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New release movie reviews - 24 May
THE HANGOVER PART III 1/2 (100 minutes) MA
The Hangover Part III is a prime example of what is colloquially referred to in movie-speak as a "cash grab".
To wit: given the strength of the Hangover brand - the first two made north of $1 billion - the studio knew that a third one would be an opening-weekend hit. Heck, instead of shooting a film they could have released 100 minutes of leader tape, secure in the knowledge that the conditioned response at the multiplex would deliver a money-maker.
And that's what we got here, folks.
In a prime example of cynical, idea-free movie brand exploitation the third - and, we are repeatedly assured, final - installment of this comic saga is a lame, limp, lazy, lifeless reheating of a formula that got tired the second time around. The film is so flat leader tape might actually have been funnier.
For this effort, the "wolf pack" - Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and moronic man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) - re-assemble for a road adventure involving lightweight crim Chow (Ken Jeong), who we met in the first film and who, regrettably, was not killed off in the sequel.
Chow has stolen gold from major crim Marshall (John Goodman) and the guys are forced to find him, retrieve the loot and get back to their happy lives in the suburbs.
The whole shebang is just awful.
Whatever blue-tongued fizz there was in Part I - which set box office records for an adult-comedy - and the Bangkok-set Part II - which at least had a change of scenery - has deserted the team here.
Directed again by Todd Phillips, the film is so utterly bereft of ideas it actually returns to the original's setting of Las Vegas, presumably in a quest to recapture some of the magic. Alas, there's not a comic spark in sight, not even when Melissa McCarthy shows for a cameo.
The performances by Cooper and Helms are so vacant and unfunny one has to wonder whether they actually turned up, or just sent digital avatars in their place. Though they apparently netted $15m each (according to The Hollywood Reporter) neither look like they want to be there.
Same goes for salary-buddy Galifianakis, who, after Due Date and The Campaign as well as the Hangover films, has now officially run his idiot man routine into the dusty ground. As for John Goodman, there should be a law demanding that any filmmakers who wastes his talents as flagrantly as is done here ought to spend time in prison.
What's really irritating is how the film's trace elements of plot are so carelessly thrown together - how does somebody waste $20 million in two years and end up in jail? - it underscores what a sorry sample of fail-safe franchise filmmaking Hangover III is.
This could have been a great end to a three-part movie party. Instead, it's a fizzer.
DEAD MAN DOWN *1/2 (117 minutes) MA
About half-way through this stumblebum crime film a pause is taken so that Colin Farrell can all-but-literally turn to the audience and explain what the hell is going on. Up until then you're totally lost. It's not a clever device that makes you go "Aaah! Right!" but a clumsy device to try and make sense of a scatter-brained plot that still never quite works itself out. Farrell plays a revenge-mad family man who infiltrates a violent crime gang to wreak havoc and shoot lots of people. Only his relationship with his facially scarred neighbour (Noomi Rapace, from Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) reminds him of what it's like to feel love. She's really good - Danish director Niels Arden Oplev also made Tattoo - but it's not enough to redeem an overlong, often dull film.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST **1/2 (130 minutes) MA
In a crowded Pakistani cafe, former Wall Street high-flyer Changez (Riz Ahmed) explains to an unkempt American journalist (Liev Schreiber) how the events of 9/11 changed his outlook on life in general, and his love of America in particular. Adapted from the 2007 Mohsin Hamid novel, director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding; Salaam Bombay; The Namesake) is eager to explore the long-range effects of post-9/11 paranoia, but can't quite get the film's thriller element to click. Kate Hudson provides strong support as Changez's artist girlfriend who serves as an emotional reflector to her beau's altering perceptions of justice and prejudice.