Archives for posts with tag: anti-torture

Expendables 3

Expendables 3 has hardly begun before the titular crew of mercenaries is massacring prison guards to liberate murderer Wesley Snipes. Typically for the series, the film simply expects the viewer to take for granted that the “good guys” would never shoot anyone undeserving of death. (Speaking of which, no Expendables review would be complete without the obligatory reference to how close to death some of these guys appear. “Relax. You’re gonna give yourself a stroke,” Stallone is warned before his upcoming adventure.)

This entry in the franchise does, however, evince more of something approximating a heart or emotional center in its plot involving renewed conflict between Stallone and treacherous ex-partner Mel Gibson, whose presence does much to enhance part 3. Gibson, now an arms dealer, has been deemed a war criminal, and CIA honcho Harrison Ford, in a role alluding to his turns as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), hires Stallone to retrieve him from Central Asia for trial at the Hague.

What ensues is tons of dumb fun, with better action scenes that dispense with the gallons of CGI gore on display in the previous outing. The viewer almost forgets what villains the heroes’ real-life counterparts are. A campy charm attaches itself, admittedly, to the wince-worthy scene in which Ford, providing air support for the beleaguered Expendables and obviously embarrassed by the unimaginative dialogue, half-heartedly mumbles, “Drummer’s in the house.” Expendables 3 is worth a rental for that moment alone.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Expendables 3 is:

7. Disingenously anti-torture. In one of the movie’s biggest unintentional laughs, CIA creep Harrison Ford complains that Gibson is responsible for the torture and killing of two of his men. As Gibson later says of Stallone’s character, “He thinks he’s the good guy.”

6. Pro-drug. There is a lighthearted feel to a scene in which Kelsey Grammer’s flying is impaired by his drunkenness. The Expendables get together to drink in celebration of a successful mission, while Dolph Lundgren, whose combat readiness is unaffected, just likes to drink for the picturesque hell of it.

5. P.C. Snipes objects to Stallone using “spook” with reference to a CIA agent.

4. Feminist. Ronda Rousey plays a tough-as-nails bouncer-cum-soldier whose looks conceal deadly fighting prowess. “Men,” she huffs with contempt before fatally shooting a man.

3. Anti-family. “If you’re lookin’ to go the family route, it’s the wrong job for you,” Stallone admonishes Rousey. “There are different kinds of family,” she replies. “And when my life is on the line, that’s my family fighting with me.” In other words, a gaggle of ragtag cutthroats is no less valid a pillar of personal and national stability than some old-fashioned assemblage of the biologically related.

2. Multiculturalist. In addition to two black Expendables and an Asian one, this third installment adds a Latino as a nod to that group’s demographic ascent, with Antonio Banderas providing some odd comic relief as a lonely acrobatic weirdo desperate for an excuse to machine-gun people.

1. Neoconservative. Like the other Expendables films, this third entry continues the work of conditioning the American male to accept overseas hellraising and mass murder as an exciting career opportunity, or at least as something deserving of their patriotic admiration. “I am the Hague,” Stallone says in triumph, alluding to his famous line from Judge Dredd (1995). In other words, the United States as the indispensable superpower and global force for gay, is exceptional in that it constitutes in itself – and even through the acts of its lowliest mercenaries – the world’s judge, jury, and executioner. “Very tribal,” Gibson says of the Expendables’ penchant for ritual murder – leaving the viewer to determine which Tribe he has referenced in his remark. As usual with this sort of movie, too, there is a dig at nationalist Russia, with Gibson spending some time there and giving the impression that Putin’s New Nazi Germany Russia is some sort of haven for evildoers.

The CIA no longer even cares if Americans know it conducts dirty wars through mercenary proxies. “This one’s off the books. I’m not even here,” says Ford, clearly thinking himself very cute. Those incorrigible Central Intelligence scamps! Oh, well – boys will be boys. Maybe a couple of decades from now, Hollywood will be making action movies celebrating the “ISIS” scam and the takedown of the evil Assad regime. “We killed a lot, but we saved more lives than you can possibly imagine,” Gibson excuses his days as a hired assassin for the Company. Whatever.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

kinopoisk.ru

Nothing epitomizes the summer movie season like a big, blustering, CGI-saturated blockbuster about giant, battling, alien robots. This installment stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a down-on-his-luck robotics engineer and single father living in “Texas, U.S.A.” (as a caption conveniently informs those viewers uncertain which country Texas occupies). Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), get swept up in military-industrial machinations and even intergalactic warfare when he discovers the wreck of a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime.

Inconveniently, CIA eminence grise Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is secretly rounding up all the Transformers he can find and delivering these to military contractor KSI, headed by arrogant weenie Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the idea being to corner the technology and create a totally automated U.S. military. Meanwhile, Attinger’s robot co-conspirator Lockdown, along with new creation Galvatron, may not be the controllable assets Joyce and Attinger confidently believe these to be.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly the explosion-packed, lightning-paced action extravaganza fans are expecting, with quite a few close shaves, noisy weapons exotica, nasty, slime-spewing creatures, and one particularly suspenseful moment with characters inching their way along cables suspended high in the air while harried by Lockdown’s robotic hell-hounds. Younger audiences are sure to be in awe. The film’s themes are, however, more adult than juvenile, and parents may be concerned to know that Age of Extinction contains several frightening incidents and one especially noteworthy death scene, that of comic relief slacker Lucas (T.J. Miller), that is too graphically disturbing to be appropriate for children. The film runs a little overlong, and the ending, reminiscent of Prometheus (2012), has Optimus Prime setting out on a new adventure and so setting up the inevitable next installment of the popular toy adaptation franchise.

4 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Transformers: Age of Extinction is:

8. Anti-torture. “This is worse than waterboarding,” robot Brains complains at being shocked by an electric jolt.

7. Pro-serfdom. Tessa aspires to do her part to inflate the American college bubble by applying for financial aid to go to university. The film attempts to milk sympathy from a rejection letter.

6. New age, lending credence to the idea that Earth was once visited by ancient aliens.

5. Corporate, featuring prominent product placement for Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, Giorgio Armani, and Red Bull.

4. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Negroid-voiced Transformer Brains exults at being “free at last!” Lucas, objecting to partner Cade’s cutthroat business practices, also alludes to slavery.

3. Capitalist, offering a sympathetic portrait of the struggling small business owner in Cade. Early scenes of the hero’s domestic existence convey a definite impression of an America in economic decline.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Joyce falls for the head executive of his company’s China branch (Bingbing Li).

1. Antiwar, anti-state, and anti-cronyism. Attinger, head of CIA black ops and military contractor KSI’s best customer, expects to take a seven-figure salary with the company after leaving government “service”. Since the Battle of Chicago, a cataclysmic 9/11-like event in which America was attacked by Decepticons and defended by the Autobots, a paranoid police state has taken hold, with Decepticons and Autobots alike being hunted down and neutralized by the fearmongering CIA. Transformers: Age of Extinction also gives a timely illustration of federal authoritarian overreach when CIA agents, with no warrant and no regard for human dignity or life, raid Cade’s property and threaten to murder his daughter. The movie expresses Americans’ discomfort over the advent of drones, as well.

 

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Escape Plan

Sylvester Stallone, who previously suffered and grunted to great effect in the excellent Lock Up (1989), gets thrown into the slammer again in Escape Plan as Ray Breslin, the Harry Houdini of incarceration. Breslin is so adept at egress from maximum security penitentiaries that he actually makes his living at it, hiring out his services to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and going undercover in different correctional institutions across the country to test their tightness. Breslin finds himself in the bind of his life when he agrees to try his hand at the Tomb, a CIA-commissioned, privately operated black prison “off the grid” and designed for containing dissidents the government would prefer to see “disappeared”. This time Breslin’s sentence is more than a game.

A gray-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger plays second fiddle to Stallone’s hero, but does add considerably to the fun of the film. He is given one moment of greatness equal to his larger-than-life persona when, in testosterone-mainlining slow motion, he levels a machine gun and mows down a gallery of disposable baddies. Jim Caviezel, unfortunately, is inadequate to the task of furnishing proper antagonism for the likes of the two leading titans. Sam Neill collects a paycheck for playing a tiny supporting role as the prison’s doctor, while Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson keeps it real representin’ the African-American computer genius community as Breslin’s loyal “techno-thug” Hush.

Escape Plan has exactly two things going for it: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The script is lame and about as original as the title, with typical lines of dialogue being, “You hit like a vegetarian”; “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, motherfucker!”; and, still more amazing, this brilliantly sarcastic coup of a zinger: “Have a lovely day, asshole.” Weaknesses aside, the story is fast-paced, the performances are fun, and the dynamite action combo of Stallone and Schwarzenegger will be a difficult one for fans to resist.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Escape Plan is:

7. Anti-tobacco. A guard’s routine of taking a smoke break causes him to be distracted.

6. Pro-miscegenation. The streets of New Orleans teem with interraciality.

5. Anti-Christian. Schwarzenegger, putting on a show of insanity for the guards, spouts religious nonsense in German. Stallone tears a page out of a Bible and burns it.

4. Anti-torture. Guards pummel Stallone and force water down Schwarzenegger’s throat with a hose.

3. Anti-neoconservative. The Tomb, with its savagery, high-tech surveillance, and disregard for citizens’ constitutional rights, serves as a microcosm of life in post-9/11 America. Giving the lie to the Islam-bashers, Muslim prisoners are violent only when they are provoked.

2. Anti-cronyism/anti-capitalistic. The Tomb is operated by “Blackwater rejects” who do the dirty work of corrupt, authoritarian governments and international bankers. “From a financial standpoint I like it,” Breslin’s business partner (Vincent D’Onofrio) says on hearing about the Tomb and the money he stands to make by cooperating with the CIA. Schwarzenegger is an anarchist or revolutionary of some sort who seeks to bring down the financial establishment.

1. Anti-state. The Tomb is administered by the significantly monickered Mr. Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who boasts, “In here you have no control over any part of your life, except your breathing.” Of interest, too, is the deindividuated design of the brutal prison screws, who wear S.W.A.T.-flavored get-ups and charcoal-black masks with Caucasian features. Could this be a commentary on the reality of life under fake black president B.O., whose ballyhooed skin color masks exactly the same opportunism that motivated his predecessors in office?

Tyler Perry, wearing men’s clothes for a change, plays the titular Detroit police detective in this adequate serial killer thriller.  Cross, along with partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), comes up against a worthy adversary in a sadistic assassin (Matthew Fox) dubbed “Picasso” for his eccentricity of leaving charcoal drawings as signature clues.  The leads are serviceable, with Fox turning in an intense performance, but the script is uninteresting.  Neither woefully dull nor particularly memorable, Alex Cross is a passable evening’s diversion, but hardly essential action viewing.  It earns 3 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Alex Cross is:

12. Anti-corporate/philanthropy-skeptical.  European magnate Monsieur Mercier (Jean Reno), who poses as the industrial savior of Detroit, is actually just a criminal and murderer.

11. Anti-drug.  Mercier’s assistant is a drug addict.

10. State-skeptical/ambivalent.  The police chief (John McGinley) is running for mayor and so speaks in platitudes and thinks only of what will benefit him politically rather than what will protect the citizens.  The federal government, however, receives an endorsement when Cross and Tommy decide to apply for gigs with the FBI.

9. Anti-military/anti-torture.  Cross, going by the killer’s refinement of torture techniques, guesses that Picasso is ex-military.  “Inflicting pain is a crucial part of my true calling,” the killer says later, seeming to validate Cross’s hypothesis.

8. Feminist.  When Tommy surmises from a victim’s lavish lifestyle that the woman must have had a rich man in her life, his tough girlfriend/colleague Monica (Rachel Nichols) objects, “Is that your only idea for how a woman could get money?”  “It was very sexy to be saved by a beautiful woman,” one of the Germans (Werner Daehn) flirts.

7. Pro-police.  With the exception of top brass, policemen are honest and hardworking.

6. Pro-vigilante.  Notwithstanding the above, Cross and Tommy find it necessary to throw out the rulebook and do things their own way, breaking into a station at night and stealing evidence.  Cross understandably has personally motivated vengeance in mind after his wife is killed.

5. Christian.  Cross’s name suggests the special relationship of blacks with God and Christian suffering, and the character is an appropriately spiritual man, retreating to a chapel for meditation after the death of his wife.  Blacks enjoy singing a hymn at a funeral (“I sing because I’m free” – from slavery, presumably, in black-run Detroit).

4. Multiculturalist.  Alex Cross celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, other minorities, women, and even whites.  The friendship the protagonist shares with partner Tommy Kane handily demonstrates the multiculturalist ideal of color-blind brotherhood.  (Together they eat at McDonald’s, probably worthy of their patronage and of mention in the film because of its progressive 365Black promotion.)  Detroit appears as a mostly orderly and suprisingly Caucasian multicultural city.  Mrs. Cross (Carmen Ejogo) even puts in an endorsement for the city’s post-apocalyptic public schools when she voices reluctance to move because it would mean taking her children out of Detroit’s public institutions of learning.  “I have no idea what the public school system is like in D.C.,” she worries.  (Could it be worse?)  Glimpses of the actual Detroit occur, however, in a few ruined buildings and abandoned theaters like the Michigan Palace, once home to rock bands like Iggy and the Stooges, but now just a picturesque parking garage.  Also, an indication of the city’s real crime problem is given when Tommy says, “Witnesses?  This is Detroit.  Nobody’s sayin’ anything.”

3. Anti-white male.  Apart from Tommy, white men are either dishonest, incompetent, cowardly, rude, or psychotic.  The white male as usual furnishes the profile of America’s typical terrorist threat.  Picasso’s close haircut also reminds viewers to be aware of the undying skinhead menace.  A group of German security guards illustrates the tight-assed, “Ja wohl”-spitting constipation of personality to which whites are prone when left to themselves on whole continents for centuries (and also the inferiority of private security contractors to public authorities like Cross).

2. Pro-family/pro-marriage.  Cross is a model husband and father.

1. Black supremacist.  Alex Cross is the sort of character one only encounters in the movies: the hyper-intelligent, cultured, spiritual, upstanding black citizen, family man, badass, invaluable public servant, and super-sleuth who could probably catch Sherlock Holmes napping on the job.  Alex Cross is the paragon Shaft only dreams of emulating, a character who exists not in any recognizable reality, but solely for the purpose of salving blacks’ insecurities as to what they like to imagine is their superiority in every category of human or animal endeavor.  He inhabits a fantasy world in which black people practice at the piano, play chess, eat in fancy restaurants, and respectfully say, “Yes, Ma’am” to their elders.  Also possessed of Lecter-like superhuman senses that enable him, through faint odors or minute stains, to divine everything his wife has eaten or what errands she has run during her day, Cross is uniquely suited to perfectly, almost psychically, reconstruct crime scenes.  “It’s like working with sixth-graders with you two,” he tells colleagues.  One assumes that his penis is also quite large when he makes a condescending reference to Tommy’s “little chip”.  An establishing shot of a sculpture of the Madonna creates a parallel between Cross’s murdered pregnant wife and the mother of Jesus, hinting that the hero, if not for the evil meddling of his white antagonist, might have fathered a new messiah, which in turn would suggest that Cross, the son-sacrificing black man, is, as Jeremiah Wright would aver, the manifestation of God on Earth.

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