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Schultz reviews: "Honest Thief," "The Kid Detective," "Love and Monsters" and "2 Hearts"

Schultz reviews: "Honest Thief," "The Kid Detective," "Love and Monsters" and "2 Hearts"

Carl Schultz

 

 

“Honest Thief”   Distributed by Open Roads Films, 99 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released October 16, 2020:

In “Honest Thief,” actor Liam Neeson plays Tom Carter, a former US Marine demolitions expert now self-employed as a wildly successful criminal known to the media as “the In-and-Out Bandit” for his meticulous planning and uncanny ability to enter, rob, and exit a bank without a trace.  

When Tom falls in love with Annie, a vivacious divorced woman toiling as a rental agent for the self-storage facility where he stashes his loot, he decides to amend his lawless ways in order to avoid the specter of crime and punishment haunting his future.  So he turns to the FBI to exchange his illegally-gained fortune for a reduced prison sentence.  But when Tom’s double-crossed by corrupt agents and framed for a murder he didn’t commit, the former crook needs to go on the lam until he can prove his relative innocence.

A convoluted plot that owes more than a little to 1993’s “The Fugitive” (and the classic 1960s television series that inspired it) and plot holes big enough to drive a Brinks truck through threaten to sink this compact little crime thriller.  But some good pacing, a few genuinely suspenseful sequences, and a wry performance from a star who by now can play this kind of role in his sleep raise “Honest Thief” a notch or two above most Hollywood exploitation fare.

Directed with some skill but no real flair or distinction by Mark Williams from a screenplay he wrote in collaboration with writer and artist Steve Allrich, “Honest Thief” is the kind of picture that features sequences of frenzied talk to either explain away the preposterous developments which preceded them or justify the movie’s frequent plot inconsistencies and leaps of logic.  Car crashes are thankfully kept to a minimum, although some fairly sophisticated armaments are in ample supply.

Liam Neeson a age 68 is getting a little long-in-the-tooth to be persuasive in the running and jumping scenes, so “Honest Thief” features a more cerebral sort of action for its star:  Neeson’s character is driven to a life of crime by an act of corporate greed which led the the death of his father, and he becomes a sort of modern day John Dillinger as a means of avenging the marginalized.  And in the present political and financial atmosphere, very few people won’t be able to associate with that.

“Honest Thief” scores points for keeping the mood light, and even contains some elements of farce.  Carter needs to go to enormous lengths to persuade the authorities that he’s actually the man they’ve been seeking, and he really, really hates the nickname “the In-and-Out Bandit”...but reluctantly admits he can’t think of anything better.  Still, despite some clever touches and Neeson’s not-quite-arch performance, any movie that depicts a character “walking off” a gunshot wound to the abdomen deserves an automatic R rating.

“Honest Thief” took the top spot on Box Office Mojo’s Top Ten movies during its opening weekend, earning some $3.7 million in theater receipts, displacing last week’s “The War with Grandpa,” which slips to the second place with $2.5 million in earnings.  This week’s other new releases are farther down the list:  ”2 Hearts” takes the sixth place spot with $565,000, “Love and Monsters” is ninth with $225,000, and “The Kid Detective is in tenth place with $135,000.

Filmed in Worcester, Massachusetts and featuring supporting performances by Kate Walsh as the woman who breaks into Neeson’s heart, Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos as the G-Men who frame him, and Jeffrey Donovan and Robert Patrick the as more conscientious and law-abiding lawmen, “Honest Thief” is rated PG-13 for strong violence, crude references, and brief strong language.

“The Kid Detective”   Distributed by Stage 6 Films, 97 Minutes, Rated R, Released October 16, 2020:

Abe Applebaum is a former kid detective.  Fashioned from the same template as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden, Abe once worked out of an office located in a treehouse and excelled at solving cases such as finding the money that disappeared from the school fundraiser and determining who stole the fresh pie cooling on Mrs. Whitaker’s windowsill.

Abe’s record of success as a junior sleuth was unparalleled...until he grew up and turned professional.  A local girl disappeared, and although committed to and then obsessed with finding her, Abe failed in his mission.  Now a burnt-out, has-been, barely-sober former junior Sherlock Holmes, Abe’s approached by a girl who looks to him to solve the recent murder of her boyfriend.  And Abe begins to discover the old fires of ambition still smoldering in his soul.

Written and directed by Evan Morgan, “The Kid Detective” is a clever little Canadian picture that takes aim at the sweet spot between whimsy and satire...and misses by just a hair:  The premise is much more ingenious than the delivery.  The setup combining two beloved motion picture genres--the cynical veteran detective and the ace teenage sleuth--is engagingly silly, and fills the viewer with a sense of eager anticipation for a payoff that never really comes.  Your friends might be even more amused hearing about it later than you were while watching it.

Still, there’s a fairly involving mystery at the picture’s core, and despite a narrative style which might be overly familiar to some viewers, “The Kid Detective” might very well be able to draw you in--it’s only the framing device that promises a little too much and falls short in delivery.  And although the movie’s title seems to suggest a mildly entertaining family-friendly adventure picture, “The Kid Detective” is decidedly not one for the kiddies.

Starring Adam Brody of “Isabelle” and “Shazam!” fame as the grownup Abe Applebaum, with supporting roles filled by Sophie Nelisse (“Two Meters Down: Uncaged”), Sarah Sutherland (Catherine Meyer on TV’s “Veep”), Wendy Crewson, Jonathan Whittaker, and Jesse Noah Gruman in flashback sequences as the young Abe, “The Kid Detective” is rated R for sexual situations, brief nudity, language concerns, drug use, and violence.

“Love and Monsters”   Distributed by Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released October 16, 2020:

Well, it’s like this…

In “Love and Monsters” Joel Dawson, an American teenager, manages to survive the Monsterpocalypse, an extinction-level event which transformed the creepy-crawly bugs you find living under damp rocks into mammoth-sized predators who’ve consumed, we’re told, 95% of earth’s population.  

Seven years later, Joel’s living as a cook for a band of hardy survivors in an underground colony when he reconnects via ham radio with his former high school flame, now living in another colony of survivors along the coast.  And despite harboring tendencies of cowardice and having practically no survivalist training, Joel embarks on an overland odyssey through 85 miles predator-infested wilderness to his former girlfriend’s abode in order to resume their high school romance.

Although resembling at first one of the lesser creature-features pumped out by American International Pictures during the good old days of drive-in movies during the 1950s, the serio-comic “Love and Monsters” runs through a number of genres (and a middle section which closely resembles the dynamics of “Zombieland”) before switching gears during its final minutes to reveal that it’s really been a Homeric epic all along, with a serious message about the importance of love, friendship, loyalty, courage, and faith.

Plainly aimed at younger viewers, the part-dark comedy, part-monster movie, part-romance, and part-wilderness adventure probably works best as a character study, with the talented Dylan O’Brien (familiar to movie viewers as Thomas in the “Maze Runner” series of dystopian action adventure pictures) showing his jittery boyish character maturing into a seasoned adult, and learning to find the courage within himself to navigate the sometimes overwhelming perils of life’s journey.

But despite the clever performance of O’Brien in the leading role, the heart and soul of “Love and Monsters” belongs to Michael Rooker as Clyde Dutton, a seasoned survivor Joel meets along his journey to the coast.  Rooker contributes his customary lived-in performance to the picture, and his characterization as the outdoorsman who agrees to tutor O’Brien’s Joel in the ways of both wilderness travel and oversized insect monsters easily becomes the best part of the movie.

Directed by South African filmmaker Michael Matthews from a screenplay by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, “Love and Monsters” might not win any Academy Awards or major distinctions from motion picture critics.  But the movie contains enough emotional depth to hold the interest of the adults in the audience, while possibly helping younger viewers to find the courage within themselves to contemplate the formidable perils and difficulties of romance in the age of Covid.

Filmed in Brisbane, Mount Cotton, and Southport in Queensland, Australia, “Love and Monsters” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and a scene of implied sexuality.

“2 Hearts”   Distributed by Freestyle Releasing, 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released October 16, 2020:

Based on Erie Gregory’s memoir “All My Tomorrows,” in “2 Hearts” the lives of two men from different cultures, different backgrounds, and presumably different times intersect in a way neither could’ve imagined.  Chris, a footloose college freshman, meets the girl of his dreams shortly after arriving at Loyola University, and Jorge, the heir to the Bacardi Rum dynasty, meets his dream girl while his family’s relocating to the US after the fall of the Cuban Batista government in 1959.

Told in two parallel stories, “2 Hearts” unfortunately turns into a moderately syrupy tearjerker, employing just about every cliche and overused romantic plot device you can think of--and then some--to drive its point across.  And then, a full 75 minutes into the picture’s 100 running time, the picture hits the brakes to advise the audience that one of the “based on a true story” plotlines is fabricated...and then backpedals to retell differently events that have already been depicted, as a means of finally revealing that the entire movie is actually a public service message about organ donation.

Directed by Lance Hool from a screenplay by Robin Russin and Veronica Hool (and produced by Conrad Hool, Veronica Hool and the director, among seven others), “2 Hearts” despite its noble intentions and inspirational framing falls short of becoming anything more than a pedestrian love story mixed with an infomercial.  The screenplay implies its writers either believe the viewer’s never seen a romance movie before or have never seen one themselves.  And the direction suggests the filmmaker is less influenced by classic cinema than Hallmark greeting cards.

Starring Australian actor Jacob Elordi (the object of Joey King’s affection in “The Kissing Booth” and “The Kissing Booth 2”), Tiera Skovbye as his girlfriend, Adan Canto as the Bacardi heir, and Radha Mitchell as Canto’s flight attendant love interest, “2 Hearts” is receiving mostly excoriating reviews from the critics, including an approval rating of just 11% from Rotten Tomatoes against a weighted average of 29% from Metacritic.

Filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia and Honolulu and playing in 1683 theaters across the United States, “2 Hearts” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and implied sex.

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