Director and producer Simon West has ample experience with hardcore action thrillers. "Black Hawk Down" and "Con Air" are among his many credits. He now tries his hand at directing a remake of "The Mechanic," an old Charles Bronson hitman tale. West wisely uses Jason Statham to upgrade Bronson's role as a hired assassin training a new guy in his nasty profession.
Statham definitely adds a very buffed and harder edge to the character. He brings the story and all of its accompanying violence into the 21st century. Ben Foster is the young apprentice learning the ropes of the craft from his mentor. Donald Sutherland has a brief role as his father and a surprise target for elimination himself.
There's lots of blood-splattered action but implausible scenes abound. Multiple shoot-outs with automatic weapons occur in crowded urban settings. Somehow, the police are never involved and the bad guys can overkill each other with impunity. The gunfight scenes are technically well done. But it's lots of video-game violence with no purpose or meaning.
One-minute movie reviews
Anthony Hopkins as an exorcist in Italy had all the signs of being just "Hannibal Lecter Goes to the Vatican," but it's actually a better and scarier movie than expected.
A skeptical young American priest is assigned to follow Hopkins around while he performs exorcisms as casually as though drinking tea. ("What did you expect? Pea soup and heads spinning?")
Have no doubt, this movie gives the devil his due in a quietly creepy way that had me wanting to run out of there midway through it like a little girl.
Kudos to Paul Giamatti's Golden Globe-winning performance in "Barney's Version."
Barney Panofsky is a boozy, cranky, complicated shlub who meets the love of his life (Rosamund Pike) at his wedding to wife No. 2 (hilarious Minnie Driver). What she sees in him is hard to figure. Dustin Hoffman plays his wonderfully crass father.
"Barney's Version" takes you on a journey of life's highs, lows and annoying in-betweens. It's a shame Giamatti was overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
The Academy did not ignore Javier Bardem this year. This Oscar-winning actor is a Best Actor nominee for his portrayal of a seedy but soulful criminal working the Barcelona slums.
Uxbal (Bardem) has little time to live and tries to create some lasting order out of the chaos that is his life. Who will take care of his children? Can he trust his bipolar ex-wife? What about the illegal workers he tries to help, even as he exploits them for money?
"Biutiful" is an ironic title for a film that breaks your heart.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.