Film Review : The Highwaymen
Bonnie and Clyde have been on the road for two years.
Cold-blooded killers who are more adored than movie stars.
This has to stop.
Who doesn’t know Bonnie and Clyde? In 1930, this pre-war couple had nothing better to do than go down the path of crime and leave a trail of death and destruction in the US. This young couple was hunted by the police for two years. Until they were killed in an ambush where their escape car was riddled with thousands of bullets (so they claimed). Their victims were mainly banks and gas stations. And among the murdered victims were also a few police officers. This all took place during the turbulent 1930s when the economic crisis hit hard and many led a poor life. Perhaps that’s why both criminals were seen as heroes. Their outlaw life looked like an adventure after being romanticized. It appealed to everyone’s imagination. And because they wanted to hit the established order financially, they were worshiped like true pop idols. Their story took on mythical proportions. But who knows the authorities who put an end to this duo and their criminal life? And that’s what this film focuses on. The arm of the law from that time who, as old-fashioned bounty hunters, going after this gang.
It’s not just a Bonnie & Clyde movie.
If this were the umpteenth Bonnie & Clyde film (a whole series has already been made with the most famous one with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) I would have skipped it. But the fact that the story is looked at from a different angle and also that Kevin Costner and (especially) Woody Harrelson play the two Texas Rangers here, made it obvious I had to watch this film. Man, it’s always a pleasure to see an actor like Harrelson at work. Even though it’s a deadly serious role this time, he always manages to make me smile. However, things don’t get crackling in this film. But that is not due to the interpreters of the two main roles. The lack of action in this film (with the exception of a well-portrayed dusty pursuit and the ultimate ambush of course) will be a letdown for many.
Want to see Bonnie and Clyde? Bummer, they’re not often in the picture here.
The fact that Bonnie and Clyde barely enter the picture and the motive to become such a murderous couple isn’t explored in depth, may also be a disappointment for many. I think this was a conscious choice by director John Lee Hancock. He wanted to concentrate fully on the two Rangers who are chasing B&C. This way it felt as if nothing really happens during large parts of the film. For the most part, you’ll just witness dialogues between the two retired Rangers. They look like two washed up troublemakers who went too far as Texas Rangers in the past. From the outset, you have the impression that these were out of control cowboys who hold the motto “First shoot and then ask” as of paramount importance. Not that you get to see anything. You can only conclude this from what is being said by the hastily convened committee of dignitaries who are reasonably fed up with the violent life of B&C. And the anecdotes those two veterans tell sporadically.
The 30s vibe.
So it isn’t really action-packed and highly entertaining. In addition, you already know in advance how it will end. So you won’t be nibbling your fingernails to the skin because of the tension. However, if you are an avid fan of the 30s and the whole atmosphere that exuded that era, then you will enjoy watching this. The film perfectly portrays this era. The vintage cars from that time and clothing. But especially the spirit of these days is constantly palpable. In those years, the industrial revolution and technical progress was ready to explode. It was a time where social life was average and easy. But also the less pleasant side from that period (due to the recession) is shown in a brilliant way. The poor, impoverished neighborhoods and camps scattered here and there were characteristic of that time.
Excellent acting in this boring affair.
What remains is the acting of our two Texas Rangers. It goes without saying that the acting is of a high standard. What else did you expect from such star actors? If there’s one thing I enjoyed the most while watching this movie, it’s the interaction between them. The one is more grumpy and bitter than the other. And Woody struggles again with persistent alcohol addiction (just like in “The glass castle“). These two seasoned Rangers provide the necessary vibrancy and entertainment. But unfortunately, this is not enough to take the boring and slow “The Highwaymen” to a higher level. Daily life was perhaps nerve-racking and exciting to Bonnie & Clyde. And I can imagine they led a restless life while fleeing from one place to another. As energetic as their life was, so boring it was for their pursuers. And that trend continued in this film. Are you naturally impatient or you are in the midst of a period that requires a lot of energy so that you are constantly fighting fatigue? Well, then this film is definitely not recommended.
My rating 6/10
Maria- It Was Like A Filipino “John Wick” Persiflage.
She’s still alive.
Lily. Lily’s still alive!
John Wick had a good reason to make things difficult for his former boss. They liquidated his cute dog and stole his car. In the movie “Polar“, Duncan Vizla’s retirement savings were compromised. In this Filipino revenge film, Maria (Christine Reyes) leaves a trail of death and destruction because her former employee has murdered her family. You’d start a killing spree for less. What does she have in common with Wick and Vizla? She’s also a retired assassin who has turned her back on the violent life she led. So expect action-rich and extremely violent scenes that are performed according to an excellent choreography.
Maria aka Lilly.
Maria (or Lilly in her previous life) didn’t just simply retire. She went off the grid in a devious way when she had a crisis of conscience at her last job and refused to butcher an innocent woman and her daughter. Instead, she shot Kaleb (Germaine de Leon), her lover back then, through his kneecap and disappeared forever. That is until the same Kaleb notices her when they are making preparations to kill some governor. From then on the hunt for her is opened. The result of this manhunt is the death of her current husband and her lovely little daughter.
The sweet taste of revenge.
Well, “Maria” isn’t really innovative. Countless revenge films have been made recent years (such as “I spit on your grave“, “Revenge“, “The Equalizer” and of course “John Wick“). Don’t expect a complicated and well-thought-out story in this Philippine action film. The film is actually fairly straightforward. And in the end, it’s only the tough confrontations what’s important in such action films. In “Maria” however, they tried to fill the voids with irrelevant sordid stuff. Every once in a while cheaters and inconvenient witnesses are tortured and massacred. So, the most positive thing you can say about this film is that the fight scenes look slick. The rest, on the other hand, was sometimes too bad for words.
Let’s start with the part that annoyed me immensely. I didn’t mind it to be a Filipino film. Even though I didn’t understand a thing. And those who know me a little bit, know that I hate reading subtitles constantly. I’ve made peace with that. But why did these Filipino conversations have to be alternated with an English sentence? It was as if they had taken the dubbing into their own hands. And it wasn’t just this bilingual nonsense that was annoying. The sound of pronunciation was also toe-curling. It was as if all those Philippines suddenly sounded like Andy Kaufman from “Taxi”. Next, let’s talk about the male actors. Some of them are guilty of theatrical overacting (especially KC Montero masters in this). And I don’t know if this is a tradition among Filipino gangs, but I thought it was fairly bizarre that the male protagonists had female furies to do the dirty work. Although I have to admit those ladies could stand their ground without any problems.
Action flick clichés.
Furthermore, “Maria” is again filled with well-known clichés that are used over and over again in action flicks. The hard rock music. Again stupid gangsters rushing forward like sheep to the slaughter. Of course, a nightclub scene had to be included. Whistling blades. Cracking bones. And the sound effects of hard fist-punches reminded me nostalgically of the better Terence Hill & Bud Spencer films. It was like a Filipino “John Wick” persiflage. Only the charisma and the natural coolness of Keanu Reeves were missing. And finally, I found some scenes were overly stretched (such as the flashbacks).
Imagine Denzel Washington posing like that.
All in all, “Maria” is no more than a B-film with a simplistic storyline and moderate acting. Are you a fan of solid fists and footwork then you will certainly enjoy yourself here. And for those who appreciate exotic women, these exotic beauties look really pretty and are certainly no kittens to tackle without gloves. Why they have to walk around all the time in a kind of aerobic outfit is a mystery to me. And Maria’s posing like a model in the rain after the ultimate fight, I found hilarious. Fortunately, Denzel Washington didn’t do something similar in “The Equalizer“. That would look rather ridiculous!
My rating 4/10
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We Die Young – A Fastpaced Gangsta Film That Never Bores
When Rincon started doing his Shakespeare,
you knew some poor bastard’s about to get smoked.
“We Die Young” is not a typical Jean-Claude Van Damme film, where he can show off his trained body. In fact, in this film, the number of times Van Damme is demonstrating his fighting techniques, is almost nil. So don’t expect any splits. Actually, it’s kind of understandable because “The muscles of Brussels” isn’t the youngest anymore. And I can imagine that such efforts are no longer evident.
He’s back again.
There’s one advantage. JcvD concentrates more on the acting part than on the more action-rich part. Films such as “Bloodsport” and “Kickboxer” from the 80s were immensely popular. And I admit that I also look back on that with pleasure. Unfortunately, this successful period was followed by a period with fewer successful films. Such as “Alien Uprising” (probably to please his daughter), “Dragon Eyes” and “Welcome to the Jungle“. After the umpteenth crap movie, my decision was made. Best I avoid JcvD films. Until recently. I couldn’t resist watching “The Bouncer” and was pleasantly surprised. Let me quote myself for a moment: “Just when you think that an icon such as Jean-Claude Van Damme is becoming a caricature of himself and in danger of sinking into oblivion, he surprises you with such a part as in this film. The “Muscles from Brussels” got under my skin with his integer and sensitive acting. ” I couldn’t have said it better.
A war veteran and Latinos.
Naturally, I gave “We die young” a chance. Solely to verify whether he could maintain the same level. And I readily admit that he has wonderfully succeeded in convincing me once again. This time he’s not a bouncer of nightclubs in a Brussels neighborhood, but a retired Afghanistan war veteran. A military past that has left traces in the form of PTSD and a set of damaged vocal cords. The latter issue also ensures that you won’t hear any sound out of Van Damme’s mouth. Daniel (Jean-Claude Van Damme) somehow ended up in a slum near Washington D.C. where Latinos (Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13) are in control. A run-down neighborhood where drug addiction is the source of income for this fully tattooed gang members.
Some more impressive performances.
Next to JcvD also David Castañeda left an impression. His performance as the gang leader and kingpin Rincon is quite impressive. Not only because of his threatening attitude, cruelty, and determination with which he leads his drug gang. But also because he also shows his soft side as guardian of Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) and Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny). And as the protective brother of his physically disabled sister Gabriela (Robyn Cara). The whole story revolves around Lucas who works for Rincon as a drug courier and preferably doesn’t want his younger brother to end up to be part of this gang. When a very important transaction goes wrong, also thanks to the interference of right-hand man Jester (Charlie MacGechan), it’s the start of a nerve-racking and rather action-rich part.
A fastpaced gangsta film that never bores.
Again, don’t expect a typical Van Damme movie. In the end, it’s a rather gloomy film that shows how destructive and dangerous it is to live in a neighborhood controlled by drug gangs. Survival is more the right word because every mistake made, will be punished ruthlessly. This film shows the futureless life of young people there. The title is therefore applicable. Not many can enjoy a long and healthy life in these slums. Of course, you can ask a few questions about “We die young“. Why the hell has Daniel moved there? Was he looking for anonymity? Is he trying to forget about the past? What with his family? Or is he simply alone in this world? Forgotten by those who knew him? Or is it a convenient solution such that he can easily get the painkillers. Those that help him to get rid of delusions and visions? And what about his military skills? Because when it comes to defending, he looks like a klutz. All in all, “We die young” is a must see if you want to see Van Damme again. A fastpaced gangsta film that never bores.
My rating 6.5/10
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