Robert Redford’s Vancouver movie, Michael Bay’s Miami comedy and Terrence Malick on the wonder of love
Another week with multiple new titles. There’s political resistance in two countries, a post-global warming terror, a trio of inept crooks, big stars in a low-brow comedy and more.
Here’s the list:
The Company You Keep: 3 ½ stars
Pain & Gain: 2 ½
To The Wonder: 3
The Big Wedding: 1 ½
Like Someone in Love: 4
Clandestine Childhood: 4
The Colony 2 ½
Tai Chi Hero: not reviewed
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP: It almost seems like the distributor lost faith in this one between the Toronto film festival last fall, the U.S. debut three weeks ago and now its arrival in Vancouver. There should be more fanfare. This is the film Robert Redford made here a year and a half ago, showing great use of many locations that you’ll recognize and sprinkling local actors like Gabrielle Rose and Lochlyn Munro into a high-powered cast that includes four Oscar winners. More significantly, the story is strong and touches on big themes like direct political action and ethics in journalism.
Redford plays a lawyer in upstate New York who’s forced to face up to his history when a reporter (Shia LaBeouf) comes asking questions. Was he in the radical anti-war group The Weathermen, 40 years earlier? Was he involved in a murder during a bank robbery? A former member (Susan Sarandon) has come out of hiding and Shia senses there’s a story in Redford too. So does the FBI, headed by Terrence Howard. The film becomes a chase as Redford, with both cops and the reporter on his tail, seeks out former associates (Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott) trying to find a still-firebrand radical played by Julie Christie.
The film doesn’t build a great deal of tension, slows down towards the end and resolves too easily but along the way there’s much to think about. What drives an activist? (Just as relevant now, as during the Viet Nam war). When do you let go of your mistakes? The work of the reporter, and his motivations, get special attention. And Vancouver, even with that Esso station, fills in nicely for several American cities. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5
PAIN & GAIN: What’s this? A Michael Bay movie and only one explosion? Has the man behind the Tranformers movies, Bad Boys I and II and Armageddon changed his ways? No, it’s just a less noisy interlude with a true story that took place in Miami, his sometime hometown. He’s made a fairly funny but heavy-handed comedy.
Mark Wahlberg plays a conman who runs a gym and is motivated by a TV pitch for a “Get Rich Now” seminar to rob one of his clients. It’s his way of fulfilling the American dream, he explains with true-believer fervor whenever he can. He recruits a co-worker (Anthony Mackie) and a born-again ex-drunk (Dwayne Johnson) and they kidnap the guy, torture him until he signs over his assets to them and then try to kill him. They’re a bumbling trio of criminals, hopped-up on steroids and in the case of Johnson’s dim- witted character, Jesus and then cocaine. When they use a taser on a victim, it’s funny but your capacity to laugh will be tested when they get on to a chainsaw and an axe. The story, based on a series of magazine articles, is highly compressed, not dark enough but essentially accurate. Two of the real characters are on death row, still filing appeals. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5