Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get your heart ripped out here

Repo Men
My rating:

Ah, dystopian sci-fi. Has there been a lot of 'em in the past year-or-so, or did I just start noticing them when I began reviewing movies? Going through my archives, there's been District 9, Gamer, Surrogates, and Daybreakers - and without exception, all of them have been action movies. They've all also used their sci-fi premises to make pointed jabs at societal trends and current issues, and the blend of action and social satire is often not an easy one; I noted this in my Surrogates review, but it applies to most of the movies on the above list, really.

And it definitely applies to this one.

Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are "repo men". They work for The Union, a corporation that manufactures and sells artificial organs that can replace any part of the human body - and when their owners can't keep up with their payments, their boss Frank (Liev Schreiber) assigns them the job of repossessing the organs, by literally cutting them out of their owners' bodies and leaving them for dead. When an accident leaves him with an artificial heart, Remy grows disillusioned with the job and can no longer perform it; moreso when his wife (Carice van Houten) leaves him and he sinks deeper into despair. He falls for a woman named Beth (Alice Braga) who is also a defaulter on several "artiforgs", and joins her as a fugitive from the system, one of the very people he once hunted. But The Union's repo men are very good at what they do - especially his best friend Jake.

It started out pretty good actually. The script is smart, the dialogue is sharp, the performances are engaging, and the near-future world is well-realised. The premise is clearly a metaphor for the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and the public healthcare debate - although, in the latter case, it's not so much a metaphor as it is an anvil. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that per se; it's the nature of the science fiction genre to take current trends and extrapolate (or even outright exaggerate) them into a vehicle for interesting stories. And there's nothing wrong with combining that with the action movie genre. I like a little thought-provoking with my visceral thrills, and it's been done effectively before; out of the list of dystopian sci-fi films I've reviewed, District 9 is a good example.

But while it does a generally good job at exploring its premise, it's not so good at managing the audience's expectations. Which is that we're expecting an action movie, but there are long stretches of little action and uneven pacing. It's quite enjoyably gory, both in its action scenes and the parts where the repo men are doing a job, and I think the subject matter calls for just such an unflinching approach to bloody onscreen violence. (There's a bit towards the end that could perhaps be described as a "surgery sex scene", and it's pretty damn cool.) The problem is that the film feels aimless and dull in its midsection, when Remy and Beth are simply trying to survive day-to-day in the blasted, almost post-apocalyptic city slums. And again, there'd be nothing wrong with that if we weren't expecting an action movie, in which pacing is everything.

Then we got to the ending. Oh man, what an ending. That ending really throws the whole dichotomy between action movie and social satire into sharp relief. I don't want to spoil it, but... y'see, action movies depend on creating protagonists that the audience can root for. For an action scene to work, you have to care for the hero(es) and want them to survive and succeed at what they're fighting for. Not every movie has to be like this, of course; other genres can be more complex and ambiguous in their storytelling, such as thrillers and dramas and, oh yeah, satires. This movie, which combines action with sci-fi satire, has an ending that proves it got its combination all wrong. I would've given it 3-½ stars, for being a flawed but decent dystopian sci-fi action movie, if it weren't for that total shoot-itself-in-the-foot ending.

Still, 3 stars means there's a lot that I liked about it. As I mentioned, the writing is smart and sharp; there's a conversation between Remy and Frank in which Frank justifies the murderous nature of their job in a very believable way, the exact way such banal evil can come to rise in the first place. And speaking of the banality of evil, Liev Schrieber's performance is a standout as the slimy corporate exec who delivers a kindly sales spiel to customers on one hand, and delivers their death warrants to his repo men on the other. Acting is effective all around; Jude Law proves his action hero mojo, Forest Whitaker is always a charismatic presence, and Alice Braga adds a natural likability to an underwritten role.

But I'd advise against getting too attached to these characters. And I'd advise against getting too engaged in this movie - which is practically the opposite of what movies are supposed to do. 'Cos that ending... gaahh. I just want to state for the record that I don't have a problem with that kind of ending per se. It's just that an ending like that in a movie like this - or rather, that kind of satire in this kind of action movie - well, it's not gonna make for a film that will be fondly remembered.

NEXT REVIEW: Phua Chu Kang: The Movie
Expectations: looooowww

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All brawn, not enough brain

The Expendables
My rating:

(Sorry for the loooong gap between updates. TMBF has been unwell, and it's a good thing we're in the post-summer movie doldrums so that I didn't miss much. But it does mean I'm going to miss Tekken, so apologies if you've been breathlessly awaiting my review of that. Two movies in a row that I just know will be bad is a bit much anyway.)

So the big selling point of The Expendables is that it features this supergroup of action stars, particularly veterans of big cheesy testosterone-laded action flicks of the '80s - and honestly, this is a bit of a gyp. Only Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren qualify; Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger only cameo in one non-action scene. Jason Statham and Jet Li have already done two movies together, so their presence is no big deal. Randy Couture and Terry Crews are not action stars, or at least not stars of any worthwhile stature, and neither is WWE wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Mickey Rourke? Not even close. Fact is, it takes more than an over-muscled icon of masculinity to make an action hero.

And it certainly takes more than that to make a good action movie.

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads an elite team of mercenaries comprising Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren). Their coordinator is Tool (Mickey Rourke), who offers them a new assignment from a mysterious "Mr. Church" (Bruce Willis) - overthrow the brutal dictator of the island nation of Vilena, General Garza (David Zayas). After meeting their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie) in Vilena, Barney and Lee discover that Garza is being aided by rogue CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts), who is always accompanied by his hulking bodyguard Paine (Steve Austin). They abort the mission - but later Ross, touched by Sandra's devotion and self-sacrifice, decides to return and finish the job.

Kudos to writer-director Stallone for coming up with the kickass concept behind this movie, at least. He reportedly approached Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, and a part was written for Wesley Snipes; if they'd been in it, then it might have lived up to its hype. But then they'd have to go up against the lame script - and I'm not talking about the plot. The plot is as simple and serviceable as a deliberately unpretentious action flick should be. I'm talking about the dialogue, which is sorely lacking in exactly the kind of cheesy-yet-hilarious one-liners that a deliberate '80s-throwback action flick should have.

Thing is, for a movie that claims to bring back '80s-style action, it doesn't quite seem to know how. There are times when it feels like it wants to be taken seriously, such as Ross's character arc from mercenary to soldier for a cause, and it's not at all convincing; the catalyst for this change is a heartfelt speech from Tool that comes off as clumsy and awkward. I suppose we should be thankful there's no romance between 28-year-old Giselle Itie and 64-year-old Stallone. There's also a subplot regarding Lee's girlfriend (Charisma Carpenter, slumming it after Buffy and Angel) that's completely unrelated to the rest of the movie, even when it does give us a Statham-vs-bunchagoons fight scene; it just feels like padding.

And yet if it's all not meant to be taken seriously, it still doesn't really work. There's little camaraderie or chemistry amongst what's supposed to be an ensemble cast, and their banter feels forced and contrived. (It's telling that Crews and Couture are kept off-screen for the movie's entire midsection, and that only Statham, Li and Lundgren get any significant screentime alongside Stallone.) There's the much-ballyhooed scene between Stallone, Bruce Willis and a cameo-ing Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is fun - but it's too short, and there should really be more of such entertainingly macho posturing than just one scene. As much as this movie probably couldn't have been made without Stallone helming it, he just doesn't have the tongue-in-cheek touch that it needs.

Which is a good thing then that the last half hour of wall-to-wall action almost makes up for the entire movie. It's still marred by spastic camerawork and editing, but complaining about that is pretty much a lost cause now; it seems it's the only way Hollywood (and sometimes even Hong Kong, sadly) knows how to shoot action anymore. Still, there are some neat touches, such as Yin Yang's and Lee's wicked takedown of one of Munroe's henchmen (Gary Daniels, who is apparently some other B-action-movie star), and Ross's cool quick-reload handgun technique. Most importantly, there's a lot of action, of the brutal, bloody, explodey variety - enough that most audiences ought to leave the cinema feeling like they got their money's worth.

But it's clear that, of the summer of 2010's three "men on a mission" movies, The Expendables is the weakest next to The Losers and The A-Team. And don't give me that "but it's meant to be bad!" argument, because it really wasn't - not in the way that would've made it actually enjoyable. You know what this movie was trying to be, and what it should've been? Predator - the first one. By that standard, this movie just doesn't measure up.

Expectations: can't be that bad, can it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The last M. Night Shyamalan movie, hopefully

The Last Airbender
My rating:

I love, love, love Avatar: The Last Airbender. The cartoons of my youth were formulaic, puerile and lame; if this show had been around when I was a kid, it would've felt like a godsend. It was child-friendly yet sophisticated, it balanced broad humour with dead seriousness, it had an epic plot arc as well as terrific character development, and it had awesome, awesome action scenes. I whisked through all three seasons on DVD in about a month, it was that addictive. I'd put it up there as one of the most consistently excellent TV series ever, and one I'd highly recommend to anyone of any age.

Screw you, M. Night Shyamalan.

It is a world divided into four realms - the Water, Earth, Fire, and Air nations - and in each, there are people born with the ability to manipulate their element, called benders. It is also a world in which the rapacious Fire Nation has waged war against the rest of the world for a century. Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), brother and sister members of the Northern Water Tribe, discover a 12-year-old boy frozen in a sphere of ice. His name is Aang (Noah Ringer), he is the Avatar - the one bender able to master all four elements, reborn into every generation to bring balance to the world. But he is hotly pursued by Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) of the Fire Nation, accompanied by his uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub). Zuko has been exiled by his father, Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), and seeks to capture the Avatar to restore his honour in his father's court. But he has a rival in the greedy Commander Zhao (Aasif Mandvi), who wants that glory for himself.

My last Shyamalan movie was Signs, so I've only heard second-hand about his gradual descent into suckiness. But it was evident even in his first three movies. I thought The Sixth Sense was great, as did most everyone else; Unbreakable was an interesting experiment, but only marginally successful; and Signs had a solid buildup spoiled by a truly dumb ending. I eschewed his other three, but when I heard he was signed to direct the live-action film of one of my new favourite animated series, I thought it an... interesting choice. Perhaps the challenge of adapting someone else's material may get him out of the rut he's in. And he's said that he became interested in making the movie because his daughters are huge fans of the Nickelodeon show, which, y'know, sounds nice.

Then he went and made one of the most half-assed adaptations ever put to celluloid. Reams of ink have been spent on how bad it is, but if there's one thing I can add to the storm of opprobrium - which it richly deserves - it is that the film demonstrates Shyamalan's incredible laziness on this job. Yes, the dialogue is laughably bad and ripe with exposition; one particularly egregious example is when Zuko explains his backstory to a child, who already knows it, for the benefit of his uncle who also already knows it. Y'see, this is the real nuts-and-bolts of writing an adaptation of other material, in particular a 20-episode season of a TV series; all that plot, characterization and worldbuilding details need to be condensed into a single feature film. The Last Airbender's screenplay is the work of someone who absolutely does not give a shit.

Shyamalan's lack of shit-giving is evident in so many other respects. Names are mispronounced - Aang, Sokka, Iroh, but the most glaring is when Agni Kai (the ritual honour duel between firebenders) is pronounced "Agni Ki." Appa and Momo, two of Aang's animal companions and beloved characters in their own right, have so little screen time that they're nothing more than bones thrown to the fans. Characterization is all wrong; Aang is dour and morose, Sokka barely cracks a single joke, Katara has zero personality, and Sokka and Princess Yue's (Seychelle Gabriel) romance is reduced to a voiceover telling us that they're in love. Even the special effects are poor; in every scene of waterbending, the difference between real water and CGI is blindingly obvious. And there are senseless changes to the canon; firebenders can no longer generate their own flames, and it takes six earthbenders to move a small rock.

That was in a gloriously stupid scene in which a group of captive earthbenders need to be reminded that there is earth under their feet. What makes this even dumber is that in the series, the earthbenders were held in a metal prison in the middle of the ocean, to prevent them from using their bending. That's the kind of intelligence the cartoon had that this wretched excuse for a movie completely squanders. One episode that is adapted here involves the Blue Spirit rescuing Aang from a Fire Nation stronghold, and the action scene of their escape was just wicked cool - in the series. Shyamalan could've just filmed that scene as is, in live-action - but no, he had to shoot a much duller one. In fact, this and every other action scene is just poorly choreographed; you can plainly see people standing around, trying to look menacing, waiting for their cue to get hit or blown away.

And then there is the racebending. In summary: the TV show was heavily steeped in Asian culture. The world was a fantasy amalgam of Chinese, Japanese, Eskimo, Nepalese and Thai civilizations; the martial arts were actual Chinese kungfu styles; even the writing is Chinese; and the characters are clearly, obviously Asian. The main cast of the movie is Caucasian - hence, accusations of racial whitewashing. Now, what the movie attempts is to create a mixed-race world in which all ethnicities populate every corner of the globe. (Monk Gyatso, Aang's former teacher, is black.) Thing is, this doesn't really work. It's just jarring to see white people dressed in Inuit costumes, or dark-skinned Indians wearing Japanese-style armour and answering to names like Zhao. And it is clear that the studio used this as an excuse to cast the heroes white, because they just couldn't imagine a big-budget blockbuster headlined by Asian actors.

Sigh... this is a terribly complicated issue, and not one I can fully delve into in this review. (There's a terrific article about it here on io9, and some great discussion too in the comments.) But you'd certainly think someone like Shyamalan would be sensitive to such things - which again points to how much he didn't care. And frankly, I would've been okay with white actors playing Aang, Katara and Sokka if they were actually good. Yes, they're bad - very, very bad - but I don't think they're really to blame, because their performances didn't seem like they even had any direction. It's clear that first-time actor Noah Ringer had no guidance whatsoever, and neither did Nicola Peltz, who at least had some acting experience. Dev Patel showed glimmers of talent, but he's saddled with some of the worst lines. Comedian Aasif Mandvi is miscast and ineffectual as the villain. And Cliff Curtis shouldn't even be here - Fire Lord Ozai has literally no role to play in this first chapter.

No, I didn't watch it in 3D, because I value my money and was not about to waste it on a movie with such bad reviews. But I do want to mention a comment in an A.V. Club podcast that said, "background characters have their faces floating on a completely different plane from the rest of their bodies." Again, a director who gave a shit about the movie he is making might have taken an interest in the 3D conversion. Part of a film critic's role is as consumer watchdog, so I feel I should strongly warn against watching this film in 3D. (Better yet, don't watch it at all.)

(And speaking of consumer watchdoggery: I saw this in Cineleisure Damansara. During the first 5 minutes of my screening, the picture was distorted and stretched; I was out of my seat and halfway to the door to complain to the staff before I saw another audience member had done the same. And at the end, it flashed its super-annoying "please do not leave your belongings behind" message over the end credits the very instant the movie ended. Again. This is a huge buzzkill at the end of a movie, or at least it would be in a better movie. I think I'll be taking my business to GSC 1Utama more often now.)

I've just realized that this review is clearly written as a comparison between the movie and the animated series. Apologies to those unfamiliar with the latter for whom my references to it may have been confusing, and let me reiterate again that it rocks epically and you should totally watch it. This movie, on the other hand, is utter suck and fail. It's occurred to me that I rarely give 1-½-star ratings to Hollywood films, and that I've only done it once before. But then I thought of Chris Columbus, one of TMBF's favourite whipping boys, who makes similar family-friendly fantasy adventures. And I realized that, if Columbus had directed this, it would probably have turned out better. So yes, a filmmaker with this much contempt for his source material, its fans, even the general audience, absolutely deserves my critical excoriation on top of all he's gotten. Nice work, Manoj Nelliyatu Shyamalan. I hope your daughter is proud of you.

Expectations: bwahahaha!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Old recipe, well-seasoned

My rating:

So, weird title, huh? Summer action blockbuster named after a condiment. The pundits over on have been joking about it being called Garam. I'm kinda surprised I haven't seen more piss-taking about that title; maybe it's 'cos its marketing campaign is a lot smarter than it seems. You look at that poster (both versions of it), you look at that trailer, you get the impression of a somewhat promising-looking Angelina Jolie action flick that takes itself perfectly seriously - and soon, you sort of feel that this movie couldn't possibly be called anything else. Well, kudos to the marketers, but still. You'd think someone who worked on this movie might've given that title a bit more thought.

You'd also think they'd work harder on making a fresher movie.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a dedicated CIA agent, married to her loving husband Michael (August Diehl) and close friends with her superior Ted Winter (Liev Schrieber). When a supposed Russian defector named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) fingers her as a sleeper agent on a mission to assassinate the visiting Russian President, she is forced to go on the run, pursued by relentless counter-intelligence agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and her own incredulous superior - but it soon becomes less and less clear what Salt's true motives are.

That's one of the shortest synopses I've had to write in a while, and that's because there're a number of plot twists in this movie that I can't write this review without talking about - so I'm gonna do the thing where I darken the spoiler text and you have to highlight it to read it. On the whole, this is a very well-made action flick, and you can attribute that to Phillip Noyce's direction. He made his name directing the Tom Clancy thrillers Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, but won his greatest acclaim with Rabbit-Proof Fence (which I shamefully haven't seen). With this film, he may well join Martin Campbell in the ranks of the most reliable directors of thrillers and action films working today.

And the screenplay is by Kurt Wimmer, who after writing and directing Equilibrium - still one of the most wildly entertaining action movies ever - is steadily making a name for himself as a writer of action thrillers (though not always good ones). There's some solid writing here, both in terms of plotting and dialogue, the latter of which is ably delivered by its solid cast. Jolie is one of very few marketable female action heroes (the other is Milla Jovovich, who is somewhat more, um, downmarket), and this is a role that plays to more than just her ability to kick ass; she makes great use of that inscrutable stare she does so well. And you've also got Liev Schrieber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, both of whom lend their gravitas to proceedings which would be decidedly cheesier without it.

Now for the not-so-good parts. Right up to the first big chase scene, I was totally digging this movie. Yes, Salt performs some impossibly athletic leaps across the roofs of moving trucks, but Noyce's teeth-jarring camerawork and Jolie's desperate, hunted performance had me readily suspending my disbelief. But from that point on, any shred of vulnerability on our heroine's part disappears, and she turns into this unstoppable superwoman. At one point, she even lets herself get caught and arrested, just to mount another big action-packed escape - like there just ain't nothing she can't waltz right out of. Even the Bourne movies - and the comparison is pretty obvious - knew to let its hero take plenty of punishment. And Matt Damon never played Bourne like he just knows how badass he is, which Jolie tends to do.

One of the interesting things it tries to do is keep the audience guessing as to which side Salt is really on. Thing is, it tips its hand too easily when (SPOILER ALERT) she very conscientiously uses non-lethal force on the cops, CIA and Secret Service agents she takes out. Which makes her badassery even more unbelievable. And it saves one final plot twist for near the end, which is again easy to guess when (SPOILER ALERT) you hear someone talk about how many secret Russian sleeper agents there are one too many times. That's ultimately what keeps this movie from greatness: the fact that none of this is new. Even the basic premise of a good guy, falsely accused of being a bad guy, pursued by his friends and colleagues - but is he really a good guy? - has been done over and over.

But at least it's executed pretty well here. And I don't think it's a spoiler to say the movie ends on a hook for a sequel. Which I wouldn't mind watching; the world is big enough for a female version of the Bourne series, albeit preferably one in which its protagonist isn't quite so invulnerable. But if it can keep Noyce for its sequel(s), and if Wimmer can keep up this level of quality, we might just have another consistently good action movie franchise. I can understand why Roger Ebert gave Salt a four-star rating, even if I don't really think it's that good; it's because smart, adult action movies like this, that take themselves seriously and deserve to be taken seriously, are so rare.

NEXT REVIEW: The Last Airbender
Expectations: Eight percent, yo!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's the Chinese (and Japanese) Casablanca

My rating:

No, I'd hardly heard a thing about this movie either, and that's largely because I get most of my movie news from Western sources. See, this film isn't scheduled for a US release till Christmas, but it's getting screened early in Asian markets, probably due to the presences of Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li. Which is good for us I guess, only we're not getting much in the way of pre-release buzz - or even a decent review to clue us on how good the movie's gonna be.

You're welcome, Internet!

It is 1941, and US Naval Intelligence agent Paul Soames (John Cusack) has arrived in Shanghai at the behest of his friend and fellow agent Connor (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) - only to find his friend murdered whilst investigating a case that not even his superior (Barry Morse) knows anything about. Posing as a journalist with Nazi sympathies, Soames begins to worm his way into Shanghai's cadre of the rich and powerful - which include bored German socialite Mrs. Mueller (Franka Potente), Chinese mob boss Anthony Lan Ting (Chow Yun-Fat), and Japanese intelligence chief Captain Tanaka (Ken Watanabe) - in an effort to uncover the truth about Connor's death. But his most dangerous adversary may be his growing attraction to Lan Ting's wife Anna (Gong Li), and the secrets she hides.

Boy, that's a stellar cast, innit? There's also Oscar-nominated Rinko Kikuchi in a small role. And for the most part, the film delivers on that promise. It's a well-crafted mystery/political thriller with a satisfyingly twisty plot and well-developed characters, all the better for its actors to play them to the best of their ability. Shanghai just prior to WW2 was a fascinating place, a hotbed of international political intrigue, and a terrific setting for a spy story of this sort. It was also the only city in the world that was open to European Jew refugees, reminiscent of Casablanca - and this movie is similar in many ways to that classic film named after the Moroccan city. Although, of course, not as good.

And yes, few films are as good as Casablanca, but a couple of flaws hold this one back from achieving greatness on its own terms. One of them is a voiceover by Soames that commits the cardinal sin of cinematic voiceovers: it explains things that are perfectly clear just by, y'know, watching the movie. Curiously, it doesn't even explain the things that I felt needed explaining, particularly the characters' emotional motivations. One of the neat things about this film is that most of these people are driven as much by their human passions as well as their political or national loyalties, and the one is very frequently at odds with the other. If there was anything I wanted the voiceover to clarify, it would be who did what out of love for whom, especially near the ending when all the mysteries are revealed.

The other flaw is John Cusack. He does his usual competent job, but I can't help but feel he wasn't the right performer for the role. Soames is no knight in shining armour; he's seducing the bored and lonely Mrs. Mueller so he can spy on German interests, and let me just say it's quite refreshing to see an espionage thriller in which the men betray the women who love them as much as the women do the men. (Soames isn't the only man who does this.) But Cusack can't pull off the rakish charm and ruthlessness needed for a character like this - nor does he have much chemistry with Gong Li, whose Anna Lan Ting is a woman he does genuinely fall for. I'm thinking a more Bond-like actor - perhaps even Daniel Craig himself - would've fit the role better.

The rest of the cast do their usual good work as well. Gong seems to be struggling with her English a bit, which detracts just a little from her usual fine performance; the seductive yet secretive Anna, who makes every man she talks to feel like they're the only man she cares about, is a walk in the park for her. Both Ken Watanabe and Chow Yun-Fat are highly charismatic, but not especially subtle, actors; they're best when they're allowed to own the entire movie, f'rinstance Watanabe's Oscar-nominated turn in The Last Samurai. I found myself wanting to see more of them, although that may just be because I didn't much like Cusack. But if their fans accept that they're only playing supporting roles, then they should be satisfied with this movie; Chow even gets a gunslinging action scene late in the film, which it has just occurred to me might be a concession to his most famous Hong Kong movies.

Also, it has just occurred to me that Shanghai really is trying to be the next Casablanca. The similarities are too obvious, although it deserves kudos for attempting its own thing and not doing a beat-for-beat remake (which has, in fact, been done). Against that yardstick, it measures up pretty well, although still falling short in many respects. (Humphrey Bogart circa 1942 would've been a terrific Paul Soames.) In any case, here's hoping it does decent buck at the US box-office when it opens. It's a multi-national production involving American, European, Chinese and Japanese talent; and it's a smart, adult thriller. We could do with some more of these.

Expectations: Roger Ebert, don't let me down