Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content, profanity, drug use and brief nudity
Jackie Chan Teams With Johnny Knoxville For Familiar Unlikely-Buddies Flick
Jackie Chan made dozens of martial arts movies in his native Hong Kong prior to finding phenomenal success stateside in 1998 co-starring with Chris Tucker in the buddy-comedy Rush Hour. Their pairing as unlikely-partners proved so popular that they returned to the well to shoot a couple of sequels in Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3. And Jackie further milked the familiar formula in outings opposite Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.
Despite being perhaps a little long-in-the-tooth to still be doing such stunt-driven adventures, the 60-something matinee idol is back with Skiptrace, a slight variation on the theme co-starring Johnny Knoxville. Knoxville is known for Jackass, the TV and film franchise in which he and a coterie of deranged confederates perform an array of death-defying feats.
Here, he reprises some of his greatest hits, like rolling down the street in a barrel. The same can be said of Chan, as so many of the picture’s chase and fight sequences have a feeling of déjà vu about them. Nevertheless, a treat is in store for the uninitiated, especially youngsters who’ve never seen either of these leads ply his trade before.
In Skiptrace, Jackie plays Hong Kong detective Benny Chan, and Johnny co-stars as Connor Watts, an American gambler on the run from a Russian casino owner (Charlie Rawes) he fleeced to the tune of a million dollars. At the point of departure, Benny’s partner Yung (Eric Tsang) is murdered by a mysterious mobster known as The Matador, and he makes it his mission to bring the creep to justice.
Meanwhile, half a world away, Johnny just happens to witness the kidnapping of Yung’s daughter Samantha (Bingbing Fan). So, that makes him invaluable to Benny when the two subsequently cross paths, as much as the detective dislikes the idea of cooperating with a slippery con man.
Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Skiptrace overall is a globetrotting affair which unfolds at a dizzying pace in the course of visiting a variety of ports-of-call all across the planet. The multi-layered whodunit eventually builds to a big showdown at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal back in Hong Kong, where the case is very satisfactorily resolved.
Though he’s certainly no Chris Tucker, Johnny Knoxville does prove a decent enough accomplice for Jackie Chan’s endearing combination of antics and acrobatics.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 107 minutes
Hands Of Stone
The Weinstein Company
Rated R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
Career Of Boxing Legend Roberto Duran Revisited In Revisionist Tale Of Redemption
Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) is considered by most fight experts to be, pound-for-pound, one of the greatest boxers of all time. The intimidating icon earned his nickname “Hands of Stone” by virtue of his prodigious displays of punching power.
Born in Panama in 1951, Roberto exhibited promise from the moment he first entered the ring at the age of eight. He turned pro at 16 and assumed the World Lightweight title at Madison Square Garden in 1972 after Ken Buchanan (John Duddy) failed to answer the bell for the 14th round. Roberto went on to knock out over 50 foes en route to compiling an impressive 62-1 record as a lightweight before moving up in weight class.
By the time he retired in 2002, Roberto would also hold the world welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight titles. But despite that incredible feat, he appears fated to be best remembered for crying “No mas!” before quitting midway through his Welterweight World Championship rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). And although he would eventually return to the ring, that one display of cowardice effectively overshadowed his sizable subsequent achievements.
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express), Hands Of Stone is a reverential biopic which humanizes Roberto while putting a positive spin on his indelible stain. This version of his story blames Duran’s failing on his parasitic manager, Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades), as well as on pressure from the big fight’s promoter, Don King (Reg E. Cathey).
Here, we’re treated to the backstage specter of a burnt-out Roberto bemoaning his being exploited. “I worked all my life. I didn’t have any fun, when I was a kid.” Truth be told, not only did he begin boxing young, but he married at an early age, too, 17. And his wife Felicidad (Ana de Armas) was only 14 when they tied the knot. FYI, the couple went on to have eight children and are still together 47 years later.
If the movie has a flaw, it’s in the fight scenes which leave a lot to be desired. Anyone expecting cinema verite on the order of Rocky or Raging Bull, for which Robert De Niro won an Academy Award in 1981, is destined to be disappointed.
Speaking of De Niro, he plays the legendary Ray Arcel, who came out of retirement over death threats from the Mafia to train a teenaged Duran. Before you can say “Burgess Meredith,” he whips the promising protégé into fighting shape, and it’s just a matter of time before his diamond in the rough’s rags-to-riches dream becomes a reality.
A touching, revisionist tale of redemption presenting the sensitive side of a pulverizing pugilist.
Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 105 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening September 2, 2016
The Light Between Oceans (PG-13 for mature themes and sexuality) Romance drama, set off the coast of Australia in the wake of World War I, about a lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander) who decide to adopt a baby (Florence Clery) they rescue from a rowboat adrift at sea. Cast includes Rachel Weisz, Leon Ford and Jack Thompson.
Morgan (R for profanity and brutal violence) Sci-fi thriller revolving around a corporate risk-management consultant (Kate Mara) hired to decide whether to terminate the life of a superhuman cyborg (Anya Taylor-Joy) after it attacks one of the scientists that created it. With Toby Jones, Rose Leslie and Michael Yare.
Solace (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, and pervasive violence and bloody images) Crime thriller about a psychic doctor (Anthony Hopkins) mourning the death of his daughter who joins forces with an FBI agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to apprehend a serial killer (Colin Farrell). Featuring Abbie Cornish, Matt Gerald and Marley Shelton.
In Search Of The American Dream (PG-13 for profanity, violence and mature themes) Survival saga about six sibling’s attempt to elude the authorities in a race across Texas after their undocumented parents are arrested on the spot and carted away. Co-starring Baldemar Rodriguez, Shaina Sandoval, Kayla Valadez and Jeremy Becerra. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
Kickboxer: Vengeance (Unrated) High-octane tale action flick about a martial artist (Alain Moussi) who travels from L.A. to Bangkok to avenge the killing of his brother (Darren Shahlavi) by the Muay Thai champion (Dave Bautista). With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Georges St-Pierre and T.J. Storm.
Max Rose (Unrated) Jerry Lewis plays the title role in this skeletons-in-the-closet dramedy as a jazz pianist who has just discovered that his terminally ill wife (Claire Bloom) has been hiding a big secret that makes their 65-year marriage a big lie. Cast includes Kerry Bishe’, Dean Stockwell, Fred Willard, Illeana Douglas and Kevin Pollak.
Naam Hai Akira (Unrated) Crime thriller revolving around a headstrong college coed (Sonakshi Sinha) whose life spirals out of control after she unwittingly gets caught up in a conspiracy being hatched by a quartet of crooked cops. With Amit Sadh, Urmila Mahanta, Teena Singh and Mukesh Hariawala. (In Hindi with subtitles)
Sister Cities (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama revolving around the reunion of four estranged sisters (Troian Bellisario, Stana Katic, Michelle Trachtenberg and Jess Weixler) for the funeral after their mother’s (Jacki Weaver) apparent suicide. Support cast includes Alfred Molina, Tom Everett and Kathy Baker.
Summer Of 8 (Unrated) Ensemble dramedy set in Santa Monica where we find an octect of high school grads hanging out on the beach during their last days of freedom before going their separate ways to college. Co-starring Carter Jenkins, Michael Grant, Matt Shively, Nick Marini, Shelly Hennig, Bailey Noble, Rachel DiPillo and Natalie Hall.
There Is A New World Somewhere (Unrated) Romance drama about a struggling, NYC artist (Agnes Bruckner) who returns home to Texas for a friend’s wedding only to fall for a seductive stranger (Maurice Compte) who talks her into accompanying him on a road trip across the South. With Ashley Bell, John Robinson and Morgan Krantz.
White Girl (Unrated) New York City saga about a hedonistic college coed (Morgan Saylor) whose life spirals out of control after she falls head-over-heels for a bad boy (Brian ‘Sene’ Marc) dealing dime bags on her block. Cast includes Chris Noth, Justin Bartha and Adrian Martinez.