REVIEW: “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” (2022)

With “Three Minutes – A Lengthening”, Bianca Stigter has given us one of the most compelling documentaries of 2022. The film centers on three minutes of 16mm home movie footage from 1938, shot in the Jewish neighborhood of Nasielsk, Poland. These three brief minutes are full of smiles, joy, and laughter as members of this lively Jewish community enjoy the attention of the camera. But in a few short months, most of the people in the footage would be gone – victims of Nazi Germany’s systematic genocide of European Jews.

The weight of that truth hangs over “Three Minutes – A Lengthening”. Stigter’s approach makes sure it’s etched into our minds. At the same time, this isn’t a film solely fixated on the horrors that befell this community. It’s far more about memorializing them by piecing together these few fragments of their lives preserved on the film. It’s an effort to remember them; to let their lives speak beyond the abhorrent atrocities they faced at the hands of their barbaric oppressors. And while identifying the people proved mostly impossible, Stigter honors them through her deep reverence and forensic precision.

Image Courtesy of Super LTD

Stigter begins by playing the full video uninterrupted, without narration or voice-over of any kind. All we hear is the sound of the film running through a 16mm projector. It’s a sobering three minutes. I watched this opening three times before continuing the movie, and in that time several noticeable faces stuck with me. The old bearded gentleman leaning up against the wall. The rambunctious lad sticking his tongue out at the camera. The two manly chaps standing stoically on the left side of the frame. The young girl in a pale red dress with a well-combed bob and a big smile. And several others. I immediately started wondering about them. Who were they? What were their stories? And sadly, were they among the very few who survived?

From there the movie chronicles the search for answers about the town and the people we see. Interestingly, the movie never strays from the actual footage itself. We never see the narrator (a superb Helena Bonham Carter) nor do we see the small handful of contributors. We simply hear their voices as we continually watch those solemn three minutes. But it’s not in a continual loop. Stigter freezes frames, rewinds clips, zooms in on details, etc., all in her efforts to glean whatever information she can. Often that requires examining every inch of the frame: the door posts, the trees, the clothing patterns and fabrics. It all helps paint a clearer picture of the community.

A key voice in the film is that of Glenn Kurtz, the man who discovered the three-minute celluloid in a closet in Florida. Nearly aged passed the point of saving, Glenn donated the film to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum where it was restored and digitized. Over time we learn the film was shot by his grandfather, an American named David Kurtz, who in 1938 took a trip to Europe. After stops in Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Geneva (among other places), David took a detour to Poland to visit his hometown of Nasielsk.

Image Courtesy of Super LTD

We learn that Nasielsk, some 30 miles north of Warsaw, is where David Kurtz shot the eponymous three minutes of footage. In 1938, Nasielsk had a population of 7,000 of whom 3000 were Jews. But by 1942, less than 100 of the town’s Jewish population would be alive. The deportation of the Nasielsk Jews is shared in a grim and stomach-churning eyewitness account. It adds even more potency to the three minutes of film we’ve come to intimately know by that point in the movie.

While watching “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” you can’t help but notice its nods to the power of filmmaking, the importance of historical research, and the unequaled treasure of memory. All of those things are profoundly realized throughout the film’s compact 111 minutes. But the people on that small 16mm reel are always the centerpiece. Stigner never loses sight of that, and as a result we don’t lose sight of it either. “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” is out now in select theaters.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Three Thousand Years of Longing” (2022)

If you’ve had the chance to see the trailer for the new film “Three Thousand Years of Longing” you’ll probably go into it expecting a trippy, gonzo bonanza of big effects and crazy imagery that could only come “from the mad genius of George Miller”. After all, he’s the visual virtuoso whose last movie was none other than the 2015 action masterpiece “Mad Max: Fury Road”. So George Miller comes packaged with some expectation of eye-popping bombast.

Surprisingly, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is tamer than you might think. I mean there’s still plenty of stylistic flourishes and excesses. But not as much as the trailer might have you believing. Even more surprising, with the exception of a scene or two, it’s when the movie ventures off into the fantastical that some of its weaknesses really show. I mean who would’ve guessed that the best parts of a George Miller movie would be Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in white terrycloth bathrobes sitting in a hotel room talking?

Image Courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment

“Three Thousand” is full of big ideas that never quite gel and ambition that it never quite fulfills. Based on the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A. S. Byatt, the script (penned by Miller and Augusta Gore) gets off on the right foot. We get a really nice setup, and once Elba is introduced, he and Swinton immediately grab our interest. The movie is at its best when sticking to its intimate two-hander framework. But then we get these sequences from the past, each coated in Elba’s aching but rather drab narration. While interesting at first, these detours quickly start to wear thin.

Swinton is very good as Dr. Alithea Binnie, a narratologist who we meet as she’s arriving in Istanbul for a literary conference. Alithea was once happily married. But a heartbreaking miscarriage followed by an unfaithful husband led to the end of her marriage. Since then, she has walled off a part of herself, traveling abroad and focusing on her work. “I’m a solitary creature by nature,” she says proudly describing her new approach to life which sees her happy and content on her own. Or is she?

While walking through Istanbul’s grand bizarre, Alithea stops in a small shop and purchases a memento – a small blue and white stained glass bottle. She takes her knickknack back to her hotel room to give it a good cleaning. While doing so, the bottle pops open and out filters a pointy-eared djinn (Elba) the size of a cement truck. Now that would be quite a jolt for anyone, even more so for someone like Alithea who doesn’t believe in fate and spends many of her lectures teaching that gods have outlived their purposes. So what to make of the djinn in her hotel suite?

After the djinn sizes down to more human proportions the two begin their rather fascinating introductions. He explains to her that he has the ability to grant her heart’s desire. All she has to do is wish it. Alithea is both cynical and dispassionate to the point that she’s not interested in the djinn’s offer. It sets up an interesting dynamic between the two. The djinn needs Alithea to make a wish because it would finally free him from his centuries of servitude. She has no interest in wishes, but she is an admirer of stories. And that’s something the djinn has plenty of.

So the djinn begins telling Alithea the stories of his previous masters. As he does, Miller makes several pseudo historical trips back in time, including to the days of King Solomon (Nicolas Mouawad) and the Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum) as well as the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (Lachy Hulme). Considering this is a Miller film, you’d think these peculiar mixes of history and fantasy would be the movie’s high points. It’s quite the opposite.

Image Courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment

When Miller leaves the hotel room for centuries past, the movie hits a wall and bogs down. And frankly, it’s because the djinn’s stories simply aren’t that interesting. There’s not enough weirdness. There’s not enough excitement. There’s practically no suspense whatsoever. The drama is very low-key. And some of Miller’s choices range from bland to lurid and tasteless. There are a few layers of excess that are more off-putting than audacious. Even the visuals are lacking, often highlighted by cheap-looking digital backdrops or glaringly artificial sets.

The movie always gets better whenever it shifts back to Alithea and the djinn in the hotel room. Their conversations are emotionally rich and revealing. Both characters are portraits of longing. His is more open and pronounced. Hers has been suppressed. Both the dialogue in these scenes and the chemistry between Swinton and Elba make them sparkle. Sadly, they can’t make up for the unremarkable flashbacks and the assortment of issues that come with them. And so we end up with a movie exploring why we tell stories that is ultimately undone by a character telling stories? Ironic.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Thirteen Lives” (2022)

Ron Howard returns to the director’s chair for the new biographical survival thriller “Thirteen Lives”. The film is a dramatization of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue. That’s when twelve members of a junior soccer team, their ages ranging from 11 to 16, along with their assistant coach were trapped deep within Tham Luang cave in Northern Thailand following some intense flooding. The film chronicles the fact-based rescue attempts to get the thirteen out alive.

“Thirteen Lives” is a gripping account of an incident that grabbed the attention of the entire world. Howard goes to great lengths to emphasize the gravity of the danger the soccer team faced and the sheer scope of the international rescue operation that included more than 5,000 people from 17 countries. He also spotlights the many shades of humanity that play a big part in the story – the fear and anxiety; the empathy and kindness; the contentions and frustrations; the bravery and sacrifice.

And it should be said at the outset that “Thirteen Lives” is a technical marvel and a glowing example of the creative magic in cinema. The movie splits itself between the riveting action inside the cave and the human drama outside, and both are brought to life through some truly brilliant creativity. Howard and his team of artists pored over the actual schematics of the cave, watched hours of archived news footage, tapped into the knowledge of real divers, and surrounded themselves with Thai advisors and crew members so that the Thai culture would be respectfully represented.

Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Some of the most jaw-dropping work took place in a Queensland, Australia warehouse. Howard, production designer Molly Hughes, acclaimed Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, five-time Oscar nominated sound editor Oliver Tarney, and countless others recreated specific sections of Tham Luang cave. The crew built highly detailed tunnels and submerged them into four 100-foot-long tanks. The results are scenes of hair-raising realism as divers navigate the cramped and claustrophobic tunnelways.

The film is written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson (“Gladiator”, “Shadowlands”) who’s tasked with juggling an astonishing number of moving parts. He starts his story on June 23, 2018 in Ban Chong, Thailand as the Wild Hogs junior soccer team are finishing up practice. A big birthday party for the team’s youngest member Chai (Pasakorn Hoyhon) is planned for later. But before they go, the boys convince their coach (Teeradon Supapunpinyo) to take them to the nearby Tham Luang cave. So the group hops on their bikes and make the scenic ride to Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park where the mouth of the cave lies at the base of a lush mountain.

The boys and their coach enter the cave at 3:07 PM. As they venture deeper in, a storm gathers outside. Eventually the clouds open up and torrential rain sets in. Shifting to Chai’s house, after none of the team shows up to the party, the parents head to the cave worried the boys will get drenched riding back home in the downpour. But when they arrive to find the bikes parked near the entrance but no sign of their sons, the parents quickly and understandably begin to fear the worse.

We don’t see the Wild Boars again for a while, as Howard and Nicholson move their focus to the growing rescue effort. Family and media gather near the entrance, the Thai Navy SEALS arrive, and engineers begin pumping water out of the submerged cave. Meanwhile, the politicians, Governor Narongsak (Sahajak Boonthanakit) and Minister Anupong Paochinda (Vithaya Pansringarm), butt heads over the best course of action.

As days pass and situations worsen, the Thai government bring in a pair of elite divers from England who specialize in cave rescue – Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (Colin Farrell). They’re later joined by an Australian doctor and fellow diver Harry Harris (Joel Edgerton). They eventually find the boys and their coach huddled in a small dark corner some 2500 meters deep into the cave. But that’s hardly the end of the story.

Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The second half of the movie focuses on the tougher challenge – finding a way to get the thirteen out alive. There’s no way they would survive the arduous five and a half hour dive back through narrow crevices and against strong and shifting currents – a challenge for even the best divers. So Rick, John, and Harry must devise another plan. But with oxygen levels in the chamber dropping, they’ll need to come up with something quick.

One of my favorite things about “Thirteen Lives” is Howard’s intense focus on realism. His reliance on authenticity strips the film of artifice and keeps melodrama at a bare minimum. For that reason its tension feels organic and its emotions are earned. Even more, the sense of peril is palpable. For example, every time we get a scene of divers underwater there’s a genuine sense of danger.

If I had a gripe, it would be with how little we see from the boys’ perspective. But at the same time, it’s hard to knock the movie’s linear focus when it’s this well executed. It’s such a thorough and soundly paced account of the rescue, and even at two and a half hours there’s never moments that feel wasted. Of course Mortensen, Farrell, and Edgerton make for a terrific trio and each give firmly grounded performances. But the movie doesn’t get locked in on its three big-named stars. Howard spreads the attention around and stresses the local dynamic as much (if not more) than the international presence. It’s one of many strengths that makes this real-life study of heroism and sacrifice so moving and immersive. “Thirteen Lives” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022)

When examining the individual character-centered movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Thor films have been the most uneven. Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 “Thor” was a nice mix of superhero action and ‘fish out of water’ humor. Alan Taylor’s 2013 “Thor: The Dark World” had its moments, but as a whole was a little dry and derivative. And then you have Taika Waititi’s 2017 “Thor: Ragnarok”, a decent standalone comedy but a mediocre MCU movie with an out-of-whack tone and characters who often clashed with their previous MCU portrayals.

But audiences loved “Ragnarok” to the tune of over $850 million. That, along with lead actor Chris Hemsworth’s love for playing the character, made a fourth film inevitable. Enter “Thor: Love and Thunder”, a movie that mostly follows in the tracks of its immediate predecessor. That’s largely because of the returning Waititi who this time not only directs but writes the script along with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

“Love and Thunder” tries a little of everything and it results in a pretty disappointing mess. Of course Waititi’s lean towards humor is impossible to miss and leads to some of the same issues I had with “Ragnarok”. The problem here is that Waititi doesn’t seem to have a valve, and he goes so heavy into making this a comedy that it almost feels like a spoof of a Marvel film rather than a significant entry into the MCU. And much like the movie before it, “Love and Thunder” once again makes its main character a walking punchline rather than a character you can take seriously.

Casual fans with no real affinity for the comics (or for a cohesive flow of the overall universe) will probably enjoy “Love and Thunder”. It once again gives us ‘buffoon Thor’ and goes out of its way to squeeze a joke out of nearly every scene. Not only does it lead to instances were the comedy seems annoyingly forced, but it also smothers some of the more dramatic scenes. Worst of all, Waititi puts so much time into making jokes that he shortchanges other characters and their stories. There are numerous holes that could have easily been filled if Waititi would have simply dialed it back and given more thought to his overall story rather than making his audience giggle at every other line of dialogue.

In between the movie’s screaming goat gags and lazy Guns N’ Roses needle-drops is the tragic (and woefully under-served) story of Gorr (a terrific but wasted Christian Bale). The movie opens with his young daughter dying in his arms. After his prayers to save his little girl go unanswered, a humble Gorr approaches his god pleading for answers but only receives ridicule and mockery. He’s then (somehow) chosen by a weapon called the Necrosword which imbues its wielder with the ability to slay gods (don’t expect much of an explanation for the Necrosword. It’s one of several things the movie throws in but doesn’t bother with any details).

From their Gorr takes one of several extended leaves. The story shifts to Thor (Hemsworth) who is still out cruising around space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. After a silly (and visually shaky) “action” sequence on an embattled planet, the Guardians are quickly sent packing (more for story convenience than for any meaningful reason) and halfwit Thor is off to answer a distress call from Sif (Jaimie Alexander). She warns him of Gorr and his plan to eradicate all gods. Gorr’s first target – New Asgard.

If you remember, New Asgard is a village in Norway under the rule of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). As leader, Valkyrie has turned New Asgard into a popular cruise ship tourist destination where visitors can enjoy rides and corny stage reenactments of Thor’s adventures. They can even see the fragments of Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjollnir prominently displayed in a glass case.

This is also where we get reintroduced to Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (a returning Natalie Portman). Speaking of a character who gets the short end of the stick, Jane hasn’t played a significant part in the MCU since 2013’s “The Dark World”. She’s brought back to play a major role, but because of her long absence Waititi has a lot to catch us up on. We learn Jane has stage 4 cancer and hasn’t much time to live. For reasons barely explained, Jane feels Mjollnir calling her to New Asgard (it has something to do with an accidental enchantment years earlier. Again, it’s an explanation given out of convenience more so than good storytelling). When Jane arrives, Mjollnir magically reforges and Jane is transformed into Mighty Thor. Just like that.

After Gorr attacks New Asgard and makes off with the village’s children, Thor and Jane are reunited. And with Valkyrie tagging along as the perpetual third wheel, the trio sets off to stop the God Butcher and bring the kidnapped Asgardian kiddos back home. But to do so will require a visit to Zeus (a campy Russell Crowe) to warn him and the other gods and recruit an army. More goofiness follows, we get more iffy special effects, more time is spent away from the truly compelling elements of the story, and we’re given more reasons to grow frustrated with Waititi’s antics.

So Jane’s story is rushed and there’s hardly any spark between her and Thor. Valkyrie (a character in desperate need of some kind of meaningful arc) is too often left on the story’s fringes. Korg (voiced by Waititi) tags along for comic relief (as if the movie needed comic “relief”). And Gorr is left sitting on the sidelines while Waititi yucks it up to the point of overkill. And that’s notable for a movie with a father grieving the death of a child and stage four cancer as key story points. But “Love and Thunder” isn’t too concerned with all of that weighty stuff. And who cares if it’s a tonal disaster as long as you wedge a gag into nearly every scene. That seems to be the blueprint of the MCU’s latest underwhelming installment. “Thor: Love and Thunder” is out now in theaters.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

REVIEW: “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022)

It was a Saturday morning in May of 1986. My brother and I were sitting in our living room floor watching MTV (back when they actually played music videos). Whichever classic veejay was manning the waves introduced the poppy, guitar-driven “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins from the “Top Gun” motion picture soundtrack. As was customary, the video featured lots of footage from the movie which happened to grab my father’s attention.

“Top Gun” came out during a time when my dad was really into fighter planes. He watched shows about them, read about them, and put together detailed model kits by the dozens. When he got a glimpse of the “Danger Zone” video, my brother and I didn’t have to do much convincing. A couple hours later, our family was heading to the nearest theater to see what would be the highest-grossing film of 1986.

Directed by Tony Scott and starring Tom Cruise, “Top Gun” was very much a movie of the 80s, to the point that younger audiences may have a hard time embracing it in the same way many of us did 36 years ago. But as silly as it can be at times, I’ve always loved it. The cast, the music, the breathtaking aerial action sequences – it all clicks for me in a way that goes beyond simple nostalgia.

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Talks of a sequel began in earnest in 2010 and a first-draft of the script was completed in 2012. But following Scott’s death the project was shelved. Five years later, a new script was written with Joseph Kosinski hired to direct and Cruise back in the cockpit and producing. But one big question remained, would this be yet another shameless Hollywood cash grab or did Cruise and company have a meaningful next chapter to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s story to tell?

Well, “Top Gun: Maverick” certainly embraces nostalgia, and there are callbacks that will leave fans giddy. I mean it opens identically to the 1986 movie – on the deck of an aircraft carrier with Harold Faltermeyer’s classic “Top Gun Anthem” leading straight into Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. Fan service? Perhaps. Yet it’s such a pitch-perfect and smile-inducing way to kick things off.

But “Maverick” is a lot more than callbacks and fan service. It has a lot more on its mind than rehashing old scenes and retreading past storylines (something I feared). In fact, there’s an unexpectedly strong emotional current that runs throughout the story. And its trio of writers (Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie) use many of those familiar past connections in surprisingly poignant and heartfelt ways.

Over three decades after the events of “Top Gun”, Cruise’s Maverick lives in an old air hanger where he spends his spare time tinkering on an vintage P-51 Mustang. He has deliberately dodged numerous promotions much to the chagrin of his superiors. Instead he serves as a Navy test pilot for a hypersonic scramjet program. But at the urging of Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), Maverick is called back to Top Gun, an elite training program for the Navy’s top pilots – “the best of the best”.

Maverick is tasked with training a group of Top Gun graduates for a dangerous mission. An unnamed rogue nation has an underground uranium enrichment facility that poses a major security threat for the world. It’s nestled deep in a canyon and surrounded by surface-to-air missile installations. To make matters worse, the generic enemy possesses state-of-the-art fifth-generation fighters. That means Maverick’s pilots will have to sneak in undetected and get out before the enemy aircraft can engage them.

But there’s some personal tension when Maverick discovers one of his young pilots is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his late best friend Goose, who still blames Maverick for his father’s death. To make matters worse, Maverick has Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm) breathing down his neck. The one ray of light comes with Jennifer Connelly’s character Penny Benjamin (keen fans of the first film may remember that name). She’s an old flame who runs a beachside bar called The Hard Deck. It’s not a particularly meaty role for Connelly, but she’s a really good and grounding presence.

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Of course there are also the signature aerial sequences – jaw-dropping and custom-made for the big screen. The newer technology gives the filmmakers opportunities to do some exciting things and Cruise pushes it and himself to the extreme. It shines brightest in the final 30 minutes which features some of the best aerial fighter footage ever put on screen. See it in the theater. You won’t regret it.

But everything comes back to Maverick who is the story’s centerpiece. He’s more mature and not as impulsive, but he’s still pushing his limits. More, he’s still haunted by the death of Goose and his guilt won’t allow him to forgive himself. It’s a superb performance from Cruise who takes all of those factors (plus some) into account and gives us a Maverick who still has that same rebellious cool, but has a much deeper level of humanity.

If there is a complaint, it might be in the new pilots. None of the performances are bad. But other than Rooster, none of them have much depth. And a couple simply fit the models of pilots from the first film. Also, the unnamed enemy threat feels hollow (marketing was clearly a consideration). Yet there are so many fantastic moments that energize the movie, both kinetically and emotionally. Some scenes are exhilarating while others will bring a tear or two. And they’re all woven into a story that really surprised me. And that gets back to my above question about “Top Gun: Maverick” – was there a meaningful next chapter to be told? The answer turns out to be is a resounding “Yes”!

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “The Takedown” (2022)

Hot of the success of their streaming series “Lupin”, Netflix brings the show’s director Louis Leterrier and star Omar Sy back together in the new feature film “The Takedown”. It’s the sequel to 2012’s “On the Other Side of the Tracks”, a French action-comedy about two mismatched police detectives from drastically different backgrounds who are forced to work together to solve a high-profile murder.

Just like its predecessor, “The Takedown” pulls inspiration from the buddy-cop movies of the late 80s and 90s while injecting hard-to-miss racial and class commentary into its storyline. And much like its predecessor, “The Takedown” sticks so close to that familiar and well-worn formula that you pretty much know how everything is going to play out. The only thing new are the comical bumps in the road our heroes face on the way to its predictable ending.

Image Courtesy of Netflix

Penned by Stéphane Kazandjian, the story may be a sequel, but it’s written in a way that requires no real knowledge of the previous movie or the characters (that’s a good thing considering the first film’s tiny release here in the States). It’s all built on the shoulders of the two main characters played by the endlessly charismatic Omar Sy and the slyly comical Laurent Lafitte. The two reprise their roles and reignite their characters weird relationship for a new(ish) adventure.

The street-smart bad boy Ousmane (Sy) is a single father who has recently been promoted to head of the Paris Crimes Division. He is a good cop and you would think he was given his new position due to his stellar police work. Instead, the division is looking for a way to freshen up their tarnished image, especially with Paris’ minority communities. So what better way than to make a black cop the face of their new (and utterly shameless) PR campaign. Not only that, they assign a social media tag-along to follow Ousmana and upload his exploits to the web. As I said, shameless.

François (Lafitte), on the other hand, has been demoted to the 12th district, something he tries to sell as an “enriching” experience and a chance to “return to fundamentals“. François is an oblivious narcissist who’s actually a decent cop. But his self-anointed ladies-man vanity keeps him on the lower rung of the opportunity ladder. It also makes him the butt-end of some admittedly funny barbs hurled his way by his colleagues.

The two unexpectedly reunite after a body is found severed in half near the Paris train station. Their case leads them to the Provinces where François’ pigment privilege helps him to fit in while Ousmane has a tougher time navigating the not-so-welcoming locals. They do find an area ally in Alice (Izïa Higelin) who gives them the social and political lay of the land. But when both François and Ousmane take a liking to her, it rekindles an old rivalry between them. Meanwhile their investigation puts them on the trail of a white supremacist group with some pretty powerful leaders.

While Sy and Lafitte have the comedic chemistry to keep things entertaining, they’re trapped in a story that slowly starts to lose its energy the further it goes. Aside from being about 20 minutes too long, the script’s attempts at social commentary starts funny but gets so on-the-nose that it’s hard to take any message it may have to heart. And look, Sy and Lafitte are really good together. But it’s simply impossible for me to buy that their characters could ever co-exist together much less be friends. I would like to think that François’ casual racism would get much more of a response than an occasional disapproving look Ousmane.

Louis Leterrier has an interesting catalog of serviceable studio movies that includes “The Transporter” (the good one), the underrated “Clash of the Titans” remake, the MCU’s second film “The Incredible Hulk”, the surprise hit “Now You See Me”, and he’s set for next year’s “Fast X”. It’s hard to say where “The Takedown” fits in. Leterrier has a clear eye for banter-driven action in the vein of “Lethal Weapon” and he certainly has the two leads. But its hard to get past the script which never fully sells us on its characters or its social message. “The Takedown” is now streaming on Netflix.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS