That persona is intact—he reads Proust and Ta-Nehisi Coates—but there’s more of a common action hero in him this time along with a few logical problems. His job these days is to drive for Lyft, the Uber alternative, but his previous calling, intelligence agent, keeps pulling him back. His former supervisor (Melissa Leo) is killed in Brussels where she went to investigate some previous murders, and with advice from a former associate (Pedro Pascal) he tries to find out what’s going on. The film doesn’t explain that very well, something about a rogue group bitter over government cut backs. It switches back and forth among several locations far too often and yet the Equalizer does much of his sleuthing just on a smart phone. Some of his key insights appear to him in a dream. Credibility gets a real test though when the two main adversaries choose to hold their climactic fight on a tower, in the middle of a hurricane. Despite all that, and thanks to Washington’s appealing charm and Antoine Fuqua’s brisk direction, this film will keep you engaged. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT: Joaquin Phoenix delivers another of his remarkable performances in this true story of a quadriplegic who became a celebrity cartoonist. He really does disappear into the role as John Callahan from Portland, Oregon back when Jimmy Carter was president. He was prone to self-pity because he was adopted (mom “didn’t want me”), became an aimless alcoholic and one night, being driven to yet another party, was paralyzed in an accident. His friend, played by Jack Black, had fallen asleep at the wheel but escaped with only scratches.
John was the prisoner of two on-going processes in his life. There’s the difficult therapy he had to undergo. We see and get a good understanding of it because it’s quite graphically displayed, or as in the case of his sexual needs, discussed. (Some of that is shown too, but tastefully). We also see him at AA meetings listening to alcoholics bare their soul and a leader offering advice. Jonah Hill plays that role straight and forcefully. He scolds, shames, encourages, prods him to work through the 12-step program and suggests he turn his talent for doodling into a career as a cartoonist. Getting published wasn’t easy and then controversial because of his acerbic humor. The film’s title was one of his captions. Ultimately there’s a bigger struggle. He was told to forgive everybody, including his mother, the driver and himself. It’s an emotional journey, well-crafted by director Gus Van Sant, making a strong comeback after some duds. Rooney Mara plays a girlfriend and there's a song Callahan recorded playing during the end credits. (5th Avenue) 3 ½ out of 5
MARY SHELLEY: Young women finding their own way is a big theme right now. It up above in Mamma Mia, next week in Eighth Grade and here in the story of the woman who wrote Frankenstein. This film uses the Masterpiece Theatre approach to tell it, with fine period set design and eloquent performances of an intelligent script. Whatever unsavory elements appear in this tale are delivered with a sheen of class.