Movie Review – American Assassin

With American Assassin, Michael Cuesta explores nuclear war in the most outdated fashion possible.


Zachary Cruz-Tan 

There’s something to admire about Michael Cuesta’s American Assassin, albeit somewhat ironically. This is a movie out of time, a relic of Hollywood’s past shuffled forward to the present without planning or coordination. It’s a story a faithful student of Steven Seagal might’ve wanted two decades ago, but with Steven Seagal instead of Michael Keaton. It feels so antiquated one might be amazed to see it made at all, and yet here it is, proud as a featherless peacock.

It begins decently enough, with a thunderous terrorist attack on an idyllic beach. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his fiancée, then she is gruesomely gunned down. Bent on revenge, Mitch takes the only logical step: murder the leader of the terrorist cell himself by taking up martial arts classes and feigning loyalty to the radical caliphate. Uh huh…

His moves are observed by Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), deputy director of a covert organisation of assassins known as Orion. She hacks his webcam, spies on his chats and paces around one of those secure agency rooms that looks like computer screens have taken over the world with pie charts and graphs. Irene, too, takes the only logical step: Recruit Mitch for her program. Why? Because “I’ve tested them all and he can do things no one else can”. Uh huh. Does anyone else see the crime in using a poor kid’s grief and revenge as weapons for the US government?

This, I suppose, is only the premise, and I think it’s more than what you need to know. The rest involves warring nations, double-crosses and nuclear bombs, which made me think of North Korea, and that, maybe, the plot might have some contemporary relevance. But nothing about Cuesta’s execution supports this notion. His movie is so devoid of energy and so stagnant that even the action sequences seem to unfold in reverse. There is not a word of dialogue with the impetus to develop character. Every line services the plot and nothing else. This is the kind of movie that would work as an academic essay.

There are gunfights and car chases, torture scenes and training montages, fist-fights and a fleet of American warships. And also an explosive crescendo that boasts some of the shoddiest CGI work of recent times. Somewhere in all this is Keaton, who plays a former Navy SEAL like it’s a career-defining audition. He goes balls-to-the-wall and, in a pivotal scene, completely smashes up against it. Keaton’s best when he’s gloomy and brooding, like Bruce Wayne, not when he’s the 21st Century version of R. Lee Ermey.

I think I can appreciate what this film is trying to accomplish, but in an era where the Mission: Impossible and James Bond movies continue to employ new tricks to remain relevant, American Assassin is like that old clown who still thinks balloon animals are what kids want. This is a film that belongs in the ‘90s, and even then it wouldn’t have been verygood at all.

American Assassin is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

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Movie Review – American Made

The Mummy may have been a misstep, but Tom Cruise proves he’s still Top Gun – quite literally – since he’s back in the pilot’s seat.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Overworked, exhausted and bored with his life-consuming career as a commercial airline pilot, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is one day invited by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) to become a courier for the government, flying reconnaissance missions over South America. He accepts, and begins earning a hefty pay check, but sees the opportunity to double his earnings when the Medellin Cartel asks him to smuggle cocaine on his way back into the US.

Borrowing heavily from the Martin Scorsese book on How to Make a Crime Epic, American Made is essentially everything that last year’s War Dogs wanted to be. Director Doug Liman is treading new territory, a far cry away from the action thrillers (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) he’s well known for, but his venture into pulpy true crime story emerges as the first worthy successor to The Wolf of Wall Street, and is one of the most purely entertaining films of the year so far.

For his good man seduced by greed, Liman recruits the star of his most recent film Edge of Tomorrow, and Cruise fits the role like a glove. Atoning for the sins of The Mummy, Cruise is firmly back on track with a very juicy role that shows us for the first time in years that he’s capable of much more than the adrenaline-fuelled man of action.

Barry Seal does not feel like a huge stretch or acting challenge for Cruise, but that’s because the character so perfectly fits his natural charisma, and reminds us that he can be funny. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he’s still one of the most reliable and versatile actors currently working.

Despite its troubled production (a blacklisted script, delays and reshoots, stuntmen dying in a plane crash), it’s a rush to know that what’s happening on screen is happening for real. Liman has recounted how on edge he was while filming Cruise from a helicopter next to him as he left the cockpit and began performing supply drops himself with no one else piloting. The “true story” label, as always, needs to be taken with a big grain of salt, but who cares when the tale is this much fun?

American Made is available in Australian cinemas from August 24

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

Movie Review – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is good for a laugh but little else.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Who doesn’t love a good buddy comedy? The Nice Guys, Bad Boys, 21 Jump Street – the list goes on. Not joining those esteemed ranks, however, is Patrick Hughes’ new film The Hitman’s Bodyguard; a clichéd action-comedy that coasts by on the charisma of its two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson.

Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a bodyguard tasked by his Interpol agent ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung) with protecting Darius Kincaid (Jackson), a hitman who needs to be escorted safely to Holland to act as a witness in the trial of a Soviet warlord named Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Reams of faceless bad dudes are trying to stop them, hijinks ensue – you get the picture.

The trifecta of talent fronting the film – Reynolds, Jackson and Oldman – lend significant weight to what is a fairly humdrum plot, even if they’re all cast as versions of their own public persona or characters they’ve played in the past. Reynolds is hapless, sarcastic and adorable; Jackson is foul-mouthed and effortlessly cool; and Oldman is a deranged European terrorist with a facial disfigurement. None of these characters are a stretch for the three, which certainly affords the impression that everyone is simply here to phone it in and cash the cheque – it makes you wonder if Jackson works on commission for every time he drops the F-bomb. If so, he milked it for all it was worth.

Where The Hitman’s Bodyguard flounders is in its scattershot and wildly wayward approach to a little thing called tone. What starts out as a straightforward buddy cop flick soon finds itself getting tangled up in a lot of other narrative cul-de-sacs that sap the energy from the freewheeling vibe; one scene sees Reynolds tortured for information via electrocution, right after which the film launches into a flashback soundtracked by Foreigner, a car chase to Spiderbait and a bareknuckle fist fight to Chuck Berry. Like, pick a lane and stick to it.

The geopolitics, harsh realism and mass graves simply doesn’t mesh with some of the goofier aspects of the film, like singing nuns, farting convicts and meet-cutes to Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest. Hughes’ film is firing on cylinders when it’s in Lethal Weapon territory and concerned with the basics; the banter is top-notch and gives Reynolds and Jackson plenty of room to showcase their bottomless wit, even if the narrative spins its wheels and is threadbare at the best of times – at nearly two-hours, Hughes’ film most definitely outstays its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

That’s basically the gist of The Hitman’s Bodyguard; it’s a fun premise that has been stretched into a two-hour movie and milked dry. At a tight 90-minutes, the film would have felt more focused, but in its current form it’s a strangely disorganised, flabby action-comedy that relies solely on the unquenchable charisma of its two leads.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is available in Australian cinemas from August 31

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

 

Movie Review – Wind River

Taylor Sheridan abandons the warm Texan plains and Mexican border for somewhere much chillier – and more chilling – in his third captivating crime epic.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Out in the remote and freezing cold wilderness of the Wind River Indian Preservation in Wyoming, the town’s veteran game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) stumbles upon the body of a young woman half-buried in the snow. With little law enforcement present in the region, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate the suspected homicide.  Unprepared for the isolation and oppressive weather, she recruits Cory as her guide to assist her. Together, they uncover the dark and disturbing truths lurking beneath the surface of the Native American community and its surroundings in their quest to solve the mystery of this girl’s violent fate.

Cinema’s most explosive new screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the man behind Sicario and Hell or High Water, takes the leap to double duties and steps up as director with Wind River, working from another of his original scripts. And despite a deceptively unremarkable, give-nothing-away title, it’s every bit as violently thrilling as his previous works. Wind River is a fittingly breathtaking conclusion to that trilogy; it may not have Sicario‘s slick artsy flair and social commentary or Hell or High Water‘s contemporary skewering of the Western genre, but it more than makes up for this in raw excitement and a gripping, Coen-style story chock full of hair-raising moments.

Having been an actor before shifting to the creative mind behind the camera, Sheridan no doubt picked up plenty of behind the scenes knowledge of filmmaking; it’s made clear in the natural confidence he exerts in his first directing gig. He’s focused on creating strong characters then building the world up around them, evident from the fact that much of the picture’s success stems from the driving force of its central pair.

Jeremy Renner does his tough-guy, man-of-few-words thing, but he’s given plenty of depth as a severely damaged character. The standout is Elizabeth Olsen, bringing to mind Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs. Overwhelmed, but always maintaining her bravery, it’s a stunningly mature performance from Olsen.

It’s best to enter Wind River with as little knowledge of what’s going to unravel as possible. It’s a slow burner, big on suspense and utterly eruptive when it does reach the boiling point at its conclusion. Sheridan’s touched on Native American issues before, but here they’re deeply ingrained in the plot and the community it follows, raising a whole barrage of points about cultural suspicions and the clash between whites and natives. Linking thematically with his previous two films, Sheridan’s trilogy may be the most socially conscious exploration of America and its racial relations with the societies at its borders. Given the competence he shows here as a director, Sheridan’s rooted himself as a great filmmaker as well as one of the most exciting storytellers of recent times. Soldado can’t come soon enough.

Wind River is available in Australian cinemas from August 10 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

Movie Review – War for the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves delivers a fitting film regarding the fate of the planet in what is hopefully the final installment of a splendid reboot trilogy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Here, at last, is a big Hollywood movie that puts its $150 million budget to work and reaps the returns. All the money seems to have gone into creating the most believable CGI apes the world has ever seen, but, being a war movie, there are also explosions, gunfire, and in a key moment, an avalanche. The skill of all these effects is so superior we don’t even notice them. Instead, we’re trapped by the charisma of Caesar, the chimp that begins as a prophetic militaristic hero and later evolves into a leader with biblical responsibility.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a crowning achievement, not just as a blockbuster to fill multiplexes but as a definitive seminar on the human condition. This is a compassionate film that is bookended by battles and filled in the middle with quietness and reflection. It is often sparse, but never empty. There is a certain kind of commendation reserved for movies bold enough to string together extended scenes in which the only dialogue must be read on screen while computer-animated apes gesture frantically in sign language without boring us to tears.

The situation between the über intelligent apes and the equally protective humans has disintegrated into all-out war. Caesar (a phenomenal Andy Serkis in motion-capture) maintains a stronghold in the forest but hears of a land of milk and honey that rests comfortably away from the terrifying gaze of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a rogue commander who has had to make horrific decisions in his past and will no doubt have to make more before the movie’s end. The plot is essentially a quest of vengeance, after The Colonel mistakenly assassinates members of Caesar’s clan. But there is a grander scheme at play here; a fight for survival that will determine the balance of power on the planet. It’s all very serious stuff.

Director Matt Reeves, who established the tone of this franchise going forward with 2014’s utterly brilliant Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, approaches the grim material from a place of warmth. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so strongly for a character composed of pixels, yet Caesar is entirely gripping as the commander-in-chief of a species destined for peace. In the hands of Andy Serkis, he emerges as a well-worn figure of respect and stature; a keen tactician with a heart of gold and a face chiselled out of strife.

Harrelson is equally impressive as the anguished foe, fearful that a mutation in the disease, which nearly exterminated the human race, will drop him down a rung on the evolutionary ladder. Some humans are already exhibiting sub-intellect behaviour, like the little girl Nova (Amiah Miller), whose presence in the film is a neat little warning that the only way for humans to coexist with the animal kingdom is if our higher thinking is severed.

This is that rare blockbuster in which all the pieces fit snugly together and the entire picture makes perfect sense. It may not be as fresh as Rise of the Planet of the Apes or as emotionally complex as Dawn, but why should it be? There is a magical moment in which Nova crosses a military courtyard to feed undernourished prisoners, in full view of station security, and somehow manages to evade capture. It is a gentle touch, a powerful miracle of war, and one of the best scenes in one of the best movies of the year.

War for the Planet of the Apes is available in Australian cinemas from July 27

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron adds a spoonful of oestrogen to the spy game in 80s Cold War action flick Atomic Blonde.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Adapted from a 2012 graphic novel called The Coldest City and directed by David Leitch (John Wick) Atomic Blonde thrusts killer queen Charlize Theron into a jam-packed Cold War espionage thriller set in 1989 during the final days of a divided Germany.

Playing a British intelligence agent called Lorraine Broughton, Theron’s mission appears rather simple on the surface. After a fellow MI6 agent is killed in East Berlin by the KGB, Lorraine is dispatched to retrieve a valuable list of codenames that could be fatal in the wrong hands. To achieve this, Lorraine must learn to work with Percival (James McAvoy), a fellow British agent based out of Berlin, as well as a mysterious French operative called Delphine (Sofia Boutella), who of course has her own agenda.

The first thing you notice about Atomic Blonde is that it looks incredible, with a capital I. The cinematography is luscious and the production design parades a potent concoction of wall-to-wall neon. Shades of hot pink, vivid aqua and deep crimson bring the period setting to life, from pounding Berlin nightclubs to graffiti-strewn back alleys. Striding through it all is Theron, who cuts a striking figure with an assortment of commanding costume designs and inventive framing,m. She does an excellent job of carving through the intricately choreographed fight scenes, which echo John Wick and Netflix’s Daredevil by using minimal edits and maximum punchiness.

The soundtrack, much like Baby Driver last month and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 before that, is the icing on the cake. Wholeheartedly embracing its colourful setting, Leitch furnishes the film with a soundtrack of 80s bangers from the likes of Depeche Mode, New Order, Queen, The Cure and Public Enemy.

While it excels in a visual and visceral sense, I had a hard time wrapping my head around some of Atomic Blonde’s more convoluted plot machinations. Lorraine’s mission behind the Berlin Wall involves a crop of rival agents, a clutch of codenames (Spyglass? Satchel?) and more twists, turns and reversals than a snake lost in a maze.

By the time we reach the rather ludicrous final act, Atomic Blonde had wrapped itself in more knots than a pair of iPod headphones that have been shoved into your pocket. To call its final ten minutes confusing is an understatement as it unloads a ton of reveals, like a Scooby Doo villain wearing not one or two but three masks over his face.

Unquestionably an exercise in style over substance, Atomic Blonde is not the home run for which many were hoping, but it’s also not a complete strike out. Theron, Boutella and McAvoy make for an interesting trio of spies, even if the criss-crossing plot supporting them is loopier than it needs to be. Still, it’s a great showcase of Theron’s ability to headline a film and the hand-to-hand stuntwork and fight choreography is second-to-none.

Atomic Blonde is available in Australian cinemas from August 3

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

Free Fire – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Ben Wheatley tries his hand at aping Reservoir Dogs to riotous effect.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

One of the most dexterous and consistently interesting directors to emerge from Britain in the last decade, Ben Wheatley’s latest film Free Fire sees the filmmaker transition into old fashioned shoot ‘em up territory for a gleeful celebration of gunplay.

Set in Boston in 1978, Free Fire sees a duo of Irish terrorists, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), employ the help of local fixers Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) in organising a secretive docklands exchange with wildly unpredictable kingpin Vernon (Sharlto Copley).

Naturally, the deal soon goes south as hired goons on both sides decide to settle a standing grudge in the midst of an illegal arms deal. What follows is a protracted melee of ricochets, expletives and blood-soaked shoulder pads. Wheatley and his charismatic cast wholeheartedly embrace the zaniness of the premise as they fling dust, shrapnel and sly barbs across the screen. Copley is the star of the show, his larger-than-life character an absolute hoot as he tries (and fails) to hit on Justine and weasel his way out of getting a slug to the head.

Larson, Murphy and Hammer are also excellent; the irreverence with which they approach the chaos never undercuts the serious moments and everything knits together for an effective character-driven 90-minute actioner, even when the bare bones plot is scarcely enough to keep the thing anchored during the second half.

Unquestionably light on plot, Free Fire instead chooses to focus on genuinely enthralling action. The editing, cinematography and sound mixing all work in tandem to create something rather special. Wheatley displays an unrivalled aptitude for staging that makes Free Fire easy to follow and enormously engaging to boot.

Free Fire is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures & Revelation Film Festival

Movie Review – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s sixth film is a complete delight, packed with music, action, and revved to the brink.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Baby Driver is a slam-bam roller-coaster ride filled with pop tunes, screeching tyres, machine guns and, of course, lots of kisses. It’s the kind of heist movie that isn’t so much about the heist as about the people who execute them. They’re a mishmash of assorted character types, some deluded, some tragic, some just plain nuts; but they’re all necessary. This is a crazy, thoroughly enjoyable movie by a director who’s in full command of his craft and totally revelling in it.

It starts with a bang: a high-speed getaway after a bank robbery. The driver is none other than Baby (Ansel Elgort), a sunglasses-wearing, jacket-loving young chap whose motor skills are so good he makes the Fast & Furious crew look like L-platers panicking at a roundabout. He also has a thing for music. Lots of music. 24/7. It is the beat to which his life grooves.

Much is made of the soundtrack – indeed, it punctuates just about every line of dialogue, every scene change, every gunshot – but I was more enthralled by the sheer audacity of Wright to marry so many influences into a bubbling cauldron of cinematic delight. Like all his movies, Baby Driver is written with meticulous precision. It draws its narrative from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). It steals romance from Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Baby has mummy issues, just like Peter Quill from the Marvel movies. And yet none of it feels unoriginal. By rooting the character drama so firmly in the innocence of its leading couple, Baby Driver becomes something uniquely its own. A kind of modern day fairy tale told through a lens of crime.

Kevin Spacey plays Doc, the chauffeured gangster who recruits Baby and orchestrates his devilish schemes; he is reliably intimidating and droll. The two best performances belong to Jamie Foxx as Bats and Lily James as the diner waitress Debora. Foxx eerily blurs the line between acting and real life. His trigger-happy, psychotic thief is so convincingly bonkers I suspect Elgort and the rest turned up to work each day wearing Kevlar. He is the volatile variable Wright flings into the cauldron, content to let him steer the story as he sees fit. Next to him, the vengeful Buddy (a manic Jon Hamm) seems almost domesticated.

But it’s not enough that these characters are broadly drawn and impressive; what they say and how they say it is often what keeps the entire machine oiled. Wright has a knack for words, not in the same way as, say, Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson, but his dialogue has a way of kidding itself. Watch how a conversation in a car about code names and real names becomes almost poetic. Or another in which three bad guys have to wear Halloween masks of Mike Myers instead of Michael Myers. Or how Wright shrewdly slips in a reference to Monsters, Inc. (2001). It’s kinda bewitching.

I have enjoyed all of Wright’s pictures. There’s an energy about them. A certain charm that runs from the page to the screen. It is clear he is a visual storyteller, a director not content to explain his ideas but to showcase them through cinematic technique. He is the grand puppeteer. He has all the strings. He knows exactly what they do, and not for a second does he ever tug the wrong one.

Baby Driver is available in Australian cinemas from July 12

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-man’s latest solo film promises a bright future ahead, even if we have to sit through some of the same old stuff to get there.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

A short while after being recruited by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back slumming it at school and daydreaming of his next mission with The Avengers. Peter blows off homework after school each night to don his spandex Spidey suit and fight crime throughout Queens, but when he comes up against Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) – a career criminal in possession of a high-tech vulture-like suit – he might have just bitten off more than he can chew.

After 2014’s The Amazing Spider-man 2 effectively flushed the webslinger down the drain, Sony and Marvel struck a deal to incorporate the popular character into the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. The resultant compromise is Spider-man: Homecoming, another reboot (the second since 2002) that thrusts Peter back to high school and trades one young Brit for an even younger Brit. Thankfully, this young Brit is even better than the last. In Holland, Marvel have struck gold, with the 21-year-old personifying the goofiness and charm of Peter Parker in assured fashion.

Channelling classic John Hughes films from the 80s, Homecoming shifts the focus onto Peter and his quirky crop of friends, complete with The Breakfast Club parallels and a plain-as-day homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

In Peter’s posse you’ve got Ned (Jacob Batalon), the goofy best friend; Michelle (Zendaya), the sarcastic social outcast; Betty (Perth’s own Angourie Rice), the preppy goody two shoes; and Liz (Laura Harrier), the senior stunner and object of Peter’s affection. This troupe extends to others as well and is the strongest aspect of Homecoming. The humour and heart hits home (pun intended) as the kids squabble and banter with one another over Spanish quizzes, house parties and field trips.

Things start to get a little shakier when Homecoming has to do the ‘Marvel stuff’ and serve up some action. The biggest flaw with this film is that the daring-do is fairly so-so; I never felt like Peter or those around him were ever in any degree of peril. That said, the set pieces – one in Washington, one aboard a NYC ferry and another on a cargo plane – are well staged, even if the third act drags.

Keaton’s villain is one of the better ones we’ve seen from Marvel; his melding of unnerving malice and an honest schmuck persona makes for a nice match. Downey Jr.’s contribution is minimal, with most of it glimpsed in the pervasive marketing material – that said, it was cool to get a taste of how Spider-man fits into the broader universe going forward.

Holland is far and away the best iteration of the character and the Marvel formula gives everything a vibrant sheen, but Spider-man: Homecoming is still too much alike its predecessors to truly enthrall or inspire. Not definitively the best, and far from the worst, Spider-man: Homecoming finds itself dangling precariously in a middle ground that leaves us hanging for the next entry without very much in the present.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is available in Australian cinemas from July 6

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

Movie Review – Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay unleashes another deluge of tiring destruction in the fifth Transformers film.

⭐ ⭐ ½

Rhys Graeme-Drury

The Transformers juggernaut rolls inexorably onward in Transformers: The Last Knight, a bruising, tiresome deluge of noise and sound that struggles to address the issues of past entries and instead continues to service old habits.

So, what does The Last Knight entail, if you’re interested in finding out what you should spare yourself from seeing this weekend. Once again under the leering gaze of director Michael BayThe Last Knight sees Autobots and Decepticons alike cast out by society and living on the fringes of society, hunted by a new paramilitary group called the TRF. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) joins forces with Bumblebee, an astronomer called Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) and an Oxford University professor named Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock) to combat the TRF and untangle the reasons behind the deluge of new Transformers arriving on Earth.

That’s a very brief synopsis that only begins to pull at the tangled ball of yarn that screenwriters Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan have cooked up. Like the four entries that preceded it, The Last Knight sees the Transformers series continue to bend over backwards to invent new and increasingly convoluted ways to sell toys, as if most of the audience for this regurgitated scrap heap actually gives two shits about why the myriad of colourful action figures are punching each other.

The film somehow ties together Arthurian legend, a celestial sorceress called Quintessa (Gemma Chan) and a giant sphere bound by two separate MacGuffins, amongst other complicated babble that degenerates into white noise by the second act. It’s basically an upended toy box of ideas that have been scooped up and thrown at the wall.

Also, it has all the classic Bay mannerisms you would expect; the sweeping low angles, the saturated colour palette and lens flares, the hot girl squeezed into the tightest and least practical outfit imaginable. The balletic action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat until they stretch 15 minutes too long. There really is nothing new from Bay here, save for maybe a flawless integration of 3D – seriously, the way 3D is employed in The Last Knight is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Credit where credit is due, The Last Knight does have a couple of cards up its sleeve that work in its favour. Firstly, it’s mercifully shorter than Age of Extinction by nearly a full 20 minutes. Secondly, the first act is decent – a host of new characters, like scruffy tomboy Izabella (Isabela Moner), her adorable Autobot companion Sqweeks and a frenetic robot butler called Cogman (Jim Carter) that acts like C-3PO drank a dozen Red Bull – make this opening stretch a fun and jaunty soft relaunch of the increasingly repetitive series.

That is until we reach the third act. Hoo boy, does it go downhill fast from here. Adhering to the adage ‘bigger is better’, The Last Knight plunges head first into the most mind-numbingly stupid and ludicrously overlarge final assault this side of, well, the last film. It just rolls on and on, a swirling tornado of pyrotechnics and unintelligible staging. When all is said and done, Bay packs up and goes home before you can even catch your breath, leaving the audience feeling a little punch drunk while the customary sequel teaser promises we’ll have to endure more when 2020 rolls around.

 

Transformers: The Last Knight is available in Australian cinemas from June 22

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures