AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007)

dir. Ridley Scott. Based on the true story of New York City gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), his rise to power as a drug-lord, and about how Detective Richard “Richie” Roberts (Russell Crowe) builds a case against him. The film covers a the period from 1968-1991, and should have an epic feeling, but feels strangely flat. Disappointing, I expected so much more from a Ridley Scott directed crime movie starring Denzel Washington. Washington’s character keeps the same cool demeanour for the entire story, from his beginnings as a driver, to the height of his power. There is plot development, but no character development. I found Russell Crowe’s New Jersey accent to be very distracting. My favourite performance was Josh Brolin as the moustached, black leather trench-coat wearing, corrupt cop. Part of the plot involves smuggling drugs through Thailand, so there are some scenes filmed in Chiang Mai.

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007)

dir. Tony Gilroy. George Clooney is the title role, as the fixer in a New York City law firm, tasked with getting rogue litigator Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) under control before he destroys a major class action defence for the law firms major client, a multinational chemical company. Showing his natural movie star quality, George Clooney is effortless as the stressed out, but highly competent law firm fixer – just through his body language you get the sense that this character is fully formed. I would have loved another movie with the same character. I’m not sure how a corporate legal drama can be comfort viewing, but MICHAEL CLAYTON certainly is. The supporting cast is terrific, Sydney Pollack (director of THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975)) plays the amoral law firm managing partner, and Tilda Swinton plays the sinister yet fragile legal council for the chemical company. With its themes of corporate malfeasance, environmentalism, and moral relativism, it’s pretty much timeless. Maybe the time is right for a sequel? I can certainly imagine Michael Clayton moving on to politics, being a fixer for a progressive politician. I don’t think the movie needed to use the “Four days earlier” editing choice, and I wish the credits didn’t start over the final shot of the film. 

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)

dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and set in 1980’s Texas. Good old boy (Josh Brolin) finds a briefcase full of cash at the scene of a drug deal gone wrong, and goes on the run, pursued by a psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem. Gorgeous looking western noir story, with some incredible Hitchcock style sequences of suspense. Javier Bardem is legitimately scary, and his violence is often brutal and gory. Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell is charismatic as always, but this time re-watching I found his old man stories tedious. It’s still very watchable, and full of wonderful performances, but not nearly of the same quality as other Coen crime films, such as MILLER’S CROSSING (1990) or FARGO (1996).

28 WEEKS LATER (2007)

dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. I know this movie has its fans, so your milage may vary. For me, frustrating and irritating — too many plot holes to be satisfying, or engaging. Revolves around two younger actors, who are unfortunately not very strong performers. Overuse of John Murphy’s superb ‘In A Heartbeat’ track from the far superior previous film 28 DAYS LATER (2002). The shaky cam is out of control, sometimes creating a strobe like effect. A humorless, over-violent, poorly written mess. Talented actors like Idris Elba and Rose Byrne are not given anything to work with. Extremely unearned postscript scene. A sequel to 28 DAYS LATER should have broadened the scale to something more cinematic and suspenseful, instead it went the other way, and feels like an spin-off from ‘The Walking Dead’ TV series.