True Grit, The Fighter, The Town
Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross in the Cohen brothers' latest film.
When it comes to epic films, everyone loves a soul quest – an adventure where the characters learn a valuable and profound lesson about themselves. And let's face it - some good punching, shooting, slashing and general fisticuffs makes that journey all the more heroic. That punching, shooting, slashing and general fisticuffs is not just for the guys.
In the three mini-reviews below, my hat gets tipped to newcomer Hailee Steinfeld and somewhat-veteran Amy Adams, who both would eat Carrie Bradshaw for dinner when it comes to girl power.
Mattie Ross' (Hailee Steinfeld) father has been slain by a hired hand, and she is none too pleased. With more grit and poise than most adults, she marches into town to demand revenge. She hires local drunken sloth (and revered marshall) Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) because she has heard he has “true grit” to accompany her into Indian territory to find and kill her father's assailant, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Along the way they collide with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants Mattie for his own purposes.
The three embark on an adventure in which each has their turn to test their own true grit – encountering weather obstacles, mean encounters with other cowboys, disease, injury and death the whole way.
They don't make Westerns like they used to. The Cohen brother's most recent work stirs up another time, both in history and in film, while simultaneously throwing in the odd wink-wink, nudge-nudge at a genre that helped define American cinema (it's a remake of a 1969 film of the same title, with John Wayne in the Rooster role).
While Daniels delivers his usual gusto, Steinfeld steals the show. Her guts and glory make you want to stand up and shout.
This film doesn't pack the same wollop as 2007's No Country for Old Men, a Cohen brothers film that evokes the feeling of a modern Western. But it has that storybook feel complete with amusing dirty talk and even dirtier cowboy showdowns that keeps you engrossed in the quest, and make you feel you've learned something about days gone by.
Whether it's 19th or 21st century America, a good fight to prove a point never goes astray. Former glory man Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) was once the famous “pride of Lowell” for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. Now he's famous for being the local crack addict, so much so that HBO is making a documentary about him. Dicky now coaches his little half-bro Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). But Ward's own potential is quickly fading. The boys' tough-as-nails mother Alice (Melissa Leno) manages Micky's career, although the seemingly endless string of lost fights combined with Dicky's drug problem is tearing the family apart.
Enter Micky's new iron-willed girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), who convinces him to sever ties with his volatile and destructive family in order to reach his full potential and become a prize-winning fighter. As his star begins to rise, Micky's mother, brother and savage clan of sisters are ripping at each other's throats, and it becomes questionable whether they'll survive as a family.
Bale delivers another sickly-skinny and twitchy-tormented performance (think 2004's The Machinist), and Adams fights and swears like a sailor, abandoning her usually sweet-as-pie character performance to play a feisty, don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-rip-your-f**kin-throat-out role to remember.
In a film that tests familial ties, brotherhood, and kinship, the journey all characters endure is one that resonates, even if the film's pacing is a little slow. While it lacks a well-defined lead (a la Rocky Balboa) which would help push this film into true glory, the guys will leave the theatre with fists pumping at the climax.
From one brotherhood film to another, The Town follows two Boston bros who live a life of crime. Doug MacKray (Ben Affleck) and his would-be-brother James (Jeremy Renner) have been robbing banks and selling drugs for years. But when Doug falls for a victim in a recent bank robbery, things get complicated. What will happen to the brother's relationship?
With themes very similar to The Fighter, this film is underrated. The story is powerful, and the writing/directing is solid, representing all characteristics and rules on how to write a screenplay.
There are clearly marked plot points, turning points, and the characters all embark on a journey that changes them in some way, shape or form. This is perhaps a strength and a weakness in the film, as the chase and shooting scenes sometimes seem obligatory instead of a seemingly natural event. We very occasionally remember that we're watching a film, instead of losing ourselves in the characters and plot.
However, Affleck's directing chops are solid. He has potential to be a great one, whose relationships with actors is close and effective. The characters are likeable, despite their faults, and we are mostly involved in the story. Blake Lively delivers a charged performance as Renner's drugged up, single-mother sister.