The Valdosta Daily Times
“Prisoners” (Drama/Crime/Thriller: 2 hours, 33 minutes)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Rated: R (Violence including torture, profanity, gore, and thematic elements)
Movie Review: “Prisoners” is messy at points, but it is a good messy. It poses a question. How far would you go to protect your family? This dark photoplay blurs the lines morally.
After his 6-year-old daughter, Anna, and her friend, Joy, are reported missing, Keller Dover (Jackman) imprisons and tortures Alex Jones (Dano), the man thought responsible yet freed for lack of evidence. Jones’ dilapidated RV was near the girls before their disappearance. Meanwhile, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), who originally arrested Jones, is following other leads. As Loki digs for evidence, he finds the town has criminals with linked secrets.
Good entertainment, intriguing plot and talented cast make this a good movie, despite a messy story. This intricate narrative is overly complicated. The story tries too much to be clever. While this screenplay is thought provoking, it has such a complex story that it loses track of some its own sub-stories. Even more, it spends too much time developing that story that its ending is robbed of the time needed to conclude matters gracefully.
One of the great parts of solving a mystery is a fine play out. “Prisoners” easily provides momentum, but it tidies matters up quickly to remain under three hours. This leaves a few holes in scenes that one could drive a car through.
Those few moments do not subtract from the superb entertainment that this film provides. One is never bored with this movie with a two-and-half-hour runtime. A superb casts helps. The main actors in this piece are talented individuals, and most have been Oscar nominated or have an Oscar.
When Jackman debuted here in the States, he was noted for his handsome looks and Aussie accent. He proves he is more. He is easily one of moviedom’s most talented and multifaceted actors. When it comes to versatility, Jackman shows why he is the right man to play a father pushed to the limit. Jackman’s range here is dynamic.
Other cast members are also dynamic. Gyllenhaal is mysterious as Detective Loki. He works here, in a disturbing manner that makes his character fascinating. Dano has had the attention of moviegoers since his turn in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), where he also played a quiet character. Dano is sharp, keenly playing his role with zeal. Viola is one of the best actresses. The legend Meryl Streep noted this several times regarding Davis. While she has a diminished role as a mother in mourning, she is still spectacular. Howard plays her husband well. He is brilliant also.
A surprise in this film is Leo. This Oscar recipient is spectacular as an actress. She always appears different in films. She is in makeup and almost unrecognizable. This is Leo’s greatest attribute as an actress; she can always make her characters different from her previous roles in behavior and appearance.
The cast is dynamic in that it exists in a noir thriller. Players all have dark sides that potentially make them as bad as those they deem evil. This drives “Prisoners” because good and bad cast members appear to be a blurred line. This creates more of a mystery that drives this film. Predictions of what typical-appearing players will atypically do next fuels energy for the next scene.
In addition, the manner in which the cast interacts is of superior use to this story. This screenplay makes the story potent because of its optimal use of character interactions.
Anticipation of what happens next makes this film enjoyable, despite some untidy scenes. A certain realism exists when audiences do not know what is about to happen. “Prisoners” provides plenty with good entertainment and solid acting.
Grade: B (A worthy confinement.)
“Battle of the Year” (Music: 1 hour, 48 minutes)
Starring: Josh Holloway, Josh Peck, Laz Alonso and Chris Brown
Director: Benson Lee
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, violence, sexual innuendo)
Movie Review: Hip-hop mogul Dante Graham (Alonso) enlists former basketball coach Jason Blake (Holloway) to assemble nine of the best dancers to participate in Battle of the Year, an event attracting all of the best teams from around the world. The United States has not won in 15 years, but the Dream Team plans to bring the trophy back to where the competition started.
Few times a years, a movie debuts about some dancers competing for a title of some sort. These are very routine scripts.
“Battle” never achieves its goal because its characters are weak. Even more, they are placed in a realm of pretentious associations. They interact but no means exist to establish them as personalities before interactions happen. Instead, we watch characters fight and argue without some needed background.
The dancing is good, but the competitions presented do not allow enough time to savor the moments of defeat and victory. The scene moves quickly at points, missing character development and time absorbs the actions of a large cast, a cast with unimpressive acting.
Grade: D (Barely the battle of the minute.)