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Monday, March 19, 2018


My two films this weekend had everything to do with why I go to them:  escape.  Escape from what?  My life is great, can't be that.  When my wife passed away almost a decade ago, I recalled that we had a great time having lunch at the Ward Buca di Beppo, followed by a movie so that we could overcome the wine we had.   So I began for this reason and expanded to many more of my Sundays.

The two:

                                  Rotten Tomatoes          Box Office Mojo  My Rating
                               Reviewers  Audiences     

Death Wish
                   17                82                        10                 B+

Red Sparrow                 47                57                          9                 B+

Reviewers did not like them, and absolutely trashed Bruce Willis' Death Wish as a simple re-hash.  Part of this reaction is a gun-control mentality that pervades society today.  The media seem compelled to dissing their enemies, such as the National Rifle Association.

The vigilante justice sympathy of the original with Charles Bronson has now become a production too full of guns and violence.  I guess I'm still sympathetic for good guy revenge.  I provided a decent rating because I enjoyed the intensity and justification.  

Bronson, incidentally, not long after earning a Purple Heart in World War II, began acting, but only as a support actor.  He did well in Europe and turned down the lead role in the 1964 A Fistful of Dollars, launching Clint Eastwood's career.  At the age of 52 came Death Wish in 1974.

Maybe I liked the film because Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) went to Stanford, and his class ring was a key clue leading detectives to him.  However, social media influenced law authorities to be sympathetic and look the other way.

One important point is that, while reviewers panned the production, audiences loved the 2018 Death WishWill there be a sequel?  Well, in three weeks it matched the total production costs, and you can surprise viewers the second time around with some creative writing.  I would go to yet another version of Death Wish.  There were five of them with Bronson, the first in 1974 and finale in 1994.

Red Sparrow is also into week #3, but is only two-thirds towards making up the budget.  My surprise was that it held my interest to the end, with a few surprising twists, an unexpected big one at the end. 

Jennifer Lawrence plays a prima ballerina with Bolshoi, which was a stretch since all their female stars generally look emaciated.  In any case, she accidentally falls and breaks her leg and career.  She has a dependent mother, and is coerced by her uncle, a high ranking intelligence administrator, to become a Red Sparrow, a morally demeaning task where seduction is the job assignment to extract information.

Jeremy Irons was good as a Russian general, and so was Charlotte Rampling, who definitely is back from her nervous breakdown.  The film might have been too graphic in violence and sex, and the transitions seemed particularly awkward on occasion, but is worth my B+ rating.  Is Lawrence a double agent linked to an American spy played by Joel Edgerton (left), who must have also gone through similar training?  Nah, the USA can't have these kinds of schools.  Or was it love?

While the financial burden of Red Sparrow might become a major hurdle, this is the first of a trilogy, written by Jason Matthews.  The ending leaves the door wide open to Red Sparrow 2, or maybe it will be titled Palace of Treason.


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