Tag Archives: Eddie Marsan

Atomic Blonde (2017, David Leitch)

Far more often than not, Atomic Blonde is not more than it is. Atomic Blonde is not a “realistic” late eighties spy thriller à la Graham Greene or even John le Carré (see, I can do nineties “New Yorker” levels of extra too). It’s not a James Bond movie with a female lead (Charlize Theron). It’s not a great part for Theron. It might be a great role–Blonde’s got its problems but none hurt the idea of a sequel for Theron. In fact, if it weren’t filled with so many twists and turns–which is, unfortunately, what Atomic Blonde is, what it wants endeavors to be—full of twists and turns. Because Blonde really doesn’t care about logic, it cares about effect. I was going to say impact and effect but… actually, not so much impact. Because Blonde also isn’t some amazing all-out action picture with Theron kicking ass for a hundred minutes set to an amazing eighties soundtrack. There’s some Theron kicking ass, there’s some excellent action, there’s some… great songs… adequately applied, but all of those successes are extremely qualified.

First—Theron. Who is in every scene save a handful and the action is centered around her. She’s a British spy going to West Berlin to get a master list of spies out of East Berlin before the wall falls or the Soviets find it. Now, maybe biggest logic problem in the movie? Who made the stupid list. See, there’s the super-secret double agent who is doing terrible damage. Double agent British and Soviet, so originally a British spy, but then turned to the Soviets. The movie takes a while to introduce that detail—originally Theron just thinks the list is about not outing all the other spies, she’s not even aware of the double agent until the action in the movie takes place. Also there’s a dead ex-lover in Berlin. There’s a lot. And Blonde does a good job establishing it. The first act is incredibly solid. But once it becomes clear it’s not going to do anything particularly interesting with Theron or anyone else… it gets a little tedious. Even the action, which isn’t good.

See, Blonde increases the spans without action as the film progresses. Less action overall, longer action scenes. Sometimes it’s a car chase all in a “continuous” shot, sometimes it’s a fistfight. Actually, in the case of the car chase, it’s the fistfight then the car chase. It’s a whole lot. Atomic Blonde can be a lot, but never quite the right a lot. Where to gets going in the third act, with all the reveals and consequences of twists… there’s enough material it could’ve been a much better part for Theron. If it had been more Graham Green or John le Carré. Or if it had been less. If it had just been the action, the endurance aspect would’ve been awesome for Theron. The in-between doesn’t leave her much in the end. Potential for a better written sequel, which isn’t great.

It would also help if James McAvoy weren’t so bland. He’s the British West Berlin station chief and he’s “gone native,” or so spymaster Toby Jones worries, which immediately makes McAvoy suspicious re: the double agent to the audience and Theron and even Bond girl French spy Sofia Boutella, but not Jones or big boss James Faulkner or, seemingly, anyone in Berlin. Maybe it’s bad exposition on the double agent thing. Blonde sometimes rushes exposition—it leverages the direction, the photography (Jonathan Sela), Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir’s excellent but underutilized editing, and lead Theron being cool to get over the pesky details. Blonde avoids the details of the twists and turns to get the effect. Hence the aforementioned lack of impact.

Anyway.

Director Leitch doesn’t care enough about the soundtrack—and, I’ve been wanting Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” in an action movie since the late nineties and it’s finally in one and it’s in a very problematic sequence involving Bond girl Boutella. They do a really weird job of establishing Boutella in the film—including via a Blow Out homage—and she’s one of the film’s biggest misses. Biggest miss? James McAvoy. He’s got less heft as a Berlin spy in the late eighties than Til Schweiger, who’s in three thirty second scenes, with no close-ups, always sitting down. Theron carries McAvoy through their scenes, which isn’t easy because she doesn’t get a lot of lines opposite him. She does with some of the other characters, but McAvoy’s supposed to be dominating their scenes and Theron literally has to hold it up with silent energy. McAvoy’s exhausting. And he never pays off, even in a little, in performance or script. The latter isn’t the bigger problem but it never giving McAvoy anything good, even at the end… eh.

McAvoy being so bland hurts the rest of the cast. John Goodman being bland in a much smaller role, an extended cameo maybe—he’d be able to get away with it if it were’t for McAvoy. Even Jones, who does an entirely serviceable job… it’d be nice if he had some personality. Faulkner’s good though. Eddie Marsan’s good enough. Roland Møller and Bill Skarsgård are both fine and likable, but there’s not much for them to actually do.

As a “Charlize Theron, action hero” vehicle, Atomic Blonde’s solid enough. But it’s not Atomic or Blonde and doesn’t even really try to be. It’s perfunctory.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by David Leitch; screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, based on a graphic novel by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart; director of photography, Jonathan Sela; edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, David Scheunemann; costume designer, Cindy Evans; produced by A.J. Dix, Eric Gitter, Beth Kono, Kelly McCormick, Peter Schwerin, and Charlize Theron; released by Focus Features.

Starring Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), Eddie Marsan (Spyglass), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Roland Møller (Aleksander Bremovych), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), James Faulkner (Chief ‘C’), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), Bill Skarsgård (Merkel), and Til Schweiger (Watchmaker).


The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997, Jon Amiel)

As unlikely as it might seem, The Man Who Knew Too Little could have been really good. Here’s the basic plot–an American rube, who loves movies and television so much he knows the lines, is confused for a dangerous psychopathic hitman involved in international intrigue while vacationing in the UK. All of his hitman lines, for example, could be from movies or something.

Instead, Too Little is a train wreck of a star vehicle for Bill Murray. One has to wonder if co-stars Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher and Alfred Molina recognized Murray’s terrible performance on set. If they did, and still managed such good performances opposite him, it says something about their skill… and professionalism.

Murray is awful. Obviously, the script is at fault to some degree, but it’s really Murray. An engaged actor could have overcome any script problems.

However, Murray’s not entirely at fault for Too Little. Director Amiel is the other obvious culprit. Amiel’s attempts at a spy thriller–even a spoof of a spy thriller–are awful. He apparently told composer Christopher Young to make the score sound like a Pink Panther cartoon. Young’s credited as “Chris Young” here… maybe he was embarrassed by the lame score. It’s technically fine, just stupid.

Another fine performance is from Anna Chancellor, in her too small role as Gallagher’s wife. Of course, the film forgets about branding she and Gallagher terrorists so it can get to its idiotic finish.

Too Little is dreadful and shouldn’t have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jon Amiel; screenplay by Robert Farrar and Howard Franklin, based on a novel by Farrar; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Pamela Power and Paul Karasick; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Arnon Milchan, Michael G. Nathanson and Mark Tarlov; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bill Murray (Wallace Ritchie), Peter Gallagher (James Ritchie), Joanne Whalley (Lori), Alfred Molina (Boris ‘The Butcher’ Blavasky), Richard Wilson (Sir Roger Daggenhurst), John Standing (Gilbert Embleton), Simon Chandler (Hawkins), Geraldine James (Dr. Ludmilla Kropotkin), Anna Chancellor (Barbara Ritchie), Nicholas Woodeson (Sergei), Cliff Parisi (Uri), Dexter Fletcher (Otto) and Eddie Marsan (Mugger #1).


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Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009, Julian Jarrod)

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from 1974 but I didn’t get it. I think I thought it was a serial killer investigation, based on a real case. Instead, it’s this melodramatic crusading reporter thing, with the serial killings taking a back seat to that emphasis. Except then the crusading reporter thing takes a back seat to the romance between the reporter and one of the serial killer’s victim’s mother’s. Is that enough possessive apostrophes? I’m not sure about the last one.

It’s a good looking film–Jarrod’s directorial style appears to be directly informed by The Ice Storm, which is a fine thing to ape, and Rob Hardy’s cinematography is phenomenal. Adrian Johnston’s score really makes a lot of scenes work. Until the third act, when the film drowns in its own self-importance. Even Johnston’s score is weak at that point and Jarrod ends the film on one of the silliest final shots ever. Laughable, really.

Lead Andrew Garfield’s better than I would have expected, seeing as how his performance in Lions for Lambs is one of the worst performances in cinema. It doesn’t hurt the supporting cast could carry him, but they don’t really need to. I never would have guessed he wasn’t British.

Rebecca Hall’s grieving, broken mother is a singular performance. Eddie Marsan gives a great performance (no surprise) as a slightly comedic heavy.

And Sean Bean looks right for the era.

It’s a silly melodrama, but convincingly pretends it isn’t for a while.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Julian Jarrold; screenplay by Tony Grisoni, based on a novel by David Peace; director of photography, Rob Hardy; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by Adrian Johnston; production designer, Cristina Casali; produced by Wendy Brazington, Andrew Eaton and Anita Overland; released by Channel 4.

Starring Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), Sean Bean (John Dawson), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland), Eddie Marsan (Jack Whitehead), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson) and Peter Mullan (Martin Laws).


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Happy-Go-Lucky (2008, Mike Leigh)

I’m not sure how I feel about Panavision Mike Leigh. Dick Pope’s cinematography–and the film’s overall color scheme too–is very vibrant. Happy-Go-Lucky is a peppy, bright, Panavision Mike Leigh film. It’s got a loud–good, but loud–score (from Gary Yershon); the score’s peppy too. There’s a very definite arc to the film, with a predictable ending. It’s improvised like the rest of Leigh’s films, but it’s going for a different effect–it’s a comedy. If Hugh Grant showed up in Happy-Go-Lucky, he wouldn’t be at all out of place. In fact, he might even be a good addition to it.

The film has a deceptively small dramatic vehicle–always happy schoolteacher and all around nice person Sally Hawkins has her bike stolen so she has to learn to drive, introducing her to misanthropic driving instructor Eddie Marsan. Will Marsan eventually fall under her–unintentional–spell? I spent most of the film hoping not, since the driving scenes would only add up to something–other than just being Hawkins in driving classes, not an epical framework for a narrative–if there’s a culminating scene with Marsan freaking out and screaming at her for being so happy.

So happy-go-lucky.

The film presents Hawkins as a little annoying in her constant jubilance, but she is a good person. There’s a scene–maybe in the middle–where it’s clear Hawkins is such a good person, she sometimes puts it before her personal safety. So raising the question of her motives for her behavior in the conclusion and subjecting the viewer to a traditional romantic comedy self-reflective montage… it’s wrong. Happy-Go-Lucky spends most of its time meandering, only to get real close to attaining something special at the end, then decides to be a romantic comedy instead.

It’s a Mike Leigh movie with an intentional comic set piece. Sure, Karina Fernandez’s flamenco teacher is hilarious–but it’s a fake moment in a Mike Leigh film. It’s a good, fake moment, exactly the type of thing a theater-full of romantic comedy goers would love to see. I really enjoyed it, but it’s the type of thing where the followup joke involves Hugh Grant learning to flamenco.

Hawkins is great, no question, as is Marsan. She makes the character work, usually during the quiet scenes. The supporting cast is all solid–Alexis Zegerman plays her roommate (there are a few comments about the pair having a romantic relationship, but it’s all in jest… the movie might have worked better if it hadn’t been), Samuel Roukin’s her romantic interest (they have a lovely romantic comedy conclusion).

The stuff Leigh drops–the unique material Happy-Go-Lucky initially tries to discuss (racism, abuse)–is almost forgotten by the end. The lengthy comedy material makes it all disappear, swept under the carpet during one of the funnier scenes perhaps.

But Leigh also introduces the idea Hawkins’s innocence, her demeanor, will eventually land her in hot water. He exploits the viewer’s concern for the character, the concern he’s created for just that reason–to add tension to a number of scenes. It’s a standard move, occasionally honest, occasionally not, always with good acting from Hawkins. But the move’s a middling one, not the kind of thing I expect from Mike Leigh, lovely Panavision composition or no lovely Panavision composition.

Oddly, Leigh’s a great Panavision composer. His shots are magnificent… like he spent more time on how the shots look than what goes on in them.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mike Leigh; director of photography, Dick Pope; edited by Jim Clark; music by Gary Yershon; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by Simon Channing Williams; released by Momentum Pictures.

Starring Sally Hawkins (Poppy), Eddie Marsan (Scott), Alexis Zegerman (Zoe), Andrea Riseborough (Dawn), Sinéad Matthews (Alice), Kate O’Flynn (Suzy), Sarah Niles (Tash), Sylvestra le Touzel (Heather), Karina Fernandez (the flamenco teacher) and Stanley Townsend (Tramp).


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