film did.

8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Gibson has made a superb war film. Even Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington are great in this!, 5 November 2016

Say what you will about Mel Gibson - because much can be said and much has been said - but at the end of the day, he is an undeniably talented filmmaker. Even his most flawed films, like "The Passion," are ambitious and hard to ignore. He isn't someone who rests on his laurels or takes paycheck gigs, and "Hacksaw Ridge" is imprinted with as much of his DNA as a filmmaker as any of his other movies.

Combining the visceral nature (as well as the literal viscera) of "Apocalypto" and "Passion" with the grandeur storytelling of "Braveheart," this true story is without a doubt a movie riddled with issues: the first half, though compelling and with fine performances, does at times border on the sentimentally hamstringed and predictable.

And yet it works, mostly because of the performances and the direction. I read a review stating that everyone in this film was miscast; I couldn't disagree more -- this is a fine example of how perfect a cast can be. Andrew Garfield is exceptional and deserves an Oscar nomination. Teresa Palmer does the best she can with a relatively one-note love interest; she manages to actually make the character stand out more than on paper.

Hugo Weaving gives perhaps the finest performance of his career, another award-worthy supporting turn as Desmond's father. But the real surprises here are the straight-to-video actors who usually seem devoid of charisma: Sam Worthington does career-best work here, while Luke Bracey, the nobody actor from the "Point Break" remake that no one asked for, is memorable as a stoic soldier whose skepticism of Desmond gradually evolves as the film progresses.

Finally, there is the revelation of Vince Vaughn's drill sergeant, who already ranks up there with R. Lee Ermey (if that sounds hyperbolic, it really is that fine of a performance). After his failed comeback with True Detective's miserable second season, and bomb after comedy bomb, it's nice to see him returning to his roots as a character actor. He's simply great here.

At the end of the day this is likely to be overlooked at awards season simply given Gibson's baggage and the unfortunate shadow it casts over his work, but my hope is that voters will be able to see past that and approach the film on its own terms. It features some of the most gruesome and unforgettable war scenes ever captured on film, and yet none of it seems particularly excessive or undeserved: to really appreciate the sacrifice and the heroism that the real Desmond displayed in battle, you almost have to be thrown right into the worst of it to be able to place it in a proper context. This is not "Enemy at the Gates" or "Behind Enemy Lines." Mel Gibson has made one of the best war films of all time, and he, Garfield and at least two of his supporting actors all deserve recognition for this come Oscar season.

"Love" (2016)
3 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Starts off great, then devolves into a major vanity project for the star/co-creator, 9 October 2016

I really enjoyed the first half of "Love," binging the series over the course of two days; but as it progressed, it seemed more and more like the show didn't have as much to say as I'd hoped for; furthermore, it was very negatively impacted by Paul Rust giving himself the leading man role.

Look, I know it's been mentioned here in other reviews already, but he's just wrong for the role physically. I'm not someone who's going to judge someone based on their appearances; but I've been in LA, and attractive women have so many guys to choose from, an awkward-looking guy like Rust would need to have a really fun personality to have all these attractive women fawning over him.

And early on in the show, it seemed to be heading that direction, which I thought was nice: he was kind of awkward and naive, and the female lead liked that about him, because she was used to guys who were scumbags.

But then he basically became a scumbag, and his personality changed from one episode to the next. He goes from being a very affectionate, clingy, naive, nice guy (suffocating his ex - who, by the way, it should be noted was also way out of his league!) to suddenly being really vain, narcissistic, and overly neurotic (to the point where it was no longer cute or awkward, but he seemed to be aggressively irritating). I think the turning point for me was the episode where he takes Gillian Jacobs' roommate out to dinner (oh, she's really cute, too! what a surprise!), and he is neurotic to the point where it seems like he's a major jerk. Then, after she accidentally texts him by mistake, he becomes deliberately bull-headed and arrogant to "bomb the date." For that scene to be funny, based on just a very basic understanding of comedy beats, he would have had to have been nice and pleasant early on in the date; instead, it was simply him going from the level of "neurotic a-hole" to "aggressively neurotic a-hole." And ultimately, this scene made even less sense because his character's behavior completely deviated from what had been established earlier in the show, when he was meek, awkward, and afraid of confrontation and avoided being assertive.

Nevertheless, I kept with "Love," hoping it would improve. But then we got to the episode where the drop-dead-gorgeous blonde from his fictional "Witchita" TV show (which Rust's character has a peripheral role in, as an on-set tutor for child actors, so it's not like she's pursuing him to advance her career -- which would have been perhaps a funnier and more realistic angle!) starts pursuing him and sleeps with him. And Jacobs' character turns up to his apartment during their semi-date and the two of them are basically vying for his attention...then she shows up to the set next day and stalks him across the set and gets into a fight over the other girl... I'm sorry, but it's just absolutely ridiculous.

And I forgot to even mention the threesome scene with him and the two cute girls (whom of course he has strip naked for the scene, which is totally gratuitous; I'm not at all a prude and I'm very used to casual nudity in premium TV shows these days, but the whole sequence was tonally out-of-place, out-of-character and really served no point at all).

I'm sorry, but the whole thing just reeks of a vanity project by Paul Rust. To reiterate: I'm not saying unattractive people don't deserve attractive spouses or that it doesn't happen sometimes in real life. If the show had stuck with the angle that she was a more experienced and cynical person, and she saw the good nature in him, then it would have made sense and it would have worked. But by turning him into a confident, arrogant jackass who's constantly in situations where girls far out of his league are falling all over him for no reason, the show makes a serious misstep and descends into a path of mediocrity and narcissism on Rust's behalf. If someone like Paul Rudd were in this role, someone with charisma and charm, then it would make sense. He's a fairly average-looking guy, but you can see why women would fall for him because of that charm. But Rust has none, and the fact that he's the co-creator/executive producer/etc. just makes it all too apparent why he wrote this fantasy out for himself and cast himself in the lead.

It would have made more sense to put someone like Rudd in the role, someone who may not necessarily be a walking Abercrombie model, but someone who you'd at least remotely buy in these situations and someone whose personality isn't so egregiously unlikable, aggressively neurotic and self-centered.

10/24/16 EDIT: After receiving 13 "unhelpful" votes on this review, all within the span of an hour, one would not be at fault to consider that Mr. Rust's apparent ego may extend to monitoring the IMDb reviews for his own series. ;)

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Starts off well, falters in its second half and is never able to recover., 25 September 2016

"Brother Nature" is reminiscent of countless comedies, ranging from "What About Bob" to "The Great Outdoors." It's one of those classic formulas where a straight-faced, straight-laced guy (in this case, Taran Killiam, from "SNL") encounters someone who is obnoxiously wacky and has a potential mean streak that no one else ever seems to notice (Bobby Moynihan, also from "SNL").

Killiam's character becomes more and more exasperated, and there are hints at times that Moynihan's character is deliberately sabotaging him a la "The Cable Guy." The first half is quite funny -- Killiam is a weak lead, but Moynihan is hilarious, and has a number of moments that made me laugh out loud.

But they don't really go anywhere with the idea that Moynihan is subversively destroying Killiam (the film seems to hint at it, and then promptly drops it); they also opt for a safe conclusion by fundamentally changing the nature of Moynihan's character, as, in the first half, he's an obnoxious goofball who no one would ever like, but towards the end he's suddenly a calmer, more sympathetic version of the same character, as if his apparently intentional attacks on Killiam earlier in the film never happened.

Whether this is studio intervention (the ending certainly seems like something that would be tacked on after poor test screenings), who knows, but ultimately this movie goes from a 7/10 to a 5/10 simply because its second half egregiously missteps and the movie is never able to recover from it.

Those early scenes with Moynihan, though, reveal great potential for the actor.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly strong comedy with obvious but respectable social commentary, 4 June 2016

The original "Neighbors" was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me. It revealed Zac Efron's natural comedic talents (under-utilized in his straightforward "leading man" roles), and featured a surprisingly strong female role for Rose Byrne. Despite ostensibly being a "frat bro" comedy (especially given its subject matter), it actually had a lot to say about arrested development, maturity, and the male id. It was a nice, agreeable R-rated comedy that was sold on its novel premise but ultimately was not in any way screaming for a sequel.

But it was a hit, and hit comedies always spawn sequels, primarily because they're able to be produced on such low budgets. Sequels, more than any other genre of film, tend to see huge critical and attendance drops, but because they're so cheap, the studios can still generate profit even if they only recoup half of the original film's intake.

And that's why "Neighbors 2" exists, two years after the original, and indeed, it opened to roughly half of the dollar amount of the original film in its opening weekend. It would be standard to accept that it's an inferior piece of filmmaking, most likely regurgitating its predecessor's plot points. Most comedy sequels do this -- just look at the Hangover movies, or Ted 2 -- but Neighbors 2 deserves some credit for actually managing to spin the sequel concept on its head.

At first, things seem to be headed for a repeat: Efron's character is back in his frat (now a sorority), he's once again helping to create chaos for his ex-next-door-neighbors (Rogen and Byrne). But then the movie takes a surprising detour, by turning into something of a feminist piece, and the second half really has fun by dissecting the first film's steps while still managing to pay homage and toy with them (as such, when the airbag gag is recycled, it seems playful and refreshing rather than repetitious and predictable).

Nicholas Stoller has made a couple duds (he wrote Zoolander 2, which was one of the worst comedies of this or any recent year), but he's often very, very good at writing or presenting female characters (as seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Five Year Engagement, etc.). At first glance you can roll your eyes at a woman like Byrne being married to a shlub like Rogen, but as in the original film, there's a lot of time devoted to exploring their relationship and convincing you that there's more to it than just the leading man having an attractive wife -- she's just as fleshed-out a character as he is, and that's pretty rare to see in mainstream American comedies, especially those that are seemingly targeted towards guys.

To be fair, there's still tons of genital jokes and crude humor, and there's a couple stretches in the film that become just a bit ridiculous (like the whole subplot where they try to steal the sorority's drug supply at a tailgate), but overall, I was totally refreshed by how strong a sequel this was -- especially relative to other comedy sequels. The characters are well-written and well-acted, and as such, there's a sense of justification when certain things happen -- unlike Brothers Grimsby (a film I saw close to this one) where the characters seem to exist solely for disgusting bodily fluid jokes, the characters in Neighbors 2 are likable and three-dimensional and it makes a lot of the gross gags land much better when they involve characters we believe in and can relate to.

I'm not saying this is a high water mark of American cinema or anything, but at the end of the day it's way better than it had any right to be, and its commentary on feminism and sexist double- standards was way under-represented in the ad material (which may well explain why so many people who went to see it opening weekend gave it mixed reviews - I can't imagine the average male American college student going to see this and enjoying the experience of basically having their id subverted).

I'm not sure I want a Neighbors 3, but at this point I wouldn't kneejerk disregard it, if it's half as funny or intelligent as the first two films.

Knock Knock (2015/I)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
One of the worst films of the year., 17 October 2015

A film like Knock Knock defensively positions itself as a comedy to cushion against any criticisms. If someone is offended or disgusted by the subject matter, the film's fans can simply claim that it is in on the joke of it all, and that that's "the point."

Some "meta-bad" films earn this cushion. Last year's The Guest, starring Dan Stevens, would have been quite poor if sold earnestly, but it had a devilish sense of humour about itself, and paid homage to '80s films with a wink and a nod without just becoming a giant piece of garbage.

Knock Knock is a giant piece of garbage. A giant piece of garbage made by a man who has little to no evidence of talent. I've always felt that Eli Roth looked extremely creepy, something Tarantino capitalized upon by casting him as a sociopath in Inglourious Basterds. It's not fair to judge someone's personality or self-merit based upon their looks. However, it's fairer to judge someone based upon their art, and Roth's -- consumed with body-horror, torture porn (remember he helped jumpstart the craze with Hostel), and grimy sexual antics -- seems to paint a disturbing portrait indeed. The fact that he cast his considerably younger wife in the lead role of this film, and then put her name above the title next to Keanu Reeves, is Hollywood nepotism at its finest. As a critic, I try to remain objective, and there are truly few actors or filmmakers I just downright dislike; there are some whose personal lives may disappoint me (e.g. Polanski), but I separate the art from the artist. But Roth's art is vile, and goes hand-in-hand with my perspective of him as someone who gets off on all this filth. I don't think there's ever been any kind of true social or political commentary to his work -- which the best gross-out horror films tend to have, including the film he attempts to shamelessly rip off here, Funny Games.

No, Roth gets his kicks from getting his wife naked on camera, having Keanu Reeves -- who looks regretful in every scene, and not because he's in character -- bullied, bloodied, raped and tortured.

The dialogue is terrible, the cinematography is shoddy (it basically went straight to video, which is what you'd gather from the way it's shot), the story is stupid which would be OK if the film had something clever to say, but instead Roth presents this all in a transparent attempt to shock and outrage while being too lazy to have any commitment to the material, instead hiding behind the "irony" angle and playing it out as a borderline farce.

Reeves, who gained so much goodwill with last year's John Wick, gives one of his worst performances here; Roth's wife, whose name I do not recall and don't care to, is a coarse screen presence; and Ana de Armas just seems like she's being exploited here.

I only gave this a chance because of Reeves, but I should have known better when I saw Roth's name attached. It is a great mystery as to why this man continues to have a film career.

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