Movies: 'Identity Thief,' 'A Bullet to the Head' & 'Stand Up Guys'
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
After stealing the show in "Bridesmaids," comedienne Melissa McCarthy scores her first starring role, playing Diana, a conniving Winter Park, Fla., criminal who specializes in credit card scams. This time, her victim is Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), a mild-mannered accountant for a Denver mega-corporation who naively reveals far too much personal information when Diana calls, pretending to be a telemarketer. Soon, she's maxed out his credit cards and tainted his good name.
Fired by his boss (Jon Favreau) and frustrated beyond measure, Sandy takes off to find the scamming imposter, determined to redeem not only his credit standing but his reputation. But obnoxious Diana outwits him at every turn, beating him up, stealing his wallet, wrecking his rental car and leaving him stranded on the highway. But she's being pursued by a pair of hit men (Genesis Rodriguez, rapper Tip "T.I." Harris), so Diana and Sandy wind up bonding as a squabbling odd couple on a crazy road trip to Colorado, trying to evade an aggressive redneck skip-tracer, a.k.a. bounty-hunter (Robert Patrick), the contract killers and the cops.
Sloppily scripted by Craig Mazin ("Hangover, Parts II and III," along with "Scary Movie 3 & 4") and chaotically directed as a silly revenge fantasy by Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses," "Four Christmases"), it's shamelessly derivative of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Midnight Run." Mazin shares story credit with Jerry Eeten, a business/technology teacher at Osceola Fundamental High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., who came up with the midlife crisis idea. And the redundant gag about the name "Sandy" being unisex is used far too often, as if -- with repetition -- it will suddenly become funny.
Not only is it not funny and there's so much talent trashed on the wayside, including Amanda Peet as Sandy's supportive, pregnant wife and Eric Stonestreet (TV's "Modern Family") as Big Chuck, a Georgia gent who adores Diane.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Identity Thief" is a vulgar, tawdry 3, turning a cyber-crime into cinematic chaos.
"A BULLET TO THE HEAD"
Last week, it was Jason Statham in "Parker." Before that, Arnold Schwazenegger's "The Last Stand." Now it's Sylvester Stallone's turn, as the aging action stars of "The Expendables" try solo turns again.
Stallone plays James Bonomo, a.k.a. Jimmy Bobo, a gritty, grizzled, heavily tattooed New Orleans hitman with a long rap sheet and little tolerance for the law. When he and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) go after Greely (Holt McCallany), a corrupt ex-cop, Louis is brutally murdered by hulky Keegan (Jason Momoa , familiar as "Conan the Barbarian" and Khal Drogo on TV's "Game of Thrones"). Propelled by vengeance, Luddite Bobo teams up with young, techno-savvy, Washington D.C.-based Detective Taylor Kwon (Korea's Sung Kang from "Fast Five"), who's investigating the murder of his former partner -- that corrupt ex-cop. When Kwon gets wounded, Bobo brings him to his daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist/med-student, who later gets taken as a hostage. After a bit of brutish bantering, bullying and Mardi Gras revelry, Bobo and Kwon go after Keegan and sleazy lawyer Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater), who work for real estate developer Rob Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). After detours to the bayou and a Turkish bathhouse, there's a climactic hand-to-hand axe fight at an abandoned power station.
Based on Alexis Nolent's French graphic novel "Du Plomb Dans La Tete" (translated as "Headshot"), the cliche-riddled script is credited to Alessandro Camon ("The Messenger") and director Walter Hill, a venerable veteran whose macho credits include "The Long Riders," "The Warriors" and "48 Hours."
As a bit of trivia, Hill used the same abandoned power station in New Orleans back in 1975 as a location site for his first feature, "Hard Times," starring Charles Bronson. And if plastic surgery-enhanced Stallone seems even stiffer than usual, he's obviously still suffering from a neck fracture from a stunt on "The Expendables."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "A Bullet to the Head" is a derivative, only occasionally funny 5. It's already on the fast- rack to the DVD shelf.
"STAND UP GUYS"
When Val (Pacino) is released from prison after serving 28 years for refusing to give up one of his criminal cronies, he is picked up by old partner, Doc (Walken). Yearning to have sex, Val quickly consumes more male-enhancement drugs than his system can tolerate. Suffering from painful priapism, he winds up in a hospital ER where he meets a nurse, Nina Hirsch (Julianna Margulies), who turns out to be the daughter of their old wheelman, Hirsch (Arkin), whom they spring from a nursing home for a celebratory night of mischievous mayhem, settling scores and eluding cops in a stolen Dodge Challenger.
"I'm a stand-up guy," Val explains, alluding to his loyalty. "I took the fall." Problem is: Doc has orders from his mobster boss, known as Claphands (Mark Margolis), to kill Val in 24 hours, and when his granddaughter, Alex (Addison Timlin), becomes a potential victim, he's even more conflicted.
Filled with Viagra jokes and sleazy sexual innuendos, newbie scriptwriter Noah Haidle's character-driven concept is flimsy and formulaic, which also describes Fisher Stevens' flaccid direction. Stevens, who has worked both in front of and behind the camera, won an Oscar for "The Cove," a documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
During a slow dance, Pacino evokes memories of his far better "Scent of a Woman." Originally, he and Walken were cast in reverse roles, since Walken was once a professional dancer. But Pacino preferred to play Val and Walken wanted to be Doc. So the switch was made.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this project is how singer/songwriter/musician Jon Bon Jovi submitted his ideas for the music. According to the rocker, he sang into his iPhone while playing his acoustic guitar.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Stand Up Guys" is a wobbly, contrived 4. Given that cast, it could have and should have been so much better.